Civil Liberties News StoriesExcerpts of Key Civil Liberties News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of civil liberties news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
Until very recently, the entire Congress has remained mostly silent on the human rights nightmare that has unfolded in the occupied territories. Our elected representatives, who operate in a political environment where Israel's political lobby holds well-documented power, have consistently minimized and deflected criticism of the State of Israel. Many civil rights activists and organizations have remained silent as well ... because they fear loss of funding from foundations, and false charges of anti-Semitism. They worry ... that their important social justice work will be compromised or discredited by smear campaigns. Many students are fearful of expressing support for Palestinian rights because of the [blacklisting of] those who publicly dare to support boycotts against Israel, jeopardizing their employment prospects and future careers. We must condemn Israel’s ... unrelenting violations of international law, continued occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, home demolitions and land confiscations. We must cry out at the treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, the routine searches of their homes and restrictions on their movements, and the severely limited access to decent housing, schools, food, hospitals and water. We ought to question ... the $38 billion the U.S. government has pledged in military support to Israel. And finally, we must, with as much courage and conviction as we can muster, speak out against the system of legal discrimination that exists inside Israel ... ignoring the rights of the Arab minority that makes up 21 percent of the population.
Note: With a population of less than 9 million, when you divide $38 billion by 9 million, you find that the U.S. provides the equivalent $400 in military support for every citizen of Israel, many times more than support to any other country in the world. Why is this?
Eight humanitarian volunteers who help migrants survive desert treks have been charged with federal crimes, prompting fears of an escalating crackdown by the Trump administration. The volunteers, all members of the Arizona-based group No More Deaths, appeared in court on Tuesday charged with a variety of offences including driving in a wilderness area, entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and abandoning property – the latter an apparent reference to leaving water, food and blankets on migrant trails. The charges came a week after No More Deaths, a coalition of religious and community activists, published a report accusing border patrol agents of condemning migrants to death by sabotaging water containers and other supplies. It also accused agents of harassing volunteers in the field. Hours after the report’s publication one activist, Scott Warren, 35, was arrested and charged with harboring two undocumented immigrants, a felony. No More Deaths stopped short of calling it retaliation for the report but said the timing was suspicious. Warren was among the eight who appeared in court this week. No More Deaths said the charges fit a pattern of interference in efforts to save the lives of migrants who trek for days or weeks across harsh deserts which bake by day and freeze by night. The charges relate to activities in Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge. Some 32 sets of human remains were found there last year.
The Trump administration has stopped cooperating with UN investigators over potential human rights violations occurring inside America, in a move that delivers a major blow to vulnerable US communities and sends a dangerous signal to authoritarian regimes around the world. Quietly and unnoticed, the state department has ceased to respond to official complaints from UN special rapporteurs, the network of independent experts who act as global watchdogs on fundamental issues such as poverty, migration, freedom of expression and justice. There has been no response to any such formal query since 7 May 2018, with at least 13 requests going unanswered. Nor has the Trump administration extended any invitation to a UN monitor to visit the US to investigate human rights inside the country since the start of Donald Trump’s term two years ago in January 2017. [This] marks a stark break with US practice going back decades. Though some areas of American public life have consistently been ruled out of bounds to UN investigators – US prisons and the detention camp on Guantánamo Bay are deemed off-limits – Washington has in general welcomed monitors into the US as part of a wider commitment to upholding international norms. Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program, said the shift gave the impression the US was no longer serious about honoring its own human rights obligations. The ripple effect around the world would be dire.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
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].
When a judge acquitted a white St. Louis police officer in September 2017 for fatally shooting a young black man, the city’s police braced for massive protests. But St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Dustin Boone wasn’t just prepared for the unrest - he was pumped. “It’s gonna get IGNORANT tonight!!” he texted on Sept. 15, 2017, the day of the verdict. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these s---heads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!!” Two days later, prosecutors say, that’s exactly what Boone did to one black protester. Boone, 35, and two other officers, Randy Hays, 31, and Christopher Myers, 27, threw a man to the ground and viciously kicked him and beat him with a riot baton, even though he was complying with their instructions. But the three police officers had no idea that the man was a 22-year police veteran working undercover, whom they beat so badly that he couldn’t eat and lost 20 pounds. On Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted the three officers in the assault. They also indicted the men and another officer, Bailey Colletta, 25, for the attack. Prosecutors released text messages showing the officers bragging about assaulting protesters, with Hays even noting that “going rogue does feel good.” To protest leaders, the federal charges are a welcome measure of justice — but also a sign of how far St. Louis still has to go.
Note: If the man beaten had not been a police officer, we would never have heard about this. How often does it happen to other protestors acting peacefully? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
California law enforcement pursued criminal charges against eight anti-fascist activists who were stabbed or beaten at a neo-Nazi rally while failing to prosecute anyone for the knife attacks against them. In addition to the decision not to charge white supremacists or others for stabbings at a far-right rally that left people with critical wounds, police also investigated 100 anti-fascist counter-protesters, recommending more than 500 total criminal charges against them, according to court filings. Meanwhile, for men investigated on the neo-Nazi side of a June 2016 brawl ... police recommended only five mostly minor charges. The documents have raised fresh questions about California police agencies’ handling of rightwing violence and extremism, renewing accusations that law enforcement officials have shielded neo-Nazis from prosecution while aggressively pursuing demonstrators with leftwing and anti-racist political views. The Guardian previously interviewed two victims who were injured, then pursued by police – Cedric O’Bannon, a black journalist and stabbing victim who ultimately was not charged, and Yvette Felarca, a well-known Berkeley activist whose case is moving forward. Previous records also revealed that police had worked with the neo-Nazi groups to target the anti-racist activists. The records disclosed this week provided new details about six other stabbing and beating victims who were treated as suspects by police after the rally ... which was organized by a neo-Nazi group.
Human rights activists in Colombia say they are being gunned down by hitmen who can be hired for as little as $100, a top United Nations official said on Monday. A peace deal in Colombia signed two years ago that ended the nation’s half-century civil war has led to a 40 percent decline in the overall murder rate, but killings of activists have risen, Michel Forst, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights defenders said. According to a July report by British-based campaign group, Global Witness, nearly four land and environmental activists were killed each week last year, in the deadliest year on record, with Latin America faring the worst. “In rural areas ... men and women (human rights) defenders are an easy target for those who see in them or in their human rights agenda an obstacle to their interests,” Forst said in a statement after a 10-day visit to Colombia. Activists working on human rights and land rights, those defending LGBT+ rights and community leaders from Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups, are most at risk, Forst said. “I was really appalled by what I heard from them,” Forst, who met with more than 200 activists across Colombia, told reporters in the capital Bogota. Forst noted that just during his 10-day official visit, four activists had been murdered. Forst said he was also concerned to hear testimonies from Afro-Colombian activists who claimed attacks on them may have directly or indirectly involved foreign companies operating in Colombia, mainly those from the extractive sector.
Note: Read a 2017 New York Times article describing the involvement of high level state agents and corporate executives in the assassination of Honduran activist Berta Cáceres. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and in the corporate world.
The new documentary series Shut Up and Dribble, which premiered the first of its three parts this weekend on Showtime, is a response to commentator Laura Ingraham's dismissive February 2018 sneer in the direction of LeBron James. The idea that athletes — or actors, or writers — shouldn't be politically active in the public sphere is surprisingly widely held. The point of the series is to demonstrate that in the case of black athletes, holding the game at a distance from the society in which it's played is not only contrary to history but impossible. And, perhaps, that it would be irresponsible. Shut Up And Dribble uses its first installment to chronicle several of professional basketball's early standouts who collided with the wider world in different ways: Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, and Isaiah Thomas. The next two installments ... consider the era of Michael Jordan and the explosion of endorsement deals — which ... tamped down public discussions of politics as protection of each athlete's personal brand became critical. While it's about activism and racism, much of this series is about power. Power accumulated by players, whether it's the economic power of endorsements or the bargaining power of free agency, directly enables them to use their platforms without worrying that they'll be, for instance, let go from their teams and unable to get new jobs because a political stand they consider crucial proves to be unpopular, or makes them targets.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did. He leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people. The key to Snowden’s effectiveness, according to Thomas Devine, the legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), was that he practised “civil disobedience” rather than “lawful” whistleblowing. “None of the lawful whistleblowers who tried to expose the government’s warrantless surveillance ... had any success,” Devine told me. “They came forward ... but the government just said, ‘They’re lying. We’re not doing those things.’ And the whistleblowers couldn’t prove their case because the government had classified all the evidence.” The NSA whistleblowers were not leftwing peace nuts. They had spent their professional lives inside the US intelligence apparatus – devoted, they thought, to the protection of the homeland and defense of the constitution. They were political conservatives, highly educated, respectful of evidence, careful with words. And they were saying, on the basis of personal experience, that the US government was being run by people who were willing to break the law and bend the state’s awesome powers to their own ends. They were saying that laws and technologies had secretly been put in place that threatened to overturn the democratic governance Americans took for granted and shrink their liberties to a vanishing point.
Note: The article above was is adapted from Mark Hertsgaard’s book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The first thing I saw on my Facebook feed after news of the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue broke was a photo my friend posted from his daughter's bat mitzvah. As a former leader of a white supremacist group in the late 1980s and early 1990s, seeing images of Jewish, black, Latino, Asian and Muslim children today make me ask myself how I could have been so deranged as to think that they were anything less than children. The answer is: fear. Everything I did back then was rooted in fear, as was every genocide in human history. And nationalism cannot exist without fear: fear of losing, fear of others, fear of change. Thus, it's no surprise that nationalism and genocide often go hand in hand. Looking back at how my twisted mind operated when I was a white nationalist, I spun every shred of information to suit that same narrative of fear. They are coming for us. And nationalism was the context necessary to focus fear into an us/them binary. I was incredibly fortunate that the exhaustion of constant spin and fear, along with the loving guidance of my parents and brave people who refused to capitulate to my hostility, eventually led me from nationalism to where I am today: a place in which I embrace diversity, and the constant change that creates it. Embracing those truths is critical to reforming nationalist thinking. It is how we unlearn fear and separatism and find not only peace with change, but joy as well. That is how we create a society where all are valued and included.
Note: The story of a prominent white nationalist who changed his ways is introduced in this article and explored in-depth in this book. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Georgia secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp improperly purged more than 340,000 voters from the state’s registration rolls, an investigation charges. Greg Palast, a journalist and the director of the Palast Investigative Fund, said an analysis he commissioned found 340,134 voters were removed from the rolls on the grounds that they had moved – but they actually still live at the address where they are registered. “Their registration is cancelled. Not pending, not inactive – cancelled. If they show up to vote on 6 November, they will not be allowed to vote. That’s wrong,” Palast [said]. It’s the latest voting rights controversy to crop up in the Georgia governor’s race, which pits Republican Kemp against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who if elected would become the first African American woman governor of any state. Lawsuits have also charged that Kemp blocked the registrations of 50,000 would-be voters, 80% of them black, Latino or Asian, because of minor discrepancies in the spelling or spacing of their name. Another suit targeted the state’s most diverse county after it rejected an unusually large number of absentee ballots. “Brian Kemp has abused his power as secretary of state of Georgia to purge the voting rolls of Georgia primarily of black and brown people,” said Joe Beasley, an Atlanta civil rights activist. “If he had ... integrity, he would have stepped aside as secretary of state, because you can’t referee an election in which you stand to be a winner.”
Researchers across Canada are racing to shed light on a bleak part of the country’s history: How many indigenous children died at residential schools, and where are their unmarked graves? From 1883 to 1998, nearly 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly separated from their families and sent to the government-funded, church-run boarding schools in an attempt to assimilate them. Once there, they were frequently neglected and abused. What happened at the schools was akin to “cultural genocide,” concluded a 2015 report from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It also found that at least 3,200 students died at residential schools ... though the commission contended that the number was probably much higher and merited further investigation. In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, [which include] creating a register of the missing children and mapping their graves. But nearly three years later, some say that a lack of resources and missing documents is inhibiting progress, increasing the likelihood that the relatives of missing residential-school children will die without knowing the fate of their loved ones, and that unmarked graves could be destroyed. School records were often destroyed or inconsistently kept. Officials also frequently failed to record the name and gender of students who died or the cause of death. Authorities even neglected to report the deaths to the parents.
Note: Read more about the role of these schools in Canada's "cultural genocide" of First Nation peoples. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
A Trump administration proposal to limit protests at the White House and the National Mall, including by potentially charging fees for demonstrations, is meeting stiff resistance from civil rights groups who say the idea is unconstitutional. The National Park Service is considering a plan to push back a security perimeter so that it would include most of the walkway north of the White House, a spot closed to traffic since 1995 that has become a regular venue for demonstrations. The proposal also floats the idea of allowing the agency to charge a fee for protests. Though the ideas were proposed earlier this year, they are facing renewed attention given President Donald Trump's recent comments on protests following the confirmation of Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Trump called the protesters "screamers." The proposals "harken back to the era in which the courts had to be called upon to protect the right to dissent in the nation’s capital," the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a public comment letter to the National Park Service. "Many of the proposed amendments would be unconstitutional if adopted." ACLU attorneys wrote that if a "cost recovery" fee for demonstrations had been in place in 1963, the historic March on Washington – in which the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech – probably "couldn't have happened."
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
In the summer of 2015, as Memphis exploded with protests over the police killing of a 19-year-old man, activists began hearing on Facebook from someone called Bob Smith. His profile picture [was] a Guy Fawkes mask, the symbol of anti-government dissent. Smith acted as if he supported the protesters. Over the next three years, dozens of them accepted his friend requests, allowing him to observe private discussions. He described himself as a far-left Democrat, a “fellow protester” and a “man of color.” But Smith was not real. He was the creation of a white detective in the Memphis Police Department’s Office of Homeland Security whose job was to keep tabs on local activists. The detective, Tim Reynolds, outed himself in August under questioning by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which sued the police department for allegedly violating a 1978 agreement that prohibited police from conducting surveillance of lawful protests. The revelation validated many activists’ distrust of local authorities. It also provided a rare look into the ways American law enforcement operates online. Social media monitoring - including the use of software to crunch data about people’s online activity - illustrates a policing “revolution” that has allowed authorities to not only track people but also map out their networks, said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel at [the] Brennan Center for Justice. But there are few laws governing this kind of monitoring.
Note: Memphis police were recently reported to have systematically spied on community activists. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Not all stops are created equal. Sometimes the police pull people over for traffic-safety reasons – for speeding or running a red light, for example. More nefariously, recent reports ... have shown that police departments ... have used traffic enforcement to generate fines to fund local government. But [another] kind of stop – an investigatory or pretext stop – uses the traffic laws to uncover more serious crime. Such stops (and subsequent searches) exploded in popularity in the 1990s. Pretext stops are responsible for most of the racial disparity in traffic stops in the US. Political scientist Charles Epp found that when the police are actually enforcing traffic safety laws, they tend to do so without regard to race. But when they are carrying out investigatory or pretext stops, they are much more likely to stop black and other minority drivers: black people are about two-and-a-half times more likely to be pulled over for pretext stops. The damage from a pretext stop – of a driver, a pedestrian, a loiterer – doesn’t end with the stop itself. The pretext-stop regime ... propels disparities in the rest of the criminal justice system. By ... 2000, we had been steadily, incrementally, building the punitive criminal justice system we still live with today. Most of the pieces – the aggressive prosecutions and policing, longer sentences, prison-building, collateral consequences of convictions such as losing the right to vote or the chance to live in public housing – had been put in place. The years since [have] been primarily dedicated to maintaining ... that basic architecture.
Marsha Appling-Nunez was showing the college students she teaches how to check online if they're registered to vote when she made a troubling discovery. Despite being an active Georgia voter who had cast ballots in recent elections, she was no longer registered. She tried re-registering, but with about one month left before a November election ... Appling-Nunez's application is one of over 53,000 sitting on hold with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office. Kemp, who's also the Republican candidate for governor, is in charge of elections and voter registration in Georgia. His Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Stacey Abrams, and voting rights advocacy groups charge that Kemp is systematically using his office to suppress votes and tilt the election, and that his policies disproportionately affect black and minority voters. Through a process that Kemp calls voter roll maintenance and his opponents call voter roll purges, Kemp's office has cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012. Nearly 670,000 registrations were cancelled in 2017 alone. According to records obtained from Kemp's office through a public records request, Appling-Nunez's application - like many of the 53,000 registrations on hold with Kemp's office - was flagged because it ran afoul of the state's "exact match" verification process. An analysis of the records obtained by The Associated Press reveals racial disparity in the process. Georgia's population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations on hold with Kemp's office is nearly 70 percent black.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation acknowledged today that its agents plotted in 1970 to besmirch the reputation of Jean Seberg, the actress who committed suicide last week, by planting a rumor with news organizations that she was pregnant by [a] high-ranking member of the Black Panther Party. The action against Miss Seberg, part of the F.B.I.'s counterintelligence program COINTELPRO, was intended to discredit her support of the black nationalist movement. According to a document dated April 27, 1970, the Los Angeles office of the F.B.I. requested permission from J. Edgar Hoover, then Director of the bureau, to publicize Miss Seberg's pregnancy, saying it was “felt the possible publication of Seberg's plight could cause her embarrassment and serve to cheapen her image with the general public.” Romain Gary, the prominent French author and diplomat who was Miss Seberg's husband in 1970, said at a news conference in Paris last week that the baby was his and that the F.B.I. had destroyed the actress's life. The bureau could not say today how many celebrities or others had been harassed or otherwise adversely affected by COINTELPRO activities similar to those directed at Miss Seberg. However, the bureau's animus toward the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and its activities against him are well documented. As with all documents released by the F.B.I., those relating to Miss Seberg were issued with names of all other living persons deleted.
Crystal Mason, the woman who became the poster child for voter suppression when she was sentenced to five years for casting a ballot in Texas, has gone into federal prison. Mason’s crime was to cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election. An African American woman, she had been encouraged by her mother to do her civic duty and vote. When she turned up to the polling station her name was not on the register, so she cast a provisional ballot that was never counted. She did not read the small print of the form that said that anyone who has been convicted of a felony – as she had, having previously been convicted of tax fraud – was prohibited from voting under Texas law. For casting a vote that was not counted, she will now serve 10 months in the federal system. While locked up it is likely that her final appeals in state court will be exhausted, which means she could be passed at the end of the 10 months directly to state custody for a further five years. Her lawyer, Alison Grinter, said she was dismayed to see Mason ripped from her family. “This is an act of voter intimidation, not the will of a free people.” Grinter added: Texas ... has one of the most strict voter ID laws in the country. Fort Worth ... has been particularly hardline, not only prosecuting Mason but also going after a Hispanic woman, Rosa Ortega, for mistakenly voting as a non-US citizen. Ortega, 37, who had permanent resident status in the US having come to the country as an infant, was sentenced to eight years in prison to be followed by deportation.
The U.S. government can monitor journalists under a foreign intelligence law that allows invasive spying and operates outside the traditional court system, according to newly released documents. Targeting members of the press under the law, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, requires approval from the Justice Department’s highest-ranking officials. Prior to the release of these documents, little was known about the use of FISA court orders against journalists. Previous attention had been focused on the use of National Security Letters against members of the press; the letters are administrative orders with which the FBI can obtain certain ... records without a judge’s oversight. FISA court orders can authorize much more invasive searches and collection, including the content of communications, and do so through hearings conducted in secret and outside the sort of ... judicial process that allows journalists and other targets of regular criminal warrants to eventually challenge their validity. The rules apply to media entities or journalists who are thought to be agents of a foreign government, or ... possess foreign intelligence information. “There’s a lack of clarity on the circumstances when the government might consider a journalist an agent of a foreign power,” said [Knight Institute staff attorney Ramya] Krishnan. “Think about WikiLeaks; the government has said they are an intelligence operation.”
Note: In its latest instruction manual for federal prosecutors, the US Justice Department removed a subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial”. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on judicial system corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Angeline Cheek is preparing for disaster. The indigenous organizer from the Fort Peck reservation in Montana fears that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could break and spill. But environmental catastrophe is not the most immediate threat. The government has characterized pipeline opponents like her as “extremists” and violent criminals and warned of potential “terrorism”. Recently released records [suggest] that police were organizing to launch an aggressive response to possible Keystone protests, echoing the actions against the Standing Rock movement in North Dakota. There, officers engaged in intense surveillance and faced widespread accusations of excessive force. Documents obtained by the ACLU ... have renewed concerns from civil rights advocates about the government’s treatment of indigenous activists known as water protectors. Notably, one record revealed that authorities hosted a recent “anti-terrorism” training session in Montana. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency also organized a “field force operations” training to teach “mass-arrest procedures”, “riot-control formations” and other “crowd-control methods”.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.