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The Government’s Antipathy Towards Transparency Has Made FOIA Lawsuits The Default Process

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | May 12, 2014

This is default mode for the Freedom of Information Act.

In a federal FOIA complaint, the ACLU and University of Arizona Professor Derek Bambauer and Associate Professor Jane Yakowitz Bambauer claim that the Department of Homeland Security has failed to respond to requests made in January and February for records that may “shed light on Border Patrol’s extensive but largely opaque interior enforcement operations.”

The professors seek “records related to U.S. Border Patrol’s interior enforcement operations in Tucson and Yuma Sectors, including relevant agency policies, stop data, and complaint records.”

The CBP (Border Patrol) operates far inland these days with the blessing of the DHS. To live in states bordering Mexico is to have your freedom to travel within the country needlessly interrupted by uniformed officers inquiring about your country of origin.

The CBP’s surveillance technology has also wandered much further inland, far past the so-called “Constitution-Free Zone” that extends 100 miles in from the country’s borders. Its drones, which are specifically to be used for border surveillance, have been loaned out to an assortment of federal agencies and local law enforcement.

The CBP has also become a deadlier force, responsible for 27 fatalities in the last three years. This number has increased dramatically, in part because CBP agents seemed to be looking for reasons to open fire — like standing directly in the path of escaping vehicles.

But this isn’t so much about the CBP as it is about the government’s betrayal of the ideals behind the Freedom of Information Act.

“We shouldn’t have to go as far as filing a lawsuit to get these records,” Professor Bambauer said in a statement. “This is public information about a matter of pressing public concern. We cannot allow DHS and Border Patrol to continue operating in our communities without being subject to public scrutiny.”

No, citizens shouldn’t have to file lawsuits just to get the government to turn over responsive records. And, yet, this has become the expected route to freeing information. Nearly every document handed out by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been prompted by a lawsuit. The CBP drone documents mentioned above? Those are also tied to a FOIA lawsuit. Without the court’s prompting, it’s highly unlikely any of the documents the CBP “failed” to turn up during its first FOIA search would ever have been made public.

This is now the standard process for obtaining information from the government, whether at the federal level or below. There are many agencies that handle requests with few problems. But the agencies leaning towards the law enforcement/counterterrorism end of the spectrum are far from compliant. They resist, stall or simply ignore requests, pushing inquiring entities towards the courtroom.

This is completely wrong. A FOIA lawsuit is a remedy. Now, it’s just standard practice. And this goes far past simply unacceptable into sickening territory.

Government agencies are supposed to be accountable to the public that pays for everything they do. The FOIA law is simply a tool of accountability that can be wielded by any citizen. But these agencies have perverted the FOIA system so thoroughly that what was supposed to be a last resort (a lawsuit) is now just another step in the FOIA process.

The DOJ likely has no problem with the DHS, CBP and others blowing off FOIA requests until the judicial system orders them to turn over the requested info. After all, in its ridiculous argument for warrantless cellphone searches, it stated that if people felt the police shouldn’t have had access to their cellphone contents, they could always argue for suppression in court. This is the same mentality. Instead of respecting the limitations set by the Fourth Amendment, the DOJ suggests people should use a remedy (suppression) to hold cops accountable rather than expecting the police to police themselves and avoid violating citizens’ privacy and civil liberties.

These agencies know that not everyone has the time or money to battle for the release of documents, so their exposure is limited should they choose not to comply. It’s extremely hard for a nation’s citizens to hold its government accountable if the government is going to use the citizens’ own money against them.

ACLU, EPIC and the EFF have gone to court time and time again with no greater goal than getting government agencies to comply with a federal law. This ongoing subversion of the FOIA is completely unacceptable. This government is giving the public the finger, letting it know that it will only be accountable when forced to.

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Administration Increasing Censorship rather than Increasing Transparency

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | March 18, 2014

The Obama years in Washington were supposed to be transparent ones, with increased public access to and awareness of Executive Branch operations. If anything, however, censorship and maintaining government secrets have been more prevalent the longer President Barack Obama has been in office.

“The government’s own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that halfway through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records,” Ted Bridis and Jack Gillum reported for the Associated Press.

“In category after category—except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees—the government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office,” they added.

In 2012, the year of Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency (NSA) revelations, the administration cited “national security” as reason to keep hidden information a record 8,496 times.

That was 57% more than during the previous year and more than double during Obama’s first year in office, when it cited that reason 3,658 times.

Nearly all of the refusals last year to disclose information on national security grounds came out of the Department of Defense, the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Even agencies whose mission is not the defense of the nation cited this reason for denying Freedom of Information Act requests. The Farm Service Agency did it six times, the Environmental Protection Agency did it twice and the National Park Service once.

“I’m concerned the growing trend toward relying upon FOIA exemptions to withhold large swaths of government information is hindering the public’s right to know,” Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the AP. “It becomes too much of a temptation. If you screw up in government, just mark it ‘top secret.’”

In 2013, a federal judge, Ellen Segal Huvelle, upbraided the Obama administration for trying to keep secret a non-classified policy directive regarding “Global Development.”

Obama has also failed to get federal agencies to update their procedures for handling FOIA requests.

Fifty of 101 agencies still haven’t updated their FOIA regulations to comply with Congress’ 2007 FOIA amendments, and more than half of them (55 of 101) haven’t even complied with changes called for by Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to establish a “presumption of disclosure” to encourage the release of more documents, according to the National Security Archive at The George Washington University.

To Learn More:

US Cites Security More to Censor, Deny Records (by Ted Bridis and Jack Gillum, Associated Press)

Half of Federal Agencies Still Use Outdated Freedom of Information Regulations (National Security Archive)

48 Years after Creation of Freedom of Information Act, State Dept., Defense Dept. and VA Get Failing Grades (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Judge Chastises Obama Administration for Using “Secret Law” to Withhold Documents (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

March 18, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

Why is the CIA Fighting Release of Documents Relating to 4 Planes that Went Missing in 1980?

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | March 15, 2014

A federal judge has told the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other federal offices to continue looking for records pertaining to the disappearance of four transport planes in 1980.

The case was brought before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly by plaintiff Stephen Whitaker, who has attempted to obtain information about four DC-3 aircraft, one of which was flown by his father, Harold William Whitaker.

Stephen Whitaker filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the CIA, as well as the Department of Defense and the State Department, to learn if they possessed records that might explain what happened to the DC-3s.

The CIA refused to tell Whitaker if its archives held any relevant documents pertaining to his search. The agency cited various exemptions under federal law, including the CIA Act of 1949 (pdf), which allow it to avoid responding to certain FOIA inquiries.

Whitaker argued in his lawsuit that the CIA improperly invoked FOIA Exemption (b) (3) (pdf), which authorizes the agency to keep from revealing information on agency “functions” and “intelligence sources and methods.”

Kollar-Kotelly sided with Whitaker, ruling (pdf) that “the CIA has too broadly applied the CIA Act to withhold information pursuant to Exemption (b) (3).” However, she agreed with two other exemptions cited by the CIA that pertain to attorney-client privilege and the withholding of personnel and medical records.

The plaintiff’s search for information seems to be both personal and more.

He said the plane piloted by his father disappeared somewhere over Spain in October 1980. It had been purchased at auction from the Spanish Air Force and was being flown to Germany to become part of a museum.

A report from Spain’s Civil Aviation Commission on Accidents says the aircraft’s instruments may not have been fully functional, and that the radio may only have been capable of sending messages but not receiving them.

The report added that there was no record of a distress call from the pilot, or co-pilot Lawrence Eckmann, a major in the U.S. Army.

Stephen Whitaker also sought records from the government about Eckmann. The State Department claimed its search turned up nothing on Eckmann. The plaintiff challenged this assertion, and Kollar-Kotelly agreed that Eckmann had been excluded from the search, which was found to be “inadequate and should have been revised….”

The plaintiff seems to suspect that some of the DC-3s he has sought information on were used by the CIA in its covert operations.

His FOIA request to the spy agency asked for any information that would reveal whether “any of these persons or aircraft were later found to be employed or contracted by the CIA for service in Central America or elsewhere.”

The CIA has a long history of using DC-3s that ranges from the Vietnam War to the recent conflict in Libya that ousted the Gaddafi regime.

To Learn More:

Missing-Plane Records From 1980 Dissected (by Kevin Lessmiller, Courthouse News Service)

Stephen Whitaker v. Central Intelligence Agency (U.S. District Court, District of Columbia) (pdf)

Technical Report on the Disappearance of a DOUGLAS DC-3 Aircraft, Registration # ECT-025, on the 3rd of October, 1980, to the North of Palm of Majorca (Civil Aviation Commission on Accidents, Spain) (pdf)

March 15, 2014 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Court rules White House visitor logs can remain secret

By Julian Hattem – The Hill – 08/30/13

A federal appeals court has ruled that the White House can keep secret some records of visitors who enter the building.

In a unanimous decision on Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that visitor logs for the Office of the President, at the center of the White House, are not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Anti-secrecy organizations criticized the ruling as a barrier to public oversight.

“Decisions like this turn FOIA from a transparency law into a secrecy law,” Tom Fitton, president of the right-leaning Judicial Watch, told The Hill. He added that the decision was “unprecedented.”

Records for other offices on the White House complex, however, such as the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality, are subject to public disclosure requests, the court ruled.

The appeals court ruling overturns a district court case brought by Judicial Watch, which sued the Secret Service in 2009 for not releasing seven months’ worth of visitor logs.

The dispute centered on whether the visitor logs amounted to “agency records,” which FOIA requires to be accessible to public requests, except in certain circumstances.

Judge Merrick Garland wrote in the court’s opinion that classifying White House visitor logs as “agency records” could “substantially affect the President’s ability to meet confidentially with foreign leaders, agency officials, or members of the public. And that could render FOIA a potentially serious congressional intrusion into the conduct of the President’s daily operations.”

He added, “Congress did make clear that it intended to place documents like the President’s appointment calendar beyond the reach of FOIA.”

Transparency advocates worried about the precedent that would be set by the decision.

“White House visitor records have proven of enormous value to the public in exposing the outside influences brought to bear on presidential decisions and policies,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which joined the case. “With this ruling, that window on the White House is now shut.”

The Obama administration has voluntary released its logs of White House visitors, but even those have been a point of contention. The records lack additional identifying details beyond a visitor’s name, can often include typos and may include names of people cleared to enter the building who never actually showed up.

Fitton said that Judicial Watch was “strongly considering” appealing the ruling.

“The option of doing nothing is unlikely,” he said.

Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

September 1, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 1 Comment

NSA Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny Anything Without Causing ‘Exceptionally Grave Damage’ To National Security

By Tim Cushing | techdirt | June 26, 2013

When you find out your own government is harvesting your phone metadata and internet activity, what do you do? If you’re Jeff Larson at ProPublica, you file a FOIA request in hopes of getting the NSA to cough up some of the info it’s collected on you.

Shortly after the Guardian and Washington Post published their Verizon and PRISM stories, I filed a freedom of information request with the NSA seeking any personal data the agency has about me. I didn’t expect an answer, but yesterday I received a letter signed by Pamela Phillips, the Chief FOIA Officer at the agency (which really freaked out my wife when she picked up our mail).

Yes, Larson received three pages of unredacted excuses and explanations as to why the NSA would not be letting him in on what it had gathered, as well as some circuitous explanations as to why it was unable to confirm the existence of the data he requested.

The letter, a denial, includes what is known as a Glomar response — neither a confirmation nor a denial that the agency has my metadata. It also warns that any response would help “our adversaries”:

Any positive or negative response on a request-by-request basis would allow our adversaries to accumulate information and draw conclusions about the NSA’s technical capabilities, sources, and methods. Our adversaries are likely to evaluate all public responses related to these programs. Were we to provide positive or negative responses to requests such as yours, our adversaries’ compilation of the information provided would reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.”

“Reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security…” That’s a beauty, as is the entire paragraph. Instead of “Yes, we have some stuff but we can’t let you look at it,” or “No, we don’t have your stuff, but thanks for asking,” we get “We can neither confirm nor deny we have your stuff because a simple yes or no would give terrorists the upper hand.” Alternately: “Sorry we can’t be more specific. Can I offer you some fear instead?” Fortunately, as Larson notes, he won’t be charged a fee for this non-answer to his request.

The NSA’s FOIA responder takes a little time to imply that the media possibly has all the facts wrong.

As you may be also be aware, there has been considerable speculation about two NSA intelligence programs in the press /media.

If by “considerable speculation,” she means “actual document leaks,” then we’re on the right track. Yes, there’s been plenty of speculation but there are several exposed documents that give this speculation a solid starting point. The non-confirmation/non-denial continues, spilling onto the next page after a brief respite where the NSA rolls out the talking points and proclaims everything to be firmly above-board.

Therefore, your request is denied because the fact or the existence or non-existence of responsive records is a currently and properly classified matter in accordance with Executive order 13526, as set forth in subparagraph of section 1.4.

The NSA: so secure even non-existing records are classified.

The response letter explains the other reasons everything remains under wraps. Larson is welcome to file an appeal but the lengthy list of exemptions included in this response gives the indication that actually doing so would be a waste of everyone’s time. This leaves Larson with only one legitimate option, the same option the ACLU and EFF find themselves pursuing with increasing frequency.

So where does this leave me? According to Aaron Mackey, a staff attorney at the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, “If you wanted to see those records you would have to file a lawsuit.”

That’s the way it goes in the surveillance state. Information doesn’t want to be free. It wants to be litigated.

June 26, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 2 Comments

EPIC Appeals FOIA Decisions Concerning Body Scanner Information

Electronic Privacy Information Center – April 16, 2013

EPIC has filed appeals in two Freedom of Information Act cases seeking documents related to airport body scanners from the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration.

EPIC filed FOIA requests with the agencies seeking records related to radiation risks from body scanners and the threat detection software the machines use.

The TSA is currently developing formal rules for the use of body scanners in response to a court order in one of EPIC’s previous cases.

Body scanners allow routine digital strip searches of individuals who are not suspected of any crime.

For more information, see EPIC: Radiation Risks lawsuit and EPIC: ATR lawsuit, and EPIC: Suspension of Body Scanner Program.

April 17, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on EPIC Appeals FOIA Decisions Concerning Body Scanner Information

White House wins fight to keep drone killings of Americans secret

RT | January 3, 2013

A federal judge issued a 75-page ruling on Wednesday that declares that the US Justice Department does not have a legal obligation to explain the rationale behind killing Americans with targeted drone strikes.

United States District Court Judge Colleen McMahon wrote in her finding this week that the Obama administration was largely in the right by rejecting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times for materials pertaining to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to execute three US citizens abroad in late 2011 [pdf].

Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both US nationals with alleged ties to al-Qaeda, were killed on September 30th of that year using drone aircraft; days later, al-Awlaki’s teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was executed in the same manner. Although the Obama administration has remained largely quiet about the killings in the year since, a handful of statements made from senior White House officials, including President Barack Obama himself, have provided some but little insight into the Executive Branch’s insistence that the killings were all justified and constitutionally-sound. Attempts from the ACLU and the Times via FOIA requests to find out more have been unfruitful, though, which spawned a federal lawsuit that has only now been decided in court.

Siding with the defendants in what can easily be considered as cloaked in skepticism, Judge McMahon writes that the Obama White House has been correct in refusing the FOIA requests filed by the plaintiffs.

“There are indeed legitimate reasons, historical and legal, to question the legality of killings unilaterally authorized by the Executive that take place otherwise than on a ‘hot’ field of battle,” McMahon writes in her ruling. Because her decision must only weigh whether or not the Obama administration has been right in rejecting the FOIA requests, though, her ruling cannot take into consideration what sort of questions — be it historical, legal, ethical or moral — are raised by the ongoing practice of using remote-controlled drones to kill insurgents and, in these instances, US citizens.

“The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me; but after careful consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules — a veritable Catch-22,” she writes. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reason for their conclusion a secret.”

Throughout her ruling, Judge McMahon cites speeches from both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder in which the al-Awlaki killings are vaguely discussed, but appear to do little more than excuse the administration’s behavior with their own secretive explanations.

“The Constitution’s guarantee of due process is ironclad, and it is essential — but, as a recent court decision makes clear, it does not require judicial approval before the President may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war — even if that individual happens to be a US citizen,” McMahon quotes Mr. Holder as saying during a March 2012 address at Chicago’s Northwestern University. “Holder did not identify which recent court decisions so held,” the judge replies, “Nor did he explain exactly what process was given to the victims of targeted killings at locations far from ‘hot’ battlefields… ”

And while both Mr. Holder and President Obama have discussed the killings in public, including one appearance by the president on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Justice Department insists that going further by releasing any legal evidence that supports the executions would be detrimental to national security.

While Judge McMahon ends up agreeing with the White House, she does so by making known her own weariness over how the Obama administration has forced the court to rely on their own insistence that information about the attacks simply cannot be discussed.

“As they gathered to draft a Constitution for their newly liberated country, the Founders — fresh from a war of independence from the rule of a King they styled a tyrant — were fearful of concentrating power in the hands of any single person or institution, and most particular in the executive,” McMahon writes.

Responding to the decision on Wednesday, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer issued a statement condemning the White House’s just-won ability to relieve itself from any fair and honest explanation as to the justification of Americans.

“This ruling denies the public access to crucial information about the government’s extrajudicial killing of US citizens and also effectively green-lights its practice of making selective and self-serving disclosures,” Jameel writes. “As the judge acknowledges, the targeted killing program raises profound questions about the appropriate limits on government power in our constitutional democracy. The public has a right to know more about the circumstances in which the government believes it can lawfully kill people, including US citizens, who are far from any battlefield and have never been charged with a crime.”

The ACLU says they plan to appeal Judge McMahon’s decision and are currently awaiting news regarding a separate lawsuit filed alongside the Center for Constitutional Rights that directly challenges the constitutionality of the targeted kills.

“The government has argued that case should also be dismissed,” the ACLU notes.

In a Wednesday afternoon statement from the Times, assistant general counsel David McCraw says the paper will appeal the ruling as well.

“We began this litigation because we believed our readers deserved to know more about the US government’s legal position on the use of targeted killings against persons having ties to terrorism, including US citizens,” McCraw says.

Although she ruled against the plaintiffs, Judge McMahon, says McCraw, explained “eloquently … why in a democracy the government should be addressing those questions openly and fully.”

January 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Comments Off on White House wins fight to keep drone killings of Americans secret

‘Most transparent administration’ violates federal transparency laws

RT | September 28, 2012

Nineteen out of 20 cabinet-level agencies under the Obama administration have failed to follow the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, thereby disobeying the law that demands disclosure of public information.

White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew said in July that the Obama administration “has been the most transparent ever.” But an analysis of government requests filed by Bloomberg News has found an alarming number of transparency violations, particularly when it comes to the taxpayer-funded cost of travel by top officials.

“When it comes to implementation of Obama’s wonderful transparency policy goals, especially FOIA policy in particular, there has been far more ‘talk the talk’ rather than ‘walk the walk,’’ Daniel Metcalfe, director of the Department of Justice’s office monitoring the government’s compliance with FOIA requests, told the news agency.

In 2009, the newly sworn in President Obama promised a new standard of transparency that his administration has not upheld – even accepting awards for what he oversaw as “the most transparent administration in history.”

“I will hold myself as president to a new standard of openness… Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,” he said while welcoming his senior staff and cabinet secretaries to his office. Two years later, the administration continued to boast about its supposed transparency.

“This president has demonstrated a commitment to transparency and openness that is greater than any administration has shown in the past, and he’s been committed to that since he ran for president and he’s taken a significant number of measures to demonstrate that,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in May 2011, before the president accepted an award for transparency.

But Bloomberg’s report highlights specific instances in which secrecy was a normal part of the regime. Under FOIA, the news agency requested documents from 57 federal agencies regarding taxpayer-funded travel. Only eight of 57 agencies responded within the 20-day time frame required by the Act. The other agencies are under violation of FOIA for failing to submit the documents on time.

And Eric Newtown, senior advisor at the Knight Foundation, said there should be no excuses.

“In a 24/7 world, it should take two days, it should take two hours,” he said. “If it’s public, it should be just there.”

Bloomberg eventually received documents disclosing fiscal year 2011 travel costs from about half of the agencies, although most came well past the legal deadline.

Travel costs by top Obama officials, including the transportation secretary, energy secretary, environmental protection agency administrator and homeland security chief, remain undisclosed.

The lack of public disclosure regarding travel costs of many cabinet-level top officials has become concerning since the General Services Administration’s inspector general spent $823,000 of taxpayer money on a one-day event in Las Vegas in 2010.

Another one of Bloomberg’s FOIA request also found that federal agencies have increased their use of exemptions to block the release of information under the Obama administration. Cabinet agencies employed exemptions 466,402 times during Obama’s first year in office, which is a 50 percent jump from the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency.

“I don’t think the administration has been very good at all on open-government issues,” said Katherine Meyer, a Washington attorney. “The Obama administration is as bad as any of them, and to some extent worse.”

September 29, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 1 Comment

FBI ‘Primer’ Instructs Interrogators to Break Detainees Through Isolation

By Kevin Gosztola | FireDogLake | August 2, 2012

A “primer” from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seems to encourage the use of isolation to break down prisoners in overseas prisons. Published in 2011, it advocates the use of this coercive measure to break detainees ahead of interrogations, which violates or runs contrary to FBI policy.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained the “primer” through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Devon Chaffee, Legislative Council for the ACLU, says it is the first document she has seen “that’s written by an FBI agent” and “explicitly recommends that FBI agents recommend that detainees be put in isolation.”

Here is part of the primer that led the ACLU to be concerned:

…For the safety of other detainees in the facility, detainees fresh from the battlefield should be detained in individual cells until complete assessment can be made. The assessment can be considered to be complete when the decision has been made whether to release the detainee or send him to long term detention facility. Additionally, access to anything above the baseline level of treatment provided to all detainees should be strictly controlled by the assigned Interrogator. Granting this authority and control to the Interrogator places the Interrogator in a position of power that can provide an advantage when crafting an approach strategy.

Isolation of the detainee not only ensures the safety of other detainees but also prevents the individual detainee from drawing strength from the support and companionship of other detainees It also prevents collusion on cover stories between detainees. A large part of the Interrogators advantage is the natural fear of the unknown that the detainee will be experiencing. Exposure to other detainees will mitigate that fear. You may not be in a position to influence how your subject is held, but at a minimum you should know if he has been held in a communal cell prior to interrogation…

Chaffee considers this to be problematic because “isolation was component of many of the abusive interrogations that took place” after the September 11th attacks. Isolation can lead to serious abuses in interrogation. The FBI also has a policy that prohibits the “use of coercion in interrogation” and the FBI and Supreme Court have recognized that “isolation in interrogation is an indication of coercion.” [For these reasons, the ACLU sent a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller.]

The FBI would presumably contend the isolation is only done for so-called security purposes, however, additional language in the “primer” makes it clear the isolation is intended to inflict a psychological impact on detainees so they are essentially in a state of “learned helplessness” (like what the CIA has done to detainees in their custody whom they’ve tortured).

…[D]etainees should not be held in the clothing they are captured in. Detaining a subject in his own clothing could impact negatively on the health and safety of detention facility personnel and other detainees in the facility. Having the detainee change into hospital pajamas, or some other generic clothing, and flip flops has the added benefit of removing a potential source of comfort and an anchor to the world outside the detention facility. This is an important step in the process of detaching the detainee from the outside world and replacing his concern for his cause and his colleagues with a concern for his own fate

…In order to create the optimum conditions for a productive interview, if the policy of the facility permits, consider having your detainee placed in an individual cell several days before you begin interrogation. If you are conducting law enforcement interviews in a DOD facility, a formal request from the FBI must be made to isolate a detainee. This request must be approved by the first O-6 in the chain of command.

Keep in mind that a thorough interrogation may be a multi-session, multi-day process. Having your subject return to a communal cell between sessions is completely counterproductive. A subject returning to a communal cell will feel pressure from fellow detainees based on the duration of his absence from the cell and the knowledge that he will be questioned by his peers upon his return. Isolation of your subject removes this intangible, but extremely powerful, influence from your subject. [emphasis added]

Chaffee notes, ”There are some legitimate administrative reasons why a detainee for a limited amount of time would need to be isolated, potentially at his request or for his protection from other detainees in the facility, for instance.” But, “the way that it is described and the language that is being used” suggests the isolation is being employed to “break a detainee’s will” and that to the ACLU “seems inherently coercive.”

Also, there is no need to “separate the detainee from the entire population” if collusion is suspected. Just separate the detainee from the detainee(s) he is suspected of colluding with. And, if a decision to separate detainees needs to be made, the head of the facility should make that decision. Why should an FBI interrogator be in a position to make this decision?

It is unclear if this encouragement for isolation is re-emerging in policy. However, Chaffee argues the FBI should not be asking foreign governments or other agencies to engage in conduct that the FBI agents are prohibited from engaging in, especially when this conduct could potentially lead to human rights abuses.

A final note: creating a state of “learned helplessness” in a prisoner, a concept developed by positive psychologist Martin Seligman, can deliberately make that prisoner ill.

This post by David Dobbs over at (a partner with National Geographic) explains that “some studies have shown ‘learned helplessness’ to be an apt model for major depression from both a behavioral and even a neurological perspective. In a sense, then, to intentionally produce it in someone by causing them pain and distress in a situation they are powerless to change is to inflict on them a mental illness.” Inducing a state of helplessness or depression in a person through isolation—which is torture—will likely make a human very ill.

Given this scientific reality, the FBI’s ‘primer’ unmistakably encourages the cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners.

August 3, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Comments Off on FBI ‘Primer’ Instructs Interrogators to Break Detainees Through Isolation

Pentagon: ‘Gitmo drugged prisoners for their sake… then interrogated’

RT | July 13, 2012

A recently-released Pentagon report admits to interrogating Guantanamo Bay prisoners after administering mind-altering treatments to them – often forcibly against their will – but stresses it was not done for the purposes of interrogation.

The report by the inspector general of the US Department of Defense obtained by under the Freedom of Information Act, found that some Gitmo inmates were questioned while receiving prescribed psychoactive treatments.

The Pentagon has tried to justify the facility staff’s actions, saying that “nowhere in the medical records did we find any evidence of mind-altering drugs being administered for the purpose of interrogation,” as the report states on page 13.

“The detainees were not given drugs as a means to facilitate interrogation,” insisted Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale.

But the report does admit that “certain detainees, diagnosed as having serious mental health conditions being treated with psychoactive medications on a continuing basis, were interrogated.”

The inspector general also notes that “numerous” inmates have complained of being medicated against their will, but adds that wardens have used treatments known as “chemical restraints” to quell the aggressive individuals.

“Some detainees were involuntarily medicated to help control serious mental illnesses,” says a former commander of the Joint Medical Group at Guantanamo.

The report further admits that drugs administered “could impair an individual’s ability to provide accurate information.”

The medication under question, known as Haldol, has been used for over 50 years, and is often administered in psychiatric wards. Several side effects including depression, suicidal behavior and heart attacks are known to exist.

The Pentagon spokesman has refused to comment about how often such substances are used at the detention center, where the US has locked up nearly 170 men, writes the Washington Post.

Being drugged-up changes nothing?

After reviewing the report, David Remes, an attorney of one of the detainees, sounded an alarm saying that there is a vast possibility that statements and evidence obtained from those using psychoactive medication cannot be used in order to justify charging detainees held at the base.

The revelations in the study have raised numerous concerns among human rights activists.

“The inspector general’s report confirms that detainees whose mental deterioration and suffering was so great as to lead to psychosis and attempts at self-harm were given anti-psychotic medication and subjected to further interrogation,” Leonard Rubenstein, a medical ethicist at Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights, told

However, some stipulate that evidence obtained through these methods would hold up in court.

Shayana Kadidal, from the Center for Constitutional Rights says that under the system set up by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, any statements detainees made during these interrogations would be presumed accurate “even if detainees took medication that could produce unreliable information.”

Kadidal added that “the burden ends up falling upon the detainee to prove what was said wasn’t accurate if they were challenging their detention in habeas corpus proceedings.”

July 13, 2012 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Pentagon: ‘Gitmo drugged prisoners for their sake… then interrogated’

Obama Regime Files Midnight Brief Defending Secrecy Surrounding “Targeted Killing”

ACLU | June 21, 2012

Just before a midnight deadline, the Obama administration filed a 50-page brief this evening defending the secrecy surrounding the “targeted killing” program.  The administration writes: “Whether or not the CIA has the authority to be, or is in fact, directly involved in targeted lethal operations remains classified.”  The case concerns a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the ACLU last year for records concerning the targeted killing program generally as well as the killing of three American citizens in Yemen last year.

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU:

“The notion that the CIA’s targeted killing program is still a secret is beyond absurd.  Senior officials have discussed it, both on the record and off.  They have taken credit for its putative successes, professed it to be legal, and dismissed concerns about civilian casualties.  If they can make these claims to the media, they can answer requests under the Freedom of Information Act.  The public is entitled to know more about the legal authority the administration is claiming and the way that the administration is using it.  The administration should release the legal memos that purportedly justify the targeted killing program, and it should release more information about the process by which individuals, including American citizens, are added to government kill lists.  It should also release the evidence that led the administration to kill three Americans, including a 16-year-old boy, last year.”

“We continue to have profound concerns with the power the administration is claiming and with the proposition that the President should be permitted to exercise this power without oversight by the courts. That the administration believes a power so sweeping should be exercised in secret is astounding.”

Today’s filing comes after the government sought several extensions to respond to the ACLU’s lawsuit.  In its last request for an extension, the government stated to the court that it needed further time to allow for “deliberations at the highest levels of the Executive Branch.”

The government’s brief can be found here:–17573.pdf

CONTACT: ACLU national,

June 21, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Comments Off on Obama Regime Files Midnight Brief Defending Secrecy Surrounding “Targeted Killing”

CIA: We Do Not “Concede or Not Concede” that Waterboarding is Illegal

ACLU | March 13, 2012

On Friday, the ACLU appeared before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to argue that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires the CIA to release documents describing its use of waterboarding. The simple question at the heart of the hearing was this: is waterboarding an “intelligence method” that can be protected from disclosure under FOIA? We argued that the answer — of course not — is easy because even the president himself has declared that waterboarding is illegal. Exposing official misconduct to public scrutiny is the chief purpose of FOIA. But it cannot serve that purpose if even officially confirmed illegality is protectable.

The CIA disagreed and offered a truly astonishing view of what our laws on transparency were meant to protect from the public’s view. Under its theory, the agency may protect just about any type of activity — legal or illegal — as an “intelligence method,” and thus conceal such activities from the public. It does not matter that President Obama has declared waterboarding to be illegal, and it does not matter that the United States has prosecuted waterboarding as a war crime in the past. Even the most egregiously unlawful interrogation techniques could be kept secret as “intelligence methods” of the CIA.

Was the CIA really making this argument? We would soon find out that even the CIA’s lawyer seemed uncomfortable with the extraordinary breadth of the claim, resorting to smoke and mirrors to distract the court’s focus. Toward the end of the hearing, the three judges and the CIA’s lawyer recessed for a 40-minute classified session to discuss the documents we are seeking. When the public hearing resumed, the CIA’s lawyer made the mystifying claim that the CIA “does not concede or not concede” that waterboarding is illegal.

We scratched our heads trying to understand what exactly this meant. President Obama declared waterboarding to be illegal shortly after releasing the Bush administration’s torture memos in 2009. And the CIA never once disputed the unlawfulness of waterboarding in its filings in this case. The only possibility was that the government was trying to have it both ways. It wants to win this case without having to argue publicly that illegal conduct can be a protectable “intelligence method.”

At its core, the CIA’s argument is that the agency should be permitted to decide for itself which information should be released, and which should be suppressed. The agency believes that courts should simply defer to its decisions about secrecy. There is a time and place for that kind of deference, of course, but when it comes to public disclosure of the CIA’s illegal conduct, the CIA’s claim to immunity is fundamentally at odds with our system of checks and balances. Only through public scrutiny of official wrongdoing can the governed hold the government accountable. And only through robust judicial enforcement of our transparency laws will the public have access to the information necessary to do so.

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 2 Comments