Tom Feeley, owner and editor of InformationClearingHouse.info, has endured public harassment, home invasions, death threats and threats to his family simply for running a website.
The operator of a leading alternative news and strongly anti-war website has become the target of nefarious thugs apparently in the employ of the U.S. government who have continually harassed him and ordered him to shut down his website.
Tom Feeley, owner and editor of Information Clearing House.info, has endured public harassment, home invasions, death threats and threats to his family simply for running a website.
Counterpunch writer Mike Whitney has circulated an e mail describing what happened to Feeley in an attempt to draw attention to the matter.
Whitney writes that earlier this week Feeley’s wife was startled to suddenly discover three well dressed men standing in her kitchen who told her that Tom must “Stop what he is doing on the Internet, NOW!”
Border check: A Customs and Border Protection officer searched a truck at a border crossing in Blaine, Wash., in 2006. For the past 18 months, officials at border entries have been searching some citizens’ laptops. (Andy Nelson – Staff/File)
Courts have upheld routine checks of Americans’ hard drives at the border. Critics say they’re anything but routine.
New York – Is a laptop searchable in the same way as a piece of luggage? The Department of Homeland Security believes it is.
For the past 18 months, immigration officials at border entries have been searching and seizing some citizens’ laptops, cellphones, and BlackBerry devices when they return from international trips.
In some cases, the officers go through the files while the traveler is standing there. In others, they take the device for several hours and download the hard drive’s content. After that, it’s unclear what happens to the data.
The Department of Homeland Security contends these searches and seizures of electronic files are vital to detecting terrorists and child pornographers. It also says it has the constitutional authority to do them without a warrant or probable cause.
But many people in the business community disagree, saying DHS is overstepping the Fourth Amendment bounds of permissible routine searches. Some are fighting for Congress to put limits on what can be searched and seized and what happens to the information that’s taken. The civil rights community says the laptop seizures are simply unconstitutional. They want DHS to stop the practice unless there’s at least reasonable suspicion.
Legal scholars say the issue raises the compelling and sometimes clashing interests of privacy rights and the need to protect the US from terrorists and child pornographers. The courts have long held that routine searches at the border are permissible, simply because they take place at the border. Opponents of the current policy say a laptop search is far from “routine.”
“A laptop can hold [the equivalent of] a major university’s library: It can contain your full life,” says Peter Swire, a professor of law at Ohio State University in Columbus. “The government’s never gotten to search your entire life, so this is unprecedented in scale what the government can get.”
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a landmark lawsuit today to stop the government from conducting surveillance under a new wiretapping law that gives the Bush administration virtually unchecked power to intercept Americans’ international e-mails and telephone calls. The case was filed on behalf of a broad coalition of attorneys and human rights, labor, legal and media organizations whose ability to perform their work – which relies on confidential communications – will be greatly compromised by the new law.
The FISA Amendments Act of 2008, passed by Congress on Wednesday and signed by President Bush today, not only legalizes the secret warrantless surveillance program the president approved in late 2001, it gives the government new spying powers, including the power to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications.
“Spying on Americans without warrants or judicial approval is an abuse of government power – and that’s exactly what this law allows. The ACLU will not sit by and let this evisceration of the Fourth Amendment go unchallenged,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “Electronic surveillance must be conducted in a constitutional manner that affords the greatest possible protection for individual privacy and free speech rights. The new wiretapping law fails to provide fundamental safeguards that the Constitution unambiguously requires.”
The “suggested duties” of these Terrorism Liaison Officers include: “source person for internal or external inquiry,” and “collecting, reporting retrieving and sharing of materials related to terrorism. Such materials might include … books journals, periodicals, and videotapes.” Photo: Stasi operative from the German film, The Lives of Others.
The full scale of Bush’s assault on our civil liberties may not be known until years after he’s left office.
At the moment, all we can do is get glimpses here or there of what’s going on.
And the latest one to come to my attention is the dispatching of police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and utility workers as so-called “terrorism liaison officers,” according to a report by Bruce Finley in the Denver Post.
They are entrusted with hunting for “suspicious activity,” and then they report their findings, which end up in secret government databases.
What constitutes “suspicious activity,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder. But a draft Justice Department memo on the subject says that such things as “taking photos of no apparent aesthetic value” or “making notes” could constitute suspicious activity, Finley wrote.
The states where this is going on include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.
Dozens more are planning to do so, Finley reports.
Colorado alone has 181 Terrorism Liaison Officers, and some of them are from the private sector, such as Xcel Energy.
Mark Silverstein of the Colorado ACLU told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! that this reminds him of the old TIPS program, which “caused so much controversy that Congress eventually shut it down. But it is reemerging in other forms.” Silverstein warns that there will be thousands and thousands of “completely innocent people going about completely innocent and legal activities” who are going to end up in a government database.
WASHINGTON – More than two and a half years after the disclosure of President’s Bush’s domestic eavesdropping program set off a furious national debate, the Senate gave final approval on Wednesday afternoon to broadening the government’s spy powers and providing legal immunity for the phone companies that took part in the wiretapping program.
The plan, approved by a vote of 69 to 28, marked one of Mr. Bush’s most hard-won legislative victories in a Democratic-led Congress where he has had little success of late. Both houses, controlled by Democrats, approved what amounted to the biggest restructuring of federal surveillance law in 30 years, giving the government more latitude to eavesdrop on targets abroad and at home who are suspected of links to terrorism.
The issue put Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in a particularly precarious spot. After long opposing the idea of immunity for the phone companies in the wiretapping operation, he voted for the plan on Wednesday. His reversal last month angered many of his most ardent supporters, who organized an unsuccessful drive to get him to reverse his position once again. And it came to symbolize what civil liberties advocates saw as “capitulation” by Democratic leaders to political pressure from the White House in an election year.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who was Mr. Obama’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, voted against the bill.
The outcome was a stinging defeat for opponents who had urged Democratic leaders to stand firm against the White House after a months-long impasse.
“I urge my colleagues to stand up for the rule of law and defeat this bill,” Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said in closing arguments.
George Bush is poised for a major victory this week as Congress nears final approval of a plan to provide legal immunity to private companies that aided government wiretapping as well as expand those spying powers.
Debate on the wiretapping bill is slated to begin in the Senate today, with a vote expected by week’s end. Although civil liberties groups and liberal activists have pressed Democrats to oppose the proposal, its approval is considered a near-certainty.
The bill’s most controversial provision gives legal immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the Bush administration monitor phone calls and emails without a court warrant in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The immunity debate has created particular headaches for Barack Obama, who last fall joined a group of liberal senators in blocking a separate wiretapping bill that contained a liability shield for telecoms.
But after securing the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama veered to the centre and indicated he would support the wiretapping plan even if the final version cancelled lawsuits against the companies. His staunchest supporters on the left protested the sudden shift, even forming a network on Obama’s website to castigate him.
Obama attempted to smooth over the rift in a statement posted to that online network yesterday.
“Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I’ve chosen to support the current compromise,” Obama wrote to the backers disenchanted with his move.
An interview with Gore Vidal by Afshin Rattansi, Press TV, Tehran:
Press TV:We hear that Michael Mukasey is going to become the latest of the President’s Attorney-Generals to be subpoenaed, this time over his conversations with Bush and Cheney – does this show that Congress is serious about calling the executive to account?
Gore Vidal:No, Congress has never been more cowardly, nor more corrupt. All Bush has do is to make sure certain amounts of money go in the direction of certain important congressmen and that’s end of any serious investigation. After all, one of the bravest members of Congress is Dennis Kucinich who brought the article of impeachment in to the well of the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives must then try the president, and then after that it goes to the Senate for judgment. However, none of these things will happen because there’s nobody there except for Mr. Kucinich who has the courage to take on a sitting president who is kind of a Mafioso.
Press TV: How can it just be one person among so many hundreds of Congressmen who wants the impeachment of George W. Bush in these circumstances?
Gore Vidal:Well it’s because we no longer have a country. We don’t have a republic any more. During the last 7 or 8 years of the Bush regime, they’ve got rid of the Bill of Rights, they’ve got rid of habeas corpus. They have got rid of one of the nicest gifts that England ever left us when they went away and we ceased to be colonies – the Magna Carta – from the 12th century. All of our law and due process of law is based on that. And the Bush people got rid of it. The president and little Mr. Gonzales who for a few minutes was his Attorney General. They managed to get rid of all of the constitutional links that made us literally a republic.
Press TV: You have often written about the US’s superpower status in terms of the history of previous superpowers. Do you think we’re witnessing the end of US power as some suggest. Will the White House be seen like Persepolis?
Gore Vidal: Well it won’t make such good ruins, no. It’ll be more like the tomb of Cyrus nearby. They managed to destroy the United States – why? Because they’re oil and gas people and they’re essentially criminals. I repeat that this is a criminal group that’s seized control of the country through what looked like an ordinary election. But there’s some very nice films and documentaries about what happened in the year 2000 when Albert Gore won the election for president and they saw to it that he couldn’t serve. They got the Supreme Court – which is the Holy of Holies ordinarily in our system – to investigate and then accuse the thieves of being absolutely correct and the winners – Mr. Gore and the Democrats – of being the cheaters. It’s the first law of Machiavelli, whatever your opponent’s faults are, you pick his virtues and you deny he has them. That’s what they did when Senator Kerry ran a few years ago for president. He’s a famous hero from the Vietnam War. They said he was a coward and not a hero. That’s how it’s done. When you have a bunch of liars in charge of your government you can’t expect to get much history out of that. But later on we’ll dig and dig… and we will dig up Persepolis.
Press TV: Senator Obama talks about change but of course he has courting Wall Street as well as the Israeli lobby – do you see any prospect of change with him as president?
Gore Vidal:Not really. I don’t doubt his good faith, just as I do not doubt the bad faith of Cheney and Bush. They are such dreadful people that we’ve never had in government before. They would never have risen unless they were buying elections as they did in Florida in 2000, as they did in the State of Ohio in 2004. These are two open thefts of the Presidency. When I discovered that this did not interest the New York Times or the Washington Post or any of the press of the country I realized our day was done. We are no longer a country we are a framework for crooks to go in and steal money. Knowing that they’ll never be caught and they’ll be admired for it. Americans always take everybody on his own evaluation. You say I’m a state and they say “oh, yeah yeah yeah, he’s a state, isn’t that great.” And you accuse the other people of your crimes before you commit them. It’s an old trick which was known to Machiavelli who wrote about it in his handbook, the Prince.
Press TV:Finally that issue which is exercising so many minds in the Middle East and beyond. You, yourself have written about so many Imperial wars of the United States. Do you think Bush and Cheney would risk another war in what Mohammad ElBaradei of the IAEA calls a fireball?
Gore Vidal: They are longing to but they have spent all of the money. They have got it in their own private companies like the Vice-President and a company called Halliburton which is stealing more money and should be on trial sooner or later before Congress. But perhaps not, who knows? But it’s well known in Washington, these people are leaking away the money of the country. Well there’s no more money. They are longing for a war with Iran. Iran is no more a harm to us than was Iraq or Afghanistan. They invented an enemy, they tell lies, lies, lies.
The New York Times goes along with their lies, lies, lies. And they don’t stop. When the public that’s lied to 30 times a day it’s apt to believe the lies, is not it?
A re-enactment of torture in Canberra similar to that experienced by The Epoch Times journalists. (The Epoch Times)
Somewhere in the world, the warm fire crackles as giggling children, adorn their Christmas tree with the colourful lights that William Huang made in jail. A United States living room is coloured with the ornamental flowers he put together, glitter sticking to the sweat on his body, bursting calluses on his hands. Others, somewhere in Europe, chat and munch on the pistachio nuts that he pried open with pliers, or clambered over to use the open toilet, in the bedroom-sized production room that was home to over 20 prisoners.
Surely greater things awaited William when he graduated from China’s prestigious Tsinghua University in July 1999, than slaving seven days a week, for more than 16 hours per day, producing cheap Chinese goods in a Chinese “re-education through labour” center. At least he can choose his destiny now, living and studying in the United States. But memories of electric batons, brainwashing sessions and sleep deprivation don’t easily fade. Nor do the memories of his colleagues who are still in jail.
William Huang, whose Chinese name is Huang Kui, came to America in March this year, with fresh memories of what had happened to the first group ofThe Epoch Times workers in China, who suddenly disappeared on December 16, 2000. He and around ten others, mostly Falun Gong practitioners, had rented a flat in Zhuhai city, in Guangdong province, which became the underground office for the fledgling online publication. There were people in other cities helping as well, pitching in with time, or money, or both. His job was researching and writing international news articles, while others focussed on weighty domestic issues, especially the state’s full-scale persecution of the Falun Gong meditation practice.
He has no idea how the police found them, but one day without warning more than ten policemen burst in, arresting everyone and seizing all equipment. 48 hours of sleep deprivation and interrogation followed. He and the others were charged with “subverting the political power of the state” because they had published articles exposing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) human rights crimes.
William was moved to the 2nd detention centre in Zhuhai whilst awaiting sentence, and he was interrogated almost every day for half a year, sometimes until 2am. He was then put to work, laboring at least 16 hours each day making ornamental flowers, Christmas lights, pearl decorations, and prying open pistachio nuts. At first they used pork oil for part of the flower-making process, but the guards soon ordered them to stop, as it would attract bugs that would damage the goods while in transit to the United States. He remembers the cold November days of 2001, when large, painful cracks formed on his hands.
After three months he had still not been sentenced. Lacking any formal appeal mechanism, he refused to eat. After five days without food or water, the guards chained him to a cross made of wooden planks. They pried his teeth open with metal pliers, pinched his nose, held his throat open with chopsticks and threw lumps of rice porridge into his stomach.
Tiger bench torture
From time to time he caught glances of other The Epoch Times workers in prison, and he once had a chance to talk to Zhang Yuhui, who was chief editor when the arrests took place, and who is still in jail. Zhang told him that he had spent 7 days and 7 nights on the “Tiger Bench” torture implement, for refusing to inform on others. While Zhang did not elaborate, this method is known to involve forcing a person to sit with legs extended on a long, thin bench, with ropes tying the knees to the bench. Objects are then forced under the legs to bend the knees the wrong way, causing extreme agony. Zhang had also spent three days tied on a cross, in a contorted position.
The democracy-loving British public would never put up with dictatorship – or would they?
An 82-year-old former bomber pilot I met in the street the other day said: “Supermen. Ha! If Hitler had come over here we would have given him a proper kick up the jackside.” As Michael White suggests, British people are fond of the myth that they won’t tolerate dictatorships, despite the fact that there were many fascist sympathisers in Britain in the 1930s.
Yes, we do live in a relatively free and secular country – just ask any young Afghani woman studying at a college here for her opinion. But there is also evidence around us that the British government is engaging in repression. And not just in Iraq or Afghanistan, but here in Britain. Perhaps those of us who have lived for a time under dictatorships can spot some of the warning signs:
Inconvenient elections are avoided in the name of getting on with the job.
Leaders of the opposition are character-assassinated by the state media.
Institutions like the legislature begin to lose their independence and traditional role.
Citizens are increasingly afraid to speak openly on certain issues.
Citizens are observed and monitored on cameras and the government can tap into their conversations at will.
Governments can snatch anyone from their homes or off the street and detain them without trial on charges of treason or terrorism.
Ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted and are made into scapegoats.
The state increasingly intervenes in family and community life in an attempt to control citizens’ behaviour.
The focus of discussion moves away from the issues and into a narrative of political rivalries and gossip spreads.
Governments use bread and circuses to shut people up and distract attention away from their increasing political impotence.
Public spaces for demonstrations are closed down and restricted.
Large and ridiculous monuments are built to impress the citizens.
Individuals have to carry ID with them at all times and the government holds large amounts of information on every citizen.
How does the British government rate on the dictatorship scale? How close are we to Zimbabwe under Zanu? How far away are we from, say, Norway?
Roadside tests to detect drug use. Demanding bodily fluids is an intrusive, unreliable form of testing, critics warn
Drivers who get behind the wheel while high on drugs will face roadside testing and they could be ordered to surrender urine, blood or saliva samples at the police station under a controversial new law that takes effect one week from today.
Drivers who refuse to comply will be subject to a minimum $1,000 fine – the same penalty for refusing the breathalyzer.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims that a key positive feature of the new wiretap “compromise” is that the bill reaffirms that the President must follow the law, even though the same bill virtually assures that no one will be held accountable for George W. Bush’s violation of the earlier spying law.
In other words, in the guise of rejecting Bush’s theories of an all-powerful presidency that is above the law, the Democratic leadership cleared the way for the President and his collaborators to evade punishment for defying the law.
So, why should anyone assume that the new legislative edict demanding that the President obey the law will get any more respect than the old one, which established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 as the “exclusive” means for authorizing electronic spying?
It wasn’t that Bush and his team didn’t understand the old law’s language; they simply believed they could violate the law without consequence, under the radical theory that at a time of war – even one as vaguely defined as the “war on terror” – the President’s powers trump all laws as well as the constitutional rights of citizens.
Essentially, Bush was betting that even if his warrantless wiretap program was disclosed – as it was in December 2005 – that he could trust his Republican congressional allies to protect him and could count on most Democrats not to have the guts to challenge him.
It makes sense, considering Bush’s concerted effort to destroy the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
“U.S. President George Bush will visit the Midwest state of Iowa Thursday to inspect damage from major flooding along the Mississippi River,” reports Voice of America, the official voice of the U.S. government. “Federal officials briefed the president on efforts to shore-up levees along the Mississippi River and help those displaced by the flooding.”
As Paul Joseph Watson notes, some of those “displaced” would argue that the government is not exactly helping them. “Shocking footage out of Cedar Rapids Iowa shows cops and government employee ‘strike teams’ breaking into houses of flood victims and threatening anyone who questions their actions in complete violation of the 4th amendment right that protects against unlawful search and seizure,” writes Watson. “No warrant, no knock home invasions are being carried out on the flimsy pretext of ‘checking for structural damage’ as cops harass and threaten with arrest people who refuse to have their homes ransacked by thugs in uniforms.”
It’s all part of the FEMA and Ministry of Homeland Security way of doing things. Remember when DHS spokesman John Erickson told the Indy Star residents of Indiana are basically on their own? In Iowa, that’s not the case, as local and state government are preventing residents from acting on their own. Iowa is under martial law, although not officially declared. It looks like martial law to those folks confronted by armed “strike teams” and checkpoints.
“In Cedar Rapids, residents were allowed to return home temporarily to retrieve keepsakes and other items Sunday, but authorities said Monday that strike teams had determined the neighborhoods were no longer safe, even for a quick visit,” CNN reported.
Keepsakes – as defined by government.
If neighborhoods are “no longer safe, even for a quick visit,” how long will it be before FEMA brings in the formaldehyde trailers? It looks like the feds will now get involved as the decider-commander is ready to fly in for public relations stunt, excuse me “inspection.” Bush, speaking to the script-reading corporate media, says “there has been close coordination between federal and state authorities.” In other words, the residents of Iowa and other flood ravaged states need to start worrying even more than they are already.
“I fully understand people are upset when they lose their home. A person’s home is their most valued possession,” Bush told the Associated Press.
No, George. It’s not a home. It’s a “keepsake.”
“Federal Emergency Management Agency officials say they are dealing proactively with the Midwest flooding because of lessons learned from failures during Hurricane Katrina, as President Bush promised quick relief to the thousands affected,” reports the Washington Times. “A lot of people are going to be wondering, is there short-term help for housing? And there is, and we’ll provide that help,” declared the commander-decider. Get ready for another toxic trailer fiasco.
Lessons learned from Katrina?
Not surprisingly, instead of helping flood stricken residents, FEMA has placed needed supplies out of the way in St. Louis. “FEMA positioned supplies and personnel north of St. Louis, even though the city is south of the most severe flooding and has not yet had any problems, said Robert Powers, FEMA’s deputy assistant administrator for disaster operations…. Mr. Powers said that FEMA’s planning in St. Louis is indicative of the change in the agency’s response after failing to deal effectively with Katrina in 2005.”
You’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie.
“I, unfortunately, have been to too many disasters as president,” said Bush. “But one thing I’ve always learned is that the American citizen can overcome these disasters. And life, while it may seem dim at this point in time, can always be better because of the resiliency and care of our citizens.”
In other words, Bush has occupied the White House while disasters exacerbated or created by the government have unfolded, from the deliberate “mishandling” of Katrina to the Iraq invasion and occupation. Bush and his neocon managers care so much for “our citizens” they have virtually hobbled the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Bush so trusts and respects the citizenry, he oversaw the revision of the Insurrection Act, essentially killing off Posse Comitatus, and the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Oh, let’s not forget PDD51, National Security Presidential Directive 51.
It allows Bush to fully realize his role as the decider-commander and chuck Congress and the resilient (read, continually besieged by government) American citizen by the way side. For some reason, the corporate media did not find this directive worthy of much reportage.
(PDD51 gives Bush basically the power of an Adolf Hitler or a Joseph Stalin – The Infinite Unknown)
Floods in the Midwest of course are not of the magnitude required to impose “continuity of government” – and government is perpetually obsessed with its own continuity above all else – but they may provide yet another dry run for a larger, more catastrophic national emergency. Our rulers have promised one for some time now.
Meanwhile, “strike teams” are breaking into houses in Iowa and providing a glimpse of how things will be under PDD51. Checkpoints and roving gangs of government thugs armed with crowbars and weapons will become common enough after Bush and the neocons declare their national emergency and finally consolidate power under martial law.
By now, it is widely known that the Supreme Court has weighed in on the debate over the rights of the prisoners at Gitmo. The court has stated that the detainees’ habeas corpus rights (the protection against an indefinite detention without charges and a trial) ought to be respected.
Referring to the human beings who are still being detained at Guantanamo Bay, McCain stated, “These are people who are not citizens. They do not and never have been given the rights that citizens in this country have” (emphasis added).
So our rights are given to us? Interesting.
I might ask McCain at the out-set, since you apparently believe that only citizens have rights (presumably “given” to them in the Constitution) where exactly in text of the Constitution does the Constitution give this right the right of habeas corpus?
You won’t find it. The Constitution only puts limits on the removal of habeas corpus, which implies that human beings possess this right naturally, and that habeas corpus is not some peculiar civil privilege, such as welfare, or some right that only citizens have, such as voting in our elections.
Similarly, human beings possess the rights in the Bill of Rights naturally, and as such, government is prevented from infringing upon them in the first ten amendments to the Constitution. But the rights are not granted by the government or the Constitution; we already had the rights as human beings!
I recommend that McCain read the Declaration of Independence. He has admitted that he is ignorant of economics, so perhaps he needs to brush up on his political theory and History, as well.
The Declaration of Independence declares the self-evident truth that God gave us our rights and that we are “endowed by our creator” with “unalienable rights,” such as, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Unalienable. Can’t be taken away. God-given natural rights. This is extremely important. Pay attention.
You see, if governments have “given” you “rights,” well then guess who can take them away at their will. Governments! McCain’s dangerous philosophy of rights as privileges is a recipe for tyranny. Government gives us our liberty? Is he serious? Well then that makes the state our god.
London police have announced a ban on anti-war campaigners hoping to protest against President George Bush’s visit to Downing Street this Sunday. The Whitehall ban has been immediately condemned as a “totalitarian act” by the playwright Harold Pinter, while Stop the War organisers are urging people to defy it and to demonstrate nearby in Parliament Square.
“In what is supposed to be a free country the Stop the War Coalition has every right to express its views peacefully and openly. This ban is outrageous and makes the term ‘democracy’ laughable,” Pinter said today. Lindsey German, a leader of the Stop the War Coalition, said: “It seems that when George W Bush visits this country traditional rights of assembly are to be removed from the people. We are calling on those who care for our democratic rights to come to Parliament Square at 5pm on Sunday 15 June. Some of those who signed statements accusing Bush of war crimes will be leading this protest.
“George Bush has been dictating British foreign policy for many years. Now it appears his security services are determining our rights of protest. This is a disgrace and we will challenge the ban.”
Relatively junior council officials are giving permission for operations to spy on people
Thousands of middle managers in local councils are being authorised to spy on people suspected of petty offences using powers designed to prevent crime and terrorism.Even junior council officials are being allowed to initiate surveillance operations in what privacy campaigners likened to Eastern bloc police tactics.
The Home Office is expected to be urged by the Commons Home Affairs select committee to issue guidelines to councils on the type of operations in which surveillance can be used.
Amid increasing concern in Parliament that the UK is slowly becoming a surveillance society, the committee has looked at the operation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which some MPs say is being misused to focus on petty crime rather than serious offending.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs select committee, told The Times: “I am personally shocked by the numbers involved in surveillance by the local authorities. It is important we make sure there is proper accountability and transparency in the way this operates.” The committee, which has concluded an investigation into the surveillance society and is to publish its report in eight days’ time, is understood to have been concerned at the lack of guidance from central government to local authorities on how powers under the Act should be used.
Councils are increasingly allowing anyone of a “service manager” grade rather than high-ranking officials with a legal background to authorise surveillance operations. Relatively junior council officials are giving permission for operations to spy on people, their homes, obtain their telephone records and discover who they are e-mailing.
“A lot of councils are making the proactive decision to use these powers more,” a spokesman for Lacors, the central body that oversees local authorities, said.
“They think it’s a fantastic tool. Inevitably, more middle-management staff will be called on to authorise surveillance.”
(NaturalNews) Many people are under the impression that patients in the U.S. have the right to decline treatment if they are mentally competent and aware of the consequences of such a refusal. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case if you visit certain hospitals. A construction worker who was hit in the head while on the job was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center where he received eight stitches above his left eyebrow. When a doctor informed him that he needed to have a rectal exam in order to ascertain whether or not he sustained a spinal injury, the patient flatly refused the treatment.
What happened next is scary. While hospital personnel tried to hold the patient down in order to administer the exam anyway, very much against the patient’s wishes, the patient accidentally hit a doctor while trying to break loose. Unfortunately, the hospital staff did not wish to take “no” for an answer, and the patient was drugged and later awoke with a tube in his throat and lubricant in his rectum, handcuffed to a bed. It seems doctors have the authority to decide to ignore the wishes of a patient if they feel the patient is incapable of making an informed decision.
While it might be reasonable to give doctors some latitude in these matters, the story doesn’t seem to make sense. If the patient was truly unable to make an informed decision about his medical care, why were misdemeanor assault charges filed against him for hitting the doctor? Surely a patient who was incapable of rational thought should not be held accountable if he were truly not thinking clearly and only acting out due to an injury? Curiously, they all thought he was thinking clearly enough to have him arrested for his actions but not clearly enough to have the right to informed consent concerning his care.
Just how necessary is a rectal exam when someone sustains a head injury, anyway? Clearly, not everyone who sustains a head injury and goes to an emergency room receives a rectal exam, and some medical professionals say that there are less invasive procedures that can be used to determine the neurological status of a patient. The patient in this case was quite responsive. He knew what exam the doctors wanted to do, and he knew why. His lawyer insists that things should’ve come to a halt the moment he said “no.”
What is most disturbing to health freedom advocates is that the patient did not prevail in his lawsuit against the hospital. Hopefully, his lawyers will file an appeal. If any neurological testing needs to be done, perhaps it would best be done on the jury members who apparently have butts where their brains should be.
Joanne Waldron is a computer scientist with a passion for writing and sharing health-related news and information with others. She runs the Naked Wellness: The Gentle Health Revolution forum, which is devoted to achieving radiant health, well-being, and longevity.
Schools are being told today to monitor possible gang members by examining pupils’ computer accounts and taking photographs of graffiti “tags”.
New guidelines say teachers must intervene to stop pupils – including primary children – from joining gangs.
They emerged as the Government also announced sweeping new measures to combat gang violence in a bid to halt the wave of stabbings and shootings on Britain’s streets.
Threat: The new guidelines are released amid fears that gang members are getting younger. (Picture posed by models)
Teachers are being told to gather proof about gang membership from computers and evidence such as photographs, it is claimed.
The guidelines advise them to look out for tell-tale signs of gang membership such as the wearing of certain colours, jewellery or clothing – including weapon-proof clothes – or the drawing of graffiti “tags” in books and on walls, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.
The guidelines – which supplement previous advice on searching pupils for weapons and dealing with bullying and drug-taking – also provide emergency advice on what to do if gang violence breaks out.
The 50 U.S. states are holding more than $32 billion worth of unclaimed property that they’re supposed to safeguard for their citizens. But a “Good Morning America” investigation found some states aggressively seize property that isn’t really unclaimed and then use the money — your money — to balance their budgets.
Unclaimed property consists of things like forgotten apartment security deposits, uncashed dividend checks and safe-deposit boxes abandoned when an elderly relative dies.
Banks and other businesses are required to turn that property over to the state for safekeeping. The problem is that the states return less than a quarter of unclaimed property to the rightful owners.
San Francisco resident Carla Ruff’s safe-deposit box was drilled, seized, and turned over to the state of California, marked “owner unknown.”
“I was appalled,” Ruff said. “I felt violated.”
Unknown? Carla’s name was right on documents in the box at the Noe Valley Bank of America location. So was her address — a house about six blocks from the bank. Carla had a checking account at the bank, too — still does — and receives regular statements. Plus, she has receipts showing she’s the kind of person who paid her box rental fee. And yet, she says nobody ever notified her.
“They are zealously uncovering accounts that are not unclaimed,” Ruff said.
To make matters worse, Ruff discovered the loss when she went to her box to retrieve important paperwork she needed because her husband was dying. Those papers had been shredded.
And that’s not all. Her great-grandmother’s precious natural pearls and other jewelry had been auctioned off. They were sold for just $1,800, even though they were appraised for $82,500.
“These things were things that she gave to me,” Ruff said. “I valued them because I loved her.”
Bank of America told ABC News it deeply regrets the situation and appreciates the difficulty of what Mrs. Ruff was going through. The bank has reached a settlement with Ruff and continues to update its unclaimed property procedures as laws change.
California’s Class Action Lawsuit
Ruff is not alone. Attorney Bill Palmer represents her and countless other citizens in a class action lawsuit against the state of California.
I waited a week to comment on the Texas case, separating 437 children from their FLDS parents, to see if any substantive evidence of abuse would emerge. It hasn’t. Even if it had, those could have been handled individually. But no, Texas plans instead to make every member of the group pay the supreme price: to strip away their beloved children. This case is about group punishment. In spite of a search warrant tainted by a false witness (the “Sarah” who doesn’t exist), no actual specific evidence of abuse, or any unwilling participants in this polygamous compound, a self-righteous Texas judge had decreed that all 400 + children will not be returned to the custody of their parents. Texas has gone too far to rid itself of this awkward religious sect that built the “Yearning for Zion” (YFZ) ranch in order to evade persecution in Utah and Arizona.
As this tyrannical order clearly meant separating even nursing children from their mothers, a wave of outrage began to sweep the nation. The media-savvy judge immediately changed her order (allowing children under 1 year if age to be nursed) in order to keep the tide of public relations on the side of the authorities. But this should not deter the nation from realizing the danger of the tenuous legal proposition that mere membership in a group (that may have isolated examples of marrying underage girls) makes all unworthy of possessing any children at all–ever. That is wrong, especially when legal remedies exist to prosecute specific wrongdoers.
The local sheriff admitted on television that he had an “informant” on the inside for over 4 years. That was probably a disgruntled member of the group who decided to stay on to build up a case against his fellow church members. If a case can’t be built after four years of informing, and authorities have to rely on a false abuse phone call to justify this invasion, what does that say about the State’s case?
Passing the House of Representatives on a voice vote, S. 1858 has been sent to President Bush for signature. The Newborn Genetic Screening bill was passed by the Senate last December.
The bill violates the U.S. Constitution and the Nuremberg Code, writes Twila Brase, president of the Citizen’s Council on Health Care (CCHC). “The DNA taken at birth from every citizen is essentially owned by the government, and every citizen becomes a potential subject of government-sponsored genetic research,” she states. “It does not require consent and there are no requirements to inform parents about the warehousing of their child’s DNA for the purpose of genetic research. Already, in Minnesota, the state health department reports that 42,210 children of the 780,000 whose DNA is housed in the Minnesota ‘DNA warehouse’ have been subjected to genetic research without their parents’ knowledge or consent.”
The federal government lacks the Constitutional authority as well as the competence to develop a newborn screening program, states Rep. Ron Paul, M.D. (R-TX). He states that all hospitals will probably scrap their own newborn testing program and adopt the federal model, whatever its flaws, to avoid the loss of federal funding.
“Drafters of the legislation made no effort to ensure that these newborn screening programs do not violate the privacy rights of parents and children,” Dr. Paul noted.
Ms. Brase has called on President Bush to veto the bill.
Federal agents at the border do not need any reason to search through travelers’ laptops, cell phones or digital cameras for evidence of crimes, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, extending the government’s power to look through belongings like suitcases at the border to electronics.
The unanimous three-judge decision reverses a lower court finding that digital devices were “an extension of our own memory” and thus too personalto allow the government to search them without cause. Instead, the earlier ruling said, Customs agents would need some reasonable and articulable suspicion a crime had occurred in order to search a traveler’s laptop.
On appeal, the government argued that was too high a standard, infringing upon its right to keep the country safe and enforce laws. Civil rights groups, joined by business traveler groups, weighed in, defending the lower court ruling.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the government, finding that the so-called border exception to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches applied not just to suitcases and papers, but also to electronics.
NEW YORK – The military is using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance to obtain private records of Americans’ Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies, the ACLU said Tuesday.
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