Change Watch: ACLU’s Wish List

by Devanshu Mehta

Like I said earlier, everybody’s got a wish list for the new President. Not everyone provides a timetable the way the ACLU has.

They divide up their “Actions for Restoring America” in to things to do on the first day, the first 100 days and the first year. The first day includes things like stopping torture, closing Guantanamo, and ending extraordinary renditions. The next 99 days are more interesting from a geek policy standpoint.constvoter_button2.gif

  • Warrantless Spying: Yeah, no kidding. ACLU wants an executive order recognizing the president’s obligation to comply with FISA and prohibiting the NSA from warrantless spying. Hurray!
  • Freedom of Information Act: Under something called the “Ashcroft Doctrine”, the current administration chose not to release info for all FOIA requests if there was a “sound legal basis”. Translation: if we say so. The ACLU wants that to go away.
  • Real ID: They want Homeland Security to suspend the regulations for the Real ID Act– again, hurray if it happens.
  • Scientific Freedom: To remove political control of scientific and academic inquiry.
  • Media Consolidation: To urge the FCC to address the growing problem of media consolidation. I’m not sure what the FCC can do (other than reverse its rule loosening cross-media ownership), but it’s a noble goal.
  • Network Neutrality: To mold the FCC to enforce these principles. This was part of Obama’s technology policy paper, but it remains to be seen how much he involves government in enforcing it.
  • Online Censorship of Soldiers: “Those who would fight and die to defend our freedoms abroad should not be denied those same rights themselves.” Well said.
  • Fleeting Expletives: At times over the past 5 years it has seemed that the only purpose of the FCC has been to make sure that anyone who says a naughty word on television gets fined in to oblivion.
  • World Intellectual Property Organization: The negotiations that the US has had with WIPO have been restrictive of free speech and fair use of data. Must change.

All valid points. What remains to be seen is how much of a priority these concerns remain in such harsh economic times. In some cases, making the right kind of appointments to FCC and other positions should take care of concerns.

Until inauguration day on the 20th of January, I will be covering some of the aspects of the transition to the Obama administration that affect technology and open government in a series called Change Watch.

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