Civil Liberties News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Civil Liberties News Articles in Media
Thirty pages into a memorandum discussing the legal boundaries of military interrogations in 2003, senior Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo tackled a question not often asked by American policymakers: Could the president, if he desired, have a prisoner's eyes poked out? Or, for that matter, could he have "scalding water, corrosive acid or caustic substance" thrown on a prisoner? How about slitting an ear, nose or lip, or disabling a tongue or limb? What about biting? These assaults are all mentioned in a U.S. law prohibiting maiming, which Yoo parsed as he clarified the legal outer limits of what could be done to terrorism suspects as detained by U.S. authorities. The specific prohibitions, he said, depended on the circumstances or which "body part the statute specifies." But none of that matters in a time of war, Yoo also said, because federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming and other crimes by military interrogators are trumped by the president's ultimate authority as commander in chief. In the sober language of footnotes, case citations and judicial rulings, the memo explores a wide range of unsavory topics, from the use of mind-altering drugs on captives to the legality of forcing prisoners to squat on their toes in a "frog crouch." It repeats an assertion in another controversial Yoo memo that an interrogation tactic cannot be considered torture unless it would result in "death, organ failure or serious impairment of bodily functions." Yoo, who is now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, also uses footnotes to effectively dismiss the Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution, arguing that protections against unreasonable search and seizure and guarantees of due process either do not apply or are irrelevant in a time of war. He frequently cites his previous legal opinions to bolster his case.
The Justice Department concluded in October 2001 that military operations combating terrorism inside the United States are not limited by Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, in one of several secret memos containing new and controversial assertions of presidential power. The memo, sent on Oct. 23, 2001, to the Defense Department and the White House by the Office of Legal Counsel, focused on the rules governing any deployment of U.S. forces inside the country "in the event of further large-scale terrorist activities." Administration officials declined to detail what domestic military operations were being contemplated at the time. The memo has not been formally withdrawn. The Fourth Amendment assertion is one of several far-reaching legal arguments revealed by the disclosure Tuesday of a 2003 Justice Department memo that authorized harsh military interrogations. In its footnotes, asides and central text, that 81-page memo asserted nearly unlimited presidential powers during a time of war. The document disclosed, for example, that the administration's top lawyers had declared that the president has unfettered power to seize oceangoing ships as commander in chief; that Congress has no ability to pass legislation governing the interrogations of enemy combatants; and that federal laws prohibiting assault and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators. One section discussed to what extent the president might be allowed to legally maim a prisoner, such as through the use of a "scalding, corrosive, or caustic substance." A footnote argued that Fifth Amendment guarantees of due-process rights "do not address actions the Executive takes in conducting a military campaign against the Nation's enemies."
Note: For further disturbing reports on threats to civil liberties, click here.
When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations. But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document; according to officials briefed on it, [it was] an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency. The new opinion ... for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures. Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard. The classified opinions, never previously disclosed, are a hidden legacy of President Bush’s second term and Mr. Gonzales’s tenure at the Justice Department. Congress and the Supreme Court have intervened repeatedly in the last two years to impose limits on interrogations, and the administration has responded as a policy matter by dropping the most extreme techniques. But the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums, officials said. They show how the White House has succeeded in preserving the broadest possible legal latitude for harsh tactics.
One after another, the men and women who have stepped forward to report corruption in the massive effort to rebuild Iraq have been vilified, fired and demoted. Or worse. For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods. He had thought he was doing a good and noble thing when he started telling the FBI about the guns and the land mines and the rocket-launchers — all of them being sold for cash, no receipts necessary, he said. The buyers were Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy and ministry employees. The seller, he claimed, was the Iraqi-owned company he worked for, Shield Group Security Co. “It was a Wal-Mart for guns,” he says. “It was all illegal and everyone knew it.” So Vance says he blew the whistle, supplying photos and documents and other intelligence to an FBI agent in his hometown of Chicago because he didn’t know whom to trust in Iraq. For his trouble, he says, he got 97 days in Camp Cropper, an American military prison outside Baghdad. Congress gave more than $30 billion to rebuild Iraq, and at least $8.8 billion of it has disappeared. “If you do it, you will be destroyed,” said William Weaver, professor of political science at the University of Texas-El Paso and senior advisor to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. “Reconstruction is so rife with corruption. Sometimes people ask me, ‘Should I do this?’ And my answer is no. If they’re married, they’ll lose their family. They will lose their jobs. They will lose everything,” Weaver said.
Part One: 'A Different Understanding With the President': In less than an hour ... Cheney's proposal had become a military order from the commander in chief. Foreign terrorism suspects held by the United States were stripped of access to any court -- civilian or military, domestic or foreign. They could be confined indefinitely without charges and would be tried, if at all, in closed "military commissions." "What the hell just happened?" Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded ... when CNN announced the order that evening, Nov. 13, 2001. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, incensed, sent an aide to find out. Even witnesses to the Oval Office signing said they did not know the vice president had played any part. "Angler," as the Secret Service code-named him, has approached the levers of power obliquely, skirting orderly lines of debate he once enforced as chief of staff to President Gerald R. Ford. He has battled a bureaucracy he saw as hostile, using intimate knowledge of its terrain. He has empowered aides to fight above their rank, taking on roles reserved in other times for a White House counsel or national security adviser. And he has found a ready patron in George W. Bush for edge-of-the-envelope views on executive supremacy that previous presidents did not assert. Over the past six years, Cheney has shaped his times as no vice president has before. [The] relationship [between Bush and Cheney] is opaque, a vital unknown in assessing Cheney's impact on events. Officials who see them together often, not all of them admirers of the vice president, detect a strong sense of mutual confidence that Cheney is serving Bush's aims.
Note: This is an important, in-depth investigation of the Cheney vice-presidency. It is highly revealing and well worth reading it its entirety.
Behind the county hospital's tall cinderblock walls, a 27-year-old tuberculosis patient ... sits in a jail cell equipped with a ventilation system that keeps germs from escaping. Robert Daniels has been locked up indefinitely, perhaps for the rest of his life, since last July. But he has not been charged with a crime. Instead, he suffers from an extensively drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. It is considered virtually untreatable. County health authorities obtained a court order to lock him up as a danger to the public because ... he did not heed doctors' instructions to wear a mask in public. "I'm being treated worse than an inmate," Daniels said. "I'm all alone. Four walls. Even the door to my room has been locked. I haven't seen my reflection in months." He said sheriff's deputies will not let him take a shower -- he cleans himself with wet wipes -- and have taken away his television, radio, personal phone and computer. His only visitors are masked medical staff members who come in to give him his medication. Though Daniels' confinement is extremely rare, health experts say it is a situation that U.S. public health officials may have to confront more and more because of the spread of drug-resistant TB and the emergence of diseases such as SARS and avian flu.
Note: If the above link fails, click here. What possible reason is there for taking away this man's TV, radio, cell phone, and computer? Are we being prepared for mass quarantines and imprisonment due to disease? For more, click here.
Let's say your teenager is a habitual truant and there is nothing you can do about it. A Washington area politician thinks he might have the solution: Fit the child with a Global Positioning System chip, then have police track him down. "It allows them to get caught easier," said Maryland Delegate Doyle Niemann (D-Prince George's), who recently co-sponsored legislation in the House that would use electronic surveillance as part of a broader truancy reduction plan. "It's going to be done unobtrusively. The chips are tiny and can be put into a hospital ID band or a necklace." Niemann's legislation mirrors a bill sponsored by state Sen. Gwendolyn Britt (D-Prince George's). Both would provide truants and their parents with better access to social services, such as mental health evaluations and help with schoolwork. Electronic monitoring would be a last resort. Still, the prospect of tagging children and using them in some "catch and release" hunt by police casts a pall over everything that's good about the plan. Odd how billions and billions of dollars keep going to a war that almost nobody wants, but there's never enough to fund the educational programs that nearly everybody says are needed. Aimed solely at students in Prince George's — the only predominantly black county in the Washington area — the truancy effort is called a "pilot program," a first-of-its-kind experiment. It would cost $400,000 to keep track of about 660 students a year.
Note: For more reliable information on the push to microchip the entire population, click here.
A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night. So it was with a provision quietly tucked into the enormous defense budget bill at the Bush administration’s behest that makes it easier for a president to override local control of law enforcement and declare martial law. The provision, signed into law in October, weakens two obscure but important bulwarks of liberty. One is the doctrine that bars military forces, including a federalized National Guard, from engaging in law enforcement. The other is the Insurrection Act of 1807, which ... essentially limits a president’s use of the military in law enforcement to putting down lawlessness, insurrection and rebellion, where a state is violating federal law or depriving people of constitutional rights. The newly enacted provisions upset this careful balance. The president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or to any “other condition.” Changes of this magnitude should be made only after a thorough public airing. But these new presidential powers were slipped into the law without hearings or public debate. The president made no mention of the changes when he signed the measure, and neither the White House nor Congress consulted in advance with the nation’s governors.
[Book Review of] Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present. Harriet Washington opens the door on the torture room in "Medical Apartheid". Experimental operations on the skulls of slave children, Washington writes, were a favorite pursuit of a particularly sadistic South Carolinian doctor named J. Marion Sims, widely revered today as the "father of gynecology." For years, Sims experimented on a group of slave women, to whom he refused anesthesia. The most notorious post-slavery racial crime of American medicine [was] the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service between 1932 and 1972. More than 100 black subjects ... were denied treatment, even and especially after the discovery of penicillin in 1943. The research required that they suffer and die, the more slowly the better. Tuskegee was hardly unique. The Rockefeller Institute ... conducted a study in 1910 that saw 470 black syphilitics injected with a deadly strain of malaria. Black Americans were also disproportionately used ... as subjects in government inquiries into the effects of radiation. Washington's chilling history ends with contemporary case studies. At the Incarnation Children's Center in New York, Columbia University doctors continue to administer experimental AIDS drugs to minority orphans, even after many develop painful and debilitating reactions. As for current clinical trials in Africa, Washington describes the continent as the new "laboratory for the West," where unsuspecting patients regularly receive experimental therapies that might never receive state sanction in the United States or Europe.
In a nation that preaches the virtues of democracy, the United States government has consistently eroded the media's ability to report. U.S. press freedom has been slipping away since Sept. 11, 2001. Many other countries are now ranked freer than the United States. In the most recent survey by Freedom House [the U.S.] tied for 17th place. International free-press advocates Reporters Without Borders ranked us 53rd, tied with Botswana, Croatia and Tonga. Now that we are in a seemingly permanent "war" on terrorism, the government claims wartime powers that result in restricting press freedom. The Bush administration has multiplied exponentially the number of documents it classifies as secret. The office of Vice President Dick Cheney claims to be exempt from reporting even the numbers of records it brands with the "classified" stamp. Within weeks after 9/11, President Bush issued Executive Order 13233, allowing him to veto public release not only of his own presidential papers but those of former [presidents]. One of former Attorney General John Ashcroft's first post-Sept. 11 acts was to issue a directive to federal agencies restricting access to government records under the Freedom of Information Act. Cheney [refused] to disclose even the identity of the corporate executives he met with to determine the administration's energy policy. The U.S. Supreme Court held ... that there is no such thing as a First Amendment right of access to government information or facilities. The Bush administration did not advance press freedom by producing ... favorable "news" stories with fake reporters. It is hard to stomach the hypocrisy of claiming to spread democracy abroad while restricting at home the very freedoms that make democracy possible.
"The Under Secretary of the Navy (UNSECNAV) is the Approval Authority for research involving: (a) Severe or unusual intrusions, either physical or psychological, on human subjects (such as consciousness-altering drugs or mind-control techniques). (b) Prisoners. (c) Potentially or inherently controversial topics (such as those likely to attract significant media coverage or that might invite challenge by interest groups). The UNSECNAV forwards to the Director, Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) for final determination: (a) All proposed research involving exposure of human subjects to the effects of nuclear, biological or chemical warfare agents or weapons, as required by reference (a)."
Note: This 2006 US Department of the Navy document shows that the US military continues to develop mind control techniques, use mind-altering drugs, and expose individuals to lethal nuclear, biological, and chemical agents while keeping it all out of the media's eye. For lots more showing blatant disregard for human rights on this topic, click here and here.
John K. Vance [was] a member of the Central Intelligence Agency inspector general's staff in the early 1960s who discovered that the agency was running a research project that included administering LSD and other drugs to unwitting human subjects. Code-named MKULTRA (and pronounced m-k-ultra), the project Mr. Vance uncovered was the brainchild of CIA Director Allen Dulles, who was intrigued by reports of mind-control techniques allegedly conducted by Soviet, Chinese and North Korean agents on U.S. prisoners of war during the Korean War. The CIA wanted to use similar techniques on its own POWs and perhaps use LSD or other mind-bending substances on foreign leaders, including Cuba's Fidel Castro a few years after the project got underway in 1953. Heading MKULTRA was a CIA chemist named Sidney Gottlieb. In congressional testimony, Gottlieb, who died in 1999, acknowledged that the agency had administered LSD to as many as 40 unwitting subjects, including prison inmates and patrons of brothels set up and run by the agency. At least one participant died when he jumped out of a 10th-floor window in a hotel; others claimed to have suffered serious psychological damage. Mr. Vance learned about MKULTRA in the spring of 1963 during a wide-ranging inspector general survey of the agency's technical services division. The inspector general's report said: "The concepts involved in manipulating human behavior are found by many people both within and outside the agency to be distasteful and unethical." MKULTRA came to public light in 1977 as a result of hearings conducted by a Senate committee on intelligence chaired by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho).
Note: If the above link fails, click here. For an excellent two-page summary of reliable verifiable information on CIA mind control programs which clearly violated ethical and moral standards, click here.
In the slightly less than a hundred years from 1898 to 1994, the U.S. government has intervened successfully to change governments in Latin America a total of at least 41 times. That amounts to once every 28 months for an entire century. Direct intervention occurred in 17 of the 41 cases. These incidents involved the use of U.S. military forces, intelligence agents or local citizens employed by U.S. government agencies. In another 24 cases, the U.S. government played an indirect role. That is, local actors played the principal roles, but either would not have acted or would not have succeeded without encouragement from the U.S. government. The 41 cases do not include incidents in which the United States sought to depose a Latin American government, but failed in the attempt. The most famous such case was the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961. Also absent from the list are numerous cases in which the U.S. government acted decisively to forestall a coup d’etat or otherwise protect an incumbent regime from being overthrown. In nearly every case, U.S. officials cited U.S. security interests, either as determinative or as a principal motivation. With hindsight, it is now possible to dismiss most these claims as implausible. In many cases, they were understood as necessary for generating public and congressional support, but not taken seriously by the key decision makers.
When Kevin Warwick enters his office building on the campus of Reading University, strange things happen. As Warwick heads down the main hall, lights turn on. When he turns to the right, an office door unbolts and opens. Each step is clocked and recorded. The building knows who he is, where he is, and what he expects to happen. The building [even] says, “Hello Professor Warwick.” The structure knows Warwick because of the electrical fuse-sized “smart card” implanted in his left arm. In Britain, he’s been dubbed “The Cyborg Man,” the first person known to have a microchip implanted in his body for communication with outside machines. Warwick predicts chip implants will one day replace time cards, criminal tracking devices, even credit cards. Capable of carrying huge amounts of data, they may, he says, one day be used to identify individuals by Social Security numbers, blood type, even their banking information. No one knows yet how the body will respond to this type of invasion. Warwick is not blind to the ethical questions of this technology. Implants ostensibly designed to clock workers in and out might be misused to monitor where people are at all times and who they are meeting. Governments could move to use implants instead of I.D. cards and passports, but what would stop them from using this new science to invade privacy? “I feel mentally different. When I am in the building I feel much more closely connected with the computer.
During the reign of Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis in the 1940s and 1950s, an alarming number of healthy children living in sanctuaries were hastily diagnosed as mentally incompetent, psychotic patients. The diagnoses were always swift — the children went to bed orphans and woke up psychiatric patients. The reason? Shrewd fiscal planning; federal subsidies paid out more to hospitals than to orphanages. Some children allegedly endured lobotomies, electroshock, straitjackets and abuse. For the rest of their lives they would struggle to bring attention to their story and demand compensation. They called themselves the Duplessis Orphans. Born out of wedlock and deemed "children of sin," [these] thousands of Quebec children were cut off from society and sent to orphanages during the 1940s and 1950s. Many were improperly diagnosed as mentally incompetent. The diagnosis would be a lifelong sentence; the orphans endured a difficult and sometimes abusive childhood. Fifty years later, the orphans who are now in their 40s and 50s have organized and are seeking compensation.
Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation committed widespread acts of unauthorized lawlessness including the burning of automobiles, assaults and illegal wiretapping, while conducting internal security investigations in the last five years, law enforcement sources said. Militant antiwar activists at Queens College in Flushing were one target of illegal and unauthorized electronic surveillance. Agents placed illegal "wildcat" telephone taps and electronic bugs, the sources said, ... because these were often the best methods of getting intelligence on militant leftist activity. Agents would disguise the source of the information in their reports to make it appear that it came from live informants. One source said, however, that he believed that supervisory F.B.I. personnel were "aware" that information was coming from taps but did nothing about it. Car burnings and assaults upon individuals in the radical left were efforts to disrupt antiwar activity. The cars were set afire with "Molotov cocktails" made from glass bottles filled with gasoline. This was done in such a manner as to appear to have been an attack by another extremist group. Cars were also disabled to strand suspects during a surveillance. Agents, the sources said, from time to time "roughed up" radical antiwar figures to frighten them or to disrupt a demonstration or protest activity. At least one radical was kidnapped for the same reason. One source said that the victim of a beating was never seriously hurt because agents did not want to create a situation that might be traced to the bureau. The victim, this source said, would not know he was attacked by bureau men.
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Eric Loomis pleaded guilty to attempting to flee an officer, and no contest to operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent. Neither of his crimes mandates prison time. At Mr. Loomis’s sentencing, the judge cited, among other factors, Mr. Loomis’s high risk of recidivism as predicted by a computer program called COMPAS, a risk assessment algorithm used by the state of Wisconsin. The judge denied probation and prescribed an 11-year sentence. No one knows exactly how COMPAS works; its manufacturer refuses to disclose the proprietary algorithm. We only know the final risk assessment score it spits out, which judges may consider at sentencing. Mr. Loomis challenged the use of an algorithm as a violation of his due process rights. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear his case, meaning a majority of justices effectively condoned the algorithm’s use. Shifting the sentencing responsibility [from judges] to a computer does not necessarily eliminate bias; it delegates and often compounds it. Algorithms like COMPAS simply mimic the data with which we train them. An algorithm that accurately reflects our world also necessarily reflects our biases. A ProPublica study found that COMPAS predicts black defendants will have higher risks of recidivism than they actually do, while white defendants are predicted to have lower rates than they actually do.
Saudi Arabia is easing restrictions on women driving, finally allowing almost half its population to get behind the wheel. A royal decree has been issued that will allow women in the country to drive, the Saudi Foreign ministry said Tuesday. The government will have until June 24, 2018, to implement the new decree. Manal al-Sharif, one of the women behind the Women2Drive campaign, celebrated the victory by posting a photo on Twitter of herself behind the wheel of a car. Sharif, who now lives in Australia, was jailed in Saudi Arabia 2011 after posting a video on YouTube of herself, wearing a black headscarf and sunglasses, driving a car. The act provoked death threats and spurred her to start the campaign. Liesl Gerntholtz, executive director of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, told CNN while it was a "very important step" there was still a long way to go for Saudi women. "This prohibition on driving is just one in a vast series of laws and policies which prevent women from doing many things," she said. "The guardianship rule stops women from making every decision in her life without the assistance of a male relative, even if that relative is her 7-year-old son. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia follows a strict form of Wahhabi Islam that bans the mixing of sexes at public events and places numerous curbs on women. These restrictions are enforced by religious police.
Note: The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the strongest allies of the US, yet it is also about the most backward country in the world on women's rights. And it is a dictatorship by monarchy. Why isn't there more reporting on this? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Body camera video produced Wednesday appears to show a Baltimore police officer plant drugs in late January, an act that later resulted in a criminal arrest. The 90-second Baltimore police body camera video, which was made public by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, belongs to Officer Richard Pinheiro, who appears to hide and later "find" drugs among trash strewn on a plot next to a Baltimore residence. Two other officers appear to be with the Pinheiro as he hides the drugs. "This is a serious allegation of police misconduct," Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said. "There is nothing that deteriorates the trust of any community more than thinking for one second that police officers ... would plant evidence of crimes on citizens." One of the officers has been suspended, and two others have been placed on "nonpublic contact" administrative duty, Davis told reporters. Pinheiro is a witness in about 53 active cases, and he was even called to testify in a case earlier this week, the Public Defender's Office said. The new video has led to that case's dismissal after an assistant public defender forwarded it to the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office. Debbie Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore Public Defender's Special Litigation Section, said that Baltimore police have long had a problem with officer misconduct but that the city does not hold individuals accountable. "We have long supported the use of police body cameras to help identify police misconduct, but such footage is meaningless if prosecutors continue to rely on these officers, especially if they do so without disclosing their bad acts," Levi said.
Note: And how many thousands of times over the years has this been done and not recorded on video? Watch this video at the NBC link above. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing police corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Racial disparities have long been evident in the U.S. criminal justice system, but a new report drilling into statistics on wrongful convictions points up exactly how nefarious the problem is. African Americans are much more likely to be wrongfully convicted of a murder, sexual assault or drug offense than whites. The report, by the National Registry of Exonerations, found that “innocent black people are about seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent white people,” and thus also account for a disproportionate share of the growing number of exonerations. African Americans who were convicted and then exonerated of murder charges also spent four years longer on death row than wrongfully convicted whites (and three years longer for those sentenced to prison). According to the report, African Americans convicted of murder “are about 50% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers,” and that such wrongful convictions, even when later corrected, expands the impact of violence on African American communities.
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