Civil Freedoms Under Threat

  • How America came to torture its prisoners

    Source: Slate. Our highest government officials, up to and including President Bush, broke international and U.S. laws banning torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Worse, they made their subordinates in the military and civilian intelligence services break those laws for them.

  • Source: Huffington Post. [T]he no-fly list reportedly contains some 20,000 names, among them about 500 U.S. citizens. As many as 800 changes, such as removing or adding names, are made to the list each day. A much larger terrorism watchlist of a half-million people across the globe that contains the names of those barred from flying also includes individuals subjected to heightened security screenings. Because the no-fly list is classified, no one can be sure whether he or she will be prevented from flying until after arriving at the airport with a purchased ticket. The plaintiffs say they’ve been unfairly denied the convenience of air travel and must spend days on trains and in cars in order to cross the country. Civil libertarians argue that the list withholds the due process rights of travelers. There’s no meaningful way to dispute one’s inclusion on the list and determine if the status is based on mistakes or flawed intelligence.

  • The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret

    Source: Rolling Stone. One day in late November, an unmanned aerial vehicle lifted off from Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan, heading 75 miles toward the border with Iran. The drone’s mission: to spy on Tehran’s nuclear program, as well as any insurgent activities the Iranians might be supporting in Afghanistan…. something went wrong. One of the drone’s three data streams failed, and began sending inaccurate information back to the base. Then the signal vanished, and Creech lost all contact with the drone. Today, even after a 10-week investigation by U.S. officials, it’s unclear exactly what happened. Had the Iranians, as they would later claim, hacked the drone and taken it down…? What we do know is that the government lied about who was responsible for the drone.

  • CIA’s Secret Fear: High-Tech Border Checks Will Blow Spies’ Cover

    Source: Wired. The increasing deployment of iris scanners and biometric passports at worldwide airports, hotels and business headquarters, designed to catch terrorists and criminals, are playing havoc with operations that require CIA spies to travel under false identities.

  • US Pentagon Releases Training Manual Used As Basis For Bush’s Torture Program

    Source: Eurasia Review. [The manual’s disastrous results included] the sickening torture of individuals in a global web of torture prisons run by the CIA; no intelligence that could not have been obtained by non-coercive means; a staggering waste of the resources of both the CIA and the FBI, as operatives were tied up chasing false leads generated through the use of torture; and a tarnished reputation for the US that has not been cleaned up by President Obama’s ostrich-like refusal to confront the crimes committed by his predecessor. So dark is this period in America’s modern history that in Guantánamo, where 14 of the supposed “high-value detainees” … eventually ended up in September 2006, there has been a blanket ban, since that time, on allowing any of the discussions that have taken place between these men and their lawyers being released to the public, for one reason alone — to prevent any mention of the torture to which these men were subjected from becoming public knowledge.

  • A Primer on Domestic Drones: Legal, Policy, and Privacy Implications

    Source: Forbes. Already a number of civil liberties groups have concluded that watchful eyes in the sky will be privy to intimate details concerning the private lives of everyday Americans. While this conclusion is premature their caution is warranted. However, rather than viewing The FAA Act as a harbinger of privacy invasions to come, it is best viewed as a prudent first step in a public discussion of the role that drones will one day play in the U.S. If the energetic public debate thus far is any indicator, this policy issue will likely land back in the hands of legislators — the only question is whether it will be a soft landing that takes account of a wide range of public views, or a crash landing that tries to dodge accountability.

  • Police Tracking of Cell Phones May Be Coming to a Phone Near You

    Source: New York Times. Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight.

  • After Car-Tracking Smackdown, Feds Turn to Warrantless Phone Tracking

    Source: WIRED. Prosecutors are shifting their focus to warrantless cell-tower locational tracking of suspects in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that law enforcement should acquire probable-cause warrants from judges to affix GPS devices to vehicles and monitor their every move, according to court records.

  • Documents show NYPD infiltrated liberal groups

    Source: North Undercover NYPD officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the country, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities.

  • New counterterrorism guidelines permit data on U.S. citizens to be held longer

    Source: Washington Post. The Obama administration has approved guidelines that allow counterterrorism officials to lengthen the period of time they retain information about U.S. residents, even if they have no known connection to terrorism.