Laws and regulations

  • CounterterrorismU.K. government's sweeping new counterterrorism bill unveiled today

    The U.K. government unveils today (Wednesday) sweeping new measures to combat extremism and terrorism, and tackle radicalization, in the United Kingdom. Among other measures, the new counterterrorism bill will require schools and universities to exclude radical speakers from their campuses, and give the home secretary the powers to deny entry (or re-entry) to the United Kingdom to U.K. British citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activity abroad. These citizens’ travel documents will be cancelled and their names placed on no-fly lists for up to two years. Home Secretary Theresa May said: “We are engaged in a struggle that is fought on many fronts and in many forms. It is a struggle that will go on for many years. And the threat we face right now is perhaps greater than it ever has been. We must have the powers we need to defend ourselves.”

  • ImmigrationObama’s executive action may divert resources from handling legal immigrants

    Critics of President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration are worried that shifting immigration resources from work done on behalf of legal immigrants to applications filed by those in the country illegally would discourage future immigrants from entering the United States legally.A former federal immigration official compares the new immigration effort to the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA), which drew more than 600,000 applications from Dreamers.One of the effects of DACA was an increase in the wait time for green cards for immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens from five months to fifteen months, which critics blame on personnel being diverted to work on the DACA program.

  • ImmigrationObama’s executive order will shield 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation

    In the face of bitter protests from Republicans in Congress, President Obama will soon announce that he will be using executive orders to launch a broad overhaul of the U.S. immigration enforcement system. One of the immediate results of the overhaul would be to shield up to five million undocumented immigrants – nearly half of the estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States — from the threat of deportation. The president’s orders will also provide many of these undocumented immigrants with work permits.

  • TerrorismVets, victims’ family members suing European banks for supporting terrorism

    About 200 U.S. veterans and family members of soldiers killed in Iraq filed a lawsuit on Monday in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, claiming five European banks were partly responsible for a series of shootings and roadside bombings in Iraq. The lawsuit brought under the 1992 U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, which permits victims to bring private suits against alleged financiers of militant and terrorist operations.

  • DisastersNew Jersey voting measures in the wake of Hurricane Sandy violated law: Report

    A new study found that key emergency measures that were meant to allow voters to participate digitally in the days after 2012 Hurricane Sandy may have violated state law. Some of those steps, such as allowing people to request their mail-in ballots by fax and e-mail, led to confusion in many county precincts on Election Day.

  • EbolaLack of federal authority makes fashioning coherent national Ebola policy difficult

    Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) issued new guidelines on how states should deal with travelers from Ebola-stricken regions, but a lack of federal authority to mandate such guidelines has led to conflicting strategies, varying from state to state, which includes mandatory at-home quarantine for some travelers. Under current U.S. law, the states have the authority to issue quarantine or isolation policies, and they also control the enforcement of these policies within their territories.

  • CBPCourt orders reinstatement of CBP terminated employee, saying termination was unjustified

    Customs and Border Protection(CBP) agent Thomas G. Wrocklage has triumphedin his effort to return to work following a federal appeals court’s disagreement with how the Merit Systems Protection Board(MSPB) decided his removal appeal. Wrocklage disagreed with his supervisors about a $300 fine issued to an elderly couple returning from a trip to Canada for failure to disclose to a second border officer that they had with them some fruits and vegetables.

  • DronesLegal framework needed to govern soon-to-arrive autonomous killer drones: Experts

    With about 8,000 unmanned aircrafts and roughly 12,000 unmanned ground vehicles, the U.S. military boasts the world’s largest drone arsenal, followed by Israel, with China, Europe, India, and Russia in the second tier. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will pose a challenge to current international laws of warfare since someday, and sooner rather than later, they will be able to act autonomously – and kill autonomously. The international community has yet to adopt special laws to govern the use of drones in combat.

  • EbolaLegality of mandatory quarantine of asymptomatic individuals questioned

    Roughly three decades ago, patients in New York were forced into isolationafter an outbreak of tuberculosis, and about seventy years before that, an influenza pandemic led to mass quarantine in major American cities. Today, fear of an Ebola outbreak in the United States has led some states to mandate quarantine of individuals suspected of having the Ebola virus, but legal analysts question the legality of such measures.

  • EbolaStates’ waste disposal laws limit hospitals’ Ebola-related disposal options

    As U.S. hospitals prepare their staff for the possibility of admitting Ebola patients, many are concerned with the laws governing the disposal of Ebola-contaminated medical waste. Protective gloves, gowns, masks, medical instruments, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, and even pillowcases used on a single Ebola patient treated in a U.S. hospital will generate roughly eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste each day. The CDC recommends autoclaving or incinerating the waste as a way to destroy the microbes, but California and at least seven other states prohibit burning infected waste.

  • CybersecurityFBI wants Congress to mandate backdoors in tech devices to facilitate surveillance

    In response to announcements by Appleand Googlethat they would make the data customers store on their smartphones and computers more secure and safer from hacking by law enforcement, spies, and identity thieves, FBI director James Comey is asking Congress to order tech companies to build their devices with “backdoors,” making them more accessible to law enforcement agencies.Privacy advocates predict that few in Congress will support Comey’s quest for greater surveillance powers.

  • Real IDMost states are complying with Real ID, but a few lag behind

    Forty U.S. states and some territories have adopted the Real ID Actrequirements for state driver’s licenses and identification cards, mandated by the federal government. Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, and Washington are still considered noncompliant as of October 2014. DHS announced a phased enforcement of the Real ID Act in 2013, and residents of non-complying states are already facing restrictions – such as having to present a passport or birth certificate in order to enter restricted areas in federal facilities or nuclear power plants. These restrictions will only tighten between now and January 2016.

  • HazmatDebate continues over releasing Pennsylvania crude oil shipment information

    Shipment of crude oil by rail in the United States has increased from 800,000 barrels a day in 2012 to 1.4 million in 2014. In western Pennsylvania, over seventy-five million gallons of crude oil are passing through Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to refineries in Philadelphia. Release of the recently classified rail transport records by Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) was a result of a federal mandate ordering railway companies to share information on interstate shipments of crude oil with state emergency management officials.Railway companies claim that releasing the information threatens security and is commercially sensitive.

  • CrimeExperts urge caution in relying upon eyewitness identifications in criminal cases

    A new report from the National Research Council recommends best practices that law enforcement agencies and courts should follow to improve the likelihood that eyewitness identifications used in criminal cases will be accurate. Science has provided an increasingly clear picture of the inherent limits in human visual perception and memory that can lead to errors, as well as the ways unintentional cues during law enforcement processes can compromise eyewitness identifications, the report says.

  • ImmigrationIn U.S. criminal courts, non-citizens face harsher sentencing than citizens

    Non-Americans in the U.S. federal court system are more likely to be sentenced to prison and for longer terms compared to U.S. citizens, according to a new study. The researchers analyzed U.S. federal district court data from 1992 to 2008 for this study. In 2008, for example, 96 percent of convicted non-citizens received a prison sentence, compared to 85 percent of U.S. citizens. The researchers said that the issue of punishment disparities between citizens and non-citizens is a growing concern as the number of non-citizens in the United States — estimated at more than twenty-two million — continues to grow.