Government Policies Under Scrutiny

  • Court rules for prisoners in challenge to secretive federal prison units

    Source: Center for Constitutional Rights. Today, the D.C. Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) secretive Communications Management Units, or CMUs. Documents uncovered in the lawsuit revealed that prisoners are routinely sent to the units without meaningful explanation or other procedural protections, but rather in retaliation for their protected speech and religious practice in prison. However, the district court ruled that prisoners had no “liberty interest” in avoiding placement in a CMU – and thus did not need to receive any process at all before being sent to one – despite the severe communications restrictions, stigma, and years-long segregation that come with such placement. Today’s ruling means the district court will now have to review the prisoners’ evidence of extensive due process violations.

     
  • Federal court hears long overdue arguments over 2008 surveillance law

    Source: The Intercept. More than seven years after President George W. Bush signed a law authorizing warrantless surveillance of international communications, a federal appellate court heard arguments challenging the 2008 law for the first time. Courts have previously dismissed multiple lawsuits by the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation that challenged electronic mass surveillance, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because they could not prove their communications were being collected by the NSA’s secret programs. But on Wednesday, lawyers for the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation argued as “friends of the court” before an appellate court in Oregon, challenging NSA surveillance in the case of Mohamed Mohamud. Mohamud, a Somali-born, naturalized American citizen, was convicted in 2012 for trying to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Portland in 2010 .

     
  • A new lawsuit claims a secretive, Bush-era program is delaying Muslims’ citizenship cases

    Source: Mother Jones. Thirteen Muslim Missouri residents are suing the US Citizenship and Immigration Services along with the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, alleging the agencies have unlawfully delayed their applications for citizenship. The complaint alleges that the immigrants’ applications were funneled into a secretive Bush-era program called the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP) that requires immigration officials to flag applicants as national security threats based on a broad range of criteria. The American Civil Liberties Union, which uncovered the program in 2013, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations say it illegally discriminates against applicants from Muslim-majority countries.

     
  • Judge tries new approach with terror defendants: deradicalization

    Source: The Wall Street Journal. As U.S. officials grapple with the balance between punishment and rehabilitation for American sympathizers of Islamic State, one judge is embarking on an unprecedented experiment. U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, a senior federal judge in Minnesota, has recruited a researcher from Germany to evaluate a group of young Somali-American men who attempted to travel overseas to join Islamic State. The goal: figure out why each defendant became radicalized and propose a plan to turn each away from violent extremism.

     
  • 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.