Your medical data: misappropriated by health-tech companies, off-limits to you

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Backchannel's package on medical data and the health-tech industry profiles three people who were able to shake loose their own data and make real improvements in their lives with it: Marie Moe, who discovered that the reason she was having terrifying cardiac episodes was out-of-date firmware on her pacemaker; Steven Keating, who created a website with exquisitely detailed data on his brain tumor, including a gene-sequence that had to be run a second time because the first scan wasn't approved for "commercial" use, which included publishing it on his own site; and Annie Kuehl, whose advocacy eventually revealed the fact that doctors had suspected all along that her sick baby had a rare genetic disorder, which she only learned about after years of agonizing victim-blaming and terrifying seizures. Read the rest

The ACLU has a roadmap for defeating President Donald Trump's signature initiatives

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In The Trump Memos, a new 27-page document published by the American Civil Liberties Union, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization lays out its constitutional analysis of Trump's signature campaign promises, from mass deportations to a religious test for passing America's borders to torture to mass surveillance to abortion to "opening up libel laws." Read the rest

After Freddie Gray, Baltimore police take a tentative step away from lethal force

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A new use-of-force policy from the Baltimore Police Department requires its officers to de-escalate violent situations, to report colleagues who use inappropriate force, and to respect the "sanctity of life." Read the rest

ACLU files a lawsuit to repeal the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, used to prosecute Aaron Swartz

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The ACLU is suing to repeal parts of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 1980s-vintage hacking law that makes it a felony to "exceed authorization" on a remote computer, and which companies and the US government have used to prosecute researchers who violated websites' terms of service. Read the rest

Snowden's flesh is trapped in Russia, but his mind roams the world in a robot body

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The Snowbot -- a $14,000 Beampro telepresence robot that Edward Snowden pilots from Moscow -- is becoming a fixture at conferences, meetings, and in the halls of power in the USA, where Snowden is a frequent invited guest. Read the rest

Cleveland: "First Amendment zones" will fence protesters far away from RNC

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The city of Cleveland has revealed its crowd control plan for next month's Republican National Convention, a heavily policed, fenced off 3.3 square-mile "event zone" -- the size of Baghdad's Green Zone -- with fenced-off protest areas far from the convention itself. Read the rest

Senior U.S. immigration judge says 3 and 4 year old children can represent themselves in court

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The ACLU deposed Judge Jack H Weil, a senior judge responsible for training other immigration judges, in a case over whether 3- and 4-year-olds needed legal representation during deportation hearings. Judge Weil insisted that children as young as three could be taught the basics of immigration law and didn't need taxpayer-funded lawyers in order to get a fair hearing.

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Anaheim: the happiest surveillance state on earth

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Orange County has many claims to fame: Richard Nixon, the S&L scandal, subprime boiler-rooms, Disneyland, an airport honoring a cowboy named Marion, and now, the revelation that its police force secretly uses low-flying surveillance aircraft to break the encryption of thousands of cellphone users, track their movements, and intercept their communications. Read the rest

NSA spying: judge tosses out case because Wikipedia isn't widely read enough

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Wikimedia -- Wikipedia's parent org -- has had its case against the NSA dismissed by a Federal judge who said that the mere fact that the site is one of the most popular destinations on the net was not a basis for assuming that the NSA had intercepted data between Wikipedia and its users. Read the rest

CIA black-site torture survivors sue shrinks who made $85M overseeing CIA torture program

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James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen are psychologists who took in almost $85 million in CIA contracts to design and oversee torture programs used on CIA prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and around the world. The contracts ran from from 2001 to 2010. The ACLU is representing Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Gul Rahman, three of the prisoners who were tortured at CIA black sites. Rahman was murdered by his torturers and the ACLU is representing his estate. Read the rest

What did the courts just do to NSA spying?

When a panel of federal judges from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NSA's bulk-phone records spying program was illegal, it was a legal game-changer, but what, exactly, does it all mean? Read the rest

Wikimedia sues the NSA

The Wikimedia Foundation -- which oversees Wikipedia -- eight other organizations, and the ACLU have filed a lawsuit against the DoJ and the NSA, contesting the spy agency's program of mass "upstream" surveillance. Read the rest

Should cops be allowed to see bodycam footage before filing reports?

As bodycams roll out in more and more American police departments, officers are asking to be allowed to review footage of shootings before they file their reports, on the grounds that fallible memories from high-stress moments can be augmented by footage -- but of course, this would also help an officer know how much he can lie without getting contradicted by the video evidence. Read the rest

NSA dumps incriminating documents on Christmas Eve

At 1:30pm on Christmas Eve, the NSA dumped a huge cache of documents on its website in response to a long-fought ACLU Freedom of Information Act request, including documents that reveal criminal wrongdoing. Read the rest

NSA conducts massive surveillance without ANY Congressional oversight

An ACLU Freedom of Information request reveals that the NSA considers Reagan's "Executive Order 12333" (previously) its "primary source" of spying authority -- and so it conducts this surveillance without reporting to Congress on it. Read the rest

OK Sheriff LARPs "Welcome to Nightvale"

Logan County, Oklahoma Sheriff Jim Bauman created an extensive set of secret files on the citizens in his jurisdiction, inadvertently recreating Welcome to Nightvale's running gag about the Sheriff's Secret Police -- but the ACLU isn't laughing, they're suing. Read the rest

SWAT teams claim to be private mercenaries, immune to open records laws

The ACLU reports [PDF] that when it made Freedom of Information requests for Massachusetts SWAT team records, the SWATs claimed that because they were organized as "law enforcement councils" (jointly owned by many police departments, with additional federal funding) that they were not government agencies at all, but rather private corporations, and not subject to open records laws.

SWATs are the white-hot center of the increasingly brutal and militarized response of US police forces, which have outfitted themselves with ex-Afghanistan/Iraq military materiel and have deployed it in an escalating violent series of attacks, largely as part of the war on drugs. As Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post, the SWATs' claim to be private companies doesn't pass the giggle test: they are funded by the government, pay government employees, and do the government's business.

The argument boils down to this: we are not the police, we are private mercenaries armed with automatic weapons and military-grade vehicles and equipment, and when we attack and kill in the streets of American cities, we do so as private soldiers who happen to be funded by the police departments' budgets.

The ACLU is suing the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council to challenge this ruse, but even if they win, this should be setting off alarm bells for anyone who believes in good government and responsible policing. The cornerstone of democratic legitimacy is a duty to the public, with all the transparency and respect that implies. When police forces up and down the state structure themselves to create and exploit a loophole that lets them obscure the details of their most violent, most spectacular screw-ups -- which generally result in gruesome injuries and deaths to innocent members of the public -- there is no way they can claim to be acting in the public interest. Read the rest

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