Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Court forces disclosure of police camera footage in Seattle

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 10:17 am by

On June 12, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled against the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and in favor of public access to dashboard cameras installed in Seattle police officer’s squad cars. The ruling represents a significant victory for transparency and the police accountability movement.

A local news syndicate, KOMO, had requested access to the footage from police dashcams, but they were continually denied even though the Public Records Act (PRA) mandated that, if requested, the police would release the footage recorded. SPD maintained their stance of not releasing video until three years after the recording, and also failed to mention that video older than three years old was deleted. According to Dominic Holden, writing in the Stranger:

KOMO sought the records as part of a series about SPD using excessive force and biased policing, which were the subject of a federal investigation and subsequent settlement to reform the police department. SPD refused to cough them up, making a series of bizarre, implausible claims about being unable to locate the records and having “no documents.” The SPD eventually claimed they had a three-year window in which to withhold the video footage (but then, the SPD automatically erased dash-cam footage after three years). In the meantime, the SPD released the videos to a citizen, belying claims the records were nonexistent or impossible to find.

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Retired Air Force officer exhorts Americans to challenge “Fortress America”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 11:06 am by

Reflecting on his 20 years of military service as a US Air Force officer, and noting the dramatic changes in both law & culture over the past decade, Lt. Colonel (ret.) William J. Astore wrote last week about the acquiescence of Americans to what he describes as “Fortress America.” In Uncle Sam Doesn’t Want You—He Already Has You, Astore exhorts Americans to challenge the national security state in order to preserve basic liberty principles.

Referencing young people who may not recall an era in which privacy was ever respected, he explains:

Many of the college students I’ve taught recently take such a loss of privacy for granted. They have no idea what’s gone missing from their lives and so don’t value what they’ve lost or, if they fret about it at all, console themselves with magical thinking—incantations like “I’ve done nothing wrong, so I’ve got nothing to hide.” They have little sense of how capricious governments can be about the definition of “wrong.”

Astore goes on to note the sycophancy of Hollywood, reflected in movies repeatedly glorifying US intelligence agencies despite their serial crimes, in sharp contrast to the films of the 1970s and 1980s that offered storylines and narratives more reflective of the agencies actual behavior.

He also takes on border security and police militarization:

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Judge orders DOJ to disclose secret legal opinions for court review

Monday, June 16, 2014 at 11:57 am by

This post was originally published by Dave Mass at EFF’s Deeplinks blog on May 18, 2014 and is shared with permission.

A federal judge [on June 13] ordered the Department of Justice to hand over key opinions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (also known as the “FISA court”) so the judge can directly review whether information about mass surveillance was improperly withheld from the public.

The order is another victory in EFF’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the DOJ, which sought to reveal how the government uses Section 215 of the Patriot Act to secretly gather communications records from millions of American citizens. The suit has already forced the government to release thousands of pages of FISA court opinions, internal executive branch reports, congressional briefings, and other documents concerning Section 215. Documents released as part of the suit have shown the NSA repeatedly misled the FISA court concerning the operation of the bulk call records program, nearly leading the court to terminate the program altogether.

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Cantor’s loss spells trouble for NSA dragnet

Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 9:28 am by

This week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s unprecedented landslide loss to David Brat in their Republican primary contest sent a shockwave through Washington. While observers have suggested that the surprising upset reflected his stance on a variety of issues, BORDC has joined outlets including The Hill and others who observed that Brat sharply distinguished himself from Cantor on civil liberties.

For instance, Brat told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the NSA dragnet ”is a disturbing violation of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy,” and on his campaign website, he addresses several civil liberties at once:

The federal government’s abuse of our freedoms has spun out of control. Whether it is the NSA violating our 4th Amendment Rights by collecting phone records, the IRS violating our 1st Amendment rights by targeting conservative organizations, or President Obama violating our 5th Amendment rights with the indefinite detention of American citizens, our freedoms have been under attack and they must be restored.

Yesterday, the Institute for Public Accuracy quoted BORDC’s Shahid Buttar, who explained that:

For too long, politicians in Washington have blithely ignored their constitutional duties while deferring to executive agencies engaged in a frontal assault on the individual rights guaranteed by our nation’s founders. Eric Cantor’s primary loss to a relatively unknown candidate reflects, at least in part, a transpartisan grassroots rejection of the NSA spying programs that Cantor has staunchly defended.

Given his role in the Republican leadership, he was responsible in part for the behind the scenes, closed-door process that recently gutted the USA FREEDOM Act, and he has long been part of the culture of congressional corruption that continued to defer to executive agencies despite their long-standing and ongoing crimes against the American people.…

Republicans are not the only ones who should take heed: plenty of Democrats are complicit in the crimes of U.S. intelligence agencies, and will risk similar upsets until they start demonstrating independence from the executive branch they are charged to oversee, check, and balance.

 

Senate Intel Committee exhorted to move beyond USA Freedom Act

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 3:59 pm by

Last week, on June 5, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and legislative proposals to reform its provisions to address systemic abuses by the National Security Agency (NSA). C-SPAN recorded the hearing, and has posted both video and full text of the testimony and exchanges with Senators.

Harley Geiger from the Center for Democracy & Technology delivered especially informative testimony, explaining that:

Although questions remain and further debate is needed in many areas, a near consensus has emerged on a critical issue that has been of central focus to the American public: The government’s bulk collection of records of phone calls and emails to, from and within the United States is both intrusive and unnecessary, and Congress must act to prohibit this activity.

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New study confirms: domestic terror prosecutions contrived

Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:08 am by

This blog post was authored by guest blogger Courtney Clark from Washington, DC.

Last week, the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) and Project SALAM (Support And Legal Advocacy for Muslims) released a 175-page study of the government’s prosecution strategy in domestic terrorism cases. The study, Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution, reveals that the era of J. Edgar Hoover may be less far removed from the Bureau’s operations than most observers realize. The introduction explains that:

[T]he war on terror has been largely a charade designed to make the American public believe that a terrorist army is loose in the U.S., when the truth is that most of the people convicted of terrorism-related crimes posed no danger to the U.S. and were entrapped by a preventive strategy known as preemptive prosecution.

This week, they will host a press conference to discuss their discoveries on on Thursday, June 12 at 11 a.m. in New York City at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Anyone interested is invited to attend.

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Secretary of State slanders historic NSA whistleblower

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 8:04 am by

This Monday, BORDC’s Shahid Buttar appeared on the Pacifica Radio network’s Flashpoints program to respond to Secretary of State John Kerry’s confused, ironic, and self-serving statements about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Buttar noted Kerry’s complicity in mass surveillance given his voting record in the Senate, as well as his failure to maintain his own stated principles as a veteran who, at one point early in his career, testified before Congress about his opposition to the Vietnam War.

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NSA collects biometric data, prompting creative countermeasures

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 7:27 am by

Along with investigative journalist Laura Pointras, James Risen from the New York Times (who is facing prosecution for protecting the confidentiality of his sources in the face of yet another whistleblower investigation) produced a report this Sunday based on the latest among the Snowden revelations. In particular, Poitras & Risen reveal that the NSA is collecting and maintaining a vast image database of faces for use with facial recognition software.

As they explain in their report:

The agency intercepts “millions of images per day” — including about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images” — which translate into “tremendous untapped potential,” according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show.

“It’s not just the traditional communications we’re after: It’s taking a full-arsenal approach that digitally exploits the clues a target leaves behind in their regular activities on the net to compile biographic and biometric information” that can help “implement precision targeting,” noted a 2010 document.

Facial recognition software deployed for surveillance and intelligence gathering is not merely constitutionally questionable, it is also really, really creepy. Your face is not “data,” it is you. More than any personal email or racy text message, your biometric information is the most personal data you possess. By rendering faces into ones and zeros, the NSA objectifies and commodifies the body itself.

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Redacted Tonight features BORDC’s Shahid Buttar on NSA spying

Monday, June 2, 2014 at 8:39 am by

This past Friday, RT premiered a new news comedy program, Redacted Tonight. The program’s inaugural episode featured BORDC’s Shahid Buttar, who explained some shortcomings of the USA Freedom Act that recently passed the House, before later encouraging his interviewer’s lyrical creativity.

The Surveillance State and the state of surveillance: What activism has to learn from art

Friday, May 30, 2014 at 10:12 am by

The “Surveillance State” is a term civil libertarians often invoke, and when they do they mean it literally. The Surveillance State is a reference to the actual surveillance activities of a formally organized governmental state. But the Surveillance State is more than a product of policies and protocols crafted by bureaucrats in shadowy rooms. The resulting condition of surveillance has given rise to new forms of artistic expression that can help political activists learn new ways to talk about civil liberties and find new communities to engage with.

For example, this June 5th will be the first anniversary of Edward Snowden’s historic revelations about the extent of NSA dragnet surveillance and the occasion is being celebrated with the Reset The Net online event. Reset The Net is the product of frequent BORDC collaborator Fight For The Future and it is a fantastic time to think creatively about resistance to the surveillance state beyond business-as-usual political organizing. June 5th is not just an opportunity for action, it is also an occasion to reflect on why this work must be done and how we are all personally affected.

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