Civil Liberties News Articles
Excerpts of Key Civil Liberties News Articles in Major Media
Below are many highly revealing excerpts of important civil liberties news articles from the mainstream media suggesting a cover-up.
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For an index to revealing excerpts of news articles on several dozen engaging topics, click here
GPS tracker in car inflames privacy debate
2010-10-16, Seattle Times/Associated Press
Yasir Afifi, a 20-year-old computer salesman and community-college student, took his car in for an oil change earlier this month and his mechanic spotted an odd wire hanging from the undercarriage. The wire was attached to a strange magnetic device that puzzled Afifi and the mechanic. They freed it from the car and posted images of it online, asking for help in identifying it. Two days later, FBI agents arrived at Afifi's Santa Clara apartment and demanded the return of their property — a global-positioning-system tracking device now at the center of a raging legal debate over privacy rights. One federal judge wrote that the widespread use of the device was straight out of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four." By holding that this kind of surveillance doesn't impair an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, the panel hands the government the power to track the movements of every one of us, every day of our lives," wrote Alex Kozinski, the chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a blistering dissent in which a three-judge panel from his court ruled that search warrants weren't necessary for GPS tracking. In his dissent, Chief Judge Kozinski noted that GPS technology is far different from tailing a suspect on a public road, which requires the active participation of investigators. "The devices create a permanent electronic record that can be compared, contrasted and coordinated to deduce all manner of private information about individuals," Kozinksi wrote.
Note: For an AP photo of this device, click here.
Federal Agents Urged to 'Friend' People on Social Networks, Memo Reveals
2010-10-14, Fox News
A privacy watchdog has uncovered a government memo that encourages federal agents to befriend people on a variety of social networks, to take advantage of their readiness to share -- and to spy on them. In response to a Freedom of Information request, the government released a handful of documents, including a May 2008 memo detailing how social-networking sites are exploited by the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS). Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Digg had not commented on the report, which details the official government program to spy via social networking. Other websites the government is spying on include ... Craigslist and Wikipedia, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which filed the FOIA request. "Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuel a need to have a large group of 'friends' link to their pages, and many of these people accept cyber-friends that they don't even know," stated one of the documents obtained by the EFF. "This provides an excellent vantage point for FDNS to observe the daily life of [members]," it said. Among the networks specifically cited for analysis "were general social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Flickr, as well as sites that focus specifically on certain demographic groups such as MiGente and BlackPlanet, news sites such as NPR, and political commentary sites DailyKos," the EFF wrote.
Note: For more information, read the full report at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
9/11 conspiracy theories rife in Muslim world
2010-10-02, Washington Post / Associated Press
About a week ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared to the United Nations that most people in the world believe the United States was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Surveys show that a majority of the world does not in fact believe that the U.S. orchestrated the attacks. However, the belief persists strongly among a minority, even with U.S. allies like Turkey or in the U.S. itself. A 2006 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that significant majorities in Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Turkey ... said they did not believe Arabs carried out the attacks. Such beliefs have currency even in the United States. In 2006, a Scripps Howard poll of 1,010 Americans found 36 percent thought it somewhat or very likely that U.S. officials either participated in the attacks or took no action to stop them. Tod Fletcher of [WantToKnow.info] has worked as an assistant to David Ray Griffin, on books that question the Sept. 11 record. He was cautious about the Iranian president's comments about conspiracy theories, suggesting Ahmadinejad may have been politically motivated by his enmity with the U.S. government. "It seems like it's the sort of thing that could lead to further vilification of people who criticize the official account here in the United States," Fletcher said.
Note: To listen to Tod Fletcher's commentary on WantToKnow team member David Ray Griffin's recent book, Cognitive Infiltration: an Obama Appointee's Plan to Undermine the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory, about the latest attempts by the US government to vilify 9/11 truth movement members as "extremist," "violent" and "likely to resort to terrorism", click here.
'Feds radiating Americans'? Mobile X-ray vans hit US streets
2010-09-29, Christian Science Monitor
News that the US is buying custom-made vans packed with something called backscatter X-ray capacity has riled privacy advocates and sparked internet worries about "feds radiating Americans." American Science & Engineering, a Billerica, Mass.-company, tells Forbes it [has] sold more than 500 ZBVs, or Z Backscatter Vans, to US and foreign governments. The Department of Defense has bought the most for war zone use, but US law enforcement has also deployed the vans to [use] inside the US, according to Joe Reiss, a company spokesman. On [September 28], a counterterror operation snarled truck traffic on I-20 near Atlanta, where Department of Homeland Security teams used mobile X-ray technology to check the contents of truck trailers. Authorities said the inspections weren't prompted by any specific threat. Backscatter X-ray is already part of an ongoing national debate about its use in so-called full body scanners being deployed in many US airports. [Critics] worry that radiating Americans without their knowledge is evidence of gradually eroding constitutional protections in the post-9/11 age. "This is another way in which the government is capturing information they may lose control over. I just have some real problems with the idea of even beginning a campaign of rolling surveillance of American citizens, which is what this essentially is said [Vermont-based privacy expert Frederick Lane, author of American Privacy.]
Note: For further reports from reliable sources on the militarization of US police forces, click here.
U.S. Invokes State Secrets to Bar Cleric Lawsuit
2010-09-25, CBS News/Associated Press
The Obama administration on Saturday invoked the state secrets privilege which would kill a lawsuit on behalf of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an alleged terrorist said to be targeted for death or capture under a U.S. government program. In its court papers, the Justice Department said that the issues in the case are for the executive branch of government to decide rather than the courts. The department also said the case entails information that is protected by the military and state secrets privilege. "The idea that courts should have no role whatsoever in determining the criteria by which the executive branch can kill its own citizens is unacceptable in a democracy," the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement. "In matters of life and death, no executive should have a blank check." Al-Awlaki's father, through the CCR and the ACLU, filed the case in federal court in Washington. The lawsuit filed on the cleric's behalf seeks to have a court declare that the Constitution and international law bar the government from carrying out targeted killings; seeks to block the targeted killing of al-Awlaki; and seeks to force the U.S. government to disclose the standards for determining whether U.S. citizens can be targeted for death.
Note: For an analysis of the Obama administration's assertion of the right to assassinate US citizens, click here. For many reports from reliable sources on state secrets, click here.
Court dismisses suit alleging 'torture flights'
2010-09-09, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
A federal appeals court ... dismissed a lawsuit [on September 8] accusing a Bay Area aviation-planning company of arranging CIA flights of [captives] to overseas dungeons. The ruling is a victory for both President George W. Bush's administration, which directed the rendition program and acknowledged its existence, and the Obama administration, which ... argued that it was too sensitive to be litigated in court. The American Civil Liberties Union said it would appeal to the Supreme Court. The high court has refused to review two rulings by other appeals courts dismissing suits against the government by men who said they were abducted by the CIA and flown to foreign torture chambers. "Not a single victim of the Bush administration's torture program has had his day in court," ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner said. Jeppesen, a Boeing Co. subsidiary, was described in a 2007 Council of Europe report as the CIA's aviation services provider. In a court declaration in the current suit, a company employee quoted a director as telling staff members in 2006 that Jeppesen handled the CIA's "torture flights." Dissenting Judge Michael Hawkins said the courts should decide legal disputes rather than "permitting the executive to police its own errors." He also said the court should have kept the case alive and required the government to show why specific evidence should remain secret.
Note: The ruling in this case can be read here. For analysis, click here and here.
The Government Can Use GPS to Track Your Moves
2010-08-25, Time magazine
Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn't violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway — and no reasonable expectation that the government isn't tracking your movements. That is the bizarre — and scary — rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant. It is a dangerous decision — one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell. It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich. Plenty of liberals have objected to this kind of spying, but it is the conservative Chief Judge Kozinski who has done so most passionately. "1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it's here at last," he lamented in his dissent. And invoking Orwell's totalitarian dystopia where privacy is essentially nonexistent, he warned: "Some day, soon, we may wake up and find we're living in Oceania."
Note: For key reports from reliable souces on increasing government threats to civil liberties, click here.
Big Brother: Eye-scanners being installed across one Mexican city
2010-08-19, USA Today
Mexico's sixth-largest city, Leon, is on the road to ... a future in which everyone is tracked wherever they go. Fast Company reports that U.S. biometrics firm Global Rainmakers and its Mexican partner announced yesterday that they have begun installing iris-scanning technology in the city of more than 1 million in Guanajuato state. The companies aim ... to create "the most secure city in the world." The first phase concentrates on law enforcement and security checkpoints. Then the iris scanners, which the firms say can "identify humans in motion and at a distance while ensuring liveness," will fill malls, pharmacies, mass transit, medical centers and banks, "among other public and private locations," Fast Company writes. "In the future, whether it's entering your home, opening your car, entering your workspace, getting a pharmacy prescription refilled, or having your medical records pulled up, everything will come off that unique key that is your iris," says Jeff Carter, CDO of Global Rainmakers. Before coming to GRI, Carter headed a think tank partnership between Bank of America, Harvard, and MIT. "Every person, place, and thing on this planet will be connected [to the iris system] within the next 10 years," he says.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on threats to privacy, click here.
US cops: armed and dangerous?
2010-08-16, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Can you invent a realistic scenario wherein you shoot a man dead; justify it with a story witnesses contradict; confiscate any surveillance video; claim a "glitch" makes it impossible to show the video to anyone else – all while enjoying the support of state legal apparatus? Police in Las Vegas did that last month, after they shot Erik Scott seven times as he exited a Costco. Cops say Scott pointed a gun at them; witnesses say Scott's licensed weapon was in a concealed holster, and five of those seven shots hit him in the back. The confiscated surveillance video might settle the question; too bad about that glitch. At least Costco's not in trouble for recording police actions. That's illegal in 12 states, even (or especially) when you record police misbehaviour. Even in states where it's allowed, officers are wont to ignore the law and go after photographers anyway, and they can always record you with their own dashboard cams. Whenever Tasers are issued, they're used with shocking (sorry) frequency. With guns, police at least have to argue "Oops, I thought he was dangerous", after shooting you; Tasers don't even require that. In 2004, Malaika Brooks, then seven months pregnant, was stopped for speeding in Seattle. She refused to sign the ticket – a non-arrestable misdemeanour at the time, though she was arrested for it anyway – and was Tasered three times. Last March, a federal appeals court ruled that the Tasering, which left permanent scars, was not "excessive force" since it only inflicted "temporary, localised pain".
Note: The short video in this article of a mother being tazed for no apparent reason is particularly revealing.
U.S. asks blog sites to shut down
2010-07-25, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Under mysterious circumstances and with unusual abruptness, two websites used to create blogs and message boards were taken down at the behest of U.S. investigators earlier this month, baffling users and commentators on the Web alike. Both Blogetery.com, which said it hosted around 70,000 blogs, and online forum site IPBFree.com were taken offline in early July. The initial cryptic responses to users' questions about what happened added to the confusion. Both IPBFree administrators and Burst.net, Blogetery's Web host, deeply apologized for the incident but said they were barred by law to provide any specific information. But Burst.net later told PC World that they had voluntarily decided to take down Blogetery after investigators approached them. It is still unclear who hosted the IPBFree site, why it was taken down or if the action was related to the Blogetery case.
Note: For more on this, click here. It appears certain factions within government are testing their ability to shut down certain websites.
America locks up too many people, some for acts that should not even be criminal
2010-07-22, The Economist magazine
America is different from the rest of the world in lots of ways, many of them good. One of the bad ones is its willingness to lock up its citizens. One American adult in 100 festers behind bars (with the rate rising to one in nine for young black men). Its imprisoned population, at 2.3m, exceeds that of 15 of its states. No other rich country is nearly as punitive as the Land of the Free. The rate of incarceration is a fifth of America’s level in Britain, a ninth in Germany and a twelfth in Japan. America’s incarceration rate has quadrupled since 1970. Similar things have happened elsewhere. The incarceration rate in Britain has more than doubled, and that in Japan increased by half, over the period. But the trend has been sharper in America than in most of the rich world, and the disparity has grown. It is explained neither by a difference in criminality (the English are slightly more criminal than Americans, though less murderous), nor by the success of the policy: America’s violent-crime rate is higher than it was 40 years ago. Many states have mandatory minimum sentences, which remove judges’ discretion to show mercy, even when the circumstances of a case cry out for it. “Three strikes” laws, which were at first used to put away persistently violent criminals for life, have in several states been applied to lesser offenders.
Note: For a recent report on the size of the US prison population in comparison with other countries, click here.
20 people arrested at the G20 tell of ‘inhumane’ treatment at the hands of police
2010-06-28, Toronto Star (One of Toronto's leading newspapers)
*Lulu Maxwell, 17, Grade 12, Rosedale Heights: Maxwell and a friend were hanging around near Queen and Dufferin Sts. at a convergence centre for protesters on Sunday afternoon when police started making arrests. “My friend was blowing bubbles and I was scribbling peace signs on the sidewalk.” Within minutes, her friend was grabbed and Lulu was put up against a wall. Her backpack was searched and Lulu says an officer said she could be charged with possession of dangerous weapons “because I had eyewash solution in my backpack.” She was taken to the detention centre and almost 12 hours after her arrest was allowed to call her parents. She was released, without charges being laid, at 5 a. m. *Erin Boynton, 24, London, Ont. She was arrested at The Esplanade early Sunday morning after police boxed dozens of protesters in. “I was with a protest marching peacefully down Yonge from Dundas Square,” she said. “When the cops came at us, many people scattered and those who were left in front of the (Novotel) got arrested.” She said police came from all sides and “squished us in. They didn’t give us a warning to leave…. just announced that we are arresting all of you.” She said a lot of people at the detention centre were innocent bystanders. “The police violated all our rights . . . there was police brutality. Quite frankly, it was quite disgusting.” Boynton wasn’t charged.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on mounting threats to civil liberties, click here.
Bracing for G-20 protests, Toronto closes doors
2010-06-24, San Francisco Chronicle/Bloomberg News
The host city for this weekend's Group of 20 summit is preparing for an invasion of world leaders, police and protesters by shutting its doors. The Toronto Blue Jays baseball team is leaving town, the Royal Alexandra Theatre is closing for the first time in more than a century, and thousands of bankers and money managers such as David Cockfield are working from home. "People coming to cover the G-20 are going to find Toronto just empty, with wind blowing through the downtown canyons, asking 'Where are all the people?' " said Cockfield, a portfolio manager at MacNicol & Associates Asset Management. A 12-block section of Toronto's financial district already is surrounded by 10-foot-high chain-link fences and concrete barriers, part of the largest security operation ever in Canada with 20,000 police and security guards.
Note: What does it say about world government when a whole city has to close doors simply because the world's leaders are meeting there?
Report: Pentagon seeks WikiLeaks founder Assange, fearing cables will be published
2010-06-11, USA Today
The Daily Beast reports that Pentagon investigators are trying to track down Julian Assange, the elusive Australian-born founder of WikiLeaks, who they believe is preparing to publish several years of State Department cables allegedly passed by the 22-year-old Manning, now being detained in Kuwait. The cables contain "information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq," and they could do "serious damage to national security" if made public, government officials told the Beast. But even if they find him, it's not clear what they could do to stop publication. Daniel Ellsberg says Assange "is in danger." Meanwhile, Wired's Threat Level blog, which broke the Manning story, is reporting that Assange ... is arranging Manning's legal defense and says Manning is no spy. Assange, who first gained notoriety as a computer hacker, canceled an appearance today at an International Reporters and Editors conference in Las Vegas.
Note: For more of Daniel Ellsberg's assessment of the personal dangers to Assange from the Pentagon's manhunt for him, click here.
Toronto police get 'sound cannons' for G20
2010-05-27, Toronto Star
Protesters marching at the G20 summit next month may be greeted with ear-splitting “sound cannons,” the latest Toronto police tool for quelling unruly crowds. Toronto police have purchased four long-range acoustic devices (LRAD) — often referred to as sound guns or sound cannons — for the upcoming June 26-27 summit. Purchased this month, the LRADs will become a permanent fixture in Toronto law enforcement, said police spokesperson Const. Wendy Drummond. “They were purchased as part of the G20 budget process,” Drummond said. “It’s definitely going to be beneficial for us, not only in the G20 but in any future large gatherings.” But critics say they are really non-lethal weapons and infringe upon protester rights. LRADs can emit ear-blasting sounds so high in frequency they transcend normal thresholds of pain. LRADs are being increasingly employed as a crowd-control device and at last year’s G20 summit in Pittsburgh, police used them on protesters before deploying tear gas and stun grenades. The acoustical devices can also be pointed at specific targets, transmitting a “laser” of sound that is less aggravating for anyone standing outside its beam.
Note: This is the sort of thing on which the $1 billion in security preparations for the upcoming G8 and G20 meetings is being spent. For revealing reports from reliable sources on the grave risks posed by so called "non-lethal" weapons, click here.
U.S. Approval of Killing of Cleric Causes Unease
2010-05-14, New York Times
The Obama administration’s decision to authorize the killing by the Central Intelligence Agency of a terrorism suspect who is an American citizen has set off a debate over the legal and political limits of drone missile strikes, a mainstay of the campaign against terrorism. The notion that the government can, in effect, execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone, with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, makes some legal authorities deeply uneasy. To eavesdrop on the terrorism suspect who was added to the target list, the American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is hiding in Yemen, intelligence agencies would have to get a court warrant. But designating him for death, as C.I.A. officials did early this year with the National Security Council’s approval, required no judicial review. “Congress has protected Awlaki’s cellphone calls,” said Vicki Divoll, a former C.I.A. lawyer who now teaches at the United States Naval Academy. “But it has not provided any protections for his life. That makes no sense.” But like the debate over torture during the Bush administration, public discussion of what officials call targeted killing has been limited by the secrecy of the C.I.A. drone program.
Note: Obama is the first president to publicly order the assassination of an American citizen. Neither George W. Bush nor Dick Cheney asserted such a power on the part of the president. For an analysis, click here.
Federal Judge Finds N.S.A. Wiretaps Were Illegal
2010-04-01, New York Times
A federal judge ruled [on March 31] that the National Security Agency's program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration's effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush. In a 45-page opinion, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been 'subjected to unlawful surveillance,' the judge said the government was liable to pay them damages. The ruling by Judge Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, rejected the Justice Department's claim ' first asserted by the Bush administration and continued under President Obama ' that the charity's lawsuit should be dismissed without a ruling on the merits because allowing it to go forward could reveal state secrets. The judge characterized that expansive use of the so-called state-secrets privilege as amounting to 'unfettered executive-branch discretion' that had 'obvious potential for governmental abuse and overreaching.'
Note: For illumination of the dark world of state secrecy, click here.
A Detention Bill You Ought to Read More Carefully
2010-03-05, The Atlantic
Why is the national security community treating the "Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010," introduced by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman on [March 4] as a standard proposal, as a simple response to the administration's choices in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing attempt? A close reading of the bill suggests it would allow the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens without trial indefinitely in the U.S. based on suspected activity. According to the summary, the bill sets out a comprehensive policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected enemy belligerents who are believed to have engaged in hostilities against the United States by requiring these individuals to be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value and not provided with a Miranda warning. There is no distinction between U.S. persons--visa holders or citizens--and non-U.S. persons. It would require these "belligerents" to be coded as "high-value detainee[s]" to be held in military custody and interrogated for their intelligence value by a High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team established by the president.
Note: Read the bill here. For lots more on serious threats to civil liberties, click here.
Obama Signs One-Year Extension of Patriot Act
2010-02-27, New York Times/Associated Press
President Barack Obama has signed a one-year extension of several provisions in the nation's main counterterrorism law, the Patriot Act. Provisions in the measure would have expired on [February 28] without Obama's signature [the day before]. The act, which was adopted in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, expands the government's ability to monitor Americans in the name of national security. Three sections of the Patriot Act that stay in force will: -- Authorize court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones. -- Allow court-approved seizure of records and property in anti-terrorism operations. -- Permit surveillance against a so-called lone wolf, a non-U.S. citizen engaged in terrorism who may not be part of a recognized terrorist group. Obama's signature comes after the House voted 315 to 97 Thursday to extend the measure. The Senate also approved the measure, with privacy protections cast aside. Thrown away were restrictions and greater scrutiny on the government's authority to spy on Americans and seize their records.
Note: Remember that the PATRIOT Act was passed by Congress immediately after weaponized anthrax attacks on two key senators opposed to the legislation, a crime that the FBI has closed the books on without solving. Congress continues to support the Act despite its widespread unpopularity with the US public. Why? For lots more from major media sources on the increasing government threats to civil liberties, click here.
U.S. military teams, intelligence deeply involved in aiding Yemen on strikes
2010-01-27, Washington Post
U.S. military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops who in the past six weeks have killed scores of people. The operations, approved by President Obama, involve several dozen troops from the U.S. military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), whose main mission is tracking and killing [targeted persons]. Obama approved a Dec. 24 strike against a compound where a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was thought to be. He has since been added to a shortlist of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture by the JSOC. The combined efforts have resulted in more than two dozen ground raids and airstrikes. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad. The Obama administration has adopted the same stance. Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called "High Value Targets" and "High Value Individuals," whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list [also] included three U.S. citizens.
Note: For many reports from reliable sources on the growing governmental threats to civil liberties, click here.