The Arizona Immigration Law is Beside the Point

This summer, the Supreme Court is expected to rule in the case Arizona v. United States, and decide the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070. On Forbes.com this week, my research assistant Daniel R. Schwartz and I argue that no matter the outcome of Arizona v. United States, a series of oppressive violations of immigrants' rights—and some truly shocking civil liberties violations—currently enshrined into law are unlikely to disappear.

You can find the article here

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Boston College Researchers Drink with the IRA, and Academics Everywhere Get the Hangover

Often the most precipitous modes of inquiry are the most vital. Certainly, that was how Anthony McIntyre and Ed Maloney felt when they founded the Belfast Project, a Boston College-based oral history project that would solicit candid narratives of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. The wound in Ireland is still raw, and it is therefore unsurprising that Belfast Project interviewees were promised that their stories would be kept secret until their deaths.

But last month, a federal judge in Massachusetts ordered Boston College to turn over many of the transcripts in order to aid with the police investigation into a forty year old unsolved murder in Ireland. In our piece this week on Forbes.com, Daniel Schwartz and I discuss the judge’s decision and argue that, while it pays lip service to the importance of academic freedom, it does not go nearly far enough to protect society’s interests and could end up setting a very unfortunate precedent for scholars engaged in sensitive research. 

Take a look at an excerpt of our piece after the jump, or read it in its entirety by clicking here

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Obama Learns Newspeak: The Administration's Perversion of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)


On October 30th, the Obama administration proposed an executive rule that will instruct government agencies to lie to the citizenry. The administration's proposal is a rule-change to the Freedom of Information Act: under the new policy, agencies would be instructed to tell citizens seeking prohibited documents not merely that the documents are not available, but that the documents do not exist at all. As my research assistant Daniel Schwartz and I show in our article on Forbes.com today, the implications of this seemingly insignificant bureaucratic decision are quite far-reaching, and make a veritable mockery of President Obama's supposed embrace of a new "era of openness" in government.

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The right to videotape a cop


Yesterday, I was quoted in a story in the Boston Herald about a new lawsuit brought by my colleague Harold Friedman against the Boston Police Department. Harold's client, Maury Palino, alleges that he was hit and pepper sprayed in retaliation for filming some policemen making a violent arrest. In the article, I argue that the right to film police officers is essential to promoting an open and more free society, a right, incidentally, recognized by the courts in Simon Glik's recent case.

You can find the article by clicking here.

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Wendy Kaminer in The Atlantic: 'When Everyone is an Offender'


Stalwart civil libertarian (and longtime friend) Wendy Kaminer points out in The Atlantic how a recent New York Times Magazine article, which lauded "fuzzy" prohibitions on insider trading, essentially scoffs at the time-tested guarantee of due process. Due process "requires that laws clearly delineate the boundaries between legal and illegal behavior, providing us with notice of our potential criminal liabilities and denying prosecutors the arbitrary, ad hoc power to police our private and public lives," Kaminer writes. She goes on to cite the recent case of a Boston firefighter who was acquitted of mail fraud, and whose acquittal caused a curious uproar from local media.

Locally, a Boston jury recently acquitted a former firefighter of mail fraud after he was caught engaging in bodybuilding while on disability leave. In response to an outcry over the acquittal of this apparently non-disabled defendant, jurors explained to the Boston Globe that while they considered him guilty of trying to defraud the pension system, "they did not accept that he was guilty of two counts of mail fraud, a federal crime that could have put the muscular 49-year-old behind bars for up to 20 years." He should have should have been charged in state court for simple fraud, jurors reportedly concluded. 
But cases like this are unusual. The vast majority of criminal cases never reach juries, much less the Supreme Court, so there are few checks on federal prosecutors who abuse a vague, expansive criminal code. We might all be prosecuted for committing "three felonies a day," my friend Harvey Silverglate has written. 

"When Everyone is an Offender," Wendy Kaminer, The Atlantic (September 28, 2011)

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