Secure Liberties Newsletter

Covering War, Peace, Militarism and Everything in Between 

Groups increase pressure to shut down 1033 Program. Demand Progress led more than 90 organizations last week ahead of the full committee markup of the NDAA, urging members to use the opportunity to support the inclusion of language to end the Pentagon’s 1033 Program. While no action was taken in HASC, we expect floor votes in both the House and Senate on 1033 NDAA reform amendments later this month.

Wrong face, wrongful arrest. In Detroit, the ACLU just filed a complaint against law enforcement after they arrested Robert Williams, a Black man, based on faulty facial recognition results. It’s the first case of its kind. Here’s his op-ed telling the story. This is what civil liberties groups, and our own government, were worried would happen.

The Battle for Briefings: Intelligence oversight heated up last week over access to information on the other side of The New York Times’s reporting on Russian bounties. Politico dives into the fight here. Late last week, intelligence officials briefed the Gang of Eight.

Progressive members call for conditioning U.S. military funding to Israel if Israel moves forward with annexationin a letter that lays out how they would respond to unilateral annexation of large parts of the West Bank. The Arab American Institute, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, Demand Progress, and many more organizations have thrown their support behind the AOC-Sanders led letter. 

Meanwhile, someone is cleaning (Biden transition team member) Avril Haines’s CVAccording to The Intercept: “Haines has in the past described herself as a former consultant for the controversial data-mining firm Palantir. Haines’s biography page at the Brookings Institute […] boasted of this affiliation until at least last week, when it suddenly no longer appeared on the page.” Reporter Ryan Grim discusses the reporting further here.

Former Sen. Udall speaks out about Haines’s role covering up the CIA’s hacking of the Senate over the torture report: “If our country is going to turn the page on the dark chapter of our history that was the CIA’s torture program, we need to stop nominating and confirming individuals who led this terrible program and helped cover it up.” 

10% Cut for the Pentagon Budget? Rep. Lee, Sen. Sanders, and 61 organizations are arguing that COVID-19 is more than ample evidence that the United States should prioritize public health and other domestic issues over endless war. That’s why Sanders and others will offer an NDAA amendment that “would take $74 billion in annual savings from the Pentagon—exempting salaries and health care—to create a domestic federal grant program to fund health care, housing, childcare and educational opportunities for cities and towns experiencing a poverty rate of 25% or more.”

Intelligence Authorization to dodge floorAccording to Politico, S.3905 has become an amendment to the NDAA. This comes after the controversial removal of a provision from the intel auth that would have required campaigns to report on foreign election interference.

About those arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE… Demand Progress joined nearly two dozen organizations calling on Congress to block new arms sales and to downgrade relationships with both monarchies.

Wrong face, wrongful arrestThe New York Times and The Verge have more on the Williams case, but we’re using this space to add: In recent history we’ve seen Boston ban facial recognition, joining San Francisco, as well as companies like IBM turn their back on the controversial technology. This appears to be the first known wrongful arrest based on facial recognition technology, which, as described by Scientific American, NIST revealed can be “10 to 100 times more likely to inaccurately identify a photograph of a [B]lack or East Asian face, compared with a white one.”

Detroit Police Chief says 96% of the time, face recognition misidentifies someone, which likely means there are a lot of people in Detroit being questioned by law enforcement who don’t know why.

Just introduced: The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, from Sens. Markey and Merkley and Reps. Jayapal and Pressley. The bill would stop the use of facial recognition technology and pull federal support for local law enforcement that doesn’t follow suit. The WaPo editorial team had some nice things to say.

DOJ takes aim at “anti-government extremists” in its escalating effort to target ongoing protests. The memo that created the task force says of the protestors: “Some pretend to profess a message of freedom and progress, but they are in fact forces of anarchy, destruction, and coercion.” The letter singles out “those who support the ‘Boogaloo,’ those who self-identify as Antifa, and others.” It’s not clear all of those targets are like the others, however, and as the Times noted, AG Barr “did not cite evidence” for claims that “foreign entities” are involved. Nonetheless, the government will “gather information about the extremists from federal prosecutors, the FBI and other parts of the Justice Department and share it with other federal, state and local law enforcement offices.”

EARN IT Act passed Senate Judiciary, ostensibly in the interest of combatting child pornography online. Despite a manager’s amendment, the ACLU (among others) argues that the bill “undermines the privacy of every single American, stifles our ability to communicate freely online, harms LGBTQ people, sex workers, and protesters, and jeopardizes the very prosecutions it seeks to enable.”

Pushback over the massacre at the Open Technology Fund continues. In the past two weeks, ousted OTF leadership sued, calling the firings unlawful, while many hundreds of organizations called on Congress to protect the entity. One of the key questions is whether the goal of the firings was to skew funding toward closed source programs.

Avril Haines’s CV isn’t the only thing raising eyebrows with Biden’s foreign policy transition team, if this deep dive into “How Biden’s Foreign-Policy Team Got Rich” is any indication.

TechCrunch’s security editor is experiencing a cat-in-the-middle attack.

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