Posts Tagged ‘accountability’

If J. Edgar had biometrics: state repression isn’t new, but technology raises the stakes

Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 10:44 am by

Original commentary published on November 13, 2013 on PrivacySOS blog.


Some of us are very worried. If you regularly read this blog, you are likely one of the worriers.

We worry because we are surveillance state watchers, because we are people concerned about the degree to which US culture has been warped by fear-driven narratives that cast Muslims as the enemy in a never-ending, borderless ‘war on terror’. We worry because we see state institutions, seemingly hell-bent on shredding the Bill of Rights, deploy that fear in the service of any number of anti-democratic horrors: extrajudicial assassination, indefinite detention, secret law, mass suspicionless surveillance, the militarization of the police.

An authoritarian impulse to control, monitor, and oppress appears to guide the hands of our most powerful agencies – those secretive, three letter organizations that suck up increasingly substantial quantities of our hard earned money, with little besides repression and misery to show for it.


News Digest for 01/07/2014

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 5:13 pm by

Current News

1/7, Rosa Brooks, Foeign Policy, We can handle the truth: The CIA’s excuses about torture just don’t hold water.

1/7, NPR Staff, CIA Lawyer: Waterboarding Wasn’t Torture Then And Isn’t Torture Now

1/7, Carrie Johnson, NPR, The Secret Burglary That Exposed J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI

1/6, John Rizzo, Huffington Post, Should we? CIA memoir reveals what wasn’t asked

1/6, Salvado Rizzo, NJ Online, N.J. Assembly passes drone bill with warrant requirements

1/6, Liz Kimas, The Blaze, Why Is the NSA Buying a Maryland County’s Waste Water?

American citizen seeks justice after illegal rendition and detention

Friday, December 13, 2013 at 8:45 am by
From the Telegraph

From the Telegraph

Amir Meshal is a Muslim American from New Jersey. In 2006, he traveled to Mogadishu, Somalia to study Islam, but had to quickly leave the country when violence and unrest erupted. In order to escape, Meshal was forced to cross the border into Kenya because a recent bombing shut down the airport in Somalia. While in Kenya, Meshal was arrested and handed over to U.S. officials who detained him in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia for the next four months.

During this period, Meshal was interrogated over thirty times about connections to al Qaeda, which he continually denied. The interrogators threatened him with torture and rendition to another country that could “make him disappear.” He was subjected to unsanitary conditions without consistent access to food and water, while being denied contact with a lawyer or his family. Without any charges brought against him, Meshal was released in May, 2007.


Democratic process challenges use of DHS surveillance cameras

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 11:35 am by

camera-500x333From 2008 to 2010, Boston and eight surrounding cities and towns installed surveillance cameras provided by a grant through the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Urban Areas Security Initiative. DHS’ website describes the cameras as part of a system that has “nine, independent and interoperable nodes tied together through a central hub and is made up of over 100 cameras.”  The cameras were justified for the protection of “critical infrastructure” from terrorist attack, but their use has faced scrutiny from citizens concerned about threats to civil liberties. In Brookline and Cambridge, two municipalities covered by the grant, residents are using local governments to attempt to ban surveillance cameras.


Protestors face down urban shield war games in Oakland CA

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm by

Between October 25 and the 28, an intimidating list of over 150 police departments, federal law enforcement agencies and private corporations participated in a series of militarized war games using the city of Oakland California as if it was their personal playground.

The exercises unfolded as various “real world” scenarios where local law enforcement agencies competed against one another from a central “Red Command.”

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 5.51.30 PM

“In past years, Urban Shield has featured hostage-taking scenarios involving animal rights activists, and the bombing of an oil platform by Anarchists. In an interview, Sheriff Ahern said the scenarios are sourced from threats made to law enforcement and government agencies over the past five to ten years that have been documented by the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center. “Many of those threats have used the formats of anarchy, in the form of white supremacy, of Muslim extremism,” Ahern said. “We simply use threats we’ve received over the last five to ten years that have been documented through our regional intelligence center.” (Eastbay Express)


NYC v. NSA: a guerrilla video world premiere

Monday, October 21, 2013 at 10:00 am by

Fight for The Future, in partnership with the BORDC, Restore the Fourth NYC, Demand Progress and other privacy groups in the Stop Watching Us coalition debuted their new film The NSA Video this week in Manhattan, New York.

BORDC Legal Fellow Matthew Kellegrew joined the crowd as it gathered under the Grand Arch in Washington Square Park in the cool air of New York in the fall. At first, only a few people milled about unsure what to do but before long the few strangers became an unmistakable crowd. The organizers donned NSA costumes, handed out popcorn and briefed the crowd on what was to come.

2013-10-15 20.50.52


Unleashed and Unaccountable: New report from the ACLU reveals extent of FBI abuses

Friday, September 27, 2013 at 9:30 am by

WEB13-FeaturePage-FBI-MainImageEvery 90 days for the past seven years, the government has acquired the full billing records of every American’s daily telephone calls. Though the use of  of secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders, the FBI has forced telecommunications companies to hand over records revealing such details as who individuals call, the length of those phone calls, and the locations of the callers. As the ACLU explains in a new report titled, “Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI’s Unchecked Abuse of Authority,” these secretive, unconstitutional, and ineffective invasions of privacy have become a mainstay in the post-9/11 domestic surveillance enterprise.

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, several significant changes in law and policy have vastly expanded the power of the FBI, enabling it to conduct widespread warrantless surveillance and utilize broad investigative authority. The passage of the Patriot Act and the accompanying secret interpretation of Section 215 have allowed the FBI to spy on Americans and gather an unprecedented amount of information about their personal lives.


One year later, Boston police surveillance of antiwar activists not accounted for

Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 9:30 am by

new-boston-police-department-car-630The New York Police Department (NYPD) has been scrutinized following the revelation one month ago that it designated entire mosques as “terrorism enterprises.” This allowed  them to conduct surveillance on anyone praying at these mosques, including sending  undercover informants into them. NYPD confidential documents even peddled the idea of placing agents in leadership positions at mosques and Arab cultural organizations. Such actions are part of a national context in which police departments violate the first amendment rights of citizens in the name of fighting terrorism. A prime example is the lack of accountability or explanation from the Boston Police Department (BPD) one year after its surveillance of local anti-war organizations became public.

In October 2012 it was revealed that the BPD placed local anti-war groups under surveillance with no plausible connections to criminal activity. One year later many questions remain about the scope of the BPD’s breach of privacy. What was the purpose of such surveillance and how was it done?  Are antiwar activists continuing to have their protected free speech rights violated?  Has information on antiwar groups been passed on to national databases, perhaps stored permanently?


NY Times endorses Surveillance State Repeal Act, joining BORDC

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 10:23 am by

This Sunday, September 21, the New York Times published an editorial, “Close the N.S.A.’s Back Doors,” supporting a piece of legislation that the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, alone among national advocacy organizations, has endorsed since August.

The Times editorial board wrote:

[T]he [NSA] has never met an encryption system that it has not tried to penetrate. And it frequently tries to take the easy way out. Because modern cryptography can be so hard to break, even using the brute force of the agency’s powerful supercomputers, the agency prefers to collaborate with big software companies and cipher authors, getting hidden access built right into their systems.

The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica recently reported that the agency now has access to the codes that protect commerce and banking systems, trade secrets and medical records, and everyone’s e-mail and Internet chat messages, including virtual private networks. In some cases, the agency pressured companies to give it access….

These back doors and special access routes are a terrible idea, another example of the intelligence community’s overreach….If back doors are built into systems by the N.S.A., who is to say that other countries’ spy agencies — or hackers, pirates and terrorists — won’t discover and exploit them?

Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, has introduced a bill that would, among other provisions, bar the government from requiring software makers to insert built-in ways to bypass encryption. It deserves full Congressional support.

The bill introduced by Rep. Holt is the “Surveillance State Repeal Act” (H.R. 2818). If enacted into law, the bill would entirely repeal both the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.


Stop and Frisk found unconstitutional, communities vindicated

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm by

friskOn Monday, August 12, New Yorkers won a historic victory with a federal court ruling that the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) use of stop and frisk policing violated the constitution. Judge Shira Scheindlin found the tactic, as had been argued by the plaintiffs and their attorneys, the Center for Constitutional Rights, violated both the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

To remedy the violations of rights that the court found had affected thousands of New Yorkers between 2004 and 2012, the Judge mandated a number of court supervised changes. The order imposes important reforms on the NYPD related to stop and frisk. The court appointed an independent monitor to oversee the process of bringing the NYPD’s tactics in line with the constitution, required trials of officer worn body cameras in each borough and mandated community input into the reform process. Police body worn cameras have shown excellent results reducing the use of force by police officers and complaints against them. In Rialto, California the use of cameras resulted in a 60% drop in the use of force by police officers.

However, to ensure better policing for all New Yorkers, it will still be crucial for the New York City Council to overturn the mayor’s veto on the two bills championed by Communities United for Police Reform. These bills will greatly expand profiling protections to insure that New Yorkers are not targeted by police for their identity and establish an Inspector General for the NYPD. The council is scheduled to vote on the veto override on August 22.