Civil Freedoms Under Threat

  • FBI attempts to question Tampa activist

    Source: FightBack!News. Tampa anti-war activist Jessica Schwartz says a family member handed her an FBI agent’s card. The card was stuck in the front door of the family home and belonged to FBI Special Agent A. Brett Fears. Schwartz found another card stuck in a car window on the driveway and she says, “My brother let me know the FBI left a message on our home phone asking me to contact FBI Special Agent Fears for an interview. I have no intention of speaking to the FBI, but I did contact the Committee to Stop FBI Repression and a lawyer.”

  • Details on FBI sting operations since 2001 terror attacks

    Source: Associated Press. In the years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI has routinely relied on undercover operations similar to the one that led to the arrest of Samy Mohamed Hamzeh in Milwaukee this week. The FBI sees sting operations as vital tools in preventing acts of terrorism and appropriate to use against those who have expressed an inclination toward violence. The targets come to the attention of the authorities in various ways, sometimes through information from a confidential FBI informant or via online writings that promote jihad or profess allegiance to terrorist groups. Defense attorneys frequently challenge the operations in court, contending that their clients were entrapped and suggesting that agents are taking advantage of a defendant’s misguided thoughts or mental illness. They accuse investigators of effectively grooming clients into plotting acts of terror.

  • U.S. will use facial recognition at airports

    Source: FedScoop. U.S. border checkpoints at airports of entry nationwide will begin using facial recognition technology on foreign visitors and U.S. citizens after a successful pilot just outside the nation’s capital, according to a new privacy disclosure from the Department of Homeland Security. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a DHS agency, piloted its “1-to-1 Facial Comparison Project” at Washington Dulles International Airport between March and May 2015, and now is bringing that technology to all U.S. airports of entry on a permanent basis.

  • New documents shed light on secret DoJ rules for targeting journalists with National Security Letters

    Source: Boing Boing. The DOJ recently released an updated version of their “media guidelines” after widespread public criticism stemming from the agency’s surveillance of Associated Press and Fox News journalists in 2013. The media guidelines set a very high bar for when the DOJ and FBI could conduct surveillance on a journalist, and were portrayed at the time as a huge step forward for the rights of reporters. The only problem is that—buried in the fine print and ignored by almost everyone at the time—the new guidelines do not apply to national security surveillance tools. The DOJ allows the FBI to completely sidestep its own media guidelines and issue National Security Letters (possibly as well as FISA court orders) instead of subpoenas or warrants—entirely in secret.

  • The new way police are surveilling you: Calculating your threat ‘score’

    Source: The Washington Post. As a national debate has played out over mass surveillance by the National Security Agency, a new generation of technology such as the Beware software being used in Fresno has given local law enforcement officers unprecedented power to peer into the lives of citizens. Police officials say such tools can provide critical information that can help uncover terrorists or thwart mass shootings, ensure the safety of officers and the public, find suspects, and crack open cases. But the powerful systems also have become flash points for civil libertarians and activists, who say they represent a troubling intrusion on privacy, have been deployed with little public oversight and have potential for abuse or error.

  • US military to limit media access to Guantanamo Bay prison

    Source: Associated Press. New limits are being imposed on media access to the detention center at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the commander of the military’s Southern Command said Thursday, outlining rules that will limit what journalists can see and how often they can visit the already highly restricted site. Journalists will be allowed to visit the center on tours that will be organized once per quarter, lasting no more than a day, and they will no longer be able to visit inside the two detention center camps where a majority of the 107 current prisoners are held,

  • President of Liberty University urges students at Christian college to carry concealed weapons, ‘Then we could end those Muslims before they walked in’

    Source: Daily News. The president of Liberty University urged his student body to start carrying concealed weapons with their books in case Muslim terrorists target their Virginia campus.“Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,” President Jerry Falwell Jr. declared at a Friday convocation before 10,000 people at the Christian college.“I’ve always thought if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” said the son of his namesake father, the one-time religious right leader Jerry Sr.

  • Scope of secretive FBI national security letters revealed by first lifted gag order

    Source: The Intercept. Fourteen years after the FBI began using national security letters to unilaterally and quietly demand records from Internet service providers, telephone companies and financial institutions, one recipient — former ISP founder Nicholas Merrill — is finally free to talk about what it’s like to get one. The FBI issues the letters, known as NSLs, without any judicial review whatsoever. And they come with a gag order.But a federal District Court judge in New York ruled in September that the continuous ban on Merrill’s speech about the order was not justified, considering that the FBI’s investigation was long over and most details about the order were already openly available.

  • A look at America’s convoluted web of terror watch list

    Source: Buzz Feed News. The massive network of terror watch lists and databases involved in tracking potential threats across the globe now includes tens of thousands of names, the vast majority of which belong to people who likely have no idea they’ve been flagged. But the extensive surveillance apparatus, while allowing authorities to track potential threats, has also proven to be a nightmare for the extremely small percentage of those who find out they are on a watch list, and then try to get off it.

  • U.S. mass surveillance has no record of thwarting large terror attacks, regardless of snowden leaks

    Civil Freedoms Under Threat November 17, 2015 at 1 comment

    Source: The Intercept. Despite the intelligence community’s attempts to blame NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for the tragic attacks in Paris on Friday, the NSA’s mass surveillance programs do not have a track record — before or after Snowden — of identifying or thwarting actual large-scale terrorist plots. CIA Director John Brennan asserted on Monday that “many of these terrorist operations are uncovered and thwarted before they’re able to be carried out,” and lamented the post-Snowden “handwringing” that has made that job more difficult. But the reason there haven’t been any large-scale terror attacks by ISIS in the U.S. is not because they were averted by the intelligence community, but because — with the possible exception of one that was foiled by local police — none were actually planned.