Civil Liberties Media Articles
Excerpts of Key Civil Liberties Media Articles from Major Media
Below are many highly revealing excerpts of important civil liberties articles reported in the mainstream media suggesting a cover-up.
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For an index to revealing excerpts of media articles on several dozen engaging topics, click here
Police to begin iPhone iris scans amid privacy concerns
2011-07-20, Chicago Tribune/Reuters News
Dozens of police departments nationwide are gearing up to use a tech company's already controversial iris- and facial-scanning device that slides over an iPhone and helps identify a person or track criminal suspects. Its use has set off alarms with some who are concerned about possible civil liberties and privacy issues. The smartphone-based scanner, named Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System, or MORIS, is made by BI2 Technologies in Plymouth, Massachusetts. An iris scan, which detects unique patterns in a person's eyes, can reduce to seconds the time it takes to identify a suspect in custody. When attached to an iPhone, MORIS can photograph a person's face and run the image through software that hunts for a match in a BI2-managed database of U.S. criminal records. Constitutional rights advocates are concerned, in part because the device can accurately scan an individual's face from up to four feet away, potentially without a person's being aware of it. Experts also say that before police administer an iris scan, they should have probable cause a crime has been committed. "What we don't want is for them to become a general surveillance tool, where the police start using them routinely on the general public, collecting biometric information on innocent people," said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the national ACLU in Washington, D.C.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on government threats to privacy and civil liberties, click here and here.
Is the US government at war with whistleblowers?
2011-07-15, BBC News
The Obama administration is facing criticism for prosecutions brought under the US Espionage Act against government employees accused of leaking sensitive information. Mark Feldstein, professor of media at the University of Maryland, sees a worrying trend of espionage prosecutions since President Obama took office. "To everyone's surprise, the Obama administration has escalated the war against whistleblowers and the attacks on information that journalists and the public were depending on to get evidence of wrongdoing by powerful institutions and individuals," Prof Feldstein says. On Friday, Thomas Drake, a former senior official at the National Security Agency, a highly secretive US spy agency, was sentenced to one year's probation, after the Department of Justice's case against him collapsed. He had been accused of passing on information to a journalist about a government computer programme he considered wasteful. Outside court, Mr Drake said the government's prosecution had been "vindictive and malicious". According his lawyer Jesselyn Radack, the charge that he passed on secret information was a ''bald-faced lie''. Critics say the US classification system is often arbitrary, with documents often stamped ''classified'' when the content is not secret or that sensitive.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on government threats to civil liberties, click here.
To Track Militants, U.S. Has System That Never Forgets a Face
2011-07-14, New York Times
With little notice and only occasional complaints, the American military and local authorities have been engaged in an ambitious effort to record biometric identifying information on a remarkable number of people in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly men of fighting age. Information about more than 1.5 million Afghans has been put in databases operated by American, NATO and local forces. In Iraq, an even larger number of people, and a larger percentage of the population, have been registered. Data have been gathered on roughly 2.2 million Iraqis. A citizen in Afghanistan or Iraq would almost have to spend every minute in a home village and never seek government services to avoid ever crossing paths with a biometric system. What is different from traditional fingerprinting is that the government can scan through millions of digital files in a matter of seconds. While the systems are attractive to American law enforcement agencies, there is serious legal and political opposition to imposing routine collection on American citizens. Various federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have discussed biometric scanning, and many have even spent money on hand-held devices. But the proposed uses are much more limited, with questions being raised about constitutional rights of privacy and protection from warrantless searches.
Note: Many new technologies for domestic population control are developed, deployed, and tested by the US military in war theaters abroad, and then shared with police agencies in the US. For many examples see our "Non-lethal" Weapons article archive available here.
Obama under fire over detention of terror suspect on US navy ship
2011-07-06, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
The Obama administration approved the secret detention of a Somali terror suspect on board a US navy ship, where for two months he was subjected to military interrogation in the absence of a lawyer and without charge. The capture and treatment of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame has rekindled the debate within the US about the appropriate handling of terror suspects. Civil rights groups have objected to the secret questioning of Warsame on board a navy vessel, an innovation that they fear could see a new form of the CIA's widely discredited "black site" detention centres around the world. The US government is turning to detention at sea as a way of avoiding legal and political impediments in the treatment of terror suspects, both domestically and on the international stage. Last week Admiral William McRaven, soon to become head of US Special Operations Command, told his confirmation hearing that militants captured outside Afghanistan were often "put on a naval vessel" to be held until they could be sent to a third country or a case was compiled against them for prosecution in the US courts. Officials told the Washington Post that Warsame was interrogated on "all but a daily basis" on board the ship. The right to a lawyer was withheld along with other habeas corpus rights known in the US as Miranda rights. Civil rights groups have said the secret interrogation was a blatant violation of the Geneva conventions that prohibit prolonged detention of suspects at sea.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on the illegal actions taken by the US government in its "global war on terror", click here.
Hemingway, Hounded by the Feds
2011-07-02, New York Times
Early one morning, 50 years ago today, while his wife, Mary, slept upstairs, Ernest Hemingway went into the vestibule of his Ketchum, Idaho, house, selected his favorite shotgun from the rack, inserted shells into its chambers and ended his life. There were many differing explanations at the time: that he had terminal cancer or money problems, that it was an accident, that he’d quarreled with Mary. None were true. As his friends knew, he’d been suffering from depression and paranoia for the last year of his life. This man, who had stood his ground against charging water buffaloes, who had flown missions over Germany, who had refused to accept the prevailing style of writing but, enduring rejection and poverty, had insisted on writing in his own unique way, this man, my deepest friend, was afraid — afraid that the F.B.I. was after him. Decades later, in response to a Freedom of Information petition, the F.B.I. released its Hemingway file. It revealed that beginning in the 1940s J. Edgar Hoover had placed Ernest under surveillance because he was suspicious of Ernest’s activities in Cuba. Over the following years, agents filed reports on him and tapped his phones. In the years since, I have tried to reconcile Ernest’s fear of the F.B.I., which I regretfully misjudged, with the reality of the F.B.I. file. I now believe he truly sensed the surveillance, and that it substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide.
Note: The view that FBI harassment contributed to Hemingway's suicide is similar to the conclusion of many observers that the FBI hounded microbiologist Bruce Ivins to death by investigating him for involvement in the anthrax attacks that occurred just after 9/11. For an important analysis of the reality of the anthrax attacks by Prof. Graeme MacQueen of McMaster University, which makes it clear they could not have been carried out by a "lone nut" as claimed by the FBI, click here.
Ex-Spy Alleges Bush White House Sought to Discredit Critic
2011-06-16, New York Times
A former senior C.I.A. official says that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him. Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war. In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole. Since a series of Watergate-era abuses involving spying on White House political enemies, the C.I.A. and other spy agencies have been prohibited from collecting intelligence concerning the activities of American citizens inside the United States. “These allegations, if true, raise very troubling questions,” said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former C.I.A. general counsel. “The statute makes it very clear: you can’t spy on Americans.” Mr. Smith added that a 1981 executive order that prohibits the C.I.A. from spying on Americans places tight legal restrictions not only on the agency’s ability to collect information on United States citizens, but also on its retention or dissemination of that data.
Note: For important reports from major media sources on a wide array of threats to civil liberties by out-of-control government agencies and officials, click here.
Activists cry foul over FBI probe
2011-06-13, Washington Post
FBI agents took box after box of address books, family calendars, artwork and personal letters in their 10-hour raid in September of the ... house shared by Stephanie Weiner and her husband. The agents seemed keenly interested in Weiner’s home-based business, the Revolutionary Lemonade Stand, which sells silkscreened baby outfits and other clothes with socialist slogans, phrases like “Help Wanted: Revolutionaries.” The search was part of a mysterious, ongoing nationwide terrorism investigation with an unusual target: prominent peace activists and politically active labor organizers.
Investigators, according to search warrants, documents and interviews, are examining possible “material support” for Colombian and Palestinian groups designated by the U.S. government as terrorists. The apparent targets, all vocal and visible critics of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South America, deny any ties to terrorism. They say the government, using its post-9/11 focus on terrorism as a pretext, is targeting them for their political views. The activists have formed the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, organized phone banks to flood Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s office and the White House with protest calls, solicited letters from labor unions and faith-based groups and sent delegations to Capitol Hill to gin up support from lawmakers.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on government attacks on civil liberties, click here.
2011-06-11, New York Times
Friday marks the 40th anniversary of one of the biggest, most expensive, most destructive social policy experiments in American history: The war on drugs. On the morning of June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon ... declared: “America’s public enemy No. 1 ... is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.” So began a war that ... became an unmitigated disaster, an abomination of justice and a self-perpetuating, trillion-dollar economy of wasted human capital, ruined lives and decimated communities. Since 1971, more than 40 million arrests have been conducted for drug-related offenses.
And no group has been more targeted and suffered more damage than the black community. Last week, the Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy ... declared that: “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. [Forty] years after President Nixon launched the U.S. government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.” The White House immediately shot back: no dice.
'Anonymous' Warns NATO: 'This Is No Longer Your World'
2011-06-10, Time Magazine
A NATO security report about "Anonymous" —- the mysterious "hacktivist" group responsible for attacks on MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, Amazon and, most recently, Sony -— has led the underground group to respond by cautioning NATO, "This is no longer your world. It is our world - the people's world." NATO's report, issued last month, warned about the rising tide of politically-motivated cyberattacks, singling out Anonymous as the most sophisticated and high-profile of the known hacktivist groups. In response, Anonymous issued a lengthy statement ... that says, in part: "We merely wish to remove power from vested interests and return it to the people - who, in a democracy, it should never have been taken from in the first place. Our message is simple: Do not lie to the people and you won't have to worry about your lies being exposed. Do not make corrupt deals and you won't have to worry about your corruption being laid bare. Do not break the rules and you won't have to worry about getting in trouble for it." It goes on to warn, "do not make the mistake of challenging Anonymous. Do not make the mistake of believing you can behead a headless snake. If you slice off one head of Hydra, ten more heads will grow in its place. If you cut down one Anon, ten more will join us purely out of anger at your trampling of dissent."
Senators sound alarm over Patriot Act extension
2011-06-02, Chicago Tribune
When two senators warned that the Patriot Act is being interpreted in a secret way that would alarm Americans if they knew the details, civil liberties activists could only speculate about what they meant. The activists' fear: that the government is using the anti-terrorism law to collect vast troves of personal information, including cellphone records, on Americans who have no link to terrorism. Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, both Democrats, proclaimed that the Patriot Act's surveillance powers are being used far more expansively than most Americans realize. "Today the American people do not know how their government interprets the language of the Patriot Act," Wyden said. "Someday they are going to find out, and a lot of them are going to be stunned. Some of them will undoubtedly ask their senators: 'Did you know what this law actually did? Why didn't you know? Wasn't it your job to know, before you voted on it?'" The warnings by two lawmakers with access to secret information underscore the extent to which government surveillance is shielded from view, in an age when nearly every American leaves a digital trail through the Internet and mobile devices. A clue about Wyden's concerns may be found in a separate bill he is proposing, to forbid the government from tracking, without a court order, the location of Americans through the GPS signals given out by their cellphones.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on government surveillance and other threats to privacy and civil liberties, click here and here.
Latest target in FDA war on raw milk
2011-05-22, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Pennsylvania Amish farmer Dan Allgyer has become a cause celebre for raw milk drinkers as the target of a Food and Drug Administration campaign - using sting operations and guns-drawn raids usually reserved for terrorists and drug lords - to eliminate unpasteurized milk. Such milk, also known as raw or fresh milk, is legal in California and considered essential to Europe's finest cheeses, creams and butters. Allgyer is the latest to feel the force of a yearslong Food and Drug Administration campaign against raw milk that has focused on tiny farms and consumer co-ops. Raw milk drinkers say cooking milk diminishes its flavor and nutrients. They said similar sterilization standards, if applied across the American diet, would ban sushi, medium-rare steaks, oysters on the shell and most raw fruits and vegetables. The Food Safety and Modernization Act approved by Congress last year and signed by President Obama in January has vastly enhanced the agency's powers. Starting July 3, the agency can confiscate any food at any farm that it deems unsafe or mislabeled. Throughout Europe, uncooked milk is the norm, dispensed in vending machines in Switzerland, Austria, France, Italy, Slovenia and the Netherlands. It is healthy, adherents say, because it contains fat that is not broken down by homogenization and is free of antibiotics and hormones, because cows are raised in small herds on pastures.
Turning camera on police activities is good thing
2011-05-20, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
What's good for the police apparently isn't good for the people - or so the law enforcement community would have us believe when it comes to surveillance. That's a concise summary of a new trend noted by National Public Radio last week - the trend whereby law enforcement officials have been trying to prevent civilians from using cell phone cameras in public places as a means of deterring police brutality. Oddly, the effort - which employs both forcible arrests of videographers and legal proceedings against them - comes at a time when the American Civil Liberties Union reports that "an increasing number of American cities and towns are investing millions of taxpayer dollars in surveillance camera systems." The assault on civil liberties in America is a very real problem. As USA Today reported under the headline "Police brutality cases on rise since 9/11," situations "in which police, prison guards and other law enforcement authorities have used excessive force or other tactics to violate victims' civil rights increased 25 percent" between 2001 and 2007. Last year alone, more than 1,500 officers were involved in excessive force complaints, according to the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on government and police threats to civil liberties and privacy, click here and here.
Louis Theroux goes to the Miami mega-jail
2011-05-19, BBC News
For a bespectacled, peace-loving Englishman, there can be few places less congenial than a berth on the sixth floor of Miami main jail. The place has to be seen to be believed. Up to 24 inmates are crowded into a single cell, living behind metal bars on steel bunks, sharing a single shower and two toilets. Little of the bright Miami sun filters through the grilles on the windows. Visits to the yard happen twice a week for an hour. The rest of the time, inmates are holed up round the clock, eating, sleeping, and going slightly crazy. But what is most shocking is the behaviour of the inmates themselves. For reasons that remain to some extent opaque ... the incarcerated here have created a brutal gladiatorial code of fighting. They fight for respect, for food and snacks, or simply to pass the time. With around 7,000 inmates, the Miami jail system is one of the biggest in America - a so-called "mega-jail". In America, jails are distinct from prisons in that they hold people who are pre-trial and therefore unconvicted. But the hardened few hundred who are either charged with particularly serious offences or have a track record of misbehaving behind bars get sent to the fifth and sixth floors of the main jail - a place with its own myth and lore.
Note: If you want to understand that tragedy of some U.S. jails and why they tend to harden criminals much more than reform them, read the full article.
Shocking photo created a hero, but not to his family
2011-05-16, CNN News
The mob was already waiting for James Zwerg by the time the Greyhound bus eased into the station in Montgomery, Alabama. Looking out the window, Zwerg could see men gripping baseball bats, chains and clubs. They had sealed off the streets leading to the bus station and chased away news photographers. They didn't want anyone to witness what they were about to do. Zwerg accepted his worst fear: He was going to die today. Only the night before, Zwerg had prayed for the strength to not strike back in anger. He was among the 18 white and black college students from Nashville who had decided to take the bus trip through the segregated South in 1961. They called themselves Freedom Riders. Their goal was to desegregate public transportation. Zwerg had not planned to go, but the night before, some students had asked him to join them. To summon his courage, Zwerg stayed up late, reading Psalm 27, the scripture that the students had picked to read during a group prayer before their trip. "The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I fear?" the Psalm began. But there was another passage at the end that touched Zwerg in a place the other students didn't know about: "Though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will receive me." Zwerg's parents had forsaken him for joining the civil rights movement.
Note: For another amazingly inspiring story of a man in the civil rights movement who faced death by hatred with compassion, click here. And for a powerfully inspiring New York Times article on the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders, click here. We have clearly come a long way in building more harmony between races.
Obama echoes Richard Nixon on WikiLeaks prisoner
2011-05-15, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
The first time President Obama was publicly asked about Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of disclosing government secrets to WikiLeaks, his answer was reminiscent of George W. Bush. The second time - when he declared Manning guilty without a trial - it was more like Richard Nixon. The issue landed in Obama's lap via P.J. Crowley, the State Department's chief media spokesman and the only member of the administration known to have protested Manning's treatment. Crowley called the conditions of Manning's confinement "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid." Two days later, the State Department announced Crowley's "resignation," government-speak for signing a farewell note while being pushed out the window. [When] asked ... about Manning ... the president first replied that military secrecy laws apply to everyone. "If I was to release stuff, information that I'm not authorized to release, I'm breaking the law," Obama said. "We don't individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate. He (Manning) broke the law." It's the first time a U.S. president has made such a public comment since 1971, when Nixon declared that cult leader Charles Manson, then on trial, "was guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders." Obama's comments also raise the question of whether he looks at all criminal cases through the same lens or uses different standards depending on whether the government is alleged to be the victim or the victimizer.
This Is The Police: Put Down Your Camera
2011-05-13, National Public Radio
There are more than 280 million cellphone subscribers in the U.S., and many of those phones can record video. With so many cameras in pockets and purses, clashes between police and would-be videographers may be inevitable. "All of us, as we walk around, have to understand that we could be filmed, we could be taped," says Deborah Jacobs, director of the ACLU chapter. "But police officers above all others should be subject to this kind of filming because we have a duty to hold them accountable as powerful public servants." Tom Nolan, a former Boston police officer, says police have to get used to the world of cameras everywhere. "There's always going to be a pocket of police officers who are resistant to change," he says. Nolan now teaches at Boston University. He says police in Massachusetts train their officers to tolerate video recording, as long as no other crime is taking place. And Nolan thinks departments around the country will eventually do the same. "The police will get the message when municipal governments and police departments have got to write out substantial settlement checks," he says. "Standing by itself, that video camera in the hands of some teenager is not going to constitute sufficient grounds for a lawful arrest."
Note: Yet police are lobbying in many U.S. states to make it illegal to videotape them, and according to this CNN article, it may already be illegal in three states. For much more information from reliable sources on government and police threats to civil liberties, click here.
Cheerleader who wouldn't root for assailant loses
2011-05-03, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
A Texas high school cheerleader who was kicked off the squad for refusing to chant the name of a basketball player - the same athlete she said had raped her four months earlier - lost a U.S. Supreme Court appeal [on May 2]. A federal appeals court ruled in September that the cheerleader was speaking for the school, not herself, and had no right to remain silent when called on to cheer the athlete by name. The Supreme Court denied review of the case. The girl, identified by her initials H.S., was 16 when she said she was raped at a party in her southeast Texas hometown of Silsbee in October 2008. She identified the assailant as Rakheem Bolton, [who] ultimately pleaded guilty in September 2010 to a misdemeanor assault charge. At a February 2009 basketball game in Huntsville, Texas, H.S. joined in leading cheers for the Silsbee team, which included Bolton. But when Bolton went to the foul line to shoot a free throw, H.S. folded her arms and was silent. H.S. said the district superintendent, his assistant and the school principal told her she had to cheer for Bolton or go home. She refused and was dismissed from the squad. H.S., joined by her parents, sued school officials and the district. They claimed the school had punished her for exercising her right of free expression. Federal courts have also ordered H.S. and her parents to reimburse the district more than $45,000 for the costs of defending against a frivolous suit.
Former Miss USA: I was 'molested' by the TSA
2011-04-29, USA Today
Weeks after generating an uproar for the aggressive screening of a six-year-old child in New Orleans, the TSA is again facing criticism for an enhanced pat-down. Former Miss USA Susie Castillo says she was "molested" by a TSA screener at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after declining to go through a body scanner due to radiation concerns. According to a detailed account from the Dallas Morning News, Castillo wrote "My private area was grazed four times!" on a complaint card after the screening. Castillo immediately shot a tearful video recounting the episode more explicitly and posted it on YouTube. The Boston Herald quotes from the video: "That's why I'm crying, that's why I'm so upset. They're making me choose to either get molested, because that's what I feel like, or go through this machine that's completely unhealthy and dangerous." TSA spokesman Luis Casanova defended the screening procedure. "Everything [the screener] did was according to protocol," Casanova said.
Note: For key articles on increasing reductions of civil liberties by governments, click here.
Bradley Manning: top US legal scholars voice outrage at 'torture'
2011-04-10, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
More than 250 of America's most eminent legal scholars have signed a letter protesting against the treatment in military prison of the alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, contesting that his "degrading and inhumane conditions" are illegal, unconstitutional and could even amount to torture. The list of signatories includes Laurence Tribe, a Harvard professor who is considered to be America's foremost liberal authority on constitutional law. He told the Guardian he signed the letter because Manning appeared to have been treated in a way that "is not only shameful but unconstitutional" as he awaits court martial in Quantico marine base in Virginia. Under the terms of his detention, he is kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, checked every five minutes under a so-called "prevention of injury order" and stripped naked at night apart from a smock. Tribe said the treatment was objectionable "in the way it violates his person and his liberty without due process of law and in the way it administers cruel and unusual punishment of a sort that cannot be constitutionally inflicted even upon someone convicted of terrible offences, not to mention someone merely accused of such offences". The harsh restrictions have been denounced by a raft of human rights groups, including Amnesty International, and are being investigated by the United Nations' rapporteur on torture.
Note: For a compendium of revealing stories from reliable sources on the illegal wars of aggression launched by the US and UK under the pretext of 9/11, click here.
Rights Are Curtailed for Terror Suspects
2011-03-24, Wall Street Journal
New rules allow investigators to hold domestic-terror suspects longer than others without giving them a Miranda warning, significantly expanding exceptions to the instructions that have governed the handling of criminal suspects for more than four decades. The move is one of the Obama administration's most significant revisions to rules governing the investigation of terror suspects in the U.S. The new rules give interrogators more latitude and flexibility to define what counts as an appropriate circumstance to waive Miranda rights. The Justice Department believes it has the authority to tinker with Miranda procedures. Making the change administratively rather than through legislation in Congress, however, presents legal risks. Before becoming president, Mr. Obama had criticized the Bush administration for going outside traditional criminal procedures to deal with terror suspects, and for bypassing Congress in making rules to handle detainees after 9/11. He has since embraced many of the same policies while devising additional ones—to the disappointment of civil-liberties groups that championed his election.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on government threats to civil liberties, click here.