Archive | June, 2008

Cap City Liberty on vacation!

20 Jun

The Cap City Liberty blog will be going on vacation from June 20 – June 30, but we will be back to update our readers on civil liberties news. Stay tuned for our July and August legal observer trainings, updates on fall events and more!

US Supreme Court stands by due process: Close Guantanamo

13 Jun

Finally, the Bush administration system of injustice is starting to fall apart.

Sign the petition: Close Guantánamo.

In a stunning blow to the administration’s failed detention policies, the Supreme Court ruled today in Boumediene v. Bush that the U.S. Constitution applies to the government’s detention policies at Guantánamo Bay. The Court made clear that detainees held at Guantánamo have a right to challenge their detention through habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus is the freedom from being thrown in prison illegally, with no help, no end in sight and no due process. As the ACLU has said all along, no president should ever be given the sole power to call someone an enemy, wave his or her hand, and lock that person away indefinitely.

You have helped the ACLU argue for years that America can be — and must be — both safe and free. Now, take heart in these words from today’s remarkable Supreme Court decision, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy:

“The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law.”

The ACLU stands ready to stop any effort by the Bush administration to get around this decision. Right now, we need your help to make sure this decision marks the beginning of the end of the reprehensible practices that have been carried out in the name of the American people at Guantánamo Bay, including the failed Military Commissions system.

Tell America’s leaders that it’s time to close Guantánamo, end indefinite detention without charge, and restore the rule of law. Sign the ACLU’s Close Guantánamo petition right now.

The tide is turning. Be part of history by acting now to build on the Supreme Court’s clear-cut affirmation of habeas corpus. Because, if we do, this can truly be the beginning of the end for all the lawlessness and injustice we’ve worked so hard to expose and stop.

Thank you so much for all the hard work you’ve done and continue to do in the name of freedom. Today is truly a day for everyone who loves liberty to take heart and redouble our efforts to restore the Constitutional principles so eroded over the last eight years.

Together in freedom,
Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director

DC conference day three – reflections on taking action

12 Jun

Stacy’s reflections from Tuesday:
The national ACLU membership conference has been really inspiring. One of the cool things about this conference, in addition to seeing all of the young people and the really diverse membership and staff, is how we’ve seen “famous” civil liberty defenders are mingling among our new members and lifetime donors. When I checked in at the registration table, my name tag was in the row next to Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s. I think I’m among kindred spirits.

I learned a lot in the past two days, but I think one of the important takeaway messages has been about what the average person can do to protect civil liberties. The answer was addressed on Sunday night by Arianna Huffington and was reiterated by national ACLU director Anthony Romero when they told people to follow their passion and to learn and take action on what they care about. All important social justice movements are rooted in people acting on what moves them, one day at a time. I would also suggest that people simply become a member of the ACLU. Membership can be both symbolic and financial – each person who joins, no matter at what level, contributes to the sustenance and work we all do together.

Check out the interview with me (Stacy Harbaugh, the ACLU of Wisconsin Community Advocate in the Madison Area Office), on Lee Rayburn’s morning show on The Mic 92.1. Monday morning’s interview was live from the ACLU membership conference and offers reflections on Sunday night’s panels on civil liberties in the media and entertainment and how our Wisconsin members are getting ready for the lobby day today.

We’re looking forward to speaking with Senator Herb Kohl about what we hope he will do to protect FISA courts and privacy, challenge the “E-Verify” system that shifts the responsibility of immigration reform from the federal government to private businesses’ human resources, and demand accountability of our government for the practice of torture and rendition. Representative Baldwin and Senator Feingold will not be meeting with us in person, but we will be visiting with their staff to encourage our legislators to remain leaders in the fight for civil liberties protections.

You can see pictures and video clips on the conference at the national website.

More updates on the participant’s experiences at the conference including pictures to come…

DC conference day two – report on youth action workshop

9 Jun

From outspoken youth to college student alliance activists, volunteer legal observers and poll watchers, letter writers and bloggers, young civil libertarians are getting organized. The very visible youth attendance at this conference shows that the future members of the ACLU are here, they are diverse and they were born well after 1980.

The workshop “Generation Activist: Young People Fight for Social Justice” featured Wisconsin’s own Angela Lang and Tom Fendt (pictured above) as featured panelists. Emilio De Torre screened a video about the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Other America Tour as an example of the ACLU of Wisconsin’s experiential education on injustice. Wisconsin student activist Tom Fendt said that his experience with the Other America Tour allowed him to learn more about how people experience discrimination but also gave him the confidence to make a difference.

A video clip of WISN-12 (below) included De Torre and University of Wisconsin Milwaukee ACLU Student Alliance activist Angela Lang was shown (below) and she described her involvement in direct civil liberties defense though legal observing in the community and on campus.

Students organizing in the New York City schools showed the “School to Prison Pipeline” video they produced that uses student voices on their experiences with police in the school system. They described their film screenings, Q& A panels and calls to action complete with mock metal detectors and actors dressed as police to replicate their experiences for the audience.

Members of the Northern California ACLU’s Friedman Youth Project, talked about how the core of the project is a youth activist committee for high school youth. They educate themselves, share experiences with injustice and develop leadership skills (including summer civil rights “investigation” trips and activist retreats) to make change in their community. They said that their main advice for adult allies is to take youth seriously “because we are going to change the world and we need your support.”

In today’s breakfast plenary address, ACLU national Executive Director Anthony Romero was asked a question by a Minnesota youth member about the ACLU’s work on civil rights for Native Americans (as in most recently in voting rights). He commented about her passion and said that he hoped that she stays with the ACLU because “we need you: in fact we’re counting on you.” We saw evidence of that commitment and passion today and throughout the conference.

ACLU of Wisconsin members in DC for the national membership conference

8 Jun

ACLU of Wisconsin members are on the scene in Washington DC for the Stand Up For Liberty membership conference

On Friday night, we set sail from the twin cities with stops in the ports of Eau Claire, Madison and Milwaukee. Forty-eight excited young civil libertarians began the long bus ride to the DC conference. To get in the mood we watched the Freedom Files and V for Vendetta!!

It’s Sunday afternoon and we’re looking forward to attending a youth reception, screening The Trials of Darryl Hunt, and getting trained for the big lobby day on Tuesday.

The ACLU is blogging on the conference at and you can stay tuned right here at the CapCityLiberty blog to hear about the Wisconsin folks’ experience.

Cheers to liberty – Thanks for coming to the ACLU happy hour

6 Jun

Thanks to all of our members and supporters who came to the happy hour at Genna’s last night!

We made new friends, recruited new members and shared some great ideas for community organizing around voting rights and free speech.

Thanks again to Lois (pictured above with Stacy) and Greg for their organizing help and to Kristi at Genna’s for providing the great venue.

Stay tuned to the Cap City Liberty blog for announcements on future fun events in the Madison area. The best way to learn about ACLU of Wisconsin events is to become a card-carrying member! Join today.

Happy hour, DC conference, news roundup

4 Jun

Whew! Life has been busy at the Madison Area Office!

We’re gearing up for summer fun with our volunteer interns. Our core team of seven students will spend June and July researching facts and trends in youth civil liberties. By the end of summer we hope to have a dynamic Know Your Rights workshop to teach young people about how the Bill of Rights applies to them. We also will have additions to our Freedom FAQ factsheet series. Check out our Youth and Civil Liberties website for the complete list of available materials for download. Stay tuned to the Cap City Liberty blog for future reflections from the volunteer interns themselves.

Read on for a recap of some civil liberties news from the past week or so. Also check out these events that are coming up.

Happy Hour: Thursday, June 5th 6:00 p.m.
Genna’s 105 W. Main, upstairs
Join the ACLU of Wisconsin Madison Area Office as we recognize our volunteers and have a fun send off for those going to the national membership conference in Washington D.C. The event is free with a cash bar. Door prizes too!

Speaker: Saturday, June 7th 11:45 a.m.
Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.
“A Fair and Impartial Judiciary” Awards Luncheon with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Madison. Luncheon is part of the League of Women Voters of WI annual meeting but has luncheon-only registration ($25) at

Film: Sunday, June 8th 7:00 p.m.
Escape Java Joint, 916 Williamson St.
The United States Versus. Sami Al-Arian: A Case of Domestic U.S. Anti-Muslim and Anti-Palestinian Persecution
In February 2003, university professor Sami al-Arian – a leading Muslim and pro-Palestinian civil rights activist in the U.S. – was arrested in Tampa, Florida and charged with providing material support to a terror organization. For two-and-a-half years he was held in solitary confinement, denied basic privileges and given limited access to his attorneys. While the Bush administration called this a landmark case in its campaign against international terrorism, Sami Al-Arian claimed he was targeted in an attempt to silence his political views. The film raises questions on whether it is possible for a man like Sami Al-Arian to receive a fair trial in the United States given the current hostile environment against Muslims and the strong U.S. support of Israel. It presents our democracy in a new light in a post-9/11 culture of fear, where “security measures” trump free speech and punishment is meted out in the name of protection.

Event includes a guest commentary by Mel Underbakke who has been touring the U.S. on behalf of the Al-Arian defense campaign. She will screen the 2007 film “USA vs Al-Arian” and give an update on the case. ”USA vs AL-ARIAN” is an intimate family portrayal of an American-Muslim family’s struggle to fight terrorism charges leveled by the US government. It follows Sami Al-Arian’s wife Nahla and their five children throughout his six month-long trial. This is a nightmare come to life as a man is prosecuted for his beliefs rather than his actions.

Admission is free – donations will be accepted to cover room costs and for the Al-Arian defense campaign. Co-sponsored by the Peregrine Forum, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and the ACLU of Wisconsin-Madison Area Office.

For more information call the Peregrine Forum at 442-8399 or email, and/or go to the website

News round up:
We knew this already, but it looks like the saying “every time Bush speaks, another ACLU membership card is printed” is about right. Life after the Patriot Act is bad for America, and Americans are waking up to the need to come to the defense of civil liberties. Check out this Detroit News article on the ACLU’s national spike in membership.

This Daily Kos blogger thinks his membership to the ACLU is important enough to donate his stimulus check to the organization. Check out his video blog and find out how you can be a supporter too.

Madison, WI gets some attention from the LA Times, but not for our bike paths. Read on for the story on how the economic profilling and crackdowns on the homeless has changed “liberal” Madison.

A Dane County Circuit Court Judge upholds the anti-gay marriage amendment and says the two-part question was OK. Anyone who went door-to-door to organize against the amendment can testify that the two-question question was confusing to voters. Even people who said that they opposed “marriage” said things like “the second one is OK,” referring to the second line as if it was an option at the polls.

On a semi-related note, a decision to restrict the partisan political affiliation of judges running for election stands. Now if we can just get their highly partisan campaign funders to agree with the decision’s spirit.

Check out what the ACLU of Texas said about the introduction of potential legislation in their state to require Photo ID at the polls. “The state of Texas is wasting its time on this,” said Sonia Santana, who focuses on election issues for the Texas ACLU. “As it is, we’ve already got a pathetically low turnout. Why put up another barrier when it’s just a nonexistent problem? It’s fear, hype, and racism.” We would experience similar problems in Wisconsin if a Photo ID law were passed. Read the Truthout article for the description of the challenges Photo IDs pose in the wake of the unfortunate Supreme Court decision in the Indiana Photo ID case.

A Q&A section in the Wisconsin State Journal had a blurb on Real ID and another on banned books. Nice to see solid civil liberties issues in the paper.

Private police? Here’s a bizzare story about a private security company in De Forest that takes playing cop a little too seriously and issued parking tickets to legally parked cars. This is an excellent example of why security companies are licensed and regulated and how private companies masquerading as government staff is a scam.

There’s an update on “The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007.” Some of the plans for profiling Muslims and Arabs (and activist groups for that matter) were abandoned due to strong public pressure, but the legislation lives on in the form of HR 1955. If you need a mnemonic device to help you remember the bill number, just think of one of the hot years for the “House Un-American Activities Committee.”

Speaking of the internet, laptop users have a resource through the Electronic Frontier Foundation on how to protect themselves from warrantless searches of electronic devices at the border. Not a criminal and have nothing to hide? All the more reason to protect your privacy from abuse of power. Those family photos and digital bank statements are yours alone.

And federal lawmakers are still debating on net neutrality and antitrust law.