Civil Freedoms Under Threat

  • Next-Gen Terror Watchers Go Deep Into Al-Qaida, Tweet a Lot

    Source: Wired. here is a competing school of thought, one with more purchase in official Washington. It holds that the problem of terrorism is actually the problem of Islam. As a Danger Room series has explored, adherents of that viewpoint have instructed counterterrorism professionals within the FBI, the Justice Departmentand the military. Last week, a military college run by the Joint Chiefs of Staff removed an Army lieutenant colonel who taught senior officers that the United States ought to attack Muslim civilians. That approach is the polar opposite of the perspective taken by this rising crowd of scholars.

  • FOIA request forces DoJ to reveal National Security Letter templates

    Source: ArsTechnica. As the result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Department of Justice has revealed, for the first time, the types of secret letters that the government can send out to ISPs and other tech companies being asked to reveal personal data about their users and customers who are being investigated for national security reasons. In 2009, over 6,000 Americans received such National Security Letters (NSLs).

  • The FBI’s Secret Surveillance Letters to Tech Companies

    Source: Wall Street Journal. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Justice Department has revealed for the first time templates for each of the types of national security letters it sends – nine in all. Among other things, the letters show that the FBI is now informing people who receive the letters how they can challenge the documents in court. But some key elements of the letters remain blocked from view – including lists of material the FBI says companies can send in response to the letter.

  • Why Is the Government Collecting Your Biometric Data?

    Source: Truth Out. In a recent EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) report, Jennifer Lynch chronicles the growth of biometric databases that contain everything from fingerprints to DNA to iris scans and face recognition images. Unsurprisingly, immigrants are one of the likeliest targets; Lynch talks about the LAPD’s habit of cruising streets where day laborers gather and picking up their fingerprints with mobile scanners. The Secure Communities program, a more large-scale and catastrophic example, lets police send fingerprints to the FBI, which can share the information with DHS, which then deploys ICE to detain and deport undocumented immigrants.

  • Drone Documents: Why The Government Won’t Release Them

    Source: ProPublica. Over the past year, the American Civil Liberties Union and reporters at The New York Times have filed several requests under the Freedom of Information Act seeking information about the CIA’s drone program and the legal justification for attacks that killed terrorists and U.S. citizens. The government answered with a Glomar response — neither verifying nor denying that it has such documents. So both the Times and the ACLU sued, claiming that there is widespread acknowledgement by government officials of drones and targeted killing, as well as the CIA’s involvement. Last week, the Justice Department submitted a motion in a federal court in New York seeking to dismiss the lawsuits. The government’s argument, it turns out, mostly reiterates its Glomar response.

  • The Increasingly Absurd Conceit That Drone Strikes Are Secret

    Source: The Atlantic. In broad strokes, here is the game that the White House is playing: President Obama, John Brennan, and other senior administration officials are happy to disclose information about government drone strikes when they are touting counterterrorism success stories. But every time critics of their national-security strategy seek information about their actions, they claim that some of the very things they’ve spoken about on and off the record are actually state secrets.

  • Twitter Implements Do Not Track Privacy Option

    Source: New York Times.Twitter Implements Do Not Track Privacy Option By Nick Bilton.
    It’s no secret that Facebook is worth about $100 billion because it collected personal data about its users. A lot of data. Although Twitter tracks its users too — albeit in a much less aggressive way — the company has decided to take a different route. It announced Thursday that it is joining Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox Web browser, and giving its users the ability to opt-out of being tracked in any way through Twitter.

  • Stop-and-Frisk Challenge Gets Class-Action Status

    Source: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. Stop-and-Frisk Challenge Gets Class-Action Status By Tamer El-Ghobashy.
    A lawsuit alleging racial bias in the New York Police Department’s so-called stop-and-frisk tactics will proceed under class-action status, clearing the way for thousands of potential plaintiffs to join the legal challenge. The decision by Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan federal court also criticized the city’s “cavalier attitude” in response to claims police have conducted illegal searches. Her ruling could dramatically expand a 2008 lawsuit filed by four individuals who claimed their constitutional rights had been trampled by the city’s effort to combat crime through stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking those suspected of street crimes.

  • Unholy Partnerships Between Telecoms & Government Spy Agencies: Have We Learned Nothing?

    Source: Government Accountability Project. Considering what we’ve learned in just the past few months, Americans should be more than wary of partnerships between internet service providers and government. NSA whistleblower Bill Binney’s (a client of mine) explosive disclosures of late signify the danger in allowing telecoms to hand our private information to the government in secret without court oversight.

  • Few Companies Fight Patriot Act Gag Orders, FBI Admits

    Source: Wired. In December 2010 … the FBI asserted that in February 2009 it began telling recipients they had a right to challenge the built-in gag order that prevents them from disclosing to anyone, including customers, that the government is seeking customer records … [as] mandated by a 2008 appellate court decision, which found that the never-ending, hard-to-challenge gag order was unconstitutional. Holder noted, however, that in the year and 10 months since the FBI started notifying recipients of this right, only a small handful had asserted that right…. This contradicts a statement made by an FBI spokeswoman …. Kathleen Wright [who] said [in March] in an e-mail, “There are no stats” available for the number of challenges, and, “There has been one instance where a NSL nondisclosure order was lifted voluntarily by the FBI.”