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ACLU: The Trump Administration Is Trying to Forcibly Send a Detained US Citizen to Another Country

The Trump Administration Is Trying to Forcibly Send a Detained US Citizen to Another Country
The White House believes it can sidestep Americans due process rights by simply invoking “national security.”

For more than seven months, the Trump administration has been unlawfully detaining an American citizen in Iraq. Rather than charge him with a crime or set him free, the government wants to transfer him, involuntarily, to a third country. The ACLU is going to court on Thursday to stop the transfer and fight the government’s dangerous claims that it has the authority to violate an American’s constitutional rights.

The Trump administration claims that the citizen, who was detained in September by Kurdish forces in Syria and transferred to U.S. custody, is a fighter for ISIS — an allegation he denies. The ACLU began representing him in January after a federal court ordered the government to allow us unmonitored access to him. This came after the government insisted, over several months, that it did not need to respect the man’s wishes to challenge his detention or to speak with a lawyer.

After reports emerged that the government was seeking to send the man to Saudi Arabia, Judge Tanya Chutkan of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., ruled in late January that the government must provide notice 72 hours before any transfer. On Monday night, the government filed that notice under seal, with a redacted version made public yesterday. (The public notice redacts the name of the destination country.)

In response, the ACLU immediately filed a challenge to the transfer announcement, with a hearing scheduled for Thursday.

The case has raised high-stakes questions about the extent of the government’s legal authority to wage war and, by extension, detain citizens as “enemy combatants.” The Trump administration wrongly claims that various legal sources give it that power.

First, it alleges that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed in the days after 9/11, gives it the authority to detain ISIS suspects. That statute, however, extends to those responsible for the 9/11 attacks — namely al-Qaida and the Taliban. ISIS didn’t exist at the time, and today it is openly at war with al-Qaida.

The government also claims that a subsequent AUMF, passed in 2002 to authorize the war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, justifies the detention of our client. By that logic, the government claims it has the authority to indefinitely wage war against anyone it deems a threat in Iraq.

Lastly, the government says that the president’s commander-in-chief authority to detain U.S. citizens gives the military the right to detain the man. That is an evidently dangerous claim that seeks a carte blanche to suspend citizens’ due process rights — anytime, anywhere — by simply invoking national security.

Why the U.S. War on ISIS Is Illegal

The fact that the government has no authority to detain ISIS members also means that its incorrect allegations against our client are irrelevant. Before this case, no court had considered the legitimacy of the government’s claims that it is authorized to use force against ISIS. However, rather than wait for a ruling, the government prefers to wash its hands of the matter by illegally and forcibly rendering him to another country.

As shown by the recent missile strikes against Syria, this administration does not seem interested in following the rules when it comes to military action. It isn’t surprising that a government that claims it can wage war and detain citizens without limits would want to avoid a court decision that might rein it in. But we aren’t going to allow it a free pass.

Published April 18, 2018 at 04:30PM
via ACLU https://ift.tt/2J83hsd

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ACLU: Don’t Let Congress Give Trump a Blank Check to Declare Worldwide War

Don’t Let Congress Give Trump a Blank Check to Declare Worldwide War
Sen. Bob Corker reportedly will introduce legislation to effectively give Trump, not Congress, the ability to declare war.

Under a proposal expected to be introduced in the Senate very soon, President Trump would get a blank check from Congress to go to war virtually anywhere on the planet. The ACLU has sent a letter to all senators strongly opposing this new Authorization for Use of Military Force, also known as the AUMF.

It would be hard to overstate the depth and breadth of our concern about this new AUMF as it has been described in reports. The resolution sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) would almost irretrievably cede to the president the most fundamental power that Congress has under Article I of the Constitution: the power to declare war. It would give the executive branch the sole authority to send American troops to countries where we are not currently at war and to use military force against groups that the president alone decides are enemies. The resolution would reportedly have no restrictions against using lethal force anywhere, whether missile attacks or American troops on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Corker, has largely ignored the consequences of authorizing the use of military force against Syria, while Trump continues to tweet threats of action. With the stakes for catastrophic war so high in Syria, it would be a dereliction of duty for Congress to cede such extraordinary power to the executive.

An AUMF and a declaration of war are the two methods that Congress has used to exercise its exclusive power to declare war. The two most recent AUMFs were passed in 2001 to authorize the use of military force in Afghanistan against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. In 2002, a resolution was passed to use military force against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. Through three presidents, both of these authorizations have been used for purposes far removed from its intent and language.

But the answer to rein in these overly expansive authorizations is for Congress to repeal or roll back the current AUMF — not to pass something that is far broader and more dangerous than current law.

The Corker AUMF would reportedly authorize force — without limitations — in at least six countries and against a long list of organizations. The president would be able to add additional countries as well as additional enemies, including groups that do not even exist yet. The president could even add the U.S. to the list of places where lethal military force can be used. The additions — which are very similar to new declarations of war — would simply have to be reported to Congress to take effect.

In order for Congress to bar an expansion, it would require a two-thirds majority in both houses, given that the president would presumably veto legislation to curtail an expansion that he ordered. This aspect of the legislation would permanently upend the Constitution’s process for going to war. Article I of the Constitution provides that Congress can authorize war with a majority vote and the signature of the president. By contrast, the Corker resolution would authorize the president to go to war with the stroke of a pen.

To make matters worse, unlike other congressional measures that give significant authority to the executive branch, this legislation reportedly has no expiration date.

This proposal would cause colossal harm to the Constitution’s checks and balances, would jeopardize civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad, and would lead to a breathtakingly broad expansion of war without meaningful oversight. It would represent a sharp break from U.S. adherence to international law, including the United Nations charter.

The ACLU, along with other human rights, civil liberties, and religious organizations will make it our mission to stop this authorization from becoming law. Passing it would cause irreparable harm for future generations.

Published April 13, 2018 at 06:30PM
via ACLU https://ift.tt/2HjIKDv

ACLU: Waiting While Black in Philadelphia Can Get You Arrested

Waiting While Black in Philadelphia Can Get You Arrested
What happened in a Philadelphia Starbucks is another example of the indignities Black people face every day.

Late last week, two Black men in Philadelphia were doing what people do every day in this city — they waited in a coffee shop to meet an associate. While they were engaged in this mundane activity, they were removed from the Starbucks cafe at 18th and Spruce Streets in handcuffs by Philadelphia police officers.

This is another example of the kind of daily indignities that African-Americans face every day in Philadelphia and around the country. We can’t even wait in a coffee shop for a friend without the possibility that someone will call the police. Two days after the news broke of the incident, I’m angrier now than I was when I first heard about it.

The neighborhood where this incident occurred is known as Rittenhouse Square. For those not familiar with Philadelphia, it’s a tony neighborhood of beautiful townhouses and high-end apartment buildings.

It’s also the neighborhood with the highest rates of racial disparities in stops and frisks by police in all of Philadelphia. In 2010, the ACLU of Pennsylvania sued the city because the Philadelphia Police Department’s use of stop-and-frisk was discriminatory. Our data showed that African-Americans were far more likely to be stopped and frisked than their white counterparts. Making matters worse, those stops were often without any justifiable cause.

A year later, the city agreed to a consent decree to settle the case. That agreement requires the city to collect data on the PPD’s use of stop-and-frisk — including the demographic information of people who are stopped and the reasons why they were stopped — as well as to train officers to eliminate bias-based policing.

The police service area where the Starbucks is located has a Black population of just 3 percent. But 67 percent of the stops that occurred there in the first half of 2017 were of African-Americans. The two other police service areas in this district — known as District 9 — show similar lopsided disparities. In one of the bordering police service areas, a whopping 84 percent of pedestrians stopped were African-Americans in a neighborhood with a Black population of 16 percent.

Seven years after the city agreed to do better, we still see consistent racial disparities in stops and frisks. Yet, in a video statement in response to the incident, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross had the nerve to say that his officers “did absolutely nothing wrong.”

His statement, the data the city has collected on stops, and this incident all lead me to wonder if Ross and his department leaders in this district and this police service area, Capt. Danielle Vales and Lt. Jeffrey Rabinovitch, are serious about ending racial profiling in this neighborhood and throughout the city.

There was no need for a Starbucks employee to call 911 because two men were waiting for an associate in their store. And even after the police were called, the police did not have to end the situation by arresting these men. If Commissioner Ross is right that these officers followed policy, then the policy needs to change. Starbucks may be able to decide who sits in its store, but only the police could decide to arrest these men.

Racial bias and discrimination are so steeped in American culture that those of us who experience it on a regular basis have learned to live as second-class citizens in the country of our birth. Many folks have expressed pride or relief because the two men remained calm. I get that. I am glad, too. We have seen far too many incidents that have quickly spiraled out of control.

But there is an ugly side to that as well. Black people, men in particular, are not allowed the full range of emotional expression in public spaces. Even when an emotion other than being calm is warranted, we have been taught and have learned to police our emotions. No matter how badly we are being treated or how much our dignity is being assailed, we have to be the ones maintaining control and being responsible for de-escalating these situations.

We are not allowed to be angry. Or loud. Or boisterous. Or too happy or too celebratory. In other words, we’re not allowed to be human. We police ourselves because we know that others are already policing us. That, too, takes a toll.

As this story has gathered attention over the last three days, many people are doing backflips to justify what happened here. It is well past time to quit making excuses for racist behavior. Enough with the rationalizations and alternative theories. Believe us. We are credible messengers of our own truths and lived experiences. We shouldn’t have to rely on a white person or a video to validate us.

Published April 16, 2018 at 10:30AM
via ACLU https://ift.tt/2JTjPW6

ACLU: The Cloud Act Is a Dangerous Piece of Legislation

The Cloud Act Is a Dangerous Piece of Legislation
The under-the-radar bill threatens the civil liberties and human rights of global activists and US citizens alike.

Despite its fluffy sounding name, the recently introduced CLOUD Act is far from harmless. It threatens activists abroad, individuals here in the U.S., and would empower Attorney General Sessions in new disturbing ways. And, now, some members of Congress may be working behind the scenes to sneak it into a gargantuan spending bill that Congress will shortly consider.

This is why the ACLU and over 20 other privacy and human rights organizations have joined together to oppose the bill. Make no mistake, the CLOUD Act represents a dramatic change in our law, and its effects will be felt across the globe.

Today, the information of global activists — such as those that fight for LGBTQ rights, defend religious freedom, or advocate for gender equality are protected from being disclosed by U.S. companies to governments who may seek to do them harm. The CLOUD Act eliminates many of these protections and replaces them with vague assurances, weak standards, and largely unenforceable restrictions.

The bill starts by giving the executive branch dramatically more power than it has today. It would allow Attorney General Sessions to enter into agreements with foreign governments that bypass current law, without any approval from Congress. Under these agreements, foreign governments would be able to get emails and other electronic information without any additional scrutiny by a U.S. judge or official. And, while the attorney general would need to consider a country’s human rights record, he is not prohibited from entering into an agreement with a country that has committed human rights abuses.

That level of discretion alone is concerning. Even more, however, the bill would for the first time allow these foreign governments to wiretap in the U.S. — even in cases where they do not meet Wiretap Act standards. Paradoxically, that would give foreign governments the power to engage in surveillance — which could sweep in the information of Americans communicating with foreigners — that the U.S. itself would not be able to engage in. The bill also provides broad discretion to funnel this information back to the U.S., circumventing the Fourth Amendment. This information could potentially be used by the U.S. to engage in a variety of law enforcement actions.

On top of this, the bill does not require that the Department of Justice or any U.S. government entity review individual requests for information made by foreign governments to ensure that human rights are not being violated. The country of Poland provides a classic example of why this could be a problem, even in a country that some have considered to have a relatively sound human rights record.

According to Freedom House rankings, Poland is rated a one on political rights, the highest rating, and a two out of five on civil liberties. However, in recent months, the Polish government has taken steps to pass laws that restrict speech and, in 2017, the government raided the offices of several human rights groups, seizing documents and computers only a day after women staged a march to protest the country’s abortion laws. The bill would provide no protection against requests in these situations, which wrongly target activists and threaten to undo the progress we have made on global human rights.

The CLOUD Act represents a major change in the law — and a major threat to our freedoms. Congress should not try to sneak it by the American people by hiding it inside of a giant spending bill.  There has not been even one minute devoted to considering amendments to this proposal. Congress should robustly debate this bill and take steps to fix its many flaws, instead of trying to pull a fast one on the American people.

Published March 13, 2018 at 04:15PM
via ACLU http://ift.tt/2FIqj7K

ACLU: The Cloud Act Is a Sinister Piece of Legislation

The Cloud Act Is a Sinister Piece of Legislation
The under-the-radar bill threatens the civil liberties and human rights of global activists and US citizens alike.

Despite its fluffy sounding name, the recently introduced CLOUD Act is far from harmless. It threatens activists abroad, individuals here in the U.S., and would empower Attorney General Sessions in new disturbing ways. And, now, some members of Congress may be working behind the scenes to sneak it into a gargantuan spending bill that Congress will shortly consider.

This is why the ACLU and over 20 other privacy and human rights organizations have joined together to oppose the bill. Make no mistake, the CLOUD Act represents a dramatic change in our law and its effects will be felt across the globe.

Today, the information of global activists — such as those that fight for LGBTQ rights, defend religious freedom, or advocate for gender equality are protected from being disclosed by U.S. companies to governments who may seek to do them harm. The CLOUD Act eliminates many of these protections and replaces them with vague assurances, weak standards, and largely unenforceable restrictions.

The bill starts by giving the executive branch dramatically more power than it has today. It would allow Attorney General Sessions to enter into agreements with foreign governments that bypass current law, without any approval from Congress. Under these agreements, foreign governments would be able to get emails and other electronic information without any additional scrutiny by a U.S. judge or official. And, while the attorney general would need to consider a country’s human rights record, he is not prohibited from entering into an agreement with a country that has committed human rights abuses.

That level of discretion alone is concerning. Even more, however, the bill would for the first time allow these foreign governments to wiretap in the U.S. — even in cases where they do not meet Wiretap Act standards. Paradoxically, that would give foreign governments the power to engage in surveillance — which could sweep in the information of Americans communicating with foreigners — that the U.S. itself would not be able to engage in. The bill also provides broad discretion to funnel this information back to the U.S., circumventing the Fourth Amendment. This information could potentially be used by the U.S. to engage in a variety of law enforcement actions.

On top of this, the bill does not require that the Department of Justice or any U.S. government entity review individual requests for information made by foreign governments to ensure that human rights are not being violated. The country of Poland provides a classic example of why this could be a problem, even in a country that some have considered to have a relatively sound human rights record.

According to Freedom House rankings, Poland is rated a one on political rights, the highest rating, and a two out of five on civil liberties. However, in recent months, the Polish government has taken steps to pass laws that restrict speech and, in 2017, the government raided the offices of several human rights groups, seizing documents and computers only a day after women staged a march to protest the country’s abortion laws. The bill would provide no protection against requests in these situations, which wrongly target activists and threaten to undo the progress we have made on global human rights.

The CLOUD Act represents a major change in the law — and a major threat to our freedoms. Congress should not try to sneak it by the American people by hiding it inside of a giant spending bill.  There has not been even one minute devoted to considering amendments to this proposal. Congress should robustly debate this bill and take steps to fix its many flaws, instead of trying to pull a fast one on the American people.

Published March 13, 2018 at 04:15PM
via ACLU http://ift.tt/2FUNte6