Privacy SOS

Week in Review: Up or Down on the Freedom Scale

Just a skimming of this week's news thus far shows us we are in a very bad place when it comes to freedom and privacy in the United States today. A few examples:

  • The DOJ wants government agencies to be able to lie to you in the FOIA process. That's to say, if you ask the Department of Transportation for records that might embarrass the administration, under the proposed rule, the DOT would be able to tell you they don't possess the records, even if they do. The FBI already does this, and got caught not only lying to the ACLU, but also to a judge! The judge didn't like this very much. -4,400
  • Police in Oakland fired military weapons including rubber coated steel bullets and teargas cannisters (chemical weapons) at unarmed, peaceful protesters at Occupy Oakland last night. -2
  • Military technologies continue to migrate away from overseas war zones back to the nation that birthed them. (That's the United States.) A drone allegedly killed American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. Maybe police will begin using them to kill Americans right here at home? For now, they are being used for surveillance purposes in a number of states along the southwest border. -1776
  • The Patriot Act turns TEN today! Happy birthday! Everyone hates you! -10

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  • But! The national ACLU is suing the feds to find out how they are interpreting key portions of the Patriot Act. Why's that, you say? That's because the government is arguing that its interpretation of the law is itself a state secret. Yes, this is the wormhole. And we are in it. But we are suing to get out of it! +215
  • The ACLU of Massachusetts participated in a large, coordinated FOIA request project with over 30 other ACLUs from around the country last year, asking the FBI for information on their "ethnic mapping" programs. We in MA are still waiting for our documents (c'mon, FBI!), but some states have gotten files back from the DOJ showing some pretty sketchy government surveillance of targeted ethnic or national groups. Some examples are: this in Georgia (surveillance of so-called "Black separatists"), this in California (surveillance of white militia groups), and this in Arkansas (census information on foreign born residents of the state). And that's in addition to a whole boatload of training materials teaching FBI agents all about Islam and Muslims. We know that's going really well (as in: racist garbage). -20

This week's total: -5,993 (That's a pretty bad score, America. We can do better!)

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