Posts Tagged ‘government secrecy’

Newly released memo on drone killings based on faulty assumptions and secret law.

Friday, July 11, 2014 at 1:17 pm by

droneThe US government may assassinate its own citizens.  We saw this in 2011 when the US killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen of Yemeni descent.  But under what conditions may the US government assassinate one of its own citizens?  This question was partially answered with the June 23 release of a legal memo authored in 2010 by former White House counsel, now federal appeals judge, David Barron.

The memo explains the legal reasoning justifying the 2011 drone assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. It was released by order of the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals in response to a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times. It is a follow up to a white paper released in 2013 by the Obama administration stating the legal opinion that a US citizen could be killed if he was a “senior operational leader” of al-Qaeda or an “associated force” posing an “imminent threat.” That memo specifically stated that assessing a target as an “imminent threat” need not require knowledge of a specific planned attack against the US. (more…)

PCLOB flops on Internet spying

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 2:43 pm by

Today, the Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) released a major report on the National Security Agency’s Internet surveillance programs. Earlier this year, the PCLOB took a strong stance against telephony spying under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, correctly describing it as both illegal and unnecessary.

Unfortunately, the PCLOB’s latest report is a vast disappointment, failing to reflect the same independence apparent in its first report and deferring to the government despite stronger calls for reform from Congress, as well as a recent Supreme Court decision, that should have emboldened the PCLOB.

BORDC is hardly alone in expressing disappointment in the PCLOB’s findings. The American Library Association’s Adam Eisgrau noted that “despite the dictates of the Fourth Amendment, the Board essentially endorses the use of general warrants to search through the content of unimaginable numbers of communications of millions of Americans….”

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The House should slow down on a flawed intelligence authorization bill

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 12:33 pm by

This post was originally published by Daniel Schuman from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on June 23, 2014 and is shared with permission.

On Friday, House leaders placed the Senate’s Intelligence Authorization bill on a fast track that would avoid substantive consideration by the full House, including the ability of representatives to offer amendments. The bill, introduced by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair and surveillance-enthusiast Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), was passed by the Senate on June 11 and does not reflect the deep concerns many have regarding the behavior of the intelligence community. A floor vote should be deferred until the House has a full opportunity to work its will, including a rigorous debate on the legislation and the opportunity to consider amendments on the House floor.

Friday afternoon’s Whip Notice contained a notice by the Office of the Majority Leader that the Intelligence Authorization bill would be considered for “suspension” as early as Tuesday. Generally speaking, only non-controversial bills are put on suspension. For suspension bills, just 40 minutes of debate is allowed, with no opportunity for amendment unless an amendment is included in the motion to suspend. Because of these limits on debate, motions to suspend require a two-thirds affirmative vote to pass. The Intelligence Authorization bill should not be considered under suspension; the usual process likely was bypassed after House leaders grew alarmed by successful votes to put limits on the NSA through floor amendments to the Defense Appropriations Act.

What is there to hide?

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House moves to rein in NSA Internet surveillance

Friday, June 20, 2014 at 11:13 am by

A year after whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed pervasive dragnet spying by the National Security Agency, Congress has finally begun to take action. Last night, the House “unexpectedly and overwhelmingly” voted in favor of a measure imposing two major limits on the NSA’s domestic dragnet.

By a wide and revealing margin, 293 Representatives came together across party lines to approve an amendment to a military spending bill that — if ultimately signed into law after agreement in the Senate – could deny funding to two particular NSA abuses.

First, the amendment aims to effectively prohibit NSA queries taking advantage of a “backdoor search loophole” (in which the NSA collects information about Americans by designating a foreigner with whom they communicate as the ”target” of their search). It would also prohibit the NSA from building security vulnerabilities into tech products made in the US, as it has for “computers, hard drives, routers, and other devices from companies such as Cisco, Dell, Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor, Samsung and Huawei.”

Members of Congress from both major parties expressed the widespread popular outrage underlying the vote. According to a joint statement by Representatives Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Lofgren (D-CA), and Massie (R-KY), “Americans have become increasingly alarmed with the breadth of unwarranted government surveillance programs.” Rep. Massie also put it more colorfully, explaining that ”The American people are sick of being spied on,” evoking the words of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who sharply criticized “this dragnet spying on millions of Americans.”

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Court forces disclosure of police camera footage in Seattle

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 10:17 am by

On June 12, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled against the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and in favor of public access to dashboard cameras installed in Seattle police officer’s squad cars. The ruling represents a significant victory for transparency and the police accountability movement.

A local news syndicate, KOMO, had requested access to the footage from police dashcams, but they were continually denied even though the Public Records Act (PRA) mandated that, if requested, the police would release the footage recorded. SPD maintained their stance of not releasing video until three years after the recording, and also failed to mention that video older than three years old was deleted. According to Dominic Holden, writing in the Stranger:

KOMO sought the records as part of a series about SPD using excessive force and biased policing, which were the subject of a federal investigation and subsequent settlement to reform the police department. SPD refused to cough them up, making a series of bizarre, implausible claims about being unable to locate the records and having “no documents.” The SPD eventually claimed they had a three-year window in which to withhold the video footage (but then, the SPD automatically erased dash-cam footage after three years). In the meantime, the SPD released the videos to a citizen, belying claims the records were nonexistent or impossible to find.

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Judge orders DOJ to disclose secret legal opinions for court review

Monday, June 16, 2014 at 11:57 am by

This post was originally published by Dave Mass at EFF’s Deeplinks blog on May 18, 2014 and is shared with permission.

A federal judge [on June 13] ordered the Department of Justice to hand over key opinions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (also known as the “FISA court”) so the judge can directly review whether information about mass surveillance was improperly withheld from the public.

The order is another victory in EFF’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the DOJ, which sought to reveal how the government uses Section 215 of the Patriot Act to secretly gather communications records from millions of American citizens. The suit has already forced the government to release thousands of pages of FISA court opinions, internal executive branch reports, congressional briefings, and other documents concerning Section 215. Documents released as part of the suit have shown the NSA repeatedly misled the FISA court concerning the operation of the bulk call records program, nearly leading the court to terminate the program altogether.

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Senate Intel Committee exhorted to move beyond USA Freedom Act

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 3:59 pm by

Last week, on June 5, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and legislative proposals to reform its provisions to address systemic abuses by the National Security Agency (NSA). C-SPAN recorded the hearing, and has posted both video and full text of the testimony and exchanges with Senators.

Harley Geiger from the Center for Democracy & Technology delivered especially informative testimony, explaining that:

Although questions remain and further debate is needed in many areas, a near consensus has emerged on a critical issue that has been of central focus to the American public: The government’s bulk collection of records of phone calls and emails to, from and within the United States is both intrusive and unnecessary, and Congress must act to prohibit this activity.

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A Deep Dive into the House’s Version of Narrow NSA Reform: The New USA Freedom Act

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 9:33 am by

This post was originally published by Mark Jaycox at EFF’s Deeplinks blog on May 18, 2014 and is shared with permission.

NSA reform is finally moving in Congress. Last year, Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the USA Freedom Act, one of the first comprehensive bills to address multiple aspects of the NSA’s spying. The Senate version has languished since October, but last week the House Judiciary Committee (chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte) introduced and passed out of committee a heavily rewritten House version. As a result, two versions of the USA Freedom Act exist: the narrowed House version and the more encompassing Senate version. The movement in the House is a good indication that Congress is still engaged with NSA reform, but the House’s bill must be strengthened and clarified to ensure that it accomplishes one of its main intentions: ending mass collection.

Here’s how the House version of the USA Freedom Act compares to the Senate’s version, what the new House version of the USA Freedom Act does, and what it sorely lacks.

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CIA stonewalling transparency on torture even after Senate vote

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 8:55 am by

The nation is still waiting to hear from the Obama administration regarding its declassification of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s practice of torture under the Bush administration. On April 3, the committee voted 11-3 to declassify a four hundred page summary of its much larger report of over six thousand pages.

The committee gave the Obama administration the ability to redact whatever it deems harmful to national security. The administration, however, has allowed the CIA to take the lead on the redaction process, causing concern among many observers that the CIA may be focused more on protecting its reputation than national security.

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Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC May Newsletter

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 9:55 am by

Constitution in Crisis

May 2014, Vol. 13 No. 05

View this newsletter as a webpage: http://www.bordc.org/newsletter/2014/05


Cities around the country say: fusion centers are wasteful, fraudulent, and perpetuate racial profiling

Diverse, multiracial grassroots coalitions from around the country held teach-ins, press conferences, and actions to challenge civil liberties violations by fusion centers, which coordinate the surveillance activities of local police alongside federal agencies like the NSA and FBI.



BORDC Analysis

Read the latest news & analysis from the People’s Blog for the Constitution

Have you read BORDC’s blog lately? The People’s Blog for the Constitution features news & analysis beyond the headlines.

Highlights from the past month include:


Grassroots News

Grassroots updates

To view campaigns supported by BORDC at a glance, visit our interactive campaign maps for local coalitions addressing surveillance and profiling by local law enforcement, or military detention under the NDAA. To get involved in any of these efforts, please email the BORDC Organizing Team at organizing (at) bordc (dot) org. We’re eager to hear from you and help support your activism!


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