• 4-4 Supreme Court tie keeps Obama's sweeping immigration reforms blocked

    A 4:4 tie at the Supreme Court has dealt Barack Obama’s immigration program – and his legacy — a major setback. The president took his executive action to shield about four millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation after House Republicans refused to bring to the floor for a vote a 2013 bipartisan Senate legislation which provided a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Twenty-six states with Republican governors challenged Obama’s executive action, arguing that Obama had exceeded his authority by granting a blanket deportation deferment to millions of undocumented immigrants. A federal judge in Texas ruled in favor of the twenty-six governors, and the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of appeals upheld that Texas court’s decision last November.

  • Six things Americans should know about mass shootings

    The United States had 78 mass shootings during that 30-year period. The highest number of mass shootings experienced outside the United States was in Germany – where seven shootings occurred. In the other twenty-four industrialized countries taken together, 41 mass shootings took place. In other words, the United States had nearly double the number of mass shootings than all other twenty-four industrialized countries combined in the same 30-year period.

  • Snowden performed “public service” but should be punished: Eric Holder

    Eric Holder, the former U.S. Attorney General, has said Edward Snowden performed a “public service” by triggering a debate over surveillance techniques. Holder added, however, that he believed Snowden should be punished for leaking classified intelligence information which threatened U.S. national security.

  • Four questions Belgians should ask about the Patriot Act

    The Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks added a sense of urgency to calls for Belgium to enact its own counterterrorism bill. It is a call the French government has already answered. Increased use of surveillance is a worldwide trend. There is no guarantee, however, that even with the most sophisticated surveillance technology out there today, passing a bill or law to collect private information on citizens will protect us from terrorist threats and violence. Even more vexing: the nature of intelligence gathering means we may never know exactly how many attacks have been prevented by the Patriot Act, the French surveillance law — or a similar law that Belgium may soon pass.

  • ISIS has changed international law

    Two years ago, virtually no one had heard of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In a January 2014 New Yorker interview, President Obama dismissed the group as “Junior Varsity.” Since then, ISIS has emerged as one of the most wealthy, powerful, and dangerous terrorist organizations that ever existed. UN Security Council Resolution 2249, adopted in November 2015, will likely be viewed as confirming that use of force in self-defense is now permissible against “nonstate actors” such as terrorists when the territorial state is unable to suppress the threat that they pose. The implication of this newly accepted change in the international law of self-defense is that any nation can now lawfully use force against deadly nonstate actors in another country if the government of that country is unable or unwilling to suppress the threat within its borders. With so many potential targets in so many countries – the U.S. terrorist organizations list, for example, includes fifty-eight terrorist groups headquartered in thirty-five different countries (in addition to ISIS in Syria/Iraq) — one must ask whether the possibility of abuse will ultimately outweigh the benefits of weakening ISIS.

  • Trump’s campaign rhetoric, ISIS and the law of war

    Presidential candidate Donald Trump said that one reason the U.S. war against ISIS is “ineffective” is that “We’re fighting a very politically correct war.” Exactly what Trump is suggesting doing is not clear, but it is significant that Trump recently acknowledged that the U.S.“is bound by laws and treaties” and that as president he would “not order a military officer to disobey the law.” Instead, he said he would “seek [the] advice” of military and other officials. This is good news, and something all the candidates – and their critics – ought to embrace, as applying the law of war in the twenty-first century is much more complicated than many think. Words do matter, and where the nation’s security is concerned, no words can be more important..

  • Apple versus FBI: All Writs Act’s age should not bar its use

    A federal magistrate judge in California has issued a warrant ordering Apple to assist the FBI in accessing data on an iPhone used by a suspect in the December 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting. Apple’s public refusal to comply with the order – and its motion asking a judge to reverse the order – have set up a legal showdown that has captivated the technology world. It’s hard not to think that marketing and economics are at least somewhat behind Apple’s actions. But my guess is most people understand that the FBI would not be getting into their phones without a probable cause search warrant. In addition, I would think Apple would not want to have a market composed of people who want to use iPhones for dangerous and illegal activity. The company might actually lose more future customers because of its uncooperative attitude than it would ever lose by helping the government by complying with a court order.

  • Nearly 300,000 UAV owners register with the FAA

    Nearly 300,000 owners have registered their small unmanned aircraft in the first thirty days after the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) online registration system went live. Owners who registered in the first month received a refund for the $5 application fee.

  • Obama to end background-checks exemptions of gun shows, online gun sales

    President Barack Obama will today announce a series of executive actions aiming to close loopholes in the current system of background checks of gun buyers. The executive actions say it will focus on tightening the definition of those “engaged in the business” of selling weapons. Such tightening would deny online vendors and gun shows – where about 40 percent of all gun are purchased — exemptions from conducting background checks for gun buyers. Criminals and mentally ill people can now purchase guns through gun sellers who exploit the “engaged in business” loophole which was originally designed for hobbyists and personal sales.

  • Majority of Americans believe it is sometimes necessary for govt. to sacrifice freedoms

    Survey conducted after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks finds a majority of respondents from both parties think it is acceptable for the government to analyze the Internet activities and communications of American citizens without a warrant.

  • Better understanding of hybrid warfare needed: Experts

    In recent years, armed conflicts have increasingly been fought in a “hybrid” way, in which adversaries rely on a combination of conventional and non-conventional tactics to achieve their military and political objectives. Legal experts say it is essential that the MATO member nations gain a better understanding of the legal challenges posed by new methods of warfare.

  • WH finalizing executive order tightening background checks of gun buyers

    Sources say that the White House is about to announce a new executive order to expand background checks of individuals wishing to purchase guns. One proposal being considered would designate more sellers as high-volume dealers, closing a legal loophole which allows many sales conducted online or at gun shows to escape existing background check provisions. Two other developments on the gun front: On Thursday, Connecticut governor Dan Malloy said he would sign an executive order which would bar people on the government’s terrorism watch lists from buying guns in Connecticut; in the House, Democrats demand that a 17-year ban on government-funded research into violence involving firearms be ended.

  • It’s time to repeal the gun industry’s exceptional legal immunity

    Coming up with effective and realistic solutions to curb gun violence is not easy. Guns pose a tricky dilemma, because they can be used to do good or bad things. They can be used to commit heinous crimes, but they can be used to protect lives as well. The challenge for lawmakers is to come up with ways to reduce the risk of criminal misuse of guns while preserving and even promoting the likelihood of guns being used in beneficial ways. Ensuring that every firearm manufacturer and dealer operates as safely and responsibly as possible should be one piece of the puzzle. A key way to ensure that gun companies have the right incentives would be to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Enacted in 2005, this federal law gave gun sellers a special immunity from legal responsibilities, which is not enjoyed by any other industry. Gun manufacturers and dealers should not be subject to any extraordinary forms of liability that do not apply to other products. They should not be liable, for example, merely because a firearm is a weapon that is capable of being used to do harm. But if a gun manufacturer or dealer fails to take basic, reasonable precautions in distributing products, it should be held accountable under the law just as an irresponsible company in any other business would be. With the risks of firearms in the wrong hands becoming ever more apparent, Congress should reconsider its regrettable decision to give the gun industry special immunity from legal responsibility.

  • NYPD 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.”

  • Court 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.