Opinions

  • Jonathan P. Baird: The dark night of Mohamedou Ould Slahi

    Opinions August 25, 2016 at 0 comments

    Source: Concord Monitor. In a little noticed story on July 14, the Periodic Review Board of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp approved the release of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian citizen and author. What is unique about Slahi is that he is a best-selling author. In his book, Guantanamo Diary, he described his ordeal. Slahi spent nearly 14 years at Guantanamo. He was never charged with any crime. Author John le Carre described Slahi’s book as “a vision of hell, beyond Orwell, beyond Kafka.” Slahi’s story shows the danger in normalizing torture. Innocent people can be swept up in dragnets and get subjected to the sickest abuse. Guantanamo has done enormous damage to the moral authority of the United States. Torture leaves an indelible stain. We must never forget that torture remains a crime.

     
  • New book alleges CIA manipulates Hollywood to promote war on terror

    Opinions July 21, 2016 at 0 comments

    Source: The Hollywood Reporter. You won’t actually see the words, “made with the cooperation of the CIA” in the credits of Zero Dark Thirty or Argo, but these films carry the Agency’s seal of approval, which is less about authenticity and more about myth-making. That’s what journalist Nicholas Schou calls it in his new book Spooked: How the CIA Manipulates the Media and Hoodwinks Hollywood. Zero Dark Thirty enjoyed abundant access to CIA headquarters, including people whose role in the mission was still classified, as well as a private dinner with some of those involved in the bin Laden takedown.

     
  • The dangers of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs

    Opinions July 19, 2016 at 0 comments

    Source: Psychology Today. Currently, the FBI, in collaboration with the National Institute of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and other government agencies, is again launching programs that are at best doomed–and at worst designed—to disrupt the Muslim communities in cities where they are launched. Under the umbrella term Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) the programs include attempts, with no basis in evidence, to predict who might some day become violent due to a passionate investment in a cause. In the absence of evidence, the agencies are now asking people close to young Muslims to report to law enforcement, including local and federal enforcement agencies, on kids who they just think (note, without any knowledge of what the actual signs are) might be on a path towards extremism. We will not be participating in any CVE programs, and we strongly encourage other mental health professionals to also refuse.

     
  • I help innocent people get off terrorism watch lists. As a gun control tool, they’re useless.

    Opinions June 28, 2016 at 0 comments

    Source: The Washington Post. The notorious No Fly List, which contained only 16 names on Sept. 11, 2001, has now grown to 81,000. People are supposedly put on the list based on a “reasonable suspicion” that they are known or suspected of somehow being connected to terrorism. In America, “reasonable suspicion” is the low standard by which your rights are trampled if you have the misfortune of not being white or privileged. It is based on reasonable suspicion, for example, that poor black and Latino youths in New York City are stopped and frisked by police in their own neighborhoods. And it is based on reasonable suspicion that Muslims get thrown on terrorist watch lists. The watch lists operate like a ratchet: It is beyond easy for a government official to “nominate” someone for listing, yet exceedingly difficult to be removed. And the consequences of such highly arbitrary and potentially abusive government action can be devastating. Real gun control can take many forms. But claiming that terror watch lists are the solution defies logic. That sort of proposal offers only the illusion of progress on gun control, while marking a setback for both equality among Americans and safety from gun violence.

     
  • FBI guidelines weaken separation of community outreach and intelligence gathering efforts

    Opinions June 8, 2016 at 0 comments

    Source: Just Security. Community outreach programs are a staple of modern law enforcement, designed to build trust, address local concerns, and communicate effectively with the public — at least in theory. But in recent years, some outreach programs have revealed an ulterior motive at work: intelligence gathering. Revised FBI guidelines obtained by the Brennan Center show that these programs — which claim to be aimed at building public trust — appear indifferent to the toll on community relationships caused by treating potential partners as intelligence subjects. Based on a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, we found that FBI field offices in Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Seattle, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and Denver were designated for “specialized outreach” programs, intended to support FBI Field Intelligence Groups and other “operational programs throughout the Bureau.”

     
  • FBI entrapment draws critical attention in “homegrown terror” stings

    Opinions June 8, 2016 at 0 comments

    Source: BORDC/DDF. The NY Times reported today that the FBI has increased its use of sting operations in ISIS cases. While any attention paid to the Bureau’s is welcome we must be clear: this is not a new tactic. A 2014 study, “Inventing Terrorists: the Lawfare of Preventive Prosecution” by Project Salam and the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, found that almost every domestic terrorist plot from 2001 to 2010 was in some way cooked up or assisted (and eventually “busted”) by the FBI. The report analyzed about 400 domestic terror cases and found only that only four cases were initiated or driven without the encouragement of the bureau.

     
  • FBI entrapment draws critical attention in “homegrown Tterror” sStings

    Opinions June 8, 2016 at 0 comments

    Source: BORDC/DDF. The NY Times reported today that the FBI has increased its use of sting operations in ISIS cases. While any attention paid to the Bureau’s is welcome we must be clear: this is not a new tactic. A 2014 study, “Inventing Terrorists: the Lawfare of Preventive Prosecution” by Project Salam and the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, found that almost every domestic terrorist plot from 2001 to 2010 was in some way cooked up or assisted (and eventually “busted”) by the FBI. The report analyzed about 400 domestic terror cases and found only that only four cases were initiated or driven without the encouragement of the bureau.

     
  • Department of Education refuses to release its feedback of FBI’s Counter-Extremism website

    Opinions June 2, 2016 at 0 comments

    Source: Muckrock. Earlier this year, the FBI released its guidelines on “Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools” along with a website that allows users to learn about violent extremism and “earn an FBI certificate.” Even before the release, the FBI’s guidelines and its “Don’t Be a Puppet” website had managed to attract critics. The Department of Education has reviewed the website, but refuses to provide its feedback to the public. There is tremendous public interest at stake in the Department’s refusal to be transparent about its feedback. The website is one component of FBI’s CVE program which involves instituting a surveillance apparatus in schools that is likely to disproportionately target Muslims, sow distrust between teachers and students, and undermine the mission of schools, curtailing independent thought and dissenting political opinions.

     
  • Vindication for Edward Snowden from a new player in NSA whistleblowing saga

    Opinions May 23, 2016 at 0 comments

    Source: The Intercept. An article by Mark Hertsgaard, adapted from his new book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden, describes how former NSA official Thomas Drake went through proper channels in his attempt to expose civil-liberties violations at the NSA — and was punished for it. The article vindicates open-government activists who have long argued that whistleblower protections aren’t sufficient in the national security realm.

     
  • From Eagle Scouts to prom queens, a different view of American Muslims

    Opinions May 18, 2016 at 0 comments

    Source: Christian Science Monitor. A new study from Georgetown’s Bridge Initiative, When Islamophobia Turns Violent, suggests that Islamophobia is getting worse. And, anti-Muslim political rhetoric during the United States presidential race isn’t making things better. In the face of rising Islamophobia, however, American Muslim teens have shown grit – and many of their peers have shown support – as they navigate the course of faith, identity, culture and politics.