Secure Liberties

Secure Liberties Newsletter

Covering War, Peace, Militarism and Everything in Between 

“They were abusing people’s rights” + “spooky shit going on” — Intelligence surveillance in Portland included “interceptions of protesters’ phone calls” by “a task force that included federal agencies besides the DHS,” according to two former intelligence officers interviewed by The Nation. The Washington Post previously reported on DHS intelligence reports on journalists covering the Portland protests, and the most recent whistleblower from DHS, from the same DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, claims he was “pressured to downplay threats posed by white supremacists and Russian election interference, and instead told to inflate fears around immigrants, anarchists, anti-fascists, China, and Iran.”

129 recommendations for the Rules of the House and 83 recommendations for the Senate from Demand Progress’s Daniel Schuman. Among them: “each Member of a committee that oversees classified matters (e.g. HPSCI, Armed Services, Appropriations, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and Judiciary) should be afforded one personal office staffer with TS/SCI clearance to support the Member on relevant matters before that committee.”

EARN IT draws more fire from civil society. Last week, over two dozen groups called on Senators to oppose the bill and object to any motion for unanimous consent, predicting the bill would lead to “online censorship that will disproportionately impact marginalized communities, will jeopardize access to encrypted services, and will place at risk the prosecutions of the very abusers the law is meant to catch.”

Sens. Brown and Wyden went after Amazon for spying on union activity in a letter last week, after the tech giant was caught by Vice News seeking “Hiring an Intelligence Analyst to Track ‘Labor Organizing Threats.’”

The Progressive Talent Pipeline is now accepting applications for its 2020 cohort. The Pipeline identifies, endorses, trains, and recommends a diverse slate of committed progressives for staff roles in Congress and the executive branch.

Ending Police Militarization. Brown University’s Costs of War Project hosted a panel highlighting a new report they released on how increased militarization abroad has helped contribute to militarization of our police here at home: “The Wars Are Here: How our Post-9/11 Wars Helped Militarize Our Police.” The panel featured Rep. Hank Johnson, Yasmine Taeb of Demand Progress, Rahna Epting of MoveOn, and two scholars, Jessica Katzenstein and Fanna Gamal. Watch the webcast here:

Massachusetts Peace Action hosted a panel discussion on Mon. Sep. 14 with advocates from Demand Progress, ACLU-MA, and the Center for International Policy on the 1033 Program and advocacy efforts underway to curtail and ultimately abolish the program. Watch the webcast here:  

1033 Program and NDAA Conference. Rep. Anthony Brown is circulating a letter to HASC and SASC leadership on incorporating strong language and imposing additional conditions and limitations on the 1033 Program in the NDAA conference report. Their office is collecting Member sign-ons until 3pm Thur. Sep. 24. Reach out to [email protected] to join the letter. 

Sen. Murphy’s challenge to classification of Soleimani War Powers Act notification (in its entirety) thwarted because… he’s a Senator? The Federation of American Scientists has the analysis here, but in short the government is arguing members of Congress aren’t “authorized holder[s]” of classified information. Murphy’s office told FAS he would be introducing legislation to fix the loophole soon.

Meanwhile, the White House objected to a part of the IAA that would give “new appeal rights when an agency denies [federal employees or contractors] a clearance. The Project on Government Oversight supported provisions that placed “a fairer burden of proof and a process for parity for security clearance revocations.”

230 Organizations urged members to “oppose any anomalies or any other funding mechanism that would increase funding” for CBP and ICE in a letter last week. The letter cites to CBP’s deployment “to suppress and surveill political dissent and militarize cities without the permission or cooperation of local elected officials” in making the case.

The letter also cites a recent, fictionalized Border Patrol video “showing migrant killing innocent victim in a dark alley.” It looks like the copy on YouTube has been set to private

100+ Organizations called for more time to respond to new rule to expand DHS collection of biometrics in another letter last week. The current window is 30 days, to respond to a 328-page rule that, according to the letter, proposes expanding biometrics collection “without regard to age, including [of] U.S. citizens”; permitting “the indefinite retention of biometrics” and allowing DHS “to share biometrics with law enforcement”; and “remov[ing] the presumption of good moral character for children under the age of 14.”

Title says it all: Pentagon used taxpayer money meant for masks and swabs to make jet engine parts and body armor.


Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2020 is on the suspension calendar. It authorizes three offices (one at DHS, DOJ, and FBI) to monitor, investigate, and prosecute cases of domestic terrorism.

‘No FISA Reauth in must-pass legislation,’ said a letter from the ACLU, Demand Progress, FreedomWorks, NAACP, and twenty other organizations. It seems the controversial Patriot Act renewal was not included in the just-released Continuing Resolution, as it was last year

What’s getting more chatter are the crickets coming from surveillance hawks, who for years have insisted sunset was an unacceptable option, who then forced a sunset to stop votes on amendments, and one of whom ultimately claimed the president has the inherent authority to do “all of this, without Congress’s permission, with no guardrails.”

CPCC circulated its FISA / PATRIOT Act explainer, taking readers through the roller coaster of a fight so far and the different policies at stake. Check it out here.

Keith Alexander joins the board of Amazon, according to new SEC filings. Alexander was the face of much of the surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, raising eyebrows when he suggested “We ought to come up with a way of stopping” reporting on the leaked documents.

The Office of Legal Counsel lost part of a long-running FOIA challenge, with the DC Circuit concluding that plaintiffs made “a plausible allegation that OLC is required to make its opinions that resolve inter-agency disputes available for ‘public inspection’ under section 552(a)(2) of the FOIA.” OLC has long endured bipartisan criticism that it is both a manufacturer and vault of secret law,

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