Shared posts

17 Nov 16:00

Detroit police officers brawl after undercover drugs raid goes wrong

Police in Detroit are investigating a fight that started when officers raided a suspected drug den, only to discover the “dealers” were undercover police from another precinct. Two officers sustained minor injuries, including a black eye.

Detroit police brawl after ‘embarrassing’ raid of drug house filled with undercover officers. (Source: Global News California).

“This is probably one of the most embarrassing things I’ve seen in this department since I’ve been appointed police chief,” James Craig told reporters. “In fact, I’d have to tell you it is probably one of the most disappointing things I’ve experienced in my entire 40-year career.”

During the botched operation, 12th precinct officers, who were posing as drug dealers, were held at gunpoint by police from the 11th precinct. “I am thankful that no one was more seriously injured,” Craig said.

A video of the incident, which took place on 9 November, has been been released as part of the investigation. The bodycam footage shows one officer shouting: “Don’t put your hand on your gun” while another says his team has a search warrant.

As the brawl develops, the bodycam is knocked off the officer filming. It is believed a lack of communication over the existence of the warrant led to the problem.

Two officers have been placed on restrictive duties and a supervisor from the special operations team has been reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation.

17 Nov 13:36

The Breakthrough: Used as ‘Guinea Pigs’ by the U.S. Military, Then Discarded

by by Jessica Huseman

by Jessica Huseman

When we think of the harm that befalls soldiers during wartime, specific images come to mind. The fallout from scientific experiments — especially those carried out by our own government — isn’t one. But that was the reality of tens of thousands of military men in the 1940s, who were poisoned with mustard gas by the U.S. government to see how their bodies would react. It took decades to bring to light the vast scope of the experiments, and it couldn’t have been completed without the work of two NPR journalists.

For years, veterans were sworn to secrecy about the tests, prohibited from even discussing them with doctors. While this curtain was lifted in the 1990s, and Congress and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs promised medical care and services, many vets didn’t get it. NPR reporter Caitlin Dickerson and research librarian Barbara Van Woerkom found records for and called hundreds of vets who were used in these experiments, and their work paved the way for the men — who are now well into their 80s — to receive the care and recognition they needed.

Listen to the Podcast

Dickerson was new to the investigative desk when she began working with Van Woerkom, who’d been gnawing around the edges of the story for years. She said she understood right away the urgency of what Van Woerkom was sitting on. “There was also this element of time, because most of the men who were used in these tests had died, and those who were still around were in their 80s or 90s,” she said. “It felt sort of dire.”

Dickerson started calling them. Because the men were older, communication was sometimes difficult. But they finally started opening up. They told her about their skin flaking off, about chronic health problems they couldn’t fully report to their doctors. Many hadn’t even told their wives about the experiments.

“Some of them said, ‘I just can’t believe that the government did this to me. I trusted them. I trusted that they weren’t going to hurt me,’” said Van Woerkom.

The pair set off to see if they could prove, systematically, that the government failed to keep the promise to get these vets care. They dug through the VA’s medical benefits database and found a pattern: In denied claim after denied claim, the VA asked the vets for more proof that they were actually involved in the experiments — proof they didn’t have, because the tests were classified.

The journalists found more disturbing information. In testing to see how different races would react to the poison, the military used Japanese-American soldiers as stand-ins for enemy soldiers — something Dickerson said struck her. “Some of them were recruited out of internment camps,” she said, only to be used “as guinea pigs on the frontlines of a chemical war.”

The journalists asked the VA why it had contacted only 610 veterans in the 20 years since the tests were made public, and officials said they’d done the best they could. But in only two months of research, Dickerson and Van Woerkom had found double that number.

Their reporting brought about change. After the story aired, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., proposed a bill requiring the VA to reexamine all claims made by vets used in mustard gas experiments. It was signed into law last August.

17 Nov 12:54

How to Make Friends

No, wait, come back! I want to be friends at you!
16 Nov 16:02

Trump’s “Extreme-Vetting” Software Will Discriminate Against Immigrants “Under a Veneer of Objectivity,” Say Experts

by Sam Biddle

This past August, technology firms lined up to find out how they could help build a computerized reality of President Donald Trump’s vague, hateful vision of “extreme vetting” for immigrants. At a Department of Homeland Security event, and via related DHS documents, both first reported by The Intercept, companies like IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Red Hat learned what sort of software the government needed to support its “Extreme Vetting Initiative.”

Today, a coalition of more than 100 civil rights and technology groups, as well as prominent individuals in those fields, has formed to say that it is technically impossible to build software that meets DHS’s vetting requirements — and that code that attempts to do so will end up promoting discrimination and undermining civil liberties.

The new opposition effort, organized by legal scholars Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology, and Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, includes two letters, one on the technical futility of trying to implement extreme-vetting software and another on the likely disturbing social fallout of any such attempt.

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 27: A staircase with video display is pictured at the new Red Hat computing and executive center in Fort Point in Boston on Jun. 27, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The interior of the new Red Hat computing and executive center in Fort Point in Boston on Jun. 27, 2017.

Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

The first letter, signed by 54 computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and other experts in machine learning, data mining, and other forms of automated decision-making, says the signatories have “grave concerns” about the Extreme Vetting Initiative. As described in documents posted by DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch, the initiative requires software that can automate and accelerate the tracking and assessment of foreigners in the U.S., in part through a feature that can “determine and evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively contributing member of society, as well as their ability to contribute to national interests.”

In 2017, this is a tall order for any piece of software. In the letter, experts affiliated with institutions like Google, MIT, and Berkeley, say the plan just won’t work: “Simply put, no computational methods can provide reliable or objective assessments of the traits that ICE seeks to measure,” the letter states. “In all likelihood, the proposed system would be inaccurate and biased.” Any attempt to use algorithms to assess who is and isn’t a “positively contributing member of society,” the letter argues, would be a muddled failure at best:

Algorithms designed to predict these undefined qualities could be used to arbitrarily flag groups of immigrants under a veneer of objectivity.

Inevitably, because these characteristics are difficult (if not impossible) to define and measure, any algorithm will depend on “proxies” that are more easily observed and may bear little or no relationship to the characteristics of interest. For example, developers could stipulate that a Facebook post criticizing U.S. foreign policy would identify a visa applicant as a threat to national interests. They could also treat income as a proxy for a person’s contributions to society, despite the fact that financial compensation fails to adequately capture people’s roles in their communities or the economy.

But more worryingly, it could be a machine for racial and religious bias. David Robinson, a signatory to the first letter and managing director of technology and civil rights think tank Upturn, said in an interview that the government is essentially asking private technology companies to “boil down to numbers” completely fuzzy notions of “what counts as a contribution to the national interest — in effect, they’ll be making it up out of whole cloth.” Corporate programmers could decide that wealth and income are key measures, thus shutting out poorer immigrants, or look at native language or family size, tilting the scales against people of certain cultures. As has proven to be the case with Facebook, for example, vast groups of people could be subject to rules kept inside a black box of code held up as an impartial arbiter. A corporate contractor chosen for the project, Robinson explained, could simply “tweak the formula until they like the answers” and then “bake it into a computer and say it’s objective, data-driven, based on numbers. I’m afraid this could easily become a case of prejudice dressed up as science.”

Another concern is the danger of extrapolating common characteristics from the vanishingly small proportion of immigrants who have attempted to participate in terrorism. “There are too few examples,” said Robinson. “We can’t make reliable statistical generalizations.” But that isn’t stopping ICE from asking that it be so. Kristian Lum, lead statistician at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (and letter signatory), fears that “in order to flag even a small proportion of future terrorists, this tool will likely flag a huge number of people who would never go on to be terrorists,” and that “these ‘false positives’ will be real people who would never have gone on to commit criminal acts but will suffer the consequences of being flagged just the same.”

The second letter, signed by “a coalition of 56 civil rights, civil liberties, government accountability, human rights, immigrant rights, and privacy organizations,” including the ACLU, Amnesty International, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, argues that the Extreme Vetting Initiative “is tailor-made for discrimination.” The letter adds that would-be visitors and migrants, knowing that they will be subject to automated surveillance, will curb their own speech, “contravening the First Amendment and international human rights.” According to analysis by these groups, the algorithmic program floating through Homeland Security’s collective imagination “will not work the way ICE says it will work.” Rather, “it risks hiding politicized, discriminatory decisions behind a veneer of objectivity – at great cost to freedom of speech, civil liberties, civil rights, and human rights. It will hurt real, decent people and tear apart families.”

It’s unlikely two letters warning of prejudicial outcomes will dissuade the Trump administration from building this tool (or failing in the process at taxpayer expense). But Bedoya hopes the plan can be thwarted from the private sector side: “This administration should be ashamed of this initiative. But our real hope is that government contractors recognize this for what it is: a digital Muslim ban. Principled companies should publicly reject this discriminatory initiative.”

Top photo: People line up on the pedestrian crossing lines on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro Port of Entry on Nov. 1, 2017, in Tijuana, northwestern Mexico.

The post Trump’s “Extreme-Vetting” Software Will Discriminate Against Immigrants “Under a Veneer of Objectivity,” Say Experts appeared first on The Intercept.

16 Nov 16:01

AT&T Lawyers Investigating Whether Trump Had Undue Influence On DOJ Merger Review

by Karl Bode

Given the Trump administration's rubber stamping of every mono/duopolist desire (killing net neutrality, broadband privacy rules, media consolidation limits), most expected the AT&T Time Warner merger to see approval without much fuss. After all, while the problems caused by vertical integration deals like Comcast NBC Universal are very real, it didn't seem likely that an administration running rough shod over consumer protections would give much of a damn. Especially given that Trump DOJ antitrust boss Makan Delrahim had already been on record stating he saw no problems whatsoever with the deal.

That's why leaked reports that the DOJ was suddenly considering blocking the deal came as such a surprise. Said reports indicated that the DOJ was considering a lawsuit to thwart the deal unless AT&T was willing to divest either CNN-owner Turner broadcasting, or DirecTV -- which AT&T acquired last year.

There are two generally-accepted theories as to what motivated the Trump administration to hamstring the deal, neither of which (unless you're immensely gullible) involve actually caring about the very real negative repercussions the deal will have on telecom/media markets and consumers. One is that the Trump administration is simply getting vindictive revenge against CNN for its critical coverage of the president, a path one Trump administration official said was definitely on the table in a July report in the New York Times:

"White House advisers have discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary, a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T. Mr. Trump’s Justice Department will decide whether to approve the merger, and while analysts say there is little to stop the deal from moving forward, the president’s animus toward CNN remains a wild card."

But there's another motivation here for the Trump administration: doing a favor for Rupert Murdoch. Reports have indicated that Murdoch has been pressuring the Trump administration to block the deal since at least January, since the combined company would pose a greater competitive threat to his News Corp. empire. Reports more recently indicate that Murdoch approached AT&T at least twice in the last six months looking to convince AT&T to sell CNN, an idea AT&T isn't interested in. In short, it's very possible that Trump may be using the DOJ to force AT&T to make a deal with Murdoch.

AT&T lawyers clearly smell something fishy here, and the company quickly indicated it will be asking a court for any and all communications between the DOJ and the Trump administration. Not too surprisingly, AT&T's inquiry will focus, in part, on the role Rupert Murdoch is playing in scuttling the deal:

"In the event of a trial over the $85.4 billion deal, AT&T intends to seek court permission for access to communications between the White House and the Justice Department about the takeover, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private...AT&T will also try to get any evidence about whether Rupert Murdoch tried to influence the review, according to one of the people. Murdoch, a Trump confidant, controls 21st Century Fox Inc., the parent of Fox News. The president has praised Fox News’s coverage of his administration."

The entire affair is just another indication that 2017 is simply too weird for words. Blocking the deal on antitrust grounds is the right thing to do to protect streaming markets from AT&T's long, documented history of anti-competitive behavior. But is it still the right thing to do if the only real goal is to silence critical media voices while aiding a Trump ally's own business ventures? Pick your poison.



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16 Nov 13:41

The Ticketed Feel Targeted

by by Topher Sanders, and Benjamin Conarck, Florida Times-Union

by Topher Sanders, and Benjamin Conarck, Florida Times-Union

Maurice Chester Grant

  • 57 years old
  • Federal public defender
  • Ticketed on 5/24/16 for entering the roadway against the red hand
  • Paid ticket

Maurice Grant was cited on a Tuesday at around 4:30 p.m., just a block south of the federal courthouse where he works. He stepped into the road against the red hand. Grant declined to comment on his experience, saying he avoids airing issues out in the media. He did, however, confirm that he received the citation. Grant added that a quote written on the ticket accurately captured his response to getting cited: “You shouldn’t be messing with people who know how to cross the street.” Grant was ticketed by Officer Reinaldo Coll Jr., a 35-year veteran of the force.


Brianna Nonord

  • 13 years old
  • Student
  • Ticketed on 4/28/15 for crossing the road outside the crosswalk
  • Paid ticket

Brianna Nonord, who was 13 at the time, ended up in handcuffs over a pedestrian ticket.

As she was walking home from school, Nonord attempted to cross Wilson Street in the Moncrief neighborhood.

Officer Melissa Godbee later wrote in her report that she had to slam her brakes to avoid hitting Nonord.

Undersheriff Patrick Ivey said Nonord was arrested for resisting arrest without violence because she didn’t stop when Godbee told her.

The young girl was handcuffed and taken to the juvenile facility in downtown Jacksonville even after Lorina Nonord, Brianna’s mother, showed up and asked the officer to release her daughter. Godbee refused, Lorina Nonord said, and told her she would have to pick up Brianna downtown.

At the root of all of this was an invalid ticket. Godbee cited Nonord for crossing outside the crosswalk at a location that a Times-Union/ProPublica analysis shows is not applicable to that specific pedestrian statute.


John F. Kendrick was ordered to the ground, detained for hours, arrested and charged with jaywalking and “resisting arrest without violence” after stepping off the sidewalk into a crosswalk. (Bruce Lipsky/Florida Times-Union)

John Fitzgerald Kendrick

  • 48 years old
  • Truck driver
  • Ticketed on 4/8/15 for walking in the roadway where sidewalks are provided
  • Won settlement against the city, ticket dropped

John Kendrick, a Jacksonville truck driver, was trying to park his 18-wheeler in a leased parking spot when he came across an area taped off by police.

The officer regulating traffic, J. L. Kahre, would not let Kendrick pass. They got into a dispute.

Kendrick, who is diabetic and needed to get home to eat, eventually parked his truck in the median and called 911. The dispatcher told him to get the number listed on Kahre’s cruiser. But when Kendrick stepped off the sidewalk, the officer pointed his Taser at him and ordered him to the ground. He then arrested him for a pedestrian violation.

“Anything he could put on me to hurt me, he tried,” Kendrick said. “Anything he could do to take more money out of my pocket, he tried.”

The officer repeatedly told him he “wasn’t going to have no job tomorrow,” according to Kendrick. He was detained in the backseat of the patrol car for several hours, during which Kendrick said he watched Kahre let a white truck driver pass through the same police tape.

Kahre testified in a deposition taken for Kendrick’s civil case against the city that he could not recall whether that happened or not. He said Kendrick repeatedly failed to comply with orders to get back on the sidewalk.

In the aftermath of his arrest, Kendrick hired a lawyer, Andrew Bonderud. The city settled the case for $10,000, while not admitting wrongdoing.


Devonte Shipman

  • 21 years old
  • Landscaper
  • Ticketed on 6/20/17 for failing to obey a pedestrian walk signal
  • Fought ticket and was adjudicated guilty

Devonte Shipman was walking with a friend in Jacksonville’s Arlington neighborhood when a sheriff’s officer told them they had crossed against the red hand.

Shipman said he at first declined to stop for the officer, J.S. Bolen, because he didn’t think he had done anything wrong.

When the officer pulled over and ordered Shipman to stop, the young man took out his phone and began recording video. He said he did so to prevent the situation from escalating.

In the video, Bolen is visibly agitated and scolds Shipman for his infraction, threatening to take him to jail. Bolen also gave Shipman an erroneous ticket for not having a driver’s license on him, a law that only applies to motorists.

The ticket was dropped after Shipman’s video went viral. Three police cruisers ended up responding to Shipman’s infraction.

During the stop, Shipman said an officer told him he was stopped just to make sure he didn’t have any guns, knives or drugs on him.

One officer in the video, who was not identified, can be heard questioning why Shipman’s friend is wearing a hoodie. Shipman fought his jaywalking ticket in court, but was eventually adjudicated guilty.


Bobby Wingate

  • 35 years old
  • Unknown
  • Ticketed on 12/26/12 for walking on the right-hand side of the road
  • Won a civil settlement against the city

Under Florida law, police officers can ticket pedestrians walking on the “wrong side” of a road that doesn’t have sidewalks.

On the day after Christmas in 2012, Wingate was walking on a residential street with no sidewalks when a Jacksonville sheriff’s officer asked to speak with him. Wingate declined. He told the officer he was in a rush.

Wingate went on his way without realizing that the officer, D.F. Will, had pulled over in his cruiser and started combing through his statute book to double-check that the 35-year-old was violating a pedestrian statute by being on the right-hand side of the road.

The officer returned about five minutes later. Wingate’s account was captured on a 911 call he made to the Sheriff’s Office in the midst of the stop.

Will pulled his car around, Wingate tells the dispatcher, and again asked him to stop.

“And I’m saying, ‘For what? I’m in a rush,’” Wingate says in the 911 call. “Then he gonna get out of his car, run up and grab me, and punch me in my fucking jaw.”

Wingate tells the dispatcher the officer’s name. Within moments, the officer can be heard commanding Wingate to put his phone down. A scuffle ensues.

“What did I do? Nothing,” Wingate said, “Walking down the street, minding my business … He stopped me for no reason.” In addition to getting hit with a ticket, and hit in the face, Wingate was also charged with resisting without violence. He hired lawyer Andrew Bonderud, sued the city, and received a $9,500 settlement. The city did not admit wrongdoing.


Brelan Shoemo stands outside of EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. (Bruce Lipsky/Florida Times-Union)

Brelan Shoemo

  • 33 years old
  • Sports merchandiser/ticket broker
  • Ticketed for “walking in the roadway where sidewalks are provided” and “obstructing traffic/soliciting.”

Brelan Shoemo is from Jacksonville, but his work selling event tickets, shirts and other wares takes him all over the South, from Austin, Texas, to Charlotte, North Carolina.

On the day he was arrested, the Jacksonville Jaguars were hosting the Green Bay Packers. It was still early in the morning, around 9 a.m., on a Florida-hot September day when Shoemo encountered Officer Tim Terrell on the north side of the stadium, near the Tailgate Bar.

The then-32-year-old was holding a sign advertising tickets for sale. Traffic was sparse near the backroads of the stadium, he recounted, but cars were pulling up asking about tickets. Shoemo said Terrell approached him and his middle-aged business partner, calling them “boys,” and telling them they couldn’t be selling tickets in that area. They agreed to leave.

A short while later, Shoemo returned, trying to cross the road toward another set of parking lots. He said Terrell approached and began cursing at them. Shoemo said he asked to speak with the officer’s supervisor.

That’s when Terrell “flipped,” Shoemo said, wrenching his arm behind his back and pushing him back in the direction of Terrell’s superior. Once he was in front of the sergeant, Shoemo found him no more sympathetic. Terrell arrested Shoemo for “resisting without violence.”

“What crime was committed or what charge was committed for me to even resist in the first place?” Shoemo said. “Even when he chicken-winged my arm, I didn’t fight it. I didn’t push him off me. I didn’t do anything to make the situation worse because I know, being a minority, what can of worms that’s going to open.”

In Terrell’s police cruiser, Shoemo said he first learned of his pedestrian infraction while watching the officer fill in the police report. On a 90-degree day, Terrell rolled up the windows and cut the AC off in the back as he transported him — the long way — to the pre-trial detention facility, Shoemo said. He ended up having to spend the night in jail.

The charges were dropped after Shoemo hired a lawyer. He filed an Internal Affairs report and offered witnesses, but the Sheriff’s Office declined to open an investigation.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on the specific claims made by Shoemo.


Michael Anderson

  • 29 years old
  • State worker
  • Ticketed on 4/15/17 for walking in the roadway
  • Ticket dismissed

Michael Anderson was enjoying some vacation from work when he visited his mother’s house on Jacksonville’s East side. She asked him to go to the store to pick up some items. His mother lives about two blocks from the neighborhood corner store. Anderson said he noticed police as he was walking to the store, but paid them no mind. As soon as he crossed the street, he said the officers immediately pulled up and asked for I.D.

They said it was because he didn’t look familiar to the area. When Anderson questioned why he was being stopped, one of the three officers told him they could write him a ticket for jaywalking, Anderson said. Anderson told the police, “You’re just fucking with me for no reason.”

Unprompted, Anderson said, an officer reached for his pockets to search him.

“He didn’t ask for permission or nothing, that’s why I pushed his hand away,” Anderson said. The officer then told Anderson he was “resisting” and that by pushing the officer’s hand away he could be charged with battery on a law enforcement officer. Anderson described the officer who reached for his pockets as a short white man who then asked why he was giving them “so much attitude.”

“I said, ‘Why are You all bothering me? You’re only harassing me because I’m a black male, with dreads in this high crime area. If you check my I.D. you’ll see I grew up in this area.” The officers ran his name and didn’t find anything of interest, Anderson said. One of the officers, Anderson recalled, asked why he felt he could talk to “police like that.”

“I said, ‘Why police got to be assholes and stereotyping?” When the shorter officer gave him back his I.D., Anderson said the two exchanged looks.

“He said, ‘Oh, you act like someone is supposed to be scared of a 30-year-old punk like you,’” Anderson said. Anderson responded by saying, “One day when you ain’t in that uniform.” The officer asked if Anderson was threatening him. Anderson said he just repeated his statement.

“He said, ‘Well, you can have a nice day, nigger,’” Anderson recalled. “And I said, ‘You can, too, cracker,’ and I walked off.”

Anderson said all three officers who stopped him were white. Anderson said he doesn’t remember the name of the officer who reached for his pocket and called him a nigger. But the officer who wrote him the ticket was Steven D. Vereen.

Anderson contested the ticket and none of the officers showed up for court. The ticket was dismissed.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on the specific claims made by Anderson.

16 Nov 00:07

Another handful of Chromebooks now have support for Android apps

by Ashley King

Google has slowly been working on rolling out support for Android apps to more Chromebooks with a whopping 17 new additions to the list last month. Now a handful more have been added to the list in for beta and stable channels, depending on the Chromebook.

First up is the Acer Chromebook 11 (C740) and the Dell Chromebook 11 (7310) that feature support for Android apps in the Chrome OS beta channel. You’ll have to switch to the beta channel in order to use these features, but you should be warned that you can’t switch back to the stable channel without wiping your Chromebook.

Additionally, the Lenovo Thinkpad 13 Chromebook, Samsung Chromebook 3, and the HP Chromebook 13 G1 now feature support for Android apps on the stable channel. If you’re curious what other Chromebooks have been added since Android app support started rolling out, be sure to check out our full list of Chromebooks with Android app support.

15 Nov 19:28

Every tax cut and increase in House Republicans’ bill

by Nathan Yau

The House Republicans will vote on a tax bill soon that adds about $1.4 trillion to the federal debt. Alicia Parlapiano and Adam Pearce, reporting for The New York Times, look at every change in this scroller.

I like that the visual is kept simple with a two-column, stacked bar chart as the backdrop. The chart provides scale, but the focus in on the text.

Tags: New York Times, scrollytelling, taxes

15 Nov 19:28

We Knew Julian Assange Hated Clinton. We Didn’t Know He Was Secretly Advising Trump.

by Robert Mackey

Updated: Thursday, Nov. 16, 8:55 a.m.

The revelation that WikiLeaks secretly offered help to Donald Trump’s campaign, in a series of private Twitter messages sent to the candidate’s son Donald Trump Jr., gave ammunition to the group’s many detractors and also sparked anger from some longtime supporters of the organization and its founder, Julian Assange.

One of the most high-profile dissenters was journalist Barrett Brown, whose crowdsourced investigations of hacked corporate documents later posted on WikiLeaks led to a prison sentence.

Brown had a visceral reaction to the news, first reported by The Atlantic, that WikiLeaks had been advising the Trump campaign. In a series of tweets and Facebook videos, Brown accused Assange of having compromised “the movement” to expose corporate and government wrongdoing by acting as a covert political operative.

Brown explained that he had defended WikiLeaks for releasing emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee, “because it was an appropriate thing for a transparency org to do.” But, he added, “working with an authoritarian would-be leader to deceive the public is indefensible and disgusting.”

He was particularly outraged by an Oct. 21, 2016 message, in which Assange had appealed to Trump Jr. to let WikiLeaks publish one or more of his father’s tax returns in order to make his group’s attacks on Hillary Clinton seem less biased. “If we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality,” the Assange-controlled @Wikileaks account suggested. “That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing on Clinton will have much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a ‘pro-Trump’ ‘pro-Russia’ source, which the Clinton campaign is constantly slandering us with.”


A screenshot of a direct message from the WikiLeaks Twitter account to Donald Trump Jr.

As Brown pointed out in another tweet, it was all-caps exasperating that Assange was in this case “complaining about ‘slander’ of being pro-Trump IN THE ACTUAL COURSE OF COLLABORATING WITH TRUMP.”

The journalist, an Intercept contributor, whose work had been championed by WikiLeaks, also shared a link to a Reddit AMA conducted two days after the election in which WikiLeaks staff, including Assange’s longtime collaborator Sarah Harrison, had denied point-blank that they had collaborated with the Trump campaign.

“The allegations that we have colluded with Trump, or any other candidate for that matter, or with Russia, are just groundless and false,” the staffers wrote then. “We were not publishing with a goal to get any specific candidate elected.”

It is not surprising that Brown felt personally betrayed by Assange, since, as he explained on Facebook Tuesday night, “I went to prison because of my support for WikiLeaks.” Specifically, Brown said, the charges against him were related to his role in “operations to identify and punish members of the government and members of private companies that had been exposed by Anonymous hackers of my acquaintance, via email hacks, as having conspired to go after Assange, to go after WikiLeaks.”

That sort of activism, dedicated to making public secret wrongdoing, Brown argued, is very different from “colluding with an authoritarian presidential campaign backed by actual Nazis while publicly denying it.”

“Plainly,” he observed with bitterness, “the prospect of a Clinton in the White House was such an unimaginable nightmare scenario that all normal standards of truth and morality became moot and it became necessary to get people like Sebastian Gorka into the White House to establish order.”

Before his private messages to Trump Jr. were leaked, Assange himself had categorically denied that he or WikiLeaks had been attacking Hillary Clinton to help elect Donald Trump. “This is not due to a personal desire to influence the outcome of the election,” he wrote in a statement released on November 8 as Americans went to the polls.

Even though Assange had by then transformed the WikiLeaks Twitter feed into a vehicle for smearing Clinton, he insisted that his work was journalistic in nature. “The right to receive and impart true information is the guiding principle of WikiLeaks — an organization that has a staff and organizational mission far beyond myself,” Assange wrote. “Millions of Americans have pored over the leaks and passed on their citations to each other and to us,” he added. “It is an open model of journalism that gatekeepers are uncomfortable with, but which is perfectly harmonious with the First Amendment.”

The same morning, WikiLeaks tweeted an attack on Clinton for not having driven her own car during her decades of public service.

For Brown, and others who have been critical of Assange for using the platform of WikiLeaks to fight his own political and personal battles, his secret communication with the Trump campaign was damning because it revealed that he had been functioning more like a freelance political operative, doling out strategy and advice, than a journalist interested in obtaining and publishing information, concerned only with its accuracy.

James Ball, a former WikiLeaks volunteer who has described the difficulty of working for someone who lies so much, was also appalled by one post-election message to Trump Jr., in which WikiLeaks suggested that, as a form of payback, it would be “helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to DC.”



That request for payback, on December 16, 2016, came three weeks after Trump’s father had called on the British government to make his friend Nigel Farage its ambassador. “This should be it, game over, end of it, for anyone who tries to suggest Assange looks out for anyone except himself,” Ball observed on Twitter. “That’s his cause, and plenty of good people have been played, badly.”

There was also criticism from journalists, like Chris Hayes of MSNBC, a network Assange accused of being, along with the New York Times, “the most biased source” in one note to Trump Jr. Pointing to a message from WikiLeaks sent on Election Day, advising Trump to refuse to concede and claim the election was rigged, Hayes asked how, exactly, offering that sort of political advice squared with the organization’s mission to promote transparency.


A screenshot of a Nov. 8, 2016 DM to Donald Trump Jr. from WikiLeaks.

Still, many of Assange’s most vocal supporters stuck with him, calling even secret communication with the Trump campaign to undermine Clinton entirely consistent with his vision of WikiLeaks as a sort of opposition research group, dedicated to “crushing bastards” by finding dirt in the servers of powerful individuals or organizations.

As Raffi Khatchadourian explained in a New Yorker profile of the WikiLeaks founder in 2010, “Assange, despite his claims to scientific journalism, emphasized to me that his mission is to expose injustice, not to provide an even-handed record of events.” To Assange, Khatchadourian wrote, “Leaks were an instrument of information warfare.”

One steadfast Assange ally was Kim Dotcom, founder of the shuttered file-sharing site MegaUpload, who helped fuel a conspiracy theory that the DNC emails had not been hacked by Russia, but provided to WikiLeaks by a young Democratic staffer named Seth Rich, who was subsequently murdered. Alluding to another entirely unsubstantiated allegation — that Clinton had once suggested killing Assange in a drone strike — Dotcom said that the WikiLeaks founder was merely part of a crowdsourced political operation that had successfully defeated the greater evil.

As it happens, one of the anti-Clinton rumors that WikiLeaks had urged Trump Jr. to “push” in an October 3, 2016 message was a tweet linking to that unsubstantiated allegation in an unsigned blog post citing anonymous sources. The blog post includes no documentation of the allegation, but the WikiLeaks tweet linking to it, which Trump Jr. told Assange he did share, included an excerpt from the blog post in which the type was styled to look like a leaked document.

Earlier in the campaign, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed had also shared video from 2010 of a Fox News pundit, Bob Beckel calling for Assange’s assassination, with a caption that incorrectly identified him as a “Hillary Clinton strategist.”

Beckel did not work for Clinton. He served in the State Department during the Carter Administration, three decades before Clinton was Secretary of State, and then ran Walter Mondale’s failed campaign for the presidency in 1984.

While WikiLeaks has undoubtedly facilitated the release of information that is both true and important, it is Assange’s Trump-like willingness to traffic in such unsubstantiated rumors, conspiracy theories, and innuendo not supported by evidence that undermines his claim to be a disinterested publisher, not a political operative.

This willingness to traffic in false or misleading information was very much in evidence during his work on behalf of Trump, and it is a consistent feature of Assange’s advocacy for other people and causes.

During the final week of the Brexit campaign last year, Assange tried to undermine the credibility of a witness to the savage murder of a pro-European Union member of parliament, Jo Cox. In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, Brexit supporters like Assange were concerned that a wave of sympathy for the murdered MP could sway the vote. So they set out to contest evidence that the killing had been politically motivated.

To that end, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed drew attention to the fact that one witness to the killing — who said he had heard the attacker shout “Britain First!” — might have belonged to a racist political group, the British National Party, whose membership rolls WikiLeaks had obtained. Within hours of the murder, WikiLeaks also shared a link to a conspiratorial post from the pro-Brexit Breitbart U.K., which speculated that the witness might have lied about what he heard as part of a feud among far-right racist groups.

The next day, British police confirmed that the attacker told the arresting officers he was a “political activist” and had indeed shouted pro-Brexit phrases, including “Britain First,” during the murder.

More recently, during the separatist protests in Catalonia he supported, Assange was forced to delete several fake images he had shared on Twitter — like one photograph of Spanish police officers struggling with Catalans, which had been digitally altered to insert a Catalan independence flag.


A screenshot of a fake image Julian Assange shared and later deleted.

In the final months of the 2016 presidential election, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed promoted not just its new publications, but also frequently referred to tabloid rumors — like old chestnuts about Hillary Clinton’s supposed “role in the death of White House counsel Vince Foster” — and wild conspiracy theories about her campaign chair taking part in bloody satanic rituals.

We know now that, from late September on, Assange was also privately using that account to urge the candidate’s son to hype the mostly anodyne emails stolen from the account of campaign chair, John Podesta, as crucial evidence of Clinton’s unfitness for office. And it certainly looks like the campaign took his advice.

On October 12, 2016, just 15 minutes after Assange told Trump Jr. that a new batch of Podesta emails had been released, with “many great stories the press are missing,” his father tweeted a complaint accusing “the dishonest media” of ignoring “incredible information provided by WikiLeaks.”

In the same message, Assange urged Trump Jr. to share a link he provided to the email database — wlsearch.tk — so “you guys can get all your followers digging through the content.” Two days later, Trump Jr. shared that link.

Despite the constant claims, from Assange and the Trumps, that the emails stolen from Democrats implicated Clinton in scandal and corruption, it is important to keep in mind that the WikiLeaks method of encouraging Trump supporters and Reddit trolls to scour the documents for evidence of malfeasance did not, in fact, uncover any such evidence.

Instead, the hacked emails were used to reverse-engineer preposterous conspiracy theories, like the imaginary pedophilia scandal called Pizzagate, which WikiLeaks was still treating as real two months after the election.

This is the real tragedy and menace of the public and private collaboration of WikiLeaks with Trump. An organization with a sterling reputation for providing the public with accurate information about secret government and corporate activities was used to launder conspiracy theories that helped elect a racist, sexual predator president of the United States.

That might be a terrific result for people like Julian Assange, who see a dysfunctional, discredited White House as a way to undermine what they see as the real evil empire. For Americans condemned to live under Trump, particularly the most marginalized who, as Noam Chomsky has observed, will suffer the most from his cruelty, it is a far more troubling outcome.

Update | Thursday, Nov. 16, 8:55 a.m.

Some supporters of Julian Assange have argued that the Oct. 21 direct message that so infuriated Barrett Brown — in which Assange argued that it would be good for the Trump campaign to allow WikiLeaks to publish one or more of Donald Trump’s tax returns — merely showed the publisher trying to obtain private material of public interest. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the proposal, explicitly presented as a way for WikiLeaks to seem to be less “pro-Trump,” would have compromised the organization’s principles, by disguising material released by a political campaign as a leak obtained from a whistleblower.

It is also important to remember what was happening in the news at that time. Three weeks before WikiLeaks solicited Trump’s tax information, an anonymous source mailed three pages from Trump’s 1995 tax return to The New York Times, which published an analysis showing that Trump had used entirely legal means to avoid paying federal taxes. Had the Trump campaign provided WikiLeaks with another old return, it is possible that the organization could have published tax information that would not have damaged Trump politically, but would have misled its readers into believing that the organization was working to undermine Trump as well as Clinton.

After Trump took office, a page from his 2005 tax return, showing that he had paid millions in taxes that year, was mailed anonymously to David Cay Johnston. The reporter speculated that the source could have been Trump himself, seeking to undercut the widespread assumption that there is embarrassing information contained in the more recent tax returns he broke with precedent to keep secret. “Donald,” Johnston told Rachel Maddow, “has a long history of leaking material about himself when he thinks it’s in his interest.”

It is also worth noting that this offer to help Trump came less than two weeks after The Washington Post had thrown the campaign into crisis, by revealing that the candidate had boasted of sexual assault in comments recorded during the taping of an “Access Hollywood” episode in 2005. The recording caught Trump saying that, “when you’re a star,” you can “do anything” to women, even “grab them by the pussy.” WikiLeaks released its first batch of emails hacked from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, less than an hour after that report was published.

Top Photo: Julian Assange addressed the media from the balcony of Ecuador’s London embassy in May, 2017.

The post We Knew Julian Assange Hated Clinton. We Didn’t Know He Was Secretly Advising Trump. appeared first on The Intercept.

14 Nov 22:58

Google claims to have fixed its Pixel 2 trade-in program

by Andrew Myrick

Last week, we saw reports that Google’s trade-in program for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL was not “working as advertised”. Various users reported receiving estimates from Google, only to be told by Google that the entire amount would not be honored for devices that either weren’t recognized or that weren’t “properly factory reset”.

Thanks to the Pixel User Community, it seems that this issue has been fixed, with a Community Manager offering the following statement:

Hey All,

Want to add a bit of clarification here. We launched our Trade In program to make it easier for customers to get money back on their old devices so they can put it towards a new phone. Once we receive a device, we check the condition of the phone against the information provided by the customer and the vast majority of customers receive their original estimate. We are always looking at ways to improve the program and if anyone is unhappy with their offer, they should contact us.  We have identified and fixed the issue related to Pixels not being found to be factory reset and/or misclassified as another device.  If you believe you were impacted, please contact customer support.

It seems that there are still some that are suffering from issues with the trade-in program, and this is likely to take a few days for Google to get everything situated. With the Pixel 2 lineup seemingly flying off of store shelves, it’s absolutely important that Google gets this issue rectified for its potential buyers. Let us know if you’ve run into any similar issues and if you’ve had the problem rectified by Google!

14 Nov 19:11

Israel Uses U.S. Tax Dollars to Abuse Palestinian Children. This Bill Would Put An End To That.

by Zaid Jilani

Children and teenagers are frequent victims of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. They face physical abuse by Israeli military forces and are shuffled through an unfair court system without access to legal counsel or even their parents.

The United States has long subsidized these abuses, giving billions of dollars in military aid to Israel every year. Now, a group of Democratic members of Congress is saying enough is enough.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and nine co-sponsors on Tuesday introduced legislation that would require the U.S. State Department to certify every year that American military aid is not being used to fund the systematic abuse of Palestinian children.

If passed, the bill — titled the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act — would explicitly prohibit U.S. aid from being used by Israel to support the administrative detention or physical abuse of Palestinian children. The bill says that detention of Palestinian children is “inconsistent with the values of the United States.”

Bill Harper, McCollum’s chief of staff, told The Intercept that the legislation is an attempt to establish some sort of transparency over how Israel uses U.S. military aid, particularly as it relates to human rights abuses.

“There is no accountability or transparency on U.S. military assistance to Israel with regards to U.S. funds being used to pay for this,” Harper said.

The other sponsors of the bill are Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin; Raúl Grijalva of Arizona; John Conyers of Michigan; Earl Blumenauer of Oregon; Chellie Pingree of Maine; Peter DeFazio of Oregon; André Carson of Indiana; and Luis Gutiérrez and Danny Davis of Illinois.

Israel maintains two different legal systems in the occupied West Bank: a civilian criminal legal system that applies to Israeli settlers, and a military court system for Palestinians.

Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director, described the situation to The Intercept in a phone interview from Jerusalem. “In the West Bank, you have two communities that live here: You have Palestinians and you have Israelis. Israel effectively controls the entire area and has a two-tiered system, a system in which Palestinians and Israelis who live in the same territory are governed by two different systems — separate and unequal systems,” he said.

This network of military courts prosecutes between 500 and 700 Palestinian children every year, according to Defense for Children International – Palestine. Between 2012 and 2015, three-quarters of those children reported some form of physical violence after arrest, and 97 percent lacked access to legal counsel or did not have a parent present when they were interrogated, a DCIP survey found.

In Israeli civilian courts, on the other hand, children under the age of 18 have the right to have their parents present when they are being interrogated. And while Palestinian children are often prosecuted for throwing stones at Israeli settlers — 835 Palestinian youths were charged between 2005 and 2010 for this offense, and all but one was convicted — Israeli children have pelted Palestinians with stones and escaped prosecution, according to Jessica Montell, former executive director of Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Human Rights Watch has documented a litany of abuses against Palestinian youth. “[Children have been] blindfolded, threatened, deprived of sleep, put in chokeholds, kicked — we’ve documented cases of children who’ve urinated themselves in fear of arrest,” Shakir said.

Human rights advocates repeatedly asked former President Barack Obama’s administration to address the plight of Palestinian children, said Brad Parker, a DCIP attorney and international advocacy officer, who worked closely with McCollum’s office on the legislation.

“In 2015, we did a Dear Colleague letter where we had 19 members of Congress sign onto a letter to Secretary [John] Kerry [addressing abuse of Palestinian children],” Parker said. “In 2016, we had a Dear Colleague letter to President Obama asking for the creation of a Special Envoy for Palestinian children.”

But the Obama administration did not act on the advocates’ recommendations, leading them to work with Congress to draft the legislation instead, Parker said.

The McCollum bill comes at a time of increasing debate in the Democratic Party about its orientation toward Israel-Palestine. The Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign had tapped Palestinian-Americans to serve as surrogates, Sanders had charged Hillary Clinton with failing to consider the needs of the Palestinian people. Polls show that Democratic-leaning voters are increasingly sympathetic to Palestinians; more self-identified liberal Democrats now tell pollsters they are more sympathetic to Palestinians than they are to Israel.

Parker does not expect the bill, which he referred to as a “long-term congressional organizing vehicle,” to pass any time soon. But because the nature of U.S. military aid to Israel is so rarely examined, he said, he expects it to spark a much-needed debate.

“We don’t expect this to become law,” he said, “but it’s sort of meant to be a visioning or messaging document that gets the discussion started about where our aid goes.”

This type of legislation is gaining traction, Harper said, “because the situation on the ground is so dire.”

Top photo: A Palestinian girl stands outside her house at al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on Oct. 30, 2017.

The post Israel Uses U.S. Tax Dollars to Abuse Palestinian Children. This Bill Would Put An End To That. appeared first on The Intercept.

14 Nov 15:28

"I-Cut-You-Choose" Cake-Cutting Protocol Inspires Solution to Gerrymandering - News - Carnegie Mellon University

Image of a slice of cake

November 01, 2017

CMU researchers say fair redistricting possible even with partisan maneuvering

Getting two political parties to equitably draw congressional district boundaries can seem hopeless, but Carnegie Mellon University researchers say the process can be improved by using an approach children use to share a piece of cake.

Just as having one child cut the cake and giving the second child first choice of the pieces avoids either feeling envious, having two political parties sequentially divide up a state in an "I-Cut-You-Freeze" protocol would minimize the practice of gerrymandering, where a dominant political party draws districts to maximize its electoral advantage.

The CMU protocol, developed by Ariel Procaccia, associate professor of computer science, and Wesley Pegden, associate professor of mathematical sciences, is the first to allow a fair division of a state into political districts without independent agents.

It calls for one political party to divide a map of a state into the allotted number of districts, each with equal numbers of voters. Then the second party would choose one district to "freeze," so no further changes could be made to it, and re-map the remaining districts as it likes.

The first party then would choose a second district to freeze from this map and proceed to redraw the remaining districts as it sees fit. This back-and-forth process would continue until all of the districts are frozen. For a state such as Pennsylvania with 18 congressional districts, this would require 17 cycles.

Pegden and Procaccia, along with Dingli Yu, a visiting computer science student from China's Tsinghua University, developed mathematical proofs that show their protocol does not give the first player an advantage over the second and that neither player can concentrate specific populations of voters into a district against the wishes of the other player. They have submitted a scientific paper on the results to a journal for publication.

"In the real world, you still might expect the results to be less than perfect," Pegden said. "But this would be much, much, much more fair and balanced than having one party do essentially whatever it wants."

Gerrymandering is a hot political topic, as politicians in control of state legislatures have used increasingly sophisticated computational tools to heighten their advantages during the redistricting that follows each U.S. census. Critics maintain the practice undermines democracy and some lower courts have struck down what they consider overly partisan redistricting plans.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case challenging Wisconsin's electoral map. An analysis co-authored by Pegden, which found Pennsylvania's congressional district maps are almost certainly the result of gerrymandering, has been cited in an amicus brief filed in the Wisconsin case.

Some states have tried to reduce gerrymandering by turning over the redistricting task to non-partisan commissions that include independent agents, as well as party regulars. However, determining who is independent is problematic and, though it may result in more equitable districting, the process still tends to protect incumbents.

"The big selling point for our approach is you don't have to rely on independent agents," said Procaccia, whose research in artificial intelligence focuses on the use of social choice and game theory for collective decision-making. "We can leverage the competition between Republicans and Democrats to produce an equitable result. Each party can pursue a strategy that guarantees it something that it wants."

Common gerrymandering tactics include "packing" districts by concentrating opponents' voters or specific minority populations in as few districts as possible, and "cracking" districts by splitting an opposing party's voters across multiple districts where they are in the minority. Under the CMU protocol, either party can prevent the other from packing a specific population into a single district. The net effect of packing and cracking districts, the researchers proved, will be balanced between the two players in the final districting.

If one party attempts to pack districts, for instance, the other party can simply not choose to freeze a packed district. And because that party can then re-map the districts to eliminate the packing, the first party would not get the opportunity to freeze a packed district either.

Pegden and Procaccia acknowledge that their analysis assumes an idealized setting, but believe their protocol would have similar properties in the real world. It would be of little use, however, in states that have very few congressional districts.

"We don't know what the chances are that any state is going to implement our protocol," Procaccia said. "But it's important to recognize that competition between political parties doesn't have to mean that the division into districts can't be fair."

The National Science Foundation, the Sloan Foundation and the Office of Naval Research supported this research.

14 Nov 14:14

First Ever En Banc FISA Court Review Gives Plaintiffs Standing To Challenge Surveillance Program Secrecy

by Tim Cushing

One more thing we can give Ed Snowden credit for: the possibility we may be seeing even more public access to FISA court opinions and other FISA docs in the future. [h/t Mike Scarcella]

There's still a long way to go procedurally, but this latest ruling from the FISA court will allow a First Amendment lawsuit by the ACLU and the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic to move forward. Being granted the standing to actually challenge government surveillance is a rarity. The cover of national security darkness has prevented many plaintiffs from being able to allege harm, but the Snowden leaks have provided many public entities the information they need to shore up these allegations.

The FISA court review process behind this opinion is itself a unicorn: it's an en banc review of the plaintiffs' challenge -- the first time this has ever happened in the history of the court. The opinion [PDF] notes the rarity of the occasion as well as acknowledges the significant "standing" hurdle the plaintiffs were facing.

Figuring out whether a plaintiff has standing to bring a novel legal claim can feel a bit like trying to distinguish a black cat in a coal cellar. "Although the two concepts unfortunately are blurred at times, standing and entitlement to relief are not the same thing. Standing is a prerequisite to filing suit, while the underlying merits of a claim ... determine whether the plaintiff is entitled to relief." Arreola v. Godinez, 546 F.3d 788, 794-95 (7th Cir. 2008). The Initial Opinion in this action decided that Movants -- the American Civil Liberties Union and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic -- had suffered no injury-in-fact and thus lacked standing to bring their First Amendment claim for access to redacted portions of certain of this Court's opinions. Sitting en banc for the first time in our history, we now vacate that decision. Whatever the merits of Movants' suit, we conclude that they have asserted a sufficient injury-in-fact to pursue it.

Shortly thereafter, the judges tip their hats to Snowden.

By necessity, this Court conducts much of its work in secrecy. But it does so within a judicial system wedded to transparency and deeply rooted in the ideal that "justice must satisfy the appearance of justice." Levine v. United States, 362 U.S. 610, 616 (1960). It comes as no surprise, then, that members of the public may at times seek to challenge whether certain controversies merit our continued secrecy or, instead, require some degree of transparency. The matter before us was born from two such challenges. On June 6, 2013, two newspapers released certain classified information about a surveillance program run by the Government since 2006. Within a day, the Director of National Intelligence declassified further details about this bulk-data-collection program, acknowledging for the first time that this Court had approved much of it under Section 215 -- the "business records" provision -- of the Patriot Act, 50 U.S.C. § 1861.

From there sprung the First Amendment challenge: the plaintiffs argued the Snowden leaks stripped away the justification for continued secrecy by the government. They argued the ongoing refusal to hand over the government's legal justification of the program -- as approved by the FISA court -- violated the First Amendment "right of access" to courtroom proceedings and documents.

As more documents were leaked, the right to access argument grew stronger -- especially when the leaks were followed by official government acknowledgement of each program's existence and, in some cases, the official release of other documents by the government itself.

The court now agrees -- after en banc review -- that the alleged harm is sufficient enough to move forward with its lawsuit against the government. It also notes that the granting of standing doesn't pass any judgment on the merits of the arguments, other than to acknowledge the plaintiffs have the right to pursue them. (In other words, courts will entertain arguments destined for doom, but denying doomed arguments upfront would violate other rights.)

A plaintiff, for instance, might lack standing "to complain about his inability to commit crimes because no one has a right to a commit a crime," and no Court could recognize such an interest. Citizen Ctr. v. Gessler, 770 F.3d 900, 910 (10th Cir. 2014). On the other hand, he would have standing to bring colorable First Amendment claims, even if he would ultimately lose on the merits.

[...]

Indeed, were we to define rights with any greater level of specificity, no plaintiff would have standing to challenge established First Amendment precedent. This is certainly not the case.

[...]

At bottom, the legally-protected-interest test is not concerned with determining the proper scope of the First Amendment right or whether a plaintiff is correct that such right has in fact been invaded; that is a merits inquiry. Waukesha, 320 F.3d at 235. The test instead seeks only to assess whether the interest asserted by the plaintiff is of the type that "deserve[s] protection against injury."

[...]

Against this backdrop, the sufficiency of Movants' allegation of such a legally protected interest appears clear. They identify the invasion of an interest - the First Amendment right to access judicial proceedings - that courts have repeatedly held is capable of "being known or recognized."

[...]

No more than this is necessary for standing purposes, even if Movants ultimately fail to prove that the precise scope of the First Amendment right extends to redacted portions of our judicial opinions under the Richmond Newspapers test.

So, it's a win of sorts, even though it's very limited. As Mike Scarcella noted, it's a "foot in the door," rather than a victory. But it stems from a historic first -- an en banc review by the FISA court -- and indicates the nation's most secretive court is willing to address issues in a more adversarial setting than it's used to.

There's a lengthy dissent attached that appears to believe there's no right to access to classified documents and this decision will set up the government for endless redaction challenges, but that's kind of the point. Even the nation's most secret court shouldn't be completely beyond the reach of the citizens it ultimately serves.



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14 Nov 01:08

Android 8.1 will decrease the size of inactive apps to save space

by Joe Fedewa

The next big update we should see will be Android 8.1 and we’re already hearing about some planned features. One of those features will save space by “downgrading” inactive apps. This feature will be automatically triggered when your phone is low on storage space.

It works by clearing the cache of apps that have been inactive for a while. Cache data includes stuff that’s not essential, but it can add up over time. The cache is what helps apps load quickly when launched since they don’t have to reload the data. So clearing it from an app you don’t use often shouldn’t cause much trouble.

OEMs will have to enable this feature in their own builds of Android 8.1. Hopefully, they will, because this could save a lot of storage space. What do you think of this Android 8.1 feature?

13 Nov 19:06

Social Contract Theory: The Game




It turns out that when you agree to play a game with Camus, you implicitly agree to the
13 Nov 15:16

Pixel 2 XL suffers from touch screen responsive issues; Google plans to release an update to fix

by Andrew Myrick

The hits just keep on coming for owners of the Pixel 2 XL, as there has seemingly been some type of issues plaguing devices ever since it was launched. Most of these issues are caused by LG’s new POLED display, which has proved to be quite subpar when compared to the likes of the Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8 lineup.

The latest issue that has been plaguing Pixel 2 XL owners comes regarding the responsiveness of the touchscreen. Through the  Pixel User Community, various users have been sharing their experiences which include the following:

Does anyone else have this issue? The touchscreen works while sliding my finger along the edge works, but when touching it directly, it doesn’t detect that touch along the edge. It seems like the touch screen is less responsive near the right edge of the screen. Left side of the screen seems a little better. But the right side is noticeable during normal use. Just wondering if this is a defect or not? 

The video above shows off exactly what is happening, whereas the Pixel 2 XL is not registering any taps when attempting to interact with the display, near either edge. Further testing shows that it works when you slide your finger across the edges, but will not work when specifically tapping on the edge.

More and more users have reached out to confirm they are suffering from similar problems, and all of this was answered by Orrin, a community manager:

Hey All,

Thanks for all the reports here, and to those that sent up additional info. The team has been investigating, and this will be addressed in a future OTA update.
Stay tuned.
So while we aren’t exactly sure what’s going on here, at least Google has recognized the latest issue and will be releasing a fix for it in a future software update. Let’s just hope that this will not be a super long wait before the issue is resolved. Have you been suffering from touchscreen responsiveness issues? Let us know in the comments below.
11 Nov 22:19

https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/09/project-loon-delivers-internet-100-000-people-puerto-rico/

https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/09/project-loon-delivers-internet-100-000-people-puerto-rico/

Project Loon delivers internet to 100,000 people in Puerto Rico
Alphabet's Project Loon has successfully given 100,000 people in Puerto Rico basic connectivity to the internet.
09 Nov 12:48

Changes

by Reza

09 Nov 01:22

Ron Wyden Puts A Hold On SESTA And Warns About Its Dangers

by Mike Masnick

Following the Senate Commerce Committee voting SESTA out of Committee this morning, Senator Ron Wyden quickly announced that he is placing a public hold on the bill while at the same time issuing a warning about just how damaging the bill could be:

“Today I am announcing my public hold and a public warning about SESTA. Having written several laws to combat the scourge of sex trafficking, I take a backseat to no one on the urgency of fighting this horrendous crime. However, I continue to be deeply troubled that this bill’s approach will make it harder to catch dangerous criminals, that it will favor big tech companies at the expense of startups and that it will stifle innovation.

“After 25 years of fighting these battles, I've learned that just because a big technology company says something is good, doesn't mean it's good for the internet or innovation. Most innovation in the digital economy comes from the startups and small firms, the same innovators who will be harmed or locked out of the market by this bill. That said, I appreciate that Senators Thune and Nelson worked to improve SESTA, including by narrowing its scope. While it still makes inadvisable changes to bedrock internet law, those changes are narrower than originally proposed.

Those are fighting words -- and it's good to see him come out and directly say that just because big tech companies are for SESTA it doesn't mean it's a good thing (now will some people finally stop falsely claiming that Wyden just represents the big tech companies?). Last week's decision by the Internet Association (which represents the largest internet companies) along with Facebook's direct support for SESTA remain very troubling. These organizations have experience with intermediary liability laws and know how important they are, and how weakening them gets abused. Wyden knows that too.

In some ways, this reminds me of a similar situation, almost exactly seven years ago, when Wyden blocked COICA, an alarmist censorship bill pushed by Hollywood, which eventually morphed into SOPA and PIPA. As with SESTA, COICA was seen as an "easy" win for Congress and passed out of Committee with a unanimous vote. Wyden put a public hold on it and forced Senators to go back to the drawing board -- and eventually the entire bill was killed.



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08 Nov 16:14

Google maps street-level air quality using Street View cars with sensors

by Nathan Yau

Google equipped their Street View cars with air quality sensors and sent them around several California areas.

We’re just beginning to understand what’s possible with this hyper-local information and today, we’re starting to share some of our findings for the three California regions we’ve mapped: the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and California’s Central Valley (the Street View cars drove 100,000 miles, over the course of 4,000 hours to collect this data!) Scientists and air quality specialists can use this information to assist local organizations, governments, and regulators in identifying opportunities to achieve greater air quality improvements and solutions.

Maps.

Tags: air quality, environment, Google

08 Nov 16:13

SESTA Approved by Senate Commerce Committee—Still an Awful Bill

by elliot

The Senate Commerce Committee just approved a slightly modified version of SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (S. 1693).

SESTA was and continues to be a deeply flawed bill. It would weaken 47 U.S.C. § 230, (commonly known as “CDA 230” or simply “Section 230”), one of the most important laws protecting free expression online. Section 230 says that for purposes of enforcing certain laws affecting speech online, an intermediary cannot be held legally responsible for any content created by others.

It’s not surprising when a trade association endorses a bill that would give its own members a massive competitive advantage.

SESTA would create an exception to Section 230 for laws related to sex trafficking, thus exposing online platforms to an immense risk of civil and criminal litigation. What that really means is that online platforms would be forced to take drastic measures to censor their users.

Some SESTA supporters imagine that compliance with SESTA would be easy—that online platforms would simply need to use automated filters to pinpoint and remove all messages in support of sex trafficking and leave everything else untouched. But such filters do not and cannot exist: computers aren’t good at recognizing subtlety and context, and with severe penalties at stake, no rational company would trust them to.

Online platforms would have no choice but to program their filters to err on the side of removal, silencing a lot of innocent voices in the process. And remember, the first people silenced are likely to be trafficking victims themselves: it would be a huge technical challenge to build a filter that removes sex trafficking advertisements but doesn’t also censor a victim of trafficking telling her story or trying to find help.

Along with the Center for Democracy and Technology, Access Now, Engine, and many other organizations, EFF signed a letter yesterday urging the Commerce Committee to change course. We explained the silencing effect that SESTA would have on online speech:

Pressures on intermediaries to prevent trafficking-related material from appearing on their sites would also likely drive more intermediaries to rely on automated content filtering tools, in an effort to conduct comprehensive content moderation at scale. These tools have a notorious tendency to enact overbroad censorship, particularly when used without (expensive, time-consuming) human oversight. Speakers from marginalized groups and underrepresented populations are often the hardest hit by such automated filtering.

It’s ironic that supporters of SESTA insist that computerized filters can serve as a substitute for human moderation: the improvements we’ve made in filtering technologies in the past two decades would not have happened without the safety provided by a strong Section 230, which provides legal cover for platforms that might harm users by taking down, editing or otherwise moderating their content (in addition to shielding platforms from liability for illegal user-generated content).

We find it disappointing, but not necessarily surprising, that the Internet Association has endorsed this deeply flawed bill. Its member companies—many of the largest tech companies in the world—will not feel the brunt of SESTA in the same way as their smaller competitors. Small Internet startups don’t have the resources to police every posting on their platforms, which will uniquely pressure them to censor their users—that’s particularly true for nonprofit and noncommercial platforms like the Internet Archive and Wikipedia. It’s not surprising when a trade association endorses a bill that would give its own members a massive competitive advantage.

If you rely on online communities in your day-to-day life; if you believe that your right to speak matters just as much on the web as on the street; if you hate seeing sex trafficking victims used as props to advance an agenda of censorship; please take a moment to write your members of Congress and tell them to oppose SESTA.

Take Action

Tell Congress: Stop SESTA

06 Nov 19:01

The Case Of Glassdoor And The Grand Jury Subpoena, And How Courts Are Messing With Online Speech In Secret

by Cathy Gellis

In my last post, I discussed why it is so important for platforms to be able to speak about the discovery demands they receive, seeking to unmask their anonymous users. That candor is crucially important in ensuring that unmasking demands can't damage the key constitutional right to speak anonymously, without some sort of check against their abuse.

The earlier post rolled together several different types of discovery instruments (subpoenas, warrants, NSLs, etc.) because to a certain extent it doesn't matter which one is used to unmask an anonymous user. The issue raised by all of them is that if their power to unmask an anonymous user is too unfettered, then it will chill all sorts of legitimate speech. And, as noted in the last post, the ability for a platform receiving an unmasking demand to tell others it has received it is a critical check against unworthy demands seeking to unmask the speakers behind lawful speech.

The details of each type of unmasking instrument do matter, though, because each one has different interests to balance and, accordingly, different rules governing how to balance them. Unfortunately, the rules that have evolved for any particular one are not always adequately protective of the important speech interests any unmasking demand necessarily affects. As is the case for the type of unmasking demand at issue in this post: a federal grand jury subpoena.

Grand jury subpoenas are very powerful discovery instruments, and with good reason: the government needs a powerful weapon to be able to investigate serious crimes. There are also important constitutional reasons for why we equip grand juries with strong investigatory power, because if charges are to be brought against people, it's important for due process reasons that they have been brought by the grand jury, as opposed to a more arbitrary exercise of government power. Grand juries are, however, largely at the disposal of government prosecutors, and thus a grand jury subpoena essentially functions as a government unmasking demand. The ability to compel information via a grand jury subpoena is therefore not a power we can allow to exist unchecked.

Which brings us to the story of the grand jury subpoena served on Glassdoor, which Paul Levy and Ars Technica wrote about earlier this year. It's a story that raises three interrelated issues: (1) a poor balancing of the relevant interests, (2) a poor structural model that prevented a better balancing, and (3) a gag that has made it extraordinarily difficult to create a better rule governing how grand jury subpoenas should be balanced against important online speech rights.

Glassdoor is a platform focused on hosting user-provided information about employers. Much of the speech it hosts is necessarily contributed anonymously so that the speakers can avoid any fallout from their candor. This is the sort of fallout that, if they had to incur it, would discourage them from contributing information others might find valuable. The seriousness of these sorts of consequences is why the district court decision denying Glassdoor's attempts to resist the grand jury subpoena seeking to unmask their users reflects such a poor balancing of the relevant interests. Perhaps if the subpoena had been intended to unmask people the government believed were themselves guilty of the crime being investigated, the balance might have tipped more in favor of enforcing it. But the people who the subpoena was seeking to unmask were simply suspected as possibly knowing something about the crime that others were apparently committing. It is not unreasonable for the government to want to be able to talk to witnesses, but that desire to talk to them is not the only interest present here. These are people who were simply availing themselves of their right to speak anonymously, and who, if this subpoena is enforced, are going to be shocked to suddenly find the government on their doorstep wanting to talk to them.

This sort of unmasking is chilling to them and anyone else who might want to speak anonymously because it means that there's no way they ever will be able to speak should their speech happen to ever somehow relate (however tangentially) to someone else's criminal behavior. It is also inconsistent with the purported goal of fighting crime because it will prevent criminal behavior from coming to light in the first place, for few will want to offer up information if it will only tempt trouble for them at some point in the future.

This mis-balancing of interests is almost a peripheral issue in this case, however. The more significant structural concern is why such a weak balancing test was used. As discussed previously, in order to protect the ability to speak anonymously online, it is important for a platform to be able to resist demands to unmask their users in cases where the reason for the unmasking does not substantially outweigh the need to protect people's right to speak anonymously online. But the district court denied Glassdoor's attempt to resist the subpoena when it chose to apply the test from Branzburg v. Hayes, a Supreme Court case focused on the ability to resist a grand jury subpoena. Branzburg, however, has nothing to do with the Internet or Internet platforms. It is a case from the 1970s that was solely focused on whether the First Amendment gave journalists the right to resist a grand jury subpoena. Ultimately it decided that they generally had no such right, at least so long as the government was not shown to be acting in bad faith, which, while not nothing, is not a standard that is particularly protective of anonymity. It also barely even addressed the interests of the confidential sources themselves, dismissing their interest in maintaining anonymity as a mere "preference," and one the Court presumed was being sought only to shield themselves from prosecution for their own criminal culpability.

The upshot of Branzburg is that the journalist, as an intermediary for a source's information, had no right to resist a grand jury subpoena. Unfortunately, Branzburg simply can't be extended to the online world where, for better or worse, essentially all speech must be intermediated by some sort of platform or service in order to happen. The need to let the platforms resist grand jury subpoenas therefore has less to do with whether an intermediary itself has a right to resist them and everything to do with the the right of their users to speak anonymously, which, far from being a preference, is an affirmative right the Supreme Court, after Branzburg, subsequently recognized.

A better test, and one that respects the need to maintain this critical speech right, is therefore needed, which is why Glassdoor appealed the district court's ruling. Unfortunately, its appeal has raised a third issue: while there is often a lot of secrecy surrounding a grand jury investigation, in part because it makes sense to keep the subject of an investigation in the dark, preserving that level of secrecy does not necessarily require keeping absolutely everything related to the subpoena under seal. Fortunately the district court (and the DOJ, who agreed to this) recognized that some information could safely be released, particularly related to Glassdoor's challenge of the subpoena's enforcement generally, and thanks to that limited unsealing we can tell that the case involved a misapplication of Branzburg to an Internet platform.

Unfortunately the Ninth Circuit didn't agree to this limited disclosure and sealed the entirety of Glassdoor's appeal, even the parts that were already made public. The effects of this sealing included that it became impossible for potential amici to weigh in in support of Glassdoor and to argue for a better rule that would allow platforms to better protect the speech rights of their users. While Glassdoor had been ably litigating the case, the point of amicus briefs is to help the court see the full implications of a particular ruling on interests beyond those immediately before it, which is a hard thing for the party directly litigating to do itself. The reality is that Glassdoor is not the first, and will not be the last, platform to get a grand jury subpoena, but unless the rules governing platforms' ability to resist are stronger than what's afforded by Branzburg, the privacy protection speakers have depended on will continue to evaporate should their speech ever happen to capture the interest of a federal prosecutor with access to grand jury.

For all we know, of course, the Ninth Circuit might have seen its point and quashed the subpoena. Or maybe it upheld it and maybe the FBI has now unpleasantly surprised those Glassdoor users. We may never know, just as we may never know if there are other occasions where courts have used specious reasoning to allow grand jury subpoenas to strip speakers of their anonymity. Even if the Ninth Circuit indeed fixed the problems with this questionable attempt at unmasking, by doing it in secret it's missed an important opportunity to provide guidance to lower courts to help ensure that they don't allow other questionable attempts to keep happening to speakers in the future.



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04 Nov 18:55

Google Explains Tuesday's Drive, Docs Bug That Marked Some Files As Violating Terms of Service.

Google Explains Tuesday's Drive, Docs Bug That Marked Some Files As Violating Terms of Service.
http://rss.slashdot.org/~r/Slashdot/slashdot/~3/Ckb-A1jJM5o/google-explains-tuesdays-drive-docs-bug-that-marked-some-files-as-violating-terms-of-service

Google Explains Tuesday's Drive, Docs Bug That Marked Some Files As Violating Terms of Service - Slashdot
On Tuesday, Google's cloud-based word processing software was randomly flagging files for supposedly "violating" Google's Terms of Service, resulting in some users not being able to access or share their files. Google today explained the issue and addressed concerns that arose. 9to5Google reports: ...
04 Nov 18:52

We May Not Have Enough Minerals To Even Meet Electric Car Demand.

04 Nov 17:09

Internet Association Endorses Internet Censorship Bill

by elliot

A trade group representing giants of Internet business from Facebook to Microsoft has just endorsed a “compromise” version of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), a bill that would be disastrous for free speech and online communities.

Just a few hours after Senator Thune’s amended version of SESTA surfaced online, the Internet Association rushed to praise the bill’s sponsors for their “careful work and bipartisan collaboration.” The compromise bill has all of the same fundamental flaws as the original. Like the original, it does nothing to fight sex traffickers, but it would silence legitimate speech online.

It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that the Internet Association has fallen in line to endorse SESTA. The Internet Association doesn’t represent the Internet—it represents the few companies that profit the most off of Internet activity.

It’s shameful that a small group of lobbyists with an agenda of censorship have presented themselves to lawmakers as the unanimous experts in sex trafficking. It’s embarrassing that it’s worked so well.

Amazon and eBay would be able to absorb the increased legal risk under SESTA. They would likely be able to afford the high-powered lawyers to survive the wave in lawsuits against them. Small startups, including would-be competitors, would not. It shouldn’t pass our attention that the Internet giants are now endorsing a bill that will make it much more difficult for newcomers ever to compete with them.

IA also doesn’t represent Internet users. It doesn’t represent the marginalized voices who’ll be silenced as platforms begin to over-rely on automated filters (filters that will doubtless be offered as a licensed service by large Internet companies). It doesn’t represent the LGBTQ teenager in South Dakota who depends every day on the safety of his online community. It doesn’t represent the sex worker who will be forced off of the Internet and onto a dangerous street.

The Internet Association can tell itself and its members whatever it wants—that it held its ground for as long as it could despite overwhelming political opposition, that the law will motivate its members to make amazing strides in filtering technologies—but there is one thing that it simply cannot say: that it has done something to fight sex trafficking.

Again and again and again, experts in sex trafficking have spoken out to say that SESTA is the wrong solution, that it will put trafficking victims in more danger, that it will remove the very tools that law enforcement uses to rescue victims. It’s shameful that a small group of lobbyists with an agenda of censorship have presented themselves to lawmakers as the unanimous experts in sex trafficking. It’s embarrassing that it’s worked so well.

A serious problem calls for serious solutions, and SESTA is not a serious solution. At the heart of the sex trafficking problem lies a complex set of economic, social, and legal issues. A broken immigration system and a torn safety net. A law enforcement regime that puts trafficking victims at risk for reporting their traffickers. Officers who aren’t adequately trained to use the online tools at their disposal, or use them against victims. And yes, if there are cases where online platforms themselves directly contribute to unlawful activity, it’s a problem that the Department of Justice won’t use the powers Congress has already given it. These are the factors that deserve intense deliberation and debate by lawmakers, not a hamfisted attempt to punish online communities.

The Internet Association let the Internet down today. Congress should not make the same mistake.

Stop SESTA

Tell Congress: The Internet Association Does Not Speak for The Internet

04 Nov 16:57

Excited

by Reza

04 Nov 16:57

A Theory

by Reza

04 Nov 16:44

She Fled Persecution For Being Gay. Hostile Questioning at U.S. Border Made Her Afraid to Tell The Truth.

by Murtaza Hussain

Sitting in an interrogation room at Dulles International Airport, Ella was paralyzed with fear. Terrified by the uniformed immigration officials lobbing questions at her, the 23-year-old Ugandan woman could think of only one thing: “I can’t go home.”

One year earlier, Ella had been caught in her village in bed with her female partner. Rounded up and taken out into the streets, she and her partner were forced to march naked through the village while being taunted, jeered at, and burned with searing paraffin oil. Police intervened to stop the mob from killing the women, but they arrested both Ella and her partner on charges of immorality. She was beaten in police custody.

After their release the pair fled to Uganda’s capital, Kampala, where they attempted to live in hiding. But the worst was still to come: Ella’s family was determined to find and punish her, so they hired a man to track her down in the city. The man began stalking her and sending threatening messages. Eventually, he found her alone and raped her, in an effort to “cure” her homosexuality by impregnating her.

Ella arrived at Dulles airport in Virginia this August on a student visa she had obtained to attend a small college in the state. But she needed time to gather herself after her ordeal and wanted to defer her enrollment for a semester and request political asylum. She planned to meet a cousin in Seattle who knew about her plight and offered to take her in. (Ella is a pseudonym, as the woman is still under threat from her family members.)

“When I got to Washington I was interviewed by the officers, they saw that I had some tickets to go stay at my cousin’s place, and she said you’re not going to school,” Ella recounted in a conversation with The Intercept. “They took away my phone, and I couldn’t call anyone who could explain. I tried to tell them what was happening with me, but they didn’t understand.”

As a person fleeing violent oppression, Ella could have asked for asylum. If Customs and Border Protection determined that she had a “credible fear” of returning home, she could stay in the United States while her asylum claim was adjudicated.

But Ella wasn’t able to articulate what had happened to her. In response to questions from The Intercept, a spokesperson for CBP said that Ella admitted that “she had no intention of attending school” and said that she was going to Seattle to visit her boyfriend.” CBP also stated that “this traveler declined the opportunity to apply for political asylum and denied any fear of returning to her home country.”

Ella says that she simply broke down under questioning and went along with what CBP demanded of her.

“You cannot imagine what it is like to sit before an officer who has your whole life in her hands,” Ella wrote in a statement she provided to The Intercept. She “thought the new president does not like gay people, and if I told the officer I was gay, she would deport me on the spot.” She said that the officer “forced me to say that my cousin was my boyfriend, because that is what she wanted to hear.”

In our telephone interview, Ella choked up. “For my whole life, I had to hide my sexuality and the whole time I was there being questioned, I didn’t know what to say. All I was thinking was I was afraid to tell them and afraid to be raped again.”

Articles and headlines in Ugandan tabloid newspaper Red Pepper, Kampala, Uganda, November 2012.

Articles and headlines in Ugandan tabloid newspaper Red Pepper, in Kampala, Uganda, November 2012.

Photo: Tadej Znidarcic/Redux

Ella’s story illustrates how hard it can be for complex cases, especially those involving trauma, to make it past the first step in the asylum process. Advocates say that rather than taking these sensitivities into consideration, the Trump administration is instead making it harder for vulnerable people with legitimate claims.

lawsuit filed earlier this year accused CBP and Homeland Security officials of engaging in “systematic” violation of the rights of asylum-seekers, particularly at the southern border. But experts say that denial of legitimate asylum claims are happening at ports of entry throughout the country, including airports. Reports say CBP officials have denied access to counsel, failed to record expressions of fear, or intimidated asylum-seekers until they recanted their claims. An increase in the use of fast-track deportation proceedings, known as “expedited removal,” also means that asylum-seekers can be ordered out of the country without a chance to make their case.

At a high level, the Trump administration has sought to delegitimize the asylum process as a whole, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying recently that the “system is subject to rampant abuse and fraud” and “overloaded with fake claims.” Rights groups say that there is no basis to those claims.

“This is part of a larger picture of how asylum-seekers are being treated at the border,” says Azadeh N. Shahshahani, a human rights attorney with the advocacy group Project South. “Treatment of asylum-seekers by CBP was already a problem during Obama administration, but with the changes that have occurred since Trump came to office – particularly the executive orders on immigration – instances of mistreatment and denial of entry are likely going to get worse.”

A spokesperson for CBP told The Intercept that the agency “strives to treat all travelers with respect and in a professional manner,” and that its officers are “extensively trained to detect verbal and non-verbal communications cues of travelers in distress.” They added that “during the secondary examination, CBP officers ask inadmissible foreign nationals multiple questions concerning whether they possess any fear or concern about being returned to their home country.”

For many people detained at the border the problem is simple: They lack access to legal counsel. CBP says that “admissibility determinations are administrative actions, not criminal investigations” and points to existing regulations that state there is no right to a lawyer during inspections. Legislation filed by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., earlier this year would mandate that people in detention at border checkpoints be able to talk with an attorney. The bill was filed partly in response to chaotic airport scenes following Trump’s first travel ban. Speaking at the time, Harris stated that her intention was to ensure that “when [detained] individuals ask to speak to the lawyer [who] is literally on the other side of the door waiting to talk to them, they are not denied that request.”

While Ella was being held at Dulles, a lawyer contacted by her cousin repeatedly tried to call Ella in detention, but was denied access to her by CBP officials. Had the lawyer been able to speak with her, making an asylum claim would have been straightforward.

“Ella’s case shows a badly broken system that allows officers to deny the basic human right to seek protection to the most vulnerable — those who lack the capacity to even talk about what they’ve been through,” said the lawyer, Hassan Ahmad, a legal activist with the Dulles Justice Coalition. “A system that denies detained people access to counsel and one that also removes [CBP] officers from accountability.”

Instead, Ella was subjected to expedited removal and ordered back to Uganda immediately. Under the expedited removal process, first introduced in 1996 under the Clinton administration, CBP officials have broad latitude to subject individuals at the border to immediate deportation. Unlike other deportation cases that often need legal oversight, only one CBP officer and a supervisor need to sign off on an expedited removal.

The federal government seems to be moving forward with plans to expand the use of expedited removal procedures throughout the country, putting both undocumented residents and potential asylum-seekers at greatly increased risk of detention and deportation. In contrast to claims by Sessions and others that asylum-seekers are being coached to game the system, many, like Ella, arrive at the border terrified, distraught and unable to express the reason they fled their homes.

“It is quite common to feel intimidated talking about trauma, particularly sexual trauma, in front of an armed guard at the border, which is one of the reasons why expedited removal is such a troubling practice,” said Clara Long, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Someone being turned away without a fair chance to present their asylum claims – then given a deportation order that removes their chance of ever receiving asylum in the future – shows how serious the flaws are in the treatment of vulnerable people at the border.”

Ella got on the plane back to Uganda in a state of near panic and spent the long flight crying. During her layover in Dubai, she fled the plane. She was granted temporary accomdation by officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who were made aware of her case though Ahmad and other activists, and allowed to live in the airport for roughly a month. From there, she was sent to Kenya, where Ugandans are allowed to live legally for a short period of time. She’s still in Kenya today, staying with friends, in a state of legal limbo.

Lawyers for Ella in the United States have filed a motion to reconsider her removal, calling on CBP to rescind their expedited removal order. Medical and psychological evaluations included in their filing demonstrate that she has “several strong indicators of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder,” as well as physical injuries consistent with rape and with other repeated instances of torture. Her lawyers have asked for her to be paroled back to the United States to make an asylum claim, but so far CBP has refused this request.

“There is no way I can go back to Uganda after everything that happened,” Ella told The Intercept. “All I want is a chance to come back [to the U.S.] to make my case.”

Top photo: Girls attend the “Social Friday” at FARUG, a monthly appointment for the lesbian community, where they can chat and watch movies in a safe environment in Kampala, Uganda, in June 2016.

The post She Fled Persecution For Being Gay. Hostile Questioning at U.S. Border Made Her Afraid to Tell The Truth. appeared first on The Intercept.

04 Nov 16:15

America's F-35s Can't Fly 22% of the Time, Repair Facilities Six Years Behind Schedule.

04 Nov 12:12

Defensive Profile

NO DRAMA ZONE -> If I've made you sad, you'd better not tell me, because I am TERRIFIED of that situation and have NO IDEA how to handle it.