Civil Freedoms Under Threat

  • Non-violent ‘terrorism’?

    Source: Huffington Post. In a Chicago courtroom today, I will urge a federal judge to dismiss terrorism indictments against two animal rights activists accused of freeing thousands of mink from fur farms. Tyler Lang and Kevin Johnson are charged under the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). They face up to 10 years in prison. The Center for Constitutional Rights joined the defense team to continue our half-decade battle to have the AETA struck down as unconstitutional. The law punishes causing property loss (which includes lost profits) to a business that sells animals or animal products — criminalizing not only loss caused by criminal acts but also loss caused by picketing and other constitutionally-protected activity. The AETA punishes a wide swath of expression by animal rights activists if it hurts the bottom lines of corporations — a clear violation of the First Amendment.

  • Destroyed by the Espionage Act

    Source: The Intercept. Stephen Kim spoke to a reporter. Now he’s in jail. This is his story.

  • Let’s be clear: The Obama Crusades controversy is over whether it’s okay to hate Muslims

    Source: Vox. It’s easy to overcomplicate the supposed controversy over President Obama comparing ISIS to the Crusades at a national prayer breakfast this week. “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.” To be crystal clear: this is not a fight over the fine-grain imperfections of Obama’s historical analogy or over the implications for US foreign policy. It is a fight over whether it’s okay to hate Muslims, to apply sweeping and negative stereotypes to the one-fifth of humanity that follows a particular religion. A number of Americans, it seems, are clinging desperately to their anti-Muslim bigotry and are furious at Obama for trying to take that away from them.

  • Lone wolf terrorists are exceedingly rare, so why does everyone keep talking about them?

    Source: Tom Dispatch. “The lone wolf is the new nightmare,” wrote Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer recently, and the conservative pundit wasn’t alone in thinking so. You could multiply such statements many times over. There’s only one problem with the rising crescendo of alarm about lone wolves: most of it simply isn’t true. There’s nothing new about the “threat” and the concept is notoriously unreliable, as well as selectively used. (These days, “lone wolf” has largely become a stand-in for “Islamic terrorist,” though the category itself is not bound to any specific ideological type.) Worst of all, its recent highlighting paves the way for the heightening of abusive and counterproductive police and national security practices, including the infiltration of minority and activist communities and elaborate sting operations that ensnare the vulnerable.

  • Despite prior claims, FBI’s own records show agency coordinated with police & spied on occupy movement

    Source: Fire Dog Lake. The FBI spied on Occupy Chicago. It also coordinated with police departments, helping other law enforcement agencies keep tabs on Occupy protesters, according to documents obtained by independent journalist Yana Kunichoff. The documents contradict a statement from the FBI in November 2011, where the agency declared, “Recent published blogs and news stories have reported the FBI has coordinated with local police departments on strategy and tactics to be employed in addressing Occupy Wall Street protestors.”

  • CIA leak case about-face: Feds don’t want reporter on stand

    Source: Associated Press. After pushing for years to get testimony from a recalcitrant New York Times reporter in a CIA leak case, prosecutors launched an unsuccessful last-minute attempt Monday to bar journalist James Risen from testifying at all. Federal prosecutors in Alexandria filed a motion Monday saying that neither prosecutors nor the defense should be permitted to call Risen at the trial of ex-CIA man Jeffrey Sterling of O’Fallon, Missouri, whose trial begins Tuesday. Prosecutors believe Sterling leaked details about an apparently botched CIA operation in Iran to Risen. But at a pretrial hearing Monday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema rejected prosecutors’ request after defense lawyers said Risen’s testimony is important to their case.

  • F.B.I. Is broadening surveillance role, report shows

    Source: The New York Times. Although the government’s warrantless surveillance program is associated with the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has gradually become a significant player in administering it, a newly declassified report shows. In 2008, according to the report, the F.B.I. assumed the power to review email accounts the N.S.A. wanted to collect through the “Prism” system, which collects emails of foreigners from providers like Yahoo and Google. Then, in October 2009, the F.B.I. started retaining copies of unprocessed communications gathered without a warrant to analyze for its own purposes. And in April 2012, the bureau began nominating new email accounts and phone numbers belonging to foreigners for collection, including through the N.S.A.’s “upstream” system, which collects communications transiting network switches.

  • Police now monitoring and criminalizing online speech

    Source: The Intercept. Despite frequent national boasting of free speech protections, the U.S. has joined, and sometimes led, the trend to monitor and criminalize online political speech. The DOJ in 2011 prosecuted a 24-year-old Pakistani resident of the United States, Jubair Ahmad, on terrorism charges for uploading a 5-minute video to YouTube featuring photographs of Abu Ghraib abuses, video of American armored trucks exploding, and prayer messages about “jihad” from the leader of a designated terror group; he was convicted and sent to prison for 12 years. . . . Countless post-9/11 prosecutions for “material support of terrorism” are centrally based on political views expressed by the (almost always young and Muslim) defendants, who are often “anticipatorily prosecuted” for expression of ideas political officials find threatening. . . . Like the law generally, criminalizing online speech is reserved only for certain kinds of people (those with the least power) and certain kinds of views (the most marginalized and oppositional). Those who serve the most powerful factions or who endorse their orthodoxies are generally exempt. For that reason, these trends in criminalizing online speech are not so much an abstract attack on free speech generally, but worse, are an attempt to suppress particular ideas and particular kinds of people from engaging in effective persuasion and political activism.

  • A shocking report on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

    Source: Peace Through Justice Foundation. This report (based on eyewitness testimony) reveals some of the torture visited upon Dr. Aafia Siddiqui when she was a secretly held prisoner overseas in Afghanistan from 2003-2008; and it serves as a reminder of why there is so much rage felt toward the United States of America and its global allies.

  • Writers in ‘free’ countries now share surveillance concerns with ‘not-free’ brethren

    Source: The Intercept. Writers living in liberal democracies are now nearly as worried about the government watching them as their colleagues in countries that have long histories of internal spying, according to an international survey conducted by PEN, a literary and human rights organization.Brave writers have historically stood up to even the gravest threats from authoritarian regimes. Conversely, there have always been some who willingly censor themselves. But the online survey of 772 self-selected respondents in 50 countries nevertheless indicates that the mass surveillance programs disclosed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden are chilling freedom of expression – in some cases, nearly as much as in countries the U.S. considers repressive.