Civil Liberties News Stories
Excerpts of Key Civil Liberties News Stories in Major Media


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


Civil Liberties News stories


Note: This comprehensive list of civil liberties news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.

Saudi Arabia's Rights Crackdown Linked to War on Terror
2015-01-20, ABC News
Posted: 2015-01-26 16:20:21
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
Posted: 2015-01-26 16:10:10
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.




With hackers running rampant, why would we poke holes in data security?
2014-12-14, LA Times
Posted: 2015-01-19 21:09:13
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?




At America’s court of last resort, a handful of lawyers now dominates the docket
2014-12-08, Reuters
Posted: 2015-01-04 21:58:09
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.




Go to the bank, go to jail
2014-12-26, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Posted: 2015-01-04 21:53:56
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.




Amid Details on Torture, Data on 26 Who Were Held in Error
2014-12-12, New York Times
Posted: 2014-12-22 08:08:26
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.




New ACLU report takes a snapshot of police militarization in the United States
2014-06-24, Washington Post
Posted: 2014-12-15 14:45:32
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/06/24/new-aclu-report-ta...

The American Civil Liberties Union has released the results of its year-long study of police militarization. The study looked at 800 deployments of SWAT teams among 20 local, state and federal police agencies in 2011-2012. Among the notable findings: 62 percent of the SWAT raids surveyed were to conduct searches for drugs. Just 7 percent of SWAT raids were “for hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.” In at least 36 percent of the SWAT raids studied, no contraband of any kind was found. This figure could be as high as 65 percent. SWAT tactics are disproportionately used on people of color. 65 percent of SWAT deployments resulted in some sort of forced entry into a private home. In over half those raids, the police failed to find any sort of weapon, the presence of which was cited as the reason for the violent tactics. SWAT teams today are overwhelmingly used to investigate people who are still only suspected of committing nonviolent consensual crimes. And because these raids often involve forced entry into homes, often at night, they’re actually creating violence and confrontation where there was none before. In short, we have police departments that are increasingly using violent, confrontational tactics to break into private homes for increasingly low-level crimes, and they seem to believe that the public has no right to know the specifics of when, how and why those tactics are being used.

Note: For more along these lines, see this deeply revealing NPR report about The Pentagon's massive Program 1033 to widely distribute military hardware to domestic police forces.




Undercover CHP officer pulls gun at Oakland protest after outing
2014-12-11, San Francisco Chronicle
Posted: 2014-12-15 14:35:31
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?




Before Rosa Parks, There Was Claudette Colvin
2009-03-15, NPR
Posted: 2014-12-15 14:32:35
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101719889

When [Claudette Colvin] was 15, she refused to move to the back of the bus and give up her seat to a white person — nine months before Rosa Parks did the very same thing. Most people know about Parks and the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott that began in 1955, but few know that ... Colvin was the first to really challenge the law. She remembers taking the bus home from high school on March 2, 1955. The bus driver ordered her to get up and she refused, saying she'd paid her fare. Two police officers put her in handcuffs and arrested her. Now her story is the subject of a new book, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. Author Phil Hoose says that ... there was this teenager, nine months before Rosa Parks, "in the same city, in the same bus system, with very tough consequences, hauled off the bus, handcuffed, jailed and nobody really knew about it." He also believes Colvin is important because she challenged the law in ... the court case that successfully overturned bus segregation laws in Montgomery and Alabama. People may think that Parks' action was spontaneous, but black civic leaders had been thinking about what to do about the Montgomery buses for years. The stories of Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. are ... the stories of people in their 30s and 40s. Colvin was 15. Hoose feels his book will bring a fresh teen's perspective to the struggle to end segregation.

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




Eric Garner and the Legal Rules That Enable Police Violence
2014-12-05, New York Times
Posted: 2014-12-07 23:55:43
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.




MRAPs And Bayonets: What We Know About The Pentagon's 1033 Program
2014-09-02, NPR
Posted: 2014-12-07 23:52:31
http://www.npr.org/2014/09/02/342494225/mraps-and-bayonets-what-we-know-about...

Amid widespread criticism of the deployment of military-grade weapons and vehicles by police officers in Ferguson, MO ... NPR obtained data from the Pentagon on every military item sent to local, state and federal agencies through the Pentagon's Law Enforcement Support Office — known as the 1033 program — from 2006 through April 23, 2014. We took the raw data, analyzed it and have organized it. We are making that data set available to the public. The 1033 program is the key source of ... military items being sent to local law enforcement [such as] mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs. More than 600 of them have been sent ... mostly within the past year. The Pentagon has also distributed: 79,288 assault rifles, 205 grenade launchers, 11,959 bayonets, 3,972 combat knives, $124 million worth of night-vision equipment, including night-vision sniper scopes, 479 bomb detonator robots, 50 airplanes, 422 helicopters, [and] more than $3.6 million worth of camouflage gear and other "deception equipment." The list [also] includes building materials, musical instruments and even toiletries. Congress authorized the 1033 program in 1989 to equip local, state and federal agencies in the war on drugs. In 1996, Congress widened the program's scope to include counterterrorism. The data do not confirm whether either of those public safety goals are, in fact, driving decisions.

Note: For more along these lines, see this Time Magazine article, which references a deeply revealing ACLU report on the increasing militarization of American police.




New Jersey ACLU app gives new meaning to 'police tape'
2012-07-06, Los Angeles Times
Posted: 2014-11-23 18:04:01
http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul/06/business/la-fi-tn-aclu-nj-record-poli...

If you've ever been in a did-that-really-just-happen scenario, you might have wished you had a recorder running -- particularly when it comes to run-ins with the law. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey just released an app that allows Android phone users to record and store their interactions with police to "hold police accountable." The app, cleverly called "Police Tape," also includes legal information about citizens' rights during encounters with law enforcement. What sets this apart from being just a video camera with a send button is that you can also record in "stealth mode." The app disappears from the screen once the recording starts, "to prevent any attempt by police to squelch the recording," according to the ACLU of New Jersey site. Users can send the recording to the organization through the app for backup storage and analysis. Though there is no federal law preventing recording police in public, some states have different statutes covering such activity. Earlier, the New York American Civil Liberties Union released its Stop and Frisk Watch application. The New York ACLU promotes that app as a way for bystanders and designated event observers to record incidents. That's probably a better idea than whipping out your phone when a cop asks for your license, particularly if you are in an emotionally charged or intense setting. That's probably not going to be received well.

Note: Other states now have this app, which you can read about at this link and this one.




Police Use Department Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize
2014-11-09, New York Times
Posted: 2014-11-16 22:05:40
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.




Three Ways Courts Screw the Innocent Into Pleading Guilty
2014-11-07, The Intercept
Posted: 2014-11-16 21:58:50
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.




UK intelligence agencies spying on lawyers in sensitive security cases
2014-11-07, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2014-11-16 21:45:49
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.




The criminalisation of American business
2014-08-30, The Economist
Posted: 2014-11-10 10:32:50
http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21614138-companies-must-be-punished-whe...

Who runs the world’s most lucrative shakedown operation? If you are a big business ... America’s regulatory system. The formula is simple: find a large company that may (or may not) have done something wrong; threaten its managers; force them to use their shareholders’ money to pay an enormous fine to drop the charges in a secret settlement. Repeat with another large company. In many cases, the companies deserved some form of punishment: BNP Paribas ... abetted genocide, American banks fleeced customers. BP despoiled the Gulf of Mexico. But justice should not be based on extortion. Regulators and prosecutors are in effect conducting closed-door trials. The agencies that pocket the fines have become profit centres: Rhode Island’s bureaucrats have been on a spending spree courtesy of a $500m payout by Google, while New York’s governor and attorney-general have squabbled over a $613m settlement from JPMorgan. Not only are regulators in effect judge and jury as well as plaintiff in the cases they bring; they can also use the threat of the criminal law. The public never finds out the full facts of the case, nor discovers which specific people — with souls and bodies — were to blame. Since the cases never go to court ... it is unclear what exactly is illegal. That enables future shakedowns. Nor is it clear how the regulatory booty is being carved up. This ... risks the prospect of a selective — and potentially corrupt — system of justice in which everybody is guilty of something and punishment is determined by political deals.

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




Travelers, say bon voyage to privacy
2014-10-16, Dallas News
Posted: 2014-11-10 10:24:06
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.




Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required
2014-10-25, New York Times
Posted: 2014-11-03 02:00:20
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.




Public’s rights getting slowly pared back
2014-10-11, Miami Herald
Posted: 2014-10-20 19:11:47
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
Posted: 2014-10-20 18:53:25
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.

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






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