Civil Freedoms Under Threat

  • 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.

  • Solitary confinement is used to break people — I know because I endured it

    Source: Truthout. Solitary confinement. Administrative segregation. Administrative detention. Restrictive housing. Temporary confinement. Protective custody. Appropriate placement. There are many names for solitary confinement. In the Illinois prisons where I was incarcerated, it was called “segregation,” but most of the women called it “seg” or “jail.” No matter the language, it is all solitary — and it is torture.

  • The FBI’s secret biometrics database they don’t want you to see

    Source: RT. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wants to prevent information about its creepy biometric database, which contains fingerprint, face, iris, and voice scans of millions of Americans, from getting out to the public. The Department of Justice has come up with a proposal to exempt the biometric database from public disclosure. It states that the Next Generation Identification System (NGI) should not be subject to the Privacy Act, which requires federal agencies to give people access to records that have been collected concerning them, “allowing them to verify and correct them if needed.”

  • ‘Everything…was a lie’: Former CIA analyst, John Kiriakou on the agency deleting torture report

    Source: RT. The CIA’s Inspector General Office reportedly “inadvertently” deleted its only copy of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Torture Report, but CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou tells RT that the American people shouldn’t believe what the agency says. Former CIA analyst John Kiriakou, who served time in jail for being the first to blow the whistle on the CIA’s use of waterboarding, told RT he was not surprised that the agency is saying it had destroyed the copy. Kiriakou was surprised, however, at the agency’s attempts to convince the committee that the erasure had been an accident. “It is not an accident. You can’t accidentally destroy a 6,700 page document. You cannot accidentally destroy the electronic copy, especially when these documents are numbered. There are only about a dozen that exist anywhere in the world,” Kiriakou said.

  • Plot to blow up Aventura synagogue ends with man’s arrest

    Source: Miami Herald. A Hollywood man accused of trying to blow up an Aventura synagogue stood in Miami federal court on Monday and gave the judge two names — one real, the other an alias. “My name is James Medina, also known as ‘James Muhammad,’ ” Medina told Magistrate Judge William Turnoff. James G. Medina Miami-Dade County Corrections James G. Medina, 40, was arrested by federal agents on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, 20400 NE 30th Ave., during services on Friday. The actual bomb — sold to him in Hallandale Beach by an FBI undercover operative just before the planned terror attack — was a dummy, authorities said.