Category - USA: Domestic Issues

Surprise! NSA data will soon routinely be used for domestic policing that has nothing to do with terrorism

Washington Post, By Radley Balko, March 10

A while back, we noted a report showing that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains why this is important:

What does this rule change mean for you? In short, domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages. Read More

Battered by drop in oil prices and Jindal’s fiscal policies, Louisiana falls into budget crisis

Washington Post, By Chico Harlan, March 4

Baton Rouge, LA — Already, the state of Louisiana had gutted university spending and depleted its rainy-day funds. It had cut 30,000 employees and furloughed others. It had slashed the number of child services staffers, including those devoted to foster family recruitment, and young abuse victims for the first time were spending nights at government offices.

And then, the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards (D), came on TV and said the worst was yet to come.
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Immigration raids begin targeting Central Americans, DHS defends policy

Dallas Morning News, By Dianne Solís, January 3

Immigration advocates and the Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments are warning people this weekend that raids by federal authorities have begun and are targeting Central Americans who have recently entered the U.S. without authorization.

Officials at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement don’t generally confirm what they consider ongoing operations. But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, reemphasized their priorities in a statement this morning that referred to policy priorities made in November 2014 in this memo.

The Washington Post first reported on Dec. 23 that raids would begin in early January targeting Central Americans who had orders of removal issued by a federal immigration judge. They would focus on those who entered the U.S. after Jan. 1, 2014, in numbers so large it was called a surge.

Los Angeles Times: Families are taken into custody as push to deport immigrants denied refuge begins

Obama to Announce Executive Actions on Gun Control Tuesday

ABC News, By Jim Avila, January 3

President Obama plans to announce executive actions he will take on gun control on Tuesday, a source told ABC News.

Obama had announced during his weekly address Friday that he planned to discuss gun control options with Attorney General Loretta Lynch after he returned from his Hawaiian vacation, which ended today.

“A few months ago, I directed my team at the White House to look into any new actions I can take to help reduce gun violence,” he said in the address. “And on Monday, I’ll meet with our Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, to discuss our options.”

Scalia Dismisses Concept of Religious Neutrality in Speech

ABC News, By Rebecca Santana, January 2

Metairie, LA — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Saturday the idea of religious neutrality is not grounded in the country’s constitutional traditions and that God has been good to the U.S. exactly because Americans honor him.

Scalia was speaking at a Catholic high school in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Louisiana. Scalia, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 is the court’s longest serving justice. He has consistently been one of the court’s more conservative members.

He told the audience at Archbishop Rummel High School that there is “no place” in the country’s constitutional traditions for the idea that the state must be neutral between religion and its absence.

“To tell you the truth there is no place for that in our constitutional tradition. Where did that come from?” he said. “To be sure, you can’t favor one denomination over another but can’t favor religion over non-religion?”

He also said there is “nothing wrong” with the idea of presidents and others invoking God in speeches. He said God has been good to America because Americans have honored him.

Via Freak Out Nation: Pro-Religion Nut Wants Reintegration

Is Anyone Really Surprised By This?

PaulRyanBeardOutside the Beltway, the right is livid with new Speaker Paul Ryan’s trillion-dollar spending deal with Democrats.

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter says Ryan, just seven weeks on the job, is ripe for a primary challenge. “Paul Ryan Betrays America,” blared a headline on the conservative site And Twitter is littered with references to the Wisconsin Republican’s new “Muslim beard.”

Source: Fury of the right falls on Ryan | TheHill

Did anyone think that Paul Ryan had a chance of herding the Republican cats in the House? If so, I’d say you should go back to huffing exhaust fumes.

But in a nod to the critics, Ryan has also emphasized that he “inherited” the flawed omnibus from his predecessor, ousted Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and that the cake was “already baked” by the time he was handed the reins in late October.

Those arguments have done little to sway some of Ryan’s critics, particularly on conservative talk radio.

Laura Ingraham denounced the spending package as an “omni-bust” and said Ryan should be “regarded as a declared enemy of the Base.” Mark Levin said Ryan is “already a disaster” and criticized the funding package for increasing the number of visas for foreign workers.

Criticism has also come from Rush Limbaugh, the king of conservative talk radio, who declared that the GOP sold the country “down the river.”

There is no chance in hell that the Republicans in the House are going to be able to work together and accomplish anything remotely resembling sane government. The remnants of the Tea Bagger……. err, I mean Tea Party brigade are as yet uncowed, and still of sufficient numbers to stonewall any attempts at serious compromise; especially when egged on by the hard right conservative pundits. That Ryan didn’t dismantle the bi-partisan coalition allowing for the passage of the budget at least shows he wants to be productive. But he doesn’t have the numbers, any more than John Boehner did, to be strictly partisan in running the House of Representatives.

In the end it all comes down to whether the hard-line conservatives want to have total, uncompromising power, or whether they want to be leaders. They can’t have it both ways.

U.S. plans raids to deport families who surged across border

Washington Post, By Jerry Markon & David Nakamura, December 23

The Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year, according to people familiar with the operation.

The nationwide campaign, to be carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents as soon as early January, would be the first large-scale effort to deport families who have fled violence in Central America, those familiar with the plan said. More than 100,000 families with both adults and children have made the journey across the southwest border since last year, though this migration has largely been overshadowed by a related surge of unaccompanied minors.

The ICE operation would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge, according to officials familiar with the undertaking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because planning is ongoing and the operation has not been given final approval by DHS. The adults and children would be detained wherever they can be found and immediately deported. The number targeted is expected to be in the hundreds and possibly greater.

The proposed deportations have been controversial inside the Obama administration, which has been discussing them for several months. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has been pushing for the moves, according to those with knowledge of the debate, in part because of a new spike in the number of illegal immigrants in recent months. Experts say that the violence that was a key factor in driving people to flee Central America last year has surged again, with the homicide rate in El Salvador reaching its highest level in a generation. A drought in the region has also prompted departures.

Also: A political bomb is about to blow up in the Democrats’ faces

Last-Minute Budget Bill Allows New Privacy-Invading Surveillance in the Name of Cybersecurity

The Intercept, By Jenna McLaughlin, December 18

In the wake of a series of humiliating cyberattacks, the imperative in Congress and the White House to do something — anything — in the name of improving cybersecurity was powerful.

But only the most cynical observers thought the results would be this bad.

The legislation the House passed on Friday morning is a thinly disguised surveillance bill that would give companies pathways they don’t need to share user data related to cyberthreats with the government — while allowing the government to use that information for any purpose, with almost no privacy protections.

Because Speaker of the House Paul Ryan slipped the provision into the massive government omnibus spending bill that had to pass — or else the entire government would have shut down — it was doomed to become law. (This post has been updated to reflect the vote, which was 316 to 113.)
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One Year After the Senate Torture Report, No One’s Read It and It Might Be Destroyed

The Intercept, By Murtaza Hussain, December 9

One year ago today, the Senate Intelligence Committee published a highly redacted executive summary of its investigation into the CIA’s torture and rendition program. The 525-page summary was shocking in many of its details, revealing the torture and rape of detainees held in CIA custody and encompassing treatment far in excess of even the torture techniques formally authorized by the Bush administration.

Despite the passage of 12 months, the actual report, comprising 6,700 pages, still has not been made publicly available. In fact, reading it appears to be prohibited among officials in the executive branch. Nearly a month and a half after the report’s initial release, it had not even been taken out of the package in which it was delivered to the Department of Justice and Department of State, according to government lawyers. Even the organization that was the subject of the report, the CIA, tightly controlled internal access and made “very limited use” of it, as had the Department of Defense, the lawyers said in a court filing.

That shunning of the torture report appears to be ongoing and very much by design: It turns out the Department of Justice has “refuse[d] to allow executive branch officials to review the full and final study,” Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy wrote in a letter last month to the attorney general and FBI director, urging that they or their “appropriately cleared” underlings read the full report.

“The legacy of this historic report cannot be buried in the back of a handful of executive branch safes, never to be reviewed by those who most need to learn from it,” they added.

‘Mind-Blowing Abuse of Power’: Walmart Spied on Workers With FBI, Lockheed Martin’s Help

Common Dreams, By Nadia Prupis, November 25

Retail giant Walmart enlisted the help of a private military contractor and the FBI to spy on workers pushing for a $15 hourly wage and organizing Black Friday protests in 2012 and 2013, newly released documents (pdf) reveal.

“We are fighting for all workers to be paid a fair wage and enough hours to put food on the table and provide for our families,” said Mary Pat Tifft, a Wisconsin Walmart employee of 27 years. “To think that Walmart found us such a threat that they would hire a defense contractor and engage the FBI is a mind-blowing abuse of power.”

A document made public Tuesday by worker organization OUR Walmart reveals company testimony to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January stating that Walmart had enlisted the help of arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to monitor workers who were organizing for higher wages and the right to unionize. OUR Walmart workers said they were illegally fired and disciplined for taking part in the “Ride for Respect” strike during Walmart’s shareholder meeting in June of 2013.

But the surveillance had long been in progress. Walmart executives mobilized the so-called “Delta” emergency response team in 2012 when they first got wind of plans for a nationwide Black Friday worker strike. As Bloomberg explained in an investigative piece published Tuesday, “the stakes were enormous.” In addition to the NLRB testimony, the new reporting states, “The details of Walmart’s efforts during the first year it confronted OUR Walmart are described in more than 1,000 pages of e-mails, reports, playbooks, charts, and graphs.”