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Civil Liberties

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U.S. appeals court asked to halt NSA phone spying program

Originally published at by Joseph Ax on 9/2/15

A U.S. appeals court appeared reluctant on Wednesday to put an immediate halt to the federal government’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone records, with the controversial spy program set to expire in November.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York previously found the program illegal in May, ruling that the Patriot Act did not authorize the National Security Agency to install such sweeping surveillance.…

Ex-CIA boss admits to BBC Panorama that it tortured

Originally published at BBC News by Hilary Andersson on 8/3/15

The agency’s position has always been that the “enhanced interrogation” techniques it used under George W Bush, did not amount to torture, because they were legally approved by the White House at the time.

President Obama closed the CIA’s programme down when he came to power in 2009.

Torture is illegal under American law, but President Obama has been reluctant to prosecute high level officials.

The CIA tortured terror suspects in its programme of “enhanced interrogation”, the agency’s former executive director, Buzzy Krongard, has admitted to the BBC’s Panorama programme.

Dick Cheney Never Disappoints

Originally published at LobeLog by Jim Lobe on 8/29/15

Previewing his September 8 address on the Iran deal to (who else?) the American Enterprise Institute, Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz have published a lengthy op-ed (“Restoring American Exceptionalism”) in Saturday’s print edition of The Wall Street Journal. It’s predictably over the top, apocalyptic, and entirely Manichean in word and spirit. Appeasement, Chamberlain, Hitler, Hiroshima, Nagasakiit’s all there. It will no doubt be required reading for speechwriters of all of the Republican presidential candidates.…

AT&T Helped US Spy on Internet on Vast Scale

Originally published at the NYTimes by By Julia Angwin, Charlie Savage, Jeff Larson, Henrik Moltke, Laura Poitras and James Risen on 8/15/15

The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.

While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive.…

OPERATION: Fax Big Brother

A Campaign of Fight for the Future and the Freepress Action Fund

Congress is rushing toward a vote on CISA, the worst spying bill yet. CISA would grant sweeping legal immunity to giant companies like Facebook and Google, allowing them to do almost anything they want with your data. In exchange, they’ll share even more of your personal information with the government, all in the name of “cybersecurity.” CISA won’t stop hackers — Congress is stuck in 1984 and doesn’t understand modern technology.…

Outside Psychologists Shielded US Torture Program, Report Finds

Originally published at The NYTimes by James Risen on 7/10/15

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency’s health professionals repeatedly criticized the agency’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation program, but their protests were rebuffed by prominent outside psychologists who lent credibility to the program, according to a new report.

The 542-page report, which examines the involvement of the nation’s psychologists and their largest professional organization, the American Psychological Association, with the harsh interrogation programs of the Bush era, raises repeated questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at both the C.I.A.

Is the NSA lying about its failure to prevent 9/11?

Originally published at Foreign Policy by James Bamford on 7/21/15

Missed Calls

On March 20, 2000, as part of a trip to South Asia, U.S. President Bill Clinton was scheduled to land his helicopter in the desperately poor village of Joypura, Bangladesh, and speak to locals under a 150-year-old banyan tree. At the last minute, though, the visit was canceled; U.S. intelligence agencies had discovered an assassination plot. In a lengthy email, London-based members of the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, a terrorist group established by Osama bin Laden, urged al Qaeda supporters to “Send Clinton Back in a Coffin” by firing a shoulder-launched missile at the president’s chopper.…

AP Exclusive: FBI behind mysterious fleet of aircraft conducting surveillance over US cities

Originally published at the AP: The Big Story by Jack Gillum, Eileen Sullivan and Eric Tucker on 6/2/15

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country using video and sometimes cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.

The surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge’s approval, and the FBI says the flights are used for specific investigations.…

Immigrants’ Lawsuit Over Post-9/11 Detention Is Revived

Originally published at the NYTimes by Adam Liptak on 6/17/15

WASHINGTON — Saying that high-ranking Bush administration officials may have taken part in grave constitutional violations after the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal appeals court in New York on Wednesday revived a long-running lawsuit brought by immigrants, most of them Muslim, who said they were subjected to beatings, humiliating searches and other abuses in a Brooklyn detention center.

“The suffering endured by those who were imprisoned merely because they were caught up in the hysteria of the days immediately following 9/11 is not without a remedy,” Judges Rosemary S.…

Senate report on CIA torture claims spy agency lied about ‘ineffective’ program

Originally published at The Guardian by Spencer Ackerman and Dominic Rushe in New York, and Julian Borger in London on 12/9/14

The full extent of the CIA’s interrogation and detention programmes launched in the wake of the September 11 terror attack was laid bare in a milestone report by the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday that concluded the agency’s use of torture was brutal and ineffective – and that the CIA repeatedly lied about its usefulness.…

Secret National Security Letters

Originally published at The Intercept by Cora Currier on 10/9/14

Can the government make demands for data entirely in secret?

That was the question yesterday before a federal appeals court in San Francisco, where government lawyers argued that National Security Letters — FBI requests for information that are so secret they can’t be publicly acknowledged by the recipients — were essential to counterterrorism investigations. The telecom company and internet provider that have challenged the National Security Letters (known as NSLs) still can’t even be named.…

9/11 trial lawyer: CIA muted me

Originally published at the Miami Herald by on 8/22/14 (Updated 9/26/14)

Image of CIA logoMystery solved, if there was any doubt: It was the CIA that hit the mute button in the war court earlier this year when a defense lawyer for the accused 9/11 mastermind began talking about the CIA’s secret overseas prisons, the lawyer said Monday.

The Jan. 28 episode so embarrassed Army Col. James Pohl, the judge in the Sept. 11 terror case, that he ordered the kill switch unplugged, an order the agency apparently honored because no outside entity has censored the court since.…

Warrantless Wiretapping Program

Originally published at EPIC  on 9/8/14

EPIC (Finally) Obtains Memos on Warrantless Wiretapping Program: More than eight years after filing a Freedom of Information Act request for the legal justification behind the “Warrantless Wiretapping” program of President Bush, EPIC has now obtained a mostly unredacted version of two key memos (OLC54) and (OLC85) by former Justice Department official Jack Goldsmith. EPIC requested these memos just four hours after the New York Times broke the story about the program in December 2005.…

The U.S. government’s creeping war on journalists

Originally published at Salon by David Sirota on 8/21/14

A new poll reveals that three quarters of reporters agree the public isn’t getting the information it needs

As states move to hide details of government deals with Wall Street, and as politicians come up with new arguments to defend secrecy, a study released earlier this month revealed that many government information officers block specific journalists they don’t like from accessing information. The news comes as 47 federal inspectors general sent a letter to lawmakers criticizing “serious limitations on access to records” that they say have “impeded” their oversight work.…

James Risen calls Obama ‘greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation’

Originally published at The Guardian by Joanna Walters on 8/17/14

The New York Times reporter James Risen, who faces jail over his refusal to reveal a source and testify against a former CIA agent accused of leaking secrets, has called President Barack Obama “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation”.

Speaking to his colleague Maureen Dowd, Risen accused the president of aggressively pursuing journalists, including himself, who report sensitive stories that reflect poorly on the US government.…

Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion

Originally posted by Human Rights Watch on 7/21/14

Investigations, Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

(Washington, DC) –The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.…

Government agents ‘directly involved’ in most high-profile US terror plots

Originally published at the Guardian by Spencer Ackerman on 7/21/2014

Nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the “direct involvement” of government agents or informants, a new report says.

Some of the controversial “sting” operations “were proposed or led by informants”, bordering on entrapment by law enforcement. Yet the courtroom obstacles to proving entrapment are significant, one of the reasons the stings persist.

The lengthy report, released on Monday by Human Rights Watch, raises questions about the US criminal justice system’s ability to respect civil rights and due process in post-9/11 terrorism cases.…

The Newburgh Sting

On May 20, 2009, four men from the impoverished and largely African-American city of Newburgh, NY, were apprehended for an alleged terror plot. They had no history of violence or terrorist ties, but had been drawn by a Pakistani FBI informant into a carefully orchestrated scheme to bomb Jewish synagogues in a wealthy New York City suburb and fire Stinger missiles at U.S. military supply planes. Their dramatic arrest, complete with armored cars, a SWAT team and FBI aircraft, played out under the gaze of major TV outlets, ultimately resulting in 25-year prison sentences for the “Newburgh Four.”

Amidst the media frenzy surrounding the case, political figures extolled the outcome as a victory in the “war on terror” and a “textbook example of how a major investigation should be conducted,” though others believed the four men were victims of FBI entrapment.…

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