Civil Liberties Update | September 30, 2011
A. EXECUTIVE ACTIONS
Building the National Security Surveillance State
• “Did US trade freedom for security after 9/11?”
• We are all under the gaze of the surveillance state
• The best security money can buy or “the decade’s biggest scam”?
• More than 4.2 million have security clearance
• Government secrecy has “run amok”
• 21,000 DHS intelligence reports the equivalent of spam
• DHS to create ‘DHS Watchlist Service’
• Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board as good as dead
• FBI conducts 82,325 assessments in two years with little to show for it
• FBI used informants in half of 500 terrorism prosecutions
• FBI agents to be tested on surveillance guidelines
• Documents indicate there is no foolproof way to get off FBI watchlist
• FBI Next Generation Identification System being rolled out
• Probe of New York JTTF highlights tensions between FBI, NYPD
• NYPD counterterrorism unit spying on Muslims with CIA help
• Internal CIA enquiry investigates legality of work with NYPD
• First Amendment-protected speech being criminalized by FBI
• No sign of growing extremism among Muslim Americans
• White House puts forward a new ‘violent extremism’ strategy
• FBI: ‘Mainstream’ Muslims likely to be ‘violent’ and ‘radical’
• Terrorism training turns state employee into a suspect
• Anti-Shariah movement similar to 19th century anti-Semitism
• Iraqi refugees in US to be re-screened to look for terrorists
• Terrorist suspects could lurk undetected in pilot database
• TSA needs to do more to validate security methods: GAO
• Full-body scanners not ready for prime time
• Body bombs could elude naked scanning machines
• “Racially-profiled and cuffed in Detroit”
• ACLU lawsuit seeks information about suspicious activity reports
• Norway adopts un-American response to Oslo attack
• PATRIOT Act used to obtain Wikileaks account information
• Pentagon fighting back against cyber attacks
• FBI opens investigation into hacking of phones of 9/11 victims
• Feds to shut 800 computer data centers
• ACLU wants to know how police are abusing cell phone data
• Police can use smartphone to collect biometric information
• Michigan police use technology to track and extract data
• SF transit police block cell phones to thwart protest
• Chicago police to create new counterterrorism unit
• Police officer charged with misusing police database
• Cook County is abandoning DHS surveillance cameras
• California bars warrantless cell phone searches
• Predator drones put to “routine civilian uses”
Indefinite Detention, Military Commissions, Torture, Extrajudicial Killing
• US succeeds in assassinating its citizens
• CIA claims there were no civilian deaths from drone strikes over past year
• Secret drone bases being built in Africa, Arabian Peninsula
• CIA turns paramilitary as drone strikes now routine
• Qaddafi regime participated in CIA rendition program
• Suit over payment shines light on rendition program
• CIA censors book about torture program
• “How many secret wars are we fighting?”
• Cheney yet again defends torture, the invasion of Iraq
• Guantanamo detainee who had been tortured faces death penalty
• Soldier convicted of Abu Ghraib abuse released early
• Administration wants to bar ACLU from releasing document
• ICE terminates ‘Secure Communities’ agreements; program criticized by its own task force
• Congressman arrested for protesting deportations
• Some deportations supposed to be halted by new policy
• ‘Detention-industrial complex’ thrives as immigration crackdown widens
• Cook County will not routinely comply with ICE detainers
• Operation ‘Cross Check’ detains 2,901 immigrants
• Departing immigrants fingerprinted and sometimes arrested
• Detainees agree to ‘stipulated removal’ without knowing the cost
• Harsh Alabama law largely upheld by judge
• State legislatures consider 1,592 anti-immigrant bills
• Arizona governor asks Supreme Court to endorse SB 1070
• Rhode Island opts for in-state tuition for undocumented
B. IN THE US CONGRESS
• Republicans roll out dangerous anti-immigrant legislation
• Senators urge Justice Department to come clean on use of surveillance powers’
• House committee approves anti-privacy internet bill
C. IN THE COURTS
• Supreme Court to hear case on GPS tracking
• Appeals court sides with ACLU on public release of information
• Appeals court deadlocked on warrantless wiretapping case
• Rumsfeld can be held accountable: appeals court
• Judge says government needs warrant to obtain cell phone data
• Court dismisses challenge to airport body scanners
• Judge’s ruling in leak case is good news – and bad
• District court told that Padilla’s sentence is too lenient
• Appeals court to rule on banning Shariah law
• Government invokes ‘state secrets’ in mosque surveillance case
• Alleged Fort Hood killer charged with premeditated murder
D. IN THE COMMONWEALTH
• Massachusetts received $500 million for ‘homeland security’
• Military commandos buzz Boston buildings including school
• Logan passenger face new type of screening
• Musician hauled off plane for reading about 1940s aircraft while black
• Counterterrorism office opened at Logan Airport
• RMV facial recognition system flags picture as fraudulent; license revoked
• MBTA installs first ‘eye in the sky’ and expands surveillance
• Police using facial recognition technology and automatic license plate readers
• Two million state residents have experienced data theft
• FBI has new special informant: reputed leader of the Mafia
• Cambridge police refuse request from Boston police to turn in Somali cab drivers
• Judge refuses to drop First Amendment charges in Mehanna case
• Local man charged with plotting to bomb Capitol, Pentagon
• Murder, other incidents, boost push for S-Comm
A. EXECUTIVE ACTIONS
Building the National Security Surveillance State
• “DID US TRADE FREEDOM FOR SECURITY AFTER 9/11?”
This Agence France-Presse piece (August 15, 2011) and various probing ‘Ten Years After’ articles leave no doubt that the answer is ‘yes’ (if considerable doubt about whether the new security measures actually work). And, according to the AFP, “most Americans don’t seem to mind” - they assume that ‘security’ is about getting the bad guys and won’t affect them. The AFP describes a nation transformed by “a threat that will always exist, but doesn’t threaten our existence,” in the words of ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, “and yet we treat it as if it’s equivalent to a world war.” Adam Liptak in the September 7 New York Times outlines a new law enforcement paradigm that has replaced fundamental legal principles – “arrest early, charge broadly,” “guilty until proven innocent.” Various reports examining the way the US has fought the “war on terror” both at home and abroad focus on the wall of secrecy erected around anything termed a “national security” matter; on the resort to religious and national origin profiling; on the widespread use of physical surveillance, informers and sting operations; on the abuse of the material witness statute and expansion of massive electronic spying and abuse of such PATRIOT Act powers as the use of National Security Letters; on the bloated terrorism-watch lists; on the use of torture, extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, and extra judicial assassinations far from any battlefield. According to James Bamford, an expert on the NSA, “Somewhere between September 11 and today, the enemy morphed from a handful of terrorists to the American population at large, leaving us nowhere to run and no place to hide” (Politico, September 8). He describes how the “giant ears of the National Security Agency, always pointed outward toward potential enemies, turned inward on the American public itself” as “thousands of analysts who once eavesdropped on troop movements of enemy soldiers in distant countries were now listening in on the bedroom conversations of innocent Americans in nearby states.” The intercepted information will soon be deposited in “the ultimate monument to eavesdropping” – a $2 billion data storage center comprising a million square feet which will be able to hold “a yottabyte of data – equivalent to about a septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.” Bamford points out that “Sept. 11 could have easily been prevented with just the technology at hand – it was caused by human failure, not technological failure.” Relentless fearmongering has produced the “security-industrial complex, a revolving door between those generating the fears and those profiting from them” and, he writes, “there is no return.”
• WE ARE ALL UNDER THE GAZE OF THE SURVEILLANCE STATE
An investigation by National Public Radio and the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals how the ‘Suspicious Activity Reports’ (SARs) that are part of the new law enforcement paradigm affect people going about their everyday lives. “Under Suspicion at the Mall of America” (September 7, 2011) describes the activities of the private counterterrorism unit called RAM (Risk Assessment and Mitigation) that is led and trained by a sergeant in the Israel Defense Forces and patrols the giant Mall of America near Minneapolis. In one case the unit detained and frisked a person who was making a video for his fiancé - he was held for more than two hours, had his videos deleted, and was questioned by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. A Suspicious Activity Report was filed on him and deposited in the Minnesota fusion center. A SAR was also filed on a musician who was scribbling notes while sitting on a bench waiting for a friend. Three security guards surrounded a shopper they thought was looking at them “oddly” and walking “nervously” through the Mall’s amusement park. He turned out to be an insurance company manager looking for a watch for his son. A Pakistani-born US citizen, Najam Qureshi, had an FBI agent show up at his doorstep because a few weeks before his father had left his cell phone on a table in the Mall of America’s food court. The area was cordoned off, and when Qureshi’s father returned to look for the cellphone he was interrogated by security guards who reported him to the police who in turn reported him to the FBI who then came to Qureshi’s house and asked him if he knew anyone in Afghanistan and had any friends in Pakistan. The SARs filed on Quershi and the Mall visitors will be kept in the data base for decades. Copies of the SARs obtained by NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting show they are rich with personal information including Social Security numbers, names of family members and friends and shoppers’ travel plans. In two-thirds of the SARs, people are described as African-American, Asian, Arab or with another ‘minority’ designation. Law enforcement officials around the country have access to 15,000 SARs in the Information Shared Space computer system, and thousands more in the FBI’s eGuardian system. Of the 40,000 phone calls about “suspicious activity” made by people in Washington DC between 2005 and 2007, not a single one was linked to terrorism, according to federally-funded researchers.
• THE BEST SECURITY MONEY CAN BUY OR “THE DECADE’S BIGGEST SCAM”?
So what has been bought with the $690 billion spent on homeland security between 2001 and 2011? This is the estimate given by Ohio University Professor John Mueller and Mark Stewart in their report Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits and Costs of Homeland Security. They state it would take 1,667 Times Square-type attacks every year to justify our current homeland security spending (Slate, September 9). This huge expenditure – some $500 million in “local emergency preparedness” which has come to Massachusetts – has funded (among many other things) “the 18,000-pound truck that carried the SWAT team to the Natick Christmas Eve celebration” (Boston Globe, September 7), a “Zodiac boat with side-scan sonar to respond to a potential attack on a lake in tiny Keith Country, Nebraska” (Glenn Greenwald, “The decade’s biggest scam,” Salon, August 29), thousands of dollars for Cherry County, Nebraska “for cattle nose leads, halters and electric prods – in case terrorists decided to mount biological warfare against cows” (LA Times, August 28). In John Mueller’s words, “The number of people worldwide who are killed by Muslim-type terrorists, Al Qaeda wannabes, is maybe a few hundred outside of war zones. It’s basically the same number of people who die drowning in the bathtub each year. So if your chance of being killed by a terrorist in the United States is 1 in 3.5 million, the question is, how much do you want to spend to get that down to 1 in 4.5 million?” According to Richard Clarke, who was in charge of counterterrorism before 9/11, the budget justifications for homeland security are like a “self-licking ice-cream cone” (Washington Times, September 8). The 9/11 Commission is not convinced that the funding has closed the nation’s security gaps, pointing out that passengers can still smuggle explosives on planes in spite of spending on new full body scanners, there is still not adequate security for ID cards, and emergency communications used by first responders are “inadequate” (LA Times, August 30).
• MORE THAN 4.2 MILLION HAVE SECURITY CLEARANCE
The “Report on Security Clearance Determination for FY2010” produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (September 2011) states that 4,266,091 government employees and contractors have been given confidential/secret security clearance and top secret security clearance as of October 1, 2010. Some 1,419,051 federal employees and contractors held Top Secret clearances – considerably more than the estimate of 854,000 made by Dana Priest and William Arkin in the Washington Post’s “Top Secret America” series. In 2009, the GAO had reported that 2.4 million people had security clearance. The time to conduct clearance checks has been reduced but still in some cases lasted more than a year (Secrecy News, September 20).
• GOVERNMENT SECRECY HAS “RUN AMOK”
According to “Drastic Measures Required,” an ACLU report released on July 28, secrecy has pervaded the US government to such an extent that we now live in a country of “secret agencies, secret committees in Congress, a secret court and even secret laws, to keep to keep government activities from public scrutiny” (ACLU press release, July 28). The report found that the government made 76,795,945 decisions to classify material in 2010, an increase of more than 40 percent over 2009. It calls on Congress to overhaul US secrecy laws and dramatically increase its oversight.
• 21,000 DHS INTELLIGENCE REPORTS THE EQUIVALENT OF SPAM
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the DHS’ Office of Intelligence Analysis has produced some 21,000 largely unread reports since 2003 which were “outdated, irrelevant or vague, or have regurgitated stories that appeared in the media” (americaswarwithin.org, September 5). One critic claims the DHS office has “produced almost nothing you can’t find on Google.” With a mandate to gather, analyze and share intelligence to forestall terrorist attacks and write reports, the “ill-equipped and inexperienced” new bureaucracy has given over a hundred million dollars to multibillion-dollar consulting firms like Booz Allen Hamilton (with former CIA, FBI and other one-time federal officials on its payroll) and General Dynamics. Contractors would write and redraft reports – one on “Right-Wing Extremism” which caused a furor when it became public went through 28 re-writes. The office also published “raw intelligence” about he pipe bomb left along the parade route on MLK Day in Spokane, Washington some three weeks after it happened with this insight: “The Washington State Fusion Center continues to monitor the investigation.”
• DHS TO CREATE ‘DHS WATCHLIST SERVICE’
The Department of Homeland Security is proposing duplicating existing FBI and other watchlists to create a ‘Watchlist Service’ that will be able to be accessed by more in house employees and agencies. The database will contain personal information, biomatric and photographic data, passport information, driver’s license information and “other available identifying particulars.” In its Notice of Proposed Rulemakingm the DHS states that it will “exempt portions of the system of records from one or more provisions of the Privacy Act because of criminal, civil and administrative enforcement requirements,” prompting complaints from civil liberties and privacy groups. While the 1974 Privacy Act had required that subjects of government surveillance be given notice and the opportunity to correct information being held about them, the secretive watchlists contain information which cannot be checked and could be wholly inaccurate (Public Intelligence, August 9).
• PRIVACY AND CIVIL LIBERTIES OVERSIGHT BOARD AS GOOD AS DEAD
Despite being recommended by the 9/11 Commission and established by Congress, the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board - which limped along under President Bush - has not met at all under President Obama. Obama nominated two members last year but there are still three vacancies. Among the tasks it was supposed to take on was monitoring the FBI’s use of National Security Letters (Washington Times, August 30).
• FBI CONDUCTS 82,325 ASSESSMENTS IN TWO YEARS WITH LITTLE TO SHOW FOR IT
According to data obtained by the New York Times, between March 2009 and March 2011 the FBI opened 82,325 assessments of individuals and groups and closed most of them without finding any evidence of wrongdoing. Over half the assessments (42,888) were to see if individuals were terrorists or spies - 1,986 led to preliminary or full investigations with the rest closed. In 39,437 assessments agents were looking for evidence of crime and subsequently opened 1,329 investigations. The data about a target is retained by the FBI even if no reason is found to conduct a more intensive investigation. In October, the FBI will release a new version of its internal manual, the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, which will relax further some of the techniques used at the assessment stage (which currently include conducting surveillance, sending in informants to meetings, trawling databases).
• FBI USED INFORMANTS IN HALF OF 500 TERRORISM PROSECUTIONS
According to an investigation by Mother Jones, all except three domestic terrorism plots were “actually FBI stings. In many cases, key encounters between the informant and the target were not recorded, making it nearly impossible for defendants claiming entrapment to prove their case” (Democracy Now, August 25). Trevor Aaronson, the author of the article “The Informants,” states that “the FBI has recruited a network of informants that today numbers 15,000. And their job is to go out into the communities and find people who are likely to commit acts of violence, then assign other informants, who will go and offer them the means.” In the case of the Newburgh Four, an informant was paid $100,000 to facilitate all phases of the plot.
• FBI AGENTS TO BE TESTED ON SURVEILLANCE GUIDELINES
After the Justice Department’s Inspector General found that a “significant number” of 14,000 FBI agents had cheated on the test on surveillance given in 2009, a new test covering the information in the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide is being scheduled (wired.com, August 12). It is not known whether the cheaters have been disciplined.
• DOCUMENTS INDICATE THERE IS NO FOOLPROOF WAY TO GET OFF FBI WATCH LIST
According to newly-disclosed documents relating to the watch list of terrorist suspects maintained by the FBI at its Terrorist Screening Center, even if suspects are acquitted in court proceedings they may well be kept in the Center’s database, which currently has about 420,000 names including 8,000 Americans (New York Times, September 28). Of that number, about 16,000 people, including 500 Americans, are on the ‘no fly’ list and are not permitted to board planes. The Electronic Privacy Information Center that received the documents through a FOIA request stated: “In the United States, you are supposed to be assumed innocent. But on the watch list, you may be assumed guilty, even after the court dismisses your case.” As long as the government has ‘suspicion’ about a person, that person will remain on the list in a special file and sometimes multiple agencies will have to be involved before a person is finally cleared from the list. The Terrorist Screening Center shares watchlist data with federal agencies that screen airplane passengers and are crossing land borders and with local police when they check names during traffic stops. If they encounter someone on the list, they must immediately call the federal government for instructions. Soon regional fusion centers will be automatically notified when such an encounter occurs.
• FBI NEXT GENERATION IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM BEING ROLLED OUT
The FBI has a new mobile system that enables police officers to check fingerprints of suspects at the scene and run digital images through a new Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC) which is part of the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system (Federal Computer, August 25). The fingerprints are submitted to the RISC database of 2.5 million sets of fingerprints of “appropriately suspected” terrorists, people on the Sex Offender Registry and unspecified “others” with a match sent to the police officer in 10 seconds. In its pilot phase, 500,000 fingerprints have been submitted to RISC, with a 5.6 percent positive response rate. “With the previous FBI fingerprint system, checks could be made for outstanding warrants. But beyond that, running a fingerprint check was a long and arduous process that took several hours.” NGI is being rolled out in stages, with RISC deployment being the third of seven scheduled deployments of the NGI system that will replace the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. About a third of the data to be included in the NGI system will be collected from civil sources, including attorney bar applications, information about federal and state employees, and people who work with the elderly and children. Immigration data will also be absorbed into the system. The Electronic Freedom Foundation has concerns about “the expanded linking and tracking capabilities associated with robust and standardized biometrics collection systems and the potential for data compromise” (“The FBI’s Next Generation Identification: Bigger and Faster but Much Worse for Privacy,” www.eff.org
, July 8, 2011).
• PROBE OF NEW YORK JTTF HIGHLIGHTS TENSIONS BETWEEN FBI, NYPD
Turf and trust issues between the NYPD and FBI – which work together in the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) -- are being examined by a Washington grand jury which is seeking the source of press leaks concerning Najibullah Zazi who was arrested in September 2009 for planning to bomb the New York subway (The Wall Street Journal, July 28). Subpoenas have reportedly been issued to nine NYPD police officers. Leaks to the press in the Zazi case and in that of the would-be Times Square bomber infuriated the FBI which feared they were “compromising their ability to catch suspects and collaborators in globally-hatched plots to detonate bombs on US soil.”
• NYPD COUNTERTERRORISM UNIT SPYING ON MUSLIMS WITH CIA HELP
In an exposé headlined “With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim areas,” Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman of the Associated Press reveal that the New York Police Department has been “staging undercover operations and conducting surveillance” not just in New York City, but in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and that it also operates abroad. And it “does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying. Neither the city council, which finances the department, nor the federal government, which contributes hundreds of millions of dollars each year, is told exactly what’s going on” (www.NewsObserver.com
, August 24). The CIA is barred by law from spying on Americans within the United States. And yet David Cohen, an “extraordinarily divisive figure” at the CIA for 35 years and head of CIA operations with no police experience, and another CIA official, Larry Sanchez, worked with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to build its counterterrorism unit, using informants as the backbone of its operations. Cohen created a secret squad (the Demographic Unit) to “rake the coals, looking for hot spots.” They would infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods and hang out in cafes, ethnic bookstores, restaurants, mosques and street corners observing the community, listening for radical statements and keeping tabs on what customers seek out radical books and websites in stores and on the Internet. “The goal was to ‘map the city’s human terrain,’ one law enforcement official said. The program was modeled in party on how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank, a former police official said.” The article details how the NYPD would recruit informants among young Middle Easterners who have been arrested, in prisons and among the city’s Pakistani cab drivers who might have done something that can be used to pressure them to cooperate. “The aggressiveness has sometimes put the NYPD at odds with local police departments and, more frequently, with the FBI…By design, the NYPD was looking more and more like a domestic CIA” (see In the Commonwealth, below).
• INTERNAL CIA ENQUIRY INVESTIGATES LEGALITY OF WORK WITH NYPD
According to the September 14 New York Times, the CIA under its new director David Petraeus is examining its relationship with the NYPD. A spokeswoman for the agency said its work in New York “is exactly what the American people deserve and have come to expect following 9/11.” If a report is ever issued, it is likely to be kept secret. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has called for Senate hearings and asked the Justice Department to investigate “the civil rights implications of this spy program” (reuters.com, August 24).
• FIRST AMENDMENT-PROTECTED SPEECH BEING CRIMINALIZED BY FBI
On September 2, the FBI announced it was charging a Virginia resident, 24-year-old Jubair Ahmad, with “providing material support” to a designated terrorist organization by producing and uploading a short video to YouTube featuring photos of US abuses in Iraq, scenes of military devastation, and prayer messages about “jihad” from the leader of the group Lashkar-e-Tayiba. He faces up to 23 years in jail for uploading the video and denying he did it when he was first interviewed by the FBI. As Glenn Greenwald states, this is the latest of a string of DOJ efforts to prosecute people based on their use of the Internet to “promote violent jihad” – despite the fact that the First Amendment prohibits the government “from punishing someone for the political views they express, even if those views include the advocacy of violence against the US and its leaders. One can dislike this legal fact. One can wish it were different. But it is the clear and unambiguous law, and has been since the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, which overturned the criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who had publicly threatened violence against political officials in a speech” (September 4). Greenwald also points out that many prominent politicians have not only been enthusiastic advocates of a group on the list of “designated Terrorist Organizations” – the MEK of Iran – but have been paid for promoting that group. “As usual, though, ‘Terrorism’ means nothing other than what the US Government wants it to mean at any given moment. The evisceration of the rule of law evidenced by this disparate treatment is as odious as the First Amendment assault itself.”
• NO SIGN OF GROWING EXTREMISM AMONG MUSLIM AMERICANS
An extensive Pew Research public opinion study “finds no indication of increased alienation or anger among Muslim Americans in response to concerns about home-grown Islamic terrorists, controversies about the building of mosques, and other pressures that have been brought to bear on this high-profile minority group in recent years” (PewResearchCenter Publications, August 30, 2011). But 52 percent said Muslims had been singled out by the government for surveillance and 43 percent reported being harassed in the past year. An earlier poll by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center found the vast majority of American Muslims are loyal about America, and optimistic about the future, while 60 percent had confidence in the FBI (75 percent of Americans in other religious groups expressed such confidence) and about half had experienced religious or racial discrimination over the preceding year (New York Times, August 3).
• WHITE HOUSE PUTS FORWARD A NEW ‘VIOLENT EXTREMISM’ STRATEGY
On August 1, the White House issued “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.” Without ever defining the term “extremism,” the strategy document responds to the approach taken by Rep. Peter King’s “radicalization” hearings by contending that a focus “on a single, current form of violent extremism, without regard to other threats” will not keep the country safe since the “threat environment” was constantly evolving. “As extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with the respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that Muslim Americans are part of our American family.” The document states that national security depends on the facilitation of local partnerships through such programs as the ‘Building Communities of Trust Initiative’ [essentially an effort to sell the emerging national surveillance state to community groups]. To promote those partnerships, “the Federal government is building a robust training program with rigorous curriculum standards” to ensure that communities and law enforcement receive training that is “based on intelligence, research and accurate information” (www.whitehouse.gov
• FBI: ‘MAINSTREAM’ MUSLIMS LIKELY TO BE ‘VIOLENT’ AND ‘RADICAL’
Recent FBI training materials obtained by wired.com feature a chart showing the more “devout” a Muslim is, the more likely he is to be “violent” and a terrorist sympathizer (Spencer Ackerman, wired.com, September 14). According to the documents used at the FBI training headquarters at Quantico, Virginia, unlike the followers of the Torah and the Bible who move from “violent” to “non-violent” as their faith deepens, followers of the Koran will always be agents of aggression and adherents of Islam will always practice “verbal deception.” Several of the briefings were written by FBI intelligence analyst William Gawthorp, formerly of the Defense Department’s Counterintelligence Field Agency (CIFA) which kept the Talon database on anti-war groups and other “threats” to military bases. Gawthorp has lectured to law enforcement officials in New York that the way to defeat terrorists is to go after Islam itself as its ideology is an “expansive doctrine with a single agenda: world imperium. Controlling the world” (Spencer Ackerman, wired.com, September 15). After the training materials became public, they were denounced as “lies” in the US Senate by Sen. Joe Lieberman, the chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. The FBI announced it was immediately halting the use of the materials (AP, September 15).
• TERRORISM TRAINING TURNS STATE EMPLOYEE INTO A SUSPECT
Dina Temple-Raston on NPR described an April 2010 training organized for the Columbus, Ohio police entitled “Understanding the True Nature of the Threat to Islam” (July 18). One of the trainers, John Guandolo, was a former Marine and former FBI agent who flashed on the screen a picture of a local college professor, Omar al-Omari, that showed him standing with members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The trainer suggested that Omari, who was very well known in Columbus and ran a Muslim outreach program for Ohio’s Department of Public Safety, had links to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and even al-Qaida. Although on the following day the FBI denied Omari was a terrorism suspect, Guandolo implied he had access to intelligence that made it clear that he was. Omari subsequently lost his job with the state of Ohio – not because of any demonstrated terrorism links but because officials who dug into his background found his employment application was incomplete because he hadn’t listed all the schools where he had worked. Omari said he only listed those where he had taught relevant courses and is now suing the Department of Public Safety for wrongful dismissal. Guandolo and his fellow trainers are still in the training business and were due to conduct a session at the CIA in August.
• ANTI-SHARIAH MOVEMENT SIMILAR TO 19TH CENTURY ANTI-SEMITISM
Eliyahu Stern, a Yale religious study professor, has outlined similarities between today’s effort to outlaw shariah law in more than a dozen states and the legislation directed against Jewish religious law in 19th century Europe (“Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America,” New York Times, September 3).
• IRAQI REFUGEES IN US TO BE RE-SCREENED TO LOOK FOR TERRORISTS
Because of fears of immigration security lapses, some 58,000 Iraqi refugees and refugees from Yemen, Somalia and other countries where terrorist groups are active are being rescreened with their personal data (phone numbers, email addresses, fingerprints, iris scans) being checked against data in military, law enforcement and intelligence databases (LAtimes.com, July 18). Fingerprints are being checked against material housed at the FBI-run Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center in Quantico, Virginia which contains more than 70,000 defused bombs recovered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Checking against the Army database (which includes photos, palm prints, iris scans and DNA samples) is a slow manual process because it has been kept off the Internet to prevent hacking and does not (yet) connect to the immigration database. Thirty thousand Iraqis – many of whom worked with the US military - have applied for asylum. Admitting them is now at a virtual standstill due to the re-screening process. To add to the uncertainty, some 4,000 Iraqis – among others - who were granted refugee status or political asylum are now being denied green cards because they once belonged to a group supported by the US that tried to overthrow Saddam Hussein or were involved in other armed conflict deemed terrorist-related activity under federal immigration law (New York Times, September 18).
• TERRORIST SUSPECTS COULD LURK UNDETECTED IN PILOT DATABASE
According to an internal DHS report, only about 750,000 people holding pilot licenses out of the 1.3 million names in the Federal Aviation Administration database can be linked to the Social Security database, and as many as 15,000 who do have Social Security numbers do not match for name, sex or date of birth. Although “not all the discrepancies represent a potential security threat” they indicate ”the poor state of federal records, almost a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks. An initial computer scan found about 29,000 certificates that matched names on the government’s Terrorist Screening Database, but further study found that 28,500 of the matches were invalid; 506 were turned over for closer scrutiny” with the certificates of 27 being cancelled after it was determined that they could have terrorist connections (New York Times, July 28).
• TSA NEEDS TO DO MORE TO VALIDATE SECURITY METHODS: GAO
Reports in September from the Government Accountability Office indicate that after spending billions, “the TSA has made progress, but additional efforts are needed to improve security” (September 16). Although the DHS has completed an initial study to validate the scientific basis of the Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program, “additional work remains to fully validate the program.” In Congressional testimony, Steve Lord, Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues, stated that the TSA “has not consistently incorporated information on costs and benefits in making acquisition decisions,” with the result that “costly redesign and rework” often has to take place at a later date. (GAO, “DHS and TSA acquisition and Development of New Technologies, September 22).
• FULL-BODY SCANNERS NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME
German field testing of how full body scanners performed on more than 800,000 passengers over a ten month period in Hamburg airport has determined that “the technology is not yet to the stage where the available devices are suitable for everyday use” due to the high rate of false alarms (www.bmi.bund.de
, September 2).
• BODY BOMBS COULD ELUDE NAKED SCANNING MACHINES
After the TSA alerted airlines in mid July to the risk of implanted explosives, security experts said X-rays might be necessary to detect them but might require “greater radiation exposure than would be considered acceptable on a routine basis” (Bloomberg, July 18). There are no indications of an imminent threat and it is unlikely that bomb implants would cause a big enough explosion to bring down a plane. The TSA announced at the end of July that it would soon be changing the software in the naked scanner machines so that the image produced would not be so revealing (Boston Globe, July 31).
• “RACIALLY-PROFILED AND CUFFED IN DETROIT”
On September 11, 2011 Shoshana Hebshi, the mother of 6 year-old twins, was flying to Detroit from Denver when the plane she was on was made to land by two F-16 fighter jets and surrounded by police cars. She and the two men of Indian descent sitting in her row who were strangers to her and each other were then handcuffed, taken off the plane, strip searched, locked in a cell and questioned - the FBI later said this was a “precautionary measure” (USA Today, September 14). Someone on the plane had reported them acting “suspiciously” after one of the men had gone to the bathroom to deal with his airsickness (see In the Commonwealth, below).
• ACLU LAWSUIT SEEKS INFORMATION ABOUT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY REPORTS
After the FBI refused to hand over information about its nationwide system of collecting and sharing so-called ‘Suspicious Activity Reports’ (SARs) in response to a FOIA request, the ACLU has gone to court to demand to know what kind of SARs are being collected and placed in the FBI eGuardian database with no evidence of wrongdoing and whether racial profiling plays a role (ACLU press release, August 25).
• NORWAY ADOPTS UN-AMERICAN RESPONSE TO OSLO ATTACK
Rather than responding to the July 22 massacre by Anders Breivik on the Labor Party Utoya Island youth camp that left at least 76 people dead by calling for more government power and expanded security measures, Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang declared in the aftermath of the killings that “I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect.” Similarly, the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg claimed that the “Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation” (quoted in Glenn Greenwald, Salon, July 27, 2011). Greenwald writes that “since the attacks, Stoltenberg and members of Norway’s royal family have underlined the country’s openness by making public appearances with little visible security” unlike in the US where the response to 9/11 of the political class was to adopt “a supreme fixation on safety at the expense of every other value: a fixation that is in equal measures cowardly, authoritarian and exploitative…so drowning in secrecy is the National Security State that the Obama administration refuses even to explain how it interprets and applies surveillance powers enacted by Congress…What’s most striking, and ironic, is that the Norwegian response to the Oslo attack is so glaringly un-American even though its core premise – a brave refusal to sacrifice liberty and transparency in the name of fear and security – was once the political value Americans boasted of exhibiting most.”
• PATRIOT ACT USED TO OBTAIN WIKILEAKS ACCOUNT INFORMATION
Dynadot, the California-based web host of WikiLeaks, has complied with a sealed court order to hand over information on Julian Assange and each account registered to, or associated with WikiLeaks (Bloomberg, August 25).
• PENTAGON FIGHTING BACK AGAINST CYBER ATTACKS
The Department of Defense has revealed that in March a foreign power broke into the computer system of one of its contractors and stole 24,000 files. Over the years, among the files that have been stolen are those relating to missile tracking systems, surveillance drones, cutting edge jet fighters and satellite systems. Under its Cyber Command, it is now developing a new offensive strategy against cyberattacks (New York Times, July 15). The August 4 Los Angeles Times reports that over the past five years hackers have “infiltrated the computer networks of thousands of companies, organizations and governments, stealing reams of intellectual property, military information and state secrets.” Sometimes the hackers have remained embedded in computer systems for years, collecting secret data.
• FBI OPENS INVESTIGATION INTO HACKING OF PHONES OF 9/11 VICTIMS
In the wake of the Rupert Murdoch News Corporation hacking scandal in the UK, the FBI at the request of Rep. Peter King has opened an investigation to find out whether journalists working for News of the World had used unauthorized wiretapping and bribery to obtain the phone records of victims of the 9/11 attacks (New York Times, July 15).
• FEDS TO SHUT 800 COMPUTER DATA CENTERS
Maintaining some 2,000 data centers costs federal agencies $80 billion a year. The government now plans to shut about 800 of them over the next four years, consolidate data and shift to cloud computing. Among the data centers to be shut is the 185,000 square foot DHS center in Atlanta (New York Times, July 20, 2011).
• ACLU WANTS TO KNOW HOW POLICE ARE USING CELL PHONE DATA
Thirty-five ACLU affiliates around the country have filed public-record requests with hundreds of law enforcement agencies seeking disclosure on how police get cell phone location data and how much money is being spent on tracking cell phones (Associated Press, August 4). The organization maintains that police should be required to demonstrate probable cause and get warrants before tracking cell phone locations. Information obtained by one affiliate reveals that Verizon holds information about everyone you’ve exchanged text messages with – and the contents of those messages – for a year; T Mobile (minus the contents) for 5 years; Sprint (minus contents) for 18 months; and AT & T for 7 years but minus the contents (Wired, September 28).
• POLICE CAN USE SMARTPHONE TO COLLECT BIOMETRIC INFORMATION
Plymouth, Massachusetts-based B12 Technologies is promoting to police departments its mobile technology which when attached to a smartphone enables officers to take a digital photo that includes iris scanning and facial recognition and can be matched against an existing biometric database by using a wireless connection. “With the device, police will instantly be able to check to see whether the face is that of someone with a criminal record” (CBS News, July 15). Similar technology has been used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan and has been tested in Plymouth County. The company says it has received 1,000 orders for the $3,000 devices (see In the Commonwealth, below).
• MICHIGAN POLICE USE TECHNOLOGY TO TRACK AND EXTRACT DATA
The Michigan State Police officers reportedly have devices that are capable of extracting data from cell phones and have for three years refused ACLU requests for information about the devices (Detroit Free Press, June 18). They also routinely use automatic license plate recognition technology and under state law claim they do not need a warrant to put a GPS device on a car to track its movements (see In the Courts, below).
• SF TRANSIT POLICE BLOCK CELL PHONES TO THWART PROTEST
After the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police killed a man in July, officials cut off underground cell phone access so that the group No Justice No Bart could not coordinate their protest activity. BART maintained that since it paid for cell service underground, it had the right to cut it off (New York Times, August 12). The ACLU’s Michael Risher stated that “the government shouldn’t be in the business of cutting off the free flow of information. Shutting down access to mobile phones is the wrong response to political protests, whether it’s halfway around the world or right here in San Francisco” (USA Today, August 14).
• CHICAGO POLICE TO CREATE NEW COUNTERTERRORISM UNIT
The designers of the NYPD’s counterterrorism strategy are advising Chicago on the creation of a counter-terrorism unit which will be prepared to deal with threats at the May 2012 G-8 and NATO summit meetings (Examiner.com, September 9).
• POLICE OFFICER CHARGED WITH MISUSING POLICE DATABASE
A 20-year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department has been arrested and charged with “unauthorized use of property.” He is the fourth Cleveland city employee (others include a detective in the domestic violence unit and a senior data conversion operator in the police records section) to be accused of misusing police databases (Cleveland.com, July 29).
• COOK COUNTY IS ABANDONING DHS SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS
For seven years, Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) has been trying to implement “Project Shield” and install video surveillance cameras on street corners and in cop cars with the help of a $45 million grant from DHS. “Plagued by poor planning, incompetent installations and insider dealing” and subjected to an ongoing FBI investigation, the plug is now being pulled on Project Shield (ChicagoBusiness.com, June 30, 2011).
• CALIFORNIA BARS WARRANTLESS CELL PHONE SEARCHES
After the California Supreme Court voted to allow the police to search cell phones without a warrant, the California legislature passed a law requiring police have a warrant before they can search mobile devices (wired.com, September 21).
• PREDATOR DRONES PUT TO ‘ROUTINE CIVILIAN USES’
Pilotless Predator B drones are now being used not just for border control in Arizona, Texas and Florida, but to look for “rogue brush fires” and floods in North Dakota and Missouri (Latimes.com, September 12). Drones – which can stay aloft for 20 hours at a time - are able to detect a backpack on a hiker 8 miles away when flying at an altitude of 20,000 feet. According to the ACLU’s Jay Stanley, the unregulated use of drones “leaves the gates wide open for a dramatic increase in surveillance of American life.”
Indefinite Detention, Military Commissions, Torture, Extrajudicial Killing,
• US SUCCEEDS IN ASSASSINATING ITS CITIZENS
On September 30, US-born Anwar al-Awlaki who had advocated violent jihad in his speeches and writings was killed by a drone strike in Yemen (New York Times, September 30). Assassinated with al-Awlaki was another American, Samir Khan. President Obama praised the operation. But “the White House refused to offer evidence of al-Awlaki's role in terrorism or answer questions about the standard for killing an American. Press secretary Jay Carney said any such questions dealt with the circumstances of the killing and he refused to discuss that” (Boston Globe.com, September 30. Al-Awlaki had never been charged with any crime or given any kind of due process, and according to Glenn Greenwald, it was never clear that he had an operational role in Al Qaeda. Greenwald writes: “What's most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar (‘No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law’), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What's most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government's new power to assassinate their fellow citizens,
far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government” (Salon, September 30).
• CIA CLAIMS THERE WERE NO CIVILIAN DEATHS FROM DRONE STRIKES OVER PAST YEAR
While news reports describe religious schools, restaurants and houses being hit by drones in Pakistan with scores of civilians killed, John Brennan, the chief terrorism advisor to the president, declared in June that for nearly a year along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop” (New York Times, August 12). How does the CIA know who has been obliterated by a strike? It says it and the NSA intercept phone calls and emails discussing who has been killed and they track funerals. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (UK) issued a study of drone strikes in the border region, finding that “far more civilians are being injured or dying than the Americans and Pakistanis admit” (Salon, July 19). It found 45 or more civilian deaths in 10 strikes from August 2010, with at least 15 other strikes warranting investigation.
• SECRET DRONE BASES BEING BUILT IN AFRICA, ARABIAN PENINSULA
The September 20 Washington Post reported that the Obama Administration is “assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations.” Bases are being established in the Seychelles, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and a secret location in the Arabian Peninsula. CIA drone attacks target suspects in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somali and Yemen, and more countries are expected to be added to the list. Georgetown Law Professor David Cole has raised the legal implications of US drone strikes on suspects far from the battlefield in “A Secret License to Kill” (New York Review of Books, September 19). He points out that the precedent being set by the United States is one that other countries might decide to follow. “Imagine that Russia started killing individuals living in the United States with remote-controlled drone missiles, and argued that it was justified in doing so because it had determined, in secret, that they posed a threat to Russia’s security, and that the United States was unwilling to turn them over. Would we calmly pronounce such actions compliant with the rule of law?”
• CIA TURNS PARAMILITARY AS DRONE STRIKES NOW ROUTINE
The transformation of the CIA since 9/11 is described in the September 1 Washington Post (“CIA shifts focus to killing targets”). In those years, it has killed more than 2,000 people (suspects and innocent civilians), with 114 drone strikes taking place in 2010, according to the September 8 Wall Street Journal. The staff at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center has grown from 300 to 2,000. Rather than focusing on its traditional spying mission, about a fifth of CIA analysts are now “targeters” who scan data “for individuals to recruit, arrest or place in the crosshairs of a drone.” One former official said, “You’ve taken an agency that was chugging along and turned it into one hell of a killing machine.” The CIA operates its own proxy militias in Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere. CIA officers, Special Forces and contractors are all now “blended together” under the command of the CIA and operate in “an expanding netherworld between intelligence and military operations.” In September 2011, a federal judge dismissed an ACLU FOIA lawsuit for the CIA to turn over documents on its use of drones. The CIA had argued that merely confirming the existence of material would reveal classified information (AP, September 10). The previous month, a different federal court judge refused to hold the CIA accountable for its cover up of torture by destroying the videotapes of interrogations (New York Times, August 11).
• QADDAFI REGIME PARTICIPATED IN CIA RENDITION PROGRAM
The CIA and the former Libyan government worked closely together to interrogate prisoners, according to documents found in an abandoned office of the Libyan intelligence agency (New York Times, September 3). The CIA provided Libya with information about the whereabouts of members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which was working to overthrow Qaddafi and sent at least one man to Libya to be tortured who is now a military leader with the rebel army. “We are committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both of our services,” the CIA wrote to the Libyans.
• SUIT OVER PAYMENT SHINES LIGHT ON RENDITION PROGRAM
A business dispute being heard over the past four years in a court in upstate New York has resulted in 1,700 pages of filings relating to the US program of “extraordinary rendition” seeing the light of day. At issue is a fight between Richmor Aviation and SportsFlight Air over $1.6 million which Richmor says it was owed by SportsFlight for secret flights - the New York state appeals court reduced the amount to $874,000. Richmor had supplied corporate jets and crews to the government to transport rendition victims for interrogation/torture in various cities (including Cairo, Damascus, Amman, Rabat) and CIA black sites (in Poland, Romania, Thailand, Lithuania and Afghanistan) and then to Guantanamo. SportsFlight Air organized the flights for DynCorp, which acted on behalf of the CIA to secretly oversee the rendition program. Many of the documents are contracts and invoices relating to the flights, including expense claims that crew members submitted after their secret journeys (UK Guardian, August 31). Private business jets made as many as ten landings over a single mission, at a cost to the government of $300,000 per flight. Richmor’s president referred to the flights as classified and said the passengers were “government personnel and their invitees” (AP, August 31).
• CIA CENSORS BOOK ABOUT TORTURE PROGRAM
The CIA has demanded extensive cuts of the text of The Black Banners, a forthcoming book by former FBI agent and interrogator Ali Soufan which is critical of CIA interrogations. Much of the material the CIA wants censored has been in the public record for years. In the words of a CIA spokeswoman, “Just because something is in the public domain doesn’t mean it’s been officially released or declassified by the US government” (Glenn Greenwald, Salon, August 26). Greenwald writes: “As the Supreme Court explained, few things are more damaging to a democracy than allowing political leaders to abuse secrecy powers to cover-up wrongdoing and control the flow of information the public hears, i.e. to propagandize the citizenry. But that’s exactly what Washington’s secrecy fixation is designed to achieve. And while excessive secrecy has been a problem for the US for decades, the Obama administration’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers makes it much more odious, since now it is about not only keeping vital information from the public and stifling public debate, but also threatening whistleblowers (and investigative reporters) with prolonged imprisonment.”
• “HOW MANY SECRET WARS ARE WE FIGHTING?”
This is the question Nick Turse set out to answer (Salon, August 4). He traces the growth of US Special Operations Command, established in 1987, with its clandestine sub-command Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that tracks and kills suspected terrorists and runs a network of secret prisons, with as many as 20 black sites in Afghanistan alone. Numbering almost 60,000, the troops of the Special Operations Command are now at work in 120 countries, Turse claims, where they “carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans.” US secret wars are also becoming increasingly privatized. In Somalia, where the US does not want to play a visible role on the ground, it has hired a mercenary group, Bancroft Global Development, to be our fighting force (New York Times, August 11).
• CHENEY YET AGAIN DEFENDS TORTURE, THE INVASION OF IRAQ
In his 576-page memoir In My Time, former vice-president Dick Cheney defends what the Bush Administration called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” In various television appearances he claimed that methods like waterboarding should still be used, along with secret prisons (Democracy Now, August 30). He told Dateline’s Jamie Gangel that “we did the right thing” in invading Iraq even though there were no WMDs. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, told Amy Goodman that waterboarding was used against an “high level al-Qaeda operative” in Egypt to get him to say that Iraq was involved in training al-Qaeda in the use of chemical and biological weapons, information that was used to convince Powell to go along with the invasion. The tortured man recanted a week or two later. Col. Wilkerson stated on Democracy Now that Cheney and other Bush Administration officials should be held accountable for their crimes and that he would be willing to testify and “to take any punishment I’m due.” He said of Cheney’s book: “This is a book written out of fear, fear that one day someone will ‘Pinochet’ Dick Cheney.”
• GUANTANAMO DETAINEE WHO HAD BEEN TORTURED FACES DEATH PENALTY
The government has brought capital charges against Abd al Rahim al Nashiri for his role in the Cole bombing. CIA documents indicate that after being arrested in 2002, al Nashiri was subjected to “harsh interrogation tactics” including a mock execution and being threatened with a power drill. Critics decry the fact that in spite of his treatment he could be sentenced to die by Military Commission proceedings that do not contain the safeguards of civilian trials (LA Times, September 28).
• SOLDIER CONVICTED OF ABU GHRAIB ABUSE RELEASED EARLY
Charles Graner was released after serving 6 1/2 years of a 10 year sentence for his role as ringleader in the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He said his abuse of the prisoners was in line with military intelligence instructions that they should be softened up to prepare them for interrogation (Boston Globe, August 7).
• ADMINSTRATION WANTS TO BAR ACLU FROM RELEASING DOCUMENT
The government has asked a judge to order the ACLU to return a classified document accidentally handed over as part of a FOIA lawsuit and to keep its content secret. The document is a military form that is used to record the recommendations of detainee review boards at Bagram Prison (UPI, July 14).
• ICE TERMINATES ‘SECURE COMMUNITIES’ AGREEMENTS; PROGRAM CRITICIZED BY ITS OWN TASK FORCE
In response to the growing opposition to the S-Comm around the country, ICE head John Morton appointed a task force in June to listen to criticisms and make recommendations about how to improve the program. He followed that with a letter to the Governor of Delaware (August 5, 2011) in which he stated that “ICE has determined that an MOA is not required to activate or operate Secure Communities for any jurisdiction…For this reason, ICE has decided to terminate all existing Secure Communities MOA’s.” This peremptory decision was widely denounced as a power-grab by the federal government. The report that was issued by the ‘Homeland Security Advisory Council Task Force on Secure Communities’ in September 2011 highlighted its multiple shortcomings – lack of trust, damage to public safety, failure to carry out its mission and to get buy in from localities, confusion and ambiguities involved in its legal status and roll out – and made far-ranging recommendations about what should be done to revise it. The recommendations did not go far enough for one retired law enforcement officer, Chief Arturo Venegas, who resigned from the task force because the report did not endorse the three recommendations he felt were critical to improving this “deeply flawed program”: tailor the program to focus only on serious criminals; clarify the limits of police authority to enforce immigration law; and create meaningful accountability mechanisms (Letter from Venegas to Chuck Wexler, chair of Task Force, September 14).
• CONGRESSMAN ARRESTED FOR PROTESTING DEPORTATIONS
Rep. Luis Gutierrez was among a dozen protesters arrested outside the White House for protesting the large number of immigrants being deported under the Obama Administration (Reuters, July 27).
• SOME DEPORTATIONS SUPPOSED TO BE HALTED BY NEW POLICY
On August 18, the Obama Administration announced that on a case by case basis, ICE would stop the deportations of longtime residents with clean records who came to the US as children or have close family members who are in the military or are parents or spouses of American citizens. Among those who are expected to benefit are young people who might have won legal status if the Dream Act had become law. However, they would remain in legal limbo, vulnerable to deportation at any time (New York Times, August 23).
• ‘DETENTION-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX’ THRIVES AS IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN WIDENS
Writing in the September 28 New York Times, Nina Bernstein documents the soaring profits being made on three continents (in Britain, Australia, US) by private security companies that specialize in locking up immigrants. In the US, detentions have gone up from 280,000 in 2005 to 400,000 today, with private companies providing half the beds.
• COOK COUNTY WILL NOT ROUTINELY COMPLY WITH ICE DETAINERS
The County Board of Commissioners in Cook County has endorsed an ordinance that will stop law enforcement officials from routinely holding people for up to 48 hours after they are set to be released if ICE so requests by issuing a ‘detainer’. The ordinance was approved after an Indiana federal court ruled in June that detainer requests are not criminal warrants. The ordinance prohibits ICE agents from having access to people being held by the county without a criminal warrant and orders the sheriff’s department to decline detainer requests unless the federal government agrees in writing to reimburse the costs of holding someone for the extra time – estimated at $15.7 million a year for the county last year (chicagonewscoop.org, September 7).
• OPERATION ‘CROSS CHECK’ DETAINS 2,901 IMMIGRANTS
A week-long nation-wide operation involving nearly 2,000 ICE agents as well as state and local police has resulted in the detention of 2,901 “convicted criminal immigrants,” according to ICE (CNN, September 28).
This was the largest such sweep ever, according to reports.
• DEPARTING IMMIGRANTS FINGERPRINTED AND SOMETIMES ARRESTED
People traveling south by bus, car or foot to cross the border with Mexico are being fingerprinted, photographed and checked for illegal entry, and thousands have been arrested and then formally deported (New York Times, August 10). Backscatter vans, surveillance drones and the latest camera and scanning technology are in use at the border. Critics say that the new policy is discouraging some undocumented immigrants from leaving. Meanwhile, US Border Patrol agents are increasingly boarding Greyhound and other buses and Amtrak trains within the US and removing people who do not have proper documentation (Miami Herald, August 14). Between October 2010 and May 2011 immigration agents in Florida arrested 2,900 undocumented immigrants, mainly on public transportation and routine highway stops.
• DETAINEES AGREE TO ‘STIPULATED REMOVAL’ WITHOUT KNOWING THE COST
According to the National Immigration Law Center, more than 160,000 immigrants – most of them without lawyers - have signed documents they don’t understand which can have severe legal consequences. In order to avoid prolonged detention they have agreed to be removed from the country but are unaware that they can face criminal prosecution if they try to return (LA Times, September 9).
• HARSH ALABAMA LAW LARGELY UPHELD BY JUDGE
On September 28, US District Court Judge Sharon Blackburn gave Alabama the green light to enforce most sections of its anti-immigration law. Her ruling criminalizes the ‘willful failure’ of a person to carry federal immigration documents, permits police to verify immigration status during routine traffic stops and arrests, prohibits the undocumented from entering into contracts or conducting any transaction with any division of the state – such as the water or sewage department – and requires K-12 schools to determine the immigration status of students. She temporarily blocked sections that outlaw the harboring or transporting of the undocumented and barring the undocumented from enrolling in public colleges and universities. Her ruling makes it likely that at some point the Supreme Court will rule on how far states can go in legislating on immigration.
• STATE LEGISLATURES CONSIDER 1,592 ANTI-IMMIGRANT BILLS
Around the country, state legislatures are considering – and in 40 states enacting – bills aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration (LAtimes.com, August 9). In five states – Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah – laws similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 have been passed and are being challenged in federal court. Ten states have passed legislation mandating the use of the E-Verify system.
• ARIZONA GOVERNOR ASKS SUPREME COURT TO ENDORSE SB 1070
Governor Jan Brewer has appealed the lower court rulings against SB 1070 to the US Supreme Court. The federal district court in Phoenix and the US Circuit Court for the Ninth Circuit had blocked police from checking the immigration status of people they lawfully stopped and suspected of being in the country illegally (LA Times, August 11).
• RHODE ISLAND OPTS FOR IN-STATE TUITION FOR UNDOCUMENTED
The Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education has voted to grant in-state tuition at public colleges and universities to high school graduates who have attended a Rhode Island high school for at least three years and are in the country illegally (LA Times, September 27). They will pay $9,824 tuition instead of the $25,912 required of out-of-state students. California, Maryland and Connecticut have passed similar laws.
• REPUBLICANS ROLL OUT DANGEROUS ANTI-IMMIGRANT LEGISLATION
House Judiciary Committee chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) has taken the lead in drafting and getting out onto the floor a series of bills targeting undocumented immigrants that have serious consequences for civil liberties and civil rights. The ‘Keep our Communities Safe Act of 2010’ (HR 1932) was voted out of the Judiciary Committee on July 14. According to Smith, it would protect communities from “dangerous criminal immigrants.” In reality, it would violate Supreme Court rulings and lead to the prolonged detention without due process of thousands of immigrants who have never been charged with a crime – including those who have already won cases before an immigration judge. Among those who could be locked up indefinitely – even for life - are lawful permanent residents, victims of persecution and torture, the parents of US citizen children and people who have jobs, businesses, homes and significant American roots. (ACLU press release, July 14). Other bills would eliminate the diversity visa system and limit the President’s immigration enforcement authority (it goes by the name of the HALT Act – ‘Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act’). Under the HALT Act, the President would not be able to prioritize the enforcement and deportation of dangerous criminals over non-criminals who have never committed a crime. Lamar Smith’s E-Verify bill (‘Legal Workforce Act, HR 2885), which headed out of the Judiciary Committee to the House floor on September 21, would make the system of computerized employment checks mandatory for all workers. If some four million US workers want to stay employed they would have to find a way of correcting the mistakes in the federal data base accessed by the E-Verify system.
• SENATORS URGE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO COME CLEAN ON USE OF SURVEILLANCE POWERS
Ever since the June debate over the reauthorization of PATRIOT Act sunset provisions, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO), both of whom sit on the Intelligence Committee, have been warning Congress and the public that a portion of the Act – probably Section 215 (referred to as either the library or business record provision) - has been used for a “sensitive collection program” that is “inconsistent with the public’s understanding” of the law. "When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act," Udall said, "they will be stunned and they will be angry.” Senator Wyden told TIME that the Justice Department has issued a memo interpreting Section 215 in very broad terms: “When you read that opinion, the classified opinion – that I can’t say a word about – and set it down next to the text of the law, there is a big gap. That is what this issue is all about” (TIME, June 24). Udall added that “innocent Americans are being swept up in this.” In September the two Senators sent a letter to Attorney General Holder criticizing the Justice Department for being misleading and calling on him to “correct the public record” about how the surveillance powers are being used under both the PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments Act of 2008 which expanded the government’s ability to eavesdrop without warrants and monitor American’s international phone calls and e-mail messages (New York Times, September 21). The FISA Amendments Act was due to expire in December 2012 and the Senator hoped to get information from the government about how it was being used before that date. But the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence added an amendment to the intelligence bill that extended the FISA Amendments Act to 2015 and narrowly defeated (by a vote of 7-8) a requirement that the Justice Department provide an estimate of how many Americans have had their private communications monitored by the government (Register-Guard, August 8). The Obama Administration had stated that “it is not reasonably possible” to make such a determination (Washington Post, July 27).
• HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES ANTI-PRIVACY INTERNET BILL
The House Judiciary Committee in late July recommended the passage of HR 1981, which requires Internet service providers to retain 12 months’ worth of personal information about the web browsing and content activity of subscribers. The bill also mandates Internet companies to reconfigure their systems to facilitate government surveillance (Electronic Frontier Foundation, July 28).
• SUPREME COURT TO HEAR CASE ON GPS TRACKING
Does law enforcement need to get a warrant before placing a tracking device on a vehicle and tracking a suspect’s every movement for weeks at a time? The Justice Department is seeking to overturn a US Court of Appeals ruling that tracking a vehicle in this way without a court order is a privacy breech (Washington Post, August 29). The Supreme Court will hear arguments in US v. Jones in November. Two federal appeals courts have ruled that a warrant is not necessary to track cars with GPS devices on the grounds that there is no expectation of privacy in a public place, while the DC Circuit has stated that a warrant is necessary before subjecting someone to such ubiquitous surveillance. The case that will be heard by the Supreme Court is an appeal of the DC Circuit decision.
• APPEALS COURT SIDES WITH ACLU ON PUBLIC RELEASE OF INFORMATION
In a decision that revived the ACLU’s demand for access to records in sealed or dismissed cases, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has ruled that information about the tracking of suspects through their cell phones was of significant public interest and should be released to the ACLU. Judge Merrick Garland wrote that “the disclosure sought by the plaintiffs would inform this ongoing public policy discussion by shedding light on the scope and effectiveness of cell phone tracking as a law enforcement tool” (law.com, September 6).
• APPEALS COURT DEADLOCKED ON WARANTLESS WIRETAPPING CASE
An ACLU challenge to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 permitting the warrantless interception of Americans’ international phone calls or emails resulted in a 6-6 vote before the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The ruling means that a lower court will now consider the merits of the case brought on behalf of journalists, attorneys Amnesty International and other human rights advocates who say that their work with clients and sources abroad has been damaged by the government’s surveillance practices (New York Times, September 21).
• RUMSFELD CAN BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE: APPEALS COURT
The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is allowing to proceed a case involving two American contractors in Iraq who said they were detained for months and “physically threatened, abused, and assaulted by the anonymous US officials working as guards” when they blew the whistle on illegal activity, including weapons trafficking. Judge David Hamilton ruled that “it is plausible, and not merely speculative, that Secretary Rumsfeld was personally responsible for creating the policies that caused the alleged unconstitutional torture” (New York Times, August 13). Rumsfeld and his co-defendants had argued that no government employee could ever be sued by American civilians for torture or murder in a war zone.
• JUDGE SAYS GOVERNMENT NEEDS WARRANT TO OBTAIN CELL PHONE DATA
Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York has ruled that telecommunications companies cannot be made to turn over cell phone location data without a warrant. The government wanted to compel Verizon to disclose location information about a criminal suspect’s cell phone over a 113 day period. The judge declared that “the fiction that the vast majority of the American population consents to warrantless government access to the records of a significant share of their movements by ‘choosing’ to carry a cell phone must be rejected” (artstechnica.com, August 23).
• COURT DISMISSES CHALLENGE TO AIRPORT BODY SCANNERS
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has ruled that naked body scanners are constitutional, rejecting the argument that when used for primary screening they violate the Fourth Amendment by being overly invasive and unreasonable (wired.com, July 15).
• JUDGE’S RULING IN LEAK CASE IS GOOD NEWS -- AND BAD
Federal Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that the government could not force New York Times reporter James Risen to testify about how he obtained classified information concerning a failed attempt in 2000 to sabotage Iran’s nuclear research for a book on the CIA. But she also stated that the receipt of such classified information could be “a federal felony” under the Espionage Act. According to Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy, this is a novel interpretation of the Act, and the section of the federal sentencing guidelines she cited in her decision had never before been applied to journalists, only to agents of a foreign government and members of a Communist organization (New York Times, August 5).
• DISTRICT COURT TOLD THAT PADILLA’S SENTENCE IS TOO LENIENT
Jose Padilla is an American convert to Islam who was held in isolation on a navy brig in South Carolina for more than three years as an ‘enemy combatant’ before being sentenced in a civilian court to 17 years for in prison for terrorism conspiracy in 2007. Now the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is ordering the district court to pile more years onto his sentence on the grounds that it did not take into account the fact that he had been at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan (New York Times, September 20).
• APPEALS COURT TO RULE ON BANNING OF SHARIAH LAW
Oklahoma’s ‘Save Our State’ referendum question which was approved by 70 percent of the voters last November would bar state courts from considering international and Shariah law when deciding cases. After it was challenged by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit agreed to rule on its constitutionality. Twenty-six other states have considered adopting similar measures but Oklahoma is the only state to reject both Shariah and international law (Associated Press, September 12).
• GOVERNMENT INVOKES ‘STATE SECRETS’ IN MOSQUE SURVEILLANCE CASE
US Attorney General Eric Holder has told a California court that it would be a violation of state secrets and cause significant harm to national security if the government is made to reveal the details of its surveillance of mosques in southern California. The case Fazaga v. FBI was brought by the ACLU and Los Angeles chapter of CAIR after it became public knowledge that the FBI was keeping mosques under surveillance and using informants to collect information on hundreds, possibly thousands, of Muslims. One of the informants (Craig Monteilh, aka Farouk al-Aziz) was an agent provocateur whom mosque members had reported to the FBI (ColorLines, September 8).
• ALLEGED FORT HOOD KILLER CHARGED WITH PREMEDITATED MURDER
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an army psychiatrist, has been arraigned in a military court on charges that he killed 13 people during a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas in November 2009 (New York Times, July 21). Hasan, who is paralyzed after being shot during the attack, dismissed his civilian lawyer, a retired Army colonel who said that he did not believe that Hasan could get a fair trial at the base. He faces the death penalty.
• MASSACHUSETTS RECEIVED $500 MILLION FOR ‘HOMELAND SECURITY’
In “All the security money can buy, but unease is indelible” (Boston Globe, September 7) Sean Murphy, Scott Allen and Ben Wofford detail the use made of the flood of federal DHS grant money in the nation and Commonwealth. “Police forces across the country are armed with high-tech equipment they could not have afforded before the Department of Homeland Security began doling out $40 billion for local emergency preparedness…the 18,000-pound truck that carried the SWAT team to the Natick Christmas Eve celebration – the ‘BearCat’ – was paid for entirely by a $325,000 federal grant intended to strengthen US defenses against chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks.” Boston received $170 million of the state’s $500 million in federal antiterror funding. “There has not been much terrorism to fight anywhere in New England in the 10 years since hijackers commandeered two planes out of Logan” but that has not stopped Boston’s campaign to be named a top “tier 1” terror target in order to keep the funds flowing. “Of course, Massachusetts law enforcement officials necessarily spend a great deal of time following up on potential terrorism leads that turn out to be false alarms…the Commonwealth Fusion Center in Maynard…followed up on 209 reports of suspicious activity over the last year, but most were baseless and State Police estimate that two-thirds of its activities were unrelated to terrorism in the first place…state officials would be the first to admit that the threat of terrorism ranks much lower than the threat of natural disasters.”
• MILITARY COMMANDOS BUZZ BOSTON BUILDINGS INCLUDING SCHOOL
In late July and early August, special elite military forces of US Special Operations Command took part in “urban environment training” in Boston (“Military buzzes Boston Buildings,” Boston Herald, August 4). Among the buildings being buzzed was the Agassiz Elementary School, where helicopters landed on the roof during the night with no notice being given to nearby residents (jamaicaplaingazzette.com, August 12).
• LOGAN PASSENGERS FACE NEW TYPE OF SCREENING
At the beginning of August, the TSA introduced at Logan Airport a 60-day trial period of ‘Israeli-style’ behavior detection questioning which is supposed to identify ‘suspicious’ passengers not through their answers to questions but by their body language (Boston Globe, August 2). Those who do not pass the ‘suspicion’ test would get more thorough scrutiny. “Civil libertarians argue the screening is TSA showmanship – coming just weeks before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – and could quickly devolve into profiling” (Boston Herald, August 2).
• MUSICIAN HAULED OFF PLANE FOR READING ABOUT 1940s AIRCRAFT WHILE BLACK
The musician Vance Gilbert, an African American who lives in Arlington and is an amateur aviation historian, boarded a plane at Logan on August 14. The plane went to the take-off point and then returned to the gate, where two state police and TSA agents came down the aisle and motioned for him to go with them. The fact that he had been reading a book about aircraft in the 1940s made him appear ‘suspicious’ enough to cause the plane to be delayed for more than an hour (Boston.com, August 24). Meanwhile, a poll indicates that although “terror fears” are subsiding in Massachusetts, 11 percent of residents still think about the 9/11 attacks every day, while 45 percent say they feel less safe than they did before 9/11 (Boston Globe, September 7).
• COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICE OPENED AT LOGAN AIRPORT
The FBI, the TSA, the Federal Air Marshal Service, the State Diplomatic Security Service, US Customs and Border Protection, the State and Boston Police and Homeland Security “will be housed together under one top-secret roof” at Logan Airport in an annex where they will have instant access to classified information, criminal backgrounds and broad intelligence gathering (Boston Herald, August 31).
• RMV FACIAL RECOGNITION SYSTEM FLAGS PICTURE AS FRAUDULENT; LICENSE REVOKED
John Gass had his license revoked after antiterrorism facial recognition software wrongly picked out his picture as a possible fraud because he apparently resembled someone else among the millions of images in the drivers’ license database. It took him 10 days of bureaucratic wrangling to prove his identity and get his license back (Boston Globe, July 17). Last year, State Police had to investigate more than a thousand similar complaints and 1,800 licenses were revoked. The software was installed with a $1.5 million DHS antiterrorism grant. Gass is now suing the Registry of Motor Vehicles on the grounds that he lost wages while being unable to drive.
• MBTA INSTALLS FIRST ‘EYE IN THE SKY’ AND EXPANDS SURVEILLANCE
The MBTA has put a powerful ‘Eye in the Sky’ surveillance turret near the Silver Line bus stop on Washington Street in Boston to watch out for illegal activity. “The high tech, remote-controlled cameras have a 360-degree view and can zoom in on license plates up to a mile away. The turrets can hold a cop, but are currently unmanned,” according to the July 31 Boston Herald. It also added 58 additional surveillance cameras to Forest Hills station, bringing the total there to 77 (Metro, September 29).
• POLICE USING FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY AND AUTOMATIC LICENSE PLATE READERS
Hand held devices (the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System) that can be put on smartphones to take digital fingerprints or scan faces and match those images with those stored in databases are now being used by sheriff’s departments across the state. There are no regulations about how long the images of innocent people will be retained and who will have access to them (Boston Globe, July 18). After the Executive Office of Public Safety gave the approval to grants totaling $500,000 to enable State Police and 26 police departments to purchase automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) systems, questions were raised about the use of these systems as tracking devices if the captured digital images are stored for 30 days as currently required under state law. During that period other law enforcement agencies and the public would have access to them. After public hearings, Selectmen in Brookline were so concerned about losing control of the Town’s data if they accepted a state grant to purchase an ALPR system that they decided unanimously on September 13 to reject the grant (http://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/brookline-selectmen-reject-st...
• TWO MILLION STATE RESIDENTS HAVE EXPERIENCED DATA THEFT
That’s one out of every three residents of the Commonwealth who have had their sensitive information (Social Security numbers, medical information, bank account and credit card information) compromised by hackers and identity fraud (Boston Globe, September 21). There were 1,166 data breaches since January 2010 with the biggest one occurring in July 2011 when the South Shore Hospital lost 14 years of records on 800,000 patients, employees and vendors.
• FBI HAS NEW SPECIAL INFORMANT: REPUTED LEADER OF THE MAFIA
No sooner did Whitey Bulger get located than we learned that the Bureau had a relationship with Mark Rossetti, who is thought to be the leader of the New England Mafia. and that Rossetti believed the FBI would be protecting him as he engaged in “violence, extortion, debt collection and drug dealing” (Boston Globe, August 24). This information came to light because Rossetti was being wiretapped by state troopers who recorded more than 40 conversations between the Mafia boss and his FBI handler (Boston Globe, August 12). In the words of Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis, “Mark Rossetti is Whitey Bulger redux” (August 25).
• CAMBRIDGE POLICE REFUSE REQUEST FROM BOSTON POLICE TO TURN IN SOMALI CAB DRIVERS
The Associated Press exposé about the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism policy detailed methods used by the police to pressure people to become informants. For example, the NYPD asked the taxi commission to help it locate Pakistani cab drivers who had got their licenses fraudulently so it could squeeze them to cooperate. “That strategy has been rejected in other cities. Boston police once asked neighboring Cambridge for a list of Somali cab drivers, Cambridge Police Chief Robert Haas said. Haas refused, saying that without a specific reason, the search was inappropriate” and would have a “chilling effect in terms of the relationship between the local police department and those cultural groups” (NewsObserver.com, August 24).
• JUDGE REFUSES TO DROP FIRST AMENDMENT CHARGES IN MEHANNA CASE
US District Court Judge George O’Toole rejected the request made by Tarek Mehanna’s lawyer J.W. Carney to drop charges that related to protected First Amendment activity such as expressing his views, reading and translating texts on the Internet and sharing them with friends. Attorney Carney has also asked to see “any evidence of a reported effort by the New York City Police Department counterterrorism unit to investigate Mehanna” before his 2008 indictment and “to coax” him into committing acts of terrorism. The trial is scheduled for October (Boston Globe, August 4).
• LOCAL MAN CHARGED WITH PLOTTING TO BOMB CAPITOL, PENTAGON
On September 28, Rezwan Ferdaus, a US citizen and resident of Ashland who graduated in physics from Northeastern University, was charged with hatching a plot to use model plane drones (68 inches long and with a 44 inch wingspan) carrying explosives to attack the Capitol building and Pentagon. He was also charged with providing material support to Al Qaeda. According to the FBI undercover agents who posed as Al Qaeda members and gave him cash and weapons, Ferdaus gave them 11 modified cell phones to be used to detonate road side bombs to kill American soldiers (Boston Globe, September 29). He was reportedly asked to leave the Roxbury mosque last year because people were alarmed by his extremist views (Boston Globe, September 30).
• MURDER, OTHER INCIDENTS, BOOST PUSH FOR S-COMM
After Governor Patrick declined to sign an S-Comm MOA, Republicans denounced him for being soft on immigrants and criminals. Then, over the past month, several high-profile incidents involving undocumented men in Massachusetts allegedly committing murder, vehicular homicide, hitting a girl on a bike with a truck being driven without a license, and repeat instances of driving under the influence have served as a public relations platform for Sheriff Hodgson from Bristol County, Sheriff Evangelidis from Worcester and Sheriff MacDonald from Bristol County. They announced that they had written a letter to DHS head Napolitano asking for S-Comm to be swiftly activated through Massachusetts and have “signed a deal” allowing them to bypass the Governor’s opposition to the program. Just what this deal consists of is not clear, since DHS has rescinded all S-Comm memoranda of agreement and announced they are no longer necessary (Boston Herald, September 29). Sheriff Hodgson (who in the 1990s introduced chain gangs to Bristol County) told a State House press conference: “What we’re finding is that people see Massachusetts as a place to go to lay below the radar. Much like terrorists, they’re looking for a place to go where no one is going to notice them.” Sixty-two of the 2,900 “convicted criminal aliens” who were rounded up by ICE in late September were from Massachusetts. In the September 23 Boston Globe, Maria Sacchetti described how S-Comm is affecting the lives of one Boston resident, Reyna Quintanilla, who is threatened with deportation for being six days late with her green card payment and young people who were brought to the US as children.
A Post-9/11 Civil Liberties Update
Civil Liberties Update | July 13, 2011
A. EXECUTIVE ACTIONS
Building the National Security Surveillance State
• New FBI surveillance rules termed “overreaching”
• Mueller defends bureau; Obama asks him to stay on
• Activists who crossed paths with Obama among those served with FBI subpoenas
• Intensive FBI surveillance focused on Austin anarchist
• Does the FBI hide information on secret computer drives?
• FBI justifies redactions: business might be harmed and companies might sue
• Communications companies reap profits from surveillance
• Google report shows US in lead in requests for records
• Intelligence agencies reportedly asked to gather dirt on war critic
• Wiretapped journalist takes stand for First Amendment
• Wikileaks grand jury subpoenas Manning supporter
• Report calls for new policy on laptop searches at borders
• NSA and NGA helped track down Bin Laden
• Pentagon terms cyberattacks by foreign nations acts of war
• Report charts weaknesses in cyberspace security
• White House e-mail accounts hacked
• Hackers tweet news of Obama assassination on Fox website
• Hackers reveal mass surveillance of Arab world by US
• Hackers target city for arresting Food Not Bombs volunteers
• FBI partner organization hacked
• Security technology company hacked
• Another FBI contractor hacked
• British surveillance scandal sends ripples across Atlantic
• Safety regulations relaxed at nuclear plants
• DHS cuts terror grants to 30 cities
• Security clearance investigators being investigated
• Police on alert for attacks to avenge Bin Laden
• Child interrogated by Secret Service for Facebook posting
• DHS focuses only on “homegrown extremism” involving Muslims
• DHS asks Jewish groups to enlist in counterterrorism effort
• Would-be courthouse bomber gets 28 years
• Possible life in prison for 21st century thought crime
• FBI-orchestrated sting leads to arrests in Seattle
• Marine reservist faces life for firing shots at military buildings
• Judge sentences Newburgh plotters; condemns government methods
• NYPD and mayor hype terror case
• One in four New Yorkers think about 9/11 attacks every day
• Elderly imam faces “material support” charges
• Laws banning shariah being considered across the country
• VIPR teams to secure “soft” targets and condition the public
• How to find those “implanted bombs”?
• Stun gun found on plane
• TSA told to keep screening kids but minimize pat downs
• Airport screeners force 95-year-old to remove adult diaper
• Feds say they will halt flights if Texas bans pat downs and scans
• Pilots may soon be exempt from scanning and pat downs
• Man sues airport for permitting former wife to spy on him with its surveillance equipment
Indefinite Detention, Military Commissions, Torture, Extrajudicial Killing
• Obama does end run around War Powers Act
• Administration re-defines counterterrorism strategy
• Treatment of Somali suspect showcases Obama’s approach
• No set policy for detaining suspects, Admiral says
• Military commissions prepare for big trials
• Republican wants terrorist suspects arrested in the US to be sent to Guantanamo
• Hope for accountability for torture dashed
• Human Rights Watch calls for investigation of Bush, senior officials
• Detainees lose when government appeals habeas rulings
• Will family members be able to visit Guantanamo detainees?
• Lawyers can now see some leaked files about their clients
• Former detainee not allowed to board plane to Canada
• Demonstrators disrupt House hearing; demand closure of Guantanamo
• Alleged CIA operative sues US in rendition case
• Petraeus and Panetta switch departments
• Blackwater head sets up mercenary army in Emirates
• ICE makes cosmetic changes to “Secure Communities” as states pull out
• FOIA documents show S-Comm part of massive FBI database project
• Federal judge blocks part of Georgia law
• Alabama law denounced in Birmingham, rural areas
• South Carolina passes draconian anti-immigration bill
• Maryland Dream Act to be voted on in statewide referendum
• Data accessed by flawed E-Verify system to be expanded
• One thousand businesses targeted for workforce audits by ICE
• Report condemns using immigration system to pressure Muslims
• Impact of Special Registration program still being felt
• Pulitzer Prize winner gives undocumented a human face
• Immigrant in same-sex marriage given reprieve
• Veteran jailed, awaiting deportation for checking wrong box
• Report details problems presented by transfers of detainees
• Lottery cancelled after 22,000 winners given good news
• Study documents hardships faced by children of undocumented
• $90 billion spent to “secure” Mexican border
• NYT editorial urges president to act to fix immigration system
B. IN THE US CONGRESS
• Is the US engaged in a third war? White House says no; Congress is not sure
• House passes defense appropriations act; rebukes president on Libya
• House supports “forever war” provision; it dropped by Senate
• Proposals would mandate military trials and detention
• Senate refuses – then agrees – to confirm deputy attorney general
• PATRIOT Act re-authorized after bi-partisan scare-mongering
• Is there a secret interpretation of the PATRIOT Act?
• Senator Schumer proposes Amtrak “no-ride” list
• GPS act would require warrant to access geolocation data
• Senator Leahy proposes mild reform of ECPA
• Second hearing held on the “Muslim threat”
• Bill would make E-Verify mandatory
• Bill filed to expand number of green card holders
• For first time Senate holds DREAM Act hearing
C. IN THE COURTS
• US Supreme Court upholds anti-immigrant law
• US Supreme Court throws out challenge to misuse of material witness law
• Challenge to GPS tracking accepted by Supreme Court
• US Supreme Court will not hear Abu Ghraib lawsuit
• US Supreme Court refuses to hear rendition torture case
• Administration wants case thrown out of man tortured by Taliban and US
• NSA “leak” case collapses
• Challenge to Oklahoma’s anti-shariah measure filed in federal court
D. IN THE COMMONWEALTH
• After governor freezes out ICE, mayor puts ICE on notice
• Government sued for seizure of laptop
• Bulger’s capture may produce new revelations
• Massachusetts towns to roll out facial recognition technology
• Brookline holds public hearing on camera technology
• Personal data stolen from state office
Building the National Security Surveillance State
• NEW FBI SURVEILLANCE RULES TERMED “OVERREACHING”
Thanks to a further relaxation of the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, the FBI’s 14,000 agents now have “more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention” (Charlie Savage, “FBI Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds,” New York Times, June 12). Agents could already open “proactive” low-level “assessments” of people and organizations without evidence of criminal or terrorist activity. Under the new rules they don’t have to make a record when they search database or administer lie-detector tests or search trash in an effort to get information that could be used “to put pressure on that person to assist the government in the investigation of others.” The new rules also permit agents even greater scope to use surveillance and infiltrate groups when conducting “assessments.” Under the headline “Backward at the FBI: Overreaching new rules for surveillance threaten Americans’ basic rights, The New York Times editorialized on June 19: “The Obama administration has long been bumbling along in the footsteps of its predecessor when it comes to sacrificing Americans’ basic rights and liberties under the false flag of fighting terrorism. Now the Obama team seems ready to lurch even farther down that dismal road than George W. Bush did…The FBI’s recent history includes the abuse of national security letters to gather information about law-abiding citizens without court orders, and inappropriate investigations of antiwar and environmental activists. This is hardly a foundation for further loosening the rules for conducting investigations or watering down internal record-keeping and oversight.” Less than two months before the new rules were made public, The New York Times obtained data revealing that between December 2008 and March 2009, the FBI had initiated 11,667 proactive “assessments” of people and groups involving database searches, interviews, infiltration, following and photographing targets and the use of informants. Only 427 more intensive “preliminary” or “full” investigations were opened as a result of the assessments conducted in this four-month period (New York Times, March 27).
• MUELLER DEFENDS BUREAU; OBAMA ASKS HIM TO STAY ON
FBI Director Robert Mueller told the US Senate that “I do not believe that we have abused our powers in any way, with maybe one or two isolated examples” (AFP, June 8). His statement is at odds with critical reports into FBI abuses - especially of its power to issue National Security Letters - produced by the Justice Department’s former Inspector General, Glenn Fine. President Obama has yet to appoint a successor to Fine, who stepped down in January 2011. The President has asked Mueller to stay on for 2 years beyond his 10-year term, and is requesting Congress to pass legislation to make this possible. After J. Edgar Hoover’s death in 1972 ended his autocratic 48-year reign as FBI head, Congress had imposed a mandatory retirement rule after 10 years. The ACLU has opposed the extension of Mueller’s term and The Washington Post termed it a “bad precedent” (May 12).
• ACTIVISTS WHO CROSSED PATHS WITH OBAMA AMONG THOSE SERVED WITH FBI SUBPOENAS
Among the Chicago-area peace and justice and trade union activists who were raided by the FBI last September and served with subpoenas to appear before US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury are labor and community leaders who “crossed paths with Obama when he was a young state senator” and “supported his political rise,” according to the June 13 Washington Post. Local and statewide affiliates of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have written to President Obama asking him to investigate the FBI raids. All 23 of the people issued with subpoenas have refused to testify before the grand jury and may face indictments (see www.stopFBI.net
Documents which federal agents apparently left behind by mistake in the Minneapolis home of anti-war activist Mick Kelly and which he turned over to the Associated Press included a plan for the raid, a subpoena ordering him to bring records to the grand jury relating to his trips to Columbia, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria or Israel and a list of over 100 questions that would be used in an interview, many of which appeared to be fishing for contacts. Kelly was described as “dangerous” and armed in the documents. He had a registered rifle and handgun in his home, neither of which were seized as evidence (Washington Post, May 18).
• INTENSIVE FBI SURVEILLANCE FOCUSED ON AUSTIN ANARCHIST
The May 29 New York Times described the surveillance of Scott Crow, a self-described anarchist who was under intense and expensive FBI scrutiny, according to documents he received through a FOIA request. “For at least three years, they traced the license plates of cars parked out front [of his house], recorded the comings and goings of residents and guests and , in one case, speculated about a suspicious flat object spread out across the driveway [a quilt]…The agents watched from their cars for hours at a time…and watched gatherings at a bookstore and café….They tracked Mr. Crow’s phone calls and emails and combed through his trash, identifying his bank and mortgage companies, which appear to have been served with subpoenas. They visited gun stores where he shopped for a rifle, noting dryly in one document that a vegan animal rights advocate like Mr. Crow made an unlikely hunter…They asked the Internal Revenue Service to examine his tax returns, but backed off after an IRS employee suggested that Mr. Crow’s modest earnings would not impress a jury even if his returns were flawed…They infiltrated political meetings with undercover police officers and informers. Mr. Crow counts five supposed fellow activists who were reporting to the FBI.” It is likely that one was Brandon Darby, with whom Crow had founded the group Common Ground to give “solidarity not charity” in the wake of the Katrina hurricane.
• DOES THE FBI HIDE INFORMATION ON SECRET COMPUTER DRIVES?
Back in 1998 it was discovered that the FBI was keeping files on an “I-drive” instead of the official case file, putting that information out of the range of discoverable material that would have to be turned over to defense attorney or in response to FOIA requests. During a May court hearing a Justice Department lawyer mentioned the existence of an “S-drive” where information is also kept by the Bureau. A federal judge has given the FBI until the end of June to explain whether this previously unknown record system is used to hide evidence from defense lawyers (iwatchnews, June 2).
• FBI JUSTIFIES REDACTIONS: BUSINESS MIGHT BE HARMED AND COMPANIES MIGHT SUE
Back in 2009 the ACLU a FOIA request to find out about the FBI’s implementation of the FISA Amendments Act and the participation of Internet Service Providers in the warrantless surveillance program. Last November it got back a few hundred pages of almost entirely redacted documents. It then went to court demanding that the redactions be retracted. In May 2011 it got a declaration from the FBI justifying keeping the material secret. It read in part: “Specifically these businesses would be substantially harmed if their customers knew that they were furnishing information to the FBI. The stigma of working for the FBI would cause customers to cancel the companies’ services and file civil actions to prevent further disclosure of subscriber information” (Glenn Greenwald, Salon, May 11).
• COMMUNICATIONS COMPANIES REAP PROFITS FROM SURVEILLANCE
Documents received in response to a FOIA request from researcher Christopher Soghoian reveal that AT & T, Verizon, Comcast and Sprint received $105,000 for fulfilling requests for cellphone records and location data from just one federal agency, the Secret Service (Wall Street Journal, June 21). Soghoian has outstanding FOIA requests to other agencies.
• GOOGLE REPORT SHOWS US IN LEAD IN REQUESTS FOR RECORDS
According to the latest Google transparency report, the company fielded more than 14,000 requests for personal information from governments worldwide during July through December 2010. Far in the lead was the United States, with 4,601 requests. Brazil was second with 1,804 (www.google.com/transparencyreport/
• INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES ASKED TO GATHER DIRT ON WAR CRITIC
According to Glenn Carle, a former senior CIA official, the Bush White House on at least two occasions asked intelligence agencies to investigate Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan. Cole, a Middle East specialist, was a prominent opponent of the Iraq war (New York Times, June 16). Cole was also the target of conservative critics who charged him with being anti-American and anti-Israeli, and succeeded in blocking his appointment to the Yale University faculty.
• WIRETAPPED JOURNALIST TAKES STAND FOR FIRST AMENDMENT
Although the government’s high profile case against NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake has been de-railed (see In the Courts, below), the Obama Administration is pressing ahead with its effort to prosecute leakers. On May 23, New York Times journalist James Risen was served with a subpoena ordering him to testify on September 12 at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who is suspected of leaking information about the Agency’s failed attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program under the Clinton Administration (New York Times, May 24). Risen, who wrote about the sabotage attempt in his book State of War, has said he would fight the subpoena: “I will always protect my sources, and I think this is a fight about the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.” Risen wrote in a June 21 affidavit sent to the US District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia that “I have learned from an individual who testified before a grand jury in this District that was examining my reporting about the domestic wiretapping program that the Government had shown this individual copies of telephone records relating to calls made to and from me." The unsealing on June 28 of an earlier ruling by federal district court judge Leonie Brinkema revealed that that the judge – who quashed a previous subpoena requesting Risen to testify – might consider having him do so if the Sterling case went to trial (New York Times, June 29).
• WIKILEAKS GRAND JURY SUBPOENAS MANNING SUPPORTER
On June 15, David House, a Massachusetts -based computer expert and co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, answered a subpoena to appear before a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia that is investigating WikiLeaks. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination (Bloomberg, June 15). His grand jury hearing occurred two days following the declassification of the Pentagon Papers -- some 40 years after they were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. Meanwhile, with the help of the ACLU, House is suing the government for seizing and searching his laptop computer (See In the Commonwealth, below).
• REPORT CALLS FOR NEW POLICY ON LAPTOP SEARCHES AT BORDERS
The bipartisan Constitution Project that includes Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who once headed border security, has asked the Department of Homeland to stop searching electronic devices without a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. More than 6,500 people, half of them American citizens, had their laptops and other devices seized and searched at the border between October 2008 and June 2010. The report states that travelers who carry electronic devices “are unknowingly subjecting volumes of personal information to involuntary and suspicionless search and review by federal law enforcement authorities. This problem is compounded by the fact that many electronic devices are used to carry both personal and business-related information” (Washington Post, May 18). The report found that “suspicionless” border searches opened the door to racial and religious profiling and recommended that border agents be required to get a warrant based on probable cause if retaining data from devices belonging to US citizens and permanent residents for more than 24 hours.
• NSA AND NGA HELPED TRACK DOWN BIN LADEN
According to the May 7 Baltimore Sun, some of the credit for locating Osama Bin Laden and planning the raid on his compound belongs to the multi-billion dollar National Security Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, both based in Maryland. While the NSA flagged the telephone conversation involving bin Laden’s courier, the NGA provided the images that helped prepare for the helicopter assault. That’s the speculation anyway, as these agencies don’t talk.
• PENTAGON TERMS CYBERATTACKS BY FOREIGN NATIONS ACTS OF WAR
In its new military strategy, the Pentagon is hoping to deter cyberattacks against the United States by other countries by declaring them acts of war which can trigger military retaliation. “The Pentagon strategy is coming out at a moment when billions of dollars are up for grabs among federal agencies working on cyber-related issues” (New York Times, June 1). According to an editorial in the June 12 Boston Globe, “Over 100 foreign intelligence agencies have already attempted to hack the department’s networks, so the Pentagon’s intensified focus on cybersecurity seems long overdue.”
• REPORT CHARTS WEAKNESSES IN CYBERSPACE SECURITY
The Inspector General for the DHS issued a report on June 10, 2011 assessing progress made in securing critical cyberspace information. Although there have been some improvements “significant work remains” (Planning, Management and Systems Issues Hinder DHS’ Efforts to Protect Cyberspace and the Nation’s Cyber Infrastructure, June 2011).
• WHITE HOUSE E-MAIL ACCOUNTS HACKED
The e-mail accounts of many White House staff members and possibly others in the executive branch were hacked in a computer phishing attack that Google claims originated in China and was also directed at human rights activists and South Korea’s government (New York Times, June 3).
• HACKERS TWEET NEWS OF OBAMA ASSASSINATION ON FOX WEBSITE
Six Twitter posts claiming President Obama had been assassinated while campaigning in Iowa appeared on the Fox News website on July 4. They remained on the site for about 10 hours (New York Times, July 5).
• HACKERS REVEAL MASS SURVEILLANCE OF ARAB WORLD BY US
A massive US spying program known first as Romas/COIN and then as Odyssey has been revealed through the analysis of 70,000 emails that hackers known as “Anonymous” stole from the data intelligence firm HBGary Federal (Raw Story, June 22). Over a dozen private companies are allegedly involved in the spying operation – among them Northrop Grumman, Google and Apple. According to
an Anonymous spokesman, Barrett Brown, these companies have been enlisted to provide “capabilities whereby millions of conversations can be monitored and automatically analyzed, whereby a wide range of personal data can be obtained and stored in secret, and whereby some unknown degree of information can be released to a given population through a variety of means and without any hint that the actual source is US military intelligence…The idea that such power can be wielded without being misused is contradicted by even a brief review of history.”
• HACKERS TARGET CITY FOR ARRESTING FOOD NOT BOMBS VOLUNTEERS
The loosely affiliated group of hackers known as Anonymous has targeted Orlando, Florida, for enforcing against volunteers with Food Not Bombs a city ordinance requiring organizations to obtain permits to feed groups of 25 or more people in parks. Some 25 volunteers have been arrested for feeding the homeless in the parks, among them Keith McHenry, who co-founded the first Food Not Bombs chapter in Cambridge, MA in 1980 (New York Times, July 1).
• FBI PARTNER ORGANIZATION HACKED
InfraGard, described on its website as “an association of businesses, academic institutions, and law enforcement agencies dedicated to sharing information to prevent hostile acts against the United States,” was reportedly hacked into by a collective of anonymous hackers who call themselves Lulz Security or LulzSec (Boston Globe, June 24). Passwords were stolen and LulzSec, which claims responsibility for attacks on the CIA, Senate computer system, and Sony Corporation (where records on 100 million people were taken), released a torrent of confidential documents taken from the Arizona Department of National Security which it said was targeted because of Arizona’s anti-immigrant and racial profiling policies (The Inquirer, June 24). FBI agents have gone to the UK reportedly to seek the extradition of 19-year-old Ryan Cleary who was arrested as part of an investigation into LulzSec (UK Independent, June 24). LulzSec announced it was disbanding in June. On July 5, The New York Times reported that a group of hackers calling themselves the “A-Team” were seeking to bring down LulzSec by helping the FBI unmask and arrest their members.
• SECURITY TECHNOLOGY COMPANY HACKED
Hackers entered the databases of RSA Security, the company that provided computer security for Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo as well as major arms manufacturers such as Lockheed, and reportedly stole serial numbers and other critical data for tens of millions of SecurID tokens that are used to generate numeric computer passwords. Lockheed’s data was subsequently hacked. Customers are especially irate at the failure of the company to come clean when its databases were hacked for the first time in March. In early June, the company offered to replace the compromised tokens (New York Times, June 8).
• ANOTHER FBI CONTRACTOR HACKED
Anonymous has hacked into ICR Federal, an IT contractor working for FBI, the DOJ, Army, Navy and other federal agencies. The hackers said they obtained various fingerprinting and biometrics contracts and a proposal for the FBI to develop a "Special Identities Modernisation (SIM) Project" to "reduce terrorist and criminal activity by protecting all records associated with trusted individuals and revealing the identities of those individuals who may pose serious risk to the United States and its allies” (CBR Systems, July 11, 2001).
• BRITISH SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL SENDS RIPPLES ACROSS ATLANTIC
It’s not just that hacking into cell phones of celebrities and the royal family by the Murdoch-owned News of the World allowed the tabloid to scoop rivals and amass the biggest English-language newspaper readership on earth. Its mass invasion of privacy - in which other Murdoch-owned publications including The Sun and The Sunday Times reportedly participated - damaged at least one murder investigation (into the disappearance of a 13-year-old), and corrupted the British police force by offering some officers a reported $160,000 in bribes for phone numbers and hacking the phones of others who were leading the investigation into the hacking scandal and then blackmailing them to make sure their enquiries led nowhere (New York Times, July 12). British politicians were also the targets of hacking and attempted blackmail, with former prime minister Gordon Brown having his bank account repeatedly hacked and the medical records of his gravely ill infant son stolen by hackers. The Murdoch press backed Brown’s rival, current Prime Minister David Cameron, in the last election and since the scandal erupted, Cameron has been slow to voice criticism of Murdoch’s planned take over of Sky TV. On July 12, US Senator Jay Rockefeller, as head of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, requested an investigation to see if Murdoch’s embattled News Corporation has used similar practices in the US where its stable includes Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. Murdoch sold the Boston Herald in 1994 as part of the price of acquiring Fox News. The British scandal has also highlighted the ease with which cell phones can be hacked: “Most cell phone voice mail is vulnerable to hackers” proclaimed a front page headline in the July 13th Boston Globe.
• SAFETY REGULATIONS RELAXED AT NUCLEAR PLANTS
While “security” is ramped up throughout American society, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is loosening regulations that apply to aging nuclear plants. According to the June 20 Associated Press, the new rules permit up to 20 times the original leakage from valves. A year-long AP investigation of nuclear power plants found: “Failed cables. Busted seals. Broken nozzles, clogged screens, cracked concrete, dented containers, corroded metals and rusty underground pipes – all of these and thousands of other problems linked to aging” while standards were relaxed to permit the plants to remain in compliance. A task force created by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after the damage at the Fukushima Daiichi plant reported that “nuclear safety rules in the United States do not adequately weight the risk that a single event would knockout out electricity from both the grid and from emergency generators” and that safety equipment installed at nuclear plants in response to the 9/11 attacks was not being diligently maintained or inspected (New York Times, June 16).
• DHS CUTS TERROR GRANTS TO 30 CITIES
Only 31 “high-threat” urban areas will get Urban Areas Security Initiative grants in the coming year, instead of the 60 or so that have been awarded grants since 2008. They will share some $662 million. Among those being dropped from the program are Providence, Bridgeport, Hartford, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Tucson (Associated Press, May 19).
• SECURITY CLEARANCE INVESTIGATORS BEING INVESTIGATED
According to the June 21 Washington Times, hundreds of background checks into people being given security clearance have been falsified, forcing the government to investigate the investigators, many of whom are contract workers hired by the office of Personnel Management. Fraud has increased as the demand for more contractors and employees with national security clearance has dramatically grown. The effort to root it out is reportedly costing the government hundreds of thousands of dollars.
• POLICE ON ALERT FOR ATTACKS TO AVENGE BIN LADEN
Following the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis rated the chance of a terrorist attack as “highly likely…I think simply due to the odds, something will happen somewhere in the United States. We have to be extremely vigilant” (New York Times, May 14). Large and small cities were put on high alert, leading to several false alarms as fearful residents called in reports of “suspicious activities.”
• CHILD INTERROGATED BY SECRET SERVICE FOR FACEBOOK POSTING
13-year-old Vito LaPinto, a 7th grader at Truman Middle School in Tacoma, Washington, was questioned in school by a Secret Service agent without a parent being present about a web posting he had made after Osama bin Laden’s assassination. “I was saying how Osama was dead and for Obama to be careful because there could be suicide bombers” (Fox News, May 16). According to the boy, the agent indicated he might be a threat to the President. His mother says she “just about lost it. My 13-year-old son is supposed to be safe and secure in his classroom and he’s being interrogated without my knowledge or consent privately.” [And may even now have a file in a law enforcement database!]
• DHS FOCUSES ONLY ON “HOMEGROWN EXTREMISM” INVOLVING MUSLIMS
In response to the right-wing outcry following the publication of a DHS report on “Rightwing Extremism,” the DHS for the last two years has dropped investigations of domestic terrorism involving white supremacist and Christian Identity groups, and only looked at extremism where Muslims are involved (Washington Post, June 7). The DHS had reported that the majority of 86 major terrorist plots and attacks in the US between 1999 to 2009 had nothing to do with Muslims and the Southern Poverty Law Center maintains that there are now more than one thousand groups classified in the “Terror from the Right” category. According to the Post article, “Authorities this year have arrested neo-Nazis who allegedly planted a bomb along the route of a Martin Luther King parade in Spokane, Wash; arrested six members of an Alaska militia who allegedly plotted to kill state troopers; arrested a Wisconsin man for planning to kill Planned Parenthood workers; and on May 29 arrested a Florida man who claimed to be part of the burgeoning ‘sovereign citizen movement’ after he sprayed a market with AK-47 fire.”
• DHS ASKS JEWISH GROUPS TO ENLIST IN COUNTER-TERRORISM EFFORT
John Cohen, a principal deputy counter-terrorism coordinator for the DHS, has called on the Jewish community in southern Florida to get involved in the ‘If you see something, say something campaign.’ He said that the DHS will be working with synagogues and other Jewish institutions to train the public to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior (Sun Sentinel, July 10).
• WOULD-BE COURTHOUSE BOMBER GETS 28 YEARS
Michael Finton, a convert from fundamentalist Christianity to Hinduism and then Islam, pleaded guilty to attempting to blow up the Springfield, Illinois federal courthouse.
He parked what he thought was a van full of explosives in front of the courthouse, only to discover they were fake when he made a cellphone call he believed would trigger a blast. The mock explosives were provided by an undercover agent he thought was a member of al-Qaida (Miami Herald, May 9).
• POSSIBLE LIFE IN PRISON FOR 21ST CENTURY THOUGHT CRIME
Brooklyn-born Betim Kaziu has been found guilty of conspiracy to provide military support to a terrorist organization and could be sentenced to life in prison. According to the July 8 Boston Globe, the conspiracy didn’t get very far: he and a childhood friend, Sulejah Hadzovic, traveled to Cairo where they went to school and “considered whether to take up arms in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, or Somalia.” Why? In testifying against Kaziu, Hadzovic stated: “We were upset at what was happening in places like Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay, how they were humiliating and torturing Muslims there. It’s what ultimately made us want to go and fight in jihad.”
• FBI-ORCHESTRATED STING LEADS TO ARRESTS IN SEATTLE
Two Americans - Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif (formerly Joseph Anthony Davis) and Walli Mujahidh (formerly Frederick Dominque) - were arrested on June 22 and charged with planning to attack a Seattle military processing center (AP, June 29). They were provided with (bogus) weapons by a felon informant, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
• MARINE RESERVIST FACES LIFE FOR FIRING SHOTS AT MILITARY BUILDINGS
Ethiopian-born Yonathan Melaku faces up to 35 years to life in prison for firing late night shots at the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps, and three military recruiting offices. He had previously received two medals since joining the reserves in 2007 (New York Times, June 24).
• JUDGE SENTENCES NEWBURGH PLOTTERS; CONDEMNS GOVERNMENT METHODS
On June 29, US District Court Judge Colleen McMahon handed down mandatory minimum 25-year sentences to James Cromitie, David Williams and Onta Williams, who had been found guilty of a May 2009 plot to bomb a New York synagogue and Jewish Center. She stated: "The essence of what occurred here is that a government understandably zealous to protect its citizens from terrorism came upon a man [Cromitie] both bigoted and suggestible, one who was incapable of committing an act of terrorism on his own…it created acts of terrorism out of his fantasies of bravado and bigotry, and then made those fantasies come true…the government did not have to infiltrate and foil some nefarious plot - there was no nefarious plot to foil” (Daily News, June 29). She was cited in The Village Voice (June 29) as saying, “I suspect that real terrorists would not have bothered themselves with a person who was so utterly inept. Only the government could have made a terrorist out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.” A fourth plotter, Laguerre Payen, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, had also been found guilty but was not sentenced. The four destitute ex-cons from an impoverished neighborhood of Newburgh were not practicing Muslims, although the extensive news coverage suggested otherwise. They were given cash, food, rent money, drugs, cell phones, a camera and disabled explosive devices including a Stinger missile by an FBI informant, Shahed Hussain, who had been convicted of identity fraud and was hoping for a reduced sentence and paid $100,000 for his efforts. The plot commanded huge media and political attention when it was “disrupted.” In early May, Judge McMahon described the FBI informant as a “serial liar” who committed perjury at trial and stated that the FBI had “created the crime here” – but nevertheless declined to throw out the jury verdict of guilty and order a new trial. David Williams had told The Village Voice that he and Cromitie were simply out to scam Hussain, whom they thought was a rich Pakistani businessman, and that they had no interest in hurting anyone. US Attorney Preet Bharara stated that the men had “voluntarily agreed to target synagogues and military planes using what they thought were real bombs and missiles,” admitting that the plot was not their idea. In the words of David Williams’ aunt, Alicia McWilliams, “The government spent millions of taxpayer dollars on the informant’s salary, perks, luxury cars, surveillance equipment, fake weaponry, helicopters, and the dramatic trial. Lawyers, rights groups, and the media have poured resources into covering the case. And the benefits? I may be biased, but I haven’t met many people who can say with a straight face that our nation is safer from terrorism as a result of all of this. I also sometimes wonder, what good might those resources have done if they’d been invested in our communities instead?”
• NYPD AND MAYOR HYPE TERROR CASE
It is not always the FBI that is carrying out sting operations. In mid May, New York City Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly held a high profile news conference at City Hall featuring live-action arrest photos where they announced the arrest of two Muslims, Ahmed Ferhani and Mohammed Mamdouh, who “wanted to kill Jews” (New York Times, May 12). Mr. Ferhani had reportedly been in a psychiatric hospital over 20 times, according to the June 16 New York Times. This time, it was undercover NYPD agents who befriended the men and provided them with handguns, ammunition and a dud hand grenade a few minutes before the sting was consummated. Interestingly, the FBI declined to get involved, federal prosecutors were apparently never consulted and a state grand jury later threw out the most serious charges against them. They face lesser charges that indicate that they had planned to destroy an empty synagogue.
• ONE IN FOUR NEW YORKERS THINK ABOUT 9/11 ATTACKS EVERY DAY
The same number are shown by a New York Daily News poll to be suspicious of Muslims they pass in the street (Mailonline, June 13).
• ELDERLY IMAM FACES “MATERIAL SUPPORT” CHARGES
Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, the 76-year-old imam of the Miami Mosque – the oldest mosque in South Florida - is pleading not guilty to charges that he, along with two of his sons and three other people, conspired to send funds to the Pakistan Taliban (New York Times, May 17). The defendants claim the funds were sent for humanitarian purposes. Shortly after the charges were made public the mosque received telephone threats and a van was parked outside of it with a sign calling for it to be burned down.
• LAWS BANNING SHARIAH BEING CONSIDERED ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Since the Oklahoma voters approved a state constitutional amendment prohibiting courts from considering shariah law in their deliberations, similar measures are being debated in some 24 state legislatures, according to the ACLU. As Aziz Huq wrote in a New York Times op ed (June 20), the “bans increase bias among the public by endorsing the idea that Muslims are second-class citizens,“ would lead to an increase in discrimination and hate crimes, and would have the practical effect of preventing the enforcement of contracts for halal meat. In Oklahoma, the enforcement of the constitutional amendment is currently being barred by the court.
• VIPR TEAMS TO SECURE “SOFT” TARGETS AND CONDITION THE PUBLIC
The TSA is forming Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) task forces made up of TSA agents, federal air marshals, behavior detection officers and canine teams to “take the TSA to the next level” (in the words of TSA head John Pistole, a former FBI agent) and do random security sweeps of ports, railway and bus stations, malls, bridges, and stadiums - to start with. Under the headline “VIPR Searches and the American Citizen: ‘Dominate. Intimidate. Control’” John Whitehead writes that “the transition to a police state will not come about with a dramatic coup d’etat, with battering rams and marauding militia. As we have experienced first-hand in recent years, it will creep in softly, one violation at a time, until suddenly you find yourself being subjected to random patdowns and security sweeps during your morning commute to work or a quick trip to the shopping mall…Incredibly, in the absence of any viable threat, VIPR teams – roving SWAT teams, with no need for a warrant – have conducted 8,000 such searches in public places over the past year.” In June 2011, VIPR conducted a “training exercise” involving 70 different agencies, over 400 state and federal agents, Black Hawk helicopters and fixed wing aircraft in an area covering more than 5,000 square miles encompassing parts of Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. According to the TSA, the purpose of the exercise was to “have a visible presence and let people know we’re out here…It can be a deterrent.” Whitehead writes: “The question that must be asked, of course, is who exactly is the TSA trying to target and intimidate? Not would-be terrorists, given that scattershot pat-down stings are unlikely to apprehend or deter terrorists. In light of the fact that average citizens are the ones receiving the brunt of the TSA’s efforts, it stands to reason that we’ve become public enemy number one. We are all suspects.”
• HOW TO FIND THOSE “IMPLANTED BOMBS”?
According to the TSA, terrorists carrying surgically implanted explosives might soon be able to elude current airport screening techniques. Passenger coming to the US might be subjected to new screening measures which TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball referred to as “enhanced tools and technologies” (LA Times, July 6).
• STUN GUN FOUND ON PLANE
Crew who were cleaning a JetBlue plane that had just flown from Boston to Newark found a stun gun tucked into the back pocket of a seat. It was not clear how it got on the plane (AP, July 11).
• TSA TOLD TO KEEP SCREENING KIDS BUT MINIMIZE PAT DOWNS
After videos showing a baby and a 6-year-old being patted down at airports went viral on the Internet, the TSA is telling its airport security officers to try and screen kids in other ways (Boston Globe, June 23). The 6-year-old had been subjected to a pat down after moving during the electronic screening process and blurring the image. It is unclear whether a second electronic screening would be recommended in this instance.
• AIRPORT SCREENERS FORCE 95-YEAR-OLD TO REMOVE ADULT DIAPER
The TSA initially defended its screeners whose pat down of a 95-year-old woman suffering from cancer included taking her into a private room to do extra screening and then asking that she remove her adult diaper (LATimes.com, June 26). After the TSA told CNN the screeners acted appropriately, on the following day it denied that such a request had been made (Boston.com, June 27). According to the LA Times story, the woman’s daughter “burst into tears during the ordeal, forcing her own pat-down and other measures in accordance with TSA protocol” which nearly caused mother and daughter to miss their plane.
• FEDS SAY THEY WILL HALT FLIGHTS IF TEXAS BANS PAT DOWNS AND SCANS
After the Texas House of Representatives passed “anti-groping” and scanning bills banning intrusive searches of usually private body parts, the bills lost momentum after the federal government said it would halt plane traffic to Texas if the bills became law. In the words of state Rep. David Simpson, “This is an issue not so much about security but about control. We’ve gone from prudent caution to ridiculous excess. This is about protecting individual freedom and dignity” (New York Times, June 16).
• PILOTS MAY SOON BE EXEMPT FROM SCANNING AND PAT DOWNS
O'Hare International Airport will soon be testing procedures that allow pilots to go through security without being scanned or patted down (Chicago Tribune, June 26). Currently they endure the same security procedures as passengers.
• MAN SUES AIRPORT FOR PERMITTING FORMER WIFE TO SPY ON HIM WITH ITS SURVEILLANCE EQUIPMENT
A suit has been brought against the Greater Toronto Airports Authority and two of its employees – one of whom has been charged with using the state-of-the-art surveillance equipment in Pearson International Airport to track her former husband, their children, and his current wife when they were in the airport in March and July 2008 (Tostar News Service, June 23). The employees allegedly also used the surveillance equipment to watch celebrities in the airport.
Indefinite Detention, Military Commissions, Torture, Extrajudicial Killing
• OBAMA DOES END RUN AROUND WAR POWERS ACT
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama had stated when speaking of a potential attack on Iran, “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Those no longer are his views. After sending in US planes and drones to participate in the bombing of Libya, he declined to get authorization from Congress when the 60-day period specified for any such unilateral action by the 1973 War Powers Act came to an end. Instead, he claimed that going to Congress was unnecessary since the Libyan engagement did not involve “hostility” that met the standard of “any offensive military action” (Time, June 20). That claim propelled Members of Congress into alignments that crossed party lines and transformed House Speaker John Boehner from an opponent to a supporter of the War Powers Act (see In the Congress, below).
• ADMINISTRATION RE-DEFINES COUNTERTERRORISM STRATEGY
The “National Strategy for Counterterrorism” issued on June 29, 2011 spells out who the enemy is: “This Administration has made it clear that we are not at war with the tactic of terrorism or the religion of Islam. We are at war with the specific organization – al Qa’ida.” But lest bringing “every tool of American power” to bear on an organization which is estimated to have only a few hundred members appears excessive, “affiliates and adherents” of al Qa’ida – the latter including radicalized individuals who may be planning attacks within “the Homeland” -- are added to the enemies’ list. They should be fought, the document asserts, while the US adheres to its “core values” and “upholds the rule of law.” Attention is paid to the need to balance security needs and civil liberties. However, although the Constitution requires the President to swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” as his primary responsibility, that duty takes second place in the National Strategy document. As President Obama writes in its introduction – and as is repeated throughout the document - “As President, I have often said that I have no greater responsibility than protecting the American people” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/06/29/national-strategy-counterterro...
• TREATMENT OF SOMALI SUSPECT SHOWCASES OBAMA’S APPROACH
After the House of Representatives voted to bar terrorism suspects from being brought to the US for trial in the federal court system, the Obama Administration first flew a Somali terrorism suspect, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, to the US and then on July 6, announced his capture and stated that he would be tried in the Southern District of New York. Seized on April 19 while traveling between Yemen and Somalia, he had been secretly interrogated by a “High –Value Interrogation Group” (including CIA, FBI and Defense Department personnel) for more than two months on a US naval brig. After that, he was turned over to the FBI and read his Miranda rights (LA Times, July 6). Officials claim he was given a “humane” interrogation in accordance with the Army Field Manual, and that he gave information about Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al Shabab in Somalia. The information that interrogators obtained will reportedly not be used against him in his civilian trial where he faces conspiracy and material support charges.
• NO SET POLICY FOR DETAINING SUSPECTS, ADMIRAL SAYS
According to Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, who will soon be head of US Special Operations, the military has no “set rules” about when to detain terrorism suspects but does things on an ad hoc basis which is approved by the White House. He told a Senate committee, “That is always a difficult issue for us. No two cases seem to be alike” (Washington Post, June 28). McRaven said that “we will put them on a naval vessel and will hold them until we can either get a case to prosecute them in US court” or send them to a third country or release them (LA Times, July 6).
• MILITARY COMMISSIONS PREPARE FOR BIG TRIALS
Harvard Law School graduate Brig. Gen. Mark Martins will soon be the chief prosecutor in the Office of Military Commissions, overseeing the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other detainees at Guantanamo (Washington Post, June 23). In late May, terrorism, conspiracy and murder charges related to the attacks of 9/11 were filed against Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators: Walid Muhammad Salih bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi.
• REPUBLICAN WANTS TERRORIST SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN THE US TO BE SENT TO GUANTANAMO
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Fox News that any non citizens charged with terrorist offenses within the United States should be sent to Guantanamo for trial before a military commission (New York Times, June 17). The six cases before the military commissions that have been completed since 2002 produced 4 plea bargains, a guilty verdict, and a short sentence, with 2 detainees now released and 3 more due to be released shortly. In contrast, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in the federal system, received a life sentence for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings. In early June he was moved to the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado (New York Times, June 9).
• HOPE FOR ACCOUNTABILITY FOR TORTURE DASHED
After a two-year review conducted by prosecutor John Durham, the Justice Department has closed cases involving the treatment of 99 detainees held at Abu Ghraib and other prisons overseas, the Justice Department announced on June 30. Only two cases will be pursued, which are believed to be those involving Manadel al-Jamadi, who was tortured to death in Abu Ghraib in CIA custody, and Gul Rahman, who died shackled to a cement wall at a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that any intelligence officer who acted “in good faith” within the scope of legal guidance at the time would not be prosecuted (Boston Globe, July 1). Prosecutor Durham had been appointed to look into the destruction by the CIA of videotapes of interrogations and many hoped that he would broaden his enquiry to look at the broad issue of torture and abuse of detainees being held by the CIA.
• HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF BUSH, SENIOR OFFICIALS
On July 12, Human Rights Watch issued a 107-page report, Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration’s Mistreatment of Detainees. It criticizes President Obama for treating torture “as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime” and demands a criminal investigation into the actions of President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Secretary of State Rumsfeld and CIA head Tenet in ordering waterboarding and other forms of torture, the use of secret CIA prisons and extraordinary rendition. It calls for torture victims to be compensated, and an independent bipartisan commission to be established to examine the actions of the executive branch, CIA, military and Congress that supported the Bush Administration’s illegal practices to make sure that systemic abuses are not repeated. It also urges other countries to use the doctrine of universal jurisdiction to prosecute US officials for torture, if the US government refuses to do so.
• DETAINEES LOSE WHEN GOVERNMENT APPEALS HABEAS RULINGS
After the US Supreme Court ruled in the case Boumediene v. Bush that Guantanamo detainees did have the right to the writ of habeas corpus and district court judges ruled in the majority of cases that the evidence was too weak to justify continued detention, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit is backing the government and reversing those lower court decisions no matter how scant the evidence against the detainee (Washington Post, June 24). They even sided with the government in a case involving a Yemeni detainee that the Obama Administration thought was probably be too weak to appeal but did so against the advice of many officials.
• WILL FAMILY MEMBERS BE ABLE TO VISIT GUANTANAMO DETAINEES?
As the government contemplates the life-time detention of people who have never been charged or tried, the Pentagon is reportedly considering allowing some family members to visit (Washington Post, May 11). That idea spurred Republicans to write an amendment into the Defense Appropriations bill barring any funding for this purpose. Beginning in 2008, the military allowed one phone call home each year if a detainee met certain unspecified conditions. In late 2009 it allowed a one hour videoconference between detainees and family members which is monitored by the military.
• LAWYERS CAN NOW SEE SOME LEAKED FILES ABOUT THEIR CLIENTS
Leaked documents concerning assessments of Guantanamo detainees made public in April have been posted on the Internet by WikiLeaks and described by The New York Times and other papers. The Justice Department originally said that lawyers who represent detainees should not read the documents but then relented. They can now view them in a secure location, but are not permitted to download, save or print them because they could contain restricted information (New York Times, June 10).
• FORMER DETAINEE NOT ALLOWED TO BOARD PLANE TO CANADA
British human rights activist Moazzam Begg, who spent the years 2003 to 2005 at Guantanamo and now serves as director of Cageprisoners, was not permitted to get on an Air Canada plane from London to Toronto because of the fear that “the plane could be rerouted to the United States.” When his attorney called the Canadian High Commission, he was told “these are US guidelines” (AFP, May 22).
• DEMONSTRATORS DISRUPT HOUSE HEARING; DEMAND CLOSURE OF GUANTANAMO
On June 23, during a hearing on a provision of the Defense Appropriations Bill that would keep detainees out of civilian courts, a group of protesters loudly denounced the proceedings, were removed from the chamber and arrested (see In the Congress below). The activists had earlier participated in a “March of Shame” that began at the White House, wound past the Department of Justice, went by the Supreme Court and ended up at the Capitol (Witness Against Torture Press Release, June 23).
• ALLEGED CIA OPERATIVE SUES US IN RENDITION CASE
Sabrina De Sousa, one of the alleged CIA operatives convicted in absentia in Italy of charges related to the rendition from the streets of Milan of an Islamic cleric, Abu Omar, has brought a civil suit in the US against the government officials whom she claims did not assert diplomatic immunity on her behalf. She was officially listed as a State Department diplomat (LATimes, May 26). The US did assert diplomatic immunity for the person whom the Italians said was the CIA station chief. De Sousa also said that the rendition (and subsequent torture) of Abu Omar was “unnecessary” as he did not pose a sufficient threat and had been investigated by Italian law enforcement. She faces arrest and possibly 7 years in prison if she travels to Europe.
• PETRAEUS AND PANETTA SWITCH DEPARTMENTS
On June 30, the Senate voted 94-0 to confirm General David Petraeus as the 20th director of the CIA – a civilian agency. On July 1, Leon Panetta, the former CIA head, was sworn in as Secretary of Defense following the retirement of Robert Gates, another former CIA boss.
• BLACKWATER HEAD SETS UP MERCENARY ARMY IN EMIRATES
Erik Prince, who founded the company Blackwater that killed and brutalized Iraqi civilians, has been paid over a half billion dollars by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to create a security force for the autocratic United Arab Emirates (UAE). The force, Reflex Responses, would conduct special operations inside and outside the country, including putting down challenges by pro-democracy demonstrators (New York Times, May 18). It will hire mercenaries from around the world but no Muslims since, in Prince’s words, Muslim soldiers “could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims.” The company has received a separate contract to guard nuclear reactors planned for the UAE.
• ICE MAKES COSMETIC CHANGES TO “SECURE COMMUNITIES” AS STATES PULL OUT
After Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick refused to sign a “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) Memorandum of Agreement [see In the Commonwealth, below] soon after the governors of New York and Illinois withdrew their states from the program, ICE head John Morton on June 17 announced certain “improvements” which do little to address S-Comm’s civil rights problems. The cosmetic changes included giving some oversight to the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties – which in fact has no jurisdiction to investigate complaints involving state and local police accused of racial profiling and can collect data but has no way to hold law enforcement accountable; some optional training modules for law enforcement agencies; some discretion on the part of law enforcement in cases involving domestic violence victims or witnesses of crimes; and a proposed Immigration and Customs Enforcement advisory committee to consider the deportation of people being arrested for minor traffic offenses – which has no authority to make binding recommendations. According to a June 23 editorial in the LA Times, it will be a problem to use Morton’s memo to make changes on the ground since the union representing 7,000 ICE agents has denounced it as a “law enforcement nightmare.”
• FOIA DOCUMENETS SHOW S-COMM PART OF MASSIVE FBI DATABASE PROJECT
Documents recently obtained through FOIA litigation undertaken by the Center for Constitutional Rights, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Cardozo Law School reveal that S-Comm is “a key component of a little-known FBI project to accumulate a massive store of personal biometric information on citizens and non-citizens alike” (Uncovertheturth.org, Press Release, July 6, 2011). The documents indicate that S-Comm is “only the first of a number of biometric interoperability systems being brought online by the FBI ‘Next Generation Identification’ (NGI) project” which will add iris scans, palm prints and facial recognition data to the FBI’s existing fingerprint database. “The FBI’s desire to pave the way for the rest of the NGI project seems to have been a driving force in the policy decision to make S-Comm mandatory. But the documents also confirm that, both technologically and legally, S-Comm could have been voluntary.” In the documents concerns are raised by both FBI and immigration officials about the way S-Comm interferes with privacy and invades civil liberties. According to Jennifer Lynch (writing for the Electronic Freedom Foundation), the FBI Next Generation Identification database will include information that has nothing to do with criminal activity, including biometrical data collected from federal and state employees, attorney bar applications, people who work with children or the elderly, people making visa applications, immigration records and border entries and exits (www.eff.org
, July 8).
• FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKS PART OF GEORGIA LAW
Parts of a Georgia anti-immigration law that penalize people who willingly transport or harbor undocumented immigrants and that authorize officials to verify the immigration status of people who do not provide proper identification have been blocked by a federal judge from going into effect on July 1. In his ruling in a court challenge brought by the ACLU, Judge Thomas Thrash determined that the state was enforcing immigration law that should be left to the federal government (Associated Press, June 27).
• ALABAMA LAW DENOUNCED IN BIRMINGHAM, RURAL AREAS
All nine members of the Birmingham City Council have gone on record opposing Alabama’s new immigration law and asking for it to be rescinded. The law requires schools, businesses and landlords to verify the immigration status of students, employees and tenants, criminalizes the act of giving a ride to an undocumented person and permits the police to detain people on suspicion of being in the country illegally. The City Council said the new law reinforces negative images of intolerance and bigotry linked to Alabama’s Jim Crow past. Farmers fear the law will mean that millions of dollars’ worth of crops will rot in the fields as farm workers leave the state or go into hiding. “Georgia labor officials estimate a shortage of some 11,000 workers in the agricultural sector, and the state has enacted a program where people on probation, who often have difficulty finding jobs are sent into the fields” – but many farmers refuse to hire them (AFP, June 23).
• SOUTH CAROLINA PASSES DRACONIAN ANTI-IMMIGRATION BILL
The South Carolina law enables police to check suspects’ immigration status, sets up a new unit within the Department of Public Safety to enforce state immigration laws and requires all businesses to put hires through the E-Verify system. It also requires police officers to alert ICE officials if they think someone is in the country illegally and makes it a felony punishable by a $25,000 fine and five years in prison to make fake photo IDs. The ACLU is suing to stop the law taking effect (Wall Street Journal, June 21).
• MARYLAND DREAM ACT TO BE VOTED ON IN STATEWIDE REFERENDUM
An Internet petition drive has obtained enough signatures to allow voters to decide whether Maryland’s DREAM Act should be suspended. It permits any student who has attended Maryland high schools for three years and can prove his parents have been paying taxes to have access to in-state tuition.
• DATA ACCESSED BY FLAWED E-VERIFY SYSTEM TO BE EXPANDED
With the Supreme Court upholding an Arizona law punishing employers who hire out of status workers and requiring businesses to use the E-Verify system [see In the Courts, below], the Obama Administration is planning to incorporate more personal information in the database that the E-Verify tool accesses in order to make up for its demonstrated shortcomings. The information includes photos from US passports, green cards, work permits, and drivers’ license data, beginning with the data from Mississippi. The ACLU’s Chris Calabrese stated, “You are creating an enormous database filled with information on what would be, if it’s mandatory, information on every American worker. That’s a honey pot for identity thieves.” In Minnesota, the company hired by the state to carry out E-Verify checks lost personal information (including Social Security numbers) of 37,000 people to identity theft (Washington Post, May 26). In December, the Government Accountability Office issued a report detailing the inaccurate records and other problems plaguing E-Verify, including its vulnerability to identity theft and employer fraud.
• ONE THOUSAND BUSINESSES TARGETED FOR WORKFORCE AUDITS BY ICE
ICE will be visiting about a thousand businesses to review the I-9 forms and other documents filed by workers to show their eligibility to work in the country (Politico, June 18). It audited 2,300 businesses between October 2010 and June 2011. The audit of 2,196 businesses in 2010 led to the arrests of 196 employers and 119 convictions.
• REPORT CONDEMNS USING IMMIGRATION SYSTEM TO PRESSURE MUSLIMS
On May 4. the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law School released a report that accuses the US government of using the lack of transparency and lax standards of the immigration system to deport, detain and deny benefits to Muslim immigrants, targeting them on the basis of “innuendo, religious and cultural affiliations, or political beliefs.” The report, Under the Radar: Muslims Deported, Detained, and Denied on Unsubstantiated Terrorism Allegations, details how in cases involving ordinary immigration violations, unsubstantiated terrorism-related allegations are made against Muslim immigrants with no formal charges being brought; how Muslim immigrants are subjected to detention in cases involving minor violations that ordinarily do not entail incarceration; how flimsy immigration charges are used against Muslim immigrants, such as failure to disclose tenuous ties to charitable organizations; and the way their vulnerable immigration status is used to coerce Muslim immigrants to become informants for federal law enforcement officials.
• IMPACT OF SPECIAL REGISTRATION PROGRAM STILL BEING FELT
Although the government has ended the Special Registration program that required thousands of men from Arab and Muslim countries to register with immigration authorities, many are still fighting deportation. They were placed in deportation proceedings when they were found to be out of status, often with minor visa violations or because of government delays in processing their paperwork (New York Times, May 30).
• PULITZER PRIZE WINNER GIVES UNDOCUMENTED A HUMAN FACE
Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has written for The New Yorker, Washington Post, and Huffington Post, revealed he was an undocumented immigrant in an article in the June 22 New York Times Magazine and subsequently testified at the Senate hearing on the DREAM Act (Nation, June 29). Born in the Philippines, he came to the US at the age of 12 and only became aware that he did not have legal status to be in the country when he was 16.
• IMMIGRANT IN SAME-SEX MARRIAGE GIVEN REPRIEVE
After facing deportation when his request for legal residency was denied because same-sex marriage was not recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act, a Venezuelan immigrant has been allowed for the time being to stay in the country. A Newark immigration judge decided that the Attorney General and the courts needed time to consider the implications of same-sex marriage for legal residency (New York Times, May 6).
• VETERAN JAILED, AWAITING DEPORTATION FOR CHECKING WRONG BOX
Elisha Dawkins came to the US from the Bahamas as a baby and grew up thinking he was a citizen. He is now incarcerated and facing deportation for lying on his passport application. He served in both the Army and the Navy, including in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay where he had “secret” security clearance, and has been praised for showing an “exceptional work ethic.” He was indicted five years ago after being issued with a passport despite having a standing deportation order dating back to when he was eight years old. He has been accused of lying on his passport application by checking ‘no’ in a box asking whether he had ever applied for a passport before. “The government claims the answer is yes” although it marks that application as “abandoned” since he never completed the process (New York Times, June 23).
• REPORT DETAILS PROBLEMS PRESENTED BY TRANSFERS OF DETAINEES
A report by Human Rights Watch finds that between 1998 and 2010, about 40 percent of all immigration detainees were transferred at least once and 3,400 were transferred a minimum of 10 times, with one person moved 66 times during a 13 month period in 2008 and 2009. The practice has played havoc with their court cases, making it difficult for them to stay in touch with their lawyers and extending their time in detention (New York Times, June 15). The number of transfers dropped only slightly under the Obama Administration. According to Alison Parker, director of the US Human Rights Watch program, while immigration officials since 2009 have made promises repeatedly to reform the system, they are “continuing to drag their feet.”
• LOTTERY CANCELLED AFTER 22,000 WINNERS GIVEN GOOD NEWS
In early May, the US State Department informed 22,000 people worldwide that they had won the Diversity Visa Lottery and the chance to become legal permanent residents of the US. But on May 13, the lottery results were cancelled on the State Department website, which cited “computer programming problems” (New York Times, June 23). The jilted “winners” have banded together through social media to seek redress from the State Department, which announced a new lottery drawing on July 15.
• STUDY DOCUMENTS HARDSHIPS FACED BY CHILDREN OF UNDOCUMENTED
Harvard University professor Hirokazu Yoshikawa has published a book entitled Immigrants Raising Citizens (Russell Sage Foundation, 2011) that focuses on the impact of a parent’s undocumented status and accompanying psychological stress, low wages, poor living conditions and shadow existence on American-born children. “Millions of the youngest citizens in the United States, simply by virtue of being born to a parent with a particular legal status, have less access to the learning opportunities that are the building blocks of adult productivity,” Professor Yoshikawa writes. An estimated 91 percent of the children of out-of-status parents –approximately 4 million children – are American citizens.
• $90 BILLION SPENT TO “SECURE” MEXICAN BORDER
The Associated Press has tallied that the US has spent at least $90 billion over the last decade along its 1,900 mile border with Mexico. It has erected 650 miles of walls and heavy-duty fencing, remote surveillance cameras, sensors and thermal imaging devices, X-ray machines; and deployed 1,200 National Guard soldiers and squads of drug sniffing dogs. While the number of people intercepted when crossing the border illegally has gone down – at least in part because of the recession - the amount of drugs crossing into the United States has not (Boston Globe, June 26).
• NYT EDITORIAL URGES PRESIDENT TO ACT TO FIX IMMIGRATION SYSTEM
In a June 4 editorial, The New York Times urged the President to take action independently of Congress to start fixing the immigration system. Among other recommendations, it said he should pull the plug on “Secure Communities;” push harder against “the noxious anti-immigrant laws” being passed by the states; grant relief from deportation to DREAM Act-qualified young people; stop employers from using the threat of deportation to strip workers of their rights; push back against the expanded use of the flawed E-Verify system; and make it easier for families to fix their immigration status without having to leave the country.
• IS THE US ENGAGED IN A THIRD WAR? WHITE HOUSE SAYS NO; CONGRESS IS NOT SURE
After the Obama Administration decided not to seek support from Congress for ongoing US military involvement in Libya and claimed the War Powers Act did not apply since, in the words of State Department legal advisor Harold Koh, “the situation in Libya does not constitute a war,” it was rebuked by the House which refused to endorse ongoing US support for the NATO operation. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee then voted 14-5 to permit US military involvement to continue for a year (New York Times, June 29). The Democratic Party has split on the issue of whether the US is now involved in a third war, with Senator Jim Webb of Virginia stating, “When you have an operation that goes on for months, costs billions of dollars, where the United States is providing two-thirds of the troops, even under the NATO fig leaf, where they’re dropping bombs that are killing people, where you’re paying your troops offshore combat pay and there are areas of prospective escalation…I would say that’s hostilities.” In early July, the House voted 229 - 199 against a measure sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Justin Amash (R-MI) to prevent the US from using military force in Libya. A measure sponsored by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) preventing the Pentagon from giving the Libyan rebels military equipment, training or advice passed by a vote of 225 – 201 (New York Times, July 7).
• HOUSE PASSES DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT; REBUKES PRESIDENT ON LIBYA
On July 8, the House passed a $649 billion Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2219) – an increase of $17 billion over last year’s military spending bill but $9 billion less than sought by the President during this austerity season. Efforts by Rep. Barney Frank to slash in half the increase in military spending were rebuffed. H.R. 2219 must now be reconciled with the Senate bill. The bill includes language prohibiting spending that violates the War Powers Resolution and bars funding to train or equip the rebels in Libya.
• HOUSE SUPPORTS “FOREVER WAR” PROVISION; IT DROPPED BY SENATE
On May 26, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 1540), a $670 billion military spending proposal that contains a section (1034) that was dubbed a recipe for “forever war.” This section – an “affirmation of armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces” -- gives the President “the authority to use all necessary and appropriate force” against not just those three entities, but against “nations, organizations and persons” who “have engaged in hostilities or have directly supported hostilities in aid of a nation, organization or person” affiliated with the three entities. There is no timeline for the use of that authority – it could last indefinitely, as the list of actual or potential enemies indefinitely expands. Section 1034 was one of several sections that elicited a veto threat from the White House (AP, May 24). It remained in the bill that went to the Senate and was referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 6. However, neither of the two versions of the Senate National Defense Authorization Act that came out of Committee (S.1253 and S. 981) contained the provision.
• PROPOSALS WOULD MANDATE MILITARY TRIALS AND DETENTION
Various Congressional proposals attached to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act seek to mandate military detention and trials for anyone deemed to be a member of Al-Qaeda or “an affiliated entity,” which, in the words of a June 26 New York Times editorial, “means pretty much anyone arrested for carrying out or plotting a terrorist act anywhere.” The proposals apply to terrorism suspects detained on US soil. They do not apply to American citizens, but could include lawful residents of the US. The Senate bill orders the military to set up status hearings for people held in “long-term custody” in places like Bagram Air Base. The effort, The Times says, is “to turn all terrorism cases into matters of war, not law….The president must step in and stop this march toward endless war and the perpetual undermining of American constitutional values.”
• SENATE REFUSES – THEN AGREES - TO CONFIRM DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
Justice Department veteran James Cole, who became assistant deputy attorney general through a recess appointment in December 2010, had a rocky road to confirmation. Attacking Cole’s preference to prosecute terrorist suspects in federal courts, Senate Republicans in May blocked his nomination to be the number two person in the Justice Department by a 50 – 40 vote. But because this fell 10 votes short of the 60-vote threshold required to doom a nomination, the Administration was able to try again to get him confirmed. On June 28, Cole was again accused by Republicans of being weak on terrorists for considering them criminals who could be tried in civilian courts. But this time his nomination was confirmed, by a vote of 55 – 42 (Congressional Record, June 28).
• PATRIOT ACT RE-AUTHORIZED AFTER BI-PARTISAN SCARE-MONGERING
Once upon a time the Democrats en masse – including Senator Obama – demanded that the USA PATRIOT Act be reformed. No longer. In late May and early June, only a handful of Democrats joined a handful of Republicans and Independent Bernie Sanders in pushing for changes to the three provisions (Section 215, roving wiretaps, lone wolf) that were due to sunset. The President and Democratic leadership now assumed the role that the Republicans had perfected, letting their reform-minded colleagues know that if there was any delay in getting the provisions re-authorized, the blood from the next terrorist attack would be on their hands (Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com, May 23). In the words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, “When the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, we would be giving terrorists the opportunity to plot attacks against our country, undetected,” declaring that anyone who tries to delay a vote “is threatening to take away the best tools we have for stopping them.” The remark was aimed at Sen. Rand Paul who wanted to vote on amendments allowing greater privacy protections for banking and gun records. The provisions were reauthorized by a 72-23 vote in the Senate and a 250-153 vote in the House (AP, May 27). President Obama, who was in France, then signed the extension into law using an autopen machine. Sounding like his predecessor, he called it “an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat.”
• IS THERE A SECRET INTERPRETATION OF THE PATRIOT ACT?
Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO), both of whom sit on the Intelligence Committee, submitted an amendment to the PATRIOT Act re-authorization bill that suggests that a portion of the Act – probably Section 215 (referred to as either the library or business record provision) - has been used for a “sensitive collection program” that is “inconsistent with the public’s understanding” of the law. "When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act," Udall said, "they will be stunned and they will be angry.” Senator Wyden told TIME that the Justice Department has issued a memo interpreting Section 215 in very broad terms: “When you read that opinion, the classified opinion – that I can’t say a word about – and set it down next to the text of the law, there is a big gap. That is what this issue is all about” (TIME, June 24). Udall added that “innocent Americans are being swept up in this.” When he was on the Senate Intelligence Committee, former Senator Russ Feingold had on more than one occasion complained of the misuse of Section 215 – which permits the government to seize any “tangible thing” - and other parts of the PATRIOT Act. At the end of May, the ACLU filed a FOIA request demanding to know how Section 215 has been used (ACLU, Blog of Rights, May 31).
• SENATOR SCHUMER PROPOSES AMTRAK “NO-RIDE” LIST
No sooner had the government revealed that Osama bin Laden was considering an attack on train systems than Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) proposed creating a “No-Ride” list and additional funding for monitoring of stations nationwide (Reuters, May 8). The idea would be to prevent anyone on the error-riddled “no-fly list” from getting on Amtrak trains.
• GPS ACT WOULD REQUIRE WARRANT TO ACCESS GEOLOCATION DATA
The Geoloction Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act filed in June by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) mandates that federal authorities to get a warrant on a showing of probable cause before obtaining geolocation data such as that provided by cellphones and other electronic devices. It would apply to all law enforcement acquisitions of that data on individual Americans, including from commercial service providers and covert tracking devices, and would apply to real-time tracking of a person’s movements as well as the obtaining of past records. It creates criminal penalties for using an electronic device to track a person’s movements and would prohibit commercial service providers from sharing this data with outside entities without a customer’s consent (Office of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, Press Release, June 21).
• SENATOR LEAHY PROPOSES MILD REFORM OF ECPA
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has filed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Amendments Act of 2011 to bring the 1986 law into the digital age. It would in many cases require police to obtain a search warrant to access private communications and current mobile phone location data. Civil liberties advocates are disappointed that it does not require a warrant to obtain previous location data and would broaden the ability of the FBI to bypass the court system by using National Security Letters to obtain private communications (CNET News, May 17).
• SECOND HEARING HELD ON THE “MUSLIM THREAT”
On June 15, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, held a hearing on the “Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in US Prisons.” He responded to critics such as Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA) who said the hearing could be seen as “racist and as discriminatory” by stating: “The purpose of this committee is to combat Islamic terrorism because that is the terrorist threat to this country. If we find out that Neo-Nazis are allied with a foreign power and they come into this country… we will address it. The fact is we are not going to spread ourselves out and investigate everything, which means addressing nothing. We are going to focus on a target which threatens the security of this nation and that is why we are doing it, without minimizing the other threats” (Dailycaller.com, June 15).
• BILL WOULD MAKE E-VERIFY MANDATORY
US Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has filed a bill requiring employers with more than 500 employees to use E-Verify within the year and all employees – immigrant and citizen - to be screened by the Internet-based system which is currently used voluntarily by 250,000 businesses. The cost to small businesses of making it mandatory is expected to be around $2.6 billion. There is an exception in the bill for agricultural employers, who have three years to get ready to use the system (New York Times, June 16).
• BILL FILED TO EXPAND NUMBER OF GREEN CARD HOLDERS
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the Representative who has led the opposition to S-Comm, is proposing to increase the number of foreign students who are entitled to become permanent residents with green cards and create a green card category for immigrant entrepreneurs (New York Times, June 16).
• FOR FIRST TIME SENATE HOLDS DREAM ACT HEARING
On June 28, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, in an attempt to get support for a bill that has already passed the House. In her testimony DHS head Janet Napolitano said it "doesn't make sense" to deport illegal immigrant students who would be covered by the proposal (Fox News, June 28). The DREAM Act was re-introduced in the Senate on May 11.
• US SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS ANTI-IMMIGRANT LAW
An Arizona law, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, that imposes stiff penalties on employers who hire out of status workers has been upheld in a 5-3 decision in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion and Justice Elena Kagan recused herself. The act had been signed into law by then-Governor Janet Napolitano in 2007 and was challenged by the ACLU, the US Chamber of Commerce and various business and immigration groups. The court majority upheld the use of the E-Verify system, which Justice Breyer in dissent called “a pilot program…prone to error” (New York Times, May 27). The decision means that in some instances anti-immigrant measures passed by states are constitutional even though the 1986 federal Immigration Reform and Control Act overrides “any state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions” on those who recruit or hire “unauthorized aliens.”
• US SUPREME COURT THROWS OUT CHALLENGE TO MISUSE OF MATERIAL WITNESS LAW
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Abdullah al-Kidd, an American student at the University of Idaho, could not sue John Ashcroft for detaining him for 19 days without charging him with a crime or ever calling him to testify at a terrorism trial. Since the terms of the detention did not, the justices said, violate clearly established law, the former Attorney General was entitled to qualified immunity from the lawsuit (New York Times, June 1).
• CHALLENGE TO GPS TRACKING ACCEPTED BY SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether law enforcement agencies must get a warrant before they can secretly attach a GPS tracking device to a vehicle. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit had ruled that a warrant was necessary, and the Obama Administration appealed the ruling (ACLU press release, June 27). Two other federal appeals courts have ruled that prolonged GPS monitoring without a warrant does not violate the Fourth Amendment. In May, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that GPS tracking without a warrant was a violation of the state Constitution and at least seven states have passed laws requiring the law enforcement to secure a warrant before using GPS devices.
• US SUPREME COURT WILL NOT HEAR ABU GHRAIB LAWSUIT
A class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of 250 former Abu Ghraib detainees against two contractors, Titan Corporation and CACI International, has been declined by the US Supreme Court. The detainees said the contractors participated in torture and abusive interrogations at the prison involving sexual humiliation, forced nudity, beatings, stress positions, sleep deprivation and in at least one case, torture that caused the death of an inmate. The Appeals Court in Washington had thrown out the case on grounds of “battlefield preemption” (Christian Science Monitor, June 27). Lawsuits alleging torture cannot, the court ruled, be brought against American military officials working overseas or private contractors working with the US government overseas. Currently nearly 218,000 private contractor personnel are working in Iraq an Afghanistan.
• SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO HEAR RENDITON TORTURE CASE
The Supreme Court has refused to review a 6-5 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that threw out a lawsuit against Boeing’s Jeppesen Dataplan Inc. for helping the CIA fly terrorism suspects to secret prisons for interrogation and torture. The Obama Administration had urged the Supreme Court to refuse to hear the case brought by five rendition victims, saying it could jeopardize state secrets and national security (Reuters, May 16). Under the heading “Malign Neglect,” The New York Times editorialized, “The court’s choice is a major stain on American justice. By slamming its door on these victims without explanation, it removed the essential judicial block against the executive branch’s use of claims of secrecy to cover up misconduct that shocks the conscience. It has further diminished any hope of obtaining a definitive ruling that the government’s conduct was illegal – a vital step for repairing damage and preventing future abuses” (May 22).
• ADMINISTRATION WANTS CASE THROWN OUT OF MAN TORTURED BY TALIBAN AND US
Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al Janko, a Syrian, was detained by the Taliban in 2000 and tortured into admitting he was an American spy. He was liberated by US forces in December 2001. But then a “confession” which was extracted by the Taliban under torture came to light, and he was detained as a terrorist by the US and sent to Guantanamo where he spent the next seven years. He has sued various Bush Administration officials under the Alien Tort Statute, claiming that US interrogators subjected him to severe beatings, lengthy sleep deprivation and urinated on him and otherwise abused him. He reportedly tried to commit suicide 17 times while in detention. The Obama Administration has asked federal court to dismiss the lawsuit on procedural grounds, and the fact that too much time has passed since the torture took place (Reuters, June 29).
• NSA “LEAK” CASE COLLAPSES
The Obama Administration’s case against former NSA official Thomas Drake brought under the 1917 Espionage Act melted down after federal judge Richard Bennett ruled that the government would have to show to the jury some of the allegedly classified documents that Drake was accused of holding at home. This led prosecutors to withdraw four of the documents and redact information from another two about “NSA’s targeting of a particular telecommunications technology” (New York Times, June 9). Drake had faced up to 35 years in prison for whistleblowing about the NSA’s allegedly choosing a $1 billion technology program that illegally monitored Americans’ communications over a $3 million program that protected privacy rights. After the judge ruled the prosecutors could not keep the evidence against him secret, Drake was offered him a plea deal which he was originally reluctant to take as he did not want to admit he had committed a crime. He finally agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor of misusing the agency’s computer system by providing information to a Baltimore Sun reporter. The Drake case was the subject of a damning New Yorker article by Jane Mayer (“The Secret Sharer,” May 23) that revealed how whistleblowing was being criminalized to cover up illegal domestic surveillance.
• CHALLENGE TO OKLAHOMA’S ANTI-SHARIAH MEASURE FILED IN FEDERAL COURT
The ACLU of Council on American-Islamic Relations are asking the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Oklahoma’s “Save our State Amendment” which barred courts in the state from using or citing shariah law. A federal district court judge had barred the ban from taking place on the grounds that it may violate the Establishment clause. This challenge seeks to make the ban permanent (Wall Street Journal, May 10).
• AFTER GOVERNOR FREEZES OUT ICE, MAYOR PUTS ICE ON NOTICE
The misleadingly named federal “Secure Communities” program took a major hit on June 6 when Governor Patrick announced he would not be signing an S-Comm Memorandum of Understanding. As The New York Times editorialized on June 8, Patrick joined “a long list of elected officials, Congress members and law enforcement professionals who want nothing to do with the program for the simple reason that it does more harm than good…We welcome the votes of no-confidence in Secure Communities.” The federal response to Patrick’s announcement was that it won’t make any difference because the program will be automatic across the nation by 2013 (Boston Globe, June 7). The following month, on July 11, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced that he would withdraw Boston from the program unless only immigrants who had committed serious offenses were deported under S-Comm. Boston had been piloting the deportation program since 2008. On July 3 The Boston Globe featured the stories of three people who had been deported under it for minor traffic offenses. As The Boston Globe editorialized on July 13, “Boston officials say they signed up for a program that identifies illegal immigrants who engage in violent crimes or serial offenses. They want nothing to do with saddling low-level, nonviolent offenders with federal sanctions, including deportation…The needs of the city and the needs of Homeland Security are out of sync.” No sooner did Menino announce his second thoughts than a Marlborough city councilor said his town wants to join the program (MetroWest Daily News, July 11).
• GOVERNMENT SUED FOR SEIZURE OF LAPTOP
David House, a founding member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, has brought a lawsuit against the DHS, Customs and Border Protecting and ICE agents in federal court in Boston. With the help of the ACLU, House is claiming that the federal agents who seized his laptop, thumb drive and video camera at a Chicago airport and kept them for seven weeks violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights (AP, May 13). On his computer were several years’ worth of emails, passwords to his bank account and workplace computer, and information about the Bradley Manning Support Network, including lists of donors. Like its predecessor, the Obama Administration claims that searching a laptop is no different than searching a suitcase. House is now stopped and interrogated whenever he reenters the country, leaving him to believe that his advocacy work has landed him on a watch list (Washington Post, May 13).
• BULGER’S CAPTURE MAY PRODUCE NEW REVELATIONS
After South Boston mobster Whitey Bulger was captured in California 16 years after he was tipped off by his FBI handler that his arrest was imminent, there was widespread speculation in Boston’s newspapers that new information about the corruption and crimes of the FBI and local and state police and payoffs to other government officials might be forthcoming. Bulger and his accomplice Stephen Flemmi have been indicted in the murders of 19 people, many while he served as an FBI informant (Boston Globe, June 24).
• MASSACHUSETTS TOWNS TO ROLL OUT FACIAL RECOGITION TECHNOLOGY
Soon police in Brockton, Plymouth and other Massachusetts communities will be using gadgets developed by Plymouth-based B12 Technology to take iris scans and pictures with facial recognition software that can then be matched against images in a database. The device, known as the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System (MORIS), is used in Iraq and Afghanistan and can be snapped onto an iPhone. Brockton police chief William Conlon denies that privacy issues are a concern when the police photograph someone’s face (from up to 5 feet away) or irises (from 6 inches away). “It’s just a picture…most people will say, ‘I don’t have anything to hide, go ahead’” (Wall Street Journal, July 13).
• BROOKLINE HOLDS PUBLIC HEARING ON CAMERA TECHNOLOGY
On July 12, the Brookline selectmen held a public hearing into Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology which is being provided to the police department through a $20,460 state grant. The hearing followed the concerns expressed at a June 21 town meeting by the ACLU and others on privacy issues involved with the cameras in the absence of a strict policy on their use. If Brookline accepts the grant, it would be required to have its data stored in a state data base where state and the federal agencies can access it and it can be used to track the movement of individuals (Brookline Tab, June 22).
• PERSONAL DATA STOLEN FROM STATE OFFICE
A data breach at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development may have resulted in the theft of names, addresses and Social Security numbers of over 210,000 unemployed Massachusetts residents (Boston Globe, May 18). A virus that was detected on April 20 was responsible for the breach. Questions have been raised about why news of the breach was not made public for a month.
Civil Liberties Update | May 9, 2011
A. EXECUTIVE ACTIONS
Indefinite Detention, Military Commissions, Torture, Extrajudicial Killing
• Bin Laden killed in “Operation Geronimo”
• After the raid more questions than answers
• Bush supporters say see, torture works!
• Death of bin Laden – and civil liberties
• “Obama ratifies Bush”
• Detainees to be in Guantanamo for life?
• Detainees stage hunger strike in wake of Obama’s order
• Military commissions back in business
• Will military commissions be US bound?
• Rights curtailed for terror suspects within the US
• They were not the “worst of the worst” after all
• WikiLeaks: up to 150 detainees totally innocent
• Guantanamo lawyers cannot review WikiLeak documents
• “Gitmo North”
• The ordeal of Bradley Manning
• Former CIA official gives details of targeted killing program
• Drone strike in Yemen aimed at American citizen
• Con man alerts White House to terrorism scares
• Cleared detainees remain imprisoned in Bagram
• Libya plays havoc with “war on terror” framework
• “Kill team” trophy photos are “graphic and extreme”
• “A more militarized CIA for a more militarized America”
• Spain drops torture investigation after getting US guarantees
• Torture program designed to “exploit” detainees
• Psychologist in charge of torture regime appointed to White House task force
• John Ashcroft to advise the former Blackwater on ethics
Building the National Security Surveillance State
• FBI on “war footing” following bin Laden’s death
• “FBI casts wide net under relaxed rules for terror inquiries”
• FBI underpowered?
• FBI is deploying secret spyware on computers
• FBI building billion dollar database to house biometric information
• Treasury freezes assets of activists facing grand jury subpoenas
• Prosecutors obtain journalist’s phone records, emails and financial data
• Obama continues Bush policy on phone records
• Companies overwhelmed by police requests for electronic information
• Who will head the FBI after Mueller?
• Feds want local police to be full team members
• Electronic searches at airports erase privacy rights
• Two former Marines barred from flying; join lawsuit
• Teenager sues government to get off “no fly” list
• Holder says “no fly” list bound to expand
• TSA reportedly reviewing screening of young passengers
• Muslim clerics on way to conference on Islamophobia removed from plane
• State Department proposes steep new passport hurdles
• REAL ID not dead after all
• New danger – electronic terrorism
• NSA investigating cyber attack on finance industry
• DHS promotes “if you see something, say something” campaign
• Terror warning system revamped
• What happened to the promise of open government?
• LAPD now has 750 officers in counterterrorism unit
• Islamophobes hype the “Sharia threat”
• Jones burns Koran; protests kill at least 24 people
• Michigan police search mobile phones during traffic stops
• License plate readers transform police work
• Apple devices track users; map their movements
• New Jersey nearly auctions secret data to highest bidder
• Communities push back against “Secure Communities”
• Illinois governor withdraws state from S-Comm; ICE says you can’t do that
• SF sheriff will not hold low-level offenders for ICE to detain under S-Comm
• Latinos and Democrats urge Obama to curb deportations
• No lawyer? Chance of being deported five times greater
• Feds settle immigration case but admit no wrongdoing
• Child citizen sent to Guatemala when grandfather barred entry
• DHS officially ends NSEERS registration process
• Federal court continues to block implementation of parts of Arizona law
• Arizona thinks twice about passing more anti-immigrant laws
• Suit filed against Utah law
• Legislatures in South moving ahead with anti-immigrant bills
• Schools warned against checking immigration status
• Workers hurt by “silent raids”
• Immigrants win civil rights lawsuit
• US immigration detention system condemned by tribunal
B. IN THE US CONGRESS
• PATRIOT Act re-visited; push to get Justice Act re-introduced
• Legislation would tie president’s hands on Guantanamo
• Internet privacy bill introduced
• Hearings held on Muslim “radicalization”
• Senator Durbin holds hearing on violations of Muslims’ rights
• Bill would take responsibility for terror cases away from Justice Department
• Congressional Hispanic Caucus demands S-Comm moratorium
C. IN THE COURTS
• Supreme Court hears arguments in material witness case
• Supreme Court refuses to hear detainee appeals
• Challenge to new surveillance law allowed to proceed
• Government appeals ruling against warrantless wiretapping program
• Judge rules that government can seize Twitter records
• Judge throws out Padilla lawsuit
• One terrorist acquitted by El Paso jury; another dies in Florida
D. IN THE COMMONWEALTH
• Watertown man agrees to be deported
• Campaign grows to keep “Secure Communities” out of Massachusetts
• ICE is investigating Upper Crust Pizzeria chain
• Napolitano urges vigilance on MBTA
• ALPR technology in police departments across state
• Malalai Joya speaks in Massachusetts after visa denial reversed
A. EXECUTIVE ACTIONS
Indefinite Detention, Military Commissions, Torture, Extrajudicial Killing
• BIN LADEN KILLED IN “OPERATION GERONIMO”
In the early hours of May 2 (Pakistani time) a contingent of 79 Navy Seals belonging to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) flew from Jalalabad, Afghanistan and assassinated an unarmed Osama bin Laden by shooting him in the head and chest in his large compound close to the Kakul Military Academy in Abbottabad, Pakistan. His body was taken by helicopter to an aircraft carrier and was treated in accordance with what the government (mistakenly) said were Muslim rites and dumped in the Arabian sea. Bin Laden, his three wives and many children had reportedly lived in the three-story building surrounded by a high wall since 2005. It was under surveillance for several months by a CIA unit that was holed up in a nearby rented house. During the raid, one of four US helicopters – a secret stealth aircraft - was damaged when it hit the wall surrounding the compound. Initial reports that the Seals engaged in an intense firefight and that a woman who was shot had been used as a human shield were later withdrawn. The only person to fire a gun was reportedly bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti (a nom de guerre), who was shot dead. Al-Kuwaiti's wife was killed in crossfire and two other people - identified as bin Laden’s son and the courier’s brother – were also killed. Pakistani security officials later took away from the compound bin Laden’s 3 wives (one wounded in the leg) and 9 children, aged 2 – 12. The 12-year-old daughter of bin Laden said that her father was captured alive but then shot dead in front of family members, according to the May 4 Al Arabiya News. The special forces seized scores of thumb drives, computers, disks and documents from the compound, which are expected to provide a treasure trove of intelligence on al Qaeda. President Obama and his national security staff kept abreast of the raid by watching a real time video feed narrated by CIA head Panetta. President Zardawi of Pakistan was reportedly not informed about the attack until the JSOC unit had cleared Pakistan’s air space with bin Laden’s body. Given that bin Laden’s prime grudge against the United States was its military presence in Muslim lands, by choosing to name the operation after a revered Apache leader who resisted US occupation of Indian lands and died in Army captivity the US did more than outrage Native Americans. It also flaunted an imperial hubris, which was confirmed by further drone strikes within Pakistan later the same week.
• AFTER THE RAID MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
What these developments will mean for US-Pakistan relations, for the war in Afghanistan and the broader “war on terror” is far from clear. Statements from Pakistani government officials have done little to put to rest suspicions that someone in its military and/or the powerful Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) knew about bin Laden’s whereabouts. A Pakistani government statement claimed that it had been sharing its intelligence about the compound with the CIA since 2009, while various Pakistani officials have said that neither the army nor ISI knew bin Laden was in Pakistan (New York Times, May 4). The news of bin Laden’s death immediately ramped up the debate about how and when to extract American troops from its longest-ever war in Afghanistan. There has been criticism within the US and abroad about the decision of President Obama not to make public pictures of bin Laden’s body and the fact that he was killed while unarmed, instead of being captured and eventually brought to trial. But the matter of where such a trial could have been held has got scant attention. With the federal court system ruled off limits for “war on terror” suspects by Republicans in Congress, a military commission would have been the only option – and the “justice” it would deliver would almost certainly be widely regarded as tainted.
• BUSH SUPPORTERS SAY SEE, TORTURE WORKS!
No sooner had President Obama told the world that bin Laden had been killed, than proponents of “enhanced interrogation techniques” including Rep. Peter King and Fox News claimed waterboarding deserved a large share of the credit. As John Yoo wrote in the National Review, Obama’s success was made possible by the “tough decisions taken by the Bush administration” which led to the identity of bin Laden’s courier being revealed. The notion that this information was extracted under torture was debunked by Jane Mayer (“Bin Laden dead, torture debate lives on,” New Yorker, May 2), by Glenn Greenwald (“The illogic of the torture debate,” Salon, May 4) and by Charlie Savage and Scott Shane in the May 4 New York Times. Matthew Alexander, a former senior military interrogator in Iraq, told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman that torture and abusive treatment of detainees slowed down efforts to find bin Laden and other al-Qaeda members (May 4). On May 5, a New York Times editorial asked, “If, as Rep. Peter King, the Long Island Republican, said, information from abused prisoners ‘directly led’ to the redoubt, why didn’t the Bush administration follow that trail years ago?”
• DEATH OF BIN LADEN – AND CIVIL LIBERTIES
For George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, “the death of bin Laden is not the marker of an end of a period but a reminder that there is no end to this period. For those who have long wanted expansion of presidential powers and the limitation of constitutional rights, bin Laden gave them an irresistible opportunity to reshape this country — and the expectations of our citizens. We now accept thousands of security cameras in public places, intrusive physical searches and expanding police powers as the new reality of American life. The privacy that once defined this nation is now viewed as a quaint, if not naive, concept. Police power works like the release of gas in a closed space: expand the space and the gas fills it. It is rare in history to see ground lost in civil liberties be regained through concessions of power by the government. Our terrorism laws have transcended bin Laden and even 9/11. They have become the status quo. That is the greatest tragedy of bin Laden's legacy — not what he did to us, but what we have done to ourselves” (USA Today, May 3).
• “OBAMA RATIFIES BUSH”
This Wall Street Journal headline (March 8) summarizes the capitulation which President Obama made on a range of “war on terror” campaign and presidential promises. On March 7, just over two years after the President signed an executive order declaring that Guantanamo would be closed within a year, he signed other executive orders formalizing its system of indefinite detention and cranking up the military commissions that he had opposed as a senator and suspended when he first took office. With this action, a two-tiered system of justice received the imprimatur of both political parties and is likely to become the “new normal.”
• DETAINEES TO BE IN GUANTANAMO FOR LIFE?
The president, a former constitutional law professor, has endorsed holding some people indefinitely without charges or trial because evidence that would be used against them was extracted through torture or because there is insufficient evidence to try them and they are seen to be too dangerous to release. The executive order asserts the legal authority to continue to hold the detainees under the laws of war. Each detainee will have a “government representative” to advocate on his behalf every three years before a Periodic Review Board composed of military intelligence, and officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Justice and State. A detainee will be able to call witnesses “who are reasonably available” – it is difficult to imagine what that will mean in practice. The Periodic Review Board, an executive branch creation with no judicial input, will decide whether they remain a threat, should be tried by a military commission or should be released. According to the president, “the United States has worked to bring terrorists to justice consistent with our commitment to protect the American people and uphold our values” (New York Times, March 7). Indefinite detention without charges or trial is apparently now seen as consistent with those values. In immediate terms, it will be applied to at least 47 of the remaining 172 Guantanamo detainees. Who will it be applied to in the future – and where?
• DETAINEES STAGE HUNGER STRIKE IN WAKE OF OBAMA’S ORDER
At least 15 Guantanamo detainees went on hunger strike in early March to protest the indefinite detention order signed by President Obama and conditions in the new camp they were moved to inside the prison (Jason Leopold, Truthout, April 29). The hunger strike lasted until about April 21. It is not known if they were force fed.
• MILITARY COMMISSIONS BACK IN BUSINESS
Faced with Republicans’ opposition the trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other four alleged 9/11 plotters in the US federal court system, the Administration buckled. In January, the president signed a defense authorization bill that prevented Pentagon funds from being used to transfer detainees to the US. After gearing up military commissions in a March 7 executive order, Attorney General Eric Holder announced on April 4 - the day President Obama launched his re-election campaign - that the 9/11 plotters would be tried in the military commissions system where proceedings against them were initiated under the Bush Administration. Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who allegedly was the mastermind of the bombing of the Cole in Yemen, is expected to be first to be tried before the revamped commissions. The last of the cases that had been underway before the military commissions were suspended when Obama took office was concluded with a plea bargain in mid February. A Sudanese detainee, Noor Uthman Mohammed, agreed to become a government witness in exchange for his release from Guantanamo by 2014 after a military panel found him guilty and ordered him to serve 14 more years in prison – a sentence regarded as purely symbolic (Miami Herald, February 18),
• WILL MILITARY COMMISSIONS BE US BOUND?
David Shipler, in an op edit in the LA Times (April 10) writes: “The system of military commissions…contains a dirty little secret. Hardly anybody talks about it, but it’s a key reason for concern as the apparatus becomes establishes. It is this. The commissions can operate inside the United States, and they have jurisdiction over a broad range of crimes. Nothing in the Military Commissions Act limits the military trials to Guantanamo detainees, or to people captured and held abroad, or even to terrorism suspects. Nothing prevents the commissions from trying noncitizens, arrested inside the country, whom the president unilaterally designates as ‘unprivileged enemy belligerents.’ In other words, the law permits military officers to try non-Americans from Alabama and Arkansas as well as Afghanistan…once the commissions gain stature and become the ‘new normal,’ every future administration will have a ready instrument to arrest, judge and sentence wholly within the executive branch, evading the separation of powers carefully calibrated in the Constitution…If ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, the elements of the military commissions will pass into the precedent of case law, creating a permanent apparatus, parallel to the criminal justice system, to prosecute and try foreign civilians. It could become a lasting injury of Sept. 11.”
• RIGHTS CURTAILED FOR TERROR SUSPECTS WITHIN THE US
A two-tiered system of justice is also being erected within the federal court system. On March 24, The Wall Street Journal revealed that the Administration had endorsed new rules which allow law enforcement officials to hold and question domestic terrorism suspects without reading them their Miranda rights. Evan Perez writes that “the new guidelines could blunt criticism from Republicans, many of whom have pushed for terror suspects to be sent to military detention, where they argue that rigid Miranda restrictions don’t apply.” On March 25, The New York Times printed an unsigned FBI memorandum dated October 21, 2010 which informed agents that they should first “ask any and all questions that are reasonably prompted by an immediate concern for the safety of the public” and only then read suspects their rights – or, on a case by case basis, decide to “collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat” without reading them their rights.
• THEY WERE NOT THE “WORST OF THE WORST” AFTER ALL
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had claimed that only the “worst of the worst” suspected terrorists were being held in Guantanamo. But in a recently released memo dating from 2003 he stated that “we need to stop populating Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) with low-level enemy combatants” (Washingtonpost.com, March 3).
• WIKILEAKS: UP TO 150 DETAINEES TOTALLY INNOCENT
The WikiLeaks website http://wikileaks.ch/gitmo/
The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, El Pais and Der Spiegel made public material from more than 700 intelligence assessments compiled between 2002 and 2008 about Guantanamo detainees (“WikiLeaks: Secret Guantanamo Files Show US Disarray,” McClatchy, April 25). The New York Times distanced itself from WikiLeaks in a lengthy report based on the leaked assessments that it claimed to have received from another source. In the words of The Times, the assessments – which contain no reference to the torture and abusive treatment inflicted on many of the detainees – represent a mass of “contradictory evidence that in many cases would never have stood up in criminal court or a military tribunal…they show that the United States has imprisoned hundreds of men for years without trial based on a difficult and strikingly subjective evaluation of who they were, what they had done in the past and what they might do in the future. The 704 assessment documents use the word ‘possibly’ 387 times, ‘unknown’ 188 times and ‘deceptive’ 85 times” (New York Times, April 25). The documents reveal that only about 220 of the detainees were assessed as dangerous terrorists, some 380 were found to be lower-level foot soldiers and at least 150 others were wrongly swept into the prison, sometimes because they seemed to know a lot about an area and might therefore provide good intelligence. Among those incarcerated were 20 juveniles, including a 14 year old, and some elderly men. Detainees were held for a complex of often dubious reasons, including - in the case of Sudanese journalist Sami al-Hajj who was detained for six years - the desire to find out more about Al Jazeera’s “training program, telecommunications equipment and newsgathering operations.” Much of the “evidence” used against detainees was obtained through torture or from detainee informants who were known to be unreliable or psychologically damaged – some 100 detainees were listed as having “depressive or psychotic illnesses.” Intelligence analysts were not in agreement about which informants to trust, but still relied heavily on information provided under interrogation. “Information from just eight men” showed up in the files of 235 detainees – “some 30 percent of those known to have been held there” (McClatchy, 25 April). Decisions about whom to release depended in large part on individual countries of origin, with Europeans and Saudis mostly sent home while Yemenis remain entombed in Guantanamo. Detainees continued to be held for years even after it was realized that they were cases of mistaken identity and totally innocent.
• GUANTANAMO LAWYERS CANNOT REVIEW WIKILEAK DOCUMENTS
Because they hold security clearance, the attorneys of Guantanamo detainees cannot look at the leaded Guantanamo documents on any of the websites on which they have been posted. Instead, they can only view or talk about them in a secure government facility (New York Times, April 27). Attorney David Remes who represents a Pakistani detainee at Guantanamo went to court to try to get the policy reversed. The absurdity of the policy is far-reaching. According to The Times, “In December, Columbia University warned international relations students that commenting on the documents online or linking to them might endanger their chances of getting a government job. The same month, the US Agency for International Development told workers that viewing the documents on an unclassified computer at work or home could violate security rules that govern their employment. In February, an Air Force unit cautioned that employees and even their family members could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for looking at the WikiLeaks documents at home.” Attorney General Holder, who called the leaks “deplorable,” said the Obama Administration would not be releasing its own assessments of detainees, even with redactions. So much for the executive order the president signed on his first day in office committing his Administration to “an unprecedented level of openness in Government.”
• “GITMO NORTH”
This is the name being applied to two secretive “Communications Management Units” (CMUs) in Terre Haute, Indiana and Marion, Illinois that are largely filled with Muslims. The 40 cell CMU unit in Terre Haute houses John Walker Lindh among other of the country’s “biggest security threats” (NPR, March 3). According to the NPR special report, when it opened as an experiment in December 2006, 15 of 17 inmates were Muslims – among them those convicted in terrorism-related sting operations, officers of the Holy Land Foundation convicted of sending funds to charitable “zakat committees” that were regarded as a front for Hamas, and Black Muslims disciplined for alleged “radicalization” activities. To avoid the appearance of discrimination, the Bureau of Prisons subsequently moved in some tax resisters and those convicted of ecologically motivated crimes whom guards called “balancers.” The Marion CMU was opened in March 2008 and again, filled with Muslims and some “balancers,” including Daniel McGowan and Andy Stepanian, both considered domestic terrorists for their environmental and animal rights activism (The Nation, “Gitmo in the Heartland,” March 10). The NPR report says that “guards and cameras watch the CMU inmates’ every move. Every word inmates speak is picked up by a counterterrorism team that eavesdrops from West Virginia.” Muslim inmates – who presently make up between 64 percent (Marion) and 73 percent (Terre Haute) of those confined to the units – are not permitted to pray together. Visits and phone calls are restricted to one six page letter a week, one 15 minute phone call per month and one non contact visit with an immediate family member per month lasting only an hour (Nation, March 10). By contrast, the only federal supermax allows 35 hours of visits a month. Both the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights have filed lawsuits on behalf of CMU prisoners.
• THE ORDEAL OF BRADLEY MANNING
After an international outcry over his treatment, Pfc. Bradley Manning, the young US soldier accused of leaking documents to WikiLeaks, is not (at the moment) housed in the CMUs, but rather in the federal prison at Fort Leavenworth (Washington Post, April 19). Manning spent nine months in solitary confinement in dehumanizing conditions in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. He was forced to sleep only in boxers with no blanket or pillow, and for a period he had to remove his clothes and stand outside his tiny cell naked awaiting inspection. The Pentagon said this was a “prevention of injury” watch. For his daily hour of exercise he was confined to walking around a room in shackles. He was prevented from exercising in his cell. After Jack Crowley, a spokesman for the State Department, told a small group of people that he thought Manning’s treatment was “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid,” he was made to resign (New York Times, March 14). While the ACLU wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Gates calling the military’s treatment of Manning “cruel and unusual,” President Obama told a news conference that the Pentagon assured him that procedures used against Manning “are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards” (New York Times, March 11). Jack Balkin of Yale Law School writes that “if Private Manning were a prisoner of war, his treatment at the hands of the Obama Administration would violate the Geneva Conventions…Apparently, President Obama has gone Attorney General Alberto Gonzales one better. Not only must he believe that the protections of the Geneva Conventions are quaint, he must also think the same of the Bill of Rights, at least as applied to leakers – or at least, leakers whom the President and his associates did not authorize” (DallasNews.com, March 17). A month later, President Obama seemed to forget the “presumption of innocence” and the fact that his Administration has refused to investigate allegations of law-breaking by the Bush Administration when he told a protester who interrupted his fundraiser in San Francisco to demand better treatment for Manning that “we’re a nation of laws. We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.” (Glenn Greenwald, Salon, April 22). The president also commented that the Manning case was different from Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking the Pentagon Papers because Ellsberg’s leak “wasn’t classified the same way.” In fact the Pentagon Papers had a “top secret” classification, while the documents Manning is accused of leaking bear the lower rating of “secret” or “classified.” Among the charges Manning faces is a capital offense, “aiding the enemy” – but under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to be convicted of such a charge he would have had to have communicated with “the enemy” either directly or indirectly (Truthout, March 4). The other charges against him could result in life in prison.
• FORMER CIA OFFICIAL GIVES DETAILS OF TARGETED KILLING PROGRAM
“Inside the Killing Machine” in the February 13th Newsweek features an interview with John Rizzo, the former general counsel of the CIA, who describes the process of determining who would be targeted and “blown to bits.” He says that the president did not review the list of names on the “target list” – which numbered around 30 at any one time – but he, Rizzo, was the person who signed off on it. “The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head,” he said. About 10 lawyers focus on targeted killings in the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, and write legal cables asserting which individuals pose a grave threat to the United States. Rizzo, who had earlier played a role in authorizing “enhanced interrogation” at CIA “black sites,” would decide if they had made the case and if they had not, the file would be kicked back downstairs. If they reached his desk with the words “therefore we request approval for targeting for lethal operation” then he would decide whether to append his signature alongside the word “concurred.” Bush had authorized 42 drone strikes, and the number has more than quadrupled under President Obama. On April 21, the president announced that drone strikes would be used in the NATO “humanitarian operation” underway Libya.
• DRONE STRIKE IN YEMEN IS AIMED AT AMERICAN CITIZEN
The American imam Anwar al-Awlaki was the target of a CIA drone strike in Yemen on May 5 but reportedly escaped being obliterated (New York Times, May 6). The question of whether the president can put American citizens on a targeted assassination list has been ducked by the US judiciary.
• CON MAN ALERTS WHITE HOUSE TO TERRORISM SCARES
To see how far from reality the government has turned in its search for “evidence” of terrorist plots one need look no further than its eight-year involvement with Dennis Montgomery, a California computer programmer who claims to have developed technology that could “find terrorist plots hidden in broadcasts of the Arab network al Jazeera” (New York Times, February 19). This might explain why they confined an al Jazeera journalist to Guantanamo for six years. According to Eric Lichtblau and James Risen, Montgomery is “at the center of a tale that features terrorism scares, secret White House briefings, backing from prominent Republicans, backdoor deal-making and fantastic-sounding computer technology. Montgomery was paid more than $20 million to help stop the next al Qaeda attack on the US using his hoax technology. And now, his former lawyer says, the government is trying to cover up the extent to which it was taken in by getting protective orders to keep details about his technology out of court. The Justice Department is claiming that national security would be threatened if those details are disclosed during various lawsuits pitting Montgomery against his former partner, a former trader with Michael Milken, the junk-bond king. Initially “the software so excited CIA officials that, for a few months at least, it was considered ‘the most important, most sensitive’ intelligence tool the agency had.” The Air Force continued to believe in Montgomery’s tool after the CIA had turned skeptical, claiming it had detected a bogus Somali terrorism plot on Obama’s inauguration day.
• CLEARED DETAINEES REMAIN IMPRISONED IN BAGRAM
Over a dozen detainees seized from outside Afghanistan remain locked up at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan even though they were long ago cleared for release by a military panel. Among them is a 16-year-old Pakistani boy (Daphne Eviatar in Huffington Post, February 14). “Officials in both the Defense and State Departments I spoke to say they’re aware of the problem but it’s out of their hands…The problem, according to the US officials I spoke to in Afghanistan, is somewhere in Washington.”
• LIBYA PLAYS HAVOC WITH “WAR ON TERROR” FRAMEWORK
The US has been at war for a decade without having a clear definition of whom - or what - it is fighting in the so-called war on terror. There is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism. It is defined in the US Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85). Where does this put the armed insurrection in Libya? In March 2011 the United States joined an international military campaign to defend Libyan “rebels” who had taken up arms against a long-established government. The speed with which yesterday’s terrorist suicide bomber could become today’s freedom-seeking hero was illustrated by the March 25 CNN Situation Room which featured the self-sacrifice of Ahmed Al Mendhi. On February 19, this 49-year-old oil worker reportedly loaded his car with explosives, read the Koran for 30 minutes, and then drove the car at high speed into the gate outside the barracks in Benghazi which was at the time occupied by government soldiers. Among the leading rebel fighters is a former Libyan army tank driver, Abu Sufian bin Qumu, who was a Guantanamo detainee for more than 5 years. He asked to be sent to another country upon his release but was instead sent back to Libya where he was again imprisoned (New York Times, April 25). In early April, the FBI began to question Libyans living in the US to identify “Libyan-backed spies or terrorists, and collect any information that might help allied military operations” (Wall Street Journal, April 5).
• “KILL TEAM” TROPHY PHOTOS ARE “GRAPHIC AND EXTREME”
After Der Spiegel published three images of the more than 4,000 pictures and videos taken by a self-styled “kill team’ from the US Stryker tank unit who murdered civilians and mutilated their corpses in the province of Kandahar in 2010, a strenuous effort has been made to keep the rest of the images out of the public domain. Five of the soldiers are on trial for pre-meditated murder and 7 are facing other charges.
• “A MORE MILITARIZED CIA FOR A MORE MILITARIZED AMERICA”
This is the headline to Glenn Greenwald’s blog about the nomination of General David Petraeus to head the CIA (Salon, April 28). The CIA, a civilian agency, is increasingly being drawn into America’s wars with ominous implications for the laws of war. It has assumed responsibility for the pilotless drone strikes. As of April 28, 192 had been launched since Obama became president resulting in the killing of 1,890 people, an unknown number of them civilians. According to the Administration’s plans, Leon Panetta will move from the CIA to head the Defense Department after Robert Gates steps down.
• SPAIN DROPS TORTURE INVESTIGATION AFTER GETTING US GUARANTEES
In late February, the Spanish National Court ruled that an investigation into the torture of a Spanish resident who had been detained in Guantanamo from 2001-2005 could continue. Named in the case were various top US officials who authorized the use of torture, including David Addington, Jay Bybee, Douglas Feith, John Yoo and Albert Gonzales. They are breathing easier today after the Obama Justice Department in April sent a letter to the Spanish court saying there was no basis for prosecution of the named individuals and that at most, they were only guilty of poor judgment. The letter declared that the prosecution of two civilian contractors for mistreating detainees shows that the US will address such human rights violations. Subsequently a Spanish judge announced that the case was being thrown out since “the United States has told Spain the US government is holding investigations of its own” (Washington Post, April 14). During the previous month, the US disavowed torture and pledged to treat terrorism suspects humanely in a hearing before the Human Rights Council in Geneva (New York Times, March 19).
• TORTURE PROGRAM DESIGNED TO “EXPLOIT” DETAINEES
A Truthout article by Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye (March 22) draws on newly disclosed notes written by psychologist Dr. John Bruce Jessen to make the case that the Bush torture program was not an effort to get actionable intelligence to thwart attacks but to break down detainees and get them to “collaborate” with US officials. The operative phrase use to describe the treatment adapted from the military survival training exercises (SERE) was “illegal exploitation.” Jessen’s notes show he was aware that torture often produced false confessions. Jessen and psychologist Dr. James Mitchell both had CIA contracts to work at CIA “black sites.” In 2005, they formed a consulting firm Mitchell, Jessen & Associates to expand their operations.
• PSYCHOLOGIST IN CHARGE OF TORTURE REGIME APPOINTED TO WHITE HOUSE TASK FORCE
Dr. Larry James, a retired Army colonel who served as Chief Psychologist at Guantanamo in 2003 when the abuse of detainees was at its height and then moved to supervise the break down of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 2004, has been appointed a member of a White House task force on “Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of the Military Family” (Glenn Greenwald, Salon, March 25). He has faced serious ethics charges in both states in which he is licensed to practice. After describing the abuse, degradation and torture over which James presided, Greenwald writes: “On appearance grounds alone, the Obama administration should not be embracing and legitimizing the Bush-era Chief Psychologist of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Is there really nobody in the White House who was able to come to that realization on their own, or is this part of some twisted ‘reaching out’ effort to show that they view bygones as bygones when it comes to the war crimes our leaders committed and whom the Obama administration continues to protect? Whatever the explanation, the symbolism here is as ugly as the mindset underlying it.”
• JOHN ASHCROFT TO ADVISE THE FORMER BLACKWATER ON ETHICS
Xe Services –the former Blackwater – has hired former Attorney General John Ashcroft as a consultant on ethics and governance. In a press release, Ashcroft said of USTC holdings, a consortium that acquired Xe Services, which – as Blackwater – was notorious for its killing of civilians in Iraq and corrupt contracts: “This is a company with a strong history of service to its country, and a reputation of best-in-class offerings to its public and private customers” (Politico, May 5).
Building the National Security Surveillance State
• FBI ON “WAR FOOTING” FOLLOWING BIN LADEN’S DEATH
Marc Ambinder in the May 3 National Journal reports that the FBI is putting its counterterrorism operations on a “war footing” by expanding surveillance and monitoring and pushing ahead “stagnant prosecutions as a means of mitigating the potential for lone-wolf terrorists to strike out of frustration or revenge.” News that bin Laden was considering attacks on mass transport has intensified the security presence at train stations even though al Qaeda’s plans were only in the conceptual stage.
• “FBI CASTS WIDE NET UNDER RELAXED RULES FOR TERROR INQUIRIES”
Information obtained by The New York Times through a FOIA lawsuit reveals that in a 4 month period (December 2008 – March 2009) the FBI initiated 11,687 “assessments” of people or groups searching for evidence “that they might be criminals or terrorists” (Charlie Savage, New York Times, March 26). Based on evidence gathered through these assessments (which could include conducting interviews, searching databases, sending informants to infiltrate an organization, following and photographing subjects, attending rallies or religious services) just 427 more intensive investigations were undertaken. In the words of former FBI agent Mike German who now works for the ACLU, “These are investigations against completely innocent people that are now bound up within the FBI’s intelligence system forever. Is that the best way for the FBI to use its resources?...What they should be doing is working within stricter guidelines that help them focus on real threats rather than spending time chasing shadows.” In a letter to The New York Times (April 1), the FBI’s general counsel Valerie Caproni called assessments “a valuable tool to ensure that we can ‘connect the dots’ between disparate pieces of information to keep the country safe while still respecting the civil liberty and privacy rights of every American.”
• FBI UNDERPOWERED?
One of the newly-released FOIA documents concerned a March 25, 2009 hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, at which Senator Grassley mentioned learning last year that “certain key counterterrorism units had unusually high vacancy rates. The FBI was reportedly having trouble attracting enough qualified people to these critical operation units.” The answer to his question about whether some FBI units were operating at 75% capacity or less was redacted.
• FBI IS DEPLOYING SECRET SPYWARE ON COMPUTERS
Documents obtained through an Electronic Frontier Foundation FOIA lawsuit reveal that the FBI may have been using since 2001 an electronic bug called a “Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier” (CIPAV) which collects electronic information when secretly installed on a target’s computer (www.eff.org
, April 29). The FBI has used it in FISA investigations (the secret court apparently questioned the appropriateness of the tool) as well as criminal investigations. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says that the existence of CIPAV raises questions about why the FBI is insisting that the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) be expanded to apply to communications systems like Facebook, Google and Skype since it “already has numerous tools available to surveil suspects directly rather than through each of their communications service providers.”
• FBI BUILDING BILLION DOLLAR DATABASE TO HOUSE BIOMETRIC INFORMATION
The FBI is constructing an advanced “global law enforcement database” to be shared with the Pentagon, according to Stephen Webster (rawstory.com, March 25). Based on a system developed by Lockheed Martin at the FBI’s Clarksburg, West Virginia facility where biometric fingerprints are currently stored, “the system is slated to expand outward, eventually encompassing facial mapping and other advanced forms of computer-aided identification. To help ramp up the amount of data flooding into this center, the FBI said that electronic fingerprint scanners would be sent to state and local police agencies, which would be empowered to capture prints from any suspect, even if they haven’t been arrested or convicted of a crime.” The FBI has also announced the creation of a separate “repository for individuals of Special Concern” which will enable them to use biometrics to track wanted criminals, registered sex offenders and “suspected terrorists.” Considering how many errors riddle the government’s terrorism watch lists, many innocent individuals within the United States and globally may find themselves relentlessly tracked once the repository is up and running.
• DOMESTIC SPYING FOR INTELLIGENCE PURPOSES ON THE INCREASE
According to the latest Justice Department report to Congress, in 2010 the government made 1,579 applications to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to conduct surveillance or physical searches, up by about 200 from the previous year. Its applications for business records for foreign intelligence purposes expanded from 21 in 2009 to 96 in 2010. The FBI issued 24,287 National Security Letters (NSLs) for information on 14,212 US persons – more than double the number of the year before More applications were made to FISA in the last year of the Bush Administration while the rate at which the FBI issued NSLs was roughly the same (Secrecy News, 2011).
• TREASURY FREEZES ASSETS OF ACTIVIST FACING GRAND JURY SUBPOENAS
Hattem Abudayyeh, a leader in the Palestinian community in Chicago, and his wife Naima have had their bank accounts frozen by the US Treasury Department. Abudayyeh is one of 23 activists across the country who have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury convened by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (stopfbi.net, May 9). The peace and justice activists are refusing to answer the subpoenas.
• PROSECUTORS OBTAIN JOURNALIST’S PHONE RECORDS, EMAILS AND FINANCIAL DATA
James Risen, a New York Times journalist and author of the book State of War: the Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration has had his communications data and other personal records - including credit card, travel and financial information - seized by prosecutors seeking to identify a former CIA agent, Jeffrey Sterling, as his main source for classified information (New York Times, February 25). Risen was subpoenaed twice to testify, once by Attorney General Mukasey and recently by Attorney General Holder. He has refused to talk about his sources and has never received notification that his records were being sought, as he was supposed to have done under Justice Department rules. The targeting of Risen is seen by Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press as a way of discouraging government whistleblowers.
• OBAMA CONTINUES BUSH POLICY ON PHONE RECORDS
In response to a FOIA request by McClatchy newspapers, the Obama Justice Department has agreed with its predecessor that the FBI can obtain telephone records of international phone calls made from the US without any judicial oversight or legal process (Truthout, February 11). The Justice Department’s Inspector General indicated to McClatchy that it bases its position on a loophole it has detected in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, the Obama Administration has refused to release a memo laying out its legal justification, despite being asked for it by Senators Durban (D-IL) and Wyden (D-OR) among others.
• COMPANIES OVERWHELMED BY POLICE REQUESTS FOR ELECTRONIC INFORMATION
Providers like Sprint, Facebook and AOL get tens of thousands of requests from police and other law enforcement agencies for customers’ stored email, instant messages and mobile phone location data (Computerworld, April 12). Although Congress mandates reporting on wiretaps and requests for “pen registers” as well as real-time intercepts, no records are required by law on the number of times providers are asked to hand over stored communications and there is no Congressional oversight of the process which produces substantial fees for the companies. According to researcher Christopher Soghoian, AOL was receiving a thousand requests a month while Sprint received so many requests from police for its mobile phone location data that its 110-person electronic surveillance team was overwhelmed.
• WHO WILL HEAD THE FBI AFTER MUELLER?
As Robert Mueller approaches his mandatory retirement after 10 years as FBI director, Vice-President Biden is leading the search for his replacement. People being considered for the job reportedly include US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, TSA head John Pistole, NY Police Commissioner Raymond Kelley, and an African-American longtime FBI agent who is now security chief for Verizon, Michael Mason.
• FEDS WANT LOCAL POLICE TO BE FULL TEAM MEMBERS
Portland, Oregon – the only municipality to pull the plug on a Joint Terrorism Task Force –ran into opposition from the FBI in its effort to start one up again. The old JTTF was abolished after it was seen to have violated the rights of Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield who was wrongly linked to the 2004 Madrid train bombing. After Mohamed Mohamud was accused in November 2010 of planning to bomb the annual tree-lighting ceremony, the Portland mayor decided to draw up a plan for a new JTTF that would protect civil liberties. A clause restricting the police to involvement only in full investigations – not the preliminary assessments carried out by the FBI which often involved surveillance and wiretapping – was ruled out by the feds. US Attorney Dwight Holton said, “When a player joins a soccer team, they don’t dictate when they’re going to play, how much and in what position. We think that kind of operation should be left up to the coach of the team” – that is, the FBI special agent in charge (OregonLive.com, April 20). The Portland City Council subsequently narrowly voted to have its police participate in the JTTF system.
• ELECTRONIC SEARCHES AT AIRPORTS ERASE PRIVACY RIGHTS
Brandon Jourdan, a journalist who has worked as a videographer for Democracy Now! covering the G-20 protests in Canada, was questioned for five hours and had his documents, laptop, and camera flash drives searched and copied when returning from reporting on the rebuilding of schools in Haiti (Democracy Now, February 15). This represented the seventh time he had been subjected to such treatment since a visit he made to the Gaza Strip in 2008. According to ACLU attorney Catherine Crump, “This is a distressingly common scenario…journalists have a special interest in not having their expressive materials searched. Many people speak to confidential sources and often become very concerned that their sources overseas aren’t going to be able to trust them anymore, if they know that talking to a journalist means that when you cross the boarder, the US government may access the journalist’s notes and pictures.” In effect, journalists are, in Amy Goodman’s words, “gathering information that is then collected by the state when they return.” Electronic searches present a major problem to lawyers whose clients expect confidentiality and business people carrying proprietary information. Attorney Catherine Crump represents a Ph.D. student in Islamic studies who was frisked, handcuffed and locked up for several hours after being taken off a train from Montreal, apparently because his computer contained research material in Arabic and news photos of Hamas and Hezbollah rallies. When she travels internationally doing legal work she wipes her computer clean of data before crossing the border (“Can You Frisk a Hard Drive?” New York Times, February 19). Of the 6,671 travelers whose electronic gear was searched in an 8 month period, 2,995 were American citizens.
• LAWSUIT PLAINTIFFS INCLUDE FORMER MARINES BARRED FROM FLYING
Because he sent an email to a Muslim cleric who is under suspicion asking for advice on bringing up children in a mixed-religion household, Abe Mashal, an Illinois resident who received an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps, is no longer allowed to board airplanes and is now a plaintiff in an ACLU lawsuit challenging the “no fly” list. Mashal said the FBI told him he would be taken off the list if he became an undercover informant at mosques (AP, March 21). A disabled former Marine, Ayman Latif, is another plaintiff in the lawsuit. Latif, who now works for the US Postal Service, was prevented from flying home to Florida from Cairo, Egypt for 6 months after being placed on the “no fly” list. In early May, a district court judge in Portland, Oregon dismissed the lawsuit on grounds that she lacked authority to hear the case. The ACLU is appealing (Associated Press, May 4).
ª TEENAGER SUES GOVERNMENT TO GET OFF “NO FLY” LIST
Gulet Mohamed, a 19-year-old American citizen who was born in Somalia, says he was beaten in Kuwait and interrogated about his travels in the region, and subsequently prevented from flying home to Virginia because he had been put on a “no fly” list (AP, April 29). He has gone to court to clear his name. The government says his suit is now moot because he was eventually allowed to fly home.
• HOLDER SAYS “NO FLY” LIST BOUND TO EXPAND
According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the information seized from bin Laden’s compound will probably mean that both the “no fly” list – which currently numbers some 10,000 people – and all the other terrorism watch lists will soon be enlarged (Washington Post, May 4).
• TSA REPORTEDLY REVIEWING SCREENING OF YOUNG PASSENGERS
After irate parents posted a YouTube of the TSA frisking their 6-year-old daughter and spoke on ABC’s “Good Morning America” about how upset the girl was by the search, the TSA said it was in the process of re-examining its policies for screening low-risk passengers such as children (AP, April 14).
• MUSLIM CLERICS ON WAY TO CONFERENCE ON ISLAMOPHOBIA REMOVED FROM PLANE
On May 6, two imams who were flying to a conference in Charlotte, North Carolina on Islamophobia were removed from a Delta flight in Memphis operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines. Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghtout were dressed in traditional Islamic robes and had gone through security. The pilot was about to take off when he decided to return to the gate and force the men to leave the plane. A similar incident involving Atlantic Southeast Airlines occurred on March 13, when a woman in a hijab was taken off a plane because of passenger suspicion. All the bumped passengers were put on a later plane (WCNC-TV, Charlotte, NC, May 9).
• STATE DEPARTMENT PROPOSES STEEP NEW PASSPORT HURDLES
If the State Department has its way, some passport applicants may have to provide information about all the employers they have ever worked for, all the addresses where they have ever lived, and even the name and address of their mother’s employer or doctor at the time of their birth. The idea is that this kind of information would be demanded to “supplement an application for a US passport when the applicant submits citizenship or identity evidence that is insufficient or of questionable authenticity” (http://papersplease.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/ds5513-proposed.pdf
) The ACLU has told the State Department that requiring this type of information is unconstitutional.
• REAL ID NOT DEAD AFTER ALL
After the combination of exorbitant expenses and a rebellion by the states made it seem that the federal government would quietly let die the REAL ID program to transform drivers’ licenses into a national ID card, the DHS posted a notice in the Federal Register on March 7 extending the REAL ID deadline until January 15, 2013. The DHS has also given out $175 million in grants for facial recognition software, DMV security cameras and other technology to meet REAL ID requirements (Networkworld.com, March 8).
• NEW DANGER – ECONOMIC TERRORISM
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate former SEIU official Stephen Lerner. Rep. Chaffetz told the AG that Lerner’s remarks at the March 19 Left Forum at Pace University “clearly constitute domestic terrorism and pose substantial harm to the American people and the economy.” Lerner’s talk about the possibility of staging a mass mortgage strike to destabilize the economy and weaken Wall Street’s grip on power had been put under Glenn Beck’s spotlight on Fox News. Rep. Chaffetz cited the FBI’s definition of terrorism to make the case for an investigation of Lerner (examiner.com, March 23).
• NSA INVESTIGATING CYBER ATTACK ON FINANCE INDUSTY
The cyber attack last October on the Nasdaq is now under investigation by the National Security Agency as well as the FBI and foreign intelligence agencies. The military agency had been involved in investigating the 2009 cyber attack on Google (Bloomberg.com, March 30).
• DHS PROMOTES “IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING” CAMPAIGN
The message used to be confined to subways. Now it is out in the open, urging vigilance in 9,000 federal buildings and at major sports events (Bloomberg.com, February 15).
* TERROR WARNING SYSTEM REVAMPED
After using a color-coded threat level system for a decade, DHS head Janet Napolitano announced it was being replaced by a new advisory system which would go into operation on April 26 (New York Times, April 21). Alerts would be classified as “elevated” or “imminent” – with the latter giving specific information about impending terrorist plots. They would be disseminated through newspapers and social media and appear on the government’s web site, www.dhs.gov/alert
. In February, DHS head Janet Napolitano said the terrorist threat was at its greatest since 2001 (Reuters, April 20).
• WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PROMISE OF OPEN GOVERNMENT?
Two years after President Obama vowed to bring about a new era of openness in government, a report by the National Security Archive at George Washington University finds that only slightly more than half of federal agencies have been more transparent in filling FOIA requests (Washington Post, March 11). An Associated Press study reveals that the government took action on nearly 12,400 fewer requests than it had the year before even though more people asked for information (AP, March 14). After a 7 month long fight, the AP finally got emails about political vetting by the DHS, showing secret reviews of requests for information have been conducted by Secretary Napolitano’s political staff (AP, March 28). Since 2009, career employees at DHS have been ordered to supply information about the people who made FOIA requests (such as whether they were journalists and what organizations they worked for) to the department’s political appointees. Catherine Papoi, the deputy unit chief in charge of FOIA requests, was demoted after she confidentially complained to the DHS’s internal watchdog that political appointees were improperly interfering with requests for records by journalists and others. The fact that the government is now stepping up prosecutions of whistleblowers – including Bradley Manning – is likely to “chill” efforts to uncover government wrongdoing (USA Today, March 11).
• LAPD NOW HAS 750 OFFICERS IN COUNTERTERROISM UNITS
The counterterrorism force within the Los Angeles Police Department is on the hunt for “people who follow al Qaeda’s goals and objectives and mission and ideology,” according to deputy Police Chief Michael Downing (Washington Times, April 11). “The biggest fear I have is just what I don’t know,” Downing said, explaining that his force spends a lot of time reaching out to Muslims and asking for their cooperation to “weed out” the “hard-core radicals.” Saying this was “the essence of community policing,” he pointed out that the LAPD also had some “amazing” forces – “including SWAT units, direct-action teams, air support, counterassault teams and squads that specialize in disrupting vehicle bombs.”
• ISLAMOPHOBES HYPE THE “SHARIA THREAT”
While Rep. King held highly controversial hearings on Muslim “radicalization” (see In the Congress, below), 13 state legislatures are considering legislation banning Sharia law (“Understanding Sharia Law: Conservatives’ Skewed Interpretation Needs Debunking,” Center for American Progress, March 31). A bill before the Tennessee state senate would make adherence to Sharia – regarded as a “totalitarian” code which Muslims want to impose on the United States - punishable by 15 years in prison. The Center for American Progress report points out that there is no one “Sharia law” and that Sharia primarily concerns religious practice such as fasting and praying and how one lives one’s life.
• JONES BURNS KORAN; PROTESTS KILL AT LEAST 24 PEOPLE
After Florida pastor Terry Jones burned the Koran before a handful of his Dove World Outreach Center followers on March 20 in Gainesville, Florida, at least 24 people perished during riots in Afghanistan, including 7 foreign UN workers (New York Times, April 3). An unrepentant Jones then decided to take his anti-Sharia message to Dearborn, Michigan which has a large Muslim population. On Good Friday he took his stand in front of the Dearborn City Hall. As his supporters chanted “USA, USA” Jones was drowned out by the huge crowd that heckled him and told him to “Go Home” (Detroit Free Press, April 20).
• MICHIGAN POLICE SEARCH MOBILE PHONES DURING TRAFFIC STOPS
The Michigan state police have been using Cellebrite UFE to extract information from mobile phones – including contacts, web browsing history, call logs and emails (boingboing.net, April 20). After the ACLU filed a FOIA request to get police usage logs, the police demanded a $500,000 processing fee for the information.
• LICENSE PLATE READERS TRANSFORM POLICE WORK
The April 11 New York Times reported on the use by New York police of their 238 license plate reading cameras which were first introduced in 2006. “Though the imaging technology was conceived primarily as a counterterrorism tool, the cameras’ presence – all those sets of watchful eyes that never seem to blink – has aided in all sorts of traditional criminal investigations,” from finding stolen cars to nabbing crime suspects. The article quotes the ACLU’s Donna Lieberman: “It’s one thing to have information about cars that are stopped for suspicious activity, but it’s something else to basically maintain a permanent database of where particular cars go when there is nothing happening that is wrong and there is no basis for suspicion” (see In the Commonwealth, below).
• APPLE DEVICES TRACK USERS; MAP THEIR MOVEMENTS
• NEW JERSEY NEARLY AUCTIONS SECRET DATA TO HIGHEST BIDDER
“The raw material of identity theft and invasion of privacy” - including Social Security numbers, birth dates, names, addresses, tax returns, lists of abused children and employee evaluations - was nearly put up for sale last year by the State of New Jersey, along with computers which had not been wiped clean (New York Times, March 9). The sale was stopped after the state controller had the computers examined and found that most of the hard drives contained the sensitive material.
• COMMMUNITIES PUSH BACK AGAINST “SECURE COMMUNITIES”
Across the country as well as in Massachusetts (see In the Commonwealth, below), people are organizing against the DHS “Secure Communities” program under which fingerprints of all arrestees are checked against the ICE IDENT database so (DHS says) “violent criminals” can be found and deported. Statistics show that nationally a quarter of those flagged by the program – and more than half in Massachusetts - have no criminal convictions. Although Janet Napolitano announced there can be no “opting out” of the program, communities, counties and some states are trying to do just that, or to modify the extent of their participation. While some states are pushing legislation to make S-Comm mandatory, Washington DC and Illinois have withdrawn from the program, Arlington, Virginia wants to opt out and San Francisco and Santa Clara counties are trying to prevent fingerprint data from being automatically routed to ICE or to make sure that inmates who are held on minor infractions are not held for deportation (Los Angeles Times, April 25). Washington, California, Colorado, and Oregon are considering whether to op out or have bills in their legislatures that would allow individual counties to opt out (Huffington Post, April 21). The Illinois legislature passed the Smart Enforcement Act by a wide margin, enabling counties to choose whether to participate in the program (ColorLines, May 6). Anger about S-Comm has grown as stories have come to light that show it is separating families and sweeping the undocumented into its wide net. In Congress, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has demanded a hearing and accused the DHS of “essentially lying to local government and to members of Congress” and sowing confusion about what is required under the program (LAtimes.com, April 22). Her call for an investigation into the program has been endorsed by Sen. Robert Mendez (D-NJ) who has asked for an immediate moratorium on its enforcement. Some 1, 211 jurisdictions within 41 states now participate in S-Comm which DHS says will be mandatory across the country by 2013.
• ILLINOIS GOVERNOR WITHDRAWS STATE FROM S-COMM; ICE SAYS YOU CAN’T DO THAT
Governor Pat Quinn withdrew Illinois from the Memorandum of Agreement executed with ICE in November 2009 because the program was not carrying out its stated purpose of deporting people who have been convicted of serious crimes and that it was therefore not in compliance with the terms of the MOA. The Governor wrote to ICE on May 4: “Due to the conflict between the stated purpose of Secure Communities and the implementation of the program, ISP (Illinois State Police) will no longer participate in the Secure Communities program.” The ISP state director wrote in a separate letter dated May 4 that “with this termination, no new counties in Illinois can be activated and those counties that were previously activated for their information to pass through ISP to ICE must be deactivated and removed from the Secure Communities program.” The deactivation applies to 26 counties in the state – all except Cook County, which refused to cooperate with the program. In Illinois, more than three-quarters of those targeted for deportation had no convictions or only minor misdemeanors (chicagonnewscoop.org, May 4). ICE immediately responded that Illinois could not withdraw from the program and it would still obtain the state’s fingerprints from the FBI (Huffington Post, May 6).
• SF SHERIFF WILL NOT HOLD LOW-LEVEL OFFENDERS FOR ICE TO DETAIN UNDER S-COMM
Michael Hennessey, the sheriff of San Francisco, says he will release low-level non documented immigrants from jail if he receives a detainer to hold them from ICE. The new policy has been designed to uphold San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city (sfexaminer.com, May 9).
• LATINOS AND DEMOCRATS URGE OBAMA TO CURB DEPORTATIONS
Prominent religious, civil rights and community leaders as well as Democratic lawmen met with the president and urged him to do more to work for immigration reform and end the rapid pace of deportations (New York Times, April 21). The president has rejected the idea of using executive action to suspend deportations, preferring to work with Congress. Some 400,000 immigrants have been deported during each year of the Obama Administration, surpassing the annual number of deportees under Bush.
• NO LAWYER? CHANCE OF BEING DEPORTED FIVE TIMES GREATER
A conference at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan highlighted the barriers to legal representation faced by immigrants. In New York, 40 percent of immigrants cannot afford to hire an attorney and are as a result 5 times more likely to be deported than immigrants who have legal representation (New York Times, May 4). Too often those who do hire attorneys are poorly served by them. In New York 50 attorneys who had immigration clients have been expelled or suspended by the Justice Department.
• FEDS SETTLE IMMIGRATION CASE BUT ADMIT NO WRONGDOING
In Jefferson County, Colorado Luis Quezada was arrested in 2009 after he failed to turn up as scheduled in traffic court. ICE issued a detainer requesting that he be held in jail for 48 hours so they could pick him up. He was instead held for 49 days. In a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, the government refused to admit wrongdoing but agreed to pay $50,000 to settle the case.
• CHILD CITIZEN SENT TO GUATEMALA WHEN GRANDFATHER BARRED ENTRY
A 4-year-old American citizen with undocumented parents living in New York was sent back to Guatemala after she tried to return home to New York escorted by her grandfather. Bad weather prevented their plane from reaching New York, where her parents were waiting. It detoured to Dulles International Airport, where the grandfather was barred entry because he had an immigration infraction two decades ago. The child’s parents say they were given the choice over the phone of having her sent back to Guatemala or being placed in state custody and possibly put up for adoption (New York Times, March 22).
• DHS OFFICIALLY ENDS NSEERS REGISTRATION PROCESS
On April 27, the Department of Homeland Security announced the elimination of the list of countries (all Middle Eastern or Muslim with the exception of North Korea) subject to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). People from those countries had to go through secondary inspection on arrival and register again upon their departure. Now their information will be captured by the same automatic process as people from non NSEERS countries. However, “the underlying NSEERS regulation will remain in place in the event a special registration program is again needed” (DHS press release, April 27).
• FEDERAL COURT CONTINUES TO BLOCK IMPLEMENTATION OF PARTS OF ARIZONA LAW
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld the decision of a lower court judge to prevent the implementation of parts of the Arizona immigration law (SB1070) that require police to check immigration status when they stop someone for other reasons, allow for warrantless arrests of people suspected of being undocumented and criminalize the failure of immigrants to carry papers (Washington Post, April 11). The Justice Department opposed the Arizona law on grounds that it conflicts with federal law and could lead to the harassment of people who cannot prove their lawful status.
• ARIZONA THINKS TWICE ABOUT PASSING MORE ANTI-IMMIGRANT LAWS
Five bills aimed at undocumented immigrants were recently rejected by the Arizona Senate (New York Times, March 17). Two were aimed at ending birthright citizenship; one would require hospitals to report people who could not demonstrate their legal status; another would make the same requirement of schools; and one would bar the undocumented from getting drivers’ licenses. According to an editorial in the March 22 New York Times, “The reversal has to do with money, of course. The bills were dead once the state’s business lobby weighed in against them.” Chief executives signed a letter decrying the “unintended consequences” of SB1070 – including bad publicity, cancelled contracts and boycotts.
• SUIT FILED AGAINST UTAH LAW
The ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center have gone to court to stop the implementation in May of a Utah law (HB497) that require police to ask the immigration status of people arrested for serious misdemeanors and felonies and would give police discretion to ask people their citizenship during traffic stops and other encounters. The suit argues that the measure – which was signed by the governor in March – opens the door to racial profiling (Boston Globe, May 4).
• LEGISLATURES IN SOUTH MOVING AHEAD WITH ANTI-IMMIGRANT BILLS
A variety of anti-immigrant bills are making headway in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, where the Hispanic population has sharply increased over the last decade (New York Times, March 26).
• SCHOOLS WARNED AGAINST CHECKING IMMIGRATION STATUS
Justice and Education Department officials have jointly crafted a memorandum for the nation’s school districts warning them that checking the immigration status of students as a prerequisite for enrollment violates a 1982 US Supreme Court ruling (New York Times, May 7).
• WORKERS HURT BY “SILENT RAIDS”
Instead of staging high profile raids on workplaces, the Obama Administration has focused on auditing employers to force them to shed workers (“silent raids”) who lack proper documentation. According to the March 29 Wall Street Journal, this has resulted in thousands of workers losing their relatively well-paying jobs and being forced into the underground economy where they earn less than the hourly minimum wage. In addition to pushing E-Verify, ICE is signing agreements with employers that want government contracts to implement IMAGE (ICE’s Mutual Agreement between Government and Employees). More than 100 companies are now IMAGE members, meaning they agree to screen their employees’ I-9 forms to verify they are eligible to work in US and undergo an ICE identification screening training (Government Security News, February 10).
• IMMIGRANTS WIN CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT
After an undercover Danbury, Connecticut police officer posing as a contractor picked up 11 Latino day laborers and took them to immigration authorities to be placed in deportation proceedings, 8 of the men sued the city and federal government. They won claims amounting to $650,000 (New York Times, March 14).
• US IMMIGRATION DETENTION SYSTEM CONDEMNED BY TRIBUNAL
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has issued a comprehensive report condemning the US immigration detention system for its unjust treatment of detainees, denial of medical care, and prison-like conditions. The Obama Administration has said it would improve detention practices (New York Times, March 17).
• PATRIOT ACT RE-VISITED; PUSH TO GET JUSTICE ACT RE=INTRODUCED
In mid February, Congress extended until May 27 the three provisions of the PATRIOT Act that were due to expire: the “library records” provision (Section 215) which allows the seizure of “any tangible thing” during an investigation, the “lone wolf” provision that permits surveillance of a “non US person” not affiliated with any terrorist group, and the roving wiretap provision which allows the government to wiretap without specifying a person or location. In the Senate Patrick Leahy’s proposal to extend the provisions until December 2013 has been voted out of committee. It would make some other changes, including adding some increased oversight and a December 2013 sunset to the use of National Security Letters, which have been abused by the FBI and found to be in part unconstitutional by the courts. Republicans have vigorously opposed his proposed changes, and former Bush officials Michael Hayden and Michael Mukasey have claimed they will degrade the “confidence and initiative” of intelligence professionals (Washington Post, March 10). For the ACLU and grassroots activists, a broader reform to the PATRIOT Act as well as the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 such as that provided by the Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act is preferable to the cautious Leahy approach. It was originally proposed in 2009 by Senator Russ Feingold and nine other Senators, but expired with the end of the 111th Congress. There is now underway a grassroots effort to lobby Members of Congress to get it reintroduced.
• LEGISLATION WOULD TIE PRESIDENT’S HANDS ON GUANTANAMO
Senator Scott Brown and 5 other co-sponsors introduced the Military Detainee Procedures Improvement Act of 2011 on March 10. It would keep Guantanamo open, prohibit finding other funding sources to create an alternative to Guantanamo within the US, make it even more difficult to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo to foreign countries, mandate military commissions and bar civilian trials of detainees. It also reaffirms the Authorization for the Use of Military Force and gives the president the authority to target for death Anwar al-Awlaki and other individuals. It has been referred to the Armed Services Committee. There are at least 2 other Republican-sponsored bills under consideration to ensure detainees stay in Guantanamo and are denied visits from their family members.
• INTERNET PRIVACY BILL INTRODUCED
On April 12, Senators John Kerry and John McCain introduced the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights of 2011 which the ACLU has termed an “important first step.” The bill requires entities that collect information from more than 4,000 people annually to provide privacy protections and give consumers more power to opt out of some data collection and screen the information collected on them. However, it does not have a “do not track” mechanism that would prevent companies from following a user around the Internet and building a profile of him or her. And at a time when the Justice Department is pushing for expanded Internet wiretapping authority, it does not apply to the data collection or surveillance of users carried out by government agencies. Under the bill, violations of its provisions would be punished by the Federal Trade Commission.
ª HEARINGS HELD ON MUSLIM “RADICALIZATION”
“Islamophobia draped in the American flag” was how Georgetown University religion professor John Esposito described the first of several Congressional hearings into the “Radicalization of Muslim Americans” held on March 10, 2011 by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. Back in 1985, the Irish government had boycotted New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade because its grand marshal, Peter King – then a local Long Island politician – had argued that IRA violence was an inevitable response to British repression and a “legitimate force” (Washington Post, March 4). Shortly before the hearing, the Council on American Islamic Relations – which was to be repeatedly castigated by Rep. King and other Republicans as an “ally of terrorists” – released a video that vividly displayed the hate-filled vitriol now directed at Muslims.
The televised hearings were widely denounced as reminiscent of McCarthyism and a modern-day witch hunt. But unlike the days of the Red Scare, this time there were African-American and Latino Members in Congress who vigorously denounced the scapegoating of Muslims. Holding up a copy of the Constitution, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) loudly declared, “This breathing document is in pain!” (Washington Post, March 11).
• SENATOR DURBIN HOLDS HEARING ON VIOLATIONS OF MUSLIMS’ RIGHTS
As an antidote to the King hearings, Senator Dick Durban on March 29 held a Senate Judiciary sub-committee hearing on the way the civil rights of American Muslims had been violated since 9/11 and into the “spike in anti-Muslim bigotry” (Washington Post, March 24). The Durbin hearings were condemned by Rep. King on Fox News: “This just perpetuates the myth that somehow Muslims are the victim of September 11” (Politico, March 29).
• BILL WOULD TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR TERROR CASES AWAY FROM JUSTICE DEPARMENT
Sen. John McCain and other Republicans along with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an Independent, have been fighting to keep “war on terror” cases out of the federal courts They have now crafted legislation to place oversight of the cases with the Defense Department, instead of the Justice Department where it currently resides (USA Today, May 1).
• CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS DEMANDS S-COMM MORATORIUM
On May 5, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus delivered a letter to the White House calling on the Administration to place a moratorium on the “Secure Communities” program that “is not living up to its name.” Rather than locating and deporting serious criminals, it is deporting large groups of people without any convictions or convicted of only minor offenses.
• SUPREME COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS IN MATERIAL WITNESS CASE
On March 2, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in the only major national security case of this court session, al-Kidd v. Ashcroft. Abdullah al-Kidd, a US native and convert to Islam, was a student and football player at the University of Idaho when he was detained under harsh conditions for two weeks, supposedly to serve as a material witness in the terrorism trial of Sami al-Hussayen. However, he was never asked to testify, and never even told by the government that al-Hussayen had been acquitted by the jury and that the trial was over. The ACLU is challenging the government’s use of the material witness statute for preventive detention and its claim that former Attorney General John Ashcroft has qualified immunity from prosecution. Thirty former prosecutors have filed briefs on the side of the ACLU, arguing that the government had misused the material witness statute. The Obama Administration’s brief on behalf of John Ashcroft contends that the government did not violate the requirements of the material witness law (New York Times, February 21).
• SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO HEAR DETAINEE APPEALS
On April 18, the US Supreme Court refused to consider the case brought by five Chinese Muslims (Uighurs) who have been wrongly held in Guantanamo and had appealed a lower court ruling that they cannot be released into the United States. The Obama Administration urged the Supreme Court not to hear the case, noting that the detainees had been offered resettlement in the island nation of Palau and refused to accept it (New York Times, April 19). China wants the Uighurs to be sent back home, where they would almost certainly face imprisonment and possibly torture. In addition to rejecting the appeals from the Uighurs, earlier in April the Supreme Court turned away the appeals of Ghaleb al Bihani, Fawzi al Odah, and Adham Mohamed al Awad, detainees who have been held at Guantanamo for 9 years and claim never to have fought for al Qaeda (AP, April 4).
• CHALLENGE TO NEW SURVEILLANCE LAW ALLOWED TO PROCEED
On March 21, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision and reinstated Amnesty et al. v. Blair, an ACLU lawsuit filed on behalf of attorneys, human rights activists and media organizations that have every reason to believe that their overseas communications are being intercepted under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. In August 2009, a federal district court had dismissed the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked standing since they could not prove that their communications were being monitored. The FISA Amendments Act essentially legalizes retroactively the Bush Administration’s NSA warrantless wiretapping program, permits the warrantless dragnet surveillance of Americans’ overseas phone calls and emails and gives immunity to telecommunications companies that had participated in it. The lawsuit was filed within 24 hours of the law taking effect (ACLU press release, March 21).
• GOVERNMENT APPEALS RULING AGAINST WARRANTLESS WIRETAPPING PROGRAM
Last December, federal judge Vaughn Walker awarded costs to lawyers who challenged the warrantless wiretapping of the Oregon charity Al-Haramain. They had obtained in discovery tangible proof that the NSA was intercepting their telephone communications. Although the judge did not rule on the constitutionality of the warrantless wiretapping program and declined to award damages to the now defunct charity, the Justice Department has filed an appeal (wired.com, February 22).
• JUDGE RULES THAT GOVERNMENT CAN SEIZE TWITTER RECORDS
A federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia has given the government the green light to obtain information from the social networking site Twitter relating to their investigation of WikiLeaks. Three targets of the investigation had argued that their constitutional rights under the First and Fourth Amendments would be violated if their Internet protocol information were handed over (Washington Post, March 11).
• JUDGE THROWS OUT PADILLA LAWSUIT
On February 17, a federal judge in South Carolina dismissed the lawsuit brought by Jose Padilla against several former Bush Administration officials. Padilla, an American who was called a “Dirty Bomber” by then Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002, was held totally incommunicado for three and a half years without any charges being filed against him on a navy brig off the South Carolina coast. He was eventually tried on lesser charges (with no mention of the “Dirty Bomber” accusation) in a Miami criminal court and given a 17-year sentence. Judge Richard Gergel ruled that Padilla had no right to sue for constitutional violations and that if he permitted the case to go to trial, it would become an international spectacle (New York Times, February 18).
• ONE TERRORIST ACQUITTED BY EL PASO JURY; ANOTHER DIES IN FLORIDA
Luis Posada Carriles, an anti-Castro zealot who was once on the CIA payroll, was acquitted by a federal jury in early April on all charges relating to his illegal entry into the US in 2005. Posada has talked about his role in a wave of bombings in Cuba, including the downing of a Cuban jet in 1978 that took the lives of 72 people. In the words of Peter Kornbluth of the National Security Archive, “This is a disaster, for the US legal system, the credibility of the US campaign to fight international terrorism, and for US-Cuban relations. Most of all, it is an insult to the families of Posada’s many victims who hoped this trial would afford them a small modicum of justice for the loved ones lost to his acts of terrorism” (Center for Democracy in the Americas, April 8). Another convicted terrorist and CIA-backed operative who is widely believed to have organized the bombing the Cuban airliner, Orlando Bosch, died peacefully in Florida on April 26, 2011 at the age of 84. He had been given asylum in the US and was pardoned by President George Bush in 1990.
• WATERTOWN MAN AGREES TO BE DEPORTED
After being in federal custody since May 2010 when he was arrested in connection with the investigation into the failed attempt to bomb Times Square, Aftab Ali has agreed to a plea bargain and deportation. He admitted to giving cash to the would-be bomber, Faisal Shahzad, as part of an informal Muslim banking system. The other 2 Massachusetts men picked up as part of the investigation have, like Ali, been cleared of any involvement with terrorism but still face immigration charges (Boston Globe, April 8).
• CAMPAIGN GROWS TO KEEP “SECURE COMMUNITIES” OUT OF MASSACHUSETTS
The ACLU has joined other advocates and immigration and community groups to urge Governor Patrick not to sign an S-Comm Memorandum of Agreement. Through rallies, press conferences, lobbying and testifying at public meetings held by the Governor’s office, opponents to S-Comm have made the case that the program opens the door to racial profiling, makes communities less safe by making people afraid to report crime, harms families, and is not fulfilling its mission of deporting violent criminals. In Boston – the only jurisdiction that has implemented the program – 53 percent of those deported have no criminal convictions. As Governor Patrick considers whether to sign onto S-Comm, the US Census has revealed that a tenth of Massachusetts residents now describe themselves as Hispanic, a 46 percent increase over the last Census.
• ICE IS INVESTIGATING UPPER CRUST PIZZERIA CHAIN
According to the March 15 Boston Globe, the Upper Crust Pizzeria – which now has a chain of 18 restaurants – relies on low wage workers from an impoverished village in Brazil to staff its kitchens and deliver pizzas. ICE is conducting an investigation of the business and the Labor Department is examining claims that it has exploited workers, paying substandard wages and denying them basic workers’ rights.
• NAPOLITANO URGES VIGILANCE ON MBTA
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano was in Boston on March 14 to promote the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign on the MBTA. She said she knew of no specific threats (AP, March 14).
• ALPR TECHNOLOGY IN POLICE DEPARTMENTS ACROSS STATE
In Boston and at least 26 other cities and towns police departments have used federal grants to purchase Automated License-Plate Recognition (ALPR) systems that enable them to scan more than 1000 license plates per hour, mark the date, time and location of vehicles and sound an alarm when a license plate with a problem is detected (Boston Phoenix, April 27). The ACLU is seeking to know how much information is being collected, where and how long it will be stored, and who will have access to it.
• MALALAI JOYA SPEAKS IN MASSACHUSETTS AFTER VISA DENIAL REVERSED
After the ACLU and other organizations vigorously challenged the ideological exclusion of the Afghan human rights activist Malalai Joya, the State Department granted her a visa in time to address a thousand people gathered to hear her in Harvard University’s Memorial Church on March 25.