September 16, 2010
Obama administration seeks to avoid lawsuit for assassinating American

In the NYTU.S. Debates Response to Targeted Killing Lawsuit

It seems the Obama administration is looking for any possible argument to justify its policy of assassinating U.S. citizens without legal restraint.  But that’s not always easy to manage:

“The more forcefully the administration urges a court to stay out because this is warfare, the more it puts itself in the uncomfortable position of arguing we’re at war even in Yemen,”

The administration doesn’t want any possibility of judicial review:

…they are seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed without discussing its merits. For example, officials say, the brief is virtually certain to argue that Mr. Awlaki’s father has no legal standing to file a lawsuit on behalf of his son.

Is the administration trying to figure out the law, and then follow it, or to simply push through whatever it wants to do?

(via Marginal Revolution)

September 9, 2010
Court Dismisses a Case Asserting Torture by C.I.A

The Obama administration has placed a United States citizen on a targeted-killings list without a trial, blocked efforts by detainees in Afghanistan to bring habeas-corpus lawsuits challenging their indefinite imprisonment, and continued the C.I.A. rendition program

Details: NYT — Court sides with C.I.A. on extraordinary rendition

May 27, 2010
Barack Obama chooses to censor images of rape and sexual abuse of prisoners by US forces reports:

In April, Mr Obama’s administration said the photographs would be released and it would be “pointless to appeal” against a court judgment in favour of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

But after lobbying from senior military figures, Mr Obama changed his mind saying they could put the safety of troops at risk.

Earlier this month, he said: “The most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to inflame anti-American public opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”


January 14, 2010
Most Americans would trim liberties to be safer



The survey found 51 percent of Americans agreeing that “it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism.”

Is liberty the new love handles? Then sign me up for some land-o-the-free liposuction!

Sorry folks, you’re the opposite of safe if your government can stick fingers in you every time you fly and detain and smack you around if they ever get your name confused with someone on some bullshit list or if they simply don’t like your religion, library books or attitude.

January 14, 2010
Boston cops: citizen recording of abusive busts is “illegal wiretapping”

Today at boingboing:

Boston cops are using the Massachusetts electronic surveillance laws to arrest and prosecute citizens who use their cellular phones to record abusive arrests. Though they haven’t been successful in prosecuting the acts, it hasn’t stopped the arrests — presumably the point isn’t to secure convictions, but rather to chill the recording of illegal police activity. However, police have convicted citizens who secretly recorded their own abusive arrests, charging them with illegal wiretapping.


June 15, 2009
Defense Department sees protests as terrorism

Josh Richman writes:

Antiterrorism training materials used by the Department of Defense teach that public protests should be regarded as “low level terrorism,” according to a letter of complaint sent to the department today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

“Teaching employees that dissent on issues of public concern is something to be feared, rather than encouraged, is a dangerously counterproductive use of scarce security resources, making us less safe as a democracy,” Northern California ACLU Staff Attorney Ann Brick and ACLU Washington National Security Policy Council Michael German wrote in the letter to Gail McGinn, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

“DoD employees cannot accomplish their mission of protecting our nation and its values unless they understand that those values encompass the right to criticize our government through protest activities,” they wrote. “It is imperative that they are taught the difference between political, religious or social activism and terrorism.”


May 19, 2009
Torture Continues under Obama

At Washington’s Blog:

While torture under the Bush administration was horrible, at least it has stopped. Right?
Jeremy Scahill (the reporter who broke most of the stories on Blackwater) says that a military police unit at Guantanamo regularly brutalizes unarmed prisoners, including gang-beating them, breaking their bones, gouging their eyes and dousing them with chemicals.
Specifically, whenever there is “disobedience” by the detainees - which can include praying, or having 2 styrofoam cups in their cell instead of 1, or refusing medication or failing to immediately respond when spoken to - the “Immediate Reaction Force” (IRF) is sent in.


February 23, 2009
Cambridge rejects Homeland Security surveillance cameras

The Boston Globe reports that The Cambridge, MA, City Council voted unanimously on February 2 to block the activation of eight surveillance cameras already installed and paid for by the Department of Homeland Security. Communities across the country have accepted Department of Homeland Security grants to install and network surveillance cameras in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Often, as in nearby Boston, MA, there was no public discussion of the installation and operation of the cameras and no vote was ever taken.

In Cambridge, however, city councilors were concerned not only about privacy issues raised by residents, but also by the secrecy of the four to six year grant process and the continuing lack of information regarding the proposed use of the cameras. Briefings in January by the police commissioner and fire chief failed to provide sufficient answers. Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons complained: “We don’t know how they’re going to be operated. We don’t know how they’re going to be governed. We don’t know who’s going to have access to the information that they collect.”

Cambridge is believed to be the first community in this country to reject government use of surveillance cameras. Law enforcement officials argue that the cameras are necessary to monitor potential targets of terrorist activity, and that they also prove useful in criminal investigations and emergency traffic control. The Cambridge City Council remained unconvinced that, as a matter of public policy, the security benefits of surveillance cameras outweigh the potential damage to civil liberties.

February 22, 2009
Obama defends “extraordinary rendition,” asserts state secrecy privileges

In today’s Washington Post, constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein writes:

Binyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian native, is suing a subsidiary of Boeing for arranging flights to execute the Bush-Cheney “extraordinary rendition” program. It entails kidnapping terrorism suspects based on the president’s say-so alone and transporting them to other countries for torture. Mr. Mohammed alleged that after his kidnap and transport to Morocco, he was routinely beaten, suffering broken bones.

He was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution and death.” United States laws make torture a criminal offense irrespective of the nationality of the violator or the place of the crime.

Last week before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, President Obama echoed the position of Bush-Cheney that the state secrets privilege required dismissal of Mr. Mohammed’s suit. In other words, individual constitutional rights of the highest order should be sacrificed on the altar of national security. At the same time, Mr. Obama was deciding to defend the arch-defender of torture, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, from a suit brought by Jose Padilla. The complaint alleges that Mr. Yoo concocted the legal justification for detaining and harshly interrogating Padilla as an “enemy combatant” without accusation or trial. (The United States later recanted its enemy combatant allegation).

Mr. Obama invoked the state secrets privilege a second time last week to block litigation challenging the legality of the Bush-Cheney “Terrorist Surveillance Program” (TSP) that he had assailed as a senator.

President Obama has left undisturbed the bulwark of Bush-Cheney usurpations or constitutional excesses: the Military Commissions Act of 2006; the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008, which eviscerates the Fourth Amendment; the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq concluded by Bush-Cheney as an executive agreement to evade Senate scrutiny as a treaty requiring a two-thirds majority; and President Bush’s hundreds of signing statements.


November 4, 2008
Obama’s Refusal To Reverse Bush Policy In Afghanistan Angers Human Rights Groups

The usually quite Obama-friendly Huffington Post writes:

Less than a month after signing an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, President Barack Obama has quietly agreed to keep denying the right to trial to hundreds more terror suspects held at a makeshift camp in Afghanistan that human rights lawyers have dubbed “Obama’s Guantanamo”.