Civil Freedoms Under Threat

  • Watchdog finds huge failure In surveillance oversight ahead of Patriot Act deadline

    Source: Huffington Post. In a declassified and heavily redacted report on a controversial Patriot Act provision, the Justice Department’s inspector general found that the government had failed to implement guidelines limiting the amount of data collected on Americans for seven years. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is set to expire June 1 unless Congress reauthorizes it, has been the legal basis for the intelligence community’s bulk metadata collection. As a condition for reauthorization back in 2005, the Justice Department was required to minimize the amount of nonpublic information that the program gathered on U.S. persons. According to the inspector general, the department did not adopt sufficient guidelines until 2013. It was not until August of that year — two months after the bombshell National Security Agency disclosures by Edward Snowden — that Justice began applying those guidelines in applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, the secretive body that approves government surveillance requests.

  • ‘Incommunicado’ forever: Gitmo detainee’s case stalled for 2,477 days and counting

    Source: Propublica. Since being seized in a raid in Pakistan in 2002, Abu Zubaydah has had his life controlled by American officials, first at secret sites, where he was tortured, and since 2006 in a small cell in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And, thanks to one of the strangest, and perhaps most troubling, legal cases to grow out of the War on Terror, it appears he’s not going to be leaving anytime soon—which was exactly the plan the CIA always wanted. Not even his lawyers understand what’s transpired behind closed doors in a Washington, D.C., courtroom.

  • An open letter to Bill Maher from an American Muslim

    Source: TPM. On April 25th you asked, “If ISIS is so anathema to moderate Muslims, how come zero have gone to fight them?” My question to you is this, sir: How do you define “moderate Muslims”? And how exactly do you propose that they go fight ISIS? . . .My mother, a practicing Muslim who quietly fights against ISIS’s ideology every single day by simply rejecting extremism and teaching her children and grandchildren to do the same, still counts herself among your fans. Do you realize how hurtful it is for her to watch you deride her faith, likening it to a diseased orchard filled with bad apples when she is as disturbed as you are about the rise of extremism? Do you propose that she instead buy a one-way ticket to Syria, pick up a weapon, and face ISIS on the battlefield? Would you actually label her more “moderate” if she had an AK-47 in her hands?

  • Pamela Geller and the professional Islamophobia business

    Source: Huffington Post. But the real story isn’t about freedom of expression. It’s about the hatred of Islam for personal and professional gain. That’s the business that Geller and Spencer are in. That’s the business that propelled Wilders from an obscure Dutch politician into an Islamophobic rock star on both sides of the Atlantic. And it’s the reason that journalists are talking about all three of them this week. We wouldn’t know who Pamela Geller is if it weren’t for her hatred of Muslims and her ability to channel this hatred for financial profit and the media spotlight. The same holds true for Spencer and Wilders. We only know who they are because they have devoted their lives and their careers to bigotry. Their hatred for Muslims led the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League to condemn the American Freedom Defense Initiative as a hate organization. It also led the British government to prevent Geller and Spencer from entering the country back in 2013. If we are at war, it’s not a war against Islam. It’s a war against hatred in all its forms, including anti-Muslim hatred.

  • 44 hours in a Baltimore jail for filming the police

    Source: The Nation 44 hours in a Baltimore jail for filming the police By:  Karen Houppert Geremy Faulkner, who turned 18 in February, was videotaping police interaction with looters and bystanders last Monday afternoon at Baltimore’s Mondawmin Mall when he was arrested along with 250 others in the city that […]

  • 5 tools the police are using in their war against activists

    Source: The Nation. Last week, as Baltimore braced for renewed protests over the death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) prepared for battle. With state-of-the-art surveillance of local teenagers’ Twitter feeds, law enforcement had learned that a group of high school students was planning to march on the Mondawmin Mall. In response, the BPD did what any self-respecting police department in post-9/11 America would do: it declared war on the protesters.

  • Don’t ignore the homegrown terror threat

    Source: Politico. Twenty years after Timothy McVeigh destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and much of downtown Oklahoma City, the American radical right is again large and dangerous, comprising close to 1,700 groups and hundreds of thousands of individuals. Terrorism has risen again to the levels of the 1990s, with many afraid that the next attack on the scale of Oklahoma City could come at any time. And radical ideas have permeated much of our increasingly polarized political process, distorting our thinking and deflecting efforts to make ours a better country. These threats to democracy are not the only ones we face as a nation. There is no question that, among many other dangers, the specter of jihadist violence is entirely real. But we must avoid being swayed by ideologues and discredited “terrorism experts” who obsessively point to their own particular bêtes noires while ignoring or dismissing the very real prospect of domestic terror.

  • Anti-Islam rhetoric poses a threat to all people of color

    Source: Seattle Globalist. Overzealous scrutiny of a perceived fault or weakness of a disadvantaged group not only undermines their quality of life, but also puts them under a threat. This age-old tactic, used in the past to spread myths like the one about minority groups benefiting from food stamps, is now being used against Muslims under the guise of intellectual criticism of religion. . . .Anti-Islam rhetoric doesn’t only feed hate crimes. It’s also dangerously simplistic and parochial. It almost always has racist undertones, placing targets on less powerful ethnic groups, including my own. So as much as I value a healthy intellectual debate, I no longer partake in what criticism of Islam has become: a malicious campaign with dangerous consequences.

  • NSA and FBI fight to retain spy powers as surveillance law nears expiration

    Source: The Guardian. With about 45 days remaining before a major post-9/11 surveillance authorization expires, representatives of the National Security Agency and the FBI are taking to Capitol Hill to convince legislators to preserve their sweeping spy powers. That effort effectively re-inaugurates a surveillance debate in Congress that has spent much of 2015 behind closed doors. Within days, congressional sources tell the Guardian, the premiere NSA reform bill of the last Congress, known as the USA Freedom Act, is set for reintroduction – and this time, some former supporters fear the latest version of the bill will squander an opportunity for even broader surveillance reform.

  • Man charged in Kansas bomb plot called strange, troubled

    Source: Associated Press. John T. Booker Jr., e 20-year-old Topeka resident told a confidante who was in fact an FBI informant six months ago that he wasn’t liked at his mosque because he expressed support for the terrorist group al-Qaida — views that would have gotten him barred, according to the imam. The cleric said the FBI brought Booker to the mosque last year, said he had a mental health disorder and sought counseling to turn him from views behind Facebook postings about plans to die in a jihad. Even amid the counseling, Booker was in contact with two FBI informants portraying Islamic State group sympathizers, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court. Authorities said Booker was arrested Friday trying to arm what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb outside Fort Riley, about 70 miles west of Topeka.