Government Policies Under Scrutiny

  • Steve Bannon’s presence on the National Security Council is not just terrible. It’s illegal.

    Source: Slate. President Trump’s executive order giving Steve Bannon a seat on the National Security Council’s Principals Committee appears to be a violation of federal law. According to Title 50 of the U.S. Code, Section 3021, which established the National Security Council, it “shall be composed of” the president; the vice president; the secretaries of state, defense, and energy; and “the secretaries and undersecretaries of other executive departments and of the military departments, when appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to serve at his pleasure.” As the president’s chief political strategist, Bannon is not a secretary or undersecretary of any department. Nor, as a member of the White House staff, has he been confirmed by the Senate. So he is not eligible to serve on the NSC.

  • Customs and border officials defy court order on lawful residents

    Source: The Huffington Post. The U.S. government must “permit lawyers access to all legal permanent residents being detained at Dulles International Airport,” a federal judge in Virginia ordered late Saturday. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at this airport outside Washington, D.C., are defying the judge’s order, blocking attorneys from talking to the lawful permanent residents CBP is detaining here.

  • Here legally, detained for months

    Source: Vice News. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a class-action lawsuit over immigrant detention, the jail system where people facing deportation for everything from minor offenses like shoplifting to major crimes such as murder are locked up while their cases are resolved. Unlike in the criminal justice system, where defendants typically appear in court within a day of being arrested and a judge decides whether they’re eligible for bail, immigrants — including lawful permanent residents — can be held indefinitely, sometimes for years.

  • Major new court ruling says “even the President” can’t declare torture lawful

    Source: The Intercept. In a robust ruling in favor of Abu Ghraib detainees, an appellate court ruled Friday that torture is such a clear violation of the law that it is “beyond the power of even the president to declare such conduct lawful.” The ruling from a unanimous panel of judges on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates a lawsuit against a military contractor for its role in the torture of four men at the notorious prison in Iraq.

  • Bush officials immunity for War on Terror abuses to be subject, again, of Supreme Court battle

    Source: Truthout. The Supreme Court will hear litigation that will determine if high-ranking US officials can be sued for civil rights abuses that occurred just after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Justices said on Tuesday that they will take up the case, which was brought by mostly Muslim immigrants against former top George W. Bush appointees. Defendants include former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former FBI Director Robert Mueller III. Hundreds of plaintiffs allege that they were swept up in an immigration dragnet in Brooklyn just after the 2001 attacks. They accuse the government of overseeing beatings, administering strip searches and placing them in solitary confinement for long stretches — something the Justice Dpartment Inspector General confirmed in 2003.

  • Declassified FBI report: Foreign policy, not religion, sparked rise of terrorism in US

    Source: RT. A newly-released 2011 FBI Intelligence Assessment shows the 11 percent uptick in terror plots against the US from 2006 was led by US persons, not foreigners. A “broadening US military presence overseas and outreach by Islamist ideologues” bolstered the increase. Released in March 2011, about the same time the 2011 FBI Intelligence Assessment was done, the Brennan Center for Justice’s report “Rethinking Radicalization” found there to be “no profile of the type of person who becomes a terrorist; indeed, the process by which a person embraces violence is fluid, making it nearly impossible to predict who will move from espousing ‘radical’ views to committing violent acts.” This runs against the entire premise of the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs, which seek to prevent terrorism within the US by using complex data, most often from Muslim communities, to more or less profile for potential terrorists. The CVE programs do not entertain the idea of foreign policy driving domestic threats. Last month, the Associated Press analyzed some 3,000 leaked Islamic State documents to discover that most recruits had little or no understanding of the religion of Islam.

  • 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.