Government Policies Under Scrutiny

  • 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.

  • U.N. gives U.S. flunking grades on privacy and surveillance rights

    Source: The Intercept. The United States scores very low when it comes to protecting its citizens’ privacy, according to a new United Nations Human Rights Committee review. The committee issued mid-term report cards for several countries on Tuesday based on how well they have adhered to and implemented its recommendations related to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty outlining the civil and political rights of all individuals. The U.S. performance in several aspects of protecting privacy was graded “not satisfactory.” In particular, the committee noted that the U.S. government failed to establish an adequate oversight system to make sure privacy rights are being upheld, and failed to make sure that any breaches of privacy were regulated and authorized by strict law, such as requiring a warrant. The lowest grade reflected the U.S.’s failure to “Ensure affected persons have access to effective remedies in cases of abuse.”

  • Family of Muslim leader killed by FBI in Dearborn seeks answers

    Source: Detroit Free Press. More than five years after the FBI’s shooting death of a Muslim leader in Dearborn, his family is still trying to find out what happened and the names of those who shot him during a sting operation, maintaining there was a cover-up by federal authorities. This month, the family asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case. Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, 53, of Detroit, was struck 20 times on October 28, 2009, inside a Dearborn warehouse as part of an undercover counterterrorism operation investigating what the FBI said were his extremist views and trafficking in stolen goods.

  • “Citizenfour” filmmaker Laura Poitras is suing the U.S. over years of alleged harassment

    Source: Time. Oscar and Pulitzer Prize-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras filed a lawsuit Monday against the U.S. government to find out why she has been searched, questioned and subject to enhanced security screenings over the course of six years at U.S. and overseas airports. Poitras, who won an Academy Award this year for Citizenfour, her documentary about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, claims that between 2006 and 2012 she was detained every time she entered the U.S. for work.

  • Judge orders U.S. to prepare Guantanamo force-feeding tapes for release

    Source: Newsweek, A federal judge on Friday ordered the Obama administration to prepare eight videotapes depicting the force-feeding of former Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab for public release.
    In a U.S. district court in Washington, D.C., Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the government must complete redactions—editing out parts of the videos that are a threat to national security—before August 31, 2015. Other key redactions must be completed by September 30.