Submitted by ACLU of Oregon on December 5, 2013 - 7:14am
December 5, 2013 - Today, the ACLU of Oregon is joining a nationwide day of action calling for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the law that says the government can access your email and documents in the cloud without a warrant.
ECPA is one of the Internet’s most outdated laws – it was enacted in 1986, before most people had access to a home computer or email. While the public has been rightfully outraged over reports that the NSA accesses communications without a warrant, ECPA says that hundreds of other government agencies—like the IRS, FBI, and DEA, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies—can access many of our stored emails, private social media messages, and documents in the cloud without getting a warrant from a judge. The law flies directly in the face of our Fourth Amendment values.
The Drug Enforcement Administration thinks people have “no constitutionally protected privacy interest” in their confidential prescription records, according to a brief filed last month in federal court. That disconcerting statement comes in response to an ACLU lawsuit challenging the DEA’s practice of obtaining private medical information without a warrant. The ACLU has just filed its response brief, explaining to the court why the DEA’s position is both startling and wrong.
We represent four patients and a physician in Oregon whose confidential prescription records are contained in a state database that tracks prescriptions for certain drugs. The database, called the Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), was intended to be a public health tool to help physicians avoid drug overdoses and abuse in their patients. Despite a state law requiring law enforcement to obtain a probable cause warrant from a judge before requesting records from the PDMP, the DEA has been requesting records using administrative subpoenas, which do not involve judicial authorization or probable cause. Our clients object to the DEA’s warrantless access to the PDMP because their prescription records reveal deeply private information about their health and medical history, including their gender identity (two of our clients are transgender men taking testosterone as part of their transition from female to male sex) and mental illness (one client takes medication to treat anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders).
Submitted by ACLU of Oregon on September 22, 2013 - 9:26am
In celebration of Banned Books Week (September 22-28), we have a guest blog post by Barbara Gordon-Lickey, member of the ACLU of Oregon Education Committee.
I was in high school when I first learned that maintaining the freedom to read requires vigilance. I wanted to read Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. Although Lolita received much critical acclaim, it was controversial, to put it mildly, because it dealt with a sexual relationship between an adult man and a 12 year old girl. After its initial publication in France in 1955, Lolita was banned for several years in France and Great Britain, as well as several other countries. Surprisingly, it was published in the United States in 1958 without major incident, although some local libraries refused to buy it. Lolita was on the New York Times best seller list for two years and sold over 50 million copies, possibly because of its controversial subject matter. It was not an obscure piece of erotic literature.
Virtually all of our efforts to gain greater transparency and to build the pressure for reform have been strenuously resisted by the Bush and Obama Administrations both in the courts and in Congress.
This spring, when The Guardian’s columnist Glenn Greenwald spoke at our Liberty Dinner in Portland, he praised the ACLU for its steadfast and principled commitment to freedom. Little did we know that within three months of that speech Greenwald himself would be instrumental in reporting dozens of stories outlining the widespread invasions of privacy carried out by the NSA, thanks to documents provided to him by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Submitted by ACLU of Oregon on July 25, 2013 - 1:02pm
By David Fidanque, Executive Director
Last month, ACLU client Edie Windsor made history when the Supreme Court struck down the core of the Defense of Marriage Act. It was a momentous day for Edie and for couples across the country.
Now, it’s our turn to make history – by becoming the first state in the nation to write the freedom to marry into our constitution. The ACLU of Oregon is a key partner in this freedom to marry campaign and we are fighting to ensure that all loving and committed couples in Oregon can marry. Most importantly, we are counting on YOU to join us in the fight!
Tomorrow, Oregon United for Marriage is launching the campaign to collect 116,284 valid signatures from Oregonian voters (like you!) to put the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative on the ballot in November 2014.
Today in Portland, Ore., I will be in federal district court with my colleague Ahilan Arulanantham asking a judge to place a long-overdue check on the government’s secretive No Fly List. The ACLU filed a lawsuit after the government put our clients – 13 Americans including four military veterans – on the blacklist that bans them from flying to or from the United States or over U.S. airspace. Each of our clients sought an explanation and a fair hearing where they could clear their names through the only redress mechanism available, the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. The government refused.
Ahilan and I will argue that the government’s decision to ban people from flying without meaningful recourse violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. Our argument is really quite simple: when the government bans people from flying by putting them on the No Fly List, it deprives them of an essential means of travel in modern life and smears them as suspected terrorists. These are real harms that hurt real people, and they deny our clients their constitutionally-protected right to travel and interest in protecting their reputation.
Submitted by ACLU of Oregon on June 14, 2013 - 12:58pm
By Becky Straus, Legislative Director, ACLU of Oregon Kevin Díaz, Legal Director, ACLU of Oregon Amanda Goad, LGBT Project
With Gov. Kitzhaber's approval of HB 2093 yesterday, transgender people in Oregon will no longer have to show proof of surgery in order to change their birth certificates to accurately reflect their gender. Previously, Oregon law required surgery in order to update a birth certificate gender marker, even for those transgender people who did not need or want it, or were unable to access surgery for financial, medical, or other reasons. The ACLU supported the great work of agency and advocate partners to reach this victory. We are glad to see Oregon's legislature and governor sign off on this important change and advance the rights of transgender Oregonians.
A federal judge has granted the ACLU’s motion to intervene in an Oregon case that raises the question of whether the Fourth Amendment allows Drug Enforcement Administration agents to obtain confidential prescription records without a judge’s prior approval. (We’ve previously written about the case here).
Like most states, Oregon operates a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which tracks prescriptions for certain drugs dispensed in the state. As one of the chief sponsors of the legislation creating the PDMP recently explained, the program is intended to be a public health tool to help physicians and pharmacists prevent drug overdoses and abuse by their patients. It was not created for use by law enforcement. Recognizing that records of a person’s prescriptions can reveal private information about their underlying medical conditions, the Oregon legislature instituted robust privacy protections, including a requirement that law enforcement must obtain a warrant before requesting records for use in an investigation.
Submitted by ACLU of Oregon on April 2, 2013 - 9:30am
By Becky Straus, Legislative Director
Today in front of a packed room of supporters, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed into law HB 2787, a law that brings access to in-state tuition to all Oregonians, regardless of immigration status. The governor’s action marked the culmination of an over ten-year-long campaign for tuition equity in Oregon. It is about time.
A Democratic majority in both chambers and the rising political influence of Latinos in the electorate contributed to this great victory, but ultimately it was the leadership of a few key legislators that cleared the path for this bill’s passage. Sen. Frank Morse (R-Albany) and Sen. David Nelson (R-Pendleton), each now retired from the legislature, departed from the prevailing view of many in their caucus, and co-sponsored the tuition equity bill in the 2011 session. Their sponsorship demonstrated to Oregonians that tuition equity is about fairness rather than partisan politics. And their public support for the bill invited their colleagues to follow so that, despite the fact that Morse and Nelson are no longer in the legislature, eight Republicans (including Nelson’s successor) helped tuition equity pass in 2013.
The government does not have the unchecked authority to place individuals on a secret blacklist without providing them any meaningful opportunity to object, the ACLU argued in a brief filed last Friday with the federal district court in Oregon.
We made the filing in Latif v. Holder, our lawsuit asserting that the government violated the Fifth Amendment due process rights of 13 Americans, including four military veterans, by placing them on the No Fly List and refusing to give them any after-the-fact explanation or a hearing at which they can clear their names.
Our brief highlighted the utter irrationality of the government's No Fly List procedures. The plaintiffs in Latif all flew for years without any problems. But more than two years ago, they were suddenly branded as suspected terrorists based on secret evidence, publicly denied boarding on flights, and told by U.S. and airline officials that they were banned from flying, perhaps forever. Each of them asked the government to remove them from the No Fly List through the only "redress" mechanism available—the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. But the government has refused to provide any explanation or basis for their inclusion in the list. Our clients have been stuck in limbo ever since.