Will Americans Be Stripped of Citizenship Based on Accusation?

In a recent op-ed published in Jurist, St. John’s University School of Law student Christopher Elsee described a scenario he believes threatens the civil rights of his fellow citizens.

Writes Elsee:

Imagine you have just written a check to an organization that sends mechanical engineering textbooks to students in Afghanistan or Iraq. Now further imagine that you have been engaged in this practice for well over a decade because you are interested in helping individuals in developing countries to improve their technical knowledge, with the hopes of enabling them to better themselves. Are you supporting terrorists? According to a proposed piece of legislation, you may very well be.

The legislation Elsee mentions is the Terrorist Expatriation Act. This bill, proposed in 2010 by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), would strip any American accused of terrorism of his citizenship. This would place the suspect outside of the jurisdiction of the U.S. Constitution’s Article III courts and assign the trial on his alleged crimes to a military tribunal.

As Elsee explains:

The act adds offenses such as providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations, engaging in or purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the US or any country engaged in hostilities alongside the US or providing direct operational support to the US. Another section of the act explains that “material support or resources” means, among other things as the list goes on, property, services, training, expert advice or assistance, communications equipment and facilities.

This illustrates why the person in Elsee’s hypothetical would face expatriation.

A central point of the act not specifically addressed in Elsee’s article is the provision specifying the burden of proof in a case brought under its authority.

Under the Terrorist Expatriation Act, anyone stripped of his citizenship could appeal his expatriation to a federal court, where the federal government would have to demonstrate by “a preponderance of the evidence” that the accused committed the offense with the purpose of relinquishing his citizenship.

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Switching Deck Chairs on the Titanic?

When asked on October 22 during the final presidential debate what he thought about the use of drones, Mitt Romney responded:

Well I believe we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that and entirely, and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology, and believe that we should continue to use it, to continue to go after the people that represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.

It could not be put much plainer: If Republican candidate Mitt Romney becomes president, the United States will continue spreading democracy to the Middle East one Hellfire missile at a time.

Perhaps worse than Romney’s express commitment to carry on disregarding due process by blowing up those he deems “threats,” is the fact that, as with the current occupant of the White House, critical terms such as “threat” will go undefined. By keeping the legislative lines blurry a greater number of targets can be absorbed by the steady creep of a growing grey area.

There are so many problems with this policy and this attitude. First and foremost as pertains to the president’s constitutional authority is Romney’s presumption of the president’s right to act as judge, jury, and executioner of anyone at anytime. This is a fatal misconception — one of many — that he shares with President Obama.

Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, when the judicial and executive powers of government are consolidated and restraints on the exercise of power are cast aside, it can be expected — based on both our knowledge of history and the nature of man — that power will be abused and no one’s rights or life will be safe from elimination by despots.

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“Disposition Matrix”: President’s 10-Year Plan for the Kill List

originally published at The New American Magazine

There will be no end to the War on Terror and the targeting of “suspected militants” will continue and become more sophisticated, according to an article published in theWashington Post on October 23.

In the piece, Greg Miller describes a project the Obama administration has been developing for a couple of years called — in true Orwellian fashion — the “disposition matrix.”

Glen Greenwald at the Guardian (U.K.) describes the matrix’s chain of command:

The “disposition matrix” has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is “to augment” the “separate but overlapping kill lists” maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch’s “matrix”.

According to reports, the plans for perpetuating and perfecting the death-by-drone program “contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations.”

The article quotes “U.S. officials” saying that the matrix will improve the existing pair of kill lists (one maintained by the President, the other kept by the CIA) by “mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.”

Readers unfamiliar with the argot of the White House and the intelligence community should understand that the phrase “plans for the disposition” of someone means plans for summarily executing a person who has never been accused of a crime and who has never been proven to have any plan to attack the United States or its interests.

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NSA: We Will Illegally Spy on Citizens Only When Absolutely Necessary

originally published at The New American Magazine

The National Security Agency (NSA) says Americans should trust them to use their surveillance powers only for good. This from the group whose leader refused to say how many Americans they are spying on because it was “beyond the capacity of his office and dedicating sufficient additional resources would likely impede the NSA’s mission.”

In other words, the NSA is too busy illegally recording our private emails, texts, Facebook posts, and phone calls to figure out how many of us are already caught in their net. And, furthermore, there is nothing Congress can do about it.

Apparently, NSA thinks it’s beyond the court’s oversight, as well.

In a motion to dismiss a class action suit challenging the nearly unlimited scope of the domestic surveillance agency’s monitoring of citizens’ electronic communication, attorneys for the Obama administration argued that it would use the authority granted it under the Terrorist Surveillance Program only when “absolutely necessary” and that disclosing the information requested would require it to reveal protected state secrets.

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Warrantless Wiretapping Worse Under Obama; Fascism on the Rise

On January 20, 2009, America’s liberals rejoiced that the days of Bush-era fascism were over. As an article in Reason magazine reports:

Back then, liberals were raising the alarm about impending fascism because of post-9/11 policies such as warrantless wiretapping, wars of choice, military commissions, indefinite detention and so on.

Warrantless surveillance, for instance, drew intense scrutiny and saturation media coverage from the time it was discovered until approximately 12:05 p.m. EST January 20, 2009. Interest then dropped off markedly. After all, Barack Obama had promised “no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens.” So, problem solved.

Except it wasn’t. In fact, it got worse.

Much worse.

As late as last week, the Supreme Court denied review of an appeal court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Federal Information Securities Amendments Act (FISA).

The FISA Amendments Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on July 10, 2008 after being overwhelmingly passed 293 to 129 in the House and 69-28 in the Senate. Just a couple of days prior to its being enacted, Representative Ron Paul and a coalition of Internet activists united to create a political action committee, Accountability Now, and conduct a money bomb in order to raise money to purchase ad buys to alert voters to the names of those congressmen (Republican and Democratic) who voted in favor of the act.

George W. Bush’s signature was but the public pronouncement of the ersatz legality of the wiretapping that was otherwise revealed to the public in a New York Times article published on December 16, 2005. That article, entitled “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” described the brief history of the “anti-terrorist” program:

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Supreme Court Allows NSA’s Warrantless Wiretapping to Continue

On October 9, the Supreme Court denied review of an appeal court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Federal Information Securities Amendments Act (FISA).

The FISA Amendments Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on July 10, 2008 after being overwhelmingly passed 293 to 129 in the House and 69-28 in the Senate. Just a couple of days prior to its being enacted, Representative Ron Paul and a coalition of Internet activists united to create a political action committee, Accountability Now, and conduct a money bomb in order to raise money to purchase ad buys to alert voters to the names of those congressmen (Republican and Democratic) who voted in favor of the act.

George W. Bush’s signature was but the public pronouncement of the ersatz legality of the wiretapping that was otherwise revealed to the public in a New York Times article published on December 16, 2005. That article, entitled “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” described the brief history of the “anti-terrorist” program:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency (NSA), whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

At issue in the case the Supreme Court refused to hear, Hepting, et al v. AT&T, et al, was the government’s use of provisions of FISA to grant retroactive protection from prosecution to several telecommunications giants including AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. These companies aided the government in wiretapping the phones of subscribers without obtaining a warrant.

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TrapWire Training Courses Reveal Possible Purpose for its Creation

originally posted at The New American Magazine

Although certain people reportedly playing key roles in the web-like leadership structure of TrapWire deny their involvement with the massive surveillance system, there is evidence that the engine driving this global company runs on the ambition of a common core of officers and directors.

Given the potential flood of legal challenges to its constitutionality, the corporation believed to be behind TrapWire is heading for higher ground, denying any association with the surveillance technology.

In a statement published on its website on August 13, Cubic Corporation attempted to sever the ties binding it to TrapWire. “Cubic Corporation (NYSE: CUB) acquired Abraxas Corporation on December 20, 2010. Abraxas Corporation then and now has no affiliation with Abraxas Applications now known as Trapwire, Inc. Erroneous reports have linked the company with Trapwire, Inc.,” the company insisted.

Despite such denials, many are rightly worried about any corporate connection — no matter how tenuous — between Cubic and TrapWire given the former’s access to the personal data of Americans through its other corporate interests. The synergy of such access with a massive surveillance apparatus could threaten the privacy of millions, as well as the freedom from unwarranted searches and seizures protected by the Fourth Amendment.

As for the scope and significance of TrapWire, the size of it cannot be exaggerated.

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John McCain Anxious for NDAA Renewal for 2013

originally published at The New American Magazine

During the overnight Senate session that resulted in the passage of a “de facto declaration of war” on Iran and a stopgap bill that funded the federal government through March, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tried to push through a vote on next year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as well.

An article published online by Government Executive magazine reports that at about 1:40 a.m. Saturday, September 22, Reid worked the floor trying to get support for the latest renewal of the controversial defense funding measure before his colleagues abandoned the Capitol for their home states.

“I’ve been asked on a number of occasions by Senator [Carl] Levin, Senator [John] McCain what we’re going to do on … the Defense Authorization bill. I ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by me, after consultation with the Republican leader, the Senate proceed to … the Defense authorization bill,” Reid said, according to the Government Executive story.

Foreign Policy blog The Cable reports that upon learning of Reid’s pre-dawn parliamentary plans, “Senate Minority Jon Kyl (R-AZ) objected … because Reid wanted unanimous consent to structure the debate with limited amendments and because Kyl couldn’t check with his caucus, as almost all senators had left the chamber.”

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), eager to get approval of the Fiscal Year 2013 NDAA on the books before heading back to the Grand Canyon State, accused Reid of purposely waiting until the chamber was nearly empty to start debate on the bill.

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Report Reveals Details of Obama’s Drone Program

originally posted at the New American Magazine

The headline in the Long War Journal reports: “2 al Qaeda leaders reported killed in Mir Ali drone strike.” The story fills in the details — those that can be ascertained without any official recognition of the strike or the deaths — saying:

Two al Qaeda commanders are reported to have been killed in Monday’s drone strike in the Mir Ali area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The report of the al Qaeda commanders’ deaths has not been confirmed.

Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda leader who serves as a key link to the Taliban and supports al Qaeda’s external operations network, and Fateh al Turki, a previously unidentified leader, are said to have been killed in the Sept. 24 airstrike in the Mir Ali area, Pakistani intelligence officials, Taliban commanders, and local tribesmen told Dawn. Between five and six people were reportedly killed in the drone strike on a compound.

As Pakistan continues to be bombarded by missiles fired from U.S. drones, information revealed in a recent report compiled jointly by the law schools of New York University and Stanford demonstrates that such attacks “cause considerable and under-accounted for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.”

The report entitled Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan contains tragic details of the myriad ways that President Obama’s death-by-drone program is devastating the lives of ordinary Pakistanis who have no connection to terror other than the fact that they are being constantly terrorized by the government of the United States.

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Obama Admin. Argues for Warrantless Cellphone Tracking

In a document filed September 4 in the D.C. District Court, the Obama administration argues that there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in a person’s cellphone GPS data. The president’s lawyers argue that they do not need a warrant to request cellphone company records regarding a customer’s movements and location as tracked by their signal towers.

In its argument against a motion filed to suppress the government’s use of a defendant’s cellphone location data, the Obama administration claims that the customer tracking records kept by cellphone service providers are no different from other business-related “third-party records” such as store receipts and bank account statements, and customers have no legal basis for any additional expectation of privacy.

The feds are making their case for warrantless tracking of citizens in a re-trial of an accused drug dealer whose conviction was thrown out by the Supreme Court in its decision in the case of United States v. Jones.

In the Jones case the high court held that warrantless installation of tracking devices on cars was unconstitutional. In light of that decision, lawyers for the federal government are shifting their focus to Jones’s cellphone tracking data.

Wired describes the decision and the White House’s reaction:

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