The Office of Human Rights and Equity in Howard County, Maryland is a government body that strives to eliminate discrimination and promote equal opportunity. In December 2001, a coalition of civil liberties organizations filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking information on the hundreds of people detained as part of the counter-terrorism investigation. The Board of Human Rights and Equity is responsible for assessing and analyzing data and policies to guarantee that the rights to privacy and civil liberties are taken into account in efforts to protect the nation from terrorism. The Commission is also tasked with recommending a civil rights policy to the County Executive and County Council, as well as conducting surveys and studies on civil liberties to foster equality in the community.
Moreover, there is a law that prohibits retaliation for filing a complaint or participating in a protected act (such as being a witness in a human rights investigation). In the past, judges who have suppressed evidence in drug cases or criticized government search and seizure activities have been subject to political criticism, which has sent a message that the judiciary will not play an independent role. To gain further insight into this issue, two specialists in the area of civil liberties and law enforcement were invited to speak at a panel discussion. They discussed the impact of past national crises on the protection of civil rights and civil liberties, providing a historical perspective on the situation in connection with September 11. It is evident that civil rights and civil liberties have an essential role in politics in Columbia, Maryland.
The Office of Human Rights and Equity works to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly and equally, while the Board of Human Rights and Equity reviews policies to guarantee that privacy and civil liberties are taken into account. Additionally, laws are in place to protect those who file complaints or participate in protected acts from retaliation. Finally, panel discussions provide an opportunity for experts to discuss the impact of past national crises on civil rights and civil liberties.