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April 2016 Grants | Donor Legacies

Mary Sherman Parsons. Photo courtesy of Vassar College

She Cared About Civil Liberties. So She Gave.

Mary Sherman Parsons could see into the future. Long before Edward Snowden unveiled global surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency, Parsons believed people should be aware of the extent of information collected by the government.

A neighborhood leader on the Upper West Side, she left a bequest to The Trust when she died in 2005: She asked that we support research on how government agencies get information about citizens. She also wanted us to help Americans use the federal Freedom of Information Act to access files on themselves and their families.

We recently helped the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU) create a website explaining how citizens can request this information, and the site has attracted 90,000 visitors. We’ve also supported the ACLU’s investigation of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s collection of Americans’ phone records, and law enforcement’s use of license plate readers to track people. Just as Mary Sherman Parsons wanted.

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