Archive for March 26th, 2012

News Digest 3/26/12

Monday, March 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Amazingly, due process is now a debatable point

Monday, March 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm by

Who would have believed it? Constitutional “due process” is now under debate across the United States.

The latest lively debate regarding the president’s right to assassinate American citizens without due process was on Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher. Glenn Greenwald and Professor Wendy Schiller were at odds with blogger Andrew Sullivan and Maher.

Greenwald outlines his thoughts on the session in a post on Salon.

It’s a difficult forum to make serious points that aren’t often heard – time is short, the environment is comic and raucous, there’s a vocal live audience, you’re competing with multiple people even for the limited time allotted – but I thought the Awlaki discussion was actually quite good given those constraints. Of course there’s a lot more I wish I could have said, but I felt like there was actual evolution even among Andrew and Maher in how they talked about the topic as we went on (it seemed like that was true of the live audience as well), and that doesn’t often happen.

I think it had the capacity to make people whose only previous thought was I’m-glad-The-Terrorist-Is-Dead see that there are many more implications than that.

First, The Powers That Be made torture a debatable point, and now, due process. It’s scary to think of what the next “debatable point” will be.

Privacy just went out a five-year window

Monday, March 26, 2012 at 9:28 am by

Privacy Policies & Personal DataLast week, the ACLU released a statement concerning the extension of time that federal authorities can retain information on innocent Americans in their counter-terrorism databases:

The Obama administration has extended the time the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) can collect and hold on to records on U.S. citizens and residents from 180 days to five years, even where those people have no suspected ties to terrorism. The new NCTC guidelines, which were approved by Attorney General Eric Holder, will give the intelligence community much broader access to information about Americans retained in various government databases.

Michael German, ACLU senior policy counsel and a former FBI agent, sums it up very succinctly:

Authorizing the ‘temporary’ retention of non-terrorism related citizen and resident information for five years essentially removes the restraint against wholesale collection of our personal information by the government, and puts all Americans at risk of unjustified scrutiny. Such unfettered collection risks reviving the Bush administration’s Total Information Awareness program, which Congress killed in 2003.

…Having innocent people’s information in intelligence databases for five years without any suspicion of wrongdoing creates an unacceptable risk to Americans’ privacy through error and abuse.”

The Government Accountability Project points out the obvious:

Officials say the guidelines are aimed at “making sure relevant terrorism information is readily accessible to analysts,” yet admit that 1) much of the information has nothing to do with terrorism, and 2) five years is a “reasonable time” to keep benign information because of “how long it takes analysts to search large data sets for relevant information.” So much for relevant and readily accessible!

Yet, more than a decade after 9/11, and now under Obama, the Executive branch is still bent on “legalizing” as much data collection on Americans as possible under the guise of providing national security.

This is another excellent example of giving authority intrusive powers in the name of “national security” and watching those powers’ inevitable and insidious expansion. George Orwell’s prescience is more striking every day.