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Civil liberties are dynamic. Clashes over conflicting perspectives on freedom, equality, and justice occur regularly in the Golden state. Visit this page for news on civil liberties developments throughout California and how they relate to our past.

LA Board of Supervisors Approves Settlement for Photographers Detained by Sheriff's Deputies

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March 5, 2015
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On March 3, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a settlement with three photographers who were detained by L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies while shooting photos in public places.

The photographers, Shawn Nee, Greggory Moore and Shane Quentin, filed a lawsuit in 2011 against the county and individual deputies charging that the deputies violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights by detaining, searching and questioning them for taking photographs of Metro Rail turnstiles, oil refineries and traffic in front of a court house.

The settlement includes $50,000 in damages for the photographers and implements training for deputies interacting with photographers or members of the public who are taking photos in public places.

The training details LASD policy that members of the public “have a First Amendment right to observe, take photographs, and record video in any public place where they are lawfully present” and prohibits deputies from “interfering, threatening, intimidating, blocking or otherwise discouraging” photographers from taking photos or video unless they are violating a law.

The training also makes clear that members of the public “have the right to photograph and record video of peace officers engaged in the public discharge of their duties” so long as they “are in a place they have a legal right to be present,” and forbids LASD deputies from requiring any person to show pictures or video without a warrant, or from deleting or destroying any photographic, audio or video recording under any circumstances.

In recent years many law enforcement agencies, including LASD, have instituted “suspicious activity reporting” programs designed to train officers to report certain activities believed to have a potential link to terrorism. Many departments include photography among the activities that should be reported.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Immigration Case

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February 24, 2015
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On February 23, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Fauzia Din, a U.S. citizen living in Fremont, who sued the federal government for denying a visa to her Afghan citizen husband and refusing to explain why.

In 1998, after the Taliban came to power, Din and her mother and sister fled Afghanistan and came to the U.S. as refugees.

In 2006, Din traveled to Afghanistan to marry a family friend. Soon after her wedding, she applied for her husband’s visa to the U.S. After a nearly three-year delay, the State Department denied the visa, offering no reason other than a vague “national security” allegation.  Ms. Din is an in-home caretaker. Her husband is a clerk in the Afghan Ministry of Education.

The State Department has insisted it has the right to deny visas without providing a reason.

In 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Kerry v. Din that the State Department was required to provide a legitimate basis for the denial. However, the Obama Administration appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

During Din's nine-year struggle to secure her husband's visa, dozens of family members, friends, and coworkers have vouched that he has no ties to any terrorist activity.

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Surveillance Lawsuit Dismissed

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February 11, 2015
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U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White dismissed part of a lawsuit brought by AT&T customers objecting to dragnet government surveillance of phone calls and e-mail messages. 

The lawsuit, filed in 2007, was inspired, in part, by revelations by a former AT&T technician in 2003 that equipment at a San Francisco AT&T facility allowed the National Security Administration (NSA) to conduct what he referred to as "vacuum cleaner" surveillance of all data crossing the Internet.

In 2005, the New York Times reported that the NSA had been conducting warantless wiretapping of domestic phone calls and e-mails with no judicial supervision or warrants.

In 2008, President George W. Bush approved legislation granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that had acted at the government's behest to supply private customer information. 

In his ruling, White said that the government would have to provide secret evidence that would risk grave damage to national security in order to refute the AT&T customers' claims of surveillance. 

White also said that the plaintiffs could not prove that their phone and e-mail data was part of the dragnet surveillance program.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represents the AT&T customers, plans to appeal the decision.

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