Friday, September 07, 2007

A vast conspiracy prosecution and 129a's?

The WaPo reports:

"A federal judge struck down controversial portions of the USA Patriot Act in a ruling that declared them unconstitutional yesterday, ordering the FBI to stop its wide use of a warrantless tactic for obtaining e-mail and telephone data from private companies for counterterrorism investigations. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York said the FBI's use of secret 'national security letters' to demand such data violates the First Amendment and constitutional provisions on the separation of powers, because the FBI can impose indefinite gag orders on the companies and the courts have little opportunity to review the letters."

The ACLU describes National Security Letters (NSLs) thus:

"The National Security Letter provision of the Patriot Act authorizes the FBI to demand personal records like Web site visits and e-mail addresses without prior court approval. Anyone who receives an NSL is forbidden, or 'gagged' from telling anyone about the record demand."

Sounds all red, white and blue all over, to me. What could possibly go wrong with this type of unchecked power? It's not like this government would abuse that sort of power, right?

According to a statement by Senator Patrick Leahy on the recent testimony of DoJ IG Glenn Fine:

"The Inspector General’s report found that, of the more than 143,000 National Security Letter requests the FBI issued from 2003 through 2005, FBI field divisions self-reported only 26 possible violations of law and policy. The Inspector General found almost as many violations in his independent review of only 77 case files from that period. None of the errors the Inspector General found had been self-reported by the FBI. The FBI massively failed to find or to report its own mistakes and abuses connected with NSLs, and documentation was incomplete in 60 percent of the files the Inspector General reviewed."

The IG told the Senate Judiciary Committee:

"Our review found widespread and serious misuse of the FBI’s national security letter authorities. In many instances, the FBI’s misuse of national security letters violated NSL statutes, Attorney General Guidelines, or the FBI’s own internal policies. We also found that the FBI did not provide adequate guidance, adequate controls, or adequate training on the use of these sensitive authorities. In many respects, the FBI’s oversight of the use of NSL authorities expanded by the Patriot Act was inconsistent and insufficient."

What I'm interested in knowing is how many terrorists there really are in the U.S.? I mean, if the FBI is going around looking into the phone, e-mail and internet records of 143,000 people, the problem must be huge. Of course, the real issue is, with what evidence has the FBI decided they can use these NSLs? Are the individuals they targeted that dangerous?

A vast ethereal conspiracy:

Now that the government has been able to successfully hold a US citizen in solitary confinment at a US military prison for five years, deny him habeas corpus, torture and drug him, then prosecute and convict him on the the basis of a finger print on an al-Qaeda job application; who needs evidence, right?

Writing on the new terror model trial the government used to convict Jose Pedilla, Adam Liptak in the NYT quotes Peter S. Margulies, a law professor at Roger Williams University, who says the conspiracy charge against Padilla is, "highly amorphous, and it basically allows someone to be found guilty for something that is one step away from a thought crime."

And a great new twist is: Preventive detention.

"Before allowing Mr. Padilla to be tried in the federal courts, the administration justified holding him as an enemy combatant in part by saying he would be dangerous if let go. Criminal prosecutions, by contrast, are almost always focused on conduct already committed."

All you have to do nowadays is think about committing a crime and you could be snatched. And in the Germany, the German Federal Police are taking things a bit further. Writing can now be a crime if you happen to use words or phrases that terrorists use.

In Germany there is a case concerning two academics who the police arrested and imprisoned at the end of this past July. Under § 129a StGB (German Penal Code, section 7 on Crimes against Public Order) the German authorities arrested Dr. Andrej Holm for "membership in a terrorist association." The "association" in this case being the Militant Gruppe, a group which apparently has a problem with gentrification and imperialism and just happened to be arrested in Brandenburg for burning four military trucks.

Indymedia UK reports:

"Police have assumed a link based merely on observations that there has been a contact between him and one of the Brandenburg suspects. Further, the only two meetings between them are supposed to have taken place 'conspiratorially'. Police do not know anything about what the meetings in February and April 2007 were about. Yet, they have concluded that the "conspiratorial behavior between H and L can only be explained that L is also part of the terrorist organization MG. . . One of the 'conspiratorial things' apparently was that Andrej had forgotten his mobile phone at home."

The Germans have gotten the idea that Holm is up to something by data-ming his writings and matching them to the MG

"Andrej H., a sociologist whose work focused on gentrification, tenants' rights and social cuts, is also supposed to have published an academic article in 1998, in which he used phrases and words that can be found in MG texts. 'The frequency of the correspondence is conspicuous and cannot be explained by thematic correspondences,' they concluded. 'As a political scientist,' they added, he is 'intellectually capable of writing the technically difficult texts that MG uses'. What's more, he 'has access to libraries which he can use inconspicuously to make the needed investigations for the MG.'"

According to Equipo Nizkor, Andrej H. was released on Aug 22 from solitary confinement but still faces charges.

Now, I don't know whether MG is a terrorist organization or not (I personally find those eco-criminal anarchist types very ponderous), but my main concern is that stuff people write can be date-mined and used as evidence of crimes and people even go to jail for it.

God knows what in the very near future may be considered by the Germans or the DoJ as conspiracy speech. Calling the Terrorist Surveillance Program Domestic Spying, for instance? Or will some future retroactive law make having written "Bush Sucks" a crime?

Think about it bloggers, before it's illegal.


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