Civil Freedoms Under Threat

  • 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.

  • The FBI lets criminals walk in order to keep this device a secret

    Source: Gizmodo. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is notoriously secretive about its cell phone tracking tools known as Stingrays. Now, new documents obtained by the ACLU show how the Feds keep their surveillance gadgets shrouded in mystery: the FBI makes cops dismiss criminal cases if they threaten to reveal secrets about Stingrays.

  • Issue No. 358-April 3, 2015

    IN THIS ISSUE-MLFA Disappointed in Opinion Issued on HLF Defendants’ Habeas Petition-Upcoming Event: (T)error at Tribeca-Action Item: 12 YEARS TOO LONG!!! DR. AAFIA SIDDIQUI CAMPAIGN-Muslim Portrayals In The Media [Audio]-Chicago Not “Second City” In Stop & Frisks-Poland seeks U.S. assurances over Guantanamo inmate-Court Denies FOIA Request for Panetta Review on CIA Torture-The Only Truly Compliant, Submissive Citizen in a Police State Is a Dead One-Islamophobia in US: The Arabic language-The Terrorism Of Andreas Lubitz: Muslim vs. White Mass Murderers

  • TSA’s secret behavior checklist to spot terrorists

    Source: The Intercept. Fidgeting, whistling, sweaty palms. Add one point each. Arrogance, a cold penetrating stare, and rigid posture, two points. These are just a few of the suspicious signs that the Transportation Security Administration directs its officers to look out for — and score — in airport travelers, according to a confidential TSA document obtained exclusively by The Intercept. The checklist ranges from the mind-numbingly obvious, like “appears to be in disguise,” which is worth three points, to the downright dubious, like a bobbing Adam’s apple. Many indicators, like “trembling” and “arriving late for flight,” appear to confirm allegations that the program picks out signs and emotions that are common to many people who fly. One former Behavior Detection Officer manager, who asked not to be identified, said that SPOT indicators are used by law enforcement to justify pulling aside anyone officers find suspicious, rather than acting as an actual checklist for specific indicators. “The SPOT sheet was designed in such a way that virtually every passenger will exhibit multiple ‘behaviors’ that can be assigned a SPOT sheet value,” the former manager said.

  • Supreme Court justices blast the corrections system

    Source: Think Progress. The prisons are one of the most misunderstood institutions of government. Solitary confinement drives individuals insane. And mandatory minimum sentences are a bad idea. These were the assertions of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer in testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee Monday afternoon. Asked by Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) about United States “capacity to deal with people with our current prison and jail overcrowding,” each justice gave an impassioned response in turn, calling on Congress to make things better. “In many respects, I think it’s broken,” Kennedy said of the corrections system.

  • Be careful with your face at airports

    Source: CNN. Through a program called Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, the TSA employs thousands of “behavior detection officers” who scrutinize travelers to look for signs of “mal-intent” in airport screening areas. The officers typically spend less than 30 seconds scanning an average passenger for over 90 behaviors the TSA associates with stress, fear or deception. When the officers perceive clusters of such behaviors in any given individual, they refer that person for secondary inspection and questioning. Just about everyone outside the TSA who has reviewed the SPOT program has decided that it’s unscientific and a waste of money. Despite this withering criticism, SPOT remains in place and has cost taxpayers well over $1 billion (that’s with a b) since its inception in 2007. Equally troubling is that SPOT has given rise to persistent allegations of racial and ethnic profiling — an unfortunately inevitable result when law enforcement or border agents single people out based on hasty, gut-level judgments about them.

  • Three questions you should ask when you hear about a ‘foiled terrorist plot’

    Source: Vice. Law enforcement officials of all kinds have been tripping over each other to comment on the omnipresent danger of terrorism and, in passing, to justify the sprawling and expensive security state that exists today in America. But for those cases that do involve Muslims in America, always touted with great fanfare as “disrupted terrorist plots,” there is a simple test that anyone can apply from the safety and comfort of their own home to decide if they should take what the government is dishing with a grain of salt. 1. Was there an informant or undercover agent actively involved? 2. Does the defendant suffer from any mental health issues, dysfunctions, or deficiencies? 3. Would the defendant have undertaken whatever they are accused of if not for the government’s involvement?