Civil Freedoms Under Threat

  • Obama opens NSA’s vast trove of warrantless data to entire intelligence community, just in time for Trump

    Source: The Intercept. With only days until Donald Trump takes office, the Obama administration on Thursday announced new rules that will let the NSA share vast amounts of private data gathered without warrant, court orders or congressional authorization with 16 other agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security. The new rules allow employees doing intelligence work for those agencies to sift through raw data collected under a broad, Reagan-era executive order that gives the NSA virtually unlimited authority to intercept communications abroad. Previously, NSA analysts would filter out information they deemed irrelevant and mask the names of innocent Americans before passing it along.

  • Despite change in Minn. law, cellphone tracking warrants still under wraps

    Source: Star Tribune. Minnesota law enforcement agencies continue to keep the use of controversial cellphone tracking devices secret more than two years after the Legislature passed a bill demanding that warrants authorizing their use be made public. That bill became state law after public outcry pushed lawmakers to require that police warrants seeking to use KingFish and StingRay devices be unsealed after 90 days, with few exceptions. The Legislature also required that targets of the warrants be notified after the need for the surveillance had ended. However, a report to the Legislature released in November by the Minnesota Judicial Branch shows that none of those warrants has ever been made public and that targets are not being notified.

  • Florida’s felon vote: Destroying lives and wasting taxpayer dollars

    Source: Tampa Bay Times. In the United States as a whole, 1.77 percent of whites and 7.66 percent of blacks are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction. In Florida, 10 percent of the voting age population (VAP) is disenfranchised, but 23 percent — or almost one out of four black voters — is disenfranchised. Nationally, about 6 million individuals have lost the right to vote due to a felony conviction; about 1.7 million or 27 percent of all those disenfranchised reside in Florida.

  • Police expect Trump to lift limits on surplus military gear

    Source: Boston Globe. If president-elect Donald Trump keeps his promise, surplus military grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles and high-powered firearms and ammunition will once again be available to state and local police departments. National police organizations say they will hold Trump to that promise.

  • Arrests of journalists at Standing Rock test the boundaries of the first amendment

    Source: The Intercept. The arrests of journalists and filmmakers covering the front lines of the Dakota Access pipeline fight highlight the limits of press protections and the central role of police, prosecutor, and court discretion in deciding whether or not members of the press should face legal consequences when covering protests. The arrests and violent crowd suppression tactics also reflect the refusal of police to discriminate between peaceful protesters, aggressive agitators, and journalists.

  • Three Malheur refuge occupiers claim to be on terrorist watchlist; evidence suggests it’s true

    Source: The Oregonian. Some Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupiers appear to have jumped from one conflict with the federal government straight into another: At least three claim to now be in a federal database of known or suspected terrorists. The terrorist watch list is split into two primary categories: The “no-fly” list bars people from getting on a plane. The less-restrictive “selectee” and “expanded selectee” lists earn a person extra attention every time they fly. To place people on any of those lists, the government doesn’t require a conviction or even a criminal charge – only “reasonable suspicion” that a person is a known or suspected terrorist, according to an internal instructional document obtained by the media. How the screening center actually applies the various criteria is unconstitutionally opaque, said former FBI agent Mike German of the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute.

  • Brooklyn man arrested, accused of supporting Islamic State

    Source: New York Times Brooklyn man arrested, accused of supporting Islamic State By: Liam Stack A Brooklyn man who tried to join the Islamic State and later told an informer that the group wanted to stage an attack in Times Square similar to the one that killed 86 people in […]

  • Potential Trump attorney general created a Muslim registry during the Bush administration

    Source: The Huffington Post. One of Donald Trump’s most eye-popping campaign promises was a proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. He later tried to amend his comments as a plan to “suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time it’s proven that vetting mechanisms have been put in place.” Trump adviser Kris Kobach is ready to help Trump implement this proposal. Kobach is currently the secretary of state of Kansas and is reportedly under consideration to be the next U.S. attorney general. Kobach told Reuters this week that he is already looking at putting together a proposal to create a registry of immigrants from Muslim countries for Trump’s review. Although he’s best-known for his hard-line stances on immigration and voting rights, Kobach’s previous and less-noticed experience makes him uniquely suited for this job: He was the man who designed and implemented a Muslim registry while working in President George W. Bush’s administration.

  • Trump-loving GOP lawmaker proposes bill to define protests as a form of ‘terrorism’

    Source: Alternet. A Trump-supporting Republican lawmaker is trying to legally define protests, like some of those erupting across the country against his candidate of choice, labeled a form of “terrorism.” In a statement issued Wednesday, Washington state Senator Doug Ericksen says he is drafting a bill that would allow for felony prosecution of protesters who “intentionally break the law…by obstructing economic activity.” Considering that almost all protest could be defined as getting in the way of business interests, Ericksen’s bill is an obvious attack on citizens’ First Amendment rights.

  • Revealed: The FBI’s secret methods for recruiting informants at the border

    Source: The Intercept. Think about arriving at the airport from a foreign country. You are tired from a long flight, anxious about your baggage, and thinking about meeting your family in the arrivals area. You may not have seen them in years. Perhaps it is your first time in the United States. Perhaps you do not speak English well. Perhaps you plan to ask for asylum. Perhaps you are coming from a country where interactions with people in uniform generally involve bribery, intimidation, or worse. The FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection work closely together to turn these vulnerabilities into opportunities for gathering intelligence, according to government documents obtained by The Intercept. CBP assists the FBI in its efforts to target travelers entering the country as potential informants, feeding the bureau passenger lists and pulling people aside for lengthy interrogations in order to gather intelligence from them on the FBI’s behalf, the documents show.