Government Policies Under Scrutiny

  • 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.

  • Psychologist James Mitchell admits he waterboarded al Qaeda suspects

    Source: A. Vice News. “I would like the American people to look at this from my perspective,” Mitchell said. “At a time when America was under attack, I was asked to take on a task that could potentially save thousands of lives.” Mitchell said he wants to prove that he acted within Justice Department legal guidelines during interrogations, and that when there were instances of “abuse,” he and Jessen immediately reported it. Several former CIA officials have corroborated Mitchell’s story.

  • Torture fight set back by U.S. failure to prosecute, U.N. official says

    Source: The New York Times. The C.I.A.’s use of torture and the United States’ reluctance to punish those responsible have set back efforts to fight torture worldwide, the United Nations expert investigating such abuses said Thursday, reinforcing a United Nations human rights official’s call for those involved to be prosecuted. Mr. Méndez said that during his travels, many governments had cited the American use of torture as justification for their own abuses. Mr. Méndez, who has been reporting on torture for the United Nations since 2010, commended the United States for publishing the Senate Intelligence Committee report on C.I.A. torture and “fulfilling the obligations of the United States with respect to the truth.” The Bush administration, he said, “aggressively and repeatedly rejected the principles of transparency and accountability and maintains the pattern of denial and defense.”

  • Highest-value terror detainees excluded from Senate investigation of CIA torture

    Source: The Guardian. A widely anticipated report by the Senate intelligence committee into torture committed by the Central Intelligence Agency has a hole at the center of its story: the men the CIA tortured. Lawyers for four of the highest-value detainees ever held by the CIA, all of whom have made credible allegations of torture and all of whom remain in US government custody, say the Senate committee never spoke with their clients. In some cases the Senate’s investigators never attempted to speak with the men whose abuse is at the heart of what the committee spent over four years investigating. The absence of the torture victims’ accounts calls the thoroughness of the Senate committee inquiry “directly into question”, said David Nevin, who represents accused 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

  • More judges question use of fake drugs in sting cases

    Source: The New York Times. The three men gathered in a Los Angeles warehouse, bringing a 12-gauge shotgun, a .38 revolver, zip ties for handcuffs and a duffel bag to carry the 20 to 25 kilograms of cocaine, worth more than $500,000 wholesale, they expected to steal. The men had criminal records, were broke and dazzled by their imminent wealth. They met with a drug courier who had offered to help them rip off his suppliers. Those guarding the cocaine shipment would be armed, he had warned, so come ready for gunplay. As the crew made final preparations, federal agents pounced. The stash house and the cocaine were imaginary, and the “courier” an undercover agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Though the drugs were fictitious, the three were charged with conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine — which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years — and faced an additional mandatory five years for bringing guns. Similar prosecutions have nearly always held up in court, and the agency strongly defends its methods and choice of targets. But over the last year a growing number of federal judges have questioned the tactic.