Government Policies Under Scrutiny

  • 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.

  • FBI tactics to unearth ISIS recruits: effective or entrapment?

    Source: The Christian Science Monitor. The FBI uses undercover agents and sting operations to round up ISIS recruits in US. But critics say such tactics also catch ‘fake’ terrorists who otherwise would not have taken action, further alienating the Muslim community.

  • Federal court lifts national security letter gag order; first time in 14 years

    Source: The Intercept. A federal district court judge in New York has fully lifted an 11-year-old gag order that the FBI imposed on Nicholas Merrill, the founder of a small Internet service provider, to prevent him from speaking about a national security letter served on him in 2004. It marked the first time such a gag order has been fully lifted since the USA Patriot Act in 2001 expanded the FBI’s authority to unilaterally demand that certain businesses turn over records simply by writing a letter saying the information is needed for national security purposes. Like other NSL recipients, Merrill was also instructed that he could not mention the order to anyone.

  • New federal requirements on cellphone surveillance

    Source: The Washington Post. Federal law enforcement officials will be routinely required to get a search warrant before using secretive and intrusive cellphone-tracking technology under a new Justice Department policy announced Thursday. The policy represents the first effort to create a uniform legal standard for federal authorities using equipment known as cell-site simulators, which tracks cellphones used by suspects. It comes amid concerns from privacy groups and lawmakers that the technology, which is now widely used by local police departments, is infringing on privacy rights and is being used without proper accountability.

  • Judge lays out path to revive challenge to NSA phone surveillance program

    Source: The Washington Post. A federal judge laid out a path Wednesday to revive a constitutional challenge to the National Security Agency’s domestic telephone-records surveillance program, days after a U.S. appeals court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, who earlier had called the NSA call-records program “almost Orwellian,” said that plaintiffs could amend their case immediately to include customers of Verizon Business Network Services, a Verizon unit known to have participated in the program.

  • Mohamed Mohamud appeal is first to challenge NSA surveillance in terrorism conviction

    Source: The Oregonian. The U.S. spy operations that once put Portland terrorist Mohamed Mohamud under FBI surveillance violated his constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure, two civil liberties groups contend in a federal appeals court filing. Lawyers for the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation recently filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Mohamud, who has appealed his 30-year-sentence for trying to detonate a bomb in downtown Portland four years ago.

  • No-fly list case could shed light on US terror predictions

    Source: Associated Press. A court challenge over the difficult process for airline passengers to remove their names from the U.S. government’s list of suspected terrorists banned from flying is taking an unexpected twist, now focusing on the mysterious ways federal agents add passenger names to the no-fly list in the first place. The latest filing in a five-year federal case challenges the government’s undisclosed method of predicting who might commit a terrorist act in the future. Plaintiffs in the case, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, want the government to provide all the reasons, including evidence, why they are on the no-fly list, a roster of tens of thousands of people banned from flying to, from, within or over the U.S. They want to challenge those reasons in a court hearing.