Archive for March, 2007

FBI Director Better Off Than He Thought

31 March 2007

So the FBI’s been having problems, sure, but there have been a fortunate turn of events for it recently, kind of. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Director Mueller told Congress Tuesday that he wanted administrative subpoenas because “We do not have an enforcement mechanism for national security letters.”

It turns out that they do, and in fact have had such a mechanism since the Patriot Act was reauthorized a year ago. Mueller was apparently just unaware of it.

James Dempsey, policy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said that “The FBI director doesn’t know the law that he’s enforcing.’

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Census Data Not to be Shared

30 March 2007

The ACLU, Japanese American Citizens League, and Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee have all asked Congress to ensure that census data will not be shared with surveillance agancies, according to the ACLU. This follows a report in USA Today that said census data had been shared during WWII when Japanese were kept in internment camps.

“Wartime hysteria led our government to violate the privacy and trust of Americans,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. She also noted that, while the census was important, it could not be effective if people were afraid of who might find out what their responses were.

It was also discovered in 2004 that the Census Bureau had shared some zip code information about Arab Americans.

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Bill Would Curb NSL Powers

29 March 2007

Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) has introduced legislation to curb the FBI’s National Security Letter powers, according to the ACLU. The bill would require a FISA court or US Magistrate judge to approve an NSL, and require the attorney general to submit semiannual reports on NSL use to Congress.

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FBI Not Accurate on Warrant Applications

28 March 2007

FBI agents have been providing inaccurate information on warrant applications, according to the Washington Post. An internal review early last year of over 2,000 surveillance warrants found dozens of inaccuracies, from incorrect description of family relationships to citing of inactive informants. The errors were enough to prompt chief justice of the FISA court (Colleen Kollar-Kotelly) to write the Justice Department in December 2005 and request that agents swear in court that the data was accurate.

FISA approves almost all applications (modifying 61 of the 2,074 warrants for 2005 and rejecting none).

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Court Says Yeah You Were Tortured…

27 March 2007

But you’re not Americans, and he’s Donald Rumsfeld.

A court has acknowledged the abuse of nine detainees filing suit against Donald Rumsfeld, but threw out the case anyway, according to BBC News. None of the five Iraqis and four Afghans was ever charged with a crime, but they were hung upside-down and slapped until they lost consciousness, stabbed with knives, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep by loud noises and bright lights, grabbed by aggressive dogs, and subjected to sexual humiliation.

The court says that the abuse was “horrifying,” but that they did not have US constitutional rights and that Donald Rumsfeld is immune to such suits.

This is outrageous.

The court detailed the torture in its 60-page ruling, but since they’re not Americans and Rumsfeld used to be Secretary of Defense, the nine can’t do anything about it.

No worries though, officials say we’re a “leader” in human rights, and WhiteHouse.gov says “Our policy is based on core values that uphold human rights through democracy and the rule of law.”

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In Russia the Government Elects You

27 March 2007

Russia’s government has banned a leading opposition liberal party from standing in elections yesterday, according to the Guardian, because it had too few members. Parties must have at least 50,000 members and be represented in at least half of the country’s provinces; the government says that this is to make the democratic process more efficient. The reasoning is that if the government chooses the parties for you, you’ll have to spend less time deciding who to vote for, thereby making your democratic government more efficient (bit of a loss on the “democratic” part, but well worth it for the tidying up of the process).

“There isn’t much point in talking about democracy in Russia any more.” said Denis Bilonuv, and he’s right! There is no need for chit-chat; and the government has it all figured out anyway, so there’s no need to discuss anything.

Russia is having parliamentary elections this December and a presidential election next year. The Nationalist Bolshevik party was also suspended last week.

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Gonzales’ Lying Isn’t New

26 March 2007

It’s now apparent that Gonzales lied to reporters earlier this month about the firings, and the Progressive reminds us that this is not the first time Gonzales has lied. In January 2005 during his confirmation process, he claimed that “The policy of the United States is not to transfer individuals to countries where we believe they likely will be tortured, whether those individuals are being transferred from inside or outside the United States.”

Of course there is a chance that the Executive Branch is just full of optimism, and didn’t think any of the countries they were sending people to were places they would be tortured.

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Terror List Quadrupled in Four Years

25 March 2007

The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) has more than quadrupled since 2003, according to the Washington Post, going from around 100,000 files to around 435,000. It is now so large that the even the people in charge of managing it say that quality control is a serious issue.

Though the bar for inclusion on the list is set very low, getting off of it is nearly impossible. In 2005, a mere 31 people were taken off it. Names are often mixed up, and people don’t get to know why they’re on the list. For instance, the British singer Cat Stevens, who converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam, is not allowed to fly. This is sometimes a problem for Ted Stevens’ (R-AK) wife at the airport, whose name is Catherine.

Related Post

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They Want to Close Gitmo, Really They Do

24 March 2007

The White House says that, although “everyone” wants to close Gitmo, they can’t, according to Reuters. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that “The problem is that you have a number of dangerous people who, in some cases, cannot be held, cannot be tried in other places and they are too dangerous to release. So you need to be able to deal with it in some way.”

The civilian justice system is much too good for these un-charged-un-convicted-but-yet-no-doubt-terribly-evil-people, so obviously we can’t move them to the US.

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Party Politics Against D.C.

23 March 2007

A vote on whether D.C. residents should get full representation rights in the House has stalled, according to the Los Angeles Times. Republicans added a repeal of the city’s gun ban laws, so Democrats acted swiftly to delay the vote indefinitely.

House Minority Leader John a Boehner (R-Ohio) said that Democratic leaders “shamefully exploited a rule to kill debate and postpone the vote indefinitely.” Mayor Adrian Fenty said that there is not support in the city for repeal of the gun laws.

Bush has threatened to veto D.C. voting rights if it reaches him, saying that the Constitution allows only for representation rights of the states. This is because Bush has an immense amount of respect for the constitution, and people who don’t live in states aren’t real people anyway. They also pay no taxes, do not serve in the military, and contribute nothing to us state-dwellers at all. In addition, nearly 90% of them voted for Kerry in 2004.

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