posts about or somewhat related to ‘ACLU’

Where there is good journalism, there will be scoops
As of 12:45 pm today, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux published a new in-depth piece at The Intercept called "Watch Commander: Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers" examining the government’s Terrorist Screening Database, as discovered in classified documents the news outlet obtained. The article breaks down the system piece by piece, with startling observations from classified documents.

The second-highest concentration of people designated as “known or suspected terrorists” by the government is in Dearborn, Mich.—a city of 96,000 that has the largest percentage of Arab-American residents in the country.

Even if you don’t live in Dearborn, you should be concerned. 

…officials don’t need “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” to secretly place someone on the list—only a vague and elastic standard of “reasonable suspicion.

According to information from the documents, during the Obama administration, there are more people in the TIDE (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment) than ever before (an even bigger system with an even lower bar for making the list), there are 47,000 people on the government’s “No Fly” list, as well as a disproportionate about of suspects on the watchlist based on their assumed terrorist group affiliation (see above pie chart). Which is skewed, because the estimated size of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, for example, is significantly smaller than the amount of people on the AQI watchlist:


If this information doesn’t make you want to put on a tinfoil hat and anti-surveillance coat and go off the grid for a while, on top of all of that, the story itself was scooped by a government agency and handed to the AP. The AP story in question, written by Eileen Sullivan, came out just minutes before the Intercept piece. 
From HuffPo:

The government, it turned out, had “spoiled the scoop,” an informally forbidden practice in the world of journalism. To spoil a scoop, the subject of a story, when asked for comment, tips off a different, typically friendlier outlet in the hopes of diminishing the attention the first outlet would have received. Tuesday’s AP story was much friendlier to the government’s position, explaining the surge of individuals added to the watch list as an ongoing response to a foiled terror plot.

As Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told The Intercept, 

We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge.

TLDNR; We’re probably all on a secret watchlist. And as soon as we find out we are, the government will know we know. 
-Mariana
Images: Chart via The Intercept ”Who’s on the watchlist?” that breaks down the list by affiliated terrorist group, and screenshot from Ryan Devereaux’s Twitter.

Where there is good journalism, there will be scoops

As of 12:45 pm today, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux published a new in-depth piece at The Intercept called "Watch Commander: Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers" examining the government’s Terrorist Screening Database, as discovered in classified documents the news outlet obtained. The article breaks down the system piece by piece, with startling observations from classified documents.

The second-highest concentration of people designated as “known or suspected terrorists” by the government is in Dearborn, Mich.—a city of 96,000 that has the largest percentage of Arab-American residents in the country.

Even if you don’t live in Dearborn, you should be concerned. 

…officials don’t need “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” to secretly place someone on the list—only a vague and elastic standard of “reasonable suspicion.

According to information from the documents, during the Obama administration, there are more people in the TIDE (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment) than ever before (an even bigger system with an even lower bar for making the list), there are 47,000 people on the government’s “No Fly” list, as well as a disproportionate about of suspects on the watchlist based on their assumed terrorist group affiliation (see above pie chart). Which is skewed, because the estimated size of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, for example, is significantly smaller than the amount of people on the AQI watchlist:

image

If this information doesn’t make you want to put on a tinfoil hat and anti-surveillance coat and go off the grid for a while, on top of all of that, the story itself was scooped by a government agency and handed to the AP. The AP story in question, written by Eileen Sullivan, came out just minutes before the Intercept piece. 

From HuffPo:

The government, it turned out, had “spoiled the scoop,” an informally forbidden practice in the world of journalism. To spoil a scoop, the subject of a story, when asked for comment, tips off a different, typically friendlier outlet in the hopes of diminishing the attention the first outlet would have received. Tuesday’s AP story was much friendlier to the government’s position, explaining the surge of individuals added to the watch list as an ongoing response to a foiled terror plot.

As Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told The Intercept, 

We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge.

TLDNR; We’re probably all on a secret watchlist. And as soon as we find out we are, the government will know we know

-Mariana

Images: Chart via The Intercept ”Who’s on the watchlist?” that breaks down the list by affiliated terrorist group, and screenshot from Ryan Devereaux’s Twitter.

The Journalists’ Guide to Criminal Justice Reform 2013
Presented by the ACLU, this guide [PDF] covers the main issues surrounding criminal justice in the US. It opens:

The main goals of the U.S. criminal justice system are to prevent crime and to deliver just and fair punishments when crime occurs. Our system is failing on both counts.
The U.S. overcriminalizes types of conduct that either should be considered innocent or could be handled through other social systems, such as public health and education; overpolices poor communities and communities of color; holds many people in jail awaiting trial simply because they cannot afford bail; uses incarceration far too often as a sanction; keeps people incarcerated too long; treats people inhumanely while they’re incarcerated; and, perhaps most shamefully, continues to engage in the barbaric practice of execution.
We have far to go in repairing this broken system, and we will not solve all of our problems in 2013. But we will make progress. Here, we provide background information on some of the most vexing issues plaguing the criminal justice system today—excessive rates of incarceration, broad use of solitary confinement, and the death penalty—and suggest some areas that are ripe for reform.

Download it here for free.
Image: Screenshot from The Journalists’ Guide to Criminal Justice Reform.

The Journalists’ Guide to Criminal Justice Reform 2013

Presented by the ACLU, this guide [PDF] covers the main issues surrounding criminal justice in the US. It opens:

The main goals of the U.S. criminal justice system are to prevent crime and to deliver just and fair punishments when crime occurs. Our system is failing on both counts.

The U.S. overcriminalizes types of conduct that either should be considered innocent or could be handled through other social systems, such as public health and education; overpolices poor communities and communities of color; holds many people in jail awaiting trial simply because they cannot afford bail; uses incarceration far too often as a sanction; keeps people incarcerated too long; treats people inhumanely while they’re incarcerated; and, perhaps most shamefully, continues to engage in the barbaric practice of execution.

We have far to go in repairing this broken system, and we will not solve all of our problems in 2013. But we will make progress. Here, we provide background information on some of the most vexing issues plaguing the criminal justice system today—excessive rates of incarceration, broad use of solitary confinement, and the death penalty—and suggest some areas that are ripe for reform.

Download it here for free.

Image: Screenshot from The Journalists’ Guide to Criminal Justice Reform.

When the FBI Responds to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act Request

Via the ACLU:

Two key memos outlining the Justice Department’s views about when Americans can be surreptitiously tracked with GPS technology are being kept secret by the department despite a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU to force their release. The FBI’s general counsel discussed the existence of the two memos publicly last year, yet the Justice Department is refusing to release them without huge redactions…

…The Justice Department’s unfortunate decision leaves Americans with no clear understanding of when we will be subjected to tracking—possibly for months at a time—or whether the government will first get a warrant. This is yet another example of secret surveillance policies—like the Justice Department’s secret opinions about the Patriot Act’s Section 215—that simply should not exist in a democratic society. Privacy law needs to keep up with technology, but how can that happen if the government won’t even tell us what its policies are?

More background via Ars Technica:

Back in August 2012, we reported on how the American Civil Liberties Union was compelling the FBI to fully disclose how it interprets the results of the United States v. Jones case—a unanimous Supreme Court decision establishing that law enforcement does not have the authority to put a warrantless GPS tracker on a suspect’s car.

As we reported then, other types of high-tech surveillance and monitoring by law enforcement continue on a nearly daily basis around the country. Cops are using everything from tap and trace, ping data, license plate surveillance, and other techniques as a way to keep tabs on suspects and innocent citizens without going through the threshold of a judicially reviewed probable-cause-driven warrant.

Now, the ACLU has received a response to its query—with nothing. The FBI sent the ACLU back pages (PDF) upon pages (PDF) that are heavily redacted, providing zero insight into what this policy actually is.

Images: First five pages of an FBI memorandum obtained by the ACLU via a FOIA request that outlines the agency’s post United States v Jones Supreme Court decision guidelines. Fifty-four pages of the the 57-page memo are fully redacted. (PDF)

Nine Groups File Amicus Briefs to Support ACLU FOIA Request on US Drone Program →

The CIA recently rejected an ACLU Freedom of Information Act request for documents that disclose the US government’s guidelines for targeting US citizens and foreign nationals with drone attacks.

In its response to the ACLU request, the CIA wrote that “it can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to this request without compromising national security concerns.”

Take it away, Glenn Greenwald:

Numerous Obama officials — including the President himself and the CIA Director — have repeatedly boasted in public about this very program. Obama recently hailed the CIA drone program by claiming that “we are very careful in terms of how it’s been applied,” and added that it is “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases and so on.” Obama has told playful jokes about the same drone program. Former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also likes to tell cute little jokes about CIA Predator drones, and then proclaimed in December that the drone program has “been very effective at undermining al Qaeda and their ability to plan those kinds of attacks.” Just two weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech purporting to legally justify these same drone attacks…

… Everyone in the world knows the CIA has a drone program. It is openly discussed everywhere, certainly including the multiple Muslim countries where the drones routinely create piles of corpses, and by top U.S. Government officials themselves.

But then when it comes time to test the accuracy of their public claims by requesting the most basic information about what is done and how execution targets are selected, and when it comes time to ask courts to adjudicate its legality, then suddenly National Security imperatives prevent the government even from confirming or denying the existence of the program: the very same program they’ve been publicly boasting and joking about. As the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer put it after Obama publicly defended the program: “At this point, the only consequence of pretending that it’s a secret program is that the courts don’t play a role in overseeing it” – that, and ensuring that any facts that contradict these public claims remain concealed.

Nine organization have now filed an Amicus — or friends of the court — brief to support an ACLU appeal against the CIA’s refusal to disclose documents that explain “when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killing.”

The organizations signing the brief are:

The brief was written by the National Security Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

Photographers: Know Your Rights →

The ACLU’s published a photographer’s cheat sheet on their rights when shooting in the field (US only):

  • When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view.
  • When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs.
  • Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant.
  • Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances.
  • Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations.
  • Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws.

Click through for explanations of each, advice on what to do if stopped or detained, exceptions for shooting around airports and special considerations for videography (eg., “With regards to videotaping, there is an important legal distinction between a visual photographic record (fully protected) and the audio portion of a videotape, which some states have tried to regulate under state wiretapping laws.”)

Bigfoot Sues for First Amendment Rights →

Jonathan Doyle likes to dress up like Bigfoot, run around New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock, film and then interview people’s reactions to seeing him.

The State says this is a no-no until he pays for a permit and gets a $2 million insurance bond to film

Doyle, and the ACLU, says this violates his free speech rights.

Via the BBC:

Mr Doyle said no complaints had been made to the state park service in 2009 when he first dressed as Bigfoot, traversed Mount Monadnock, then took off his costume and interviewed bystanders about what they had seen.

"People loved it. It was socially engaging," the 30-year-old told AP.

But when Mr Doyle announced he would head back to the mountain on 19 September last year, Monadnock park manager Patrick Hummel brought it to the attention of his supervisor in an e-mail entitled “Bigfoot problem on Monadnock… not kidding”.

Mr Hummel then intercepted Mr Doyle during his next outing, barring the film-maker and his friends from filming and requiring them to obtain a permit.

"Jonathan Doyle started this thing with nothing but good humour and intentions," said Barbara Keshen, a lawyer for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. "But it does have serious overtones."

What say you? Do filmmakers and other media creators need permission and permits when in or on public places and spaces?