RSSCategory: Censorship

US claims it is illegal to challenge illegal spy statute in court

July 19, 2012 | By | Reply More
US claims it is illegal to challenge illegal spy statute in court

We are definitely living in Orwellian times, based on the following article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which I am reprinting in its entirety (it is licensed by Creative Commons):

EFF Challenges National Security Letter Statute in Landmark Lawsuit

Since the first national security letter statute was passed in 1986, the FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of such letters seeking private telecommunications and financial records of Americans without any prior approval from courts. Indeed, for the period between 2003 and 2006 alone, almost 200,000 requests for private customer information were sought pursuant to various NSL statutes. Prior to 2011, the constitutionality of this legal authority to investigate the records of Americans without court oversight had been challenged in court — as far as we know — exactly one time. EFF is today releasing FBI-redacted briefing from a major new ongoing case in which it is challenging one of the NSL statutes on behalf of a telecommunications company that received an NSL in 2011. Not only does this briefing show that the Department of Justice continues to strongly protect the FBI’s NSL authority, it highlights a startlingly aggressive new tactic used by the Department of Justice: suing NSL recipients who challenge the FBI’s authority, arguing that court challenges to such authority themselves amount to breaking the law.

National security letter statutes — five in all — are controversial laws that allow the FBI to easily bypass courts and issue administrative letters on their own authority to telecommunications companies and financial institutions demanding information about their customers. The NSL statutes permit the FBI to permanently gag service providers from revealing the fact that the demand was made, preventing them from notifying either their customers or the public. While the statute has many deficiencies, one of the core constitutional issues (already recognized by one federal appeals court) is that it turns the First Amendment’s procedural prior restraint doctrine on its head by allowing the FBI to issue a never-ending prior restraint on its own, then requiring the recipient service provider to undertake a legal challenge. Another fundamental problem with the NSL statutes is that courts are all but written out of any part of the process: the FBI can issue demands for records and gag provisions without court authorization, and recipient telecommunications and financial companies have no way to determine whether and how the government might be overreaching or otherwise abusing its authority. Not surprisingly, given these significant structural barriers, legal challenges are extraordinarily rare.

EFF brought its challenge on behalf of its client in May of 2011, raising these and other fundamental due process and First Amendment concerns about the structure of these problematic statutes. In response, the Department of Justice promptly filed a civil complaint against the recipient, alleging that by “stat[ing] its objection to compliance with the provisions of” the NSL by “exercis[ing] its rights under” the NSL statute to challenge the NSL’s legality, the recipient was “interfer[ing] with the United States’ vindication of its sovereign interests in law enforcement, counterintelligence, and protecting national security.” While it ultimately agreed to a stay, temporarily suspending its suit against the recipient, the government has moved to compel disclosure of the subscriber information and to uphold the gag. The petition to set aside the NSL is currently pending before the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Whether the recipient will be permitted to speak out about its specific experiences — and whether the FBI will be permitted to issue NSLs, at least in one district — should soon be known.

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Proposed new law to protect bloggers from SLAPP suits

July 19, 2012 | By | Reply More
Proposed new law to protect bloggers from SLAPP suits

Join EFF and the Public Participation Project in calling on Congress to support the PETITION Act, strong federal anti-SLAPP legislation. The concept is simple: when a blogger faces a legal threat for legitimate online content, she can file a motion to get the case dismissed quickly. If the case is found to be frivolous in court, she won’t have to pay the legal fees.”

Here is discussion of a meritless suit against Matthew Inman that illustrates the need for such a law.

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Seven ways for an American citizen to get detained indefinitely

May 26, 2012 | By | Reply More
Seven ways for an American citizen to get detained indefinitely

This article at Huffpo summarizes seven ways for an American citizen to get detained indefinitely. These concerns are not made up out of thin air. They are based on positions taken by attorneys for Barack Obama’s Department of Justice during the litigation brought by author Chris Hedges and others. Here is Hedges’ recap of why he got involved with the suit:

In January, attorneys Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran asked me to be the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that challenged the harsh provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We filed the lawsuit, worked for hours on the affidavits, carried out the tedious depositions, prepared the case and went to trial because we did not want to be passive in the face of another egregious assault on basic civil liberties, because resistance is a moral imperative, and because, at the very least, we hoped we could draw attention to the injustice of the law. None of us thought we would win. But every once in a while the gods smile on the damned.

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EFF offers some thoughts on World Press Freedom Day

May 3, 2012 | By | Reply More
EFF offers some thoughts on World Press Freedom Day

Electronic Frontier Foundation offers a thought-provoking article about World Press Freedom day. The bottom line is that the United States can do much better than it is currently doing. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Journalists’ sources in the U.S. have been the hardest hit in recent years. The current administration has used the Espionage Act to prosecute a record six whistleblowers for leaking information to the press—more than the rest of the previous administrations combined. Many of these whistleblowers have exposed constitutional violations such as the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program and the CIA’s waterboarding practices—issues clearly in the public interest—and now face years in prison. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has brought no prosecutions for the crimes underlying the exposed allegations.

In addition, a grand jury is reportedly still investigating WikiLeaks for violations of the Espionage Act for publishing classified information—a practice that has traditionally been protected by the First Amendment and which other newspapers engage in regularly. It would not only be completely unprecedented to prosecute a publisher under the archaic statute, but would also endanger many U.S. based publications like the New York Times. And as former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley has remarked, the U.S. government’s investigation into WikiLeaks undermines the United States’ ability to pressure countries like Russia and China to allow greater press freedom.

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Shame on America for prosecuting Former CIA officer John Kiriakou

April 14, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Shame on America for prosecuting Former CIA officer John Kiriakou

Shame on America for prosecuting Former CIA officer John Kiriakou. But America’s actions are understandable because Kiriakou embarrasses America by saying true things like this:

  • On Iraq: “The answer to why we’re still in Iraq to this day has almost everything to do with the failures of leadership in 2003 and 2004 and, in some cases, the ascendance of rank deception—deliberate distortions of the facts on the ground.”
  • On FBI waste: After raiding a Taliban “embassy” in Pakistan in early 2002, Kiriakou’s colleague “found something interesting and provocative. A file of telephone bills from the Taliban embassy revealed dozens of calls to the United States . . . For ten days leading up to September 11, 2001, the Taliban made 168 calls to America. Then the calls stopped. The file, amazingly, was in English . . . The calls ended on September 10, 2001, and started up again six days later, on September 16.” Years after sending the phone records to the FBI, Kiriakou followed-up and his FBI contact “replied that it was like a scene out of that Indiana Jones movie. The files were still in those [original] boxes, in an FBI storage facility in Maryland . . . What a waste.”
  • On CIA’s deception about waterboarding: “Now we know that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded eighty-three times in a single month, raising questions about how much useful information he actually supplied. . . it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the arts of deception even among its own.” (Previously, the CIA told Kiriakou that Zubaydah was waterboarded only once and cracked, which fiction Kiriakou repeated in a television interview because his own agency lied to him.)
  • On Torture: “But even if torture works, it cannot be tolerated – not in one case or a thousand or a million. If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sorts of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable. . . . There are things we should not do, even in the name of national security.”

Jesselyn Radack has the story.

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The government keeping an eye on us

April 6, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More
The government keeping an eye on us

In the process of describing his lawsuit regarding the NDAA, Chris Hedges writes:

There are now 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies that work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, The Washington Post reported in a 2010 series by Dana Priest and William M. Arken. There are 854,000 people with top-secret security clearances, the reporters wrote, and in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2011. Investigative reporter James Bamford wrote in the latest issue of Wired magazine that the National Security Agency is building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret NSA surveillance program code-named “Stellar Wind.” Bamford noted that the NSA has established listening posts throughout the country to collect, store and examine billions of email messages and phone calls.

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The higher principle involved in the U.S. persecution of Wikileaks

March 4, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
The higher principle involved in the U.S. persecution of Wikileaks

Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings recently interviewed Julian Assange, head of Wikileaks, who pointed out a huge problem with the government’s legal position:

The U.S. government is trying to redefine what have been long-accepted journalistic methods. If the Pentagon is to have its way, it will be the end of national-security journalism in the United States . . . They’re trying to interpret the Espionage Act to say that any two-way communication with a source is a collaboration with a source, and is therefore a conspiracy to commit espionage where classified information is involved. The Pentagon, in fact, issued a public demand to us that we not only destroy everything we had ever published or were ever going to publish in relation to the U.S. government, but that we also stop “soliciting” information from U.S. government employees. The Espionage Act itself does not mention solicitation, but they’re trying to create a new legal precedent that includes a journalist simply asking a source to communicate information.

Here’s one more quote from the above article:

When you shake something up, you have a chance to rebuild. But we’re not interested in shaking something up just for the hell of it. I believe that if we look at what makes a civilization civilized, it is people understanding what is really going on. When Gutenberg invented the printing press, the end result was that people who knew something of what was going on could convey that information to others. And as a result of the Internet, we are now living in a time where it’s a lot easier to convey what we know about our corner of the world and share it with others.

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Here’s how to strike back against Internet censorship and why

January 18, 2012 | By | 7 Replies More
Here’s how to strike back against Internet censorship and why

It’s time to step up and voice your concerns because we now have a bit of momentum. Here’s how to strike back against Internet censorship.

Here is why you should consider taking at least a few minutes to get involved.

I’ve blackened the DI banner today as a symbol of my concern regarding efforts to pass SOPA (pending in the House) and the Protect IP Act (pending in the Senate).

Free Press has offered a page indicating the senators who are pro, con and on the fence. If you plug in your zip code, you will be presented with phone numbers for your senators and it LITERALLY takes only a minute to voice your concern to the staffer of your senator. I called my two senators in two minutes. Please join me in voicing your concern to your elected officials. You will be doing your part to use logic, fairness and reason to oppose $90 million in campaign contributions. Reason sometimes work, as demonstrated by today’s reversal of course by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

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Why we must oppose PIPA and SOPA

January 17, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Why we must oppose PIPA and SOPA

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published this succinct explanation setting out the dangers of PIPA and SOPA.

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