Posts Tagged ‘executive power’

Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Have the Police Become a Law Unto Themselves?

Friday, May 23, 2014 at 9:41 am by

This guest post by John Whitehead was originally published on May 19 by the Rutherford Institute. 

“Police are specialists in violence. They are armed, trained, and authorized to use force. With varying degrees of subtlety, this colors their every action. Like the possibility of arrest, the threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter. Violence, as well as the law, is what they represent.”

— Kristian Williams, activist and author

Living in a free society means not having to look over your shoulder to see whether the government is watching or fearing that a government agent might perpetuate violence upon you.

Unfortunately, as I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, subjected as we are to government surveillance, body scanners, militarized police, roadside strip searches, SWAT team raids, drones, and other trappings of a police state, “we the people” do not live in a free society any longer.

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Today’s speech by the president: A missed opportunity

Friday, January 17, 2014 at 3:58 pm by

US-POLITICS-EDUCATION-OBAMAThe Bill of Rights Defense Committee issued the following statement in response to the president’s speech about proposed reforms to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance and bulk data collection programs.

Shahid Buttar, BORDC executive director remarked:

“The reforms announced by the president today are a meager step in the right direction, but far from enough to fix the NSA’s assault on the rights of hundreds of millions of Americans.

Requiring the NSA to secure judicial approval in order to query its massive databases is the very least the president could require. Allowing bulk collection to continue, whether by the NSA or private corporations, will undermine freedom of thought and erode democracy.”

Buttar also noted that:

“The president’s own review board, as well as the privacy and civil liberties board, and the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, have issued dozens of recommendations, most of which the president has continued to ignore.

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New York Times a gov’t mouthpiece?

Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 10:49 am by

Anwar al-Awlaki (also spelled al-Aulaqi) was never charged with a crime. Despite the lack of charges and trials, the US government executed the American-born citizen in a targeted drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011. The same drone strike killed fellow American Samir Khan.  Al-Awlaki’s 16 year-old son Adulrahman was killed in another strike a few weeks later, making three American murdered by their own government without any pretense of trial or due process.

The assassination became a public controversy during John Brennan‘s nomination to the head of the Central Intelligence Agency after his time as President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser. The New York Times ran a story based on interviews with various anonymous administration officials on Sunday, March 9, prompting accusations of serving as a mouthpiece for government propaganda.

The ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights issued a joint statement blasting the Times’ article as “the latest in a series of one-sided, selective disclosures that prevent meaningful public debate and legal or even political accountability for the government’s killing program.”

Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, the Times reporters who wrote the article, uncritically describe Al-Awlaki using the government’s words. They call him “a senior operative in Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen” and a terrorist leader,” yet Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting noted both accusations remain unproven and dubious. The ACLU’s statement goes on to correctly point out:

Government officials have made serious allegations against Anwar al-Aulaqi, but allegations are not evidence, and the whole point of the Constitution’s due process clause is that a court must distinguish between the two. If the government has evidence that Al-Aulaqi posed an imminent threat at the time it killed him, it should present that evidence to a court….

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Privacy rights teeter on the scales of justice

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 9:23 am by

Lending another layer to the shroud over state surveillance, the Supreme Court recently refused to hear a critical case concerning Americans’ privacy rights.  Another crucial case, however, will appear before the Court for oral argument next week.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) initiated suit against AT&T in 2006, challenging its alleged participation in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) system of programmatic domestic spying.  Mark Klein, plaintiff and former AT&T technician, furnished evidence that AT&T routed personal customer information, such as phone and web history, to a NSA data room in San Francisco.

scales of justice.Despite the telecommunication industry’s corporate complicity in casting the government dragnet, the FISA Amendment Act of 2008 (FAA) essentially insulated the program by retroactively granting the industry legal immunity.  EFF subsequently challenged the FAA as violating separation of powers in Hepting v. AT&T, but the Court refused to hear this case.

Just as the Court’s rejection of Hepting may inhibit defenses against warrantless wiretapping,  Jewel v. NSA will also influence the state of privacy rights in post-9/11 America.  EFF helms Jewel on behalf of AT&T customers seeking relief from government surveillance authorized under the FAA.  The formal complaint asserts that the FAA unconstitutionally imposes chilling effects on free speech and violates the Fourth Amendment.  Ultimately, Jewel signifies the rights of ordinary people to remain free from secret surveillance by their government.  In conjunction with the denial of Hepting, a disfavorable determination in Jewel could decimate Americans’  access to legal redress for illegal surveillance.

Though the Supreme Court declined to hear Hepting, the Justices have another opportunity just next week to balance Americans’ privacy and national security.

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News Digest 10/1/12

Monday, October 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 8/29/12

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 8/27/12

Monday, August 27, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

8/27, Press TV, Ex-FBI agent: US government targets Americans for political views

8/27, NPR Staff, NPR, Obama’s Warfare: ‘From Power To A Policy’

8/26, Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times, Drone U. rides flight boom

8/25, Agence France-Presse, Raw Story, Guantanamo 9/11 hearings delayed to mid-October

8/25, Chris Lisee, Huffington Post, Religious And Civil Rights Groups Call For Hate Crime Hearings

Fazaga v. FBI: Eroding democracy, in two dimensions at once

Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 1:21 pm by

On Tuesday, August 14, a federal judge issued a disturbing ruling allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to evade public accountability for infiltrating faith institutions, monitoring law-abiding people, recording sexual encounters, and then lying about all of it. Carney’s decision erodes democracy in two dimensions at once, enabling ongoing constitutional violations by the executive branch while, at the same time, eroding judicial independence.

The ruling is especially surprising given the judge’s previous criticism of the FBI for lying to him in court.

Fazaga v. FBI addressed claims by a series of southern Californians challenging a long running secret infiltration of their faith institutions by an ex-convict and undercover FBI informant named Craig Monteilh. After being promised a six figure payment to infiltrate mosques across southern California—and even to record sexual encounters with women in those communities to enable subsequent blackmail—Monteilh blew a whistle and joined a case brought by the Council on American-Islamic Relations; Hadsell, Stormer, Richardson & Renick LLP; and the ACLU of Southern California.

US District Judge Cormac J. Carney of the Southern District of California dismissed much of the case this week (leaving intact claims against individual FBI officers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), holding that the state secrets privilege and sovereign immunity essentially preclude the suit from moving forward against the government.

News outlets such as The Los Angeles Times have featured analysis from ACLU attorney Ahilan Arulanantham, who correctly noted that Judge Carney’s ruling is “contrary to the basic notion that the judiciary determines what the law is and holds the government to it,” and that the ruling essentially “exempt[s] huge swaths of government activity [from] judicial oversight.”

Missing from most reports, however, are a recognition of the multiple ways in which Carney’s decision erodes democracy.

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News Digest 8/13/12

Monday, August 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm by

News Digest 7/2/12

Monday, July 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm by