• Preemptive prosecution: Iraqi American arrested by FBI for allegedly lying about ‘pledging allegiance’ to ISIS leader

    Blogs May 16, 2015 at 0 comments

    Source: Firedoglake. An Iraqi-born US citizen in Mesquite, Texas, was arrested by the FBI for allegedly lying to agents about whether he had pledged allegiance to the “self-proclaimed” leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. A federal judge ruled a day later that he is a “danger to the community” and must remain in jail. Yet, as in most FBI cases involving alleged terrorism suspects, this again seems like a preemptive prosecution, where an individual has been targeted because of his beliefs, ideology or religious affiliations that raise concerns for the government. There is absolutely no evidence presented in a filed criminal complaint to suggest that Bilal Abood was plotting a terrorist attack.

  • The dangerous militarization of our police

    Opinions May 14, 2015 at 0 comments

    Source: CNN. Yet the militarization of the police should concern everyone. Resisting the abuses of an oppressive government is an issue that should resonate with opposite ends of the political spectrum. Dismissing the victims of police brutality as violent black thugs who deserved their fate is delusional.Ultimately, no one is safe if any one of us is not safe. As in any police state, when the police become the army, they need an enemy, and the enemy ends up being us. “To serve and protect” is becoming “to suppress and control.” And with billions of dollars in military surplus, the police will find a way to use it.

  • CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling sentenced to prison: The latest blow in the government’s war on journalism

    Opinions May 12, 2015 at 0 comments

    Source: The Nation. The successful prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling has given more leverage to the information clampdown that the Obama administration continues to implement. With a multi-count Espionage Act conviction, it serves as yet another warning shot—not only against whistleblowing and disclosure of classified information, but also against basic communication with journalists by government employees and contractors. For prospective whistleblowers, the Sterling case is yet more proof that they can “go through channels” to express concerns only at their peril. Particularly in security-state realms—as the experiences of NSA whistleblowers William Binney, Thomas Drake, Edward Loomis and Kirk Wiebe have shown—using the much-ballyhooed official channels to report concerns is a flag that draws official retribution. During Sterling’s trial, the prosecution repeatedly used against him—as supposed indications of hostility toward the agency and motive for wrongdoing—the fact that he had gone through legal channels to file suit alleging racial bias and to report his concerns about Operation Merlin to Senate Intelligence Committee staffers.

  • Why NSA surveillance is worse than you’ve ever imagined

    Opinions May 11, 2015 at 0 comments

    Source: Reuters. In a long-awaited opinion, the three-judge panel ruled that the NSA program that secretly intercepts the telephone metadata of every American — who calls whom and when — was illegal. It’s now up to Congress to vote on whether or not to modify the law and continue the program, or let it die once and for all. Lawmakers must vote on this matter by June 1, when they need to reauthorize the Patriot Act. With NSA fatigue setting in, and the American public unaware of many of the agency’s long list of abuses, it is little wonder that only slightly more than half the public is concerned about losing their privacy. For that reason, I agree with Frederick A. O. Schwartz Jr., the former chief counsel of the Church Committee, which conducted a yearlong probe into intelligence abuses in the mid-1970s, that we need a similarly thorough, hard-hitting investigation today. Until the public fully grasps and understands how far over the line the NSA has gone in the past — legally, morally and ethically — there should be no renewal or continuation of NSA’s telephone metadata program in the future.

  • Pamela Geller and the professional Islamophobia business

    Source: Huffington Post. But the real story isn’t about freedom of expression. It’s about the hatred of Islam for personal and professional gain. That’s the business that Geller and Spencer are in. That’s the business that propelled Wilders from an obscure Dutch politician into an Islamophobic rock star on both sides of the Atlantic. And it’s the reason that journalists are talking about all three of them this week. We wouldn’t know who Pamela Geller is if it weren’t for her hatred of Muslims and her ability to channel this hatred for financial profit and the media spotlight. The same holds true for Spencer and Wilders. We only know who they are because they have devoted their lives and their careers to bigotry. Their hatred for Muslims led the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League to condemn the American Freedom Defense Initiative as a hate organization. It also led the British government to prevent Geller and Spencer from entering the country back in 2013. If we are at war, it’s not a war against Islam. It’s a war against hatred in all its forms, including anti-Muslim hatred.

  • Flip the Patriot Act’s kill switch

    Opinions May 5, 2015 at 0 comments

    Source: Slate. Congress enacted the Patriot Act in October 2001, just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. Few legislators read the proposed law before they voted for it. But precisely because so few questions were being asked, legislators insisted that some of the Patriot Act’s authorities, including Section 215, have “sunset” provisions. The decision to include sunset provisions turns out to have been a prudent one. The Patriot Act has enabled a truly dramatic expansion of the government’s surveillance activities—an expansion far greater than even the law’s critics predicted. Relying on authority granted by the Patriot Act, the FBI issued hundreds of thousands of “national security letters,” each one a demand for sensitive information and each one accompanied by a “gag order” prohibiting the recipient from disclosing the letter’s existence. The call-records program is just another manifestation of the same mindset. Since 2006, the NSA has been using Section 215 to collect Americans’ call records en masse.

  • Avoiding the sting: U.S. organization proposes different approach to “radicalization”

    Blogs May 1, 2015 at 0 comments

    Source: The Intercept. Last March, John T. Booker, a 20-year-old from Kansas, checked himself into a mental health facility for evaluation. Now, a year later, he faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison, charged with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction — the fake bomb that he was provided by undercover FBI informants. In the United States today, individuals who make statements that could be construed as advocating violent extremism — even those who have mental health issues — often become the targets of law enforcement officials whose priority is putting people in prison, not helping them change course. It’s a pattern that has been repeated hundreds of times over the past decade: the FBI “foils” a terror plot, except the would-be terrorist’s only conspiracy is with government informants. The “Safe Spaces Initiative,” launched by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, came into being after a series of cases perceived as government entrapment of troubled youth in the Muslim-American community.

  • Media coverage of Baltimore youth misses the mark completely

    Opinions April 30, 2015 at 0 comments

    Source: People’s World. After a week of numerous peaceful, daily protests throughout Baltimore City over the police murder of 25-year old African American Freddie Gray, something suddenly and dramatically changed on Monday. News reports were showing students jumping on police vehicles and throwing rocks at police, looting and smashing windows. On Tuesday Gov. Hogan declared a “state of emergency” and actuated the Maryland National Guard, ostensibly to bring order to Baltimore City. Numerous faith-based and community groups, schools and young citizens like Justin had other creative solutions.

  • Justice delayed is justice denied

    Opinions April 29, 2015 at 0 comments

    Source: ICNA. There is a problem with color in our country. There is a problem when law enforcement officers are prejudiced against minorities and abuse them. Police violence only gets worse when compounded with racial inequality and poverty. We must all stand up and say enough is enough. As American Muslims, we know firsthand what it feels like to be targeted and criminalized in the name of the war against terror. Local and federal law enforcement targets our community solely because of our faith. American Muslims are now facing unending prejudice and harassment, and it would be a disservice to our community, to the African American community, and to America, if we do not stand with those who have been fighting this injustice for centuries.

  • Baltimore’s disgrace is its history of police violence

    Opinions April 28, 2015 at 0 comments

    Source: AlJazeera. After Saturday’s full day of peaceful protests in Baltimore calling for justice for Freddie Gray — the 25-year-old who recently died of a spinal injury suffered while in police custody — some protesters opted Saturday evening and Sunday to pursue more hands-on expressions of frustration. On Monday, the day of Gray’s memorial service, public tensions led to rioting in West Baltimore that continued into the evening. The media also ran riot. As of Saturday night, the protests were said to have turned “violent” and “destructive.” . . .Finally, the media found, the protesters were behaving according to the script — the one that casts black communities in America as powder kegs that can be contained only by the cops. Never mind that chucking hot dog buns and condiments at police and smashing up police vehicles and store windows is inherently less destructive, at least in terms of human life, than fatally severing a person’s spinal cord or shooting an unarmed man multiple times in the back. The latter two operations were performed under the sanction of U.S. law enforcement, whose behavior, no matter how outrageous, is still defended from public outrage by media and politicians alike

    Photo: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters