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Criticism of Obama’s forthcoming executive order has centered around the idea that Obama plans an unconstitutional power grab, but his action is within the bounds of the law because it focuses on changes to the administration’s enforcement priorities. That doesn’t mean that Obama’s executive order deserves no criticism – it will do nothing for the unaccompanied minors and families whose desperate flight to the United States last summer may have finally pushed the White House to act.
The campaigns mounted by privacy advocates oftentimes make a compelling case about the threat of pervasive surveillance, but the legislation is rarely tailored in such a way to prevent the harm that advocates fear. In fact, the new laws are focused on the technology (drones) not the harm (pervasive surveillance) and have been aimed at restricting the government’s use of drone technology, while allowing the government to conduct identical surveillance when not using drone technology. This absurd anachronism is intentional.
Palestinian youth have dug a hole in Israel’s separation wall with the Palestinian territories, as a symbolic gesture to mark 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Palestinians refer to the current wall separating the West Bank from Israel as the “apartheid wall”. The International Committee of the Red Cross stated that the Israeli barrier “causes serious humanitarian and legal problems” and goes “far beyond what is permissible for an occupying power”.
Fleischmann is the central witness in one of the biggest cases of white-collar crime in American history, possessing secrets that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last year paid $9 billion (not $13 billion as regularly reported) to keep the public from hearing. Back in 2006, as a deal manager at the gigantic bank, Fleischmann first witnessed, then tried to stop, what she describes as “massive criminal securities fraud” in the bank’s mortgage operations. This past year she watched as Holder’s Justice Department struck a series of historic settlement deals with Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. The root bargain in these deals was cash for secrecy. “I could be sued into bankruptcy,” she says. “I could lose my license to practice law. I could lose everything. But if we don’t start speaking up, then this really is all we’re going to get: the biggest financial cover-up in history.”
We are witnessing profound changes in the way that the world economy works. As a result of the growing pace and intensity of globalization and digitization, more and more economic processes have an international dimension. As a consequence, an increasing number of businesses are adapting their structures to domestic and foreign legal systems and taxation laws. Tax legislation has not kept pace with these developments. The resulting tensions between national fiscal sovereignty and the borderless scope of today’s business activities can be resolved only through international dialogue and uniform global standards.
It is time for President Obama to offer clemency to Edward Snowden, the courageous U.S. citizen who revealed the Orwellian reach of the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance of Americans. His actions may have broken the law, but his act, as the New York Times editorialized, did the nation “a great service.”
Considered in its totality, Holder’s time as attorney general maintained the Bush administration’s legal philosophy on the largest issues, and in a style that Bush’s attorneys general must have admired. Trained to detect and amplify Washington’s marginal political differences, the press sometimes overlooks the obvious continuity of the permanent government.
Merkel’s relations with Putin are considered to be closer than those enjoyed by most other Western leader with the Russian president. Yet positive outcomes from those ties have been nonexistent. The crisis has reached the point the chancellor wanted to avoid all costs — the point where military logic replaces diplomatic efforts. Within NATO, pressure is growing on Merkel to change her approach.
Cell site simulators, also known as “stingrays,” are devices that trick cellphones into reporting their locations and identifying information. Initially the domain of the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies, the use of stingrays has trickled down to federal, state and local law enforcement. This sort of invasive surveillance raises serious questions about whether our tax dollars are funding violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
A major terrorism trial is set to be held entirely in secret for the first time in British legal history in an unprecedented departure from the principles of open justice. The unnamed defendants were arrested in a high-profile police operation last year and have been charged with serious terrorism offences.
Policy must assure the security of state authority and concentrations of domestic power, defending them from a frightening enemy: the domestic population. Information about the enemy makes a critical contribution to controlling it. Obama’s contributions have reached unprecedented levels.
The Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote that in wartime “truth” is the first casualty, an observation that was later repeated by Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling, and isolationist US Senator Hiram Johnson in 1917 as the United States entered World War I. Modern governments do indeed like to control information, partly to shape the narrative of their activities to influence world opinion, but mostly for the domestic audience to generate popular support for policies that might otherwise prove unsustainable.
The root of extreme sentencing is legislative: Eighty-three percent of those serving life without parole for a nonviolent offense as of 2012 received a mandatory minimum sentence prescribed by law. Judges protest the harsh sentences even as they hand them down. President Barack Obama, the inheritor of a war on drugs created by his predecessors, has criticized excessive sentences. But he has done little to undo the damage.
Slavery, in its various forms of physical and mental torment, has been a part of U.S. history from the beginnings of our country to the present day. There are numerous modern-day corporations who profited immensely from slave labor. The 13th Amendment bans slavery “except as punishment for crime.” The 14th Amendment bans debt servitude. But each inmate in a modern-day private prison, according to Chris Hedges, “can generate corporate revenues of $30,000 to $40,000 a year.”
The grieving mother accomplished what would have been inconceivable a few short years ago, much less back when the nation launched its war on drugs: She helped pass a bill, signed by a Republican governor, that lets people get away with using drugs for the sake of saving lives.
Ten months after Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting US telephone records in bulk, three sets of proposals have emerged to change the way the agency operates. All would end the data collection program in its current form, but there are crucial differences between the rival plans. We take a look at how the proposals compare.
Without protections for new media and nontraditional journalists, the Freedom Flow of Information Act may very well end up doing little more than anointing a new set of gatekeepers—established traditional media organizations who call the shots about what leaks are published and what aren’t, instead of the relatively open social media and blog spheres.
The FISA court and intelligence committees were supposed to be bulwarks against the dangers of secret spying programs but the shortcomings of these institutions are now clear. It’s troubling to think about all the times the CIA interfered with congressional oversight without so much as a public peep from Feinstein or her colleagues.
Washington cannot realistically do any more in response to Russian troops seizing Crimea in 2014 in the name of protecting Russian lives and Russian bases than Moscow could do in response to U.S. troops seizing Panama in 1989 in the name of protecting American lives and American bases.
A Church Committee for the 21st century, a special congressional investigatory committee that undertakes a significant and public re-examination of intelligence community practices that affect the rights of Americans and the laws governing those actions, is urgently needed.
Working toward social justice requires the courageous protest by a minority to help the majority gain the wisdom necessary to change; criminalizing social activity that leads to crucial discussions about how to minimize suffering and terror, and labeling that activity a form of terrorism, is contrary to the values necessary for a healthy democracy.
If George Orwell were to return from the Spanish civil war today, he would be arrested under the Terrorism Act 2006. If convicted of fighting abroad with a “political, ideological, religious or racial motive” he would face a maximum sentence of life in prison, but not, strangely, if he possessed a financial motive. Far from it: such motives are now eminently respectable. You can even obtain a City & Guilds qualification as a naval mercenary. Sorry, “maritime security operative”. As long as you don’t care whom you kill or why, you’re exempt from the law. But what clearer case could there be of the “use or threat of action … designed to influence the government … for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause” than the war with Iraq?
Germany and the US appear to be edging closer to political confrontation. Germany’s Federal Prosecutor says there is sufficient evidence to open a politically explosive investigation into NSA spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. Under German law, the justice minister has the right to order the federal prosecutor to open legal proceedings.
The recent $13 billion settlement between the US Department of Justice and JPMorgan Chase appears significant, but the message is clear: There will be no change to business as usual. JPM has a total balance sheet of around $4 trillion, the penalty is to be paid largely by its shareholders, and $7 billion of the fine is likely to be tax deductible, implying a tax break worth around $2.2 billion.
The NSA’s TAO hacking unit is considered to be the intelligence agency’s top secret weapon. It maintains its own covert network, infiltrates computers around the world and even intercepts shipping deliveries to plant back doors in electronics ordered by those it is targeting.
Private sector companies like Google run hi-tech spying operations that vacuum up private information and use it to compile detailed dossiers on hundreds of millions of people around the world — and that’s on top of their work colluding and contracting with government intelligence agencies. Silicon Valley runs on for-profit surveillance that dwarfs anything being run by the NSA.
A federal district judge ruled on Monday that the National Security Agency program that is systematically keeping records of all Americans’ phone calls most likely violates the Constitution, describing its technology as “almost Orwellian” and suggesting that James Madison would be “aghast” to learn that the government was encroaching on liberty in such a way. District Judge Leon wrote that he could not “imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval… Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment,” which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. He also wrote that the government had failed to cite “a single instance in which analysis of the N.S.A.’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive.”
It’s hard to analyze whether the $13 billion is a good deal for the government or for JPMorgan. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with the government recycling well-known facts to drag a bank that behaved badly to the negotiating table. Had the Justice Department aggressively investigated the banks’ practices using its full array of powers, who knows how much more it could have generated?
Ultimately, what stands in the way of meaningful change is the Controlled Substances Act. As long as it is in place, the Justice Department will bring forward marijuana prosecutions. President Obama is unlikely to spend political capital pushing to change federal law. The man marijuana reformers elected in 2008 will likely leave office in January 2017 having changed as little as possible.
Novelist John Lancaster, given access to the Snowden Files, discusses his impressions. At a moment of austerity and with a general sense that our state’s ability to guarantee prosperity for its citizens is in retreat, that same state is about to make the biggest advance ever in its security powers. Our spies and security services can, for the first time, monitor everything about us, and they can do so with a few clicks of a mouse and – to placate the lawyers – a drop-down menu of justifications. Looking at the GCHQ papers, it is clear that there is an ambition to get access to everything digital. And yet nobody, at least in Britain, seems to care. Snowden’s revelations are not just interesting or important but vital, because the state is about to get powers that no state has ever had, and we need to have a public debate about those powers and what their limits are to be.
By using the Espionage Act to punish Bradley Manning, the Obama administration has shown how far it will go to intimidate leakers. It is political despotism to use this act in a trial that has to do with neither espionage nor sabotage. His sentencing is a stain on the president’s legacy and on America’s global reputation.
For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.
In American courthouses this summer, a vitally important struggle over the First Amendment’s scope is taking place between the Obama Administration and the press. At issue is whether the Administration will fulfill a recent pledge to end its heavy-handed pursuit of professional journalists’ sources. The ripest case concerns a Times reporter, James Risen.
The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.
For decades American politicians have assumed that mass incarceration works, wooing voters with ever-tougher sentencing laws. The dramatic fall in crime since the 1990s has persuaded many that they were right. Prison has diminishing returns, and America long ago passed the point where jailing more people makes sense.
A new research paper shows in detail how significant the surveillance effect on behavior can be. The researchers measured the impact of software that monitors employee-level theft and sales transactions, before and after the technology was installed, at 392 restaurants in 39 states. The research suggests that the surveillance effect on employee behavior is striking.
A federal judge sharply rebuked the National Security Agency in 2011 for repeatedly misleading the court that oversees its surveillance on domestic soil, including a program that is collecting tens of thousands of domestic e-mails and other Internet communications of Americans each year.
The federal government is making progress on developing a surveillance system that would pair computers with video cameras to scan crowds and automatically identify people by their faces – now is the time for the government to establish oversight rules and limits on how it will someday be used.
The world’s richest economies endorsed a blueprint to curb widely used tax avoidance strategies that allow some multinational corporations to pay only a pittance in income taxes. However, it could be years before any changes take place in national tax laws, and big corporations and other interest groups are sure to lobby heavily to preserve their tax breaks.
Soon after President Obama appointed him director of national intelligence in 2009, Dennis C. Blair called for a tally of the number of government officials or employees who had been prosecuted for leaking national security secrets. In the previous four years, 153 cases had been referred to the Justice Department. Not one had led to an indictment.
In defending the NSA’s sweeping collection of Americans’ phone call records, Obama administration officials have repeatedly pointed out how it could have helped thwart the 9/11 attacks. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has invoked the same argument. They have all ignored a key aspect of historical record.
Far from being a passive victim, the United States has fostered as rich a tradition of illicit trade as any other country in the world. Since its founding, the United States has had an intimate relationship with clandestine commerce, and contraband capitalism was integral to the rise of the U.S. economy.
They assembled on the 40th floor of the tallest building in Seattle last week, the ex-Mexican president and the businessman who wants to be known as the Bill Gates of Bud. On the table: a pie bigger than the sky. It would involve drugs, suppliers and retailers, and laser-targeted marketing for buyers willing to pay a premium.
With the decision to label a Fox News television reporter a possible “co-conspirator” in a criminal investigation of a news leak, the Obama administration has moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news. Obama administration officials, accusing a reporter of being a “co-conspirator,” on top of other zealous and secretive investigations, show a heavy tilt toward secrecy and insufficient concern about a free press.
A new survey of corporate officials and employees in 36 countries indicates that there is plenty of corruption that needs investigating. The survey revealed a “corruption perception gap” in many countries, where respondents said bribery and corrupt practices were far more common in other parts of their country than they were in their own industry.
Elder financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an older adult’s funds or property. It has been described as an epidemic with society-wide repercussions. While combating elder financial exploitation is largely the responsibility of state and local social service, criminal justice, and consumer protection agencies, the federal government has a role to play in this area.
James Gustave “Gus” Speth joined the faculty at Vermont Law School in 2010. Throughout his career, Professor Speth has provided leadership and entrepreneurial initiatives to many task forces and committees whose roles have been to combat environmental degradation. He is the author, co-author or editor of books, including “The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability”.
Once a non-bank financial institution has been designated as a SIFI, very real questions arise as to how best to regulate these institutions. The Fed has promised to pay careful attention to the differences between banks and other financial institutions that are designated as SIFIs. Elliott emphasizes it is crucial that they be rigorous in doing so.
The Obama administration, resolving years of internal debate, is on the verge of backing a Federal Bureau of Investigation plan for a sweeping overhaul of surveillance laws that would make it easier to wiretap people who communicate using the Internet rather than by traditional phone services, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.
Espionage of any kind is serious, of course, but some do not understand how spying in the cyber world is different from spying in the physical world. Few realize that the same tools required to conduct digital espionage could allow intruders to go a step further and commit digital destruction.
Stuart Taylor, Jr. examines how the federal government and the eighteen states (plus the District of Columbia) that have partially legalized medical or recreational marijuana or both since 1996 can be true to their respective laws, and can agree on how to enforce them wisely while avoiding federal-state clashes that would increase confusion and harm communities and consumers.
In November, two states, Colorado and Washington, passed ballot initiatives — by strong margins — to legalize marijuana use. Avoiding a state-federal train wreck over marijuana policy will not happen automatically. Finding a cooperative path requires creativity and energy from both levels of government. But the alternative won’t satisfy anyone, at least not for long.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned back a challenge to a federal law that broadened the government’s power to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails. The ruling illustrated how hard it is to mount court challenges to a wide array of antiterrorism measures, including renditions of terrorism suspects to foreign countries and targeted killings using drones.
The Center for International Environmental Law works to strengthen and use international law and institutions to protect the environment, promote human health, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL provides legal counsel and advocacy, policy research and capacity building services.
To break the grip Wall Street has over political power would take a broad citizens’ movement, a groundswell of educated opinion focused on breaking that power, but the biggest Wall Street firms are larger and probably now more powerful than they were in the run-up to 2008.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change, is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Amnesty International works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. As the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization, it investigates and exposes abuses, educates the public, and helps transform societies to create a safer, more just world.
The National Security Archive is an investigative journalism center, a research institute, an archive of U.S. documents, a public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, a global advocate of open government, and an indexer and publisher of former secrets.