Government Policies Under Scrutiny

  • Supreme Court justices blast the corrections system

    Source: Think Progress. The prisons are one of the most misunderstood institutions of government. Solitary confinement drives individuals insane. And mandatory minimum sentences are a bad idea. These were the assertions of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer in testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee Monday afternoon. Asked by Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) about United States “capacity to deal with people with our current prison and jail overcrowding,” each justice gave an impassioned response in turn, calling on Congress to make things better. “In many respects, I think it’s broken,” Kennedy said of the corrections system.

  • FBI ordered by judge to release files on surveillance & infiltration of Muslim communities,including mosques

    Source:Firedoglake. The FBI has effectively been ordered to release numerous files on surveillance against Muslim communities in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, including infiltration of mosques. Judge Richard Seeborg of the Northern District of California found the FBI could not invoke a “law enforcement” exemption in the Freedom of Information Act, which is commonly used by government agencies to prevent details of policies and operations from becoming public if harm would potentially occur.

  • ACLU files new lawsuit over Obama administration drone ‘kill list’

    Source: The Guardian. As the US debates expanding its campaign against the Islamic State beyond Iraq and Syria, the leading US civil liberties group is intensifying its efforts to force transparency about lethal US counterterrorism strikes and authorities. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will file a disclosure lawsuit for secret Obama administration documents specifying, among other things, the criteria for placement on the so-called “kill list” for drone strikes and other deadly force.

  • Holder: Standard in civil rights cases ‘too high’

    Source: USA Today. Attorney General Eric Holder, during his final weeks in office, plans to ask Congress to lower the standard of proof in federal civil rights cases, a change that would make the federal government “a better backstop” against discrimination in cases like the deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, according to NBC News and POLITICO.

  • Holder fortifies protection of news media’s phone records, notes or emails

    Source: The New York Times. For most of his time as attorney general, Mr. Holder oversaw a crackdown on government officials who talked to reporters about national security without permission, bringing more charges against people accused of leaking information than all of his predecessors combined. He also approved subpoenas for numerous journalists. But he recently said that the effort went too far at times. Mr. Holder first began reviewing the news media guidelines in 2013 during heavy criticism after prosecutors seized some telephone records from The Associated Press and labeled a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, a potential criminal co-conspirator for asking about classified information. He announced revisions last February that made it significantly harder, though not impossible, to demand phone records, notes or emails from news organizations.

  • New York police officers are quick to resort to chokeholds, Inspector General finds

    Source: The New York Times. The first investigation by New York City’s police inspector general includes the finding that in several cases where officers were found to have used a chokehold, the banned maneuver was the officer’s initial physical response to verbal resistance. The 45-page report, released on Monday, follows the death in July of Eric Garner on Staten Island after an arresting officer placed him in a chokehold, a tactic that was banned by the Police Department two decades ago. The report looks at officers’ ongoing use of chokeholds and the department’s handling of such actions.

  • After scrutiny, C.I.A. mandate is untouched

    Source: The New York Times. The scathing report the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered this month is unlikely to significantly change the role the C.I.A. now plays in running America’s secret wars. A number of factors — from steadfast backing by Congress and the White House to strong public support for clandestine operations — ensure that an agency that has been ascendant since President Obama came into office is not likely to see its mission diminished, either during his waning years in the White House or for some time after that.

  • ACLU accuses NSA of using holiday lull to ‘minimise impact’ of documents

    Source: The Guardian. The National Security Agency used the holiday lull to “minimise the impact” of a tranche of documents by releasing them on Christmas Eve, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said on Friday.
    The documents, which were released in response to a legal challenge by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act, are heavily – in some places totally –redacted versions of reports by the NSA to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board dating back to 2007.

  • The other torture report: the secret CIA document that could unravel the case for torture

    Source: Huffington Post. As the public grapples with the gruesome realities put forth in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s damning report on the CIA’s torture program, the agency has dug in to defend itself. The CIA claims the torture tactics it used in the years following 9/11 were legal and saved American lives. And despite what the Senate study alleges, the agency insists it never lied about the torture program.One internal CIA document, though, could be key to discrediting this defense. And at this very moment, it’s tucked away in a Senate safe.Over the past five years, this document, known colloquially as the Panetta Review, has made its way to the center of an unprecedented feud between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA. Committee members, who have spent those years investigating the torture program the CIA ran between roughly 2002 and 2006, believe the Panetta Review reveals that there was doubt within the agency itself about the morality and effectiveness of torture.

  • The weird saga of the other ‘smoking gun’ torture report the CIA still has under wraps

    Source: Vice News. There is a second torture report locked away somewhere at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The agency says the document is so sensitive that national security would be at risk if any details about it were publicly revealed. But last week, outgoing Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, in his final speech on the Senate floor and in the wake of the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary of the so called torture report, discussed the document at length. Udall called the still-secret CIA report — dubbed the Panetta Review after former CIA Director Leon Panetta — a “smoking gun.” Udall said the agency’s official response to the Senate’s 5-year-long study of the program contradicted what the Panetta Review said about the program. In fact, Udall said the Panetta Review reached the same conclusions as the Senate Intelligence Committee — notably that the CIA lied to Congress, the White House, and the public about the efficacy of enhanced interrogation techniques, and that the methods were far more brutal than the CIA had let on.