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 should fail to function, click here
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This comprehensive list of civil liberties news stories is usually updated once a week
. For an index to revealing excerpts of news stories on several dozen engaging topics, click here
The new totalitarianism of surveillance technology
2012-08-15, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-08-21 10:03:51
Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to unveil a major new police surveillance infrastructure, developed by Microsoft. The Domain Awareness System links existing police databases with live video feeds, including cameras using vehicle license plate recognition software. No mention was made of whether the system plans to use – or already uses – facial recognition software. But, at present, there is no law to prevent US government and law enforcement agencies from building facial recognition databases. And we know from industry newsletters that the US military, law enforcement, and the department of homeland security are betting heavily on facial recognition technology. As PC World notes, Facebook itself is a market leader in the technology – but military and security agencies are close behind. According to Homeland Security Newswire, billions of dollars are being invested in the development and manufacture of various biometric technologies capable of detecting and identifying anyone, anywhere in the world – via iris-scanning systems, already in use; foot-scanning technology (really); voice pattern ID software, and so on. What is very obvious is that this technology will not be applied merely to people under arrest, or to people under surveillance in accordance with the fourth amendment. No, the "targets" here [include] everyone. In the name of "national security", the capacity is being built to identify, track and document any citizen constantly and continuously.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on civil liberties, click here.
Trapwire surveillance system exposed in document leak
2012-08-13, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-08-21 10:01:30
[Trapwire is] a CCTV surveillance system that recognises people from their face or walk and analyses whether they might be about to commit a terrorist or criminal act. According to documents released online by WikiLeaks [it] is being used in a number of countries to try to monitor people and threats. Founded by former CIA agents, Trapwire uses data from a network of CCTV systems and numberplate readers to figure out the threat level in huge numbers of locations. The documents outlining Trapwire's existence and its deployment in the US were apparently obtained in a hack of computer systems belonging to the intelligence company Stratfor at the end of last year. Documents from the US department of homeland security show that it paid $832,000 to deploy Trapwire in Washington DC and Seattle. Stratfor describes Trapwire as "a unique, predictive software system designed to detect patterns of pre-attack surveillance and logistical planning". It serves "a wide range of law enforcement personnel and public and private security officials domestically and internationally", Stratfor says. Some have expressed doubts that Trapwire could really forecast [future] acts based on data from cameras. The claims might seem overblown, but then the idea that the US could have an international monitoring system seemed absurd until the discovery of the Echelon system, used by the US to eavesdrop on electronic communications internationally.
Note: For more on the growing use of this secret technology, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on privacy, click here.
NYPD 'consistently violated basic rights' during Occupy protests – study
2012-07-25, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-07-31 10:33:03
The first systematic look at the New York police department's response to Occupy Wall Street protests paints a damning picture of an out-of-control and aggressive organization that routinely acted beyond its powers. In a report that followed an eight-month study, researchers at the law schools of NYU and Fordham accuse the NYPD of deploying unnecessarily aggressive force, obstructing press freedoms and making arbitrary and baseless arrests. The study ... found evidence that police made violent late-night raids on peaceful encampments, obstructed independent legal monitors and was opaque about its policies. The NYPD report is the first of a series to look at how police authorities in five US cities, including Oakland and Boston, have treated the Occupy movement since it began in September 2011. The research concludes that there now is a systematic effort by authorities to suppress protests, even when these are lawful and pose no threat to the public. Sarah Knuckey, a professor of law at NYU, said: "All the case studies we collected show the police are violating basic rights consistently, and the level of impunity is shocking". To be launched over the coming months, the reports are being done under the Protest and Assembly Rights Project, a national consortium of law school clinics addressing America's response to Occupy Wall Street.
Note: For lots more from reliable major media sources on government threats to civil liberties and other types of government corruption, click here and here.
New Homeland Security Laser Scanner Reads People At Molecular Level
2012-07-11, CBS-DC (Washington DC CBS affiliate)
Posted: 2012-07-24 16:36:16
The Department of Homeland Security will soon be using a laser at airports that can detect everything about you from over 160 feet away. This laser-based scanner ... could read everything from a person’s adrenaline levels, to traces of gun powder on a person’s clothes, to illegal substances — and it can all be done without a physical search. It also could be used on multiple people at a time, eliminating random searches at airports. The scanner is called the Picosecond Programmable Laser. The device works by blasting its target with lasers which vibrate molecules that are then read by the machine that determine what substances a person has been exposed to. The inventor of this invasive technology is Genia Photonics. Active since 2009, they hold 30 patents on laser technology designed for scanning. In 2011, they formed a partnership with In-Q-Tel, a company chartered by the CIA and Congress to build “a bridge between the Agency and a new set of technology innovators.” Although the technology could be used by “Big Brother,” Genia Photonics states that the device could be far more beneficial being used for medical purposes to check for cancer in real time, lipids detection, and patient monitoring.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government threats to privacy, click here.
A Cruel and Unusual Record
2012-06-25, New York Times
Posted: 2012-07-03 10:45:49
Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after [9/11] and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions. While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress. This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.
Note: For revealing reports from major media sources on war crimes committed by US forces in the "global war on terror," click here.
Montreal's student protesters defy restrictions as demonstrations grow
2012-05-25, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-06-05 09:36:12
Demonstrators in Montreal have continued to defy an emergency law passed by the provincial government in Quebec to restrict protests by students against planned tuition fee hikes. On Wednesday, more than 500 Montrealers were arrested – more than during the entire October 1970 crisis when martial law was declared in the city in response to actions by Quebec nationalists. The total number of those arrested in the current protests has now exceeded 2,500. The protest ... was declared illegal before it began, because organizers had not provided police with an itinerary, as required by a controversial new emergency law. Helicopters and riot police are an increasingly common sight on the streets of Montreal as a province-wide student strike passed the 100-day mark, but popular support only seems to be growing as the government attempts to clamp down on the strike. Small red squares, the symbol of the strike historically worn by Montreal students supporting free tuition, are everywhere in the city – cloth pinned to people's lapels and daubed onto signs and walls. Families and older residents are increasingly common sights at protests as well, demonstrating against Bill 78, which places restrictions on protests of more than 50 people. The bill imposes fines of $125,000 a day on student unions that defy its provisions, and student leaders shown to support unplanned protests can be fined up to a maximum of $5,000.
Note: For lots more on this important, yet underreported news, do a search on "Montreal protests."
Bradley Manning, America's martyr for open government
2012-05-29, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-06-05 09:29:29
Today marks two years of imprisonment of Private Bradley Manning. The US government was going to use Manning as a warning to anyone else who might feel compelled to report on war crimes, or any other crimes they witness from within the system. Blow the whistle, goes the warning, and you will be buried alive by the state, shredded by the same secrecy machine a whistleblower would try to expose. Because of courage and creativity of activists, Bradley Manning has not been forgotten, even if that was the aim of authorities, and he never shall be forgotten. His case has been largely shunned by most of the mainstream media, especially in the US. This needs to change, because if he is indeed found guilty of being a whistleblower of such magnitude that it shook the entire secrecy machine of our world out of its comfort zone, his acts would need to be honored as an inspiration to change the way governments hide the reality of their actions from the people they are supposed to be serving and informing. Manning should not be convicted in secret: the media should be given access to the court filings; and the media should be pushing harder for the first amendment of the US constitution to be honored in the Manning case.
Note: For key reports on government secrecy from reliable sources, click here.
Three NATO protesters face terrorism charges as global summit nears
2012-05-19, Washington Post
Posted: 2012-05-28 14:18:55
As NATO protesters marched by the hundreds to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house, three others were in court Saturday facing terrorism charges for allegedly planning to bomb the mayor’s residence, police stations and Obama’s campaign headquarters during the upcoming summit. Three men who had been arrested in a raid Wednesday appeared before a Cook County judge, charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, possession of an explosive device and providing material support for terrorism. The men ... are being held on $1.5 million bond. Prosecutors alleged they had made Molotov cocktails and had discussed using other weapons, including swords and knives. Lawyers for the suspects disputed those claims. “There are a lot of sensational allegations being made,” said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the National Lawyers Guild. “This is obviously an effort to chill dissent ahead of the NATO demonstrations.”
As darkness fell, the crowds of protesters who gathered to show support to the terror suspects swelled to nearly 1,000, and there were several tense scuffles with police. At least 10 more protesters were detained, Hermes said.
Note: This entire article contains almost nothing about the trumped up charges against these protestors. You can learn more about police provocation of the group at this link.
Anti-NATO protest calls for "Robin Hood" tax on financial institutions
2012-05-18, CBS News
Posted: 2012-05-22 11:50:43
Thousands of nurses and other protesters gathered [on May 18] at a downtown Chicago plaza for a noisy but peaceful demonstration demanding a "Robin Hood" tax on banks' financial transactions. Members of National Nurses United, the nation's largest nurses union, were joined by members of the Occupy movement, unions and veterans at the rally city officials have said could attract more than 5,000. The nurses and their supporters dressed in red shirts and wore green felt Robin Hood caps with red feathers. The rally — which originally was scheduled to coincide with the start of the G-8 economic summit before it was moved from Chicago to Camp David — drew a broad spectrum of causes, from anti-war activists to Occupy protesters. Meanwhile, lawyers for NATO summit protesters said police on [May 18] released four of nine activists arrested ... on accusations that they had or planned to make Molotov cocktails. The lawyers said police, with their guns drawn, raided an apartment building where activists were staying and arrested nine people. The Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers Guild said officers broke down doors in the building in the South Side Bridgeport neighborhood and produced no warrants. "The nine have absolutely no idea what they're being charged with because they were not engaged in any criminal activity at all," said guild attorney Sarah Gelsomino. "They're really very confused and very frightened." The Chicago Police Department refused to comment.
Note: For more on the defense of the victims of the police crackdown on Occupy in Chicago and elsewhere, click here. For a most excellent two-minute video of former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich presenting five of the most urgent problems with the economy and an easy solution all in two minutes, click here. For an enlightening five-minute TED talks video further showing how the rich getting richer while they pay increasingly less taxes is at the root of most economic woes, click here.
Judge blocks indefinite military detention provision
2012-05-16, Chicago Tribune/Reuters
Posted: 2012-05-22 11:42:59
A judge on [May 16] blocked enforcement of a recently enacted law's provision that authorizes indefinite military detention for those deemed to have "substantially supported" al Qaeda, the Taliban or "associated forces." District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan ruled in favor of a group of civilian activists and journalists who said they feared being detained under a section of the law, which was signed by President Barack Obama in December 2011. "In the face of what could be indeterminate military detention, due process requires more," the judge said. She added that it was in the public interest to reconsider the law so that "ordinary citizens are able to understand the scope of conduct that could subject them to indefinite military detention." By issuing a preliminary injunction, the judge prevents the U.S. government from enforcing section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act's "Homeland Battlefield" provisions. During day-long oral arguments in March, Forrest heard lawyers for former New York Times war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges and others argue that the law would have a "chilling effect" on their work. The judge said she worried at the government's reluctance ... to specify whether examples of the plaintiffs' activities ... would fall under the scope of the provision. "Failure to be able to make such a representation... requires the court to assume that, in fact, the government takes the position that a wide swath of expressive and associational conduct is in fact encompassed by 1021," the judge wrote.
Note: For more on the courageous journalist behind this lawsuit, Chris Hedges, see his excellent columns at this link. For reports from major media sources on governmental threats to civil liberties, click here.
9/11 defense attorneys call Guantánamo detention, trial rules ‘unjust’
2012-05-06, Miami Herald
Posted: 2012-05-15 16:04:56
The five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks used their weekend war court appearances to stage “peaceful resistance to an unjust system” being used for political reasons, defense lawyers said Sunday — a day after the 9/11-accused turned the judge’s plans to hold a simple arraignment into a 13-hour marathon of prayer and protest. “The system is a rigged game to prevent us from doing our jobs,” argued criminal defense attorney David Nevin, accusing the prison camp commander of making it impossible to learn from alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed how the CIA waterboarded him 183 times and used other since-outlawed techniques to break him. “The government wants to kill Mr. Mohammed,” Nevin said, “to extinguish the last eyewitness to his torture.” Each of the accused steadfastly refused to answer basic questions posed to them by Army Col. James L. Pohl, the war court’s chief judge, on whether they accepted their Pentagon-appointed attorneys. Instead, they periodically disrupted the proceedings with demonstrations of Muslim prayer and protests of prison conditions. “These men have endured years of inhumane treatment and torture” that will “infect every aspect of this military commission tribunal,” attorney James Connell III warned.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on the destruction of civil liberties in the name of the "global war on terror," click here.
Cispa will give US unprecedented access, internet privacy advocates warn
2012-04-18, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-04-24 11:52:35
Washington looks set to wave through new cybersecurity legislation next week that opponents fear will wipe out decades of privacy protections at a stroke. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa) will be discussed in the House of Representatives next week and already has the support of 100 House members. It will be the first such bill to go to a vote since the collapse of the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in January after global protests and a concerted campaign by internet giants such as Google, Wikipedia and Twitter. The author of the new bill, Mike Rogers, the Republican chair of the House intelligence committee, has said it is aimed at tracking the nefarious activities of hackers, terrorists and foreign states, especially China. But its critics charge the bill will affect ordinary citizens and overturn the privacy protections they now enjoy. Opponents fear the way it is currently drafted will open up ordinary citizens to unprecedented scrutiny. The bill uses the wording: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law," a phrase that if it became law would trump all existing legislation, according to critics. In one section, the bill defines "efforts to degrade, disrupt or destroy" a network as an area that would trigger a Cispa investigation. Opponents argue something as simple as downloading a large file – a movie for example – could potentially be defined as an effort to "degrade" a network. The bill also exempts companies from any liability for handing over private information.
Note: For lots more on government and corporate threats to civil liberties, click here.
Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google's Sergey Brin
2012-04-15, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-04-24 11:51:09
The principles of openness and universal access that underpinned the creation of the internet three decades ago are under greater threat than ever, according to Google co-founder Sergey Brin. In an interview with the Guardian, Brin warned there were "very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world". "I am more worried than I have been in the past," he said. "It's scary." The threat to the freedom of the internet comes, he claims, from a combination of governments increasingly trying to control access and communication by their citizens, the entertainment industry's attempts to crack down on piracy, and the rise of "restrictive" walled gardens such as Facebook and Apple, which tightly control what software can be released on their platforms. He said five years ago he did not believe China or any country could effectively restrict the internet for long, but now says he has been proven wrong. Brin's comments come on the first day of a week-long Guardian investigation of the intensifying battle for control of the internet being fought across the globe between governments, companies, military strategists, activists and hackers. From the attempts made by Hollywood to push through legislation allowing pirate websites to be shut down, to the British government's plans to monitor social media and web use, the ethos of openness championed by the pioneers of the internet and worldwide web is being challenged on a number of fronts.
Note: For lots more on government and corporate threats to civil liberties, click here.
How the US uses sexual humiliation as a political tool to control the masses
2012-04-05, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-04-17 10:15:03
In a five-four ruling this week, the supreme court decided that anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offense, however minor, at any time. [This joins] the NDAA, which lets anyone be arrested forever at any time, and HR 347, the "trespass bill", which gives you a 10-year sentence for protesting anywhere near someone with secret service protection. Is American strip-searching benign? The man who had brought the initial suit ... described having been told to "turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks." There's the sexual abuse of prisoners at Bagram, [where] in some cases, an interrogator would place his penis along the face of the detainee while he was being questioned. Other inmates were raped with sticks or threatened with anal sex. And there's the policy ... to grope US travelers genitally or else force them to go through a machine – made by a company, Rapiscan, owned by terror profiteer and former DHA czar Michael Chertoff – with images so vivid that it has been called the "pornoscanner". Believe me: you don't want the state having the power to strip your clothes off. History shows that the use of forced nudity by a state that is descending into fascism is powerfully effective in controlling and subduing populations. Where are we headed? These recent laws ... are being set up to work in concert with a see-all-all-the-time surveillance state. Remember, you don't need to have done anything wrong to be arrested in America any longer. The man who was forced to spread his buttocks was stopped for a driving infraction. As one internet advocate said: "There is a race against time: they realise the internet is a tool of empowerment that will work against their interests, and they need to race to turn it into a tool of control."
Note: How sad that it takes a British newspaper to spell out the highly repressive and invasive new laws being passed in the US. For many revealing major media articles showing the dangers of big brother in our world, click here. For excellent articles revealing the severe erosion of civil liberties, click here.
Email and web use 'to be monitored' under new laws
2012-04-01, BBC News
Posted: 2012-04-17 10:12:38
The government will be able to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK under new legislation set to be announced soon. Internet firms will be required to give intelligence agency GCHQ access to communications on demand, in real time. The Home Office says the move is key to tackling crime and terrorism, but civil liberties groups have criticised it. Tory MP David Davis called it "an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary people". A new law ... would not allow GCHQ to access the content of emails, calls or messages without a warrant. But it would enable intelligence officers to identify who an individual or group is in contact with, how often and for how long. They would also be able to see which websites someone had visited. Conservative MP and former shadow home secretary David Davis said it would make it easier for the government "to eavesdrop on vast numbers of people". "What this is talking about doing is not focusing on terrorists or criminals, it's absolutely everybody's emails, phone calls, web access..." He said that until now anyone wishing to monitor communications had been required to gain permission from a magistrate. Nick Pickles, director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, called the move "an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran". The previous Labour government attempted to introduce a central, government-run database of everyone's phone calls and emails, but eventually dropped the bid after widespread anger.
Note: For more on this from BBC, click here. Though this is interesting news, many know that the government has had easy access to all people's emails, phone calls, and more for many years through systems like echelon and more. For an abundance of major media articles showing how many of the power elite want to create a big-brother society, click here.
Supreme Court Ruling Allows Strip Searches for Any Arrest
2012-04-02, New York Times
Posted: 2012-04-11 18:36:41
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials. The procedures endorsed by the majority are forbidden by statute in at least 10 states. According to a supporting brief filed by the American Bar Association, international human rights treaties also ban the procedures. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the four dissenters, said the strip searches the majority allowed were “a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy” and should be used only when there was good reason to do so. Justice Breyer said that the Fourth Amendment should be understood to bar strip searches of people arrested for minor offenses not involving drugs or violence, unless officials had a reasonable suspicion that they were carrying contraband. People have been subjected to “the humiliation of a visual strip search” after being arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal and riding a bicycle without an audible bell. A nun was strip-searched ... after an arrest for trespassing during an antiwar demonstration. In a study of 23,000 people admitted to a correctional facility in Orange County, N.Y., using that standard, there was at most one instance of contraband detected that would not otherwise have been found.
Note: For an abundance of major media articles showing severe erosion of civil liberties, click here.
US anti-terrorism law curbs free speech and activist work, court told
2012-03-29, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-04-02 21:04:22
A group [of] political activists and journalists has launched a legal challenge to stop an American law they say allows the US military to arrest civilians anywhere in the world and detain them without trial as accused supporters of terrorism. The seven figures, who include ex-New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, professor Noam Chomsky and Icelandic politician and WikiLeaks campaigner Birgitta Jonsdottir, testified to a Manhattan judge that the law – dubbed the NDAA or Homeland Battlefield Bill – would cripple free speech around the world. They said that various provisions written into the National Defense Authorization Bill, which was signed by President Barack Obama at the end of 2011, effectively broadened the definition of "supporter of terrorism" to include peaceful activists, authors, academics and even journalists interviewing members of radical groups. Controversy centres on the loose definition of key words in the bill, in particular who might be "associated forces" of the law's named terrorist groups al-Qaida and the Taliban and what "substantial support" to those groups might get defined as. Whereas White House officials have denied the wording extends any sort of blanket coverage to civilians, rather than active enemy combatants, or actions involved in free speech, some civil rights experts have said the lack of precise definition leaves it open to massive potential abuse.
Note: For discussion of the extreme crackdown by police, based on "anti-terrorism" legislation, against Occupy movement protestors, click here.
UN torture chief: Manning endured cruel treatment
Posted: 2012-03-20 10:42:45
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning’s 11 months in solitary confinement was “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” the UN chief on torture said Monday, though he stopped short of calling it torture. Manning, 25, faces 22 counts, including aiding the enemy after he allegedly released classified documents to WikiLeaks. He was held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day following his arrest in May 2010 in Iraq, and continuing through his transfer to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va.
The confinement, lasting about 11 months, ended upon his transfer to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., on April 20, 2011. When Juan Mendez, special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, asked Department of Defense officials why Manning was held in such a condition, he was told it was due to the gravity of the crime and for “prevention of harm” – though they did not specify what that meant, citing privacy concerns. “He hasn't been convicted of any crime yet so … subjecting him to a very long period of solitary confinement on the basis that he might be found guilty of a crime seems to me to be both a violation of his presumption of innocence but also a violation of his right not to be treated cruelly or inhumanely,” Mendez told msnbc.com. The explanations for Manning’s solitary confinement were “insufficient,” according to Mendez. “That's why I reached the conclusion that the United States government was responsible for having inflicted on him cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” he said.”
Note: For key reports from major media sources on the use of torture and government restrictions of basic civil liberties, click here.
Democratic Senators Issue Strong Warning About Use of the Patriot Act
2012-03-16, New York Times
Posted: 2012-03-20 10:22:14
For more than two years, a handful of Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee have warned that the government is secretly interpreting its surveillance powers under the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming if the public — or even others in Congress — knew about it. On [March 15], two of those senators — Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado — went further. They said a top-secret intelligence operation that is based on that secret legal theory is not as crucial to national security as executive branch officials have maintained. The Justice Department has argued that disclosing information about its interpretation of the Patriot Act could alert adversaries to how the government collects certain intelligence. It is seeking the dismissal of two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits — by The New York Times and by the American Civil Liberties Union — related to how the Patriot Act has been interpreted. The dispute centers on what the government thinks it is allowed to do under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, under which agents may obtain a secret order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing them to get access to any “tangible things” — like business records — that are deemed “relevant” to a terrorism or espionage investigation. The interpretation of Section 215 that authorizes this secret surveillance operation is apparently not obvious from a plain text reading of the provision, and was developed through a series of classified rulings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on surveillance and other government restrictions of basic civil liberties, click here.
Holder: US can legally kill Americans in terror groups
Posted: 2012-03-13 16:41:47
The U.S. government is legally justified in killing its own citizens overseas if they are involved in plotting terror attacks against America, Attorney General Eric Holder said [on March 5], offering the Obama administration's most detailed explanation so far of its controversial targeted killing program. The Fifth Amendment provides that no one can be "deprived of life" without due process of law. But that due process, Holder said, doesn't necessarily come from a court. "Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process," the attorney general said. The ACLU called Holder's explanation "a defense of the government’s chillingly broad claimed authority to conduct targeted killings of civilians, including American citizens, far from any battlefield without judicial review or public scrutiny." "Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact," said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. "Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power,” she said. The ACLU is suing the Obama administration, seeking to have documents regarding the targeted killing program made public.
Note: Attorney General Holder's claim that US citizens can be killed by the government without judicial process clearly violates the U.S. Bill of Rights. In addition to the Fifth Amendment that states that no person shall be held to answer for a crime "without due process of law," the Sixth Amendment states that "the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial."