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Civil Liberties Watch

9/19: Bush urges Congress to make surveillance law updates permanent
President Bush today called on Congress to make permanent a law that gives the government broad authority to eavesdrop without warrants on phone calls, e-mail and other communication between people in the United States and suspected 'terrorists' abroad.
The president wants Congress to extend the law, set to expire in February, that allows spy agencies to intercept the communications of suspected terrorists that pass through U.S. switching facilities >> Read More

8/21: DOD ending TALON military database of domestic spying in September
The US Defense Department's controversial Threat and Local Observation Notice system, or TALON database [Wired report; JURIST news archive], will be discontinued on September 17 [press release; official report] but the data it has collected will be retained in accordance with intelligence oversight requirements, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Gary Keck said Tuesday. Keck said that TALON is being suspended because it no longer has "analytical value." Keck announced that a new reporting system has not yet been implemented and, in the interim, the Department of Defense [official website] will use the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Guardian reporting system.

TALON, created after the September 11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive], was designed to consolidate information regarding threats against the US military into one database. NBC News revealed [NBC report] in December 2005 that the military maintained a database of "suspicious incidents" that included peaceful anti-war protests and groups. The Pentagon launched an investigation [DOD press release; JURIST report] into possible misuse of the program, which revealed that about 260 entries were improper and subject to removal [JURIST report]. In April, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. recommended to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the TALON database be shut down [JURIST report], but a final decision on whether to continue the program was postponed >> Read More

8/17: FBI, CIA, Corporate America censored and edited Wikipedia entries

A new scanning program has revealed that the FBI and CIA have been editing Wikipedia entries on topics ranging from the Iraq war to Guantanamo.

WikiScanner, developed by CalTech graduate student Virgil Griffith, has traced editorial changes made to the online encyclopedia to FBI and CIA computers, including the removal of satellite imagery of the Guantanamo prison camp on the island of Cuba, where the United States has detained suspected terrorists since 2002, and redactions of articles on the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The program revealed that the CIA edited entries about its former director, William Colby, altering details of his career, and that a graphic on casualties in Iraq was manipulated to downplay the figures.
A number of commercial companies were also found to have edited entries related to them, in clear violation of Wikipedia's editorial guidelines that disqualify people or organizations from editing articles that concern them directly >> Read More


The so-called DHS's Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) encourage a regional approach to strengthening homeland security.  Grant funding priorities include reducing risks of improvised explosive devices and radiological, chemical and biological weapons.  They emphasize interoperable communications, information sharing and citizen preparedness.  HSGP fiscal year 2007 funding totals are:

- State Homeland Security Program (SHSP)- $509.3 million
- Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP)- $363.8 million
- Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)- $746.9 million
- Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS)- $32.0 million
- Citizen Corps Program (CCP)- $14.6 million

>> Read More

1/8: Texas Prison Camp Future American Gulag?

A detention camp in Tyler Texas that currently holds hundreds of rebuffed asylum seekers who legally entered the country, half of which are children swept up in midnight raids, is a potential prime location for the enforced transfer of American citizens during a time of national emergency. >> Read More

1/8: Former Navy officer at Guantanamo faces court-martial over passing secret information

A Navy lawyer charged with passing secret information about Guantanamo Bay detainees to an unauthorized person was ordered on Monday to face a court-martial, the Navy said. >> Read More

10/18: Bush Signs the Detainee Bill - Welcome to Martial Law?
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
October 17, 2006

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) denounced President Bush's signing into law of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) on October 17, 2006. The final version of the bill emerged only four days before the Senate's 11th hour vote. Although President Bush declared that "time was of the essence" when he called for the legislation, he has waited nearly two weeks to sign it into law. Congress has once again been cowed into doing the President's bidding and abdicated their Constitutional powers in the process, say attorneys.
The new law strips the right of non-citizens to seek review of their detention by a court through the filing of a writ of habeas corpus, the venerated legal instrument that for centuries has protected people from arbitrary detention, disappearance and indefinite detention without charge. The Act is also meant to erase the hundreds of habeas corpus petitions that CCR and others have brought on behalf of many of the 450 men being held at Guantánamo Bay, a move already once denied by the Supreme Court. >> Read
Articles, Analysis:

Q and A: Military Commissions Act of 2006 (Human Rights Watch)

Download the Report

10/17: Detainee bill a step backwards (Denver Post Opinion)

10/18: America, Welcome to Martial Law? (Media Monitors Network)

10/17 Civil Rights Attorney Lynne Stewart Sentenced to
28 Months In Jail; Remains Free On Bail

Civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart is claiming victory today in a case that
could have landed her in jail for the rest of her life. On Monday (10/16), Stewart
was sentenced to twenty-eight months in prison. She'll remain free on bail
while her conviction is appealed. >> Read
Listen to Democracy Now! Radio Report

2/25: Justice Department Demands Google To Let Gov't Check Their Users

In a almost censored story, the U.S. government are soon forcing Google to check their search engine users!
The Justice Department says concerns by Google Inc. that the Bush administration's demand to examine millions of its users' Internet search requests would violate privacy rights are 'unwarranted' because the information provided would not identify or be traceable to specific users. >> Read More
ACLU Urges Court to Reject Governments Bid for Google Records (2/17/2006)
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged a California federal court to reject the government’s demand for millions of Google search records, saying that it has not justified the need for obtaining massive amounts of consumer information. >> Read More

2/10: Patriot Act compromise may be near, Take Actions!
A key group of Senate Republicans reached an agreement with the White House yesterday to include several new civil liberties protections in the USA Patriot Act, a development that appears likely to break a logjam over extending the controversial antiterrorism law. >> Read More
Stop the PATROTIC Act!  >> Take Action!
Stop Illegal Surveillance
The ACLU is suing the National Security Agency for violating the U.S. Constitution. The illegal NSA spying program authorized by President Bush just after September 11, 2001, allows the NSA to intercept vast quantities of the international telephone and Internet communications of innocent Americans without court approval.
Without a system of checks and balances, the government can monitor any phone call or e-mail they want, and they can collect and disseminate any data they find however they like. Just knowing that the government is spying without cause on innocent Americans sends a chilling message to all of us that our conversations are not our own.

The NSA's warrantless surveillance must end and checks and balances be restored.

>> Read More

1/24 European Investigator: U.S. 'Outsourced' Torture
The head of a European investigation into alleged CIA secret prisons in Europe said Tuesday there was evidence the United States outsourced torture to other countries and it was likely European governments knew about it.
``There is a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of 'relocation' or 'outsourcing' of torture,'' Marty said in a report presented to the Council of Europe, the human rights watchdog investigating the alleged secret prisons.

The report said more than 100 terror suspects may have been transferred to countries where they faced torture or ill treatment in recent years.

``It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware,'' Marty said in the report. >> Read More

1/13: Gonzales to Testify on Domestic Spying
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has agreed to testify at a Senate hearing on the Bush administration's domestic spying program.
Gonzales said he responded to a request by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
Gonzales said Friday he will discuss the legal authority for the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping on telephone conversations between suspected terrorists and people in the United States.
The attorney general will not talk about operational aspects of the program at the hearing or divulge any secret information which would aid possible targets of surveillance.
The hearing is expected to take place early next month.
Specter said Sunday that he had asked Gonzales to testify publicly.
The attorney general was White House counsel when Bush initiated the program.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress, legal scholars and analysts at the non-partisan Congressional Research Service have questioned whether the NSA program is within the law.
The existence of the program was first reported in The New York Times in December. Soon after, Bush acknowledged that he had authorized the NSA eavesdropping in the months after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He said his legal authority rested on his constitutional powers and the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force following Sept. 11.
The NSA program bypassed the special court that Congress established in 1978 to approve or reject secret surveillance or searches of foreigners and U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism or espionage.
Gonzales defended the program at a news conference last month, saying the NSA did not seek warrants from the secretive Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act court because ``we don't have the speed and the agility that we need in all circumstances to deal with this new kind of enemy.''
He refused to say how many people have been targeted.   
01/13/06 14:49 EST

Secret Surveillance May Have Occurred Before Authorization
By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 4, 2006; A03
Even before the White House formally authorized a secret program to spy on U.S. citizens without obtaining warrants, such eavesdropping was occurring and some of the information was being shared with the FBI, declassified correspondence and interviews with congressional and intelligence officials indicate.
On Oct. 1, 2001, three weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was running the National Security Agency at the time, told the House intelligence committee that the agency was broadening its surveillance authorities, according to a newly released letter sent to him that month by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Pelosi, the ranking Democrat on the committee, raised concerns in the letter, which was declassified with several redactions and made public yesterday by her staff.
"I am concerned whether and to what extent the National Security Agency has received specific presidential authorization for the operations you are conducting," Pelosi wrote on Oct. 11, 2001. The substance of Hayden's response one week later, on Oct. 17, 2001, was redacted.
The secret NSA program, developed in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on Washington and New York as a way to find any hidden al Qaeda operatives still in the United States, was authorized in October 2001, a senior administration official said.
The president and senior aides have publicly discussed various aspects of the program, but neither the White House, the NSA nor the office of the director of national intelligence would say what day the president authorized it. Don Weber, an NSA spokesman, said in an e-mail yesterday that it would be inappropriate to "discuss details which could potentially cause harm to the safety of our nation."
Pelosi's letter suggested that she and others on the committee first heard about expanded work by the NSA on Oct. 1, 2001, when Hayden briefed them on NSA activities.
"During your appearance before the committee," she wrote, "you indicated that you had been operating since the September 11 attacks with an expansive view of your authorities with respect to the conduct of electronic surveillance." The letter, while redacted in parts concerned with surveillance, made clear that the agency was "forwarding" intercepts and other collected information to the FBI. Two sources familiar with the NSA program said Pelosi was directly referring to information collected without a warrant on U.S. citizens or residents.
An intelligence official close to Hayden said that his appearance on Oct. 1, 2001, before the House committee had been to discuss Executive Order 12333, and not the new NSA program.
The order, signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, gave guidance and specific instructions about the intelligence activities that the U.S. government could engage in. It specifically prohibited domestic surveillance for intelligence purposes without a warrant "unless the Attorney General has determined in each case that there is probable cause to believe that the technique is directed against a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power."
The official said that Pelosi's concerns had been answered in writing and again several weeks later during a private briefing.
The NSA program operated in secret until it was made public in news accounts last month. Since then, President Bush and his advisers have defended it as legal and necessary to protect the country against future attacks and have said Congress was repeatedly consulted. But Democrats, some Republicans and constitutional law experts have raised concerns about whether Bush overstepped his constitutional authority and violated privacy laws meant to guard against the government spying on its own citizens without a warrant. The NSA's work, which is normally restricted to eavesdropping overseas, also angered judges on a special court that administers warrants for secret investigations.
New York Times reporter James Risen, who, with a colleague, was the first to write about the NSA program, released a book yesterday that includes details about the program and other intelligence issues facing the Bush administration.
Jennifer Millerwise Dyck, spokeswoman for the CIA, said the book contains inaccuracies about the CIA's work on Iran's nuclear program and Iraq, but she would not provide details.
Staff writer Carol D. Leonnig and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

House Approves One Month Extension of PATRIOT Act,
Approves 453 billion defense spending bill
December 22, 2005
National Immigrant Solidarity Network, Peace No War Network Alerts!

At the last days of the House and Senate before Christmas vacation, the House balked at a Senate plan to extend the USA Patriot Act by six months to give Congress and President Bush more time to work out their differences, instead forcing the Senate and the administration to accept a one-month extension.

At the same time, the House approved a $460 billion defense bill that was shorn of a provision promoted by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) that would have opened Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. But it put off until next year final agreement on a major budget measure that would trim federal spending by nearly $40 billion over five years. Read the full stories...

1) Patriot Act Extension Is Reduced To a Month
House Action Overcomes Senate's Longer Reprieve
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 23, 2005; A01
The House balked yesterday at a Senate plan to extend the USA Patriot Act by six months to give Congress and President Bush more time to work out their differences, instead forcing the Senate and the administration to accept a one-month extension.
At the same time, the House approved a $460 billion defense bill that was shorn of a provision promoted by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) that would have opened Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. But it put off until next year final agreement on a major budget measure that would trim federal spending by nearly $40 billion over five years.
Congress finished a year in which it rebuffed Bush on many of his top priorities and showed a new willingness to assert its prerogatives after four years during which the president largely dictated the terms and sought to expand executive power at the expense of the legislative branch.
It was also a year marked by bitter infighting in a Republican caucus that had been known for exceptional discipline. Bush and GOP leaders were buffeted by unforeseen events, most of all Hurricane Katrina, that continued to consume lawmakers even as they tried to depart for the year.
One of the most contentious disputes was over whether to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, and it appeared as if the Senate had finessed an impasse with the White House by agreeing Wednesday night to extend the existing domestic surveillance law -- set to expire on Dec. 31 -- by six months. But House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) refused to go along with the agreement yesterday. He demanded that the House pass an extension only through Feb. 3, forcing a few senators to return to the Capitol last night to give the Senate's consent.

"The fact is that a six-month extension, in my opinion, would have simply allowed the Senate to duck the issue until the last week in June," said Sensenbrenner, who had largely prevailed in negotiations with the Senate on a new version of the anti-terrorism law, only to see the compromise blocked by a Senate filibuster. "Now they came pretty close to wrecking everybody's Christmas. I didn't want to put the entire Congress in the position of them wrecking everybody's Independence Day."
The Patriot Act was passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to strengthen the government's hand in combating terrorism. The administration sought to toughen some of the provisions and prevent 16 from expiring. Critics charged that the proposed renewal was too slanted in the government's favor regarding national security letters and special subpoenas that give the FBI significant leeway in obtaining records, among other concerns.
The House action was a setback for Bush, who had repeatedly said he would not accept a "short-term extension." Wednesday night's Senate action, which increased the proposed extension from three months to six, was seen in part as a way for Bush and his allies to save face while accepting the collapse of a four-year renewal of the law; they had supported its renewal and the House had passed it on Dec. 14.
Yesterday's House vote not only erased the face-saving measure, but it also forced Bush to accept the shortest extension that lawmakers had seriously considered.
Democratic lawmakers quickly hailed the House vote as a victory. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said: "Democrats are happy with a one-month extension of the Patriot Act. We always said that we would accept a short-term extension to give negotiators time to get the final bill right."
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) said: "The amount of time is less important than the good-faith effort that will be needed in improving the Patriot Act to strike the right balance in respecting Americans' liberty and privacy, while protecting their security."
Eric Ueland, chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), explained why Frist wanted a longer-term extension of the existing law. "For these investigations," he said, "a six-month extension allows the intelligence community and the Department of Justice to manage investigations without having to manage against the countdown clock."
Despite the confused and discordant conclusion to this year's session of Congress, acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) struck a positive note, rattling off the House's accomplishments.
The House passed and sent to Bush yesterday a $460 billion defense spending bill that includes $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, $29 billion in new hurricane aid, $3.8 billion for bird flu preparedness and a 1 percent, government-wide spending cut, which excludes veterans programs.
Congress also completed work this week on a defense policy bill that asserts congressional will in matters of war almost for the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks. The measure would ban cruel and degrading interrogation methods and would limit the legal rights of detainees in military facilities.
Other achievements cited by Blunt include revising the nation's bankruptcy laws; approving the largest highway and public works bill in history; passing an energy bill that had been sought by Bush for four years; approving the Central American Free Trade Agreement; winning House passage of a budget measure that would slow spending on entitlement programs such as Medicaid; and approving new, get-tough legislation on illegal immigration.
"When you look at what we set out for ourselves at the first of the year, even with Katrina and everything that had to be added after August, it's hard not to say the House finished the year hitting all of our objectives," Blunt said.
But congressional experts and former Republican lawmakers say that, despite those accomplishments, the year will be remembered more for the indictment of former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in September and the ensuing leadership discord, the growing stain of embattled Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and the chaotic conclusion that kept Congress in active legislative session longer than in any year since 1987.
In the final weeks of the legislative session, Republican leaders had to deal with conservatives rebelling over hurricane aid spending, GOP moderates balking at oil drilling and cuts to anti-poverty programs, and civil libertarians from both parties objecting to key provisions of the Patriot Act compromise.
"If you look at the whole, they didn't have a bad year," said former representative Vin Weber (R-Minn.), who remains influential with congressional Republicans. "But, unfortunately, what matters politically is not the whole, but the end. And the end didn't end very well."
Some Republican political strategists were sanguine yesterday about the coming year, when midterm elections will loom large but fortunes may improve, especially in Iraq. Former representative Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), an influential political tactician, said the president's approval ratings are rising and voter perceptions of the economy are steadily improving.
Others are not so positive. Former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon has already agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors looking into Abramoff's relationships with members of Congress. Now Abramoff himself is nearing a plea agreement that could turn him against at least a dozen lawmakers and congressional aides. Weber said House leaders should view the investigation with "paramount seriousness."
"It's the cumulative effect of all of this, whether it is scandal, or failure to get an agenda enacted or questions in the paper every day about unauthorized wiretaps and the failure of Congress to get involved," fretted another former Republican congressman, Mickey Edwards (Okla.). "It's all adding up to a pretty serious situation."
Staff writer Charles Babington contributed to this report.

Recent U.S. House passage of the racist anti-immigrant bill

12/22: Senate Passes Patriot Act Extension

12/17: Analysis - Sensenbrenner/King Bill Passes House
12/15: America's real enemies
12/16: House OKs Bill to Tighten Immigration Laws
12/15: Sensenbrenner Bill Boosts Immigration System's Worst: Indefinite Detentions


2) House passes 453 billion defense spending bill
$50 billion for wars, $29 billion for Katrina relief included in legislation
MSNBC News Services
Dec. 22, 2005

WASHINGTON - The House cleared the way Thursday for a $453 billion defense spending bill that funnels $29 billion in hurricane aid to the Gulf Coast and $50 billion more for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The action came on the heels of a move to give one month more life to the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism powers under the Patriot Act.
The $50 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is to carry the Pentagon until Congress acts on another emergency war supplemental next year, which lawmakers expect to be from $80 billion to $100 billion.
It is estimated that the Pentagon is spending about $6 billion a month on the Iraq war effort.
House passage of the defense spending bill also brings to a close debates that raged all autumn over funding for rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and avian flu prevention.
The military spending bill contains $29 billion to rebuild levees, schools, roads and other infrastructure destroyed in August when Hurricane Katrina swept through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Much of the money is being taken from emergency hurricane aid already enacted but not yet spent by the federal government. The rest of the funding is being offset by other accounting maneuvers.
Bill includes funds for possible pandemic
The defense spending bill also contains nearly $3.8 billion to begin preparations for a possible avian flu pandemic. The Bush administration had sought more than $7 billion for stockpiling drugs and other steps in case the deadly animal illness mutates in a way that makes it easily transmissible to humans.
The money would also be used to increase international surveillance of the disease and to help state and local authorities in the United States prepare.
The House passed the defense bill and the Patriot Act legislation in a year-end scramble to finish its work, complicated by standoffs with Democrats and disagreements among Republicans.
The Patriot Act extension keeps the anti-terrorism laws in place until Feb. 3. The Senate was scheduled to reconvene to consider the legislation so it can become law.
The House put the act on its short leash after House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., objected to a longer, six-month extension.

Patriot Act was set to expire Dec. 31
President Bush and Republican leaders had insisted the law be permanently extended before its scheduled expiration on Dec. 31. They were stymied by a Senate filibuster, led by critics who claimed the legislation failed to protect the civil liberties of innocent Americans.
Under a deadline laid down by the Senate, the House had to address the defense spending bill, including Gulf Coast aid, before the end of the day.
It will not be the Christmas present that President Bush wished for after Republicans earlier lost a quarter-century campaign to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
That drilling authority was stripped out of the bill. The change also eliminated at least $2 billion in emergency aid for low-income families facing high heating bills this winter.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.