Tag Archive: No Fly List

Jul 24 2014

How To Get On The Terrorist Watch List Without Ever Trying

Are you on the Department of Homeland Security’s Terrorist Watch List or No-Fly List? If you are, there is no way for you to find out but we now know what the criteria is and it’s pretty fast and loose with the rules. The Intercept investigative journalists Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux have obtained a copy of the guidelines from a document that was issued by the National Counterterrorism Center, the “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance.” In an extensive article, they examine how the government is using secret rules  “putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings.”

The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place “entire categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.

Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases-though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list. In an affidavit, Holder called them a “clear roadmap” to the government’s terrorist-tracking apparatus, adding: “The Watchlisting Guidance, although unclassified, contains national security information that, if disclosed … could cause significant harm to national security.” [..]

The document’s definition of “terrorist” activity includes actions that fall far short of bombing or hijacking. In addition to expected crimes, such as assassination or hostage-taking, the guidelines also define destruction of government property and damaging computers used by financial institutions as activities meriting placement on a list. They also define as terrorism any act that is “dangerous” to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation.

This combination-a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist-opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources-and might go unnoticed. [..]

The fallout is personal too. There are severe consequences for people unfairly labeled a terrorist by the U.S. government, which shares its watchlist data with local law enforcement, foreign governments, and “private entities.” Once the U.S. government secretly labels you a terrorist or terrorist suspect, other institutions tend to treat you as one. It can become difficult to get a job (or simply to stay out of jail). It can become burdensome-or impossible-to travel. And routine encounters with law enforcement can turn into ordeals. [..]

The government has been widely criticized for making it impossible for people to know why they have been placed on a watchlist, and for making it nearly impossible to get off. The guidelines bluntly state that “the general policy of the U.S. Government is to neither confirm nor deny an individual’s watchlist status.” But the courts have taken exception to the official silence and footdragging: In June, a federal judge described the government’s secretive removal process as unconstitutional and “wholly ineffective.”

The difficulty of getting off the list is highlighted by a passage in the guidelines stating that an individual can be kept on the watchlist, or even placed onto the watchlist, despite being acquitted of a terrorism-related crime. The rulebook justifies this by noting that conviction in U.S. courts requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas watchlisting requires only a reasonable suspicion. Once suspicion is raised, even a jury’s verdict cannot erase it.

Not even death provides a guarantee of getting off the list. The guidelines say the names of dead people will stay on the list if there is reason to believe the deceased’s identity may be used by a suspected terrorist-which the National Counterterrorism Center calls a “demonstrated terrorist tactic.” In fact, for the same reason, the rules permit the deceased spouses of suspected terrorists to be placed onto the list after they have died.

Essentially, once a person is on these lists their Fourth Amendment rights are completely ignored, as Mike Masnick at Techdirt points out individuals are subjected to extra scrutiny, essentially allowing the government to sift through every aspect of a person’s life:

In addition to data like fingerprints, travel itineraries, identification documents and gun licenses, the rules encourage screeners to acquire health insurance information, drug prescriptions, “any cards with an electronic strip on it (hotel cards, grocery cards, gift cards, frequent flyer cards),” cellphones, email addresses, binoculars, peroxide, bank account numbers, pay stubs, academic transcripts, parking and speeding tickets, and want ads. The digital information singled out for collection includes social media accounts, cell phone lists, speed dial numbers, laptop images, thumb drives, iPods, Kindles, and cameras. All of the information is then uploaded to the TIDE (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment) database.

Screeners are also instructed to collect data on any “pocket litter,” scuba gear, EZ Passes, library cards, and the titles of any books, along with information about their condition-“e.g., new, dog-eared, annotated, unopened.” Business cards and conference materials are also targeted, as well as “anything with an account number” and information about any gold or jewelry worn by the watchlisted individual. Even “animal information” – details about pets from veterinarians or tracking chips-is requested. The rulebook also encourages the collection of biometric or biographical data about the travel partners of watchlisted individuals.

At FDL’s The Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola discusses how this loop-hole ridden criteria violate a person’s rights and are inherently discriminatory towards Muslims:

There are a few general points to make in order to fully understand what this vague criteria for watchlisting means.

First of all, it is important not to ignore the anti-Muslim racism that likely influences a number of aspects of the watchlisting process. The idea that Muslims are “predisposed” to commit acts of violence is pervades the national security establishment. Training materials on fighting terrorism have been used by government agencies in previous years that deal with theories of “radicalization” and such training promotes prejudice, as evidenced by the fact that one NSA official used the slur “Mohammed Raghead” in an NSA memo.

Second, a federal district court in Oregon recently decided violated due process rights of Americans placed on the No-Fly List because it is nearly impossible to challenge inclusion and clear one’s name. The ACLU represented thirteen Americans, who have never engaged in any terrorist activity, in this case. Each person experienced hardship because they ended up on the No-Fly List.

The guidance shows why there needs to be a process established for getting off watchlists, especially the No-Fly List.

Finally, there is absolutely no reasonable justification for why this rulebook and any version of it from 2001 to 2014 should be secret. The watchlisting guidance is marked “unclassified.” There is nothing in it that will endanger any Americans.

Jeremy and Ryna sat down for an an interview with Huffington Post‘s Alyona Minkovski. During the discussion, Ryan called the these guidelines a “global stop and frisk program.”

Recently there were two court rulings that pertain to getting off the No-Fly list and a Supreme Court decision that bars warrantless searches of cell phones. Precisely how how those rulings will impact the guidelines remains to be seen but it is fairly obvious that the Obama administration has little regard for the rule of law.

Feb 13 2014

Obama Administration Abuses National Security, Secrecy Powers

Would the US Government executive branch abuse it’s state secrets privilege, abuse the classification of documents, and use its ability to prevent a foreign national’s entry to the US to bar her access to the court system? Would it spend millions of taxpayer dollars on lawyers improperly?

The answer is unequivocally yes.

Would top Obama administration officials practice deceit  repeatedly in support of efforts to avoid admission of a simple error?

Absolutely.

Here is proof that the Obama administration at the highest levels cannot be trusted to fairly, prudently and honestly wield the powers they have arrogated unto themselves in the name of national security.  Not only are they a pack of liars, they are people that lack the honor and decency to admit when they have made a simple mistake and apologize for it.

How Obama Officials Cried ‘Terrorism’ to Cover Up a Paperwork Error

After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error.

FBI agent Kevin Kelley was investigating Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004 when he checked the wrong box on a terrorism form, erroneously placing Rahinah Ibrahim on the no-fly list.

What happened next was the real shame. Instead of admitting to the error, high-ranking President Barack Obama administration officials spent years covering it up. Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and a litany of other government officials claimed repeatedly that disclosing the reason Ibrahim was detained, or even acknowledging that she’d been placed on a watch list, would cause serious damage to the U.S. national security. Again and again they asserted the so-called “state secrets privilege” to block the 48-year-old woman’s lawsuit, which sought only to clear her name.

Eric_Holder perjuryEric Holder declared to the court that the government would not claim national security privileges to conceal administrative errors or prevent embarrassment.

Holder should have been charged with perjury for his mendacity and the administration should be beyond embarrassed.

Due to the clerical error committed by the FBI agent, the plaintiff in this case, having recently had a hysterectomy and wheelchair bound, was handcuffed, detained and denied her pain medications for hours. After she was released and returned to her home country, the administration barred her from returning to the US to attend her trial.

Most normal folks after discovering that they have by error caused someone pain, embarrassment and severe inconvenience would find apologizing for their error to be the right thing to do.  Apparently the Obama administration is not peopled by normal folks.

The administration almost got away with it.  The judge initially dismissed the case basis of the government’s claims.  After a federal appeals court reinstated the suit, the judge learned what the government had been at pains to conceal. In a pretrial conference the judge said, “I feel that I have been had by the government.”  

From the decision:

At long last, the government has conceded that plaintiff poses no threat to air safety or national  security and should never have been placed on the no-fly  list. She got there by human error within the FBI. This too is conceded. This was no minor human error but an error with palpable impact, leading to the humiliation, cuffing, and incarceration of an innocent and incapacitated air traveler. That it was human error may seem hard to accept – the FBI agent filled out the nomination form in a way exactly opposite from the instructions on the form, a bureaucratic analogy to a surgeon amputating the wrong digit – human error, yes, but of considerable consequence. Nonetheless, this order accepts the agent’s testimony.

The judge goes on in the ruling to describe some of the various abuses that the Obama administration engaged in to conceal the information from the public on realization that the petty error they had expended so much effort to conceal would be known to the court:

In stubborn resistance to letting the public and press see the details of this case, the government has made numerous motions to dismiss on various grounds, including an overbroad complete dismissal request based on state secrets. When it could not win an outright dismissal, it tried to close the trial from public view via invocation of a statutory privilege for “sensitive security information” (“SSI”), 49 U.S.C. 114(r) and 49 C.F.R. 1520.5, and the “law enforcement privilege.” Roviaro v. United States, 353 U.S. 53, 59 (1957). At least ten times the trial was interrupted and the public asked to leave so that such evidence could be presented.

Given the lengths that this administration has gone to in order to cover up a petty error made during a previous administration, one can only imagine the abuses of office and the national security and secrecy powers that they have arrogated unto themselves to cover up errors serious enough to be called war crimes.

When the Obama administration wielded the full power of the United States to prevent an international investigation of the Bush administration’s war crimes, perhaps his base which claims to care about these things should have paid more attention:

One of the little reported details from the latest batch of Wikileaks material are cables showing that the Obama Administration worked hard behind the scenes not only to prevent any investigation of torture in the United States but shutdown efforts abroad to enforce the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. …

American officials pressured government officials, including prosecutors and judges, not to enforce international law and that this was “a very serious matter for the USG.” It was Obama’s own effort at creating a “Coalition of the Unwilling” – nations unwilling to enforce treaties on torture and war crimes when the alleged culprits are American officials. …

Just as many conservatives abandoned their principles in following George Bush blindly, many liberals have chosen to ignore Obama’s concerted efforts to protect individuals accused of war crimes.

James_R._Clapper tehwahwistsObama’s “most transparent administration ever” is transparently untrustworthy and abuses the powers of office to cover up errors and crimes great and utterly petty. The powers that it has arrogated unto itself are enormous.  Besides the ability to scream 9/11! 9/11! Terrorists are everywhere!, which apparently is all congress and the press need to hear, the president has acquired some of the most extraordinary powers ever granted to the executive:

The administration has no burden of proof whatsoever to overcome before “disposing” of someone, even an American citizen. … When he ordered the murder of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen without charging him with any crime, and without presenting any evidence to anyone, he avoided questions by hiding behind executive privilege. Only weeks later, Obama ordered another drone strike that killed Awlaki’s 16 year old son, and also refused to answer the serious questions surrounding that strike.

And there are further options:

In December 2011, President Obama signed the 2012 NDAA, codifying indefinite military detention without charge or trial into law for the first time in American history. The NDAA’s dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president – and all future presidents – to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield.

This is just too much unaccountable power to be vested in any president.  

Would the people who claim to care about justice, civil rights and civil liberties please wake up?

Jun 12 2013

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

America is a wonderful place where everyone is caring, competent, conscientious and above average.

America’s law enforcement agencies have never gotten the wrong guy.

A mistaken identity arrest occurs almost every day, said policing experts and officials at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

America’s courts have never convicted the wrong person, and certainly no innocent person has ever gone to jail in America.

Freddie Peacock of Rochester, New York, was convicted of rape in 1976. Last week he became the 250th person to be exonerated by DNA testing since 1989. According to a new report by the Innocence Project, those 250 prisoners served 3,160 years between them; 17 spent time on death row. Remarkably, 67 percent of them were convicted after 2000-a decade after the onset of modern DNA testing. The glaring question here is, How many more are there?

 

Why, our American anti-terrorist infrastructure is virtually infallible in choosing whom to single out for investigation and actions which challenge their rights to participate in our society.

The meeting had all the hallmarks of an ordinary Congressional hearing. There was Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, discussing the problems faced by ordinary citizens mistakenly placed on terrorist watch lists. Then, to the astonishment of the crowd attending a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, Mr. Kennedy offered himself up as Exhibit A.

Between March 1 and April 6, airline agents tried to block Mr. Kennedy from boarding airplanes on five occasions because his name resembled an alias used by a suspected terrorist who had been barred from flying on airlines in the United States, his aides and government officials said.

Instead of acknowledging the craggy-faced, silver-haired septuagenarian as the Congressional leader whose face has flashed across the nation’s television sets for decades, the airline agents acted as if they had stumbled across a fanatic who might blow up an American airplane. Mr. Kennedy said they refused to give him his ticket.

“He said, ‘We can’t give it to you,’ ” Mr. Kennedy said, describing an encounter with an airline agent to the rapt audience. ” ‘You can’t buy a ticket to go on the airline to Boston.’ I said, ‘Well, why not?’ He said, ‘We can’t tell you.’ “

Individuals working for law enforcement have never abused their authority and knowingly sought to obtain punishment or leverage over another person for political reasons.

Hoping to prove the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was under the influence of Communists, the FBI kept the civil rights leader under constant surveillance.

The agency’s hidden tape recorders turned up almost nothing about communism.

But they did reveal embarrassing details about King’s sex life — details the FBI was able to use against him.

The almost fanatical zeal with which the FBI pursued King is disclosed in tens of thousands of FBI memos from the 1960s. …

When King learned he would be the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the FBI decided to take its harassment of King one step further, sending him an insulting and threatening note anonymously. A draft was found in the FBI files years later. In it the FBI wrote, “You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that.” The letter went on to say, “The American public … will know you for what you are — an evil, abnormal beast,” and “Satan could not do more.”

The letter’s threat was ominous, if not specific: “King you are done.” Some have theorized the intent of the letter was to drive King to commit suicide in order to avoid personal embarrassment. “King, there is only one thing left for you to do,” the letter concluded. “You know what it is … You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

Individuals working for law enforcement have never abused their access to digital materials for any reason.

Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia. …

“These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones,” said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA’s Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.

She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and “collected on” as they called their offices or homes in the United States. …

Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of “cuts” that were available on each operator’s computer.

“Hey, check this out,” Faulk says he would be told, “there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out.

America has never prosecuted Americans under the Espionage Act for political reasons.

The impassioned speeches of labor organizer, Socialist leader and five-time presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs were nothing short of evangelical in tone and effect. (He once called socialism “merely Christianity in action.”) Debs inspired groups large and small, and his remarkable charisma is what most concerned the powers that were. …

According to historian Ernest Freeberg, it was precisely Debs’ virtuosity that forced America to grapple with the limits of dissent. In 1918, Debs was convicted under the recently minted Espionage Act for questioning America’s entry into World War I. …

“People should go ahead and obey the law, keep their mouths shut, and let the government run the war.” Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. dismissed criticism of the court’s unanimous ruling against Debs as “a lot of jaw about free speech.”

Don’t worry. Be happy.

Average American citizens have never been targeted inappropriately by the government using authorities intended to combat terrorism

Documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal new details of Pentagon surveillance of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups. The documents show that the Pentagon was keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database.

President Obama’s got your back.

President Obama would never allow average American citizens going about their business of participating in American politics to be targeted as terrorist enemies.  

A Department of Homeland Security division produced daily briefings on “peaceful activist demonstrations” during the height of the Occupy Wall Street protests, documents released Tuesday revealed.

The 252 pages of documents were obtained in a March 14 letter from DHS by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which in November 2011 launched a campaign to unearth public records that would show whether the federal government was spying on Occupy Wall Street. FBI records obtained by the group in December showed that the bureau investigated Occupy as a potential “domestic terrorism” threat.

“Taken together, the two sets of documents paint a disturbing picture of federal law enforcement agencies using their vast power in a systematic effort to surveil and disrupt peaceful demonstrations,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said in a statement. “The federal agencies’ actions were not because Occupy represented a ‘terrorist threat’ or a ‘criminal threat,’ but rather because it posed a significant grassroots political challenge to the status quo.”