11 August 2015

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen!

It turns out that the DHS no fly list is basically based on hunches with a pseudo-scientific gloss:
The Obama administration’s no-fly lists and broader watchlisting system is based on predicting crimes rather than relying on records of demonstrated offenses, the government has been forced to admit in court.

In a little-noticed filing before an Oregon federal judge, the US Justice Department and the FBI conceded that stopping US and other citizens from travelling on airplanes is a matter of “predictive assessments about potential threats”, the government asserted in May.

“By its very nature, identifying individuals who ‘may be a threat to civil aviation or national security’ is a predictive judgment intended to prevent future acts of terrorism in an uncertain context,” Justice Department officials Benjamin C Mizer and Anthony J Coppolino told the court on 28 May.

“Judgments concerning such potential threats to aviation and national security call upon the unique prerogatives of the Executive in assessing such threats.”

It is believed to be the government’s most direct acknowledgement to date that people are not allowed to fly because of what the government believes they might do and not what they have already done.


On Friday, the ACLU asked Judge Anna Brown to conduct her own review of the error rate in the government’s predictions modeling – a process the ACLU likens to the “pre-crime” of Philip K Dick’s science fiction.

“I believe this is the first case in which a court is being asked to review the basis for the government’s predictive model for blacklisting people who have never even been charged, let alone convicted, of a violent crime,” said ACLU attorney Hina Shamsi.

In March, as a result of the lawsuit, the Department of Homeland Security began informing people of their inclusion on a flight blacklist and permitting them to file a “redress inquiry”. The resulting non-adversarial process has the government perform “careful consideration” of its reasons for blacklisting, with the Transportation Security Agency director as final arbiter. The ACLU considers the new process insufficient.

But the Obama administration is seeking to block the release of further information about how the predictions are made, for the same reason it opposes providing greater information for challenging watchlist inclusion: damage to national security.


In April 2014, five people, all of whom are Muslim, claimed that they were suddenly forbidden from flying after declining FBI pressure to become informants or in order to place pressure upon them to do so. Informants, along with social media postings, have become a driving factor in the FBI’s uptick in arrests of people suspected of ties to al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

In July 2014, the Intercept published an internal watchlisting guidance indicating that nominations to government watchlists were growing, with few rejections. Social media posts were among acceptable criteria, and acquittals in court did not necessarily lead to removals from the list, the Intercept’s document showed.
We are living in an era where the state security apparatus, and the executive that is supposed to ensure that they work in accordance with our interests and our values are thoroughly corrupted by power and fear.

Obama's message is to tell us not to worry, because he is a good and trustworthy man.

The whole point of our system, with its separation of powers, is that we are not supposed to rely on the the good nature of our leaders.

Obama has taken the worst excesses of the Bush administration, and normalized them.

This will Obama's most important legacy, and it is not a positive one.

Worst Constitutional Law Professor Ever!


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