Archive for April 3rd, 2012

News Digest 4/3/12

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

CIA unlawfully withholds documents

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 11:17 am by

CIA FlagA federal lawsuit has charged the CIA with refusing to comply with requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), contending that the agency has repeatedly cited an exemption it does not have the authority to use.

Over the years, government watchdogs have requested records relating to the CIA’s treatment of detainees and policies related to the “war on terror,” but the CIA withheld many of these documents by invoking a (b)(3) exemption. One of seven FOIA exemptions, the (b)(3) exemption allows an agency’s director to refuse disclosure of documents to protect “intelligence sources and methods.”

When Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act back in 2004, the authority of protecting intelligence sources and methods shifted from the Director of the CIA to the newly created Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In other words, the ODNI (not the CIA) is in charge of invoking the (b)(3) exemption and has been for eight years. Interestingly, it appears that the CIA has only once received authorization from the ODNI to cite (b)(3), indicating that many uses of this exemption were purely illegitimate.

Such disregard for the law is not a first for the CIA. In spite of a well-established law that prohibits the agency from spying here in the US, the CIA trained the New York Police Department to carry out targeted surveillance of Muslims. An internal “review” later found no violation of law.

Kel McClanahan, executive director of the law firm filing the suit, suggests that the CIA’s actions follow a pattern of defiance:

As important as protecting intelligence sources and methods is, you’d think that someone would have wanted to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s to make sure that they stayed protected after the authority to do so changed hands. Or perhaps the CIA just decided to keep on doing what it had always done, expecting that nobody would notice the difference and call them out on it.

It appears that the deeper we delve into the CIA’s actions, the more questions we find. But somehow the CIA keeps finding a way to cover up its tracks.

Appeals court upholds California law requiring arrestees to give DNA sample

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 3:13 am by

DNA spiralLast month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a California law requiring individuals arrested on suspicion of having committed felonies to provide a DNA sample to the government.

Proponents of the law point out that it helps identify criminals by allowing the government to compare the DNA samples it collects from arrestees to other DNA profiles found in criminal databases. Because DNA is unique to every individual, matching DNA profiles can lead to the perpetrators of unsolved crimes.

Critics, however, worry that the law represents an undue intrusion on our privacy. In effect, the law requires individuals to provide a DNA sample even though they may not be convicted of any crime ultimately. The DNA thus obtained is stored in databases accessible to local, state, national, and international law enforcement agencies.

In 2009, the ACLU challenged the law arguing that it was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit balanced the government’s interests against those of the affected individual and held that the law did not violate the Fourth Amendment. It explained:

Given the arrestee’s diminished privacy interests; the de minimis nature of the physical intrusion entailed in the taking of a buccal swab; the carefully circumscribed scope of the DNA information being extracted; the stringent limits on the manner in which that information may be used; and the well-established law enforcement interest in obtaining arrestee’s identifying information, and further, to deter future criminal acts and to exculpate innocent arrestees—the balance of interests tilts strongly in favor of upholding the constitutionality of [the law].

The case is significant because it provides an indication on whether similar laws enacted in other states will survive constitutional scrutiny. Last year, New Jersey became the 25th state to pass a DNA arrestee law.

Michael Risher, an attorney working for the ACLU said his clients would seek review of the decision by the full Ninth Circuit.