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The Sad State of Civil Liberties   Two excellent articles in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books powerfully underscore the sad state that respect for civil liberties has sunk in the United States in the 11 years since the war on terror was declared (and yes, we know that US record of civil liberties wasn’t always exemplary before then, but still).

The Sad State of Civil Liberties  

Perhaps it’s in the nature of declaring war against concepts that takes us down the slippery slope. Steve Coll in his review of No Easy Day: The First-Hand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by one of the Navy SEAL team leaders in the Abbottabad raid zeroes in on our very troubling collective acceptance of the de facto order to kill Osama bin Laden — rather than capture and bring him to court. Of course there is no doubt that Osama bin Laden was guilty of planning, financing and masterminding a series of heinous crimes against US targets including the September 11 attacks. And yes, there was no actual order to have him killed. Personalizing Civil Liberties Abuses - The Case of Dr. Al-Arian. On Saturday, I was at the University of Chicago for an event to discuss humanitarian intervention and empire.

Personalizing Civil Liberties Abuses - The Case of Dr. Al-Arian

One of my fellow speakers was Tariq Ramadan, the highly regarded Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford. He’s one of the world’s most accomplished scholars in his field. For almost six years — from 2004 until 2010 — Ramadan was banned from entering the U.S. In 2004, he had accepted a tenured position at Notre Dame University, but was forced to resign it when, nine days before he was to move with his family to Indiana, his visa was suddenly revoked by the State Department pursuant to the “ideological exclusion” provision of the PATRIOT Act. Ramadan had been an outspoken critic of violence carried out by Muslims against civilians in the name of the Koran, as well a vigorous opponent of violence carried out by the U.S. That prison sentence was to end in 2007, after which he would be deported. Under Watch: A Day in the New Surveillance Society. Taking as a starting point brochures and internal documents made public last week by WikiLeaks, OWNI guides you through an average day spent under surveillance.

Under Watch: A Day in the New Surveillance Society

This realistic account provides a non-exhaustive overview of the types of technology sold by surveillance weapons dealers, a global market worth five billion dollars a year. 07:15 – Awoken by your smartphone’s alarm clock. Enter your pincode and switch it on. It’s now the perfect spy. Hacking Team, an Italian company, offers to remotely install software compatible with most operating systems (iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone). Katrin Verclas, co-founder of, a network for activists who make use of smartphones as part of their projects, explains: There are numerous vendors who supply ‘spyware’ that, when installed directly or remotely on a person’s mobile device can (…) even remotely activate a mobile’s microphone to act as a clandestine listening device..

See what users are seeing Log on to your social networks. The US Government Is Data Mining You. This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

The US Government Is Data Mining You

I was out of the country only nine days, hardly a blink in time, but time enough, as it happened, for another small, airless room to be added to the American national security labyrinth. On March 22nd, Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Jr. signed off on new guidelines allowing the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), a post-9/11 creation, to hold on to information about Americans in no way known to be connected to terrorism—about you and me, that is—for up to five years. (Its previous outer limit was 180 days.) This, Clapper claimed, "will enable NCTC to accomplish its mission more practically and effectively.

" Joseph K., that icon of single-lettered anonymity from Franz Kafka's novel The Trial, would undoubtedly have felt right at home in Clapper's Washington. A System That Creates Its Own Reality Now, I don't want to overdo it. A Basilica of Chaos. The anti-protest bill signed by Barack Obama is a quiet attack on free speech. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images In post-Occupy America, it’s often hard to know whether new citizen protest laws signal the end of free speech or a mere tweak of the machine.

The anti-protest bill signed by Barack Obama is a quiet attack on free speech

That looks to be the case with the new anti-protest bill that passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly two weeks ago and was signed into law by the president soon thereafter. On its face, the new legislation doesn’t change a whole lot. Yet the Occupy protesters are in an uproar that the bill both targets them and also signals a radical shift in free speech law. Almost nobody else seems to have noticed it at all.

That all depends on what you want to protest and where. H.R. 347, benignly titled the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, passed the House 399-3. Simply put, the way the bill will “improve” public grounds is by moving all those unsightly protesters elsewhere. For one thing, the law makes it easier for the government to criminalize protest.

To sort..

Blogger Sues To See If Government Kept a File on Him. The intelligence community may have had a file on a liberal blogger and academic.

Blogger Sues To See If Government Kept a File on Him

Now he wants to see what, if anything, was in it. Danger Room has learned that lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union* will file a lawsuit Wednesday morning in a federal court in Michigan to compel the government to release any information it collected on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who blogs on Mideast issues at Informed Comment. The suit seeks disclosure of “federal government discussions of, correspondence regarding, inquiries about, and investigations of Professor Cole,” the ACLU’s filing says.

That disclosure is ”urgently needed to inform the national debate about U.S. accountability with respect to the unlawful investigation and surveillance of its citizens.” All Cole is alleged to have done to prompt the attention of the spy community is… blog. *Full disclosure: my fiancee works for the ACLU, and I’ve been friendly with Cole for years. Screengrab: Crooks & Liars. There’s a Secret Patriot Act, Senator Says. You think you understand how the Patriot Act allows the government to spy on its citizens.

There’s a Secret Patriot Act, Senator Says

Sen. Ron Wyden says it’s worse than you know. Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. Wyden (D-Oregon) says that powers they grant the government on their face, the government applies a far broader legal interpretation — an interpretation that the government has conveniently classified, so it cannot be publicly assessed or challenged. But one prominent Patriot-watcher asserts that the secret interpretation empowers the government to deploy “dragnets” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently.

“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden told Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. What exactly does Wyden mean by that? Site: See Also: The "Secret" PATRIOT Act. Secret PATRIOT Act?

The "Secret" PATRIOT Act

What was Wyden talking about? The American people aren’t allowed to know. But they got a taste of how it could be used to suppress freedom a month later, when the New York Times reported on June 16 that former CIA supervisor Glenn L. Carle accused senior Bush administration officials of trolling secret CIA files for negative information about one of its public critics, University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole. Cole is the author of a popular blog that had criticized the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

“But what might we know about him?... Carle rebuffed the request again, stressing that it was illegal. “I couldn’t believe this was happening,” Carle told the Times. Low denied ever making such a request, but other details of Carle’s account were confirmed by the Times, such as verifying that e-mails on Cole had been sent by an assistant to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as Carle had claimed. Nothing to Ignore Cole is right. Cole, ACLU, Sue CIA, FBI seeking Bloggergate Documents. Spencer Ackerman at Wired reports on the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit launched on my behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union against the CIA, FBI, Department of Justice, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Cole, ACLU, Sue CIA, FBI seeking Bloggergate Documents

See also the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. In the text of the lawsuit, ACLU lawyers Michael Steinberg and Zachary Katznelson wrote, “At the heart of this action is whether the CIA, FBI and other agencies undertook an investigation of a U.S. citizen for the simple fact that he was a critic of U.S. government policy. Such a chilling of First Amendment freedoms, if it did in fact take place, would send shock waves through the public arena, threatening to limit the open debate that makes our democracy strong. The public has an urgent need to know whether government agencies are sweeping aside the law and spying on Americans who do nothing more than speak their minds.”

See also Thomas Eddlem’s thoughtful essay on the whole affair. Given Mr.

Civil liberty - curators...

The always-expanding bipartisan Surveillance State - Glenn Greenwald. When I wrote earlier this week about Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article on the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers, the passage I hailed as “the single paragraph that best conveys the prime, enduring impact of the Obama presidency” included this observation from Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin: ”We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national-surveillance state.“ There are three events — all incredibly from the last 24 hours — which not only prove how true that is, but vividly highlight how it functions and why it is so odious.

The always-expanding bipartisan Surveillance State - Glenn Greenwald

Top congressional leaders agreed Thursday to a four-year extension of the anti-terrorist Patriot Act, the controversial law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks that governs the search for terrorists on American soil. The deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner calls for a vote before May 27, when parts of the current act expire. Talk about “secret law.” George Washington: Influential Senator Warned in 1975: “Th[e National Security Agency's] Capability At Any Time Could Be Turned Around On The American People, And No American Would Have Any Privacy Left …There Would Be No Place To Hide. [If A Dictator Eve. Senator Church’s Prophetic Warning Senator Frank Church – who chaired the famous “Church Committee” into the unlawful FBI Cointel program, and who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – said in 1975: “Th[e National Security Agency's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.

There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back. Now, the NSA is building a $2 billion dollar facility in Utah which will use the world’s most powerful supercomputer to monitor virtually all phone calls, emails, internet usage, purchases and rentals, break all encryption, and then store everyone’s data permanently. The former head of the program for the NSA recently held his thumb and forefinger close together, and said: The U.S. Videos: Obama’s state surveillance system. Exclusive: National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance. This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form. JUAN GONZALEZ: Today we bring you a Democracy Now! Special on the growing domestic surveillance state and the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to spy on dissident journalists and activists.

In a national broadcast exclusive, we’re joined by National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney. He was a key source for James Bamford’s recent [exposé] in Wired Magazine about the NSA—how the NSA is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah. Binney served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined by two individuals who have been frequent targets of government surveillance: Laura Poitras, the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, and Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher who has volunteered with WikiLeaks.

WILLIAM BINNEY: Almost four. AMY GOODMAN: Almost four decades. Greenwald: Indefinite detention policies have become normalized legally, politically and culturally in Israel and the US. WaPo: Top Secret America. Huge investigative piece in the Washington Post into “A hidden world growing beyond control” — National Security Inc. — about the massive expansion of the private and government intelligence and counterterrorism activities. What was historically sensitive government-only activities has been outsourced to for-profit vendors, with a variety of problems associated with this: “To ensure that the country’s most sensitive duties are carried out only by people loyal above all to the nation’s interest, federal rules say contractors may not perform what are called “inherently government functions.”

But they do, all the time and in every intelligence and counterterrorism agency, according to a two-year investigation by The Washington Post,” I found the interactive graphic most interesting: click for interactive graphic. Watch FRONTLINE Online. Aired: 09/06/201153:41Rating: NR FRONTLINE reveals 9/11's unprecedented yet largely invisible legacy: the creation of a vast maze of clandestine government and private agencies designed to hunt terrorists and prevent future attacks on the U.S. Top Secret America FRONTLINE reveals 9/11's unprecedented yet largely invisible legacy Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. Government Internet Surveillance Starts With Eyes Built in the West. What has long been an EFF issue is once again making headlines. In recent days, the world is seeing damning reports of authoritarian regimes spying on their citizens using American- and European-made surveillance technologies, with new evidence emerging from Bahrain, Libya, Syria, and Thailand. Last week, Bloomberg reported on Bahrain’s use of Nokia-Siemens surveillance software to intercept messages and gather information on human rights activists, resulting in their arrest and torture.

A Wall Street Journal article published this week alleges the use of products in Libya created by the French company Amesys and the South African firm VASTech SA Pty Ltd. In the past, EFF has documented the sale of surveillance equipment by several companies, including Cisco and Nortel, to China. Two ongoing cases allege that surveillance technology sold to China by Cisco enabled human rights violations. Phone and email records to be stored in new spy plan. A hidden world, growing beyond control. Exposed: Inside the NSA’s Largest and Most Expansive Secret Domestic Spy Center in Bluffdale, Utah. US Constitution vs. The Patriot Act. UPDATED: The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All. Explaining to a 5-Year Old Why the Indefinite Detention Bill DOES Apply to U.S. Citizens on U.S. Soil. Congress endorsing military detention, a new AUMF. Obama and NDAA: Chipping away at the Constitution - HRW. Congress Passes $662 Billion Defense Bill, Aka The NDAA.

Cognitive dissonance and detention without trial. Senate Bill Allows Arrest of Americans by Military Anywhere. ACLU statement on Obama's signing of NDAA. President Obama Signs Indefinite Detention Bill Into Law. YK32P.jpg (JPEG Image, 700x811 pixels) - Scaled (79. Guantánamo Forever? - Obama Says Americans Are MILITARY Targets in the War on Terror ... And Says that Only He - and Not the Courts - Gets to Decide Who Is a Legitimate Target. Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window. Battlefield America: Is Gitmo in Your Future? Why I'm suing the US government to protect internet freedom.