Posts Tagged ACLU
July 19, 2012
The legality of America’s drone-based “targeted killing” program has recently come under fire in court, although mostly over the general basis on which the government can claim that meeting in secret to decide someone’s deathcounts as due process.
Unfortunately, lawyers for the government continue to invoke the privilege of state secrecy in order to avoid even having to confirm or deny that such a program exists to begin with, never mind actually addressing the legal basis for the practice.
Now the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have joined forces to fight on behalf of family members of three Americans who were murdered last year in drone strikes in Yemen.
The lawsuit targets top-ranking United States government officials, alleging that they actually killed the three Americans, including a 16-year-old boy.
They allege that this action violated international human rights law and the United States Constitution itself, a fact echoed by human rights layers stating that British civilians are actually “parties to murders” which are carried out by U.S. drones.
This lawsuit is groundbreaking, to say the least, and is the first lawsuit to actually challenge the legality of specific killings as well as the first to argue that the U.S. was not actually engaged in an armed conflict in Yemen at the time of the killing, thereby prohibiting the use of lethal force.
by: Brandon Turbeville
June 29, 2012
From the very beginning of genetic research and modification, it was obvious that it would only be a matter of time before a claim would be staked on the very programming of human life by governments or international corporations. Unfortunately, that day has finally come with the recent patent of two human genes by Myriad Genetics.
US Attorney General Eric Holder confirms government has right to murder U.S. citizens anywhere, anytime, without legal review
Thursday, March 08, 2012
By: J. D. Heyes
[NaturalNews] Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., says the U.S. Constitution does not protect American citizens who may be plotting to kill other Americans via terrorism.
In a speech at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago this week, http://www.washingtonpost.comand could therefore be targeted legally.
“Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen — even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaeda in a foreign land — is among the gravest that government leaders can face,” Holder said, no doubt before scores of future lawyers, some of whom may eventually work for the federal government someday. “The American people can be — and deserve to be — assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws.”
Holder said anyone deemed to pose an “imminent threat” to other Americans and who could not otherwise be reasonably captured could face the business end of a sniper or drone-launched missile, or any number of other killing techniques. Critical factors that would result in such a decision include a “relevant window of opportunity to act, the possible harm that missing the window would cause to civilians and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks against the United States.” Holder went onto say the president is not bound by the Constitution to delay assassinations of American citizens until some “theoretical end stage of planning — when the precise time, place and manner of an attack become clear,” The Washington Post reported.
“Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a U.S. citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack,” Holder said.
Justifying the indefensible
Though he didn’t mention anyone by name, Holder’s speech appeared to be aimed at the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior al Qaeda leader in Yemen who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in September.
Since then, the Obama administration – the same one that http://www.nytimes.com- has rightfully been under increased pressure to explain it’s legal position regarding the targeted killing of American citizens, regardless of what they are allegedly planning to do, without affording them a trial.
Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s (American Civil Liberties Union) National Security Project, said Holder’s comments are flat-out dangerous, and though it was supposedly an attempt by the administration to be more transparent, the speech “is ultimately a defense of the government’s chillingly broad claimed authority to conduct targeted killings of civilians, including American citizens.”
In comments to USA Today, Shamsi continued, “Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact.”
Others maintain such assassinations violate international legal conduct as well.
“Relevant international law does not permit targeted killing far from battle zones,” Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, told the paper.
Holder defended the administration’s position, essentially by changing the argument to one Obama used to criticize.
“The Constitution’s guarantee of due process is ironclad, and it is essential, but … it does not require judicial approval before the president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war, even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen,” Holder said.
The position that Obama is taking now – and his attorney general is defending – is that the country has a right to protect itself against its enemies which is exactly the position taken by the previous Bush administration, and one that Obama, as a U.S. senator and presidential candidate, routinely criticized.
The one major difference is, the Bush administration never targeted and killed U.S. citizens. That “honor” lies squarely with Obama.
February 28, 2012
Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked in our National Police Misconduct News Feed for this weekend of February 25-26, 2012:
Chicago IL police are being sued on allegations that an unspecified number of officers spent several minutes trying to concoct a story to cover up how they sneaked onto an innocent man’s property then shot him in the stomach instead of calling an ambulance to help the man they shot.  bit.ly/xJJhcH
San Diego Co CA sheriff’s sgt & 3 deputies are accused of racial profiling, illegal search & other civil rights violations by a retired cop who was detained and threatened. http://bit.ly/AkPG30
Sarasota FL police are being investigated by the ACLU over the videotaped arrest of a disabled veteran at an occupy event for chalk writing at a park  bit.ly/z4BxaU
Hillsborough Co FL deputy resigns on allegations he paid for sex with a teen girl he started a relationship with when she was 13, prosecutors refuse to press charges as the girl, now working as a porn actress, refused to cooperate.  bit.ly/ylN3Y5
New Mexico state trooper jumps woman’s fence & fatally shoots her dog while responding to her call about a scam after she requested that police notify her before they came so she could secure her dog.  bit.ly/zo7t6s
Pembroke Pines FL cop accused of needlessly shooting small dog 3x near 13yr-old boy, claims it was biting his shoe, the family disputes the claim but, even if true, a small dog biting your shoe hardly seems justification for use of deadly force.  bit.ly/y0cOvy
Ouachita Parish LA sheriff & sheriff’s major arrested on computer fraud & ID theft charges after FBI agents served a search warrant at the sheriff’s department a few months ago.  townta.lk/ySp2jx
Winn Parish LA sheriff was convicted on conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute charges.  bit.ly/AumljF
Montgomery TX cop was fired for failing to give the former mayor a citation for driving while intoxicated, then letting him drive home bit.ly/xtoTMI
Floyd Co GA cop arrested on drunk driving charge after backing into vehicle while leaving parking spot  bit.ly/x40mB5
That’s it for this weekend, stay safe out there!
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
By: J. D. Heyes
[NaturalNews] For a state that claims to be the nation’s most enlightened defender of civil rights, California’s regular dismissal of even the most basic constitutional protections is an exercise in hypocrisy — at a minimum — and in ideology over rule of law in the worst case.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation’s most liberal, ruled recently that California cops can continue collecting DNA samples to put in a national database from everyone they arrest on a felony, even before that suspect has been proven guilty in a court of law and, worse, without a warrant or court order directing them to be collected.
“DNA analysis is an extraordinarily effective tool for law enforcement to identify arrestees, solve past crimes, and exonerate innocent suspects,” U.S. District Judge Milan Smith wrote for the three-judge majority. Moreover, the court said the government had a more compelling interest in collecting the genetic information than yet-to-be-convicted suspects did in protecting their privacy, let alone their right to assert they’re innocent until proven guilty.
Guilty until proven innocent?
The case stems from a 2009 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four California residents — who had been arrested but not convicted — against the officials who operate the state’s DNA collection system, Reuters reported. The suit asked a federal district court to bar the state from collecting the sample on anyone who was not convicted, but the lower court refused. The higher court upheld that ruling.
According to the law, anyone not convicted can request to have their sample removed from the national database, but that’s the same as suspects having to prove they are innocent first, a concept completely at odds with our justice system, which presumes innocence until proven guilty.
“The majority allows the government to treat arrestees, who are presumed innocent, as if they’ve been convicted of some sort of crime,” said Michael Risher, the ACLU attorney who represented the plaintiffs. He said he would seek a review of the ruling by the full nine-member appeals panel.
One of the three federal judges on the appeals court, William Fletcher, agreed with the defense. In his dissent, he dismissed the “same as taking fingerprints” argument used by his two colleagues, writing that rather than being used to identify someone, DNA samples “are taken solely for an investigative purpose, without a warrant or reasonable suspicion.”
But the usurpation is only growing, emboldened by successful court challenges. Last year, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld police collection of DNA specimens from arrestees, saying they are “an accurate, unique, identifying marker – in other words, as fingerprints for the twenty-first century.”
More than a simple identification
That excuse begs the question: Why can’t suspects still just be fingerprinted, if simple identification is all the authorities are seeking?
“Regarding fingerprinting, the U.S. Supreme Court has said for more than 30 years that it is not a search,”Risher told Wired.com. “But DNA, the method of taking it, is an invasion of our body. The more significant the invasion, the more justification the government needs.”
“Our position is before you take somebody’s genetic information, you need either a warrant or that person needs to be convicted of a felony with all the procedural protections anybody gets when you are charged and tried with a felony,” he added, noting that DNA samples, which are taken with a swab of the inside cheek, provide much more than simple identification, including a person’s family ties and potential health risks.
California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, praised the ruling, which essentially summed up the constitutionally dismissive attitude of those who rule us. After all, a little temporary safety is worth forfeiting your constitutional rights, isn’t it?
Watchdogs warn that UAVs increase “First Amendment risks for would be political dissidents”
February 28, 2012
Several prominent privacy watchdog groups have petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on the proposed increase in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the skies above the US.
Over 30 rights groups, including The American Civil Liberties Union, The Electronic Privacy Information Center and The Bill of Rights Defense Committee are demanding that the FAA hold a rulemaking session to consider the privacy and safety threats posed by the increased use of drones.
The petition (PDF) notes that because “drones greatly increase the capacity for domestic surveillance”, including the use of sophisticated high-definition digital and infrared cameras, heat sensors and motion detectors, they must be subject to increased rather than relaxed scrutiny and regulation.
The petition also notes that the FAA must follow its legal mandate and protect the safety of Americans by “resolv[ing] the privacy problems association with the highly intrusive nature of drone aircraft, and the ability of operators to gain access to private areas or to track individuals over large distances.”
The privacy groups also note that the use and retention of data gathered by government and privately operated drones should be flagged.
“The consequences of increased government surveillance through the use of drones are even more troubling.” the petition notes. “The ability to link facial recognition capabilities on drone cameras to the FBI’s Next Generation Identification database or DHS’ IDENT database, two of the largest collections of biometric data in the world, increases the First Amendment risks for would be political dissidents.
“In addition, the use of drones implicates significant Fourth Amendment interests and well established common law privacy rights.” the rights groups add.
Congress recently passed legislation paving the way for what the FAA predicts will be somewhere in the region of 30,000 drones in operation in US skies by 2020.
Once signed by president Obama, the FAA Reauthorization Act allows for the FAA to permit the use of drones and develop regulations for testing and licensing by 2015.
The bill will exponentially speed up and streamline the process by which the FAA authorizes the use of drones by federal, state and local police and other government agencies. Currently, the FAA issues a certificate on a case by case basis.
The legislation represents the result of a huge push by the military industrial complex to open up US skies to what will become a multi-million dollar business.
The ACLU has noted that “This bill would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected.”
A recent Rasmussen poll found that despite a willingness on the part of Americans to see the use of drones by the military in overseas situations, 52% oppose the use of surveillance drones by private entities, police agencies, and government agencies inside the US. Just 30% said they were in favor of the use of drones in the US.
In California a ballot measure passed in 2004 requires police to take DNA samples of everyone who is arrested on a felony charge. And if you are one of the 100,000 people in California who is arrested for a crime and later cleared, or arrested and never charged, you’re out of luck because your DNA information will be in the police database forever. And yesterday the courts reaffirmed that position.
February 23, 2012
A high ranking Pentagon lawyer argued Wednesday that US citizens accused of having ties to terror groups can legitimately be targeted for assassination.
In a speech at Yale Law School, Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department general counsel, also said that US courts do not have the right to review such cases, or pass judgment on decisions taken by the Executive branch on such matters.
“Belligerents who also happen to be U.S. citizens do not enjoy immunity where non-citizen belligerents are valid military objectives,” said Johnson.
According to a report in The New York Times, while not discussing detail of last year’s killing of US born Islamist radical Anwar Al-Awlaki, “Johnson invoked a lawsuit filed by Mr. Awlaki’s father before the killing that had sought an injunction against targeting his son, citing with approval a district judge’s decision to dismiss the case and saying that targeting decisions are not suited to court review because they must be made quickly and based on fast-evolving intelligence.”
“Within the executive branch the views and opinions of the lawyers on the president’s national security team are debated and heavily scrutinized, and a legal review of the application of lethal force is the weightiest judgment a lawyer can make,” Johnson said. “And, when these judgments start to become easy, it is time for me to return to private law practice.”
The US government has long operated a policy of targeted killing against so called enemies of the state. However, it is one thing to be carrying out such targeted killings in secret, it is quite another to publicly proclaim such actions as legitimate.
Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta acknowledged that the U.S. has assumed the authority to conduct targeted assassinations of U.S. citizens on the recommendations of the CIA Director and the Secretary of Defense and pursuant to the President’s authorization.
President Obama followed up those sentiments by publicly defending the US government’s secret killing program.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the CIA, demanding the release of information pertaining to the secret program, and in particular the deaths of accused Al Qaeda leaders Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn, as well as Awlaki’s 16 year old son, in 2011. All three were US citizens.
“Our government’s deliberate and premeditated killing of American terrorism suspects raises profound questions that ought to be the subject of public debate,” Nathan Freed Wessler of the ACLU wrote in a statement.
“Unfortunately the Obama administration has released very little information about the practice — its official position is that the targeted killing program is a state secret — and some of the information it has released has been misleading.” Wessler added.
The ACLU is specifically seeking to uncover a Department of Justice memo that is said by government officials to have provided the legal justification for the killing of a U.S. citizen without due process.
Also in question is a CIA “kill list” that Awlaki is said to have been added to more than a year before he was killed. The ACLU is demanding information on the process by which Americans have been added to the secret list. A previous Freedom of Information Act request for the material was ignored by the government.
“The public has a right to know the evidence and legal basis for the deliberate targeted killing of U.S. citizens,” the ACLU’s Wessler said. “So chilling a power must be opened to public scrutiny and debate.”