Recap on *Ibrahim vs. DHS*

Ars Technica has a great retrospective of the 7+ year odysessy of Rahinah Ibrahim and the super-sekrit government no-fly list.

Go read it. Here’s a summary, in case you forgot:

Rahinah Ibrahim was admitted to the US on a student visa to study at Stanford’s graduate school in 2000. Five years later, when attempting to fly from San Francisco to Hawaii, she was denied entry onto the plane, was handcuffed—despite being wheelchair-bound at the time—and was placed in a holding cell, detained for two hours, and then questioned. During questioning, a police officer attempted to remove her hijab. Eventually, she was released and told that her name had been stricken from the no-fly list.

After flying back to Hawaii and then to Malaysia a few days later, her student visa was revoked, and she was denied reentry into the US. That was the beginning of a nine-year fight over whether she could travel back to the US, which Ibrahim said she considered her “second home.”

As explained in Alsup’s opinion, **the whole dispute stemmed from an errant check placed on a form filled out by FBI agent Kevin Kelly. At trial, Agent Kelly admitted his mistake, and government lawyers actually conceded that Ibrahim doesn’t pose a threat to national security and never has. ** The mistake was not a small thing, Alsup wrote.

At long last, the government has conceded that plaintiff poses no threat to air safety or national security and should never have been placed on the no-fly list. She got there by human error within the FBI… the FBI agent filled out the nomination form in a way exactly opposite from the instructions on the form, a bureaucratic analogy to a surgeon amputating the wrong digit—human error, yes, but of considerable consequence. Much of the litigation took place even while Ibrahim was unable to get much information about the government’s case against her. In December, Alsup denied Ibrahim’s request to see the classified evidence submitted by the government in its defense against her lawsuit.

That they went to war over this case, and fought for 7 years, when they knew Ibrahim was not a threat means that someone deserves to lose their job or worse. That’s absurd, ridiculous, and borderline criminal. These people are the enemy of anyone who values the principles which we usually insist form the foundation of our country.

Dear U of Alabama: Please stop this.

U. of Alabama Greeks Win Fight For Their Right To Be Racist Dicks.”

It was ever thus.

I am not surprised that it’s still this way; it certainly was when I was in school there. But — and this is important — I didn’t really parse the University itself as a particularly racist place outside of the Greeks when I was there.

For years I would’ve assumed that this meant it wasn’t, at least by my own baselines (which I willingly admit are probably warped by my Magnolia State origins). But with a few more years under my belt I realize that I have no fucking idea if the University was a particularly racist place, at least vs its surroundings, because I have always been an upper-middle-class white guy with traditional upper-middle-class white guy obliviousness about my own privilege.

So I don’t really know. I’d like to think it’s just the greeks, and in particular those unreconstructed motherfuckers in KA, who used to throw a party every year commemorating the Lost Cause wherein they’d all dress in antebellum clothes and Confederate uniforms, I shit you not. (Lest you think this was just something back when I was in school, the practice continued until 2009.) But I don’t. My bullshit alert, though, chimes loud at attempts to make this just a Greek problem. And the fact that the Greek system enjoys institutional sanction at the University makes it a University problem.

It sure would be interesting, though, to have some more information — in particular about the racial diversity of greek systems (esp. in the older, traditionally white greek organizations) at other major universities. How diverse is Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Ohio State? How about Chi Omega at USC?

Great lede, or GREATEST lede?

Time’s obit for Fred Phelps begins:

Fred Phelps, a colossal jerk, died Thursday in Topeka, Kansas, at 84, after a long life in which even his few admirable achievements (a series of civil rights cases that he filed as an attorney) stemmed from a deeply disagreeable personality (he loved to pick fights with his neighbors). He was the kind of person no one wanted to be around: a lawyer disbarred by his colleagues, a preacher disowned by every denomination he ever espoused, a father rejected by his children—even, in the end, the children who emulate his worst characteristics.

“The Internet is Fucked.”

Without network neutrality, it may well be. N.B. that Netflix is already paying Comcast for the privilege of not being throttled. This should alarm you.

The Verge has more.

The communications networks have been built largely by government-protected monopolies, but those monopolies are now trying to extract every single dime from their customers they can. We have to stop this. The FCC needs to treat them as common carriers, and we need to realize that the net is a basic utility, like water or power.

If we don’t fix this, then the net as we’ve enjoyed it for the last 15 years is going to die.

“The government cannot be so beholden to its own inflated terrorism fears that it willingly punishes a person for nearly a decade because of a paperwork error. “

TechDirt gives the Feds both barrels over the appalling case of Rahinah Ibrahim:

Our government lies.

This is an obvious statement but it needs to be put out there in black and white. We, the people, are represented and “protected” by a government that actively lies to its constituents to cover up its mistakes. The recent case of Rahinah Ibrahim, who was accidentally placed on the government’s “no fly” list and only removed after a long legal battle, illustrates this truth about our government to a sickening degree.

Instead of owning up to the mistake, our government argued for the better part of a decade that to even acknowledge that a no-fly list existed would expose “state secrets” and that they therefore couldn’t possibly even confirm or deny any such list, so obviously discussing this person’s status, or trying to ensure that the status was correctly determined, was impossible.

For example, from James Clapper this year, quoted in the TechDirt article:

“My assertion of the state secret and statutory privileges in this case precludes defendant or any other agency from making any response, including through document production or deposition testimony, that would serve to disclose classified information regarding plaintiff or any other individual; the sources, methods, and means by which classified information is collected; and information which would confirm or deny whether information regarding plaintiff or any other individual is in NCTC’s TIDE database.” — James Clapper, director of national intelligence, April 23, 2013.

What. The. Fuck. Techdirt again:

Eric Holder’s deferral to “state secrets” in 2013 was based on the belief that a single disclosure, especially if it prompted more, would lead to terrorists gaming the no-fly list. John Tyler, then-attorney for the DOJ, claimed in 2006 that Ibrahim’s complaint was so inextricably intertwined with the utility of the “no fly” list that her case should be dismissed.

According to these statements, being mistakenly placed on the “no fly” list is just something those wrongly blacklisted will have to deal with. These citizens (and other foreigners) just need to resign themselves to the fact that they won’t be boarding planes, possibly for the rest of their lives. Once you’re on the list, you’re on it. The list is apparently so crucial to national security that even admitting it may have blacklisted someone accidentally would turn the nation’s airports into terrorist playgrounds.

A mistake was made made, but rather than looking for a solution, the government grabbed its “state secret” broom and swept it under the “neither confirm nor deny” rug.

The government cannot be so beholden to its own inflated terrorism fears that it willingly punishes a person for nearly a decade because of a paperwork error. There’s plenty of middle ground between keeping the country safe and screwing someone over because an agent couldn’t follow a form’s instructions.

Go read the whole thing.

More Federal Keystone-Ism

Remember when the FBI claimed it didn’t have to answer Ryan Shapiro’s FOIA requests because he might learn something as a consequence of their hilariously inconsistent and irrational redaction?

Yeah, they’re doing it again. This time, they heavily redacted a letter released to some privacy hawks in Congress despite the fact that one of them had already been released in full previously. But go read the whole link; it’d be hilarious if it weren’t, you know, the top law enforcement body in the country.

Here’s a shocker: DHS asserted “state secrets” to hide a mistake

This is why state secrets is bullshit, and why “trust me” is never a legitimate policy for law enforcement.

The government contested a former Stanford University student’s assertion that she was wrongly placed on a no-fly list for seven years in court despite knowing an FBI official put her on the list by mistake because he checked the “wrong boxes” on a form, a federal judge wrote today.

We only know this today because Ibrahim sued, which was only possible because she was able to get pro bono legal aid, because despite knowing it was bullshit the feds fought her every step of the way.

Heads. Should. Roll.

That didn’t take long: Dept of Followups

That poor bastard raped (note: I mean literally, not figuratively) by cops and medical personnel in New Mexico has already won a $1.6 million settlement from the city, with claims against the hospital and doctors still pending. He may get get a real jury trial on the outstanding claims, which is likely to make this a very, very expensive episode for a variety of entities in Hidalgo County, New Mexico.

But the only thing that’ll really, truly reign in this kind of bullshit is for serious and personal consequences to accrue to the people who actually made the choice to abuse this guy: the cops. Unfortunately, that’s all too rare, so the taxpayers will foot the bill.

Again.

Well, the Internet was fun while it lasted

The DC Court of Appeals has struck down the 2010 FCC order that established network neutrality on the specious and laughable grounds that consumers have a choice in their provider.

Before this ruling, these monopoly common-carriers were obliged to treat all paid traffic equally. In particular, they weren’t allowed to privilege their own traffic over others. This was partly to preserve the commons that is the internet, but also because the quasi-monopolies enjoyed by the telcos were built on the back of public investment, so expecting them to play nicely was a reasonable expectation.

Look now to see the Verizons and AT&Ts of the world aggressively fuck us all even more than they already do. AT&T may degrade traffic it sees as carrying information that competes with its own providers (like, say, YouTube). Look for them to try to charge competitors like Google more to allow us, the paying customers, to reach them.

If this isn’t overturned at the SCOTUS level, the Internet as we have enjoyed it — a huge engine of wealth-creation and connectivity — will be destroyed.

So, how evil IS Wal-Mart?

[Consumerist])(http://consumerist.com/2013/12/23/how-employers-use-charity-to-make-barely-legal-political-contributions/):

In other words, if a Walmart employee gives to Walmart’s political action group, Walmart will donate money to Walmart’s charity for Walmart employees who don’t make enough money by working at Walmart to pay their bills.

Dept. of Truly AMAZING Police Misconduct

In September, the NYPD decided it would be a good idea to confront and ultimately shoot at an unarmed mentally ill homeless man in Times Square, which (as you may know) tends to be a crowded place.

The cops managed to miss their mark entirely, but DID succeed in hitting two innocent bystanders.

Obviously, someone must pay for this sort of completely fucking retarded behavior, and someone will: The DA has indicted the mentally ill man for assault, claiming therein that he “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death.”

Basically, they’re charging an unarmed man for a shooting rampage. Nice one, NYPD.

Dept. of Governmental Misdeeds

Apparently, the FBI can watch you via your webcam without triggering the “active” light, which is a power I’m absolutely CERTAIN will NEVER be misused EVEN A LITTLE BIT:

The FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years, and has used that technique mainly in terrorism cases or the most serious criminal investigations, said Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, now on the advisory board of Subsentio, a firm that helps telecommunications carriers comply with federal wiretap statutes.

Get a post-it. Or, better yet, order some EFF stickers. Make sure YOUR devices are really and truly YOURS; given the absurd degree of surveillance the Snowden leaks have exposed, it’s the only prudent course of action.

ALEC: New frontiers in being evil douchebags

Now they’re lobbying for changes to energy regulations that will allow power companies to charge people who generate their own power, e.g. via solar.

In some areas, the power company must actually PAY homeowners who contribute a net positive amount of power to the grid with solar cells. Obviously, this isn’t popular with power companies, who seem to think that their monopoly position is ordained by God and that therefore everyone should pay them forever.

Fuck. That.

Apparently, “trespassing” in Miami Gardens means “working while black”

This story is in pretty wide distribution now, but it’s worth a moment of your time anyway.

Police operate this way because, to a first approximation, the individual officers never suffer any real consequences for grotesque abuses of their power and responsibility. This absolutely has to change. People trusted with power — and the lethal means to enforce their wishes — must be held to a much higher standard than private citizens.

Without such consequences, stories like this one and this one will become increasingly commonplace. It is already true that, when interacting with police, you are safest is you assume they are power-mad and dangerous, and behave accordingly.

Who Zimmerman Is. Who He Always Was.

Josh Marshall runs down the latest on George Zimmerman, and points out what can no longer be denied: that he is a small, frightened man with a penchant for violence and a tendency to wave guns around.

It is verging on impossible at this point to maintain, with a straight face, that he did not stalk, attack, and murder Trayvon Martin. His pattern of behavior makes his claim of self defense even more laughable than it was before.

Yay, Florida!

How to Tell If You’re An Asshole

You’re a giant and fantastically profitable department store, and you feel the need to sponsor a food drive.

For your own employees.

Look, if you’re making money hand over fist and employees can’t afford to buy food, and you’re asking your community to donate food so they can eat, you are the vilest sort of jackass.

This is quite incredible. The DOJ is BEYOND overreaching here.

Some major tech companies (Google, MSFT, etc) are suing the US government, claiming a First Amendment right to disclose the number of currently-secret information requests they get from the NSA under the FISA law.

The DOJ has filed a response, but is refusing to allow opposing counsel to read parts of it.

No, really. TechDirt:

[T]he DOJ is simply refusing to let the tech companies see its own argument. In response, the companies have filed a pretty direct and somewhat angry motion, asking the FISA court to either let them see the arguments, or to strike the redacted portions from the DOJ’s motion. Basically, the DOJ is saying that it can make legal arguments that only the court can see, but which the tech companies suing it cannot see. That goes against every basic concept of due process.

We cannot allow secret laws, secret courts, or secret arguments. All are anathema to liberty and democracy.

Cops now literally all up in your ass in New Mexico

A New Mexico traffic stop somehow concluded with a forced colonoscopy in a search for phantom drugs that were not there.

  1. Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.

  2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

  3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

  4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

  5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

  6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.

  7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.

  8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.

The doctors should lose their licenses; the police involved should be fired, forever barred from law enforcement or security work, and be held personally and criminally liable.

Instead, while I’m sure Eckert will end up with a giant settlement from the county and state, I’m equally sure we’ll see the policemen involved given commendations or promotions, or quietly allowed to take employment elsewhere with no personal or professional repercussions at all.

H/T: Ol’ Rob.