Secure Liberties

Secure Liberties Newsletter

Covering War, Peace, Militarism and Everything in Between 

Senator Leahy and Lee demand answers about potential unauthorized & illegal mass surveillance, in a new letter to AG Barr and DNI Ratcliffe. Based in large part on bizarre activity in the ongoing FISA / PATRIOT Act reauthorization debate, the Senators are concerned that executive branch might be doing “all of this” surveillance anyway, “with no guardrails,” in the words of Senator Burr, the former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. 

This is a big deal. Does the executive branch believe it can lawfully conduct unlimited, mass surveillance domestically in search of foreign intelligence? We may be about to find outAugust 7 is Senator Leahy and Lee’s letter’s deadline for answers — but this won’t be going away anytime soon.

NDAA, Portland, and 1033: There’s an impossible amount to cover here. We’ve all seen the disturbing news about secret police abducting protesters, which may be heading to a city near you. Representatives fought for votes on amendments to address police militarization, concerns over which have spiked during the ongoing protests. Perhaps the biggest target: the 1033 Program.

1033 Program: Though the House and Senate versions of the NDAA will be in conference for some time, broadly supported amendments to limit the Pentagon’s 1033 Program didn’t make it. The House declined to allow a vote on Rep. Hank Johnson’s amendment, and Senator Schatz’s bipartisan amendment, which would have prohibited the transfer of military equipment to law enforcement agencies, fell 9 votes shy of a 60-vote threshold (51-49).

Instead, Sen. Inhofe’s 1033 amendment to the NDAA was adopted. It requires recipients to get training in “respect for the rights of citizens under the Constitution of the United States and de-escalation of force,” per Roll Call

~25% of both chambers support significant cuts to the Pentagon budget, in a vote that may set the stage for the next 4 years. Though reformers were hoping for passage, they noted that “Nearly 50% of the Democrat Sens. and 40% of Reps.” voted for the provision.

CIA now authorizing its own cyberattacksYahoo News reported on a “secret victory in 2018”: a presidential finding that “gives the spy agency more freedom in both the kinds of operations it conducts and who it targets, undoing many restrictions that had been in place under prior administrations.”

FYI: Intel Authorization Markup this Friday in HPSCI. The Senate wrapped its Intel Auth into the NDAA, but this could be another opportunity for the House to install new limits on any number of controversial activities.

Palantir filed to go public (confidentially): One of the world’s largest surveillance companies, and also one of the most secretive companies in the world, is positioning itself to raise hundreds of millions by going public. In May, Mijente obtained a document showing Palantir “played a key role in federal immigration efforts to target and arrest family members of children crossing the border alone.” 

If anyone knows how much Palantir gets paid by the government, please send us a note. We know it’s a lot. As of December, 2019 (what feels like 8 years ago and before an $823 million contract it won this year), Axios says the company already held $1.5 billion in federal contracts, including over $1 billion from the Department of Defense alone.

The FBI sought to “aggressively determine” [redacted] about DEF CON, the famous hacker convention, according to a MuckRock FOIA request. It seems the FBI has had its eye on DEF CON going back to the 90s, but a confidential source drew extra attention in 2000.

[ANOTHER] Wrong face, wrongful arrest. We tracked the Robert Williams case in the last edition, but since then another Detroit arrest has come to light. We found this detail particularly notable: “A second person, a student, was also captured in the video with the suspect. The officer in charge of the case testified he didn’t interview that person though he’d been given that student’s name.” How quickly should police rely on new technology at the expense of actual investigating?

Just a reminder: Detroit Police Chief says 96% of the time, face recognition misidentifies someone.

CLICK/SM… wait a minute…
Did you know the name Palantir comes from Lord of the Rings? Apparently we didn’t get the same message from the epic fantasy tale as Peter Thiel did.

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