Government Policies Under Scrutiny

  • Psychologists who designed the CIA torture program can be sued by victims, federal judge rules

    Source: Alternet. For the first time, a federal judge is allowing torture victims to sue the psychologists who devised the CIA’s brutal interrogation methods that included sleep deprivation, starvation and forcing captives into coffin-like boxes. Gul Rahman, an Afghan refugee who formerly lived in Pakistan, froze to death at a CIA black site, so his family is bringing the case on his behalf. The other men, Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, are also levying the suit with the backing of the ACLU.

  • Here’s the latest evidence torture doesn’t keep us safe

    Source: Defense One. Seven years after US president Barack Obama put an end to his predecessor’s extreme CIA interrogation techniques, torture has re-entered American politics. Shane O’Mara, a professor of experimental brain research at the University of Dublin’s Trinity College and director of its Institute of Neuroscience, has dedicated the last few years to studying the brain under extreme interrogation conditions. As O’Mara notes in his new book, Why Torture Doesn’t Work: The Neuroscience of Interrogation, no matter what your moral or legal position, “torture undermines the very neurocognitive mechanisms requisite for recalling veridical information from memory.”

  • Appeal contests Muslim-heavy prison units

    Source: Courthouse News Service. Attorneys urged the D.C. Circuit to revive claims that federal prisons single out Muslim inmates for isolation units where their communications face 24-7 surveillance. The Center for Constitutional Rights brought a complaint over the practice six years ago on behalf of Yassin Muhiddin Aref and other inmates whom the U.S. Bureau of Prisons placed in two experimental segregation units it established in Terre Haute, Ind., and in Marion, Ill., between 2006 and 2008, without public notice. Though Muslims represent only 6 percent of the total general U.S. prison population, they make up 60 percent of prisoners housed in segregated CMUs, shorthand for communication-management units, the center’s attorney Rachel Meeropol argued in court Tuesday. In addition to keeping inmates in the dark about the reasons for their CMU assignments, the federal prison system also denies inmates a viable avenue by which to seek relief, Meeropol added. Prisoners in CMUs get eight hours of noncontact visiting time per month, and two 15-minute prescheduled phone calls per week, totals that the Bureau of Prisons doubled in 2010.

  • Judge to review police records on secret Stingray cellphone tracking system

    Source: Chicago Tribune. The Chicago Police Department must turn over records involving its use of a secret cellphone tracking system as part of an ongoing open-records lawsuit, a Cook County judge ruled Monday. In denying the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Judge Kathleen Kennedy rejected the city’s argument that information about the Police Department’s use of “cell site simulators” — sometimes known as Stingray devices — was exempt from public disclosure.

  • Can FBI be held liable for targeting Irvine Muslims for surveillance?

    Source: Los Angeles Times. Craig Monteilh told the imam that he wanted to embrace his French and Syrian heritage and convert to Islam. Monteilh adopted an Islamic name, donned Muslim robes and a skull cap, and attended prayers vigilantly. The Islamic Center of Irvine embraced him — until he began talking of violent jihad. Congregants reported him to the FBI and Irvine police, and then obtained a restraining order against him. Only later did they discover Monteilh was working for the FBI. A federal appeals court is now considering whether the FBI can be held liable for allegedly indiscriminately targeting Muslims for surveillance. If the court decides the FBI cannot defend itself without revealing state secrets, the court likely would uphold the dismissal of a class-action lawsuit brought by Southern California Muslims.

  • One year after the Senate torture report, no one’s read it and it might be destroyed

    Source: The Intercept. Despite the passage of 12 months, the actual report, comprising 6,700 pages, still has not been made publicly available. In fact, reading it appears to be prohibited among officials in the executive branch. The one-year anniversary of the report coincides with an increasingly dark national mood; fears of terrorism are once again on the rise. Attacks at home and abroad by the militant Islamic State group, and widespread anger and fear sparked by those attacks, have led presidential candidates to call for a renewal of extreme measures to fight terrorists.

  • NY court: Targeted killings memos can be kept secret

    Source: Associated Press. The U.S. government can keep secret various memos related to its legal justification for using drones to kill citizens suspected of terrorism overseas, a federal appeals court said in a decision unsealed Monday. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reached its decision in a second round of Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times after an earlier request had succeeded in forcing the government to disclose a redacted version of a 2010 41-page legal opinion prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department describing for the Defense Department the legality of targeted drone attacks. ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said he strongly disagrees with the ruling, which allows three “crucial legal memos” to remain secret. “In a democracy, there should be no room for ‘secret law,’ and the courts should not play a role in perpetuating it,” Jaffer said in a statement.

  • Lawsuit over New York police surveillance of Muslims is revived

    Source: The New York Times. Lawsuit Over New York Police Surveillance of Muslims Is Revived
    Drawing comparisons to the Red Scare that stretched from the late 1940s to the ’50s, a federal appeals court on Tuesday reinstated a civil rights lawsuit that had challenged wide-ranging surveillance by the New York Police Department of Muslim communities in New Jersey. The Police Department, in an effort after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, sent plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods in New York City and elsewhere, infiltrated Muslim student groups and mosques, tracked the activities of Muslims and built files on people. But the lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Newark by a group of individuals, businesses, student associations and mosques, claimed that the police surveillance illegally targeted them on the grounds that they were Muslim and that their religious identity was a “permissible proxy for criminality.”

  • Former U.S. detainees sue psychologists responsible for CIA torture program

    Source: The Intercept. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on Tuesday morning on behalf of three former U.S. detainees against the psychologists responsible for conceiving and supervising the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation program that used systematic torture. From 2001 to 2010, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, along with their employees, netted almost $85 million dollars in contracted fees from the CIA for executing a pseudoscientific plan to extract information from alleged terrorists. The plaintiffs in the case, Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Gul Rahman, are just three of 119 detainees who were tortured through means developed by Mitchell and Jessen. Rahman died in a CIA black site due to his treatment, and the ACLU is suing on behalf of his estate. Salim and Soud were never formally charged by the U.S. with a crime and are now free, but are still suffering severe physical and psychological impairments as a result of their treatment in various CIA “black sites.”

  • Path cleared for judge to block NSA phone surveillance program

    Source: Politico. A federal judge who seems keen on blocking the National Security Agency’s phone records collection program has a clear path to doing so after a federal appeals court removed a potential obstacle Tuesday.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit formally ended an appeal in the case Tuesday, effectively returning control over the underlying lawsuit to U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon.Leon could now act at any time to require the NSA to shut the program down, but such a move seems most likely after Thursday, when a hearing is scheduled on the suit filed by conservative activist Larry Klayman.