“For the first time, a majority of Senators took a stand against simply rubber-stamping provisions of the Patriot Act. The Senate will be back for a special Sunday session on May 31 just hours before the June 1 sunset. It’s more urgent than ever that we call on Congress to let Section 215 die!”
From Justin Elliott of Propublica.org:
An amendment designed to bar the National Security Agency from undermining encryption standards was approved by the House last night.The measure was inserted into a defense appropriations bill and approved on a voice vote.
The move follows reporting last year by ProPublica, the Guardian, and the New York Times on the NSA’s efforts to weaken encryption, including by influencing the development of standards by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The amendment is separate from another one the House adopted last night that is designed to block the NSA from conducting “backdoor” spying on Americans by querying databases of foreign intelligence.
President Obama has finally recognized that Americans stand opposed to dragnet surveillance and the blatant abuse of power by the NSA. But changing bits and pieces of the NSA’s massive surveillance machine won’t be enough to protect our privacy.
The web of NSA surveillance that has slowly been uncovered over the past few months just grew a little bigger today thanks to a New York Times report explaining the finer points of the agency’s data gathering practices. The NSA has publicly admitted to monitoring the phone calls and emails of individuals within U.S. borders who are communicating with so-called “targets” abroad – but details in leaked documents indicate that the agency also monitors the communication of people who may not talk directly to targets, but mention their names or information associated with them.
The Times explains how it began and how it works:
“To conduct the surveillance, the N.S.A. is temporarily copying and then sifting through the contents of what is apparently most e-mails and other text-based communications that cross the border.”
In the wake of the traumatic attacks on 9/11, Congress rushed to pass the PATRIOT Act, which greatly expanded the ability of the U.S. government to spy on American citizens.
Since the leaks by Edward Snowden, even the original author of the PATRIOT Act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, has said that the authority claimed by the government to spy on Americans far exceeds the intent of the law.
The leaks and recent admissions about NSA programs have pierced the veil of secrecy surrounding government spying and created an opening for us to take action. Now’s the time to push hard and get members of Congress on the record and show them that there is grassroots momentum to take on this fight.
Recently, Congressman Rush Holt, an outspoken advocate of reining in the growing surveillance state, introduced legislation to repeal the PATRIOT Act and restore our constitutionally protected civil liberties.
Tell Congress: Join Rep. Holt and fight to repeal the PATRIOT Act.
To sign, click here.
“Massive warrantless surveillance of law-abiding citizens has a profoundly negative impact on the constitutionally-protected right of association utilized by all those who seek to engage in public advocacy,” said the executive director of CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter.
“The American Muslim community has complained of such wholesale surveillance for more than a decade – with FBI visits, mosque surveillance, etc. CAIR welcomes the opportunity to challenge NSA spying alongside other organizations.
The plaintiffs in the case are all associations that utilize telephones in exercising the First Amendment right to bring people together to work to change policy or laws.
The plaintiffs are, according to CAIR.com:
- First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles
- Bill of Rights Defense Committee
- California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees
- Council on American-Islamic Relations National, California, and Ohio
- Franklin Armory
- Free Press
- Free Software Foundation
- Greenpeace, Inc.
- Human Rights Watch
- Media Alliance
- National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, California Chapter
- Open Technology Institute
- People for the American Way
- Public Knowledge
- Students for a Sensible Drug Policy
- The Calguns Foundation
- Unitarian Universalist Service Commission
With each new group filing lawsuits against the NSA, the spying program the U.S. government has been engaged in may finally be dismantled. Even if the political will to do so isn’t there, it will surely get harder and harder for the Obama administration to keep it up for much longer, as more heat is put on Washington from an angry populace.
What’s also encouraging is that many of these groups are frequently involved in politics and the law while fighting for the rights of their respective clients, and will no doubt have extremely knowledgeable and experienced lawyers in the courtroom on their (and our) side.
A new Quinnipiac poll shows a dramatic change in public opinion regarding U.S. counter-terrorism policies.
For more, go to The Secular Jurist’s blog.
WashingtonPost.com ran this story today (7/11/13):
A federal judge Thursday ordered the government to stop genital searches of Guantanamo Bay detainees who want to meet with their lawyers, concluding that the motivation for the searches is not to enhance security, but to deter the detainees’ access to attorneys.
“As petitioners’ counsel argued, the choice between submitting to a search procedure that is religiously and culturally abhorrent or forgoing counsel effectively presents no choice for devout Muslims,” one of the judges of the case wrote.
Brent Rushforth, a lawyer for two of the detainees, said that the Obama administration “is flouting rule of law as recognized by the Supreme Court.”
Just over 100 of the 166 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo have been on a hunger strike for four months to protest their indefinite detention.
The prison officials have now taken to force-feeding them, a very painful procedure that many observers consider torture.
When Edward Snowden revealed what he knew about the U.S. government’s PRISM spy program, carried out by the National Security Agency (NSA), some reacted with horror, others with apathy, and still others with cynicism. Well, there are some very good reasons why, if you are not horrified, you should be. That article is one demonstration of why.
People, like me, who were first horrified are now angry. We say, “It’s not right! And it does matter!” What is happening right now in Guantanamo Bay prison matters to the people who are suffering there. They are suffering because their rights are being violated. The judge deemed the searches illegal- the searches violated the prisoners’ rights.
What PRISM and the PATRIOT Act (and any other spy program the NSA may be engaged in) has everything to do with rights. Why? Because these programs violate our rights in myriad ways. They are, as we speak, monitoring our phone calls, internet activity including emails, and who knows what else. They are allowed to enter our homes without warrants, which means that they can barge into your home at anytime and flip through you belongings to look for “evidence” of terrorist activities. Phone calls, etc., can also be used as evidence.
What’s especially scary about all this is that only a secret court can approve of the NSA’s activities, not a regular court. This is most likely because the government knows full well that a regular court would never sign off on what they are doing, since this activity violates the American Constitution. And since it is secret, none of us can get a peek at what exactly is being done, yet it is still allowed.
Another examples of what happens when rights are violated:
The Case of the “Ford Heights Four,” according to InnocenceProject.org:
In 1978, along with friends Dennis Williams and Willie Rainge, Kenneth Adams was convicted of gang-raping and murdering a twenty-three year old woman and murdering her fiance. Adams was sentenced to seventy-five years in prison, Williams to death, and Rainge to life without parole. The fourth man, Verneal Jimerson, was convicted and sent to death row. The four young men convicted for this crime were to become known as the Ford Heights Four.
The state’s chief witness in the case, Paula Gray, claimed to have been at the scene of the crime with the four men. After her testimony secured indictments of all four men, she recanted and the charges against Jimerson were dropped.
In all, the Innocence Project found that due to eyewitness misidentification, false confessions/admissions and unvalidated or improper forensic science, the trial against them was unjust. The police and the justice system allowed these problems to go unchecked during the trial. And that the men were black surely had a hand in how badly the trial went for them. Eventually, through new DNA evidence, they were found innocent. The Ford Heights Four settled civil claims for $36 million against the police officers involved in the original investigation. The men were released from prison in 1996 after serving 17 and a half years in prison.
If these men had had their rights recognized, the fraud that took place in the trial wouldn’t have happened. It wouldn’t have been allowed.