And, of course, once someone is so designated, the US Patriot Act allows them to be imprisoned indefinitely and in secret. Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux explain at The Intercept:
The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept.
The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place “entire categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.
Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases—though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list. In an affidavit, Holder called them a “clear roadmap” to the government’s terrorist-tracking apparatus, adding: “The Watchlisting Guidance, although unclassified, contains national security information that, if disclosed … could cause significant harm to national security.”
The rulebook, which The Intercept is publishing in full, was developed behind closed doors by representatives of the nation’s intelligence, military, and law-enforcement establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI. Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date. It reveals a confounding and convoluted system filled with exceptions to its own rules, and it relies on the elastic concept of “reasonable suspicion” as a standard for determining whether someone is a possible threat. Because the government tracks “suspected terrorists” as well as “known terrorists,” individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being a suspected terrorist, or if they are suspected of associating with people who are suspected of terrorism activity.
“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” says Hina Shamsi, the head of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi, who reviewed the document, added, “These criteria should never have been kept secret.”
The document’s definition of “terrorist” activity includes actions that fall far short of bombing or hijacking. In addition to expected crimes, such as assassination or hostage-taking, the guidelines also define destruction of government property and damaging computers used by financial institutions as activities meriting placement on a list. They also define as terrorism any act that is “dangerous” to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation.
This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources—and might go unnoticed.
“If reasonable suspicion is the only standard you need to label somebody, then it’s a slippery slope we’re sliding down here, because then you can label anybody anything,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent with experience running high-profile terrorism investigations. “Because you appear on a telephone list of somebody doesn’t make you a terrorist. That’s the kind of information that gets put in there.”
The fallout is personal too. There are severe consequences for people unfairly labeled a terrorist by the U.S. government, which shares its watchlist data with local law enforcement, foreign governments, and “private entities.” Once the U.S. government secretly labels you a terrorist or terrorist suspect, other institutions tend to treat you as one. It can become difficult to get a job (or simply to stay out of jail). It can become burdensome—or impossible—to travel. And routine encounters with law enforcement can turn into ordeals. . .
Tom Jacobs reports at Pacific Standard:
Plenty of research has suggested immersing yourself in nature has significant mental and physical health benefits. But can it also make you a better person? New research from France suggests it just might.
In two experiments, pedestrians who had just strolled through a beautiful park were more likely to come to the aid or a stranger who had just dropped a glove. Writing in the journal Environment and Behavior, Nicolas Guéguen and Jordy Stefan of the University of Bretagne-Sud refer to this as “green altruism.”
Their first experiment featured
There are plenty of conclusions you can draw from this, but one of the key ones is that it demonstrates that corporate boards are almost completely unable to predict how well CEO candidates will do on the job. They insist endlessly that they’re looking for only the very top candidates—with pay packages to match—and I don’t doubt that they sincerely think this is what they’re doing. In fact, though, they don’t have a clue who will do better. They could be hiring much cheaper leaders and would probably get about the same performance.
One reason that CEO pay has skyrocketed is that boards compete with each other for candidates who seem to be the best, but don’t realize that it’s all a chimera. They have no idea.
Another reason for traditional wet-shaving’s appeal: By requiring more effort it provides a sense of control
And a sense of control is exactly what people crave when the general situation, globally, nationally, and locally, feels out of control (cf. the three earlier posts on law enforcement, which was once a source of a sense of control). Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard:
As a proposed advertising slogan, “Requires Effort” wouldn’t pass muster with Don Draper. But surprising new research finds that, under certain circumstances, people are in fact drawn to products that demand some work.
Such items become more desirable when people feel a lack of control over their lives, according to Keisha Cutright of the University of Pennsylvania and Adriana Samper of Arizona State University. These “high-effort products,” they write, enable frustrated individuals to recapture a sense of personal power.
“Beyond seeking products that merely symbolize a given trait,” Cutright and Samper write in the Journal of Consumer Research, “consumers sometimes prefer products that give them an opportunity to actually demonstrate that they possess a trait.”
The researchers describe five studies that provide evidence for their thesis. In the first, . . .
Feeling that one lacks control in his or her life puts one at serious risk for depression—or, as Martin Seligman termed it in his studies, “learned helplessness.” (His book Learned Optimism is quite interesting—inexpensive secondhand copies at the link.)
In California, some homeowners face a bad choice: pay a $500 fine to the city for not watering their law or pay a $500 fine to the state for watering their lawn.
I suppose they could try watering half their lawn, and pay $250 to each?
It’s hard to respect the law when it presents this sort of situation.
You might wonder why the NYPD has such a mixed reputation for its attitude toward citizens, particularly citizens of color. Eric Garner was recently killed on Staten Island by a NYPD officer using chokehold, which the police are not allowed to use. Why would a police officer do that when the offense is merely selling cigarettes. For a look into the mindset, check out this forum where police are posting their thoughts. You have to scroll down some at the link to get to the comments from the police.
In other law-enforcement news, the police union chief in Philadelphia stated that the authors of a book on a corrupt narcotics user paid their informants, which of course the police routinely do. But he offered no evidence whatsoever: just a statement that the book should be banned. The comments to the story are good.
In the light of the comments from the Philadelphia police-union chief, I think it’s a VERY good idea to take disciplining of police officers out of the hands of the police union. The police union exists (apparently) to protect police no matter what they do. To give them the authority and responsibility to discipline police officers is a huge conflict of interest, and they will almost certainly find in favor of those providing their financial support (through union dues). Unions have a role, but disciplining their members doesn’t fit that role.
The problem is that we’re moving rapidly in the direction of a police state, where the police assume the right to do whatever they want—including preventing people from taking photos in public: read this brief article from a reporter trying to take photos of the 7 ugliest buildings in Washington DC. For each building he had checked ahead of time whether it would be okay to photograph the building. It was. The cops disagreed. (Glenn Reynolds, a conservative blogger and a law professor, thinks the police are way out of bounds on this.)
This is good news, though the DoJ seems to be digging in its heels: too much work, they say.