Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

The tyranny of the Nanny State, where the government knows what’s best for you

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 10:05 am by

This guest post by John Whitehead was originally published on August 11 by the Rutherford Institute. 

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

—C.S. Lewis

Surveillance cameras, government agents listening in on your phone calls, reading your emails and text messages and monitoring your spending, mandatory health care, sugary soda bans, anti-bullying laws, zero tolerance policies, political correctness: these are all outward signs of a government—i.e., a societal elite—that believes it knows what is best for you and can do a better job of managing your life than you can.

of all tyranniesThis is tyranny disguised as “the better good.” Indeed, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, this is the tyranny of the Nanny State: marketed as benevolence, enforced with armed police, and inflicted on all those who do not belong to the elite ruling class that gets to call the shots. Thus, this explains the recent rash of parents getting charged with negligence and arrested for leaving their kids alone for any amount of time, whether at a park, in a store, in a car, or in their front yard—another sign of what C.S. Lewis referred to as tyranny exercised by “omnipotent moral busybodies.”

For example, working mom Debra Harrell was arrested, spent 17 days in jail, lost custody of her daughter, and if convicted, could spend up to 10 years in jail all because she let her 9-year-old daughter play alone at a nearby park. Single mother Shanesha Taylor, unemployed and essentially homeless, was arrested for leaving her kids in her car during a 40-minute job interview. (more…)

2 Chicago men arrested for participating in activism

Monday, August 11, 2014 at 9:55 am by

Stop_and_FriskKevin Tapia and Felipe Hernandez—young Latino men from Chicago’s southwest side—spent the weeks leading up to the Affordable Care Act’s enactment going door-to-door on behalf of their community, informing residents of the imminent changes laid out in the new law. They found jobs with Grassroots Collaborative and worked to make sure that the citizens of their local neighborhoods would be covered in time for the March 31 deadline.

With the law’s rollout less than a week away, Tapia and Hernandez’s efforts had brought them to Garfield Ridge—a predominately white neighborhood. There they were greeted by four police officers who stopped them, frisked them and charged them with unlawfully soliciting business. Though the Chicago Sun-Times initially reported that the police were responding to a local 911 call presuming Tapia and Hernandez’s work to be little more than an attempt to scam the elderly, Grassroots Collaborative have highlighted the incident as an obvious example of racial profiling.

The precedent for a legal framework regarding stop and frisks was established in 1968 via the United States Supreme Court’s seminal ruling in Terry v. Ohio. The Court’s decision indicated that—in the absence of probable cause for an arrest—the Fourth Amendment to the United State’ Constitution protects citizens from police interrogation and frisks unless the officer can outline a “reasonable articulable suspicion” for a stop and frisk.

Probable cause is often subjective but even the most seasoned prosecutor would be grasping at straws in arguing that these officers acted within their purview when they stopped, frisked and arrested Tapia and Hernandez. The officers were responding to a deeply speculative neighborhood call two young men were engaging in entirely nonviolent behavior. What basis they had for fearing Tapia and Hernandez were armed and dangerous wasn’t clear at the time and hasn’t become any clearer since. (more…)

Help us help others: intern with BORDC

Friday, August 8, 2014 at 11:57 am by

We_Can_Do_It!Are you passionate about civil liberties, the Bill of Rights, and the US Constitution?  Are you a good speaker? Do you love to write?  Would you like to get college credit for working on something you feel strongly about?  Most importantly, do you want to make a difference?

If so, we’d love to hear from you.  BORDC is currently looking of interns for the fall semester of 2014.  Preference will be given to candidates located in or near Northampton, MA; Washington DC; Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco Bay Area, CA; New York, NY; and Raleigh/Durham, NC. We are looking for people who can work between 15 and 20 hours per week.  Though we are not in a position to offer compensation, we are more than happy to work with your college or university to enable you to receive credit for this internship.

Qualifications

We are seeking individuals who are interested in our issues and are familiar with current events relating to government secrecy, surveillance detention, and torture.  In order to intern with BORDC, you must be computer literate with good Internet research skills, demonstrate excellent written and verbal communication skills, and be a self-starter able to prioritize and work often without direct supervision. If you have experience working as part of a nonprofit organization, even better!

Responsibilities

Intern responsibilities are based upon the skills and interests of the candidate, as well as what BORDC may need at any given moment.  Responsibilities and activities may include:

  • Research and write blog posts, action alerts, press releases, and newsletter articles on issues including government surveillance, racial and ethnic profiling, and executive accountability for human rights abuses.
  • Engage allied local organizations on behalf of BORDC and present proposed reforms as a vehicle for coalition building.
  • Help facilitate organizing efforts.
  • Organize local student groups and assist with development of campus organizing guide.

Academic Credit

Interns are encouraged to make arrangements to receive academic credit for their internships. BORDC will accommodate the requirements of credit-earning internships as much as possible.

To Apply

Email a cover letter and resume to jobs@bordc.org.  In the subject line, please indicate where you are located.  Applications due by September 12, 2014.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Bring your concerns to Congress this month

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 10:59 am by

congress-recessWashington D.C. has pretty much shut down.  Beginning last Friday night, Congress packed up and left town for five weeks.  There will be no hearings in session.  This happens every August due to a mandatory break that occurs each year beginning the first week of August and extending past Labor Day Weekend.

But just because Congress has taken a vacation doesn’t mean you have to.  August is a great time to reach out to your Senators and Representatives and let them know your concerns on the issues.  BORDC has compiled a list of talking points that may help guide you in addressing the issues with the people who represent you. It’s time to let Congress know that you care and that you want change.

Civil liberties advocates and government whistleblowers call for immediate resignation of CIA Director John Brennan

Monday, August 4, 2014 at 1:45 pm by

Civil liberties advocates, prominent government whistleblowers and human rights activists have joined with Senator Mark Udall’s (D-CO) call for the immediate resignation of CIA Director John Brennan in light of CIA spying on Senate Intelligence Committee computers.

A few months ago, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) rocked Washington by challenging the CIA for illegally spying on Congress and stealing documents, in a speech described by Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as the most significant he had seen among thousands in his 40 year career in the Senate.

CIA Director John Brennan vehemently denied those allegations at the time, but this week’s news makes clear that the CIA did in fact obstruct justice in its ongoing effort to evade accountability for its torture crimes. While President Obama has reiterated his support for Brennan despite the CIA’s continuing crimes under his leadership, members of Congress including Senator Udall (D-CO) have appropriately called for his removal.

According to Shahid Buttar of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee,

“It’s bad enough that the CIA got away with torture undermining US national security, as well as its destruction of videotape evidence, without ever facing the mandatory prosecution required by law. Spying on the Senate committee investigating the Agency’s torture crimes adds insult to injury, mocks the separation of powers, and represents yet another example of the CIA’s obstruction of justice. Brennan should either resign or be forcibly removed by Congress. The Agency has undermined US national security for long enough, and should not be allowed to violate the law yet again with impunity. Nothing less than our democracy is at stake.”

(more…)

Secrecy, government watchlists, and due process: why you should care

Friday, August 1, 2014 at 8:00 am by

The Intercept recently obtained the “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, which, among other things, reveals that American citizens can be placed on the government’s main terrorism database, as well as the no-fly list and selectee list, based on “reasonable suspicion.” The report was developed by 19 government agencies, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI, and offers a mere glimpse inside the overly broad and unnecessary surveillance practices of the American government.

FISA

In early July, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain revealed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act enabled the monitoring of over 7,000 email addresses, many of whom belonging to American citizens that have led highly publicized, exemplary lives and have never before been suspected of terrorist activity. Because the FISC operates in complete secrecy—only the Justice Department and the FBI are permitted to attend its proceedings on domestic surveillance—it is impossible to assess how the court applies the standard of ‘probable cause’ in cases of suspected terrorism or espionage. But its rulings are notoriously one-sided: In its 35-year history, the court has approved 35,434 government requests for surveillance, while rejecting only 12.

(more…)

ACLU and HRW report discusses how the government is stopping us from doing our jobs

Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 8:00 am by

Two days ago, Senator Patrick Leahy introduced a newer, stronger version of the US FREEDOM Act.  This came upon the heels of the House watering down the legislation.  Privacy groups have thrown support behind this bill. Leading the pack are Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

On July 28, the HRW and ACLU published a joint report, With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy.  The report states that the US’s huge, over sweeping, large-scale surveillance hinders US-based lawyers and journalists from doing their work. That surveillance has implicated both our First and Sixth Amendment rights by undermining media freedom and the right to counsel.

Based on interviews with journalists, lawyers, and US government officials, the 120-page report describes how journalists and lawyers must modify their work and practices in order to keep confidential information secure due to the government’s surveillance of electronic communications.

(more…)

After the House watered it down, Sen. Leahy introduces a new US FREEDOM Act.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 7:55 am by

Yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation that would restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records and requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities.

freedom act

The updated version of the USA FREEDOM Act released yesterday builds on legislation passed in the House in May, as well as the original legislation Leahy introduced with Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) last October. The legislation bans bulk collection under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and other surveillance authorities, requires the government to narrow the scope of a search to a clearly defined “specific selection term,” adds needed transparency and reporting requirements, and provides key reforms to the FISA Court. In an editorial on Monday, the New York Times wrote “the bill represents a breakthrough in the struggle against the growth of government surveillance power.”

Leahy noted the legislation provides significant reforms of surveillance authorities, while carefully maintaining the role of law enforcement and intelligence agencies and their responsibility to protect national security.

In his floor statement, Leahy said:

“If enacted, this bill would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act 13 years ago,” Leahy said in a floor statement.  This is an historic opportunity, and I am grateful that the bill has the support of the administration, a wide range of privacy and civil liberties groups, and the technology industry.”

(more…)

Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC July Newsletter

Monday, July 28, 2014 at 6:08 pm by

Constitution in Crisis

July 2014, Vol. 13 No. 07


Journalists reveal government monitoring political activists

Earlier this month, journalists revealed the names of five American targets of the NSA’s surveillance dragnet.  This was the first time that Americans who have never been arrested, or even suspected of terrorist activity, have been individually identified as targets for government monitoring.

Since the story was published, Greenwald has spoken candidly about the reasons for his delay in reporting the names, as well as why it matters. As he explained to Wired magazine, “This is the first time that there’s a human face on who the targets are….I think it’s important for people to judge—are these really terrorists or are these people who seem to be targeted for their political dissidence and their political activism?”



BORDC Analysis

Read the latest news & analysis from the People’s Blog for the Constitution

Have you read BORDC’s blog lately? The People’s Blog for the Constitution features news & analysis beyond the headlines.

Highlights include:


Grassroots News

Grassroots updates

To view campaigns supported by BORDC at a glance, visit our interactive campaign maps for local coalitions addressing surveillance and profiling by local law enforcement, or military detention under the NDAA. To get involved in any of these efforts, please email the BORDC Organizing Team at organizing (at) bordc (dot) org. We’re eager to hear from you and help support your activism!

Highlights include:


BORDC in the News

Activists within BORDC sometimes appear in the news. We make it a point to spread our message through various media, including print, online, radio, and television. Check out what we’ve been up to.

Highlights include:


New Resources & Opportunities

  • BORDC Microgrants offer resources to enable grassroots action
  • Take action! Volunteer, organize, raise your voice—we have an opportunity that’s right for everyone.
  • Read our blog. We publish the latest civil liberties news, plus analysis beyond the headlines.
  • Support our work! Contribute securely online, call (413) 582-0110 to donate by phone, or mail a check or money order to Bill of Rights Defense Committee, 81 Bridge Street, Suite A, Nothampton, MA 01060
  • Follow BORDC on Facebook and TwitterConnect with other supporters and help build the movement.
  • Spread the word! Share this newsletter with your friends and family.

Missouri to vote on protection of digital privacy, but will the Feds respect it?

Monday, July 28, 2014 at 11:45 am by

yes on 9On August 5, Missouri voters will decide in a referendum whether to expand its state constitution’s privacy protections to electronic communications and data. This follows the overwhelming approval of the measure by Missouri’s state legislature, where the state House of Representatives approved it by a vote of 114-28 and the state Senate had only one dissenting vote.

The ballot question, known as Amendment 9, would change the Missouri State Constitution to read:

“Section 15. That the people shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes [and], effects, and electronic communications and data, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and no warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing, or access electronic data or communication, shall issue without describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized, or the data or communication to be accessed, as nearly as may be; nor without probable cause, supported by written oath or affirmation.”

The proposed revision comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision this past June regarding the privacy status of cell phones. In the US Supreme Court decisions in  Riley v. California and US v. Wurie, the court unanimously ruled that police must acquire a warrant to search a person’s cell phone. The cases involved arrested suspects whose cell phones were searched without warrant and the evidence found used against them in prosecution.  Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that “modern cellphones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life.” (more…)