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ACLU Cyber-Liberties Update: Nov. 8, 1995

November 8, 1995
A bi-weekly e-zine on cyber-liberties cases and controversies
at the state and federal level.

*  ACLU Statement and ACTION ALERT on Federal Wiretap Bill

*  ACTION ALERT on Federal Online Indecency Legislation

*  State Utility Commissions Consider Online Access and Privacy Issues

*  News on Electronic Access to Public Information in Washington State

*  John Perry Barlow Launches Cyberspace Lecture Series Co-Sponsored by the
ACLU of Washington

*  ACLU Student Chapter President at Georgetown University Law Center Writes
About Marty Rimm Controversy

*  Conferences

*  Online Resources from the ACLU National Office and State Affiliates

FEDERAL PAGE (Congress/Agency/Court Cases)
* ACLU Statement and ACTION ALERT on Federal Wiretap Bill

Last week, the ACLU emphatically urged the FBI to withdraw its proposal for
greatly increased wiretapping powers.  "Given the government's own statements
on the usefulness of wiretaps, we can only guess at the FBI's motives," said
Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU's National Washington Office.  "But if
Congress were to allow this system to go into place, we'd have a national
surveillance apparatus that would pale in comparison to the infamous security
state of the former Soviet Union."

"This proposal, Murphy added, "would make the KGB look like privacy

"The proposal would dramatically reduce the privacy rights in the United
States because it would -- no matter what the Justice Department says --
result in significant increase in the number of innocent third party
conversations intercepted by law enforcement officials," Murphy said.
 "Already too many innocent conversations -- nearly two million in the last
year alone -- are intercepted by federal and local law enforcement wiretaps."

According to the government's own statistics, 1,800 innocent conversations
are intercepted each and every time a wiretap or other form of electronic
surveillance is placed.

Just last week, the ACLU joined with the National Rifle Association and a
broad coalition of other gun advocates and civil liberties organizations in
calling for Congress to institute a 24-point reform plan for federal law
enforcement.  In a letter to Congress, the groups said that the excesses of
Waco and Ruby Ridge demonstrate that Congress and the Administration must
begin to reign in the powers of federal police authorities.

[The 24-point reform plan and related documents are available on America
Online, at keyword ACLU, under "federal law enforcement reforms."  For an
e-mailed copy of the reform plan, send a message to [email protected] with
"fed law enforcement reform" in the subject line.]


-Call the FBI at 202-252-7296 and urge it to withdraw the proposed
wiretapping system.  You can also find the phone number of the FBI's local
field offices at the FBI web site at http://www.fbi.gov.

-Call the Attorney General at 202-514-2001 and urge her to order the FBI to
withdraw its wiretapping proposal.

-Call your members of Congress and tell them to urge the Justice Department
and the FBI to withdraw the wiretap proposal.  Urge your representatives to
oppose any funding for this wiretap scheme.  You can reach the Capitol
Switchboard at 202-224-3121 for the Senate and 202-225-3121 for the House of

-Call Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), a former federal prosecutor and leading opponent
of funding effots for wiretap:

     Rep. Bob Barr
     U.S. House of Representatives
     1607 Longworth Building
     Washington, DC 20515
     (202) 225-2931

-Call your own telephone companies, both local and long distance, and urge
them to oppose the wiretap proposal and to stand up for the privacy rights of
their customers instead of becoming the snooping arm of a prying government.

*  ACTION ALERT on Federal Online Indecency Legislation

The conference committee on the telecommunications bill will soon consider
whether to remove provisions that would make "indecency" a crime in
cyberspace.  On Monday, November 6, we distributed an action alert urging
individuals to call Congress to express opposition to any measures to censor
the Net.


[You can find the action alert on America Online, at keyword ACLU, under
"threats to civil liberties in cyberspace," or on the Internet at

In addition to the call to action for individual Net users, the ACLU and
People for the American Way obtained signatures from over 75 organizations to
a letter opposing the federal online indecency provisions.  The letter will
be sent to Senator Pressler and Representative Bliley on the conference
committee later this week.

[After 11/13, you can find a copy of the organizational letter on America
Online, at keyword ACLU, under "threats to civil liberties in cyberspace."
 To receive a copy of the letter via e-mail, send a message to
[email protected] with "organizations opposed to online censorship" in the
subject line.]

The ACLU continues to prepare for a constitutional challenge to the online
censorship provisions if they become law.  Please contact Ann Beeson,
[email protected], if your organization is interested in being a plaintiff in
this ground-breaking litigation that will define First Amendment rights in

STATE PAGE (Legislation/Agency/Court Cases)
*  State Utility Commissions Consider Online Access and Privacy Issues

Many state utilities commissions are considering issues that can affect your
online access and privacy rights, from approving caller ID to defining
universal access.  Online users are urged to stay informed and involved in
utilities commission decisions in their states that may affect cyberspace
rights.  Consumer Project on Technology has put up a list of information
about state utility commissions.  The list includes contact information for
all 50 state utility commissions, and also lists utility consumer advocates
in 40 states.

See http://www.essential.org/cpt/isdn/contacts.html

*  News on Electronic Access to Public Information in Washington State

A Washington State task force has been examining the issue of electronic
access to information maintained by government agencies.  The ACLU of
Washington submitted comments commending the task force for requiring some
form of free electronic access, and limiting all fees to incremental costs.
 But the task force was criticized for not paying sufficient attention to
privacy, especially increased threats to privacy presented by accumulation of
information on individuals from diverse sources.  

Also in Washington State, King County Superior Court Judge George Finkle
ruled that Geographical Information System databases are public records and
must be made available to the public for nominal copying fees.  (GIS systems
are databases that contain information associated with a physical location,
such as the location of utility cables, public buildings, roads, demographic
information, zoning info, or traffic density.)  As in many locations around
the country, the City of Bellevue had attempted to charge far higher fees for
GIS databases, which were created for government use but also have commercial
value.  This ruling reaffirms the notion that public information should be
available to all, not just those with deep pockets.

*  John Perry Barlow Launches Cyberspace Lecture Series Co-Sponsored by the
ACLU of Washington

The ACLU of Washington began a series of talks in Seattle to explore the
impact and implications of the technology revolution on art and culture.
 John Perry Barlow, former Grateful Dead lyricist and co-founder of the
Electronic Frontier Foundation, launched the series on November 3rd.
 "Cyberspace is largely about conversation that ultimately could include
everybody on the planet . . . . Cyberspace can be the greatest venue for
freedom of expression humans have ever had," said Barlow.  Barlow talked of
the spiritual dimension of cyberspace, which he sees as an egalitarian
ecosystem with the potential to link "every synapse on the planet."  For him
cyberspace must be a place where anybody can say anything they think without
fear of reprisal.  But he tempered his lyrical vision of cyberculture with a
warning of the dangers of censorship from elected officials who do not
appreciate -- or even understand -- how new forms of communication function.
 "When I visit Congress, I feel like Tom Paine in the Court of King George,"
Barlow quipped.

*  ACLU-Georgetown University Law Center President Writes Articles on the
Marty Rimm controversy

Alan Lewine, President of the ACLU student chapter at GULC, has written a
series of articles for the Georgetown Law Weekly on the Georgetown Law
Journal's involvement in the controversial publication of Marty Rimm's
purported study of net porn. They are available at

Nov 8, 6 pm: "Regulating the Internet: Should Pornography Have A Free Ride on
the Information Superhighway?"  Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, 55 Fifth
Avenue, New York, New York.  Panelists include Nadine Strossen, National
President, ACLU; Bill Burrington, Staff Counsel of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation; and Barbara Bennett Woodhouse, Professor of Law at University of
Pennsylvania Law School.  Sponsored by the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law

Nov 16, 5 pm: Nadine Strossen (National President, ACLU) speaks on "Defending
Pornography: A Feminist Perspective on New Technologies and Old-Fashioned
Sex," GULC, 600 New Jersey NW, 12th Floor Ballroom, Gewirz Hall.
 Co-sponsored by ACLU-GULC and the Student Bar Association Speakers Fund.

Stay tuned for news on the ACLU's world wide web site, under construction at
http://www.aclu.org.  America Online users should check out our live chats,
auditorium events, *very* active message boards, and complete news on civil
liberties, at keyword ACLU.

ACLU of Pinellas County Florida

Illinois Civil Liberties Union

Champaign County, Illinois ACLU Chapter
(The chapter also maintains an Illinois Civil Liberties Alert List.  To
subscribe send a message to [email protected])

Indiana Civil Liberties Union

South Carolina:
ACLU of South Carolina

ACLU Cyber-Liberties Update
Editor: Ann Beeson ([email protected])
American Civil Liberties Union National Office
132 West 43rd Street
New York, New York 10036

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