Government spying can be an ‘effective way to chill protest movements,’ warns Center for Constutitonal Rights
by: Deirdre Fulton
Participants in Black Lives Matter protests have marked an all-too-common rite of passage for social justice movements in the U.S.—they’ve been systematically spied on by the federal government.
According to exclusive reporting from The Intercept published Friday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been monitoring and collecting data on the two-year-old movement since protests against racism and police brutality erupted inFerguson, Missouri last summer.
“There’s a long history of the federal agencies…seeing black resistance organizations as a threat to national security.”
The revelations are based on an analysis of hundreds of documents obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request. As journalist George Joseph reports, the cache of documents “indicate that the department frequently collects information, including location data, on Black Lives Matter activities from public social media accounts, including on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine, even for events expected to be peaceful. The reports confirm social media surveillance of the protest movement and ostensibly related events in the cities of Ferguson, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and New York.”
The documents—which Joseph notes “may well represent a small fraction of state surveillance against Black Lives Matter”—show that in some cases, DHS produced minute-by-minute reports on protesters’ movements in demonstrations and in other cases “planned surveillance of…seemingly innocuous events, two of which were associated with historically black neighborhoods.”
The tracking of domestic protest groups and peaceful gatherings raises questions over whether DHS is chilling the exercise of First Amendment rights, and over whether the department, created in large part to combat terrorism, has allowed its mission to creep beyond the bounds of useful security activities as its annual budget has grown beyond $60 billion.
For its part, DHS told The Intercept in an email that “the DHS National Operations Center statutory authority…is limited to providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture for the federal government, and for state, local, tribal governments as appropriate, in the event of a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster.”
But Baher Azmy, a legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, countered that the concept of “providing situational awareness” is problematic in and of itself.
“What they call situational awareness is Orwellian speak for watching and intimidation,” Azmy told The Intercept. “Over time there’s a serious harm to the associational rights of the protesters and it’s an effective way to chill protest movements. The average person would be less likely to go to a Black Lives Matter protest if the government is monitoring social media, Facebook, and their movements.”
As Raven Rakia, a journalist who investigates state surveillance and policing, pointed out to The Intercept, Friday’s revelations fall into the government’s well-documented pattern of spying on and suppressing black social movements and groups. “There’s a long history of the federal agencies, especially the FBI, seeing black resistance organizations as a threat to national security,” Rakia said.
However, neither government surveillance nor the overt repression widely reported in the media seems to have deterred the strengthening movement, which will gather for its first ever national convergence this weekend in Cleveland.
Read The Intercept‘s full exposé here.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
‘It is bad for all of us when these multibillion dollar companies use their considerable financial influence to try to pressure lawmakers’
by: Sarah Lazare
In addition to Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is turning to lobbyists for the two biggest private prison companies in the country, Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, to raise money for her 2016 presidential candidacy.
Lee Fang of The Intercept made the discovery after examining Clinton’s list of lobbyists who are bundlers for her presidential bid, released last week. Bundlers are people who raise money for campaigns by organizing and collecting contributions from other donors.
Among those funneling money into Clinton’s campaign are:
- Richard Sullivan of the firm Capitol Counsel, documented lobbyist for GEO Group.
- Five employees of lobbying and law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which received $240,000 from CCA last year.
- “Akin Gump lobbyist and Clinton bundler Brian Popper disclosed that he previously helped CCA defeat efforts to compel private prisons to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests,” noted Fang.
Critics say the fresh evidence of Clinton’s ties to lobbyists for the private prison industry raises a host of new concerns.
“The future of both criminal justice reform and immigration are critical for private prison firms,” notes Fang. “The Geo Group, in a disclosure statement for its investors, notes that its business could be ‘adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws.'”
CCA and GEO have spent millions of dollars to press the U.S. government to impose harsher immigration laws that, in turn, spike corporate profits by driving up incarceration levels at their detention centers. Both companies stand accused of egregious human rights abuses at their facilities, from denial of mental and physical health care to inadequate nutrition.
“Private prisons have a long and well-documented history of giving to candidates of all levels and both parties and hiring lobbyists across the spectrum, so it doesn’t surprise me that prisons are trying to get in good with presidential candidates,” Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based organization that opposes prison profiteering, toldCommon Dreams.
“We already know that, in the immigration system, private prisons have a huge and outsized influence and they certainly don’t need any more,” Parker added. “It is bad for all of us when these multibillion dollar companies use their considerable financial influence to try to pressure lawmakers.”This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
‘By validating almost all surveillance measures provided in the Surveillance Law adopted on 25 June, the French Constitutional Council legalizes mass surveillance and endorses a historical decline in fundamental rights,’ says digital rights group
by: Nadia Prupis
France’s highest constitutional authority on Thursday approved a sweeping, controversial new surveillance law that greatly expands the government’s spying powers, despite widespread human rights concerns.
Making only minor changes to the legislation, which was approved by Parliament in May, the Constitutional Council ruled on Thursday that the bill generally aligns with the French constitution—even as privacy and civil liberties groups continue to call attention to its egregious rights violations.
“By validating almost all surveillance measures provided in the Surveillance Law adopted on 25 June, the French Constitutional Council legalizes mass surveillance and endorses a historical decline in fundamental rights,” said La Quadrature du Net, a Paris-based digital rights and civil liberties organization. “Only international surveillance has been deemed to be non compliant to the Constitution.”
“This law is in flagrant violation of the international human rights to privacy and free speech.”
—Geneviève Garrigos, Amnesty International France
The law gives French intelligence agencies power to tap phones and hack into computers; sweep up and analyze metadata of millions of civilians; and plant secret microphones, cameras, and ‘keystroke loggers’ in the homes of “suspected terrorists”—all without approval from a judge.
It also gives the government the power to authorize surveillance for reasons as vague as “major foreign policy interests” and preventing “organized delinquency.”
The government justified the bill by invoking recent attacks in Paris, which saw 17 people killed by gunmen in January at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher deli. President Francois Hollande’s move to have the law approved by the Constitutional Council is “unusual,” the Guardian writes. But while it is rare, Hollande’s motives are clear—the decision by the Council ensures that the law will not be challenged as illegal in the future.
By approving the bill, the Council “has disavowed its role as protector of fundamental rights and liberties,” La Quadrature continued. “By refusing to implement effective control over the intelligence services, it is rubber-stamping a historic step back for privacy and freedom of communication, thus undermining the very foundations of democracy. This evening the reason of state was brutally imposed over the rule of law.”
One of the most controversial provisions in the bill requires internet service providers and telecommunications companies to install equipment, referred to in previous debates as “algorithmic black boxes,” that sift through internet traffic and metadata for so-called “terrorist” activity and alert authorities when flagged. Opponents have warned that portion of the bill will “create permanent surveillance,” as Communist Senator Cécile Cukiermansaid during a June debate—a charge which officials deny.
“This evening the reason of state was brutally imposed over the rule of law.”
—La Quadrature du Net
The law comes into effect just two days after the United Nations Committee for Human Rights released a report warning that the bill “grants overly broad powers for very intrusive surveillance on the basis of vast and badly defined objectives” and calling on France to “guarantee that any interference in private life must conform to principles of legality, proportionality and necessity.”
Amnesty International France chief Geneviève Garrigos said on Friday, “This law is in flagrant violation of the international human rights to privacy and free speech. Someone investigating the actions of the French government or French companies or even organizing a protest, could be subjected to extremely intrusive forms of surveillance. Mass surveillance tools, including black boxes, would put the internet communications of the entire population and beyond within reach of the French authorities.”
And Privacy International, which submitted recommendations this month to the UNHCR on the right to privacy in France, said the bill legalized hacking. “Its use by any state authorities, particularly intelligence agencies, must be highly regulated to protect against abuses of power. Yet the bill makes no provision for judicial authorisation or oversight of hacking powers,” the organization wrote.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License