ACLU’s Laura Murphy on Criminal Justice Reform, Libertarian Movement, and the Surveillance State

This week, Laura Murphy, Director of the Washington Legislative Office for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Photo Credit - ACLU

Photo Credit – ACLU

Ms. Murphy grew up in a politically active family that advocated citizen action.  After campaigning, working on Capitol Hill, lending her talents to several elected officials, working for several different ACLU offices, she was offered the position of Director of the Washington Legislative office in 1993 and was the first woman, African America, and has been the longest serving Director of the DC Legislative Office.

Almost 46,000 individuals are behind bars for non-violent drug offenses and can now apply for clemency.  While there is a strong libertarian movement questioning the war on drugs, many state legislatures grapple with the budgetary implications of an expanding prison population.  Furthermore, many religious movements are advocating redemption.  There are also those who express concern that that the application of justice with respect to the war on drugs comes down with disparate representation regarding minority groups.

Ms. Murhpy’s observed major changes in the Republican Party since 2008.  Whereas the the party once ostracized members who challenged party orthodoxy, it now seemingly welcomes more dissent under the big tent.  The Democrats, Ms. Murphy observers, have some serious hawkish elements.

Lately, the ACLU has been at the forefront of the battle against the unprecedented surveillance by government agencies like the NSA, the use of torture by the CIA, and overreach by law enforcement agencies.

Individuals concerned with government overreach and encroachment can sign up for action alerts from the ACLU and like organizations.

John Whitehead on “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State

 John W. Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute speaks with Michael Ostrolenk about his new book,  Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.

Founded in 1982, The Rutherford Institute litigates civil liberties issues defending small-town folks from big government.  The Rutherford Institute covers several issues  such as Free Speech  Search and Seizure, and Religious Freedom   Speaking about First Amendment issues, Whitehead explains, “[i[f you’re on the street corner with a picket sign … I don’t care what you’re saying: I’m on your side.” (2:34)
Since 9/11, the Executive has begun to trample civil liberties and that the trend has accelerated under President Obama.  “The NSA has been around a long time.  We’ve been in semi-police state… since the 1950’s during the McCarthy era.” (3:46)  Technological expansion and evolution has allowed for the government
Whitehead believes that the invasive government that Marshall McLuhan predicted has arrived with the advancement of technology will allow for increased government surveillance.  He mentions Brandon J. Raub, a former Marine detained after posting anti-government messages on his Facebook page.
“Free speech as we used to know it is being monitored.  It’s being intimidated in many, many ways.”  (5:59)
Whitehead’s book covers government surveillance, militarized police  and.  He hopes that Americans devote one third of the hours they spend a month watching television to defending freedom.  “What we’re trying to do … at the Rutherford Institute is to get people .. to [spend] one third of those hours you watch TV to fight for freedom.  Go down to your local city council.  Go to your local school.” (8:34)
Most of the media does not appear to cover these kinds of issues.  Writers like Seymour Hersh have been criticizing the big media outlets for not covering real news.
One of the major issues, Whitehead explains, is the militarization of police.  The DHS has purchased 1.6 billion rounds of hollow point ammunition.  The Social Security Administration purchased hollow point ammunition in 2012, which it tries to explain on its website.
Furthermore, the advancement of technology and incestuous relationship between regulators and the industries they regulate allows for increased government surveillance.  He worries about the use of drones and casual approach that many people take to them.  Whitehead sees them as a threat to privacy and freedom.
He encourages folks to remain vigilant and active in combatting government abuse and usurpation of civil liberties.

Do corporations and unions have Constitutional rights?

The U.S. Supreme Court in its Citizen United decision overturned the McCain-Feingold limitations on corporate financing of political ads saying that they violated corporations’ First Amendment rights to free speech.  In this podcast, Jeff Clements of  Free Speech for the People, tells host Michael Ostrolenk why he believes the decision was incorrect and that corporations should not be protected in the same manner as individuals.  Corporations are granted special powers by the government they should not be allowed to leverage into political power, states Mr. Clements.  He also details the Founding Fathers’ suspicions about government enabled concentration of power in corporations and tells listeners how they can learn more about the “People’s Rights Amendment.”