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Civil Liberties

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10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free

By Jonathan Turley

Washington Post

Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.

Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own — the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act , signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves?

While each new national security power Washington has embraced was controversial when enacted, they are often discussed in isolation. But they don’t operate in isolation. They form a mosaic of powers under which our country could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian. Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack… Continue reading

Appeals Court Revives EFF’s Challenge to Government’s Massive Spying Program

Justices Find that Spied-On Telephone Customers Have the Right to Sue

Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF.org

San Francisco – The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today blocked the government’s attempt to bury the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF’s) lawsuit against the government’s illegal mass surveillance program, returning Jewel v. NSA to the District Court for the next step.

The court found that Jewel had alleged sufficient specifics about the warrantless wiretapping program to proceed. Justices rejected the government’s argument that the allegations about the well-known spying program and the evidence of the Folsom Street facility in San Francisco were too speculative.

“Since the dragnet spying program first came to light, we have been fighting for the chance to have a court determine whether it is legal,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. “Today, the Ninth Circuit has given us that chance, and we look forward to proving the program is an unconstitutional and illegal violation of the rights of millions of ordinary Americans.”

Also today, the court upheld the dismissal of EFF’s other case aimed at ending the illegal spying, Hepting v. AT&T, which was the first lawsuit against a telecom over its participation in the dragnet domestic wiretapping. The court found that the so-called “retroactive immunity” passed by Congress to stop telecommunications customers from suing the companies is constitutional, in part because the claims remained against the government in Jewel v. NSA.

“By passing the retroactive immunity for the telecoms’ complicity in the warrantless wiretapping program, Congress abdicated its duty… Continue reading

Senate Approves Requiring Military Custody [of US Citizens in US] in Terror Cases

By Charlie Savage
November 29, 2011
New York Times

WASHINGTON — Defying the Obama administration’s threat of a veto, the Senate on Tuesday voted to increase the role of the military in imprisoning suspected members of Al Qaeda and its allies — including people arrested inside the United States.

By a vote of 61 to 37, the Senate turned back an effort to strip a major military bill of a set of disputed provisions affecting the handling of terrorism cases. While the legislation still has several steps to go, the vote makes it likely that Congress will eventually send to President Obama’s desk a bill that contains detainee-related provisions his national-security team has said are unacceptable.

The most disputed provision would require the government to place into military custody any suspected member of Al Qaeda or one of its allies connected to a plot against the United States or its allies. The provision would exempt American citizens, but would otherwise extend to arrests on United States soil. The executive branch could issue a waiver and keep such a prisoner in the civilian system.

In recent days, several top national security officials — including the secretary of defense, Leon E. Panetta; the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper; and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, have voiced opposition to the proposal, as have several former counterterrorism officials from the Bush administration.

But among Republican senators, there was nearly unanimous support for keeping the detainee… Continue reading

Are Americans in Line for Gitmo?

By Ray McGovern
Consortiumnews.com

Exclusive: Though the 9/11 attacks occurred more than a decade ago, Congress continues to exploit them to pass evermore draconian laws on “terrorism,” with the Senate now empowering the military to arrest people on U.S. soil and hold them without trial, a serious threat to American liberties, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

Ambiguous but alarming new wording, which is tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and was just passed by the Senate, is reminiscent of the “extraordinary measures” introduced by the Nazis after they took power in 1933.

And the relative lack of reaction so far calls to mind the oddly calm indifference with which most Germans watched the erosion of the rights that had been guaranteed by their own Constitution. As one German writer observed, “With sheepish submissiveness we watched it unfold, as if from a box at the theater.”

The writer was Sebastian Haffner (real name Raimond Pretzel), a young German lawyer worried at what he saw in 1933 in Berlin, but helpless to stop it since, as he put it, the German people “collectively and limply collapsed, yielded and capitulated.”

“The result of this millionfold nervous breakdown,” wrote Haffner at the time, “is the unified nation, ready for anything, that is today the nightmare of the rest of the world.” Not a happy analogy.

The Senate bill, in effect, revokes an 1878 law known as the Posse Comitatus Act, which banned the Army from domestic law enforcement after the military had… Continue reading

Setting the Trap

Levin-McCain bill would create a presidential dictatorship. Where is the outrage?
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com

Buried in the annual defense appropriations bill is a provision that would give the President the power to use the military to intern anyone — including American citizens — indefinitely, and hold them without charges or trial, anywhere in the world, including on American soil . The provision essentially repeals the longstanding Posse Comitatus Act , which prevents the military from engaging in law enforcement on US territory — the greatest fear of the Founders. Approved by a Senate subcommittee in secret hearings, the provisions open the road to a military dictatorship in this country — and for that we can thank Senators Carl Levin and John McCain , who introduced the measure. Both the FBI and the Pentagon came out against the Levin-McCain monstrosity, and Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) introduced an amendment striking the provision: the amendment was defeated in the Senate, 37-61 .

The mind reels. As the ACLU’s Chris Anders

puts it :

“I know it sounds incredible. New powers to use the military worldwide, even within the United States? Hasn’t anyone told the Senate that Osama bin Laden is dead, that the president is pulling all of the combat troops out of Iraq and trying to figure out how to get combat troops out of Afghanistan too? And American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged… Continue reading

Civil Liberties Oversight Board Still Dormant

November 29, 2011
Steven Aftergood
Secrecy News Blog
fas.org/blog/secrecy

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that was supposed to provide independent oversight of U.S. counterterrorism policies remains dormant and out of service because its members have still not been named and confirmed.

In a report that was newly updated this month, the Congressional Research Service traced the origins of the Board from a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission through its initial establishment as a White House agency to its reconstitution as an independent agency chartered by statute in 2007.

The Board was assigned two overriding missions: It was supposed to “analyze and review actions the executive branch takes to protect the Nation from terrorism, ensuring that the need for such actions is balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties”; and to “ensure that liberty concerns are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of laws, regulations, and policies related to efforts to protect the Nation against terrorism.”

So had the Board been functional, it might have been a valuable participant in current deliberations over military detention authority, for example. It might also have conducted investigative oversight into any number of other counterterrorism policies, as mandated by law. But for all practical purposes, there is no Board.

Last January, President Obama named Elisebeth C. Cook and James X. Dempsey to serve on the Board. The Senate has not acted on their nomination. Even if they had been confirmed, however, they would not have constituted a quorum. Thus,… Continue reading

Fusion Center documents label OKC Bombing investigators as terrorists

By Andrew W. Griffin

Red Dirt Report, editor
RedDirtReport.com

Screenshot of BJA/Fusion Center document

OperationDefuse.com — A screenshot featuring the page from a BJA/Fusion Center document listing OKCbombing,net as a terroristic organization.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Ten years after 9/11 and 16 years after the Oklahoma City bombing, it appears the federal government continues to view some Americans who embrace their First Amendment rights — press and speech, primarily — as a danger to the State, and as a result they are listing certain investigative websites as extremist and a terroristic threat to the “homeland.”

One, labeled as “extremist” and therefore a threat to the U.S. Government, includes a well-known site, once operated by a truth-seeking Oklahoma state legislator, working to expose anomalies related to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing — OKCbombing.net . A link to the document can be seen here .

This shocking designation is indeed troubling, particularly to the local documentary film production company Free Mind Films , which is also releasing an explosive documentary about the Oklahoma City bombing, A Noble Lie.
 

 
OKCbombing.net was formerly operated by State Rep. Charles Key (R-Oklahoma City), as a site to inform the public about reams of information discovered by the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, much of it originally ignored by the same federal agencies who now list the site as a threat to the homeland. As for Rep. Key, he concluded his role in the OBIC in approximately 2002 and Free Mind Films is now paying for access and domain rights to… Continue reading

Trickle-down tyranny – why ordinary people in positions of local power are adopting tactics of tyrants

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger Editor of NaturalNews.com

(NaturalNews) When I read a story yesterday about an 89-year-old woman being water-boarded by nursing home staff over an argument about ice cream, I knew something terrible was amiss across the American landscape. Spontaneous acts of tyranny have been cropping up lately like cancer tumors: a food tyrant in Nevada raids a farm picnic and orders everyone to destroy their food ( http://www.naturalnews.com/034125_f… ); student protesters in California get pepper-sprayed by thuggish cops who clearly enjoy causing pain and suffering ( http://fieldnotes.msnbc.msn.com/_ne… ); and now nursing home staffers torture their own resident using techniques borrowed from Guantánamo Bay ( http://atlanta.cbslocal.com/2011/11… ). I watched all this with a sense of sadness and disgrace for the human race. And then a realization hit me like a sledgehammer…
 

Show Editor’s Note: »

And On a Related Theme…
Chancellor Katehi’s impressive learning skills
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com

The UC-Davis Chancellor responsible for the pepper-spraying of her students, Linda Katehi, today went on Good Morning America and explained why she should not resign or otherwise be held accountable: “we really need to start the healing process and move forward.” On a radio program in the afternoon, she expanded on this view by saying: “We need to move on.” So apparently — yet again — the only way everyone can begin to “heal” and “move forward” is if everyone agrees that those in power with the greatest responsibility be fully shielded from any consequences and that… Continue reading

Fake terror plots, paid informants: the tactics of FBI ‘entrapment’ questioned

Critics say bureau is running a sting operation across America, targeting
vulnerable people by luring them into fake terror plots

by Paul Harris

16 November 2011

guardian.co.uk

Fake terror plots, paid informants: the tactics of FBI ‘entrapment’ questioned

Critics say bureau is running a sting operation across America, targeting vulnerable people by luring them into fake terror plots

David Williams did not have an easy life. He moved to Newburgh, a gritty, impoverished town on the banks of the Hudson an hour or so north of New York, at just 10 years old. For a young, black American boy with a father in jail, trouble was everywhere.

Williams also made bad choices. He ended up going to jail for dealing drugs. When he came out in 2007 he tried to go straight, but money was tight and his brother, Lord, needed cash for a liver transplant. Life is hard in Newburgh if you are poor, have a drug rap and need cash quickly.

His aunt, Alicia McWilliams, was honest about the tough streets her nephew was dealing with. “Newburgh is a hard place,” she said. So it was perhaps no surprise that in May, 2009, David Williams was arrested again and hit with a 25-year jail sentence. But it was not for drugs offences. Or any other common crime. Instead Williams and three other struggling local men beset by drug, criminal and mental health issues were convicted of an Islamic terrorist plot to blow up Jewish synagogues and shoot down… Continue reading

Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make – 14 New Ways That The Government Is Watching You

Big Brother is Watching You Graphic From EndoftheAmericanDream.com at Lewrockwell.com

If you live in the United States today, you need to understand that your privacy is being constantly eroded. Our world is going crazy, government paranoia is off the charts and law enforcement authorities have become absolutely obsessed with watching us, listening to us, tracking us, recording us, compiling information on all of us and getting us all to spy on one another. If you doubt that we are rapidly getting to the point where the government will monitor every breath you take and every move you make, just read the rest of this article. The truth is that the government is watching you more closely than ever, and they are spending billions upon billions of dollars to enhance their surveillance capabilities even further. If our society stays on this current path, we will eventually have zero privacy left. At this point, it is not too hard to imagine a society where we will not be able to say anything, buy anything, sell anything, assemble with others or even leave our homes without government permission. We truly are descending into a dystopian nightmare and the American people had better wake up.

Sadly, most people living in the United States and in Europe do not realize what is happening. Most of them think that everything is just fine. The “Big Brother control grid” that is being constructed all over the western world squeezes all of us just a little bit tighter every single day, and most people… Continue reading

U.S. Vets, Suffering From Unemployment and Homelessness, Support Occupy Protests

By Olivia Katrandjian

October 29, 2011

ABCNews.com

Scott Olsen, the 24-year-old two-tour Iraq veteran whose skull was fractured by a rubber bullet or tear gas canister fired by police during an Occupy Oakland protest, has become a symbol for the Oakland, Calif., protests and put a spotlight on veterans’ solidarity with the Occupy movement.

Olsen had joined joined the Occupy Oakland protest after work Tuesday, before clashes broke out between demonstrators and police trying to evict them from a city plaza. Videos of Olsen posted on YouTube show him standing still in a space between police a protesters when he was hit in the head by something and fell to the ground.

When fellow demonstrators tried to come to Olsen’s aid, a tear gas canister exploded in their midst, driving them away from the injured man.

“He joined the military to fight for people’s rights, and that’s not what he found himself doing in Iraq. And so he came home and started fighting for people’s rights here and for his brothers and sisters who were still deployed,” said Iraq veteran Aaron Hughes, the central and team leader of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

“There is a massive disconnect between the larger society and U.S. service members. Right now we have high unemployment, homeless and suicide rates among veterans. Scott is just one example of hundreds and thousands of service members who are tired of the rhetoric and want real substantive change,” said Hughes, who said he returned to Iraq as a civilian after his tour to fight for peace.…

Continue reading

Hurt protester Scott Olsen was ‘provoking no one’

by Justin Berton, Will Kane, Chronicle Staff Writers
SFGate.com (San Francisco Chronicle online)

Photo of hurt protester Scott Olsen bleeding on street

Photo (left): Jay Finneburgh / AP — Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen lays on the ground bleeding from a head wound after being struck by a projectile during an Occupy Wall Street protest in Oakland, Calif. Olsen suffered a fractured skull while marching with other protesters attempting to reestablish a presence in the area of the disbanded camp, said Dottie Guy, of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. Police Chief Howard Jordan says an internal review board and local prosecutors have been asked to determine if officers on the scene used excessive force.

OAKLAND — Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq, stood calmly in front of a police line as tear gas canisters that officers shot into the Occupy Oakland protest Tuesday night whizzed past his head.

“He was standing perfectly still, provoking no one,” said Raleigh Latham, an Oakland filmmaker shooting footage of the confrontation between police and hundreds of protesters at 14th Street and Broadway. “If something didn’t hit him directly in the face, then it went off close to his head and knocked him down.”

The something was a projectile that apparently came from police lines, fractured Olsen’s skull and put him in Highland General Hospital. Doctors upgraded his condition Thursday from critical to fair, and said they expect him to make a full recovery.

His parents flew in from Wisconsin and spent Thursday at his bedside.… Continue reading

Commander Who Pepper-Sprayed Protesters Faces Disciplinary Charge

By AL BAKER

October 18, 2011

NYTimes.com

Photo: Ozier Muhammad/the New York Times

A New York police commander who pepper-sprayed protesters during the opening days of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations last month faces an internal disciplinary charge that could cost him 10 vacation days, the police said Tuesday.

The commander, Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, has been given a so-called command discipline, according to a law enforcement official. Officials said investigators found that the inspector ran afoul of Police Department rules for the use of the spray. The department’s patrol guide, its policy manual, says pepper spray should be used primarily to control a suspect who is resisting arrest, or for protection; it does allow for its use in “disorder control,” but only by officers with special training.

The Internal Affairs Bureau reviewed the episode and found that Inspector Bologna “used pepper spray outside departmental guidelines,” said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman. He declined to elaborate.

The inspector can accept the charge and plead guilty, or he can opt for a departmental trial. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly is the ultimate arbiter of punishment in such matters and has wide leeway in his decisions.

Inspector Bologna’s actions on Sept. 24, when he sprayed several penned-in women, were captured on video and spread widely on the Internet. It became a defining moment in the protests.

Four days later, Mr. Kelly said the Internal Affairs Bureau would look into the inspector’s actions. At the same time, the Manhattan… Continue reading

This One Could Take Them All Down

Interview with Chris Hedges conducted at OWS
From YouTube user OccupyTVNY.org
October 19, 2011
AmpedStatus.org

Chris Hedges recently gave an inspiring and very heartfelt interview on #OWS during the Times Square protest action. Be sure to watch the last minute, beautiful.

 

Koch and N.Y.U. Clash Over Terrorism Report

By Richard Perez-Pena
October 7, 2011
New York Times

A report on terrorism prosecutions written by scholars at New York University’s School of Law has set off an ugly fight, pitting the school against former Mayor Edward I. Koch and Representative Peter T. King in what one side calls a question of intellectual freedom, and the other says is a matter of intellectual honesty.

The report, focusing on three high-profile cases, accuses law enforcement agencies of luring young Muslim men into violent plots and makes broad assertions that the government stigmatizes Muslims. The charge is nothing new; defendants in many terrorism trials in the past decade have alleged entrapment, but juries have rejected that defense.

The report, “Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the ‘Homegrown Threat’ in the United States,” was published in May but did not draw much notice until recently, when some prominent alumni of the law school brought it to the attention of Mr. Koch, a 1948 graduate.

Mr. Koch called on the school’s dean, Richard L. Revesz, to disavow the report and distribute a rebuttal that Mr. King — the Long Island Republican who has presided over contentious hearings on domestic terrorist threats — wrote at Mr. Koch’s urging. When the dean did not agree, the former mayor decided to take the conflict public, potentially giving the report a wider audience than it had gained on its own.

The fight illustrates how differently the political and academic worlds can view the same dispute, and how the same information… Continue reading

Read A Banned Book — September 24-October 1, 2001

September 24~October 1, 2011
American Library Association

Graphic for banned books weekBanned Books Week (BBW)
is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

 

Intellectual freedom–the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular–provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged–and possibly banned or restricted–if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

 

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free… Continue reading

Jose Padilla and how American justice functions

By Glenn Greenwald
September 20, 2011
Salon.com

The story of Jose Padilla, continuing through the events of yesterday, expresses so much of the true nature of the War on Terror and especially America’s justice system. In 2002, the American citizen was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, publicly labeled by John Ashcroft as The Dirty Bomber, and then imprisoned for the next three years on U.S. soil as an “enemy combatant” without charges of any kind, and denied all  contact with the outside world, including even a lawyer. During his lawless incarceration, he was kept not just in extreme solitary confinement but extreme sensory deprivation as well, and was abused and tortured   to the point of severe and probably permanent mental incapacity. (Bush lawyers told a court that they were unable to produce videos of Padilla’s interrogations because those videos were mysteriously and tragically “lost”).

Needless to say, none of the government officials responsible for this abuse of a U.S. citizen on American soil has been held accountable in any way. That’s because President Obama decreed that Bush officials shall  not be criminally investigated for War on Terror crimes, while his Justice Department vigorously defended John Yoo, Donald Rumsfeld and other responsible functionaries in civil suits brought by Padilla seeking  damages for what was done to him.

As usual, the Obama DOJ cited national security imperatives and sweeping theories of presidential power to demand that Executive Branch officials be fully shielded from judicial scrutiny (i.e., shielded from the … Continue reading

The Still Developing Story of the Recently Issued CIA Threats to Producers Nowosielski & Duffy

by Sibel Edmonds
BoilingFrogsPost.com

CIA’s Maneuver: A Case of Bluffing? Buying Time? Or Something More?

Emblem of CIA Last week we broke the story of the CIA issued legal threats against producers Ray Nowosielski and John Duffy on their discovery of the identities of the two key CIA analysts who executed the Tenet-Black-Blee cover-up in the case of two key 9/11 hijackers. The analysts were referred to only by first names initially, but were going to be fully named in a follow up segment. It appears the story is still developing, but we now have further details on the case, an analysis by an expert producer, and a few comments on assessing the nature and possible implication of this move by the CIA.

I asked Mr. Nowosielski how the CIA was informed about the schedule and the content of their upcoming segment, and he provided us with the following details:

We emailed CIA Public Affairs on Thursday morning telling them of our intention to name two current agents in our journalism piece and explained the context of their use — the things they were accused of. We also explained that their names had been deduced through open-source materials and that our sources had told us they were working from headquarters.

As for the CIA’s reaction and response Mr. Nowosielski recounted the following:

Their media spokesperson called back almost immediately. After a brief discussion, we emailed him the script for official reply. We also requested an interview with the two to ensure that we were telling the full story accurately.

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