It is pretty disheartening that a decade later we are still dealing with the aftermath of the still-unlitigated U.S. torture regime. “Omar Khadr is believed to be the only child soldier put on trial in modern history,” declares Amnesty International. This week, Guantanamo Bay’s youngest prisoner was finally released in Canada. His father, a Canadian, had taken him to Afghanistan at 15 to fight for al Qaeda:
As the youngest prisoner at the US military base in Cuba, he was seen by rights groups as a juvenile, and entitled to much more lenient treatment than he was receiving.
But neither Canada’s government nor Washington agreed. Omar was subjected to brutal treatment on his way to Guantanamo and at the base detention centre.
Canada not only condoned such treatment, it sent spies and diplomats to take part in his interrogation and obtained information that the Supreme Court of Canada later declared inadmissible because it was obtained under duress, even torture.
Came in over the transom:
Democracy NC Meeting: Monday May 18th; 6:00 pm at 20 Battery Park; meet in the lobby. We will do an informational overview on the Voter ID Law and short training on public hearing importance/talking points, and discuss upcoming events.
From Progressive Pulse:
A new analysis of voter registration data shows that under the McCrory administration, North Carolina may be systematically failing to provide state residents with the opportunity to register to vote when they apply for public assistance — such as food stamps or welfare — in violation of the National Voter Registration Act.
Commonly called the “Motor Voter Law,” the Act requires public assistance agencies and motor vehicle offices to provide voter registration services whenever someone applies for benefits, renews or recertifies benefits, or changes an address with the agency, unless the person declines these services in writing.
Affected programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (“TANF”), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (“WIC”), the Medicaid program, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”).
Just because the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ruled the NSA’s bulk collection of phone data illegal is no reason not to reauthorize it. Or so believe leading Senate Republicans:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday delivered a forceful defense of the National Security Agency’s mass-surveillance powers, a salvo that came just hours after a federal appeals court ruled the agency’s bulk collection of U.S. call records illegal.
McConnell criticized bipartisan legislation that would reform several aspects of NSA spying and effectively end the call-records program, and indicated he won’t budge from his position advocating a clean reauthorization of expiring surveillance authorities of the Patriot Act.
“[T]he wolves are at the door,” said freshman senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. A-rab Mooslims with long, curved knives, one supposes.
Not to be out-blustered, one of my senators dismissed privacy concerns:
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested that a discount card for a grocery store could be a greater threat to privacy than the NSA’s program.
“The NSA doesn’t sell data, your grocery story does,” he said. “But I don’t hear anyone complaining about the grocery store’s discount card, because you get a discount.”
Did Richard Burr just suggest we’d stop whining about being spied on if we just got another tax break?
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid returned fire:
Reid, meantime, called for an immediate vote on the USA Freedom Act, a surveillance reform bill advancing in the House that would end the telephone metadata program.
“Instead of bringing the bipartisan NSA reform bill up for a vote, Sen. McConnell is trying to force the Senate to extend the bulk data collection practices that were ruled illegal today,” he said. “It would be the height of irresponsibility to extend these illegal spying powers when we could pass bipartisan reform into law instead.”
Not that Reid’s bipartisan I Can’t Believe It’s Not Freedom Act would likely stop all domestic spying. Especially not since, as Dan Froomkin revealed, spy agencies have got a nifty, new gizmo for turning your phone conversations into searchable text. What’s not cool about that?
Except it’s the uncool actions the 2nd Circuit ruled illegal (but did not enjoin). As several people pointed out, you can’t really re-authorize a practice that was never authorized in the first place.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
Fighting your foes at Privatization, Inc.
Former CIA deputy director, Michael Morell, believes that the 2013 Edward Snowden leaks “played a role in the rise of ISIS”:
U.S. intelligence officials have long argued that Snowden’s disclosures provided valuable insights to terrorist groups and nation-state adversaries, including China and Russia, about how the U.S. monitors communications around the world. But in his new memoir, to be published next week, Morell raises the stakes of that debate by directly implicating Snowden in the expansion of ISIS, which broke away from al Qaeda and has conquered large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.
Nice try. But for that matter, Ronald Reagan’s proxy war with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan played a role in creating al Qaeda. And the Bush/Cheney administration played a role in bringing al Qaeda to Iraq. Morell’s point is?
“Within weeks of the leaks, terrorist organizations around the world were already starting to modify their actions in light of what Snowden disclosed. Communications sources dried up, tactics were changed,” Morell writes. Among the most damaging leaks, he adds, was one that described a program that collects foreigners’ emails as they move through equipment in the United States.
As if that information hadn’t been out there since 2006. As if al Qaeda wasn’t already working well below the radar in the post-9/11, pre-Snowden era. That’s why it took until 2011 to find and kill him.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Elton Simpson had been investigated previously by the FBI and sentenced on a single count of making a false statement before he obtained a weapon and attacked a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas days ago. It seems the FBI played a role in his avoiding detection:
In retrospect, Mr. Simpson’s lawyer in the earlier case, Kristina Sitton, believes that the prosecution did have an effect on him — just not the one the authorities intended. “He learned that they were following him,” Ms. Sitton said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “He learned how not to attract suspicion. He learned how to be a better criminal.”
Whaddya gonna do? Snowden’s fault!
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
Adopted in the early 1980s, the “21-foot rule” in policing originated from “a rudimentary series of tests” and an article in SWAT magazine. Yet it has since become “dogma” that an armed attacker within 21 feet represents a deadly threat, and could charge and attack before most officers could draw and fire their weapons. Such dogmas die hard. In the aftermath of recent shootings by police, trainers may be beginning to rethink how police use deadly force according to the New York Times:
Like the 21-foot rule, many current police practices were adopted when officers faced violent street gangs. Crime rates soared, as did the number of officers killed. Today, crime is at historic lows and most cities are safer than they have been in generations, for residents and officers alike. This should be a moment of high confidence in the police, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement policy group. Instead, he said, policing is in crisis.
“People aren’t buying our brand. If it was a product, we’d take it out of the marketplace and re-engineer it,” Mr. Wexler said. “We’ve lost the confidence of the American people.”
It’s not as if it is not dangerous out there. A 25 year-old NYPD officer, Brian Moore, died Monday after being shot in the face while attempting to question a suspect. A lousy way to die. Still:
With key provisions of the controversial post-9/11 law set to expire at the end of the month, including authority for the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, critics in both parties are preparing to strike. Among those on hand for the meeting were Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, a card-carrying ACLU member from the liberal mecca of Madison, Wisconsin, and GOP Rep. Thomas Massie, a tea party adherent from Kentucky.
“The collection of data is still way too wide and can still be too easily abused,” Pocan said of the NSA program exposed by Edward Snowden two years ago.
Along with Pocan and Massie, the Thursday gathering drew Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). The lawmakers, many of them privacy zealots with libertarian leanings, discussed the USA Freedom Act, bipartisan legislation that would rein in the bulk collection of telephone records and reauthorize expiring anti-terror surveillance provisions in the PATRIOT Act.
Last week the House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly passed the bill that that would curtail bulk collection of data by government spies: the USA Freedom Act. (Can we please have an “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Freedom” bill next?)
Notorious RBG is back:
No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.
– General George S. Patton
The Patton quote above gained new notoriety after it opened the movie Patton in 1970. For several years, an autograph my father-in-law got from Patton during the war has been in a large envelope on the shelf here. I never looked at it until just now. It’s on a program from the Folies Bergère. I looked at it this morning because I’m still processing the week’s events in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray homicide in Baltimore. I looked at it because it seems some of our police believe they’re fighting a war, a war to be won by ensuring the other poor dumb bastard dies first.
Six Baltimore police officers now face “a litany of charges that include second-degree depraved-heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, false imprisonment and misconduct in office.” Recent killings by police in Ferguson, in New York, and in North Charleston brought to mind another well-known quote, not from war, but policing:
Malone: You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.
– The Untouchables (1987)
Protests turned to riot and looting after Freddie Gray’s funeral last week. Whenever that occurs in a black neighborhood, pundits rush to explain it as a symptom of a dysfunctional culture in the black community. Maybe it’s time to examine whether “the first rule” hasn’t bred a dysfunctional police culture in some departments. Because it’s not just a dramatic device from the movies.