Civil Freedoms Under Threat

  • 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.

  • Writers say they feel censored by surveillance

    Source: The New York Times Writers say they feel censored by surveillance By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER A survey of writers around the world by the PEN American Center has found that a significant majority said they were deeply concerned with government surveillance, with many reporting that they have avoided, or have […]

  • The prison state of America

    Source: Truthdig. Prisons employ and exploit the ideal worker. Prisoners do not receive benefits or pensions. They are not paid overtime. They are forbidden to organize and strike. They must show up on time. They are not paid for sick days or granted vacations. They cannot formally complain about working conditions or safety hazards. If they are disobedient, or attempt to protest their pitiful wages, they lose their jobs and can be sent to isolation cells. The roughly 1 million prisoners who work for corporations and government industries in the American prison system are models for what the corporate state expects us all to become. And corporations have no intention of permitting prison reforms that would reduce the size of their bonded workforce. In fact, they are seeking to replicate these conditions throughout the society.

  • Meet Alfreda Bikowsky, the senior officer at the center of the CIA’s torture scandals

    Source: The Intercept. NBC News yesterday called her a “key apologist” for the CIA’s torture program. A follow-up New Yorker article dubbed her “The Unidentified Queen of Torture” and in part “the model for the lead character in ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’” Yet in both articles she was anonymous. The person described by both NBC and The New Yorker is senior CIA officer Alfreda Frances Bikowsky. Multiple news outlets have reported that as the result of a long string of significant errors and malfeasance, her competence and integrity are doubted — even by some within the agency. The Intercept is naming Bikowsky over CIA objections because of her key role in misleading Congress about the agency’s use of torture, and her active participation in the torture program (including playing a direct part in the torture of at least one innocent detainee).

  • Reporter James Risen told to testify at hearing before CIA agent’s trial

    Source: Los Angeles Times. New York Times reporter James Risen was ordered Tuesday to appear at a Jan. 5 hearing to give limited testimony in advance of the trial of a former CIA officer who is charged with revealing classified information, including embarrassing details of CIA operations in Iran that appeared in Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War.” It was not clear whether Risen would testify, despite Justice Department assurances that it would not ask him whether former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was his source for the book or other questions that might help identify his source. The book detailed purported CIA mistakes in handling agents in Iran during alleged attempts to subvert Iran’s nuclear program.