As Congress considers dozens of bills to curtail NSA domestic surveillance, the grassroots firestorm opposing dragnet spying has continued to escalate.
Posts Tagged ‘Constitution’
The militarization of the police has its roots in the war on drugs, and has been accelerated rapidly by the present war on terror. The effects have not only been detrimental to the entire Bill of Rights but have also dealt yet another blow to states’ rights.
Federalism means balancing the powers of a central government with those of semi-autonomous states. Aside from slavery and fear of the ignoble masses, federalism was the topic that most visibly revealed irreconcilable differences between founding constitutional factions.
There has always been a dispute between those that prefer a strong central government and those who insist on equally strong states. The evolution of this debate has clearly favored notions of strong federal power in statute, in practice, in decree and via gavel. Has this centralizing trend provided more justice, greater liberty or more security?
We’ve finally been able to confirm—and force media and government institutions to address—longstanding concerns that Washington has discarded the Constitution and is indiscriminately capturing our internet searches, social media posts, text messages, emails, IP addresses, electronic banking information, and phone calls (content and meta data) without any evidence of wrongdoing. The data from whistleblowers essentially confirmed suspicions that the NSA, for years, has been collecting and archiving records of what every American reads, writes, hears, and says.
Such warrantless bulk data collection sows the seeds for political repression. We should know this. We’ve seen it before. Help stop the cycle today.
The former East Germany and the Soviet Union were historical paragons of authoritarianism. But neither of those regimes had technological capabilities even comparable to the National Security Agency (NSA). With arbitrary detention without trial added to unapologetic profiling according to race, religion, and ideology, there is little to prevent a future American official—at nearly any point in the chain of command—from taking advantage of the profound secrecy and unaccountability across the national security establishment to misuse its powers for dangerous ends.
Civil asset forfeiture sounds like a a dry legal term, but it has a deeper impact on people’s lives and our justice system than you might expect. It’s a practice that threatens property rights, rewards discriminatory policing, and has interesting and unexpected connections with the violations of constitutional rights that have come to define the “war on terror.” Civil asset forfeiture refers to the process of law enforcement seizing property — like cars, money, or houses — suspected of being involved in, or paid for by, illicit activities. This occurs without a charge or conviction because bizarrely, civil forfeiture law names the property itself as the defendant in the lawsuit, rendering the owner’s innocence irrelevant. It is difficult if not impossible to challenge civil asset forfeiture, and police disproportionately apply this practice to poor people, immigrants, and people of color who are already disempowered by the legal system.
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.
Originally published on The Slate.com.
Written by Sean Vitka
On Sept. 6, far away from the two high-profile challenges to the NSA’s dragnet surveillance programs filed by the ACLU and EPIC, attorney Joshua Dratel filed a motion demanding a new trial for his client, Basaaly Moalin, and three other defendants. The motion argued that the defendants’ constitutional and statutory rights were violated by the government’s surveillance, committed under the NSA’s mass telephone record collection. Furthermore, Dratel argued, the prosecution’s secrecy violated rules of discovery.
Dratel was reacting to FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce’s descriptions of warrantless surveillance of and exculpatory evidence regarding Moalin—public statements made to Congress on July 31. That was five months after a trial in which the government and the court prohibited Dratel from obtaining exactly that evidence, and five months after his client and the three other defendants were convicted.
This commentary was written by Christopher H. Pyle, Professor at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. It was originally published on August 5, 2013.
Americans are just beginning to discover that a secret court has been quietly erasing their constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. They are also learning that this court is made up primarily of conservative activists from the Republican Party who have no respect for the original intent of the Constitution’s framers.
With the blessing of this secret court, the National Security Agency (and well-paid companies like Booz Allen) have recorded billions of phone calls and e-mails belonging to nearly all Americans, with the intent of searching them later.
Under the Fourth Amendment, the NSA and its contractors are supposed to obtain specific judicial authority before seizing anyone’s communications. But, where NSA’s spying is concerned, no judicial warrants based on probable cause and authorizing targeted searches are required. Quite the contrary. The secret “warrant” that Edward Snowden disclosed permits bulk seizures and subsequent searches without probable cause to believe that the targets of these computer searches are terrorists, criminals, or foreign agents. It is the very sort of general warrant that triggered the American Revolution and inspired the Fourth Amendment.
This commentary was written by John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. It was originally published on August 5, 2013.
Despite the steady hue and cry by government agencies about the need for more police, more sophisticated weaponry, and the difficulties of preserving the peace and maintaining security in our modern age, the reality is far different. Indeed, violent crime in America has been on a steady decline, and if current trends continue, Americans will finish the year 2013 experiencing the lowest murder rate in over a century.
Despite this clear referendum on the fact that communities would be better served by smaller, demilitarized police forces, police agencies throughout the country are dramatically increasing in size and scope. Some of the nation’s larger cities boast police forces the size of small armies. (New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg actually likes to brag that the NYPD is his personal army.) For example, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has reached a total of 10,000 officers. It takes its place alongside other cities boasting increasingly large police forces, including New York (36,000 officers) and Chicago (13,400 officers). When considered in terms of cops per square mile, Los Angeles assigns a whopping 469 officers per square mile, followed by New York with 303 officers per square mile, and Chicago with 227 cops per square mile.
Of course, such heavy police presence comes at a price. Los Angeles spends over $2 billion per year on the police force, a 36% increase within the last eight years. The LAPD currently consumes over 55% of Los Angeles’ discretionary budget, a 9% increase over the past nine years. Meanwhile, street repair and maintenance spending has declined by 36%, and in 2011, one-fifth of the city’s fire stations lost units, increasing response times for 911 medical emergencies.
The passage of the bills is important both for the added protection they bring to New Yorkers and because it shows the power of the broad based organizing model employed by the coalition promoting the bill, Communities United for Police Reform. The legislative victory builds on decades of courageous work in the movements for police accountability and racial justice.
Both pieces of legislation passed by 34 or more votes, assuring that if the votes stay the same a threatened veto by Mayor Bloomberg can be overridden by the city council.