Civil Freedoms Under Threat

  • Donald Trump proposes banning immigrants based on ideology, but Bush and Obama got there first

    Source: The Intercept.Donald Trump’s plan to apply an “ideological screening test” on would-be immigrants has been denounced as “un-American,” and “a nonstarter.” But the U.S. government already can and does bar immigration on ideological grounds – and has abused that power. In addition to dramatically expanding government surveillance, the Patriot Act passed by Congress soon after the 9/11 terror attacks allows the State Department to exclude anyone who it determines “undermines the United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities.”

  • After 14 years of torture and illegal detention ‘freed’ Guantanamo prisoners are left destitute

    Source: International Business Times. Freed prisoners face a lonely life of poverty in foreign countries where they have no friends, family or community. Many Guantanamo Bay prisoners were bought by the US from Pakistani and Afghan bounty hunters and militants.

  • The NYPD is already a small army—now it is hyping terror threats to militarize even more

    Source: Alternet. The New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio are invoking the specter of ISIS-style terror and the supposed “war on cops” to spend at least another $7.5 million on military-style gear. The expenditures come on top of the at least $1.9 billion funneled into training and new equipment over the last three years, according to Bratton. Meanwhile, the NYPD receives a windfall from the federal program known as Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)—a “war on terror” creation that operates as a slush fund for the militarization of police forces nationwide.

  • This FBI tactic may have silenced GOP convention protesters in Cleveland

    Source: Mother Jones. Perhaps the relative quiet in Cleveland was because of the overwhelming police presence there, or because estimates that “thousands” would protest at the Republican National Convention were wildly inflated—or both. But an additional factor could be that before and during the convention, the FBI intervened to make sure that any potential rabble-rousers remained quiet.The FBI apparently continued to call upon activists throughout the week of the RNC. Last Wednesday, the Ohio chapter of the National Lawyers Guild released a statement claiming that eight special agents from the FBI, with officers from a metro Cleveland police department, “raided a home without consent or presenting a warrant.” The NLG said the raid appeared to be “part of a series of raids conducted” that morning.

  • FBI greenlights crackdown on Black Lives Matter protesters

    Source: Alternet. Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, under the Obama administration, are continuing to fuel and encourage a repressive crackdown on peaceful demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights and moving for social change in America. Last weekend, Baton Rouge’s African-American community was repeatedly assaulted by the police as people attempted to peacefully protest the killing of Sterling. The Baton Rouge police were given the green light by President Obama’s FBI to approach this peaceful protest as they would an enemy force.

  • Students in California might face criminal investigation for protesting film on Israeli army

    Source: The Intercept. Last month, a group of students at the University of California, Irvine gathered to protest a screening of the film Beneath the Helmet, a documentary about the lives of recruits in the Israeli Defense Forces. Upset about the screening of a film they viewed as propaganda for a foreign military, the students were also protesting the presence of several IDF representatives who were holding a panel discussion at the screening. A legal representative for some of the students involved in the protest told The Intercept that the students were informed by the university that their cases have been referred to the district attorney for criminal investigation. The incident is only the latest in which officials at UC Irvine and other major universities around the country have taken harsh measures against pro-Palestinian activists. A report issued last year by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights documented 152 incidents of free-speech suppression on U.S. campuses in 2014.

  • New intelligence bill gives FBI more secret surveillance power

    Source: The Intercept. A Senate bill published late Monday night includes a new provision that would give the FBI more power to issue secret demands, known as national security letters, to technology, internet, communications, and banking companies for their customers’ information. The provision, tucked into the Senate Intelligence Authorization Act, would explicitly authorize the FBI to obtain “electronic communication transactional records” for individuals or entities — though it doesn’t define what that means. The bill was passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.

  • FBI wants to keep its colossal biometric database secret, but 45 groups & companies say NO

    Source: Dissent Newswire. As Suraj Sazawal reported earlier this month, the FBI has created a massive database, the Next Generation Identification system or NGI, filled with the biometric data (fingerprints, photos, iris scans, pictures of tattoos and more) of millions of Americans, which they will share with over 18,000 federal state and local police agencies. And, they want the database to be exempt from Privacy Act protections. That means we can’t find out if our information is in the database, and if it is there, whether it is correct. The exemption would also prevent us from holding the FBI accountable for using the database to track First Amendment activities and activists. So, as reported today in the Washington Post, BORDC/DDF has joined with dozens of civil liberties, open government, civil rights groups and companies laying out some of our concerns.

  • Living in the shadow of counterterrorism: a decade of resistance

    Source: Rewire (5/26): Living in the Shadow of Counterterrorism: A Decade of Resistance
    In the third part of Rewire’s “Living in the Shadow of Counterterrorism” series, focuses on some of the families and activists who have spent the past decade and a half fighting to expose religiously biased federal policies that have fanned the flames of Islamophobia and torn hundreds of American families apart.

  • A new study shows how government-collected “anonymous” data can be used to profile you

    Source: Quartz. The US government has said that it only collected data about calls—“metadata” that includes when they were made, to whom, and how long they lasted—but not the content of those calls. The government argued that this data is anonymous. But the problem is that in the mass collection of metadata, it is highly likely that ordinary citizens’ privacy can be breached, and then anonymity becomes a moot point. A new study shows just how easy it is to do that. When researchers at Stanford University compared call metadata collected from some 800 volunteers with publicly available data on the internet, they were able to accurately identify more than 80% of them.