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Federal court rejects indefinite terror detainment

Debate over anti-terror laws and civil liberties continues.

Imprisonment without trial remains unconstitutional — for now

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the U.S. can’t indefinitely detain terrorism suspects without giving them the due process guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

In her decision, U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Forrest issued a permanent injunction agaisnt the so-called “indefinite detention” provision of the 2012 Defense spending bill. The provision would have enabled the military to indefinitely detain civilians — even Americans — without charge or trial if they are accused of certain crimes, or even associated with certain criminals.

The indefinite detention provision was criticized by civil rights advocates who characterized the law as an erosion of fundamental civil liberties. It was challenged by six plaintiffs, including writer Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, and Daniel Ellsberg, known as the source of the Pentagon Papers. Continue reading

U.S, security chief quizzed on warrantless surveillance

A Cold War listening station near Berlin.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The so-called war on terror has resulted in a fundamental change in U.S. policies on interrogations and surveillance, with most civil rights advocates claiming that the government has gone too far in the name of security.

Those excesses include 2008 provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that enable the government to conduct warrantless surveillance and searches of communications like emails and phone calls.

Because the operations conducted by the government under those provisions is shrouded in secrecy, nobody really knows how many communications have been intercepted and read. Continue reading

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Colorado: Udall seeks more transparency on spying laws

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall.

Two senators ask for an unclassified explanation of the government’s geolocation collection authority and Details on FISA Amendments Act interpretations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Government should be more transparent about how it uses existing intelligence laws to spy on people, Sen. Mark Udall said in a recent letter to the James R. Clapper, Jr., director of national intelligence.

Along with Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, Udall said the Senate should take a close look at how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has been interpreted and implemented. The act was signed into law in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. It was passed by Congress partly as the result of investigations into espionage abuses by the Nixon administration.

We believe that the debate over these initiatives will be better informed if Congress and the public are provided with more unclassified information about how these initiatives will affect current intelligence authorities and activities,” Wyden and Udall wrote in the letter.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden.

The two Democrats requested unclassified information that will be at issue as Congress debates the FISA Amendments Act, due for extension in 2012. They want more information on a 2007 statement by the Office of Management and Budget’s that it would “likely be impossible” to count the number of people whose communications were reviewed by government agents.

There have also been recurring violations of the FISA Amendments Act, and Wyden and Udall also want to determine whether or not the law has been used to collect communications of law abiding Americans. Wyden and Udall earlier this year called for the declassification of secret interpretations of the Patriot Act.

The Senators also asked for information on another increasingly talked-about area of surveillance law involving the use of geolocation data. Taking into account recent advances in geolocation technology, the increasing ease in secret tracking capabilities of individuals on an ongoing, 24/7 basis and law enforcement’s utilization of this technology, Wyden and Udall identified conflicting judicial rulings on the legality of the government surreptitiously tracking an individual’s movements using a mobile electronic device.   Continue reading

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