• Guns & terrorismNYPD commissioner to Congress: Do not allow people on terror watch list to buy guns

    NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton the other day called on Congress today to “start getting serious” about fixing the loophole which allows individuals on the U.S. terror watch list legally to purchase firearms in the United States. Bratton said: “If Congress really wants to do something instead of just talking about something, help us out with that terrorist watch list, those thousands of people that can purchase firearms in this country. I’m more worried about them than I am about Syrian refugees.”

  • ImmigrationCourt imposes limits on detention of immigrants in deportation cases

    Last Wednesday the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit court in Manhattan ruled that some immigrants who are waiting for deportation cases to be heard, could not be held in detention longer than six months without a bail hearing. The decision by the federal appeals court followed a similar ruling last week in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California. The two decisions thus align detention rules in the nation’s largest immigrant centers – New York and Los Angeles.

  • DronesACLU lawsuit seeks disclosure of details of CIA drone program

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is continuing its campaign over CIA drone use with a lawsuit filed on Monday to force the CIA to turn over details about the U.S. clandestine drone war program. The ACLU lawsuit, coming a week after some of details of the program were leaked, asks for summary data from the CIA on drone strikes, including the locations and dates of strikes, the number of people killed and their identities or status.

  • GridWill the Supreme Court kill the smart grid?

    By Seth Blumsack

    On 30 April, Tesla’s Elon Musk took the stage in California to introduce the company’s Powerwall battery energy storage system, which he hopes will revolutionize the dormant market for household and utility-scale batteries. A few days later, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear a case during its fall term that could very well determine whether Tesla’s technology gamble succeeds or fails. At issue is an obscure federal policy known in the dry language of the electricity business as “Order 745,” which a lower court vacated last year. Order 745 allowed electricity customers to be paid for reducing electricity usage from the grid — a practice known as “demand response.” It also stipulated that demand response customers would be paid the market price for not using the grid — like the power industry’s version of paying farmers not to grow corn. This case, ultimately, is far more significant than getting paid for not using electricity. It’s about who gets to set the rules of the road for emerging technology in the electricity sector — the states or the federal government — and whether the United States will be able to modernize its energy policy the same way that it would like to modernize its power grid.

  • DronesFAA proposes $1.9 million civil penalty for unmanned drone operations

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the other day announced the largest civil penalty the FAA has proposed against a drone operator for endangering the safety of U.S. airspace. The FAA proposes a $1.9 million civil penalty against SkyPan International, Inc. of Chicago. The FAA says that SkyPan conducted sixty-five unauthorized operations in some of the U.S. most congested airspace and heavily populated cities, violating airspace regulations and various operating rules.

  • TerrorismU.S. district court dismisses 9/11 victims' case against Saudi Arabia

    U.S. district judge George Daniels in Manhattan on Tuesday dismissed claims against Saudi Arabia by families of victims of the 9/11 attacks. The victims’ families accused the country of providing material support to al Qaeda. Judge Daniels said Saudi Arabia had sovereign immunity from claims for damage by families of nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks, and from insurers which covered losses suffered by building owners and businesses. “The allegations in the complaint alone do not provide this court with a basis to assert jurisdiction over defendants,” Daniels wrote.

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  • TerrorismU.S. judge: Guantánamo detention is legal even if U.S. winds down Afghanistan involvement

    U.S. district judge Royce Lamberth on Thursday rejected a Guantánamo Bay detainee’s legal challenge, which claimed that his imprisonment was unlawful because President Barack Obama has declared an end to hostilities in Afghanistan. In January 2015 President Obama declared that “our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.” Muktar Yahya Najee Al-Warafi’s lawyers argued that since the United States was no longer involved in the war in Afghanistan, his detention was now unlawful under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which was the legal basis for the imprisonment of foreign fighters captured on overseas battlefields.

  • SurveillanceGerman prosecutors charge news Web site with treason over leaks of surveillance plan

    German authorities have launched a treason investigation into a news Web site which had reported on government plans to broaden state surveillance of online communications. This is the first time in more than fifty years that German journalists are facing treason charges for publishing leaked documents.

  • SurveillanceNSA to destroy millions of American call records collected under controversial program

    The director of national intelligence said on Monday that the NSA would no longer examine call records collected by the NSA in its controversial bulk collection program before the June reauthorization of the Patriot Act which prohibits such collection. Bulk records are typically kept for five years, but the director said that although the records in the NSA database were collected lawfully, they would not be examined, and would soon be destroyed.

  • Law enforcementSize of a community’s police force predictor of police misconduct

    The size of a community’s police force is a greater predictor for police misconduct than its ethnic diversity, according to researchers. In a study of nearly 500 city police departments across the United States, researchers found police departments with a large number of full-time employees are more likely to experience reported incidents of police misconduct, including excessive force, sexual misconduct, financial misconduct, and driving under the influence. This contradicts previous claims by other studies that a large police organization can potentially reduce misconduct.

  • ImmigrationCBP violated rules in deporting thousands of unaccompanied children

    A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit says U.S. Border Patrol agents were in violation of agency rules when, between 2009 and 2014, they deported thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children. The GAO said that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) repatriated 93 percent of unaccompanied children under age 14 from Mexico and Canada – and did so without documenting what procedures they followed to ascertain that the children would be safe when they return to their home countries.

  • EncryptionPrivacy vs. security debate intensifies as more companies offer end-to-end-encryption

    A long running debate has now come to the fore with greater urgency. The tension between the privacy that encryption offers, and the need for law enforcement and national security agencies to have access to secured and encrypted e-mail, has become more acute in the last two years. The revelations of Edward Snowden about the post-9/11 reach and scope of surveillance by intelligence agencies and law enforcement, have caused some tech giants to offer encrypted services to their customers – encrypted services which enhance customers’ privacy protection, but which at the same time make it impossible for law enforcement and intelligence services to track and monitor terrorists and criminals. “Our job is to find needles in a nationwide haystack, needles that are increasingly invisible to us because of end-to-end encryption,” FBI director James Comey told lawmakers in recent hearing on the Hill.

  • ImmigrationAscribing “criminality” to immigrants defies the factual record, distorts U.S. policy

    A just-published report by the American Immigration Council says that many studies have confirmed two simple but compelling truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime. This holds true for both legal immigrants and the unauthorized, regardless of their country of origin or level of education. These facts notwithstanding, the report says, immigration policy is frequently shaped more by fear and stereotype than by empirical evidence, leading to the stigma of “criminality” ascribed to immigrants by an ever-evolving assortment of laws and immigration-enforcement mechanisms. The result is an immigration policy which “is cruel, pointless, shortsighted, and counterproductive. And it is not an effective substitute for immigration reform which makes our immigration system responsive to the economic and social forces which drive migration in the first place,” the report concludes.

  • SurveillanceAdministration asks court for six more months of NSA bulk metadata collection

    Just four hours after President Barack Obama vowed to sign the USA Freedom Actwhich limits the NSA’s domestic bulk data collection program, his administration asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court to ignore a ruling by the second circuit court of appeals declaring the bulk surveillance program unauthorized, and instead grant the NSA power to continue bulk collection for six months. In its request, the administration pointed to a six months transition period provided in the USA Freedom Act as a reason to permit an “orderly transition” of the NSA’s domestic bulk collection program.

  • African securityNigerian army should be investigated for war crimes against civilians: Amnesty

    A comprehensive new report by Amnesty International offers detailed evidence to support the charge that the Nigerian military, pervasively and systematically, committed gross human rights violations under the guise of fighting Boko Haram. Among the findings: the Nigerian military has arrested at least 20,000 young men and boys since 2009, some as young as nine years old. In most cases, they were arbitrarily arrested, often based solely on the word of a single unidentified secret informant. Almost none of those detained has been brought to court and all have been held without the necessary safeguards against murder, torture, and ill-treatment. More than 8,000 people were murdered, starved, suffocated, and tortured to death since March 2011 in military-run detention centers. More than 1,200 people were unlawfully killed in extrajudicial executions since February 2012. In order to combat the spread of disease and stifle the stench, over-crowded cells were regularly fumigated with powerful chemicals – with the detainees kept inside the cells during fumigation, leading to hundreds of deaths. Amnesty International calls for the new Nigerian government to ensure prompt, independent, and effective investigations of the top military and defense officials – named in the report – who authorized these measures for potential individual or command responsibility for war crimes. The organization also calls for new government to bring to an end the culture of impunity within the Nigeria’s armed forces.