ACLU of Oregon Blog

Because of You, History Is in the Making

David Fidanque - US Supreme Court

By David Fidanque, Executive Director

Today I am at the U.S. Supreme Court to watch our volunteer attorney, Steven Wilker of the Tonkon Torp firm, argue against the federal government’s position that Secret Service agents cannot be sued for intentionally violating the First Amendment rights of protesters.

The Moss case started almost ten years ago after police were directed to move only those protesting the policies of the Bush administration but not the people who showed up to support the President. Do you know your rights to protest?


Jacksonville Protest Case Before Supreme Court

By Michael "Mookie" Moss, ACLU plaintiffMichael Moss

In March of this year, the Jacksonville police riot celebrates its almost-tenth anniversary by taking a trip to Washington D.C. and landing on the desk of the United States Supreme Court. Under review by the high court is whether the respondents (me and my fellow plaintiff demonstrators) sufficiently alleged there was clear First Amendment discrimination on the part of the Secret Service and whether the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals erred when it denied the Secret Service qualified immunity for its role in the events that took place nearly 10 years ago. 

For those present that night in Jacksonville, the answer to the question of First Amendment discrimination couldn’t be clearer. The large multigenerational group of anti-Bush demonstrators assembled in front of the Jacksonville Inn faced police-fired projectiles which were filled with chemical irritants, canisters of hand held pepper spray, and submission by baton, while the pro-Bush crowd equidistant from the dining President faced not a word of admonishment.  


Bill Threatens Patients' Safe Access to Medicinal Marijuana

By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

The debate is long over in Oregon about the medicinal value of marijuana, yet a bill (SB 1531B) is quickly moving forward in Salem to allow counties and cities to ban medical marijuana dispensaries.

Voters approved the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) in 1998. OMMA permits marijuana use for Oregonians suffering from debilitating medical conditions without being in violation of Oregon criminal law.

In 2013, the Legislature passed a bill, enabling a legal and regulated means of getting authorized amounts of marijuana to OMMA patients who cannot grow their own. Licensing and regulating medical marijuana facilities provides consistency across the state for dispensaries and law enforcement. The result is better care and better outcomes for patients.

Reasonable regulations on the time, place, and manner in which dispensaries may operate may be appropriate, but outright bans will have a significant and detrimental effect on patient access to needed medication.


Oregon Needs Clear Guidelines on the Use of License Plate Readers

By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

Tomorrow, I will be in Salem for the January Legislative Days, a time when our elected officials look ahead to the upcoming 2014 session. One of the issues being addressed will be the use of automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) which have the potential to create permanent records of everywhere you drive, transforming the meaning of a "private life" and opening up many opportunities for abuse.

This surveillance data may be useful to law enforcement in identifying stolen cars or finding missing persons. But most of the information license plate readers capture is the day-to-day movements of innocent people, which is stored for years. Tracking of a person's location is a significant invasion of privacy, and can reveal things like visits to friends, doctors, protests, political events, and churches.


Top 8 Civil Liberties Victories of 2013 in Oregon

By Sarah Armstrong, Outreach Coordinator

It has been quite a year on the civil liberties front lines in Oregon. We picked our top eight civil liberties victories of 2013. Not surprisingly, intersections of privacy and technology make the most appearances on our list, but we also had wins for the rights of transgender people, immigrant rights, free speech, due process, and racial justice.

We love Oregon and are working hard to ensure it remains a place that honors freedom and values the rights of all people. Join us! Support civil liberties in Oregon.

#8 - You can’t be required to “friend” your boss.

It’s hard to believe, but some employers require that folks hand over their social media passwords, allow them to “shoulder surf” their online accounts, or mandate that they “friend” them on sites like Facebook. We helped pass a law in Oregon that prohibits employers (and public colleges) from that type of snooping.

Private activities that would never be intruded upon offline should not receive less privacy protection simply because they take place online. An employer would never be allowed to read an applicant’s diary or postal mail, listen in at private gatherings with friends, or look at that person’s private videos and photo albums. They should not expect the right to do the electronic equivalent.

#7 – No, you may not radio track Oregon students! (Well, at least not without telling us first.)

In November 2012, a Texas student was kicked out of school for failure to wear a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag that was distributed for tracking attendance. RFID tags are tiny computer chips that are more commonly used to track everything from cattle to commercial products moving through warehouses. Oregon legislators took notice and went to work on a new law to prevent this from happening here.


Day of Action to Demand ECPA Reform

stop spying on santaDecember 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 DEA Thinks You Have “No Constitutionally Protected Privacy Interest” in Your Confidential Prescription Records

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

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).


Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and Government Surveillance

By David Fidanque, Executive Director

The ACLU has been working non-stop for the past twelve years to uncover and then reverse the unprecedented expansion of suspicionless surveillance of millions of innocent Americans by the NSA, the FBI, the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies since 9/11. From the beginning of this period, the ACLU has consistently warned that these practices would not only jeopardize the freedoms that Americans hold dear, but that they would also make us less safe.

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.


Bring the Freedom to Marry to Oregon

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.


In Court Today: Seeking to Rein In the No Fly List

By Nusrat Choudhury, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project 

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.