Just one week after the American Civil Liberties Union issued a report castigating the Obama administration for its extension and expansion of Bush-era policies that infringe on civil liberties, the Washington Post reported on July 29 that the “administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.”
Though neoconservatives and other pro-national security-state types would have Americans believe that President Obama has made a clean break with the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism program — things like “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e., torture), warrantless wiretapping, and imprisonment without trial — the fact is that very little has changed in this regard since January 20, 2009, as the American Civil Liberties Union documents in a scathing 22-page report entitled “Establishing a New Normal: National Security, Civil Liberties, and Human Rights Under the Obama Administration.”
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is clear: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Once in a while the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) gets something right. Case in point: the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the federal no-fly list.
“I thought I was gonna die in there.”
Those are the words not of a former prisoner of a communist gulag but of 65-year-old American James Stewart, describing his seven days in southern California jails. Stewart says he was subjected to “torture” and “brutality” including sleep deprivation, starvation, hypothermia, involuntary medical testing, highly unsanitary conditions, and solitary confinement — all because he had the temerity to sell raw milk to willing customers.
Another day, another sticky-fingered Transportation Security Administration agent caught stealing from airline passengers: According to the Associated Press, 31-year-old Alexandra Schmid, a TSA screener at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, allegedly helped herself to a cool $5,000 from a passenger’s jacket as it passed along an X-ray conveyor belt on February 1. The passenger, a native of Bangladesh, noticed the money was missing as soon as he retrieved his jacket, at which point he reported the theft.
Steal $40,000 from a bank, and you’ll spend a decade or two in prison. Steal $40,000 from an airplane passenger’s luggage and you’ll get six months — if you’re a Transportation Security Administration employee, that is.
A state Governor and her appointees obstruct an investigation into repeated coverups of child rape. When they find they can no longer stave off the inevitable, they destroy the evidence. Along the way they try to have the prosecutor disbarred. The Governor later becomes a member of the President’s Cabinet.
Opponents of the Transportation Security Administration’s invasive pat-downs of airline passengers may be on the verge of obtaining a new weapon for their fight. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is considering changing its definition of rape in a way that could criminalize TSA agents’ groping of passengers’ private parts.
On November 19, the New York Police Department arrested 27-year-old Jose Pimentel (left) on charges of plotting to explode pipe bombs in New York City and the surrounding area. The next day city officials called a press conference to announce the NYPD’s great triumph in preventing terrorism by an alleged “al-Qaeda sympathizer” whom Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly described as “a total lone wolf.”