Laws and regulations

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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).

  • SurveillanceJustice Department takes first step toward expansion of search warrants’ reach

    The Justice Department has taken a first step toward allowing judges to grant warrants for remote searches of computers located outside their district, or when the location is unknown. On Monday, the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules approved an amendment to Rule 41 by an 11-1 vote. The existing provision allows judges to approve search warrants only for material within the geographic bounds of their judicial district, but the FBI has said it needs the rule updated to address the increasingly complex digital realities of modern day.

  • Immigration & agricultureAgriculture groups say bill would disrupt farming operations, decrease food production

    The Legal Workforce Act(LWAH.R. 1147), introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and approved this week by the House Judiciary Committee, could disrupt farming operations if it passes Congress. LWA requires employers in the United States, within three years, to use E-Verifyto verify whether employees are legally allowed to work in the country. Ag industry groups say that passing LWA without some sort of immigration reform for agricultural workers could lead to a $30 billion to $60 billion decrease in food production. The ag industry also notes that each of the two million hired farm employees supports two to three fulltime American jobs in the food processing, transportation, farm equipment, marketing, retail, and other sectors.

  • LeaksGen. Petraeus's plea agreement highlights disparate application of national-security laws: Critics

    General David Petraeus’s agreement to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information in exchange for a prosecutor’s recommendation he serve no jail time has raised some concerns about fairness when prosecuting those who leak classified government information. “The issue is not whether Gen. Petraeus was dealt with too leniently, because the pleadings indicate good reason for that result,’’ says lawyer Abbe Lowell. “The issue is whether [other leakers] are dealt with far too severely for conduct that is no different. This underscores the random, disparate and often unfair application of the national-security laws where higher-ups are treated better than lower-downs.’’

  • Patriot ActClapper: Congress would be blamed if Section 215 is not renewed -- and “untoward incident” occurred

    James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said that if Congress failed to reauthorize a controversial provision of the Patriot Act by June, then lawmakers who opposed the renewal of the provision – Section215 – would bear the blame if a terrorist attack, which could have been prevented by actions Section 215 permits, happened. Clapper said that if Congress decided not to renew the Patriot Act, or decided to renew it without Section 215, and an “untoward incident” occurred as a result, he hopes “everyone involved in that decision assumes responsibility” and does not just blame the intelligence community.

  • SurveillanceFISA court reauthorizes NSA’s bulk metadata collection until 1 June

    More than a year after President Barack Obama announced that he will work with Congress to curb the National Security Agency’s (NSA) dragnet surveillance program which collects large amounts of U.S. phone metadata, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved last week a government request to continue allowing the agency to operate its bulk data collection until 1 June, when the legal authority for the program is set to expire. The required reauthorization of the program every ninety days has already been granted four other times — March, June, September, December — since Obama made his announcement in January 2014.

  • Real IDIllinois scrambles to meet Real ID deadline

    State officials in Illinois are working to make driver’s licenses and identification cards comply with the Real ID Act of 2005before commercial air travel restrictions are implemented in 2016. Illinois identification cards do not meet minimum standards mandated by Congress in 2005. The Real ID Act requires states to verify personal information of applicants including birth certificates. The information is then electronically scanned and stored in a federal database, and data can be shared among states and the federal government.

  • Chemical facilities safetySecurity at U.S. chemical plants, and monitoring that security, still fall short

    Security experts, citing a critical Senate report, are warning that the effort by industry and the government to secure U.S. chemical facilities against terrorist attacks has so far been lackluster at best. The Senate report, sponsored by former Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), found that after eight years and $595 million dollars spent on efforts to further chemical plant security, there had been only thirty-nine compliance inspections of the 4,011 national facilities at risk. In any event, the current chemical facility security policies apply only to a fraction of the facilities which produce, store, or transport toxic materials around the country. The experts hope that H. R. 4007, which reformed and renewed the 2007 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), and which became Public Law No: 113-254 on 18 December 2014, will improve and accelerate the security work needed at U.S. chemical facilities.