Laws and regulations

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • SurveillanceComputer searches at border subject to case-by-case reasonableness: Court

    A Washington, D.C. District Court has upheld a ruling that U.S. intelligence and border security agents must have “reasonable suspicion” to seize and search any computer or storage media at the border – especially if the computer and storage media belong to an individual about to leave the country. A South Korean businessman, suspected of buying missile parts for China, was stopped at LAX on his way back to Korea. He was allowed to leave, but his laptop and storage media were seized by agents. Judge Amy Berman Jackson stressed that in border searches, the government has a more compelling interest in searching things that are being brought into the country than things that are about to leave the country. Kim’s lawyers asked the judge to suppress any incriminating evidence found on Kim’s laptop during a warrantless search conducted by the case agents, and she granted to lawyers’ motion. DHS says it will appeal her decision.

  • WaterNew EPA rules extend Clean Water Act protection to more streams, wetlands

    Aiming to clarify the ambiguities of the federal Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week issued a new ruling which take a tougher approach to the protection of streams and wetlands which support wildlife habitats and filter drinking water supplies. EPA officials have warned that up to 60 percent of the streams and millions of acres of wetlands in the United States are not protected under current law. The new regulations would bring these streams and wetlands under the protection of the Clean Water Act.

  • ImmigrationDivided court denies emergency stay of injunction stopping Obama's immigration executive order

    In a disappointing decision for immigration advocates, a divided panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday denied the federal government’s request for an emergency stay of a preliminary injunction which has temporarily stopped President Obama’s deferred action initiatives from being implemented. The court’s order keeps in place the hold on implementation of these initiatives while the Fifth Circuit considers the appeal of the preliminary injunction itself. The Fifth Circuit will hear argument on the appeal in early July.

  • Food safetyImplementing new food safety measure hampered by lack of funding

    Roughly forty-eight million Americans have food-borne illness each year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 128,000 of them are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. The cost of treatment and lost income is $15 billion a year or more, according to data from the Agriculture Department.When Congress passed the 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new powers to prevent food outbreaks, however, it failed adequately to fund the agency, thereby diminishing its ability to implement new regulations and inspection powers on food producers and foreign suppliers.

  • ImmigrationHouse Democrats write court in support of Obama’s immigration executive order

    On Monday, 181 Democratic House members filed a joint amicus brief, telling the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuitthat the executive branch has the authority to make certain policy changes on immigration matters. Specifically, they noted that that the enforcement of immigration laws and the deferral of certain deportations are within the discretion of the executive branch. The lawmakers added that the White House is often better positioned than Congress to determine how to adjust immigration laws.

  • African securityRwanda: how to deal with a million genocide suspects

    By Hollie N. Brehm

    Twenty-one years ago — on 7 April 1994 — the genocide that would kill up to one million people in Rwanda began. Another million individuals would be implicated as perpetrators, leaving Rwandans and many others to ask: how does a country begin to bring so many suspects to justice? In 2002, the Rwandan government created the gacaca — or “grass” in the country’s official language of Kinyarwanda — court system to tackle this enormous problem. Based on a traditional form of community dispute resolution, the gacaca courts functioned for ten years — until 2012. In total, an estimated one million people were tried within the gacaca courts. By Western legal standards, the gacaca courts had serious limitations. That said, the system’s ability to prosecute a massive number of suspected perpetrators in a devastated post-genocide environment is an accomplishment in itself. In fact, other countries could perhaps learn from the goal of integrating punitive responses (like prison sentences) with more restorative ones (like community service).