RSSCategory: Law

More on the U.S. law enforcement warrantless seizures of private data of Americans

April 8, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
More on the U.S. law enforcement warrantless seizures of private data of Americans

I’ve posted on this topic before, based on one of Glenn Greenwald’s articles. I am at a loss for any legitimate reason for the U.S. to seize, without a search warrant, private information of Americans who are in the process of re-entering the United States. This includes seizure of cell phones and laptops and demands for the passwords. Greenwald’s newest report gives the shocking statistics:

A 2011 FOIA request from the ACLU revealed that just in the 18-month period beginning October 1, 2008, more than 6,600 people — roughly half of whom were American citizens — were subjected to electronic device searches at the border by DHS, all without a search warrant. Typifying the target of these invasive searches is Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old dual French-American citizen and an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student who was traveling from Montreal to New York on an Amtrak train in 2011 when he was stopped at the border, questioned by DHS agents, handcuffed, taken off the train and kept in a holding cell for several hours before being released without charges; those DHS agents seized his laptop and returned it 11 days later when, the ACLU explains, “there was evidence that many of his personal files, including research, photos and chats with his girlfriend, had been searched.” That’s just one case of thousands, all without any oversight, transparency, legal checks, or any demonstration of wrongdoing.

Greenwald’s report also gives us details regarding a recent detention of award-winning film-maker Laura Poitras, who has been detained and questioned 40 times by U.S. Border Authority:

Each time this has happened in the past, Poitras has taken notes during the entire process: in order to chronicle what is being done to her, document the journalistic privileges she asserts and her express lack of consent, obtain the names of the agents involved, and just generally to cling to some level of agency. This time, however, she was told by multiple CBP agents that she was prohibited from taking notes on the ground that her pen could be used as a weapon. After she advised them that she was a journalist and that her lawyer had advised her to keep notes of her interrogations, one of them, CBP agent Wassum, threatened to handcuff her if she did not immediately stop taking notes.

Greenwald then details yet another incident, this one involving David House, an activist who helped found the Bradley Manning Support Network. The details are equally disturbing. There is some consolation, in that U.S. District Judge Denise Casper, an Obama-appointed judge in the District of Massachusetts, has reviewed allegations from a case brought by House and so far refused to dismiss House’ case against the United States. Other aspects of that case are less than satisfying, though, for those of us who still think that the First and Fourth Amendments are good ideas.

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Police officer fabricating

March 31, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Police officer fabricating

A harassed driver named Terrance Huff was lied to and threatened by of a police officer named Michael Reichert outside of the city of Collinsville, Illinois. Huff is also a filmmaker, and he has offered us this vivid lesson in how the police sometimes lie.

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Exploring copyright math

March 30, 2012 | By | Reply More
Exploring copyright math

Rob Reid has some extremely serious points to make through his humorous six-minute talk. Excellent and well-deserved attack on copyright content owners.

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Member of Congress moves protester to solitary confinement

March 28, 2012 | By | Reply More
Member of Congress moves protester to solitary confinement

Remember Tim DeChristopher? The latest news is that a vindictive member of Congress had him moved into solitary confinement.

Tim DeChristopher (climate activist currently serving a 2-year prison sentence for outbidding oil and gas companies at an illegitimate BLM auction in 2008) was summarily removed from the minimum security camp where he has been held since September 2011, and moved into the FCI Herlong’s Special Housing Unit (SHU). Tim was informed by Lieutenant Weirich that he was being moved to the SHU because an unidentified congressman had called from Washington DC, complaining of an email that Tim had sent to a friend. Tim was inquiring about the reported business practices of one of his legal fund contributors, threatening to return the money if their values no longer aligned with his own.

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The joint evil of the War on Drugs and the Prison-Industrial-Complex

March 23, 2012 | By | Reply More
The joint evil of the War on Drugs and the Prison-Industrial-Complex

From
Fareed Zakaria’s comment at Time Magazine:

In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges. And 4 of 5 of those arrests were simply for possession….[T]he money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education in the past 20 years. In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons vs. $5.7 billion on the UC system and state colleges. Since 1980, California has built one college campus and 21 prisons. A college student costs the state $8,667 per year; a prisoner costs it $45,006 a year.

The results are gruesome at every ­level. We are creating a vast prisoner under­class in this country at huge expense, increasingly unable to function in normal society, all in the name of a war we have already lost….

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The Other Sides

March 23, 2012 | By | Reply More
The Other Sides

Let’s imagine the conflict known as the Civil War. It had been brewing since before the Constitution was ratified. The issues were marrow deep in American society, so much so that any attempt to address the issue of slavery was, in effect, a deal breaker for the new nation. The South made it abundantly clear that any action on the part of the North to write into the new guiding document the idea that black slaves were somehow deserving of the liberty being claimed for their white owners—and thereby signaling the end of slavery among the Thirteen Colonies—would be met with absolute refusal to play. Had the reformers, exemplified by the likes of Benjamin Franklin, tried to assert any kind of racial equality at the time, the United States would have been stillborn.

Instead, they put a time limit into the document—20 years—which forbade the topic from even being discussed in Congress until that later year, at which time, presumably, the issue would come to the floor for some kind of resolution. History shows that every such attempt was met with denunciations by southern members of Congress and often with threats of secession—which by then were illegal.

Make no mistake, as some revisionists might have you believe, secession was not an option and everyone who voted to ratify the Constitution knew it. Contrary to popular mythology, the original 13 states locked themselves together permanently.

[More . . . ]

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Status on Illinois law prohibiting citizens from recording police

March 22, 2012 | By | Reply More
Status on Illinois law prohibiting citizens from recording police

Illinois Republicans voted down a bill that would have allowed people to record public police activities in Illinois. What are they afraid of?

The good news:

Even without the legislation, however, the law’s days might be numbered. Two judges, one in Cook County and the other in Crawford County, have declared it unconstitutional in recent months.

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FINRA arbitration abuse by the numbers

March 20, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
FINRA arbitration abuse by the numbers

Dan Solin offers a disturbing inside view of FINRA arbitration. Given that it is binding, mandatory pre-dispute arbitration controlled by the industry being sued, it is not surprising that the table is tilted dramatically in favor of the financial industries and brokers. Here’s an excerpt from Solin’s article:

If you have an account with a retail broker, or are employed by one, you signed an agreement requiring you to submit all disputes to mandatory arbitration administered by FINRA. The idea of requiring investors and employees to arbitrate disputes before a tribunal appointed by the very industry being sued is deeply troubling. Because it deprives American citizens of their constitutional rights to access to the courtroom and trial by a jury of their peers, it has neither the appearance nor the reality of impartiality. Among others, Itestified before Congress and urged it to enact legislation prohibiting mandatory arbitration clauses as being fundamentally unfair.

A study I co-authored of more than 14,000 FINRA arbitration awards over a ten-year period found that investors with significant claims suing major brokerage firms could expect to recover only 12 percent of the amount claimed. It is not surprising that many investors required to submit to this process perceive it to be biased against them.

Note the $60,000 attorney fee award assessed against the man filing the arbitration claim described by Solin. Can you imagine many sane people exposing themselves to that sort of risk, especially when it is a rare court that would step in to reverse such an injustice? That’s what happened in the case Solin describes, but you’ll need to look long and hard to find other cases where a court disturbs a FINRA arbitrator’s decision.

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Barack Obama emulates George W. Bush, again.

March 14, 2012 | By | 4 Replies More
Barack Obama emulates George W. Bush, again.

Glenn Greenwald has just published this infuriating story. It starts with a big lie: the U.S. and the government of Yemen have a good laugh that a U.S. drone attack on Yemeni soil, killing 14 women and 21 children was a successful attack against “insurgents” and “militants” that did not involve the U.S. When a reporter exposes the U.S. involvement, a fact that has been corroborated by a Wikileaks cable release, he ends up in prison on trumped up charges. When he’s about to be pardoned, Barack Obama intervenes. The reporter, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, has spent the past two years in prison, where he has been beaten and held in solitary confinement. This is all part of a highly coordinated war on whistle-blowers by the Obama Administration, a fact duly ignored by most media outlets, who serve as stenographers for the American military-industrial complex and its Commander in Chief:

So it is beyond dispute that the moving force behind the ongoing imprisonment of this Yemeni journalist is President Obama. And the fact that Shaye is in prison, rather than able to report, is of particular significance (and value to the U.S.) in light of the still escalating American attacks in that country. Over the past 3 days alone, American air assaults have killed 64 people in Yemen, while American media outlets — without anyone on the scene — dutifully report that those killed are “suspected Al Qaeda insurgents” and “militants.”

Should anyone trust the United States’ claims about whether any dead people were “terrorists”? Greenwald says no (and see here).

It’s incredibly instructive to compare what we know (thanks to Shaye) actually happened in this Yemen strike to how The New York Times twice “reported” on it. I quoted above from these two NYT articles, but it’s just amazing to read them: over and over, the NYT assures its readers that this strike was carried out by Yemen (with U.S. assistance), that it killed scores of critical Al Qaeda leaders and other “militants,” that the strike likely killed “the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, and his deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri, who were believed to be at the meeting with Mr. Awlaki,” etc. How anyone, in light of this record of extreme inaccuracy, can trust the undocumented assertions of the U.S. Government or the American media over who is and is not a Terrorist or “militant” and who is killed by American drone strikes is simply mystifying.

There is much more to be considered in Greenwald’s piece, all of it ignored by Obama apologists everywhere. And no, I’m not a Republican. I voted for Barack Obama, yet I find many of his actions disgraceful.

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