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Civil Liberties Media Articles
Excerpts of Key Civil Liberties Media Articles in Major Media


Below are highly revealing excerpts of important civil liberties articles reported in the media suggesting a major cover-up. Links are provided to the full articles on major media websites. If any link fails to function, read this webpage. These civil liberties articles are listed by article date. You can also explore the articles listed by order of importance or by date posted. By choosing to educate ourselves on these important issues and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.

Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.


How Guantánamo Diary Escaped the Black Hole and Got Past the Censors (Mostly)
2015-01-31, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/01/31/guantanamo-diary-escaped-black-...

Guantánamo Diary ... in which Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi tells of his odyssey through overseas prisons and his torture and abuse by the US and its counterterrorism allies, is pockmarked with redactions left by military censors. The diary was finally published last week. Slahi, a 44-year-old Mauritanian educated in Germany, was rendered by the CIA to prison in Jordan in late 2001, then held by the U.S. in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. The U.S. has never charged him with a crime. By the time the editor Larry Siems got hold of the manuscript in 2012, volumes of information about Slahi’s case had come into the public record. In 2006, the government released transcripts from hearings evaluating prisoners’ detention status, Slahi’s among them. Reports from the Justice Department and the Senate Armed Services Committee detailed his interrogation. Siems was able to cross-reference these materials to establish the chronology of Slahi’s narrative, in which all dates have been redacted. Journalists have not been allowed to speak directly to current detainees. For Larry Siems, censorship is at the core of Slahi’s story, and while the redactions sometimes impede his narrative, they serve a literary function as well. “Secrecy was imposed in order for abuse to happen, and then more secrecy was imposed in order to cover it up,” said Siems. “The redactions are like the fingerprints of that longstanding censorship regime.”

Note: Despite U.S. officials acknowledging that many Guantanamo detainees pose no real threat to society, prisoners like Slahi continue to be detained as part of the ineffective but profitable war on terror.


The war on leaks has gone way too far when journalists' emails are under surveillance
2015-01-25, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/25/war-on-leaks-gone-way-to...

The outrageous legal attack on WikiLeaks and its staffers ... is an attack on freedom of the press itself. WikiLeaks has had their Twitter accounts secretly spied on, been forced to forfeit most of their funding after credit card companies unilaterally cut them off, had the FBI place an informant inside their news organization, watched their supporters hauled before a grand jury, and been the victim of the UK spy agency GCHQ hacking of their website and spying on their readers. Now we’ve learned that, as The Guardian reported on Sunday, the Justice Department got a warrant in 2012 to seize the contents – plus the metadata on emails received, sent, drafted and deleted – of three WikiLeaks’ staffers personal Gmail accounts. The tactics used against WikiLeaks by the Justice Department in their war on leaks [are] also used against mainstream news organizations. For example, after the Washington Post revealed in 2013 the Justice Department had gotten a warrant for the personal Gmail account of Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2010 without his knowledge. Despite the ongoing legal pressure, WikiLeaks has continued to publish important documents in the public interest.

Note: In recent years, Wikileaks' radical transparency has made draft texts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership public, and uncovered a secret CIA report that suggests the US government’s policy of assassinating foreign 'terrorists' does more harm than good. So who is the real problem here?


Barrett Brown sentenced to 63 months for 'merely linking to hacked material'
2015-01-22, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jan/22/barrett-brown-trial-warns-d...

Journalist and former Anonymous member ... Barrett Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison by a federal judge in Dallas on Thursday. The judge also ordered him to pay more than $890,000 in restitution and fines. An investigative journalist, essayist and satirist who has written for the Onion, Vanity Fair and the Huffington Post, as well as for the Guardian, Brown claims to have split with Anonymous in 2011. Brown also founded Project PM, a crowdsourced investigative thinktank dedicated to looking into abuses by companies in the area of surveillance. In September 2012, Brown was arrested by the FBI. In October 2012, after being held for two weeks without charge, he was indicted on charges of making an online threat, retaliating against a federal officer and conspiring to release personal information about a government employee. Two months later, he was indicted on 12 further charges related to the hacking of private intelligence contractor Stratfor in 2011. Jeremy Hammond, the hacker who actually carried out the Stratfor breach, was sentenced to the maximum possible 10 years. Brown, who was accused of sharing a link to the data Hammond obtained from the breach ... at one point faced a possible sentence of 105 years. He will reportedly be eligible for supervised release after one year, and once released will have his computer equipment monitored. The $890,250 in restitution payments will go to Stratfor and other companies targeted by Anonymous.

Note: Even after being targeted by a high level conspiracy, jailed on spurious charges, and forced to pay nearly a million dollars to Stratfor for merely writing about the hack of their private spy agency, Brown states that he remains committed to exposing corruption as a journalist from within the US prison system.


New police radars can 'see' inside homes
2015-01-20, USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/01/19/police-radar-see-through-walls/...

At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside. Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person's house without first obtaining a search warrant. The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving. The device the Marshals Service and others are using [was] first designed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. They represent the latest example of battlefield technology finding its way home to civilian policing and bringing complex legal questions with it. Those concerns are especially thorny when it comes to technology that lets the police determine what's happening inside someone's home.

Note: This technology is not new. Working as interpreter in Washington, DC, WantToKnow.info founder Fred Burks witnessed this technology being used by the police there in the late 1980s. For more along these lines, see this deeply revealing summarized NPR report about The Pentagon's massive Program 1033 to widely distribute military hardware to domestic police forces.


Saudi Arabia's Rights Crackdown Linked to War on Terror
2015-01-20, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/saudi-arabias-rights-crackdown-...

A man is given 50 lashes in a public square for "insulting Islam" on a liberal blog. Another is arrested for filming and uploading a woman's public beheading. Two females are imprisoned and put on trial for writing on Twitter in support of women driving. The cases are part of a sweeping clampdown on dissent. Acts that offend the country's religious hard-liners or open up the kingdom to criticism — like the video of the execution of a woman convicted of murdering her stepdaughter — have landed people in jail as a warning to others. The case of Raif Badawi, a 31-year-old father of three who was flogged this month, has attracted the most attention in recent days, particularly in the aftermath of the deadly attack in Paris. Badawi was arrested in 2012 after writing articles critical of Saudi Arabia's clerics on his Free Saudi Liberals blog. He was sentenced in May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes and was fined $266,000. Just days after the attacks in Paris, Saudi Arabia's minister of state for foreign affairs took part in the huge march that was held there to support free speech and honor the victims. Two days earlier, Badawi was flogged [for "insulting Islam" on his blog]. Critics of the crackdown on dissent point out that public beheadings are also practiced by al-Qaida and IS.

Note: Saudi Arabia continues to be a key ally of the US. Is this really what we want to support? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about civil liberties from reliable major media sources.


Holder limits seized-asset sharing process that split billions with local, state police
2015-01-16, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/holder-ends-seized-asset-sharing...

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using [a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing] to seize cash, cars and other property without warrants or criminal charges. The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. It allowed police ... to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of adopted seizures. Since 2001, about 7,600 of the nation’s 18,000 police departments and task forces have participated in Equitable Sharing. For hundreds of police departments and sheriff’s offices, the seizure proceeds accounted for 20 percent or more of their annual budgets in recent years. The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security paid private firms millions to train local and state officers in the techniques of an aggressive brand of policing [that] emphasized the importance of targeting cash. Most of the money and property taken under Equitable Sharing since 2008 — $3 billion out of $5.3 billion — was not seized in collaboration with federal authorities. The Treasury Department is also changing its asset forfeiture program to follow the same guideline included in Holder’s order, the statement said.

Note: While civil asset forfeiture may remain common in some U.S. states, Holder's announcement means that police can no longer pad their departmental budgets with this federal program. A Washington Post investigation and an Institute for Justice Study were instrumental in exposing this program's corrupting influence.


Go to the bank, go to jail
2014-12-26, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/editorials/article/Go-to-the-bank-go-to-jail-59...

[Making bank deposits of] less than $10,000 is illegal if it is done to evade a federal bank reporting requirement. [By] a practice known as civil asset forfeiture, prosecutors can seize [such bank deposits]. As an individual, you may be presumed innocent unless or until you are proven guilty, but your money and possessions have no such protections. To get your money back, you have to go to court essentially to prove that you and your assets are not guilty. Federal agents have used this power to seize medical marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized medical marijuana ... to shut down what are legal businesses under California law without having to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the owners violated federal drug laws. Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and President Obama’s nominee to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General, has been an aggressive practitioner of asset seizures. Lynch’s office has served as a major forfeiture operation, bringing in more than $113 million in civil actions from 123 cases between 2011 and 2013. [One] case involves Bi-Country Distributors, a Long Island family business that stocks convenience stores. In May 2012, federal agents seized more than $400,000 from the business bank account. Brothers Jeffrey, Richard and Mitch Hirsch who run the business ... made frequent deposits under $10,000. Federal prosecutors grabbed the money, but didn’t charge the Hirsches with a crime.

Note: This story references facts from a Wall Street Journal article that calls civil asset forfeiture "an all-purpose cash machine for police departments and prosecutors." For more along these lines, see this deeply revealing summary of a New York Times article that shows how cops steal from innocents to pad police department budgets.


With hackers running rampant, why would we poke holes in data security?
2014-12-14, LA Times
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-1215-wyden-backdoor-for-cell-phone...

Hardly a week goes by without a new report of some massive data theft that has put financial information, trade secrets or government records into the hands of computer hackers. The best defense against these attacks is clear: strong data encryption and more secure technology systems. U.S. intelligence agencies hold a different view. James Comey, the FBI director, is lobbying Congress to require that electronics manufacturers create intentional security holes — so-called back doors — that would enable the government to [easily] access data on every American's cellphone and computer. Building a back door into every cellphone, tablet, or laptop means deliberately creating weaknesses that hackers and foreign governments can exploit. What these officials are proposing would be bad for personal data security and bad for business. Built-in back doors have ... disastrous results. The U.S. House of Representatives recognized how dangerous this idea was and in June approved [an] amendment [to] prohibit the government from mandating that technology companies build security weaknesses into any of their products. I introduced legislation in the Senate to accomplish the same goal. Advances in technology always pose a new challenge to law enforcement agencies. But curtailing innovation on data security is no solution, and certainly won't restore public trust in tech companies or government agencies.

Note: Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote the article summarized above. The NSA routinely creates and exploits security holes in commercial encryption software and devices to spy on people, and shares the personal data it obtains with the CIA, FBI, IRS, and others through the DEA's Special Operations Division. What exactly is the FBI director asking congress for now?


Amid Details on Torture, Data on 26 Who Were Held in Error
2014-12-12, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/13/us/politics/amid-details-on-torture-data-on...

One quiet consequence of this week’s sensational release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the C.I.A. detention program was a telephone call that a human rights lawyer, Meg Satterthwaite, placed to a client in Yemen, Mohamed Bashmilah. For eight years since Mr. Bashmilah, 46, was released from C.I.A. custody, Ms. Satterthwaite ... had been trying without success to get the United States government to acknowledge that it had held him in secret prisons for 19 months and to explain why. In the phone call on Wednesday, she told him that the Senate report listed him as one of 26 prisoners who, based on C.I.A. documents, had been “wrongfully detained.” After learning the news, Mr. Bashmilah pressed Ms. Satterthwaite, who heads the global justice program at New York University Law School, to tell him what might follow from the Senate’s recognition. Would there be an apology? Would there be some kind of compensation? Among the others mistakenly held for periods of months or years, according to the report, were an “intellectually challenged” man held by the C.I.A. solely to pressure a family member to provide information; two people who were former C.I.A. informants; and two brothers who were falsely linked to Al Qaeda. Ms. Satterthwaite was not able to answer Mr. Bashmilah’s question about an apology or reparation. No apology was forthcoming from the C.I.A., which declined to comment on specific cases.

Note: An ACLU lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr. Bashmilah and others flown to prisons on C.I.A. aircraft was dismissed on the grounds that it might expose state secrets. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing stories about questionable intelligence agency practices from reliable sources.


Undercover CHP officer pulls gun at Oakland protest after outing
2014-12-11, San Francisco Chronicle
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Undercover-cops-outed-attacked-at-Oakla...

An undercover California Highway Patrol officer who was attempting to infiltrate a demonstration against police brutality in Oakland pulled a gun on the protesters after he and his partner were outed. "About 50 people were marching near Lake Merritt just after 11:30 p.m. Wednesday when some of the demonstrators began calling out two men who were walking with the group," said [news photographer] Michael Short. “Just as we turned up 27th Street, the crowd started yelling at these two guys, saying they were undercover cops,” Short said Thursday. “Somebody snatched a hat off the shorter guy’s head and he was fumbling around for it. A guy ran up behind him, knocked him down on the ground. The crowd began surging on them. “The other taller guy... as the crowd started surging on them, he pulled out a gun.” Chief Browne said the officer also pulled out a badge ... though Short, other members of the media and protesters reported that they did not see a badge. The officers, who Browne said he is not identifying, had been trailing the crowd in an unmarked car and began following on foot. Short said the officers were wearing street clothes and had their faces covered with bandannas. Browne confirmed this and ... said it was common. Several protesters took to Twitter to say that the officers had actually instigated acts of vandalism and were banging on windows alongside others.

Note: Here is proof that the police are infiltrating marches by protesters and wearing masks to cover their identities. Often those promoting violence are using masks. Could the police in some instances actually be provoking violence among protesters to discredit the movement?


At America’s court of last resort, a handful of lawyers now dominates the docket
2014-12-08, Reuters
http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/scotus/

The U.S. Supreme Court building proclaims a high ideal: “Equal Justice Under Law.” But inside, an elite cadre of lawyers has emerged [to give] their clients a disproportionate chance to influence the law. A Reuters examination of nine years of cases shows that 66 of the 17,000 lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court ... were at least six times more likely to be accepted by the court than were all others. About half [of these 66 lawyers] worked for justices past or present, and some socialize with them. Although they account for far less than 1 percent of lawyers who filed appeals to the Supreme Court, these attorneys were involved in 43 percent of the cases the high court chose to decide from 2004 through 2012. The Reuters examination of the Supreme Court’s docket, the most comprehensive ever, suggests ... a decided advantage for corporate America. Some legal experts contend that the reliance on a small cluster of specialists, most working on behalf of businesses, has turned the Supreme Court into an echo chamber – a place where an elite group of jurists embraces an elite group of lawyers who reinforce narrow views of how the law should be construed. Of the 66 most successful lawyers, 51 worked for law firms that primarily represented corporate interests. In cases pitting the interests of customers, employees or other individuals against those of companies, a leading attorney was three times more likely to launch an appeal for business than for an individual, Reuters found.

Note: How interesting that no major media seem to have picked up this revealing story. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption from reliable major media sources.


Eric Garner and the Legal Rules That Enable Police Violence
2014-12-05, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/06/opinion/eric-garner-and-the-legal-rules-tha...

Eric Garner was not the first American to be choked by the police, and he will not be the last, thanks to legal rules that prevent victims of police violence from asking federal courts to help stop deadly practices. The 1983 case City of Los Angeles v. Lyons vividly illustrates the problem. That case also involved an African-American man choked by the police without provocation. Unlike Mr. Garner, Adolph Lyons survived. He then filed a federal lawsuit, asking the city to compensate him for his injuries. He also asked the court to prevent the Los Angeles Police Department from using chokeholds in the future. The trial court ordered the L.A.P.D. to stop using chokeholds. The Supreme Court overturned this order. The court explained that Mr. Lyons would have needed to prove that he personally was likely to be choked again in order for his lawsuit to be a vehicle for systemic reform. This is the legal standard when a plaintiff asks a federal court for an injunction — or a forward-looking legal order. When the stakes are this deadly, federal courts should step in. If police departments still failed to comply, federal judges could impose penalties. How do we know? Consider school segregation. Local officials had promised change but failed to ensure it. It took decades of close supervision by federal courts to make a dent in the problem. As the courts started to leave this field in more recent years, de facto segregation returned.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about civil liberties and government corruption from reliable major media sources.


Ohio Men Wrongly Convicted of Murder After 39 Years Released
2014-11-21, NBC News
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/crime-courts/ohio-men-wrongly-convicted-murder-af...

Two Ohio men wrongly accused of murder experienced freedom for the first time in nearly four decades on Friday morning, but said they don’t harbor bitterness over their unjust imprisonment. A Cleveland judge on Wednesday had dropped all charges against Ricky Jackson, 57, and Wiley Bridgeman, 60, allowing for the pair’s release. Jackson was 19 when he was convicted along with Bridgeman and Bridgeman’s brother, Ronnie, in the 1975 shooting death and robbery of Harold Franks, a Cleveland-area money order salesman. Testimony from a 12-year-old witness helped point to Jackson as the triggerman and led a jury to convict. The witness, Edward Vernon, now 53, recanted his testimony last year, saying he was coerced by detectives, according to Cuyahoga County court documents. Vernon wrote in a 2013 affidavit that he never saw the murder take place, but he was told by detectives that if he didn’t testify against Jackson, his parents would be arrested. The Ohio Innocence Project, which took up the case, said Jackson had been the longest-held U.S. prisoner to be exonerated. Jackson was originally sentenced to death, but that sentence was vacated because of a paperwork error. The Bridgeman brothers remained on death row until Ohio declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1978. “One of them came within 20 days of execution before Ohio ruled the death penalty unconstitutional” said Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project.

Note: Watch an inspiring five-minute video of this beautiful man who was originally sentenced to death based largely on the testimony of a 12 year old, who it turns out was coerced by police to blame him. And how many have been wrongly executed that we will never know about? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties articles from reliable major media sources.


Police Use Department Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize
2014-11-09, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/10/us/police-use-department-wish-list-when-dec...

Civil asset forfeiture ... allows the government, without ever securing a conviction or even filing a criminal charge, to seize property. The practice ... has become a staple of law enforcement agencies because it helps finance their work. Under a Justice Department program, the value of assets seized has ballooned to $4.3 billion in the 2012 fiscal year from $407 million in 2001. From Orange County, N.Y., to Rio Rancho, N.M., forfeiture operations are being established or expanded. Much of the nuts-and-bolts how-to of civil forfeiture is passed on in continuing education seminars for local prosecutors and law enforcement officials, some of which have been captured on video. In the sessions, officials ... offered advice on dealing with skeptical judges, mocked Hispanics whose cars were seized, and ... gave weight to the argument that civil forfeiture encourages decisions based on the value of the assets to be seized rather than public safety. Prosecutors boasted in the sessions that seizure cases were rarely contested or appealed. Civil forfeiture places the burden on owners, who must pay court fees and legal costs. And often the first hearing is presided over not by a judge but by the prosecutor whose office benefits from the proceeds. Mr. McMurtry [chief of the forfeiture unit in the Mercer County, N.J., prosecutor’s office] said his handling of a case is sometimes determined by department wish lists. “If you want the car, and you really want to put it in your fleet, let me know — I’ll fight for it.”

Note: Watch the video at the link above showing a trainer teaching cops how to steal a car that a cop might want legally. For more along these lines, see these concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption and civil liberties news articles from reliable sources.


UK intelligence agencies spying on lawyers in sensitive security cases
2014-11-07, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/06/intelligence-agencies-lawyer-cli...

The intelligence services have routinely been intercepting legally privileged communications ... according to internal MI5, MI6 and GCHQ documents. The information obtained may even have been exploited unlawfully and used by the agencies in the fighting of court cases in which they themselves are involved, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has been told. MP David Davis, a former shadow home secretary, said past practice was to delete such material immediately if it was ever picked up. 28 extracts of internal intelligence policies showing how legally privileged material is handled by security officials were released to lawyers pursuing a claim through the IPT. The claim has been brought by two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami Al Saadi. They were abducted in a joint MI6-CIA operation and ... tortured by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2004. Belhaj has been given permission to sue the government for his mistreatment. Davis, who attended the hearing, said: “In the past, when a bug or intercept on a criminal accidentally picked up a conversation with the criminal’s lawyer, the rule was that it was immediately deleted. Today’s hearing shows that is no longer the case. Agencies are clearly keeping records of legal privileged material, and have explicit policies to handle it. In the case of MI5 that policy includes concealing ... that they have the material. This change has been carried out without changing the law or telling parliament. This is an enormous breach of defendants’ judicial rights.”

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency corruption news articles from reliable sources.


Three Ways Courts Screw the Innocent Into Pleading Guilty
2014-11-07, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/11/07/how-the-innocent-get-screwed

(senior federal district judge) Jed A. Rakoff’s essay in The New York Review of Books ... tries to explain why innocent people so often plead guilty. At least 20,000 people have pled guilty to and gone to jail for felonies they did not commit — if you very conservatively take criminologists’ lowest estimates, and cut them in half. Rakoff identifies three ways the criminal justice system obstructs its own “truth seeking mechanism,” a trial by jury: 1. By embracing the increasingly popular plea bargain. 97 percent of federal trials were resolved last year through plea bargain. Plea bargains ... are weighted largely in favor of the prosecutor. The notion that a plea bargain is a contractual mediation between two relatively equal parties, Rakoff argues, “is a total myth”. 2. Through mandatory minimum sentences. The combination of mandatory sentences and prosecutorial discretion forces the defendant [to] run the risk of losing the case and serve the maximum sentence or take a reduced charge, at a reduced sentence, even when innocent. 3. Via the unfettered rise of prosecutorial power. Prosecutors have far more power ... than any other party involved in the criminal justice system. The one mechanism that could check their power is the jury trial, which is becoming “virtually extinct” in federal court, Rakoff writes. One possible solution to all these problems — aside from repealing mandatory minimum sentences and generally reducing the severity of sentences — is greater judicial oversight.

Note: For more along these lines, see these concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption and civil liberties news articles from reliable sources.


Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required
2014-10-25, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/us/law-lets-irs-seize-accounts-on-suspicion...

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. She deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account. She has not been charged with any crime. The money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time. Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers ... the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint. Richard Weber, the chief of Criminal Investigation at the I.R.S., said in a written statement ... that making deposits under $10,000 to evade reporting requirements, called structuring, is ... a crime. The Institute for Justice, a Washington-based public interest law firm ... analyzed structuring data from the I.R.S., which made 639 seizures in 2012, up from 114 in 2005. Only one in five was prosecuted as a criminal structuring case. Law enforcement agencies get to keep a share of whatever is forfeited. This incentive has led to the creation of a law enforcement dragnet, with more than 100 multiagency task forces combing through bank reports, looking for accounts to seize. There are often legitimate business reasons for keeping deposits below $10,000, said Larry Salzman, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice. For example, he said, a grocery store owner in Fraser, Mich., had an insurance policy that covered only up to $10,000 cash.

Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles.


Travelers, say bon voyage to privacy
2014-10-16, Dallas News
http://www.dallasnews.com/investigations/watchdog/20141016-watchdog-travelers...

Did you know that when you buy an airline ticket and make other travel reservations, the federal government keeps a record of the details in a file called Passenger Name Record or PNR? If airlines don’t comply, they can’t fly in the U.S., explains Ed Hasbrouck, a privacy expert with the Identity Project who has studied the records for years and is considered the nation’s top expert. Before each trip, the system creates a travel score for you, generated by your PNR. Before an airline can issue you a boarding pass, the system must approve your passage, Hasbrouck explains. That’s one way people on the No Fly List are targeted. The idea behind extensive use of PNRs, he says, is not necessarily to watch known suspects but to find new ones. Want to appeal the process? “It’s a secret administrative process based on the score you don’t know, based on files you haven’t seen,” Hasbrouck says. The program collects seemingly trivial details. If you have an argument with an airline gate agent and that agent enters a notation ... that record stays in your PNR. “The U.S. government is getting the data and sharing it in ways we don’t fully know about with other governments,” Hasbrouck says. The information collected by the airlines is shared with third-party data companies who store it. Where? In the cloud. Make you feel safer? In Canada and the European Union, the collection of this information spurred public debate. But not here.

Note: Read this excellent article for lots more details on how the government spies on your travels. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable sources.


Public’s rights getting slowly pared back
2014-10-11, Miami Herald
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article...

Last week, a federal judge told us what we already knew. Namely, that police in Ferguson, Mo. violated the rights of protesters demonstrating against the shooting death of Michael Brown. U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry struck down an ad hoc rule under which cops had said people could not stand still while peacefully protesting. Still, one’s sense of righteous vindication is tempered by the fact that police felt free to try this absurd stratagem in the first place — and by the fact that this was hardly the only recent example of police using the Constitution for Kleenex. Ferguson, let us not forget, is also the town where reporters were tear gassed and jailed and photographers ordered to stop taking pictures. In our unthinking mania for laws to “get tough on crime,” we actually made it tougher on ourselves, altering the balance of power between people and police to the point where a cop can now take your legally-earned money off your sovereign person and there’s little you can do about it. Indeed, at the height of the Ferguson protests, an L.A. cop named Sunil Dutta published in the Washington Post an Op-Ed advising that, “if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.” Don’t argue, he said, even if you “believe (or know)” your rights are being violated. Deal with it later. It’s all well and good that now, several weeks after the fact, a court affirms the rights Ferguson police denied. But that’s a poor consolation prize. An argument can be made that rights which aren’t respected in the moment they are asserted are not really rights at all.

Note: For more on the history of civil rights violations in Ferguson, MO, see this deeply revealing news article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of recent news articles about the erosion of our civil liberties from reliable major media sources.


Court Spotlights the FBI’s Super-Secret National Security Letters
2014-10-09, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/09/court-spotlight-super-secret-na...

[National security letters], the reach of which was expanded under the Patriot Act in 2001, let the FBI get business records from telephone, banking, and Internet companies with just a declaration that the information is relevant to a counterterrorism investigation. The FBI can get such information with a subpoena or another method with some judicial oversight. Can the government make demands for data entirely in secret? That was the question yesterday before a federal appeals court in San Francisco, where government lawyers argued that National Security Letters — FBI requests for information that are so secret they can’t be publicly acknowledged by the recipients — were essential to counterterrorism investigations. One of the judges seemed to question why there was no end-date on the gag orders, and why the burden was on the recipients of NSLs to challenge them. “It leaves it to the poor person who is subject to those requirements to just constantly petition the government to get rid of it,” said the judge, N. Randy Smith. The FBI sends out thousands of NSLs each year – 21,000 in fiscal year 2012. Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft filed a brief in support of the NSL challenge, arguing that they want to “publish more detailed aggregate statistics about the volume, scope and type of NSLs that the government uses to demand information about their users.” Twitter also announced this week that it was suing the U.S. government over restrictions on how it can talk about surveillance orders. Tech companies can currently make public information about the number of NSLs or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders they receive in broad ranges, but Twitter wants to be more specific.

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