- 5/27, Wendy Kaminer, Cognoscenti – wbur, The Imperial Presidency: How The Expansion Of Executive Power Is Eroding Our Civil Liberties
- 5/27, Mac Thornberry, Wall Street Journal, The President’s Welcome Overture to Congress
- 5/27, Glenn Greenwald, Guardian (UK), Obama’s terrorism speech: seeing what you want to see
- 5/25, Ethan Bronner, Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, New York Times, Leak Inquiries Show How Wide a Net U.S. Cast
- 5/25, Tom Gjelten, NPR, Obama Keeps Distance From Torture Debate, At Least For Now
- 5/24, Al Hunt, Bloomberg, Powell Says Military Not CIA Should Direct Drones
- 5/24, Patricia Zengerle and Matt Spetalnick, Reuters, Obama wants to end ‘war on terror’ but Congress balks
Posts Tagged ‘CIA’
President Obama’s speech yesterday, presenting his vision of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy, included welcome rhetoric about the importance of constitutional principles, including Due Process and rights to dissent. It may represent the high watermark for civil liberties since his inauguration five years ago.
It is disappointing, given his thoughtful words, that he ignored so many inconvenient truths. From extrajudicial assassination to free speech and freedom of the press, from the need to address root causes of terrorism to partnership with American Muslims, the president promoted important principles but papered over reality.
The reaction by Republican senators was even worse. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) foolishly suggested that “The president’s speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory,” and suggested doubling down on many of the same failed Bush-era policies from which President Obama finally signaled long overdue independence yesterday.
Due Process: Gitmo
The president forcefully spoke about the need to close Guantánamo Bay, and also lifted his moratorium on releasing Yemeni detainees whom the government has cleared for release, despite the clamor among conservative lawmakers who prefer to indefinitely detain anyone accused of terror without trial.
Yet the president’s words reflected important principles that his own administration has routinely violated. Col. Morris D. Davis, the former chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo who resigned his position to challenge torture (and serves on the BORDC advisory board), agreed that “It’s great rhetoric. But now is the reality going to live up to the rhetoric?”
The president criticized restrictions on resettling detainees cleared for release imposed by Congress early in his administration. But he has the authority to resettle those detainees through a separate process, if he were willing to certify the release of particular individuals—which he has avoided in order to avoid the political risk.
Due Process: Drone strikes
President Obama also pledged more congressional oversight of drone strikes, responding to sustained controversy and reiterating a promise from his State of the Union address in January that he has yet to fill.
May 2013, Vol. 12 No. 05
View this newsletter as a webpage: http://www.bordc.org/newsletter/2012/05/
- BORDC Board elects new leadership
- BORDC in the news
- Read the latest news & analysis from the People’s Blog for the Constitution
- Round the clock surveillance: Is this the price of living in a ‘Free, Safe’ society? by John W. Whitehead
- Heavy toll of drone killings illuminated at Senate hearing by Michael Figura
- MA House & Senate to consider 5 pieces of privacy legislation by Dave Mitchell
- Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition proposes Rapid Response Network by Kyla Kuvach
- The press fails yet again by Shahid Buttar
- BORDC announces 2013-2014 legal fellowship
- Summer 2013 internships available with BORDC
- Legal fellow Michael Figura speaks at events across Maine
- BORDC hosts receptions in San Francisco and Washington, DC
- Convening in Oakland, CA, informs activists and coalitions from across the country
- May 2013 Patriot Award: Jayel Aheram
- Grassroots Updates
- Alameda County, CA: County passes resolution against Secure Communities policy
- Los Angeles, CA: Stop LAPD Spying continues to address pervasive surveillance
- Charlotte, NC: Activists challenge statewide discriminatory policing and sentencing
- California: AB 351 advances to challenge indefinite detention
- Chicago, IL, mobilizes across several events
- Dallas, TX, hosts events to greet Bush Presidential Center, challenges protest restriction
- Albany, NY, responds to abusive paramilitary training exercise
- Connecticut legislature tackles several civil liberties issues
- Immigration reform proposals mask biometric assault on all Americans
- Gitmo hunger strike draws global attention to ongoing US torture
- ECPA reform aims to limit electronic searches
- DHS caught spying on Occupy movement as IRS discriminates against Tea Party
- Google reports increase in government censor requests
- Boston bombings: From surveillance to white privilege
- Micro-grants offer opportunities for grassroots action
- BORDC announces 2013-2014 legal fellowship
- Summer 2013 internships available with BORDC
- War on Whistleblowers DVD and Action Guide
- Hold your elected officials and candidates for office accountable: pledge to support only those who defend your civil liberties
The journalism world has been rightly outraged by the Justice Department dragging the Associated Press (and now a Fox News reporter) into one of its sprawling leak investigations. As we wrote last week, by obtaining the call records of twenty AP phone lines, “the Justice Department has struck a terrible blow against the freedom of the press and the ability of reporters to investigate and report the news.”
But there are several other important lessons that this scandal can teach us besides how important free and uninhibited newsgathering is to the public’s right to know.
1. Weak Privacy Laws That Doomed AP Affect Everyone
The AP detailed in its letter to the Justice Department how its privacy was grossly invaded even though the government accessed only the call records of its reporters and not the content of their conversations. We completely agree. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a problem in the AP investigation. Law enforcement agencies routinely demand and receive this information about ordinary Americans over long periods of time without any court involvement whatsoever, much less a full warrant.
For example, according to information released by the phone companies to Rep. Ed Markey, Sprint alone received a staggering 500,000 subpoenas for call records data last year.
The DOJ’s decision to dive into these call records shows the growing need to update our privacy laws to eliminate the outmoded Third Party Doctrine—which holds that anything you give to a service provider, or that a service provider collects as part of providing you a service—can retain no reasonable expectation of privacy. In an era where email is stored by our providers, cellphone companies keep records that track our location and cloud services hold our documents, it’s long past time to bring our interpretation of the Fourth Amendment and statutory electronic privacy laws in compliance with the 21st Century.
In response to the AP scandal, a bipartisan coalition in Congress just introduced a bill to partially fix this problem called The Telephone Records Protection Act. The bill would require the Justice Department to get a judge’s approval before seeking these records. At EFF, we think the government should have to go even further than a court order: a judicial warrant showing the kind of probable cause required by the Fourth Amendment should be the standard. But this bill is certainly an improvement over administrative subpoenas, which don’t need a sign-off from a judge at all and allow the Executive branch to seek information without any external check.
2. Phone Companies May Give Up Your Information Without Telling You
As the New York Times reported, the AP is still examining if and when any telephone companies tried to push back on the overbroad requests for its call records. “But at least two of the journalists’ personal cellphone records were provided to the government by Verizon Wireless without any attempt to obtain permission to tell them so the reporters could ask a court to quash the subpoena,” the Times said. And it also seems clear that the AP itself wasn’t given notice before their phone company turned over the records.
In EFF’s 2013 “Who Has Your Back” report, which tracks several ways in which communications companies can help protect user privacy, we give a star for promising to notify users about government demands for data whenever whenever the company is not legally prevented from doing so. Notably, Verizon does not have such a notification policy and did not receive a star. In fact, Verizon was the only company to receive zero stars.
This isn’t a small problem or just a problem for journalists. Verizon received 260,000 similar subpoenas for call records last year. The government requests this information with regularity, and given the phone companies control the data, communications company policies are all that stand between you and governmental overreach.
Users should demand that their communications companies notify them when the government comes seeking information, unless they are legally barred by a court order.
- 5/21, Jason Leopold, Al Jazeera, Physician dismisses force-feeding concerns
- 5/21, Steve Horn and Chris Geovanis, TruthOut, Undercover: Police Officer Connected to “NATO 5″ Case Still Spying on Protest in Chicago Undercover: Police Officer Connected to “NATO 5″ Case Still Spying on Protest in Chicago
- 5/20, Raha Wala, The Hill, Help fight torture — release the CIA report
- 5/20, Eugene Robinson, Washington Post, Obama administration mistakes journalism for espionage
- 5/20, Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball, U.S. News and World Report, Pentagon to take over some CIA drone operations
- 5/20, Erin Lahman, PolicyMic, 5 Topics President Obama Won’t Dare Address Thursday When Discussing Drones
5/7, Adrian Chen, Gawker, Newly Declassified Memo Shows CIA Shaped Zero Dark Thirty’s Narrative
5/7, Paul Rosenzweig, Lawfare, CISPA – An Assessment
5/7, Greg Miller, Washington Post, CIA selects new head of clandestine service, passing over officer tied to interrogation program
5/6, Eyder Peralta, NPR, Prisoner Points To Quran Search For Gitmo Hunger Strike
5/6, CBS Staff, CBS (LA), Civil Rights Groups Sue LAPD, LA County Sheriff’s Department Over Automatic License Plate Readers
A coalition of religious leaders and human rights groups are protesting the possible promotion of a CIA official who was allegedly involved in the destruction of several videos showing US officials torturing detainees. The coalition against her promotion is led by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and also includes the Center for Victims of Torture, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Policy Center, and Physicians for Human Rights.
The group sent a letter to the CIA Director, John Brennan, calling on him not to promote anyone involved in torture “black sites,” or in the destruction of the torture tapes. The letter says, “Promoting such an individual would compound the existing impunity for torture, by suggesting that such actions are in fact rewarded.”
Although the name of the CIA official has not been made public, the Washington Post has reported a few things on her: she would be the first woman to lead the clandestine services area of the CIA, she is highly respected within the agency for her work, and she was a very strong advocate for the use of torture during interrogations after 9/11.
In 2002, this CIA operative helped run a “black site” in Thailand. It is widely acknowledged that the CIA was torturing detainees at these secret prisons. According to a report on US torture after 9/11 published by the Constitution Project, “many lower level troops believed ‘the gloves were off’ regarding treatment of prisoners.” At the CIA location in Thailand, 92 tapes of interrogation were recorded, reportedly including agents waterboarding a prisoner to the point of “screaming and vomiting.”
In 2004, a US court ordered the government to turn over or preserve all evidence in relation to its secret interrogation programs. In 2005, all 92 of the tapes were destroyed against court orders, allegedly at the request of this CIA official as well as CIA’s head of counterterrorism, Jose Rodriguez. The videos were destroyed the same month that Dana Priest wrote a exhaustive article about the CIA’s black sites, leading to increased public scrutiny of the practice.
This official is already acting as head of the clandestine operations, but John Brennan has hesitated in making her the permanent leader of that office. Clandestine operations oversees sending spies abroad and the CIA’s drone program, which has faced its own criticism lately over transparency.
Marc Thiessen, a former Bush administration official, wrote a defense of the agent, in which he worries that demoting this official could “send a chilling message through the ranks of the CIA…It would push the agency back into a risk-averse, pre-Sept 11, 2001, mindset.”
If the risks that the CIA is taking involves torturing people, then that is exactly the kind of message we should be sending. Depriving people of their rights from the Geneva Convention is not a “risk” we should ever be willing to take. So far, there has been no punishment for those involved in the destruction of the tapes. How can we hold the government accountable when they are destroying all of the evidence against themselves?
- 4/30, John Reed, Foreign Policy, The White House responds to the “Stop CISPA” petition
- 4/30, Editorial Board, New York Times, The President and the Hunger Strike
- 4/30, Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare, The President’s Guantanamo Comments
- 4/30, Natasha Lennard, Salon, Government preparing to fine tech firms that don’t comply with wiretaps
- 4/30, Eyder Peralta, NPR, Poll: Most Americans Are OK With Surveillance Cameras
- 4/30, Inside Story Americas, Al Jazeera, CIA: Buying peace in Afghanistan?
- 4/29, Jane Sutton, Reuters, American Medical Association questions Guantanamo force-feedings
- 4/29, Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post, Why did Eric Holder drop the ball on Miranda reform?
- 4/29, Kim Zetter, Wired, Government Seeks to Fine Companies for Not Complying With Wiretap Orders
- 4/29, Elspeth Reeve, The Atlantic, Three Things the CIA Is Doing to Undermine American Values
- 4/29, Andrew Rosenthal, New York Times Opinion Pages, No Comment Necessary: Spying on Muslims
- 4/29, Ryan Gallagher, Slate, Lady Liberty’s Watching You
This blog post was authored by guest blogger Patrick Thronson, a 2013 JD Candidate at the University of Michigan School of Law.
The March 6 filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to lead the CIA was a rare occasion in which bipartisan voices in the Senate united with those of the family of a slain American teenager, other civilian victims of the CIA’s drone program, and a nation now growing willing to face the truth about its long slide away from its core constitutional ideals.
Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) speech has helped abate the helplessness many feel towards our nation’s disastrous course toward ever-eroding individual rights and endless war, by showing that one speech from a junior senator can compel the nation’s vast national security apparatus to account for itself.
A wide array of members of Congress, as well as prominent media pundits praised Senator Paul’s efforts. In his filibuster, Sen. Paul quoted material authored by numerous liberal commentators, including Glenn Greenwald, Conor Friedersdorf, Charles Pierce, and Kevin Gosztola. Although Senator Paul’s efforts garnered their most vocal support from Tea Party Republicans, a recent poll indicates a substantial majority of the public backs his position rejected targeted assassination of American citizens without trial.