Civil Liberties News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on civil liberties
The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist. The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place entire “categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted. The rulebook ... was developed behind closed doors by representatives of the nation’s intelligence, military, and law-enforcement establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI. Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date.
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A classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known, one that allows it to intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets but any communications about its targets as well. The certification — approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and included among a set of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — lists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. The certification also permitted the agency to gather intelligence about entities including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The documents underscore the remarkable breadth of potential “foreign intelligence” collection. An affidavit in support of the 2010 foreign-government certification said the NSA believes that foreigners who will be targeted for collection “possess, are expected to receive and/or are likely to communicate foreign intelligence information concerning these foreign powers.” That language could allow for surveillance of academics, journalists and human rights researchers. A Swiss academic who has information on the German government’s position in the run-up to an international trade negotiation, for instance, could be targeted if the government has determined there is a foreign-intelligence need for that information. If a U.S. college professor e-mails the Swiss professor’s e-mail address or phone number to a colleague, the American’s e-mail could be collected as well, under the program’s court-approved rules.
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A whistle-blower living in exile in Russia. A publisher seeking the asylum he has already been granted while his sources are imprisoned. This isn't the cast of a summer blockbuster. It's a perfect storm of real-life cases that make it clear that constitutional guarantees of a free press and government accountability are rhetorical devices, not political realities. The whistle-blower is Edward Snowden. This month marks the first anniversary of his disclosures of massive National Security Agency surveillance. The publisher is Julian Assange. Thursday marks two years since he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Meanwhile, two of Assange's sources, Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) and Jeremy Hammond, remain in prison for providing WikiLeaks with confidential documents. Harassment, targeting and prosecution of whistle-blowers, journalists and publishers have become a dangerous new normal — one we should refuse to accept, especially in a time when governments are becoming more powerful and less accountable. It's time to end this assault, starting with granting Snowden amnesty and withdrawing the threat of U.S. criminal prosecution of Assange. Similar harsh treatment and excessive punishments haven't applied to the people in government who perpetrated the crimes exposed by these whistle-blowers and published by WikiLeaks. In fact, people such as national intelligence director James Clapper, who lied under oath to Congress, have avoided consequences altogether.
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As President Obama ushers in the end of what he called America’s “long season of war,” the former tools of combat — M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers and more — are ending up in local police departments, often with little public notice. During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft. The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units. Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Police departments ... are adding more firepower and military gear than ever. Some, especially in larger cities, have used federal grant money to buy armored cars and other tactical gear. And the free surplus program remains a favorite of many police chiefs who say they could otherwise not afford such equipment. The number of SWAT teams has skyrocketed since the 1980s, according to studies by Peter B. Kraska, an Eastern Kentucky University professor who has been researching the issue for decades. Recruiting videos feature clips of officers storming into homes with smoke grenades and firing automatic weapons. In Springdale, Ark., a police recruiting video is dominated by SWAT clips, including officers throwing a flash grenade into a house and creeping through a field in camouflage.
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The list of those caught up in the global surveillance net cast by the National Security Agency and its overseas partners, from social media users to foreign heads of state, now includes another entry: US lawyers. A top-secret document, obtained by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden, shows that a US law firm was monitored while representing a foreign government in trade disputes with the United States. The disclosure offers a rare glimpse of a specific instance of Americans ensnared by the eavesdroppers and is of particular interest because US lawyers with clients overseas have expressed growing concern that their confidential communications could be compromised by such surveillance. The government of Indonesia had retained the law firm for help in trade talks, according to the February 2013 document. The NSA’s Australian counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate, notified the agency that it was conducting surveillance of the talks, including communications between Indonesian officials and the US law firm, and offered to share information. The NSA is banned from targeting Americans, including businesses, law firms, and other organizations based in the United States, for surveillance without warrants, and intelligence officials have repeatedly said the NSA does not use spy services of its partners in the so-called Five Eyes alliance — Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand — to skirt the law. The Australians told officials at an NSA liaison office in Canberra, that “information covered by attorney-client privilege may be included” in the intelligence gathering. Most attorney-client conversations do not get special protections under US law from NSA eavesdropping.
Note: For more on intense deception perpetrated by the intelligence community, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
A 36-year NSA veteran, William Binney resigned from the agency and became a whistleblower after discovering that elements of a data-monitoring program he had helped develop - nicknamed ThinThread - were being used to spy on Americans. So 2005, December, The New York Times article comes out. ... How important was it? "It touched on that real issues," [said Binney]. "The warrantless wiretapping was not really a major component of it, but it touched on the data mining, which is really, really the big issue, data mining of the metadata and content. That was really the big issue, because that's how you can monitor the entire population simultaneously, whereas the warrantless wiretaps were isolated cases. You could pick an isolated number of them and do them, whereas in the mining process, you would do the entire population." The administration [used] this article to start an aggressive whistleblowing hunt. "[On July 22, 2005] the FBI was in my house ... pointing a gun at me when I was coming out of the shower. The raid took about seven hours. At the time we didn't know that Tom Drake had gone to The Baltimore Sun," [said Binney]. "Material [Tom Drake was indicted for] was clearly marked unclassified, and all they did was draw a line through it and classified that material, and then they charged him with having classified material. It's like framing him. The judge in the court ... knew they were framing him," [said Biney].
The federal government’s main terrorist watch list has grown to at least 700,000 people, with little scrutiny over how the determinations are made or the impact on those marked with the terrorist label. The government refuses to confirm or deny whether someone is on the list, officially called the Terrorist Screening Database, or divulge the criteria used to make the decisions. Even less is known about the secondary watch lists that are derived from the main one, including the no-fly list (used to prevent people from boarding aircraft), the selectee and expanded selectee lists (used to flag travelers for extra screening at airport checkpoints), the TECS database (used to vet people entering or leaving the United States), the Consular Lookout and Support System (used to screen visa applications) and the known or suspected terrorists list (used by law enforcement in routine police encounters). For people who have landed on these lists, the terrorist designation has been difficult to challenge legally. The Terrorist Screening Center, which administers the main terrorist watch list, declined to discuss its procedures, or to release current data about the number of people on various watch lists, and how many of them are American citizens.
Note: For more on government threats to civil liberties, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services have all developed methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic over the past five years in close partnership with Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping agency. The bulk monitoring is carried out through direct taps into fibre optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies. A loose but growing eavesdropping alliance has allowed intelligence agencies from one country to cultivate ties with corporations from another to facilitate the trawling of the web, according to GCHQ documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. The files also make clear that GCHQ played a leading role in advising its European counterparts how to work around national laws intended to restrict the surveillance power of intelligence agencies. US intelligence officials have insisted the mass monitoring was carried out by the security agencies in the countries involved and shared with the US. The Guardian revealed the existence of GCHQ's Tempora programme, in which the electronic intelligence agency tapped directly into the transatlantic fibre optic cables to carry out bulk surveillance. GCHQ officials expressed admiration for the technical capabilities of German intelligence to do the same thing, [saying] the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) had "huge technological potential and good access to the heart of the internet – they are already seeing some bearers running at 40Gbps and 100Gbps". Bearers is the GCHQ term for the fibre optic cables, and gigabits per second (Gbps) measures the speed at which data runs through them.
Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
[In] Miram Shah, the frontier Pakistani town that has become a virtual test laboratory for drone warfare, ... residents paint a portrait of extended terror and strain within a tribal society caught between vicious militants and the American drones hunting them. Their claims of distress are now being backed by a new Amnesty International investigation that found, among other points, that at least 19 civilians in the surrounding area of North Waziristan had been killed in just two of the drone attacks since January 2012 — a time when the Obama administration has held that strikes have been increasingly accurate and free of mistakes. Miram Shah ... has become a fearful and paranoid town, dealt at least 13 drone strikes since 2008 — more than any other urban settlement in the world. Even when the missiles do not strike, buzzing drones hover day and night, scanning the alleys and markets with roving high-resolution cameras. The strikes in the area mostly occur in densely populated neighborhoods. The drones have hit a bakery, a disused girls’ school and a money changers’ market, residents say. The constant presence of circling drones — and accompanying tension over when, or whom, they will strike — is a crushing psychological burden for many residents. Sales of sleeping tablets, antidepressants and medicine to treat anxiety have soared, said Hajji Gulab Jan Dawar, a pharmacist in the town bazaar. Women were particularly troubled, he said, but men also experienced problems. State services have virtually collapsed. At the local hospital, corrupt officials are reselling supplies of medicine and fuel in the town market, doctors said.
Note: For more on the illegal killing worldwide of innocent men, women, and children by missile strikes from US drones, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
A Department of Justice memo [distributed by the FBI] instructs local police, under a program named "Communities Against Terrorism," to consider anyone who harbors "conspiracy theories" about 9/11 to be a potential terrorist. The memo thus adds 9/11-official-story skeptics to a growing list of targets described by federal law enforcement [as] security threats, such as those who express "libertarian philosophies," "Second Amendment-oriented views," interest in "self-sufficiency," "fears of Big Brother or big government," and "Declarations of Constitutional rights and civil liberties." A newly released national poll shows that 48 percent of Americans either have some doubts about the official account of 9/11, or do not believe it at all. The FBI memo entitled "Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities Related to Sleepers" says that people who should be 'considered suspicious' [for] possible involvement in "terrorist activity" include those who hold the "attitude" described as "Conspiracy theories about Westerners." The memo continues: "e.g. (sic) the CIA arranged for 9/11 to legitimize the invasion of foreign lands." "Sleepers" refers to "sleeper cells," in FBI jargon, which are terrorists awaiting orders to be activated into terrorist activity. According to the polling firm YouGov, 38% of Americans have some doubts about the official account of 9/11, 10% do not believe it at all, and 12% are unsure about it. Among well-known doubters of the official 9/11 account are many military officers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters, and pilots.
Note: We don't normally use Digital Journal as a news source, but this article is too important to not include, and no major media source is covering the story. For evidence that search engines are actively blocking 9/11 truth videos, click here. For more on the questions raised about the official explanation of the 9/11 events by highly respected professors and former government and military officials, click here and here.
The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorism organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance. Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen "terrorism enterprise investigations" into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise. The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials. The revelations about the NYPD's massive spying operations are in documents recently obtained by The Associated Press and part of a new book, Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit... The book ... is based on hundreds of previously unpublished police files and interviews with current and former NYPD, CIA and FBI officials.
Note: For more on the realities of intelligence operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
It has been an infuriating few days for anyone who values the freedom of the press, as authorities in the United Kingdom resorted to the tactics of tyrants and thugs to squelch reporting that they simply don't like. In acts clearly calibrated for optimal intimidation, they have detained the partner of a journalist, threatened to shut down a reporting operation that has prompted a critical public debate over government spying and forced the destruction of a major publication's hard drives. It's breathtaking in its audacity - and if it comes to light that the U.S. government took any part in organizing, encouraging or supporting these acts, it will warrant immediate congressional investigation. As it is, the accelerating assaults on investigative journalism [indicate the need for] stronger protections for journalists and their sources. Using laws designed to ferret out suspected terrorists to detain a person aiding acts of journalism is a cut-and-dried abuse of government power, an act of intimidation that may well be illegal - and certainly should be. It gives the lie to the naive but oft-repeated notion that if you've done no wrong, you have nothing to fear. Such attacks on investigative journalism here and abroad appear to be escalating. The Justice Department has been caught spying on reporters at the Associated Press, and named a Fox News reporter a "co-conspirator" in a leak inquiry. Judges have threatened reporters at both the New York Times and Fox News with jail time for refusing to disclose their sources.
Note: For more on government attacks on civil liberties, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Pop quiz: Name a state residential school where children were enrolled in medical experiments over an almost 20-year period, in which they were unknowingly fed a steady diet of radioactive isotopes, subjected to regular blood draws, and placed in solitary confinement if they refused to cooperate. Answer: the Walter E. Fernald State School in Waltham [Mass.} during the mid 20th century. Unfortunately, as Allen Hornblum, Judith Newman, and Gregory Dober painfully describe in their chilling new book, Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America, Fernald was not the only institution in the country, or even in the state, where children were conscripted into sometimes deadly medical experiments. These were conducted by ambitious physicians and scientists whose belief in what they were trying to accomplish often blinded them to the potentially horrific consequences of their actions. “Against Their Will’’ opens with an overview of the eugenics movement in the United States, which found sympathizers among many luminaries of American medicine in the 19th and early 20th centuries. With its disdain for the disabled, who were considered genetically inferior, the movement paved the way for use of “defective’’ children in research. The book then provides multiple examples of medical experiments perpetrated on developmentally delayed and physically disabled children at multiple institutions across the country over the course of decades, often reading like case studies straight out of the 1947 Nazi doctors’ trial.
Note: For a long list of verifiable incidents where unknowing citizens were used as guinea pigs on a massive scale, click here.
The Army is blocking all access to The Guardian newspaper's reports about the National Security Agency's sweeping collection of data about Americans' email and phone communications, an Army spokesman said Thursday. The Monterey (Calif.) Herald reported that employees at the Presidio of Monterey, an Army public affairs base about 100 miles south of San Francisco, were unable to gain access to The Guardian's articles on former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and his professed leaks of classified information about the intelligence programs. Late Thursday, an Army spokesman told The Herald by email that the newspaper's NSA reports were, in fact, being blocked across the entire Army. He wrote that it's routine for the Defense Department to take "network hygiene" action to prevent disclosure of classified information, The Herald reported. "We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security," the newspaper quoted the spokesman as saying. "However there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information."
Russ Tice, a former intelligence analyst and Bush-era NSA whistleblower, claimed Wednesday that the intelligence community has ordered surveillance on a wide range of groups and individuals, including high-ranking military officials, lawmakers and diplomats. “They went after – and I know this because I had my hands literally on the paperwork for these sort of things – they went after high-ranking military officers. They went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees," [said] Tice. “But they went after other ones, too. They went after lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House.” Then Tice dropped the bombshell about Obama. "In summer of 2004, one of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with a 40-something-year-old wannabe senator for Illinois ... that’s the president of the United States now.” FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds and Tice agreed that such wide-ranging surveillance of officials could provide the intelligence agencies with unthinkable power to blackmail their opponents. “I was worried that the intelligence community now has sway over what is going on,” Tice said. Tice first blew the whistle on ... domestic spying across multiple agencies in 2005.
Note: Listen to Tice's shocking revelations in this interview. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and throughout intelligence agencies.
At various points over the past two years, Internal Revenue Service officials targeted nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency's inspector general. The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that on June 29, 2011, IRS staffers held a briefing with senior agency official Lois G. Lerner in which they described giving special attention to instances where “statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run.” Six months later, the IRS applied a new political test to groups that applied for tax-exempt status as “social welfare” groups. On Jan. 15, 2012 the agency decided to target "political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform movement," according to the appendix in the IG report, which ... has yet to be released. The new revelations are likely to intensify criticism of the IRS, which has been under fire since agency officials acknowledged they had deliberately targeted groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their name for heightened scrutiny. Sen. Susan Collins ... described the practice as “absolutely chilling” and called on President Obama to condemn the effort.
One of the major governmental abuses denounced by the 1976 final report of the Church Committee was the FBI's domestic counter intelligence programs (COINTELPRO). Under that program, the FBI targeted political groups and individuals it deemed subversive and dangerous ... and infiltrated them with agents who, among other things, attempted to manipulate members into agreeing to commit criminal acts so that the FBI could arrest and prosecute them. What made the program so controversial was that the FBI was attempting to create and encourage crimes rather than find actual criminals - all in order to punish those whose constitutionally protected political activism the US government found threatening. Over the past decade, US Muslims have been routinely targeted with precisely this same tactic of preemptive or anticipatory prosecution. It's all designed to take people engaged in political and religious advocacy which the US government dislikes ... and use paid informants to trick them into saying just enough to turn them into criminals who are then prosecuted and imprisoned for decades. The same pattern repeats itself over and over. The FBI ensnares some random Muslim in a garden-variety criminal investigation involving financial fraud or drugs. Rather than prosecute him, the FBI puts the Muslim criminal suspect on its payroll, sending him into Muslim communities and mosques in order not only to spy on American Muslims, but to befriend them and then actively manipulate them into saying just enough to make their prosecution possible.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on illegal activities of intelligence agencies, click here.
It's beyond dispute that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, [the new Pope], failed to openly confront the 1976-1983 military junta as it kidnapped and killed thousands of people in a "dirty war" to eliminate leftist opponents. But human rights activists differ on how much responsibility Pope Francis personally deserves for the Argentine church's dark history of supporting the murderous dictatorship. Some leading Argentine human rights activists agree that Bergoglio, now 76, doesn't deserve to be lumped together with other church figures who were closely aligned with the dictatorship. "Perhaps he didn't have the courage of other priests, but he never collaborated with the dictatorship," Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who won the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize for documenting the junta's atrocities, said. But others say Bergoglio's rise through the Argentine church since then has put him in many positions of power where he could have done more to atone for the sins of Catholic officials who did actively conspire with the dictators. Some priests even worked inside torture centers, and blessed those doing the killing. Bergoglio twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court in trials involving torture and murder inside the feared Navy Mechanics School and the theft of babies from detainees.
The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document. The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down [targeted persons] by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of "suspicious customer activity," such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The Federal Bureau of Investigation already has full access to the database. However, intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, currently have to make case-by-case requests for information to FinCEN. The Treasury plan would give spy agencies the ability to analyze more raw financial data than they have ever had before. Financial institutions file more than 15 million "suspicious activity reports" every year, according to Treasury. Banks, for instance, are required to report all personal cash transactions exceeding $10,000.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the games intelligence agencies play, click here.
Commencing immediately upon the 9/11 attack, the US government ... has spent 12 straight years inventing and implementing new theories of government power in the name of Terrorism. Every year since 9/11 has ushered in increased authorities of exactly the type Americans are inculcated to believe only exist in those other, non-free societies: ubiquitous surveillance, impenetrable secrecy, and the power to imprison and even kill without charges or due process. The Obama administration has already exercised the power to target even its own citizens for execution far from any battlefield. [This] has prompted almost no institutional resistance from the structures designed to check executive abuses: courts, the media, and Congress. Last week's 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan's confirmation as CIA director by GOP Sen. Rand Paul was one of the first ... Congressional efforts to dramatize and oppose just how radical these Terrorism-justified powers have become. For the first time since the 9/11 attack, even lowly cable news shows were forced ... to extensively discuss the government's extremist theories of power. All of this put Democrats ... in a very uncomfortable position. The politician who took such a unique stand in defense of these principles was not merely a Republican but a leading member of its dreaded Tea Party wing. Some Democrats, to their credit, publicly supported Paul. But most Democratic Senators ran away as fast as possible from having anything to do with the debate. Paul was doing nothing more than voicing concerns that have long been voiced by leading civil liberties groups such as the ACLU. But almost without exception, progressives who defend Obama's Terrorism policies steadfastly ignore the fact that they are embracing policies that are vehemently denounced by the ACLU.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the loss of civil liberties in the US, click here.
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