The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained documents using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that reveal that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is using co-called "community outreach" programs to spy and target Muslim Americans. The documents show that:
The FBI has been illegally using its community outreach programs to secretly collect and store information about activities protected by the First Amendment for intelligence purposes. . .
The FBI's blanket denial that the outreach is used as a cover for surveillance is far from credible considering WaPo's article today:
. . . the files also depict agents as recording Social Security numbers and other identifying information of people after they meet, and, in at least one instance, noting their political views. It appears that the agents are conducting follow-up investigations in some instances, but heavy redactions in the documents make it impossible to determine how far any examination might have gone.
Conducting surveillance based on First Amendment-protected activities under the auspices of "community outreach" is not only a colossal waste of law enforcement time, it is a tear in the fabric of our democracy. The FBI needs a wake-up call about the First Amendment: The First Amendment protects ideas and speech - even abhorrent ideas and speech. The dangerous misconception that any one idea or religion creates violence invites racial profiling, discrimination, and hate while doing nothing for our safety.
Tom Drake and Jesselyn Radack at the Ridenhour Prize for Truthtelling Ceremony in March 2011GAP National Security & Human Rights Director and Justice Department whistleblower Jesselyn Radack, and GAP client and National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake, have won this year's prestigious Sam Adams Award, presented annually by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII). The honor is presented to intelligence professionals who have taken stands for ethics and integrity.
The award will be presented to Radack and Drake at a free event this coming Monday, November 21, at 8:10 p.m. at the Ward Circle Building, Room 2, at American University. Speakers at the ceremony include FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley (a previous winner of the award), retired Col. Larry Wilkerson (another winner), American University Nuclear Studies Institute professor Peter Kuznick, and veteran CIA analyst and activist Ray McGovern.
Department of Justice (DOJ) whistleblower Jesselyn Radack is a former ethics adviser who disclosed that the FBI committed ethical violations in its interrogation of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, such as interrogating Lindh without an attorney present. She also exposed that the DOJ attempted to suppress that information, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft made misleading public statements about the case. The Lindh case was the first major terrorism prosecution after 9/11. Since her ordeal, Radack has been a champion of whistleblowers, recently serving as counsel to Drake on whistleblower issues during the government's failed attempt to prosecute him under the Espionage Act.
Apparently the government has learned nothing from the spectacular collapse of the ill-fated criminal prosecution of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake. Drake was charged with 10 felony counts, all of which the government abandoned days before trial when the prosecution's case fell apart in the face of adverse court rulings and overwhelmingly negative media coverage (such as in The New Yorker and 60 Minutes). Drake pleaded to a minor misdemeanor, and, at sentencing, a federal judge lambasted the prosecution, calling delays in the case "unconscionable" and saying that the government put Drake through "four years of hell."
Despite the Justice Department's glaring defeat in the Drake case, the government is refusing to make amends with the whistleblowers it so egregiously mistreated. A front-page top-of-the-fold Baltimore Sun story reports that Drake and four other whistleblowers filed a lawsuit seeking to recoup property that the government seized in retaliatory raids back in 2007. Drake said the request is simple:
The court motion filed by Drake and the four others is brief and cites a federal rule governing property seizures. It says the computers are being held in an FBI storage facility on Beltsville Drive in Calverton. "When asked why they have not returned the property," the court motion says, "the FBI responds that it has been waiting for months for the NSA to provide the FBI with its policy regarding this matter."
Courtesy of Flickr user glenmcbethlaw*Getting felt up, tossing out unopened bottles of water, pulling toddlers aside for selective screening, taking off shoes and artificial limbs, soft-porn full body scanners, and my personal favorites – being asked to drink my own breast milk and being on the "No-Fly List" – have not improved aviation security.
*These measures have cost $56 billion dollars.
*The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recruits security personnel with ads on gas pumps and pizza boxes.
What's striking is that this much-belated realization that TSA is a bloated, failed bureaucracy comes from two House Republicans – Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga) and House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fl) – because the agency, its procedures, and its expensive equipment (awarded on no-bid contracts) all were the genius of Republicans.
Yes, I know the TSA is a favorite whipping-boy of mine, and deservedly so. Thankfully, Representatives Broun and Mica have now presented a harsh report on the TSA's "performance"--a double-entendre, in my opinion, because "a performance" (theater of the absurd with mandatory audience participation) is all that many of TSA's measures are.
Dover Air Force Base in Delaware is the main entry point for most of the nation's war dead. Photo courtesy of Flickr user BiggunbenI wrote last week about the Office of Special Counsel's (OSC) investigation into grotesque mishandling of soldiers' remains at Dover Mortuary. Courageous whistleblowers and a revamped OSC led by Carolyn Lerner deserved gratitude, I wrote, "for trying to ensure that our fallen are treated with reverence, dignity and respect, not treated like pieces of garbage." Unfortunately, the simile was literally true, as WaPo later reported:
The Dover Air Force Base mortuary for years disposed of portions of troops’ remains by cremating them and dumping the ashes in a Virginia landfill . . .
The lame response from the Air Force demonstrates the lack of accountability:
Asked if it was appropriate or dignified to incinerate troops’ body parts and dispose of them in a landfill, [Air Force’s deputy chief for personnel Lt. Gen. Darrell G.] Jones declined to answer directly. “We have recognized a much better way of doing things,” he said. “Let me be emphatic: I think the current procedures are better.”
As is too often the case when whistleblowers expose misconduct, WaPo reportstoday that the whistleblowers received more punishment than the officials responsible for the disrespectful mistreatment of soldiers' remains.
Dover Air Force Base in Delaware is the main entry point for most of the nation's fallen soldiers. Photo courtesy of Flickr user BiggunbenThe Office of Special Counsel (OSC), thanks to whistleblowers, uncovered "gross mismanagement" at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary, which cares for the United States' war dead, after whistleblower James G. Parson Sr. (an autopsy and embalming technician) and two other whistleblowers reported, among other horrific indignities:
Misplacing a dead soldier's ankle and another set of remains that had been stored in a plastic bag.
Sawing off a damaged arm bone of a Marine so he could fit in his uniform and coffin, but not telling the family.
Permitting an Army hospital in Germany to ship fetal remains in reused cardboard boxes back to the U.S. for burial instead of in aluminum transfer cases.
Losing or mishandling the remains of four other deceased service members.
Predictably, the Air Force disciplined by did not fire the mortuary commander and two other senior officials. Let's just hope that the whistleblowers are not now prosecuted under the Espionage Act for exposing what is clearly government abuse of the most unholy order.
This Halloween, you can demand more than just candy. GAP has joined a coalition started by the Sunlight Foundation to hold the Super Committee accountable for their actions.
The Super Committee – the 12-member joint congressional committee tasked with eliminating $1.5 trillion from the federal budget over the next 10 years – currently has no measures in place to keep it transparent. They are holding closed-door meetings and being lobbied by nearly 200 companies and special interests. The members also do not have to report on any financial contributions they receive, except at the normal quarterly filing time. A committee this important (they are deciding our financial future, after all) should be subject to more public scrutiny and transparency. We should be able to find out if a member is receiving major funds from a specific source to determine if that is biasing his/her vote.