As July drew to a close, the Senate Intelligence Committee produced the latest instillation in the war on whistle-blowers. Acting to further deter members of the intelligence community from sharing information with the media, the SIC amended the 2012 intelligence authorization bill to include 12 provisions penalizing the disclosure of classified information.
If passed, the amendment would reduce to a handful the number of people at each agency permitted to speak to reporters on “background,” or condition of anonymity; require notice to the Senate and House intelligence committees of authorized disclosures of intelligence information; and permit the government to strip the pension of an intelligence officer who illegally discloses classified information.
Early last week Obama signed his latest executive order, better preparing our nation’s communications in case of emergency, yet also imbuing alarming new authority in the hands of the presidency.
Entitled the “Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions”, Obama’s order exists to transfer control over communications as well as the internet to the presidency in times of emergency. As section 5.2 of the order stipulates, the Secretary of Homeland Security will “oversee the development, testing, implementation, and sustainment” of emergency measures on systems that include private “non-military communications networks.” This greatly expands President Obama’s control over privately owned telecommunications and indeed the internet.
In addition to the concerns over the expansion of executive authority, critics worry the vague wording of this order leaves too much room for abuse. With no definitive limit on when these powers can be implemented, what is to prevent the president from using these powers for political gains or to squash dissent?
Lastly, by creating such authority through executive order, Obama bipassed the will and powers of Congress. While the possibility of constructing these powers were proposed in both a cybersecurity bill from 2009 and in the CyberSecurity Act of 2012; ultimately, in both cases it was decided not to expand the president’s reach.
Over the past decade, we have come to accept increasingly invasive security measures as the norm at our nation’s airports; yet as technological advancements continue to outpace public condemnation, progressively more alarming measures are poised to take hold. The latest such incarnation comes in the form of laser scanners, expected to reach airports nationwide as early as 2013.
This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely, while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is the right thing to do.
In keeping with the intent of the DREAM Act, this relief from deportation will not be made available to everyone. To qualify, an individual must have been under age 16 when they entered the United States, have resided in this country for at least five years, have no prior felony convictions, and be under 30. In addition, the person must be in school, have graduated from high school, received their GED, or have been honorably discharged from the military. While the limitations in place dramatically narrow the pool of eligibility, for those millions of young people, this order will mean an opportunity previously denied to them. As one activist put it, “We’ve done away with the fear.”
New York City marked Father’s Day this year in protest, as thousands silently marched down Fifth Avenue. A sign of the growing opposition to Mayor Michael Blooomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy, this march brought awareness to the NYPD’s increasing use of racial profiling. Yet as Bloomberg stands firm in support of the policy, pressure to repeal the action is expected to rise.
First introduced in 2002, stop-and-frisk was designed to lower rates of violent crime and take guns off the streets. Since then, however, the intention has become mired by abuse. 685,724 people were stopped on the street in 2011, of which over 87 percent were black or Latino. Even more jarring, black and Hispanic males between age 14 and 24 made up 41.6 percent of stops, despite only accounting for 4.7 percent of the city’s population. And of these nearly 700,000 stops, only 780 guns were found and less than six percent were arrested.
While touting claims that stop-and-frisk “saves lives” and has helped make New York the safest big city in the country, Bloomberg continues to resist allegations of racial profiling. Characterizing the problem as an issue of courtesy and respect, Bloomberg detracts from the real issue of discrimination and injustice within the New York Police Department.
Divided into three sections—“Dragnets and Watchlists,” “Surveillance and Secrecy,” and “American Democracy”—Taking Liberties provides an informed and articulate report on the federal government’s hasty response following the attacks of 9/11 and their impact on our rights to privacy, due process, and freedom of speech.
Herman, president of the ACLU, frames her book around anecdotes of people including college student Abdullah al-Kidd and ex-paratrooper Erich Scherfen—ordinary people caught in the post PATRIOT Act security dragnet.
By basing the information of the book around the personal accounts of those persecuted by the overzealous actions of the federal government, Herman reacquaints the reader with the human cost of the “war on terror.” Moreover, Herman does not present these examples as rare and bizarre exceptions in an otherwise smoothly functioning terror prevention network; rather, she shares their stories as a warning that the constitutional protections we take for granted were significantly weakened by policies implemented since the 9/11 attacks over a decade ago. Read the rest of this entry »
Each month, BORDC recognizes an individual who has done outstanding work in support of civil liberties and the rule of law by honoring that person with our Patriot Award. This month we honor Elisa Martínez for her work on preserving civil liberties and the defense of immigrant communities in Amherst, MA.
Elisa began working with the Preserving Our Civil Liberties (PCR) campaign early last year to address racial profiling, domestic surveillance, and local enforcement of federal immigration law. Through her work with PCR campaign, Elisa helped pass a recent resolution in which the town of Amherst, MA, decided to reject detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). These detainers jeopardize people’s lives and communities every day.
Elisa’s passion for defending civil rights comes from her lifelong career in activism and nonprofit advocacy. Having worked to fight poverty and rights abuses in developing countries, shefelt compelled to find ways to bring her work closer to home as freedoms in the United States came under increasing pressure with passage of the PATRIOT Act in 2001. “All those rights we have on paper weren’t able to be exercised in real life,” she says.
After graduating college with a background in foreign relations, Elisa spent three years for the InterAmerican Dialogue, a leadership forum for democratic dialogue in the Western Hemishphere, before returning to school to earn a master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University. Elisa worked with CARE, a humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting global poverty, for the next 12 years, applying the lessons in policy and institutional change she garnered at Princeton. Since then, Elisa has continued her pursuit for higher education, currently working towards her doctorate in sociology.
Bill of Rights Defense Committee Executive Director Shahid Buttar appeared on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story last Monday to discuss the impacts of racial profiling and the recent march against stop-and-frisks in New York City.
Appearing alongside political activist Kevin Powell, Shahid discussed the implications of New York’s stop-and-frisk policy on young people as well as its place in a wider context of abuse. Highlighting the lack of oversight on the NYPD, Shahid characterized stop-and-frisk as “law enforcement very opportunistically using their authorities.” Shahid also advocated for a Justice Department investigation into NYPD abuses.
Further building upon Powell’s thoughts on the effects of criminalizing young black and Latino males, Shahid pointedly said, “These kinds of stops are really traumatizing in the themselves. They impact people and their lives regardless of if they’ve done anything wrong.”
Shifting the discussion to a national level, Shahid and Powell both recognized stop-and-frisk as just one piece in a pattern of disappearing civil liberties. As Shahid put it, “The idea that agencies and public officials are above the law I think is a really pernicious problem.”
If we hope to reverse the tide, we must first revive the foundations of our democracy. As Shahid said, “We have constitutional rights for a reason.”
Addressing the United Nations back in 2010, President Obama pledged the creation of a “multi-agency effort [that] will work to declassify historically valuable classified records”—an effort the Justice Department and Central Intelligence Agency are edging away from.
Beginning in September of last year the CIA quietly entered a two-page document detailing the new regulations for Mandatory Declassification Review into the Federal Register. These regulations, which the CIA began enforcing three months later, allow the Agency to charge up to $72 per hour to search for documents requested.
The review in question is the public’s only channel to appeal declassification decisions outside the internal review of the overly-secretive CIA. Moving outside the CIA’s jurisdiction, a request made through MDR can appear before the Inter-agency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) to appeal an earlier decision. Unlike the CIA, which almost never willingly declassifies information, ISCAP has overruled more than 65 percent of agency decisions.
It therefore seems evident the CIA is attempting to price the public out of access, information, and transparency. What’s more surprising however, is Obama’s Justice Department is supporting them; in direct contradiction to Obama’s earlier pledge for openness.
In response to the CIA’s unjust price hike, a coalition of 36 organizations, including the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, challenged this policy in a letter to the Central Intelligence Agency. The Agency’s only response was a deferral to their lawyers at the Justice Department. Read the rest of this entry »
Working late last Tuesday night, the Rhode Island House of Representatives overwhelmingly moved to pass a resolution calling for the repeal of detention provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Spearheaded by Representative Dan Gordon, Jr., this resolution joins a growing discourse of opposition to the unprecedented powers of detention invested in the president under the current NDAA. These provisions give the president the power to detain Americans, denying them constitutional rights including due process and habeas corpus.
Given the fact that the constitutions of Rhode Island and that of the United States are replete with guarantees of individual liberties, right to habeas corpus, and right to freedom of speech, the offending sections of that law are repugnant to the sensibilities of anyone [who] has a basic understanding of the foundation of this country….
When I took the oath of office, I swore that I would support the constitutions of Rhode Island and the United States. And before one constituent of mine is snatched up in the dead of night, without due process under our laws, they’ll have to pry those documents from my cold dead hands.
Despite passing the House by a vote of 52-15, the resolution drew fire from House republicans for challenging federal authority. As stated by Rep. Brian Newsberry, just moments before attempting to force the “resubmission” of the resolution, “it is inappropriate for the Rhode Island House to be considering federal matters”.
If Rep. Gordon is re-elected in November, he says he would, “like to take the next step and draft a bill that would make enforcement of the NDAA’s indefinite detention provisions a felony in Rhode Island”, an action that will undoubtedly increase tensions surrounding the issue of state’s rights and the expansion of executive power.