Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Sandra Ordonez recognized with BORDC Patriot Award

Monday, July 21, 2014 at 10:29 am by

Sandra

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 Sandra Ordonez from New York City for her work on preserving civil liberties in regards the use of technology to support unconstitutional mass surveillance.

By day, Sandra works with the Open Internet Tools Project (OpenITP), which supports the software creators and communities behind open source anti-surveillance and anti-censorship tools that enable citizens to communicate directly and freely with each other. OpenITP’s mission is to help the communities that build these tools and to improve and increase the distribution of these circumvention tools, which are built by activists and journalists internationally.

“Protecting privacy and the freedom of thought and speech” is my work, Sandra told BORDC.  Though she works for OpenITP, Sandra continues to get more involved on a local level.  “I started to get more involved because we have several surveillance issues here in New York,” she said in talking about how Muslim Americans have been watched in the city.  “[The New York Police Department] uses tactics that really go against civil liberties, which no American should be subjected to.  So I try to help communities and activists protect themselves.” (more…)

Praise for the Guantánamo nurse who refuses to force feed detainees.

Friday, July 18, 2014 at 12:01 pm by

On Wednesday, Witness Against Torture issued a statement in praise of a Navy nurse at Guantánamo has refused to force-feed detainees because he finds the practice is unethical. Witness Against Torture explained

“The nurse’s refusal is an extraordinary act of conscience.  It speaks to the brutality of forced-feeding, which the hunger strikers describe as torture and medical and human rights bodies have denounced. It affirms the ethical obligations of medical professionals, which prohibit forced-feeding.  And it underscores the broader criminality of Guantánamo, where men are held indefinitely without charge or trial and further brutalized when they protest.”

The process employed in force feeding at Guantánamo  is designed to cause extra suffering. General Bantz Craddock, who instituted the restraint chair and twice-daily intubation in 2006, said that he designed it to make hunger-striking less “convenient” and that “pretty soon [after these practices were introduced]…they decided it wasn’t worth it.” That was eight years ago.  And yet the brutal force feeding continues.

Read Witness Against Torture’s statement and spread the word.  We must support this nurse so that others will follow in his footsteps.

This video shows how detainees are force fed:

 

 

 

 

How the NSA’s surveillance programs undermine Internet security

Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 11:41 am by

Over the last year, nearly all the news and outrcy about the National Security (NSA) has focused on its programs to collect phone records and spy on Internet communications.  However, the NSA is also engaging in secretly undermining essential encryption tools and standards and, among other things,  putting backdoors into computer hardware and software products.

Not only have they stockpiled the vulnerabilities in commercial software we use every day rather than attempting to fix those security flaws, they have been putting spyware into computers around the world by impersonating popular sights like Facebook and LinkedIn.  They have even gone so far as to hack into Google and Yahoo’s private data links.

Congress has finally started paying attention to these disturbing actions.  In June, the House voted to approve two amendments to defund the NSA’s attempted to undermine encryption standards and to insert surveillance backdoors into the communications technologies we rely on.  Repesentatives Zoe Lofgren and Alan Grayson sponsored these amendments. (more…)

Anti-drone grandmother sentenced to one year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm by

Our government locked up a grandmother and member of New York’s Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars for protesting against drones at a US base.

Prior to her current case, Mary Anne Grady-Flores was issued an order of protection to keep her away from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base after she participated in an act of civil disobedience there on October 25, 2012.  The order was in effect for one year.

After the order of protection was put in place, Grady-Flores attended a protest.  Reports indicate that while she did not participate in the action, she took photographs of it from the roadway, fully believing that she was in compliance with the protective order.

Unfortunately for Grady-Flores, the property of the base extended all the way to the roadway.  Thus she was charged and tried with second degree criminal contempt for violating the protective order.  Rather than plead guilty to this abuse of our judicial and criminal process, Grady Flores took her case to trial.

On Thursday, Judge David Gideon of the DeWitt Town Court sentenced her to the maximum sentence of a year in prison for violating the protection order and fined her $1,000. In a courtroom packed with about 150 supporters, Grady Flores spoke about what she called the four perversions of justice in her case:

“The fourth perversion is the reversal of who is the real victim here: the commander of a military base involved in killing innocent people halfway around the world or those innocent people themselves, who are the real ones in need of orders of protection? So I, as a nonviolent grandmother and a caregiver to my own mother, as I prepare for jail, itself a perversion, I stand before you remorseful. I’m remorseful about my own country and its continued perpetuating of violence and injustice.”

From cops to soldiers: the American police state and the militarization of law enforcement.

Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 2:51 pm by

These are busy times for the Border Patrol, the custom agents, immigration folks; but if we are going to send these agencies to fight a war on drugs, to fight a war against illegal behavior, we have to send them the proper tools.

– Then-Mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner

Since President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs in June 1971, the United States has spent nearly $1 trillion on a vicious campaign that has served as a means to subjugate, terrorize, and control. Nonviolent drug abuse violations remain the single most common offense, accounting for over 1.5 million individuals arrested in 2012.

SWAT

With the rate of unsolved homicides skyrocketing over the past 50 years, it is has become increasingly clear that the failed War on Drugs has only perpetuated violence on the streets of America’s most destitute communities. In the words of H.R. Haldeman, President Richard Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff, “[T]he whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.” Despite the seemingly obvious facts that speak against these tough-on-crime policies, the war wages on throughout the nation, as low-income communities and communities of color continue to be targeted in an effort to destabilize the urban family.

This rise of militarism in American policing has come about without public discussion, and is often accompanied with a lack of both local and federal oversight. Maryland stands as the only state in the country that requires law enforcement agencies with a SWAT team to submit semi-annual deployment information, a law that was enacted after a small-town mayor was held at gunpoint for hours by the Prince George County SWAT team on false pretenses.  The SWAT team proceeded to murder two of his dogs.

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Greenwald names names.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 12:36 pm by

public-figures-nobody-is-safeFive American targets of our government’s surveillance have been named.  This is the first time that American targets—people who have never been arrested or even suspected of terrorist activity—have been identified.

After a few months of journalist Glenn Greenwald  promising to “name names” of the identities of these Americans, he, along with Murtaza Hussain, posted these names to The Intercept today. (more…)

PCLOB flops on Internet spying

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 2:43 pm by

Today, the Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) released a major report on the National Security Agency’s Internet surveillance programs. Earlier this year, the PCLOB took a strong stance against telephony spying under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, correctly describing it as both illegal and unnecessary.

Unfortunately, the PCLOB’s latest report is a vast disappointment, failing to reflect the same independence apparent in its first report and deferring to the government despite stronger calls for reform from Congress, as well as a recent Supreme Court decision, that should have emboldened the PCLOB.

BORDC is hardly alone in expressing disappointment in the PCLOB’s findings. The American Library Association’s Adam Eisgrau noted that “despite the dictates of the Fourth Amendment, the Board essentially endorses the use of general warrants to search through the content of unimaginable numbers of communications of millions of Americans….”

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The Court finally shows up for work (Part II)

Monday, June 30, 2014 at 8:12 am by

Part I of this series explained the Supreme Court’s decision in Riley v. California, and why it represents so dramatic an evolution from prior cases where the Court failed to grasp the implications of digital technology for the privacy values pervading the Bill of Rights. This follow-up post explains the social forces animating the decision, with crucial implications for any number of social issues going forward.

Where it came from: is the Court “in front,” or behind?

It remains important to recognize how a broader social debate made possible last week’s decision in Riley v. California. Only in examining the influence of mass debate on elite legal discourse can we understand how digital privacy — or other contested rights — will evolve in the future.

A long-running debate among legal theorists questions whether, and how, courts are influenced by broader public debates beyond the courtroom. On the one hand, courts are inherently reactive institutions.

On the other hand, courts have occasionally advanced justice while the political branches remain mired in majoritarian prejudice: in Brown vs Board, the Court — not Congress — forced desegregation on the South, just as Goodridge v. Dep’t of Public Health placed a Massachusetts court near the front of the marriage equality movement (disclosure: I was part of the legal team representing the mayor of new Paltz, NY in a 2004 marriage equality case).

Brown vs. Board is relevant not only in demonstrating an example of the Court’s occasional proactivity, but also in rejecting “separate but equal” systems for people of different races. Lost in most commentary about the Riley decision has been an awareness of its serious implications for race, which in turn help reveal whether Riley reflects a Court “out in front,” or instead, one lagging behind American society.

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Government spying on the peace movement (Part I)

Saturday, June 28, 2014 at 12:23 pm by

The fight against government repression of free speech suffered a setback in Washington State this month, as a judicial ruling in the Panagacos vs. Towery case turned a blind eye to government infiltration of peaceful activist groups. The decision reflects not only the latest failure by the federal judiciary to do its job, but also a disturbing history dating back decades, and over five years in this particular case of constitutional abuses by intelligence and police agencies, as well as the US military.

In July 2009, activists in Olympia, WA went public with the shocking revelation that an intelligence contractor hired by the U.S. Army named John Towery had infiltrated the antiwar group Olympia Port Militarization resistance.

For almost two years, Towery — known to activists by a false name, “John Jacob” — had administered the group’s email listserv, attended meetings and demonstrations and unsuccessfully attempted to coerce young college students to commit acts of violence. Towery’s true identity was discovered by several members of the group after cop-watcher Drew Hendricks combed through thousands of pages of public records using a technique known as “cataloging”.

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The Court finally shows up for work (Part I)

Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 6:11 pm by

The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Riley v. California and US v Wurie has been hailed as a breakthrough for digital privacy, and it is. Lost in most celebration of the Court finally joining the 20th century, however, is an understanding of how it got there. Why this ruling came down in 2014 is crucial to understand for future debates over any number of issues.

A watershed case: the Court acknowledges digital privacy

Riley represents the first time the Supreme Court has even attempted to meaningfully embrace the privacy issues presented by the digital age.

A recent prior case, US vs Jones, addressed GPS tracking by local police. Jones vindicated checks on runaway executive power, though not on privacy grounds. While the Jones ruling rejected extended police GPS surveillance without a warrant, it did so on property grounds, protecting for landowners interests denied to others (namely, anyone who parks a car on a street, rather than behind a fence).

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