A slippery slope...
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People have long worried that technology is destroying privacy.
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While the Obama administration has promised to strengthen protections for whistleblowers, it has also launched an aggressive crackdown on government employees who have leaked national security information to the press. The administration has brought a total of six cases under the Espionage Act, which dates from World War I and criminalizes disclosing information “ relating to the national defense .” (The Department of Justice has five criminal cases and the Army has one against alleged Wikileaks source Bradley Manning.) Prior to the current administration, there had been only three known cases resulting in indictments in which the Espionage Act was used to prosecute government officials for leaks.
the war on whistleblowers
By 2005, there was considerable international (i.e., American) and domestic political pressure to lift the state of emergency and the laws that go with it—a commitment Mubarak made in his run for a fifth term. Yet Mubarak subsequently argued that since Egypt continued to confront the related threats of terrorism and extremism, in order for him to keep his campaign promise, the constitution would need to be amended before he would rescind the Emergency Law. The ensuing constitutional amendments provided a basis for the repeal of the state of emergency and its concomitant laws only because critical components of these regulations were now to be written into the constitution. For example, whereas the Emergency Law once gave the president the power to refer civilians to military tribunals, that prerogative would now be enshrined in Article 179 of the constitution.
On the evening of May 13, 2008, Jenny Synan waited for a phone call from her husband, Daniel McGowan. An inmate at Sandstone, a federal prison in Minnesota, McGowan was serving a seven-year sentence for participating in two ecologically motivated arsons. It was their second wedding anniversary, their first with him behind bars.
Days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration started making decisions that led to the official authorisation of torture tactics, indefinite incommunicado detention and the denial of habeas corpus for people who would be detained at Guantánamo, Bagram, or "black sites" (secret prisons) run by the CIA, kidnappings, forced disappearances and extraordinary rendition to foreign countries to exploit their torturing services. While some of those practices were canceled when Barack Obama took office in January 2009, others continue to characterise US detention policy in the "war on terror". Even the canceled policies continue to stain the record because there has been a total failure to hold the intellectual authors of these illegal practices accountable or to provide justice for the victims of American torture and extraordinary rendition.
Of all the topics on which I’ve focused, I’ve likely written most about America’s two-tiered justice system — the way in which political and financial elites now enjoy virtually full-scale legal immunity for even the most egregious lawbreaking, while ordinary Americans, especially the poor and racial and ethnic minorities, are subjected to exactly the opposite treatment: the world’s largest prison state and most merciless justice system. That full-scale destruction of the rule of law is also the topic of my forthcoming book . But The New York Times this morning has a long article so perfectly illustrating what I mean by “two-tiered justice system” — and the way in which it obliterates the core covenant of the American Founding: equality before the law — that it’s impossible for me not to highlight it. The article’s headline tells most of the story: “ In Financial Crisis, No Prosecutions of Top Figures .”
Bruce Ackerman shows how the institutional dynamics of the last half-century have transformed the American presidency into a potential platform for political extremism and lawlessness. Watergate, Iran-Contra, and the War on Terror are only symptoms of deeper pathologies. Ackerman points to a series of developments that have previously been treated independently of one another—from the rise of presidential primaries, to the role of pollsters and media gurus, to the centralization of power in White House czars, to the politicization of the military, to the manipulation of constitutional doctrine to justify presidential power-grabs.
In 1961, Dwight Eisenhower famously identified the military-industrial complex, warning that the growing fusion between corporations and the armed forces posed a threat to democracy.
When stories originally surfaced to the effect that President Obama had authorized the killing of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, my first reaction was to say that the criticism of some civil libertarians was overblown. A warrior fighting on the battlefield against U.S. forces in a conflict has no privilege against being killed because he is a U.S. citizen—that’s a well-settled norm of the laws of war, upheld by the Supreme Court in Ex parte Quirin (1942). Surely the Obama Administration would justify its action under these principles: there must be evidence linking al-Awlaki to an imminent, military threat involving al Qaeda and its associated forces, and evidence putting him in a command and control position.
Over the last decade, the term lawfare, an amalgamation of “law” and “warfare,” has been adopted and popularized among people engaged in monitoring, judging and debating the legality of a state’s wartime behavior vis-à-vis enemies on and off the battlefield. Today, the dominant theme in debates about lawfare turns on the contested legitimacy of litigation to challenge military and security policies and practices; and efforts to sue or prosecute state agents, government-funded contractors, and corporations who are alleged to have engaged in or abetted serious violations of law in the conduct of war. While some people (myself included) attach a positive connotation to the term and the activities to which it refers, those who oppose efforts to constrain military and executive discretion in accordance with international law standards disparage it.
[This is the fifth part of a six-part series associated with a Jadaliyya roundtable discussing targeted killings . Participants include Richard Falk , Nathan Freed Wessler , Pardiss Kabriaei , Leonard Small , and Lisa Hajjar . Click here for the introduction to the roundtable.] Three US citizens were killed in Yemen in 2011 by drone strikes carried out under the auspices of the government’s targeted killing program. They were neither charged with any crime nor brought before a judge.
David Cole AFP/Getty Images A screen shot of a video posted on the Internet on October 6, 2010 showing militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. On Friday, a front-page New York Times story reported that a rift has emerged within the Obama Administration over whether it has authority to kill “rank-and-file” Islamist militants in foreign countries in which there is not an internationally recognized “armed conflict.” The implications of this debate are not trivial: Imagine that Russia started killing individuals living in the United States with remote-controlled drone missiles, and argued that it was justified in doing so because it had determined, in secret, that they posed a threat to Russia’s security, and that the United States was unwilling to turn them over. Would we calmly pronounce such actions compliant with the rule of law?
New York, NY - An important question confronting courts in the United States is whether individuals subjected to torture and other abuse in the "war on terror" can obtain a judicial remedy for their mistreatment. A recent decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, concludes that they may not. The decision, which throws out the civil suit of former enemy combatant Jose Padilla , is troubling, both in its result and potential sweep. It not only threatens core freedoms protected by the constitution, but also undermines the principle that government officials should be held accountable for their illegal conduct. Padilla was the victim of one of the most extraordinary uses of military detention power after the 9/11 attacks. In May 2002, Padilla was arrested by the FBI at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and detained as a material witness in connection with the government's investigation into the attacks.
Every day through Sept. 11, we’ll offer a new story from “Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice,” about men and women caught in the war on terror’s crossfire. On New Year’s Eve 2003, Khaled el-Masri, now 48, was seized at the border of Serbia and Macedonia by Macedonian police who mistakenly believed that he was traveling on a false German passport. (Reportedly, he was mistaken for a suspected terrorist with the name al-Masri.) He was detained for over three weeks before being handed over to the CIA and rendered to Afghanistan.
New Haven, CT - In 1893, a massive financial panic sent demand for the Pullman Palace Car Company into a downward spiral. The luxury rail car company reacted by slashing workers' wages and increasing their work load. After negotiations with ownership broke down the following year, the American Railway Union, in solidarity with Pullman factory workers, launched a boycott that eventually shut down railroads across the US.
Policing & Prisons...