News Roundup: the tracker in your pocket, Vegas, and zombies

With school back in full swing, I wondered how many colleges are offering degrees in Homeland Security.  According to the Naval Postgraduate School, there are 354 programs in Colleges and Universities Offering Homeland Security Programs.   Of these, there are 88 bachelor’s degrees and 93 master’s degrees.

What will all these graduates holding homeland security degrees do? Maybe they will help secure the homeland by expanding the See Something, Say Something campaign to Wet Seal and Forever 21 stores near you, as Homeland Security Partners with Simon Owned Shopping Malls.  Or, they may find jobs reporting on people engaged in suspicious activities, like taking pictures in Los Angeles, now that Photographers in Los Angeles Considered Terrorists Under Official LAPD Policy.

Fantastic reporting in the New Yorker this week about The Throwaways, mostly young people coerced into going undercover as police informants.  If you’d rather listen than read, the journalist Sarah Stillman went on NPR to talk about the Use Of Confidential Informants Mostly Unregulated.  (Trust, the story is 10x more interesting than the NPR golf clap of a headline.)

So long as you’re listening to NPR, here is Why Your Cellphone Could Be Called A ‘Tracker’, with ProPublica’s investigative reporter Peter Maas.  ProPublica has been trying to get this story out for months, asking How Many Millions of Cellphones Are Police Watching? (more than the 1.3 million reported by the New York Times) and concluding That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker. Yikes.

When it comes to surveillance, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.  Continue reading

DNC Drinking Game, Safe for Alcoholics in Recovery

Rules:

  1. Fill glass with your favorite adult beverage.
  2. During the President’s acceptance speech, drink every time he mentions any of the items on this list.

In the category of actions the President has direct, personal control over:

  • Kill list
  • Drone strikes

In the category of things where the final decision lies with the President:

  • Guantanamo Bay prison, military commissions, CIA renditions
  • Indefinite detention, National Defense Authorization Act of 2011
  • State Secrets Privilege

In the category of policies the President has control over as head of the executive branch:

  • Deportations, immigrant detention, Secure Communities
  • Domestic surveillance, electronic eavesdropping, warrantless wiretapping, sneak and peak, cellphone tracking, paid informants, entrapment, sting operations
  • Data sharing, biometrics, Suspicious Activity Reporting, NSA data center, Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System/IAFIS, Automated Biometric Identification System/IDENT, Combined DNA index System/CODIS, automated biometric identification system/ABIS, facial recognition
  • Whistleblowers, Espionage Act prosecutions, classified national security information
  • NSA, FBI, CIA, DHS, TSA, ICE, ATF, CBP, or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence

In the category of tragedies Continue reading

“The next person who calls me resilient I’m gonna stab in the neck…”

Let’s play word association.

I say New Orleans.  The first word that pops into your mind is…

…Saints, it being the start of the regular season. Or

gumbo if you know roux.  Or

hurricane if you’re a meteorologist or a drunkard.

But for the tender hearted among us who love justice, have hope, and believe in the goodness of the good people of New Orleans, the word that has become as stuck to New Orleans as gnats on a South Georgia windshield is…

…Resilience.

Post-Katrina, even before the waters overtopping the levees finished pouring into the city, reporters filed stories referencing the resilience of New Orleans.  As the disaster dragged on, the media was determined to turn a story of death and destruction into an uplifting story of hope.  Stories about resilience – of the people, the city, and the culture – did the trick.

Every anniversary, another wave of resilience stories. In 2006, CBS News reported that Resilience Lets Katrina Survivors Cope.  Two years out, a report chronicled Recovery, Renewal, & Resiliency. The next year, environmentalists presented Lessons for Community Resilience.  The 4th anniversary featured Still Here, a book celebrating “courage, resilience, and hope.” At five years, Obama Calls New Orleans a ‘Symbol of Resilience’ on Katrina Anniversary.  Last year’s anniversary saw the release of the book Resilience and Opportunity.  And this morning, I woke up to NPR interviewing a professor whose Katrina experience inspired him to research and write Building Resilience.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of raising up stories of a people’s resilience.  I spent a year doing it myself, mucking around the American South pestering people about community resilience.

But boy howdy, can it get irritating.

In the words of a New Orleanian friend, “The next person who calls me resilient, I’m gonna stab in the neck so he can see for himself what it is to be resilient.”

My friend has (thus far) refrained from any stabbing, but her point is well taken – focusing on resilience can distract from the question of responsibility.  When we celebrate resilience, we focus the spotlight on the people who got screwed over.  The institutions that did the screwing over take the opportunity to slink off into the shadows.

Cops and Cellblocks in post-Katrina New Orleans.

For all the talk of resilience in post-Katrina New Orleans, there’s one resilience story that has not been told enough.  It’s the story of the thing that’s been trying to slink off into the shadows.   It’s the story of the criminal justice system, and the presumptions of violence and criminality that undergird it.  Continue reading

News Roundup: Chips on kids, acid-filled eggs, and Jay-Z’s 99 Problems

School’s back in session, so we start this week’s roundup with Papers, Please!’s report that the San Antonio Public Schools Plan to Make Students Wear Radio Tracking Beacons.  The school district interested in using these ID chips is calling them Smart Student ID Cards.  If you’re wondering what to think about this, here is EPIC’s Position Paper on the Use of RFID in Schools.

We’re also in Convention season – the Republicans are in Tampa this week, and next week the Democrats are in Charlotte.  DHS and the FBI issued (and Cryptome uploaded) a Joint Intelligence Bulletin on August 21 about anarchists. The bulletin warns police that anarchists may use “Molotov cocktails…or acid-filled eggs,” something protestor management specialist Sam Rosenfeld points out is an FBI/DHS Inaccuracy [That] Could Lead to Police Over-reaction.  Rosenfeld had pointed out a week earlier some Worrying Signs from Tampa – Protest Management at the RNC.  Unrelated, the Phoenix NewTimes reports that Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Republican National Convention Role Doesn’t Exist, So He’ll Be at a Nearby Zoo.

It was a flash of brilliance when the NYTimes’ assignment desk asked documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras to do a short video piece featuring William Binney.  William Binney, after 30+ years as a high ranking official in the NSA, has become one of the loudest and most damning critics of the NSA’s domestic spying. Laura Poitras has been repeatedly detained at the border, after being put on a watch list for her films critical of U.S. policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The result is The Program.  Over on the Opinion page, there’s Giving In to the Surveillance State by Shane Harris, author of “The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State.”

Seems Naomi “The Beauty Myth” Wolf has more to say about the world of police surveillance than her controversial claim in the Guardian last year that the police attack was a coordinated effort by members of Congress to protect their own wealth. In The New Totalitarianism of Surveillance Technology, Wolf reports on face-recognition cameras being used in Disneyland and, she implies, throughout lower Manhattan.

Ninety miles to the north of Disneyland, in Lancaster, CA, Infowars.com warns of a Cessna plane fitted with sophisticated video surveillance technology will fly loops around the city and send footage” to the Sheriff’s office, making it the first City To Be Watched By Permanent Eye In The Sky.

Arizona State University has a State of the Border Report in the works, released a teaser this week in the form of a working paper by Eric L. Olson and Erik Lee on The State of Security in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region.  The authors suggest that “the more the two governments can push key security processes away from the border, the better,” and give a framework for developing a way to measure border security in some way that’s more sophisticated that looking only at the amount being spent.

The Sixth Circuit decided U.S .v. Amawi  this past week, affirming convictions of three men in Ohio of conspiracy to kill/maim Americans overseas and conspiracy to provide material support.  The Harvard Law/Brookings Institute’s Lawfare blog posted commentary by Amawi’s former public defender Jonathan Witmer-Rich on the Amawi Case about the breadth of federal conspiracy law and how the FBI’s informants are actively creating the cases for prosecution.

The first Unmanned Systems Convention drew 8,000 drone-sters to Las Vegas this month, all wanting a piece of the emerging industry where big Satellite Companies Look to Drones for Growth while mom & pop company Drone U. Rides Flight Boom.

If there’s just one thing you click to read this week, make it this “line by line analysis of the second verse of 99 ‘Problems,’ by Jay-Z, from the perspective of a criminal procedure professor.”  Caleb Mason’s Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading with Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps is a bright little gem of genius.

Ronald Reagan & Craig Monteilh: Informants

Two informants should have been all over the news this week. Neither of them are named Richard Aoki.

One was a left-leaning actor who, after FBI agents paid a visit to pass along unkind words a fellow actor had said about him, developed into “one of the best FBI contacts ever.” The second was paid big money by the FBI to goad Muslims into talking about jihad.

The first, Ronald Reagan, became the 40th President of the United States. The second, Craig Monteilh, has now switched sides and is helping the ACLU sue his former paymasters for illegally spying on members of Southern California’s Muslim community.

Ronald Reagan: Informant.

Seth Rosenfeld’s book Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power came out this week.  But a book that chronicles malfeasance by J. Edgar Hoover in 734 pages of “workmanlike prose” is not a good bet for the best-seller list. Rosenfeld’s book needed a booster shot.

On Sunday, August 19, Salon.com ran a piece by Rosenfeld, Ronald Reagan: Informant. The response was tepid.

On Monday, August 20, Rosenfeld tried a different pitch in the San Francisco Chronicle: Activist Richard Aoki Named as Informant. That got the joint a-jumping.

The allegation that Aoki was an informant for the FBI was irresistible.  There was chatter galore among the left about the only Asian member of the Black Panther Party, and the one who had given Bobby Seale his first guns. Bob Wing told  Colorlines.com that he has “no idea whether Richard was an informer. I think it’s a matter for the movement to internalize that this comes with the territory.” Aoki’s biographer Diane Fujino asked Where’s the Evidence? and found it lacking.  Mike Cheng and Ben Wang, directors of the film Aoki, concluded the same.  Democracy Now! booked Rosenfeld and spent the bulk of the time talking about Aoki.  

So Rosenfeld’s bid for buzz worked.

But what about the actual subject of his book, Ronald Reagan?  Wading through 30,000 pages of FBI documents, Rosenfeld discovered that Reagan “names more people than we’ve previously known.”   As president of the Screen Actors Guild, Reagan turned over to the FBI the files of 54 fellow actors suspected of being communist sympathizers.  Rosenfeld’s book chronicles how the FBI rewarded Reagan’s snitchiness with personal and political favors.

The ho-hum response suggests people are not surprised to discover that the 40th President had spent most of his Hollywood years working as a tool for the FBI.

Craig Monteilh: Informant

As for Craig Monteilh, this 6’2”, 260 pound white man whom acquaintances describe as “a snake, a chameleon, a thug scam artist, and a piece of shit” started working for the FBI as a confidential informant after a chance meeting with two police officers in 2004.

A week before Rosenfeld made his allegations about Aoki, This American Life ran an outstanding piece about Monteilh’s work as an FBI informant.  Ira Glass introduced The Convert with a caveat that “this story is not about how things typically go; this is an outlier …” Further in the story, though, the former FBI agents interviewed for the story confirm that the FBI’s use of Monteilh to indiscriminately gather information on, and then try to entrap Muslims in Orange County is, in fact, run of the mill. The only thing that makes this case an outlier was Monteilh’s going rogue on his FBI handlers and spilling the beans. Continue reading

News Roundup: TrapWire, Sham Experts, Body Slams, & End of Summer Reading

The buzz over the TrapWire story remains buzzy, thanks to supporting roles by Anonymous, WikiLeaks, and the CIA.  While it is not true that the Virginia company, started by ex-CIA and staffed by formerly high-ranking intelligence officials, is a Nationwide Surveillance System Recording, Monitoring Everything, the company is (1) selling its surveillance technology as a way for government to keep an eye on activists and (2) tied directly into NSI (the National Suspicious Activity Reports Initiative). Public Intelligence gives a great overview in Unravelling TrapWire: The CIA-Connected Global Suspicious Activity Surveillance System, while the ACLU’s PrivacySOS gives us perspective in Trapwire and Data Mining: What We Know.  PC Mag reports how the Wikileaks Dump Tips U.S. ‘TrapWire’ Surveillance Efforts . The NYTimes’ coverage takes the NYPD at its word that it’s not using Trapwire, a journalistic mistake that PrivacySOS says Misses the Mark.

In his last column at Salon, Glenn Greenwald sticks it to The Sham “Terrorism Expert” Industry, made up of an “incredibly incestuous, mutually admiring little clique in and around Washington.”   Greenwald is headed over to man the Guardian’s Security and Liberty post.

The NYTimes notes in Pockets of City See Higher Use of Force During Police Stops that over 20% of the NYPD’s stop & frisks turn into a stop & punch.  Four of the five precincts with the highest use of force rate are in the Bronx; the fifth is Jackson Heights in Queens.  If you’re stopped in the 46th Precinct in the West Bronx, there’s a 56% chance the cops will get rough on you. Get stopped in the 111th Precinct, and there’s less than 5% chance force will be used.  The 46th is predominately Black and Latino; the 111th is 87% white and Asian.

This week’s Rolling Stone includes an unflattering story of The Long, Lawless Ride of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Different sheriff, same mindset…in Criminal Minds: Racial Profiling in Alamance Countythe county just west of Durham, NC, Indyweek.com crunches the numbers and concludes that “Latino drivers stopped in Alamance County are likely to be treated differently than those stopped elsewhere.”   The story also includes this little tidbit: the anti-immigrant Sheriff and two of his deputies are headed out to a FAIR-sponsored “Border School” training in Texas next month.  How are they paying for the $3,200 bill? Drug forfeiture money.

In border news, the Fraser Institute has been Measuring the Costs of the Canada-US Border, and reports that “border thickening” doesn’t just wreck your figure – it’s a drag on your economy as well, to the tune of 1.5% of GDP.

Mexico beware – U.S. News & World Report “reports” that Bin Laden-like SEAL Team Raid Could Take Down Mexican Drug Kingpin, giving details its “reporters” culled from reading this article in Borderland Beat.  This isn’t journalism, but is U.S. News being lazy here, or is it cheerleading?

Did the FBI illegally spy on Muslims in southern California when it used an informant to infiltrate mosques and collect information willy nilly? We may never know, after the federal district Court Dismisses Case Based on State Secrets Privilege.  Here is the Order Granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Based on State Secrets Privilege.

Jennifer Lynch at EFF seems damned pleased about what turned up in the FAA’s response to EFF’s FOIA request, and tells us why in These Drones Are Made For Watchin’.  EFF’s initial document review reveals that drone flights in the U.S. have almost all been undertaken by local police looking for new ways expand surveillance.  But you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Danger Room warns us – keep your hats on for Stealthy, Tiny, Deadly, Global: The Drone Revolution’s Next Phase.

And for summer reading’s last cram, three suggestions:  Terminator Planet, The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 by Nick Turse and Tom (of Tom Dispatch) Englehardt, available as an e-book or print on demand; Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Survive, by Bruce Schneier; and Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding.  Harbach’s book has nothing to do with criminal justice, national security, or immigration enforcement, which seems reason enough to read it.

Security Theater and Racial Profiling

Twitching through the Boston airport security line

I squinted. I gave a “cold penetrating stare.” I tried “wide open flashbulb eyes,” then a “trance-like gaze.”  I panted.  I turned my head excessively. I fidgeted excessively. I turned my head while fidgeting.  I stood in a “rigid posture with minimal body movements and arms close to sides.”

Until the man behind me leaned over and asked that I please keep moving forward in the security line.

Fine. That was pretty much the entire suspicious activity list anyway, from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security’s Terrorism Awareness and Prevention. Moving on to the American Public Transportation Association’s Identifying Suspicious Behavior in Mass Transit Recommended Practice, I rubbed my hands.  I paced a bit when a space opened up between me and the person in front of me in line.  I repetitively touched my face.  I continuously scanned the area.  I tried “aggressively biting nails.”  Then I engaged in some “exaggerated yawning.”  I blinked as rapidly as I could, John McCain style.  I cleared my throat excessively.

Still no dice.  My attempts to get noticed by the Behavioral Detection Officer (BDO) at Boston Logan Airport was not producing any results.  Could it be because I’m of East Asian descent and not wearing a head scarf? Noooooo, can’t be – these BDOs are highly trained in the science of microfacial detection and other, um, behavioral detection techniques.

The BDO himself was easy to spot: he was the TSA officer who, rather than calling out instructions about liquids and gels or opening a new line to check ID’s, was gazing out at us in the airport’s security line. He had the look of a bored person trying not to look bored. He did not look my way.

As reported in the NYTimes this week, the TSA’s behavior detection program designed to suss out would-be terrorists seems to have become instead an exercise in rampant racial profiling. A series of complaints to TSA officials alleged that Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs) who have been trained in the dubious science of spotting unconscious body cues indicative of deception and terrorist intent were in fact making shit up in order to make arrests that had nothing to do with airline security.

The complaints that made the NYTimes take notice came not from the thousands of people who are repeatedly pulled out for additional screening, but from 32 of the federal officers giving the order to please step out at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

What’s a BDO? Continue reading

News Roundup: NYPD luvs Microsoft, BDOs luv profiling, and Brennan warns us about Bad Guys

A couple of vital details about the new Domain Awareness System I missed when it was unveiled by NYPD last week: (1) the massive, instantaneous aggregator of video cameras, license plates, and databases was designed by Microsoft and (2) NYC expects to recoup costs with a 30% cut for future sales of the system.  Regardless of outcomes, then, expect a mighty tornado of a marketing push by Microsoft + NYC over the next few years.   Bloomberg.com gets the scoop from its former boss and current Mayor Bloomberg, laying out the deal in New York, Microsoft Unveil Joint Crime-Tracking System.  The mayor is quoted in New York magazine saying, “I hope Microsoft sells a lot of copies of this system, because 30% of the profits will go to us.”  Even the Council on Foreign Relations had some remarks, about NYPD’s Powers of Threat Perception.  The staid CFR points out that that while our legal system has some experience with the data collection, the “integration and analysis of collected data streams…is a government power does not fit neatly into existing conceptual frameworks for safeguarding liberty.”  Judge for yourself: here is the NYPD’s half-assed Public Security Privacy Guidelines, dated April 2009 but updated to reference the Domain Awareness System.

Meanwhile, Racial Profiling Rife at Airport, U.S. Officers Say.  Before you say duh, consider the placement (above the fold, front page NYTimes) and who is doing the accusing (the so-called Behavioral Detection Officers themselves).   If you said duh anyway, you’re not alone – the story generated more yawns than yelps, and no comment from the TSA blog, which continued its summerlong festival of publishing photos of confiscated grenades, swords, guns, and sharp pointy things.

There are some special – very special – people for whom combing through budgets is as thrilling as riding the rides at Six Flags. You know who you are, and for you, the Congressional Research Service’s (93-page) summary the Department of Homeland Security FY2013 Appropriations.  Check out ICE’s request (requesting reduction of $53 million for detention beds and a $40 million increase to expand Alternatives to Detention) and the discussion on the CBP’s ongoing problems finding an effective tech “solution” to Southwest border surveillance.

Just discovered Melissa del Bosque, covering immigration and the border for the most excellent Texas Observer.  She has over the last month reported about how Now Laredo Wants a Drone Too, and how the Observer is now part of A New Media Collaboration Documents 14 Deaths by Border Patrol Agents. Collaborative investigative reporting to expand coverage of border patrol shootings that remain semi-secret because of lack of coverage – kudos galore! (If you have a great journalist who Catfish should be following, let us know!)

The week was a bit slow on news, so we had extra buckets of commentary to sift through.  Mike Rich uses a NYTimes op-ed The Perfect Non-Crime to ask, “Even if we could make it impossible for people to commit crimes, should we? Or would doing so improperly deprive people of their freedom?”  In Hidden History: America’s Secret Drone War in Africa, David Axe of Danger Room tracks how the secret drone war in Somalia has “drones doing an ever-greater proportion of the American fighting” in “one possible model for the future U.S. way of war.”  And the always tasty Glenn Greenwald of Salon asks in Unintended Causation: Is there a causal link between racially-motivated violence by individuals and U.S. foreign policy?  Greenwald answers yes, citing Falguni Sheth’s argument that attacks by white right-wing extremists are directly connected to the War on Terror.

And finally, bad guys. One of the phrases that gets stuck in Catfish’s craw (by choice, as a google alert) is “bad guys.”  Who should turn up discussing bad guys this week but John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.  Asked to help us understand who or what is most likely to exploit our vulnerability to cyberintrusions, Brennan names “bad guys.”  The transcript of an extended Q&A after a speech on Yemen and drones reads (inaudible) in key places, but it seems the “bad” that Brennan means is “international criminal groups” rather than terrorist organizations or unfriendly foreign countries.

News Roundup: GAO on SCOMM, the “Predatory State,” Goldman Sachs in Rikers

Top of the news this morning, Sikh Temple Shooting Suspect Identified as Wade Michael Page; Motivation Unclear to the mainstream press, despite Mr. Page’s white supremacist tattoos and years of playing guitar for white power bands like Definite Hate.

On top of the week’s tedious but required reading list is the Government Accountability Office’s Report on Secure Communities: Criminal Alien Removals Increased, but Technology Planning Improvements Needed.  Buried in the report is this interesting tidbit: to monitor for racial profiling, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and ICE are “initiating a process to statistically monitor arrests under Secure Communities to identify and investigate potential patterns of civil rights abuses.” Details on p. 39-42. Is the methodology sound? Check it out.

As long as you’re reading GAO reports, here’s the GAO running down Methods for Estimating Incarceration and Community Corrections Costs and Results of the Elderly Offender Pilot and recommending that Federal Law Should Be Updated to Address Changing Technology Landscape.

A couple of pinhead economists from George Mason University have something to say about The Militarization of U.S. Domestic Policing, analyzing how the “protective state”  turns into the “predatory state.” Bottom line conclusion: militarization of policing will continue to accelerate until and unless there is “a recognition and appreciation of the realities of government power and a rejection of government as a solution to perceived crises.”

Big week for the undocumented and unafraid.  After being kicked out of Broward County Transition Center (a private prison run by GEO, subject of last Thursday’s Catfish post), Viridiana and others were re-arrested after remaining near the facility to support the 500+ detainees who went on hunger strike.  A few thousand miles away, the UnDocuBus rolled out of Phoenix, through Texas, and into Louisiana, taking a long meander through the south en route to the Democratic National Convention.  Undocumented NYTimes’ Room for Debate asks Is Getting on the ‘UndocuBus’ a Good Idea?.  Time Magazine made UndocuBus its word of the week.

The USCIS, meanwhile, squeezed out a bit more information about deferred action for DREAMers, while continuing to set August 15 as the date when more (presumably all) the information needed to start applying will become available. On an informational call August 3, the agency stressed that “all requestors must provide biometrics and undergo background checks.”  Not much new information on what does and does not constitute a “serious misdemeanor” other than confirming that driving without a license is not serous, while a DUI is.

At the Aspen Security Forum last week, the former director of National Intelligence said that Stopping the Lone Wolf Terrorist a Difficult Task, requiring a level of surveillance and information sharing that would exact a “high cost in civil liberties and privacy.”  How high a cost? New York City seems intent on finding out, with this announcement by Police Chief Raymond Kelly: NYPD to Launch “Domain Awareness” Computer System to Track Criminals, Terrorists.

In trying-something-new-about-prison news, the NYTimes reports that  Goldman to Invest in City Jail Program, Profiting if Recidivism Falls Sharply.  Goldman as in Goldman Sachs. Sharply as in >10%. In California, County Jails Face Bigger Load as the state, under federal court order to reduce its prison population, starts in for real on decarceration.   With each county getting a chunk of cash to handle people being released early out of the prison system, some places are opting for re-entry programs, while others are increasing jail beds.

Among the many things interesting about this article New Home for Juveniles Recruited to Drug Trade is the headline.  Are the NYTimes headline writers starting to recognize that young people who sell drugs do so out of economic necessity, and enter the business in much the same way sex workers are recruited?

The NYTimes complains that the Inquiry Into Security Leaks Is Casting Chill Over Coverage.  While that inquiry is being conducted primary by the Obama administration, Secrecy News exhorts us to take notice that Congress Resists Efforts to Reduce Secrecy, not just the executive branch.

The good (and persistent) people at the Papers, Please blog report that Police Pay $200K to Settle Lawsuit for Illegal Roadblock in the Tohono O’odham Reservation, in Pima County, Arizona.  The case took ten years.  To understand why there are so few legal challenges to unconstitutional roadblocks and checkpoints, take a look at this case’s document timeline.

And finally, no roundup is complete without a mention of drones. NPR did a great piece on drones, but its title Drones: From War Weapon To Homemade Toy skipped a vital step: From War Weapon to Police Surveillance may have been more accurate.

Viridiana & NIYA vs. GEO & private prisons

For sheer badass-ery, this will be hard to beat.  On July 20, Viridiana Martinez walked up to a checkpoint in Port Everglades, a south Florida “Where Security is Everyone’s Business” port for cargo and cruise ships that requires everyone passing through to show government issued identification.  Viridiana came to the United States when she was 7 and has no such ID.  The Border Patrol agent arrested her and sent her half an hour north to Broward County Transition Center.

Turns out, Broward TC is Viridiana’s briar patch.  The National Immigrant Youth Alliance organizer got through intake and got to work, looking for people who should not be in detention.  She is one of seven undocumented NIYA organizers who have intentionally put themselves into deportation proceedings to challenge the Obama administration’s lackadaisical implementation of the June 17, 2011 Morton memo urging prosecutorial discretion, a directive that should have taken millions of undocumented immigrants out of danger of deportation.

Viridiana and her fellow NIYAn’s audacious (and ongoing) action is forcing President Obama to work a little harder.  The dozens of stories she and others have collected from Broward calls for action rather than rhetoric from the Administration.  As DREAMers eligible for deferred action, the NIYA organizers are making it clear that they want more than a temporary reprieve for themselves – they’re looking for relief for their parents as well.  Somewhere in the White House, President Obama is muttering curses of aggravation and admiration for these young organizers, braver and more effective than he ever was.

But NIYA’s organizing inside Broward TC is doing more than refocusing attention on ICE’s refusal to halt the deportation of low-priority individuals.  It is also drawing attention to ICE’s increasingly hot and bothersome bromance with private prison companies. Continue reading