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from The Great Debate:

Palmer Raids Redux: NSA v civil liberties

President Barack Obama speaks about the National Security Agency's secret collection of telephone records from millions of Americans, June 7, 2013.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

During the “Red Scare” that swept the United States in the wake of Russia’s 1917 Bolshevik revolution, the Justice Department launched a cycle of raids against radicals and leftists. The U.S. attorney general, a once-celebrated Progressive leader named A. Mitchell Palmer, gave his name to this unfolding series of attacks against civil liberities.

Though initially supported by Congress, the courts and the press, the 1919 Palmer raids revealed a darker side of the American psyche. They eventually provoked a national backlash, which inspired the formation of the American Civil Liberties Union; led to stirring free speech dissenting opinions from Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Louis Brandeis, and ignited a political counter-movement determined to prevent similar civil liberties abuses in the future.

President Barack Obama is far from resembling Palmer in terms of civil liberties abuse, but his conviction in his own progressive righteousness is an unfortunate trait when it comes to designing and overseeing surveillance programs. Obama has also continued to defend the current invasive National Security Agency surveillance programs – even while insisting he welcomes a national conversation about the appropriate balance between liberty and security.

from The Great Debate:

The secrecy veiling Obama’s drone war

It’s rare for a judge to express regret over her own ruling.  But that’s what happened Wednesday, when Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reluctantly ruled that the Obama administration does not need to provide public justification for its deadly drone war.

The memos requested by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, McMahon wrote, “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.” Still, the Freedom of Information Act allows the executive branch to keep many things secret.

from Alison Frankel:

Fed Circ’s Myriad ruling: Obama arguments don’t trump PTO policy

The American Civil Liberties Union and a host of researchers and breast cancer patients aren't the only losers in Friday's appellate ruling that Myriad Genetics has the right to patents on isolated breast cancer genes. The Obama Administration's Justice Department offered wholehearted support to opponents of human gene patents, splitting with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to argue that human DNA should not be eligible for patent protection. Friday's ruling by a deeply-divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit explicitly rejects the Justice Department's arguments in favor of longstanding PTO precedent.

The Justice Department's decision last November, after considerable lobbying by both sides of the human gene patentability debate, to side with the ACLU and oppose DNA patents, was a huge coup for folks who believe the human genome doesn't belong to anyone. The Obama Administration's amicus brief seemed to repudiate PTO policy: the PTO, after all, has issued more than 2,500 patents on human genes since the 1980s, and reaffirmed its policy that unaltered DNA is eligible for patents in its 2001 review of eligibility rules. (Notably, no PTO lawyer's name appeared on the Justice Department filing.) And when acting-Solicitor General Neal Katyal informed the Federal Circuit that he would personally present the Justice Department's position at oral arguments in April -- an unprecedented appearance at the Federal Circuit by the SG -- the ACLU's lead lawyer on the case, Christopher Hansen, told me it was a good sign for his side.

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama draws query by signing Patriot Act extension with auto-pen

What's a president to do when Congress passes a bill just hours before key anti-terrorism surveillance measures are about to expire and he's 4,000 miles away?  Auto-pen of course.

For the uninitiated, lawmakers and yes, even the president of the United States, have a  machine that has a real pen which goes over a copy of the person's actual signature. It is typically used for signing proforma letters or souvenir pictures to send constituents or fans.

from Tales from the Trail:

Arizona immigration law prompts ACLU travel alert

aliensAs Arizona prepares to implement a controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants, the American Civil Liberties Union has issued a travel alert advising visitors to the desert state of their civil rights if stopped by police.

The law requires state and local police to investigate the immigration status of anyone that they reasonably suspect is in the country illegally, during the course of lawful contact such as a traffic stop.

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama misses a deadline on Guantanamo

Just because a president orders something done, that don't make it happen.

A year after President Barack Obama ordered the closure of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the facility is still open and holding 196 terrorism suspects the United States has captured.

GUANTANAMO/The president had barely finished celebrating his inauguration when he signed an order Jan. 22, 2009, directing the Guantanamo prison be closed "as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order."

from Tales from the Trail:

ACLU gives Obama mixed first year rights grade

obamaU.S. President Barack Obama has taken some bold steps on civil rights during his first year in office, such as ordering an end to torture and the closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison, but his overall record is mixed, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Tuesday. 

The civil rights group said Obama had acted on more than a third of 145 recommendations it made to him when he was elected. The recommendations focused on steps  the president could take on his own without a vote by Congress.

from Tales from the Trail:

FBI discussed advising Saddam Hussein of legal rights, decided no

Much has been made over the past few months by some Republicans in Congress about whether terrorism suspects arrested overseas by U.S. military forces must be read their legal rights and the answer has been largely no.IRAQ-SADDAM/

It turns out that the issue was debated at least as far back as early 2004 when American forces captured ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, according to a document released late Friday night under Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union.

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama to post White House visitor logs on the Internet

Killjoy.

After early signs he might follow the lead of other presidents and keep his White House visitor logs secret, Barack Obama has decided instead he's going to post them on the Internet.

This, of course, jeopardizes the popular Washington sport of going to court to find out who's getting face time with the president.

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