Justice Articles from 2017
Arizona Citizens Tracked In Facial Recognition Database In First Step For REAL ID Implementation
By Aaron Kesel
Posted December 30 2017
The program is an effort that is part of a nationwide initiative called the REAL ID Act that was created by Congress in 2005 as a response to the September 11th terror attacks. The system allows the state to comply with the federal act, which increased standards for identification documents. Although the REAL ID Act does not explicitly call for facial recognition, it does maintain that states need to take measures to reduce fraud.
But the use of the system to prevent identity theft isn’t what people are worried about; the problem is the lack of oversight in government programs that allows anyone with access to look into the database. As such, state-run facial recognition databases are dangerous and can lead down a slippery slope to allow other operations the technology wasn’t intended for. More…
Ten Myths About the NSA, Debunked
By Peter Van Buren
Posted December 28, 2017
Maybe we should simply stop thinking about all this surveillance as a matter of stopping terrorists and start thinking more about what it means to have a metastasized global surveillance system aimed at spying on us all, using a fake argument about the need for 100 percent security in return for ever more minimal privacy.
What exactly are we protecting from what? If, instead of spending trillions of dollars on spying and domestic surveillance, we had spent that same money on repairing our infrastructure and improving our schools, wouldn’t we now have a safer, stronger America? Remember that famously absurd Vietnam War quote from an American officer talking about brutal attack on Ben Tre, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it”? How can anyone say we are protecting our liberty and freedom by taking it away? More…
Israel Tackles Existential Threat Posed By 16-Year-Old Palestinian Girl
by Robert Mackey
Posted December 26, 2017
On Wednesday, an Israeli military court extended the detention of Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old girl who has become the face of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank for many who follow the weekly protests in her village through social media.
The girl was arrested in an overnight raid of her family’s home in the village of Nabi Saleh early Monday.
As Palestinian activists noted, however, that reading of the incident ignores the fact that the soldiers were on the family’s property, in an area that has been under military occupation for more than half a century. More…
NSA Secretly Helped Convict Defendants in U.S. Courts, Classified Documents Reveal
by Trevor Aaronson
Posted December 19, 2017
“The government intercepts Americans’ emails and phone calls in vast quantities using this spying law and stores them in databases for years,” said Patrick Toomey, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “FBI agents around the country then go searching through that trove of data as a matter of course, including in domestic criminal investigations. Yet, over almost a decade, only a handful of individuals have ever received notice.”
The Justice Department, FBI, and NSA declined to comment for this article. The New York Times in 2013 reported that lawyers in the Justice Department’s National Security Division had believed they did not need to disclose in court whether evidence obtained through FISA specifically originated with Section 702 unless they were presenting material received directly from a Section 702 sweep.
The U.S. solicitor general then successfully pushed for a change in policy, bolstered by fallout from the Snowden disclosures; this was followed by a review of past cases by the National Security Division, after which prosecutors filed supplemental Section 702 notices in a handful of cases around the country. In four such cases, the defendants had already been convicted by the time of the disclosure. And whatever changes occurred in 2013 were clearly limited, given that fewer than a dozen such notices have ever been given in court cases, and none at all has been filed in the last year and a half. More…
Fed Gov’t Just Admitted It Will Continue Warrantless Spying—Even If Congress Votes to Stop It
By Rachel Blevins
Posted December 11, 2017
As the United States Congress runs out of time to vote on a bill that would reauthorize one of the government’s most egregious warrantless spying programs, officials are claiming that those programs won’t end anytime soon—even if they are not reauthorized by the end of the year.
The USA Liberty Act will reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2017. While the bill’s proponents have claimed it will help ensure “security” in the United States, privacy advocates have warned that will provide additional loopholes for the government to continue conducting warrantless surveillance of innocent Americans.
The assumption may be that if the USA Liberty Act is not signed into law, then the provisions from Section 702 will no longer be legal and the U.S. government will stop collecting data from innocent Americans without warrants—but intelligence officials do not see it that way. More…
Atlanta Police Suddenly Enforce Old Law and Hand Out Tickets to People Feeding the Homeless
by Zaid Jilani
Posted December 4, 2017
Every Sunday, like clockwork, activists Adele Maclean and Marlon Kautz distribute food to the homeless at a public park in Atlanta. But when they went out to deliver food the Sunday before Thanksgiving, taking part in a longtime American holiday season tradition, local police ticketed them for violating a county ordinance that requires a food distribution permit.
Atlanta is in Georgia’s Fulton County, which has long had a policy on the books that requires organizations that distribute food to obtain a permit before doing so. Local authorities have in the past turned a blind eye, according to groups that feed the homeless in different parts of the city. Last week, however, that changed. More…
The Whiskey Rebellion: How Brand New America Tore Up The Bill of Rights
By Joe Jarvis
Posted December 4, 2017
223 years ago today, “The Dreadful Night” occurred in Western Pennsylvania, after an uprising called The Whiskey Rebellion. The United States was brand new. Soldiers who had fought for independence from Great Britain found themselves on opposite sides of a skirmish. Some were having their rights violated practically before the ink was dry on the Bill of Rights. Other Veterans of the Revolution were doing the oppressing at Alexander Hamilton’s behest.
The Whiskey Rebellion saw farmers stand up to an unfair tax handed down by the federal government, and the government responded with the force of a monarchy. It may have all sprung from Alexander Hamilton’s desire for glory. Or Hamilton, the first Secretary of Treasury, may have had other motives for setting the precedent of force which still lives on today.
It all started after the Revolution, in 1791, when the federal government was in debt, and had no official money. The notes they paid to soldiers were worth fractions of what was promised, but many had no choice but to accept the funds and go home in order to try to survive. More…
USA Liberty Act Won’t Fix What’s Most Broken with NSA Internet Surveillance
by Rainey Reitman
Posted December 3, 2017
A key legal linchpin for the National Security Agency’s vast Internet surveillance program is scheduled to disappear in under 90 days. Section 702 of FISA—enacted in 2008 with little public awareness about the scope and power of the NSA’s surveillance of the Internet—supposedly directs the NSA’s powerful surveillance apparatus toward legitimate foreign intelligence targets overseas.
Instead, the surveillance has been turned back on us. Despite repeated inquiries from Congress, the NSA has yet to publicly disclose how many Americans are impacted by this surveillance.
With the law’s sunset looming, Congress is taking up the issue. The USA Liberty Act, may offer a chance to address some of the worst abuses of NSA Internet surveillance even as it reauthorizes some components of the surveillance for another six years. But the first draft of the bill falls short. More…
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