Posts Tagged 'ACLU'

Obama Backs Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions

Wired, September 15, 2009

Obama Backs Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions

The Obama administration has told Congress it supports renewing three provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire at year’s end, measures making it easier for the government to spy within the United States.

In a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department said the administration might consider “modifications” to the act in order to protect civil liberties.

“The administration is willing to consider such ideas, provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness of these important authorities,” Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general, wrote to Leahy, (.pdf) whose committee is expected to consider renewing the three expiring Patriot Act provisions next week. The government disclosed the letter Tuesday.

It should come as no surprise that President Barack Obama supports renewing the provisions, which were part of the Patriot Act approved six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

As an Illinois senator in 2008, he voted to allow the warrantless monitoring of Americans’ electronic communications if they are communicating overseas with somebody the government believes is linked to terrorism. That legislative package, which President George W. Bush signed, also immunized the nation’s telecommunication companies from lawsuits charging them with being complicit with the Bush administration’s warrantless, wiretapping program. That program was also adopted in the wake of Sept. 11.

These are the three provisions due to expire:

*A secret court, known as the FISA court, may grant “roving wiretaps” without the government identifying the target. Generally, the authorities must assert that the target is an agent of a foreign power and/or a suspected terrorist. The government said Tuesday that 22 such warrants — which allow the monitoring of any communication device — have been granted annually.

*The FISA court may grant warrants for “business records,” from banking to library to medical records. Generally, the government must assert that the records are relevant to foreign intelligence gathering and/or a terrorism investigation. The government said Tuesday that 220 of these warrants had been granted between 2004 and 2007. It said 2004 was the first year those powers were used.

*A so-called “lone wolf” provision, enacted in 2004, allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of an individual even without showing that the person is an agent of a foreign power or a suspected terrorist. The government said Tuesday it has never invoked that provision, but said it wants to keep the authority to do so.

“The basic idea behind the authority was to cover situations in which information linking the target of an investigation to an international group was absent or insufficient, although the target’s engagement in ‘international terrorism’ was sufficiently established,” Weich wrote.

The American Civil Liberties opposes renewing all three provisions, especially the lone wolf measure.

Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s legislative counsel, said in a telephone interview, “The justification for FISA and these lower standards and letting it operate in secret was all about terrorist groups and foreign governments, that they posed a unique threat other than the normal criminal element. This lone wolf provision undercuts that justification.”

The committee hearing is set for 10 a.m. Sept. 23 and will be webcast live.
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Immigrant Rights Activists Condemn Obama Plan to Expand Use of Local Police to Enforce Immigration Law

Immigrant Rights Activists Condemn Obama Plan to Expand Use of Local Police to Enforce Immigration Law

On July 10, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano  announced plans to standardize and greatly enlarge the 287(g) program,  by which local law enforcement is given money, equipment, and powers  to enforce federal immigration law.  (See Homeland Security’s press release.)

As the following press release shows, turning immigration enforcement over to local police has led to  frequent police abuse, racial profiling, and rapid-fire detentions and  deportations.

In a related development, the ACLU has condemned the new standardized  Memorandum of Agreement governing local police under the 287(g) plan,  as a meaningless gesture to reduce local police abuses, writing “The  new standardized MOA makes no serious attempt at discouraging illegal  racial profiling or reducing the conflict between sound community  policing principles and the expansion of this program.”

As one immigrant rights activist wrote, “More groups and individuals going against the “Washington Consensus” –  legalization in exchange for even more enforcement-on immigration.  Please distribute this far and wide as the Obama and Napolitano are  trying to do this below the clouds-and some fog- of excitement around  the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. This is the clearest statement to  date of Obama’s willingness to support racist, dangerous and  ultimately failed immigration policy. That some of these groups have  not previously made statements against Obama and that they waste no  time using language still unheard of in echo chamber of Washington  (ie;” Condemning”) provides,  I think, an interesting preview of where  and how Obama’s credibility may rapidly drop in immigrants rights and  Latino communities.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ADVOCATES ISSUE STATEMENT CONDEMNING OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S

EXPANSION OF DHS’S FAILED 287(g) PROGRAM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 17, 2009

Media Contacts:

Adela de la Torre, Communication Specialist, National Immigration Law  Center, 213.674.2832 (office), 213.400.7822 (cell)

Andrea Black, Coordinator, Detention Watch Network, 202-393-1044 ext.  227 (office), 520-240-3726 (cell)

Judith Greene, Director, Justice Strategies, 718-857-3316,  jgreene@justicestrategies.net

Civil rights and community groups across the country denounce  Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano’s  plans to expand the highly criticized 287(g) program to eleven new  jurisdictions around the country.  The program, authorized in 1996 and  widely implemented under the Bush Administration, relinquishes, with  no meaningful oversight, immigration enforcement power to local law  enforcement and corrections agencies.

Since its inception the program has drawn sharp criticism from federal  officials, law enforcement, advocates and local community groups.  A  February 2009 report by Justice Strategies, a nonpartisan research  firm, found widespread use of pretextual traffic stops, racially  motivated questioning, and unconstitutional searches and seizures by  local law enforcement agencies granted 287(g) powers.  Justice  Strategies recommended the program be suspended.  “We found evidence  that growth of the 287(g) program has been driven more by racial  animus than by concerns about public safety.  The expansion of this  deeply flawed program cannot be justified before a thorough test of  corrective actions shows solid proof that they have been effective,”  reports Judy Greene, Director of Justice Strategies. A March 2009  Government Accountability Agency (GAO) report, criticized DHS for  insufficient oversight of the controversial program.

Also in March, the United States Department of Justice launched an  investigation into Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, to  determine whether Arpaio is using his 287(g) power to target Latinos  and Spanish-speaking people.  In Davidson County, Tennessee, the  Sheriff’s Office has used its 287(g) power to apprehend undocumented  immigrants driving to work, standing at day labor sites, or while  fishing off piers. One pregnant woman—charged with driving without a  license—was forced to give birth while shackled to her bed during  labor. Preliminary data indicate that in some jurisdictions the  majority of individuals arrested under 287(g) are accused of public  nuisance or traffic offenses: driving without a seatbelt, driving  without a license, broken taillights, and similar offences.  Such a  pattern of arrests suggest that local sheriff’s deputies are  improperly using their 287(g) powers to rid their counties of  immigrants, by making pretextual arrests that are then used to  forcefully deport people. “We need only look at the example of  Maricopa County to understand the devastating effects the increased  287(g) program will have on our communities,” said Chris Newman, Legal  Programs Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.  “The Obama administration must recognize that the 287(g) program is  predatory and ripe for corruption and profiling that will harm  community stability and safety for everyone.”

The Police Foundation, the International Association of Chiefs of  Police, and the Major Chiefs Association have expressed concerns that  deputizing local law enforcement officers to enforce civil federal  immigration law undermine the trust and cooperation of immigrant  communities, overburdens cities’ already reduced resources, and leaves  cities vulnerable to civil liability claims.  “When victims and  witnesses of crime are afraid to contact police for fear of being  jailed or deported, public safety suffers,” said Marielena Hincapie,  Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center.

Napolitano’s July 10 announcement that DHS has granted 11 new  jurisdictions 287(g) powers stunned advocates who had been expecting a  major overhaul of – or end to – this failed program.  “DHS is fully  aware that the abusive misuse of the 287(g) program by its current  slate of agencies has rendered it not only ineffective, but dangerous  to community safety.   It is surprising Napolitano did not simply shut  this program down.  Expanding this failed program is not in line with  the reform the administration has promised,” said Andrea Black,  Coordinator of the Detention Watch Network.

Signatory Organizations:

A Better Way Foundation, New Haven, CT

All of Us or None, San Francisco, CA

Border Action Network, Tucson, AZ

Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, NY

Center for Media Justice, Oakland, CA

Detention Watch Network, Washington, D

Families for Freedom, New York, NY

Florida Immigrant Coalition, Miami, FL

Grassroots Leadership, Austin, Texas

Homies Unidos, Los Angeles, CA

Immigrant Defense Project, New York, NY

Immigrant Justice Network

Immigration Law Clinic, UC Davis School of Law, Davis, CA

Immigrant Legal Resource Center, San Francisco, CA

Judson Memorial Church, New York, NY

Justice Strategies, New York, NY

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, San Francisco, CA

Main Street Project, Minneapolis, MN

Media Action Grassroots Network, Oakland, CA

National Day Laborer Organizing Network

National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles, CA

National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Boston, MA

Partnership for Safety and Justice, Portland, Oregon

Project Rethink

Southern Center for Human Rights, Atlanta, GA


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