“Today, the United States Congress struck a significant blow against the basic human right to read, write, learn, and associate free of government’s prying eyes,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Executive Director Cindy Cohn wrote. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Reauthorization Act of 2017, which Congress passed on January 19, poses a serious threat to the privacy of our internet communications.
Congress voted to extend Section 702 of FISA, with minimal changes, for six years. It permits the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect email and texts of foreigners abroad without a warrant, and also allows spying on Americans who communicate with people outside the United States. For example, the NSA can intercept the communications of a US citizen or permanent resident who attends an international conference on human rights or marches against climate change in another country.Read more
After Donald Trump called Haiti and African nations “shithole countries” and exclaimed, “We should have more people from Norway,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) noted that being a racist “must be in his DNA, in his makeup.” Trump’s offensive characterization of Haitians and the entire continent of Africa, the latest in his pattern and practice of racist epithets, imperils legal protection for the 800,000 “Dreamers” who have been able to remain in the United States under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
On September 5, 2017, Trump rescinded the DACA program, effective March 5, 2018. Attorney General Jeff Sessions incorrectly declared that Barack Obama had overstepped his legal authority when he established DACA, as I explained previously.
Indeed, US District Judge William Alsup disagreed with Sessions and ordered the Trump administration to shield existing DACA enrollees from deportation until the courts could rule on the legal challenges to the program. Alsup concluded that plaintiffs contesting the rescission of DACA would likely prevail on the merits of their constitutional and statutory claims.Read more
Donald Trump’s veiled threat to use nuclear weapons against North Korea is not only horrifying, but also illegal. It warrants his removal from office.
On New Year’s Day, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un asserted, “The entire area of the US mainland is within our nuclear strike range. The United States can never start a war against me and our country,” adding, “The United States should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table.” Kim clarified that he would not use those weapons except in response to aggression.
Not to be outdone by Kim, Trump tweeted in response, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”Read more
Last week, with great fanfare, Donald Trump rolled out his new National Security Strategy (NSS). Its guiding theme is “America First.” An analysis of the 55-page document, however, reveals a program that renders the United States more unpopular and vulnerable to external threats.
Trump’s plan takes Barack Obama’s policy of “American exceptionalism” to a new level. In his speech accompanying the NSS’s release, Trump stated, “America has been among the greatest forces for peace and justice in the history of the world.”
Yet Trump has not only continued but also escalated the Bush-Obama wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, dropped Tomahawk missiles on Syria, threatened North Korea and Iran, intensified airstrikes against Muslim countries, and fanned the flames of conflict in the Middle East.Read more
As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation moves closer to Donald Trump, there is a concerted effort by the president’s apologists to shut it down. Commentators on Fox News and Republican Congress members are attacking Mueller, causing speculation that the special counsel’s days are numbered.
Since his investigation began in May, Mueller has already obtained two indictments and two guilty pleas. Most recently, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI. Although he could have been charged with more serious crimes, Flynn secured the deal by promising to cooperate with prosecutors and provide evidence against other, as yet unnamed, individuals. Flynn’s guilty plea brings Mueller’s investigation into the White House.Read more
In December 2016 the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution reaffirming that Israel’s Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal and calling on Israel to stop settlement activities in the OPT. Resolution 2334 says the settlements have “no legal validity,” calls them “a flagrant violation under international law,” and demands Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities.”
Nine months earlier, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in Resolution 31/36, had ordered the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to “produce a database of all business enterprises” that “directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements.”
The database was scheduled for release in December 2017. Meanwhile, the Israeli and US governments have been trying to prevent that list — which reportedly includes at least 150 local and international companies — from becoming public. “We will do everything we can to ensure that this list does not see the light of day,” Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon told The Associated Press. US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “We just view that type of blacklist as counterproductive.”Read more
On November 19, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the US Strategic Command, declared he would refuse to follow an illegal presidential order to launch a nuclear attack. “If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail,” the general explained at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia. “You could go to jail for the rest of your life.”
Gen. Hyten is correct. For those in the military, there is a legal duty to obey a lawful order, but also a legal duty to disobey an unlawful order. An order to use nuclear weapons — except possibly in an extreme circumstance of self-defense when the survival of the nation is at stake — would be an unlawful order.Read more
On November 3, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) informed the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber, “[T]here is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan.”
In what Amnesty International’s Solomon Sacco called a “seminal moment for the ICC,” Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the court for authorization to commence an investigation that would focus on US military and CIA leaders, as well as Taliban and Afghan officials.
Bensouda wrote in a November 14, 2016, report that her preliminary examination revealed “a reasonable basis to believe” the “war crimes of torture and ill-treatment” had been committed “by US military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, principally in the 2003-2004 period, although allegedly continuing in some cases until 2014.”Read more
Last week’s indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime associate Richard Gates, together with the guilty plea by former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, sent shock waves through the White House.
It turns out that since July, Papadopoulos has been serving as a “proactive cooperator.” Special counsel Robert Mueller filed a document in federal court that says, “Defendant has indicated that he is willing to cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.” Papadopoulos was likely wired for sound during conversations with administration officials whom he may implicate in criminal conduct.
But Mueller’s opening salvo was just the tip of the iceberg. As the special counsel moves toward criminally charging Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and others, even the president could find himself in Mueller’s crosshairs.Read more
Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on October 30 that the Trump administration has all the legal authority it needs to kill people anywhere in the world. But just in case Congress wishes to update its old Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), Mattis and Tillerson told them how to do it: Write a blank check to the president.
The October 4 killings of four US soldiers on a “routine training mission” in Niger brought the committee’s hearing into sharper focus. It turns out the presence of these troops in Niger was unlawful.Read more