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Category Archives: Civil Liberties

Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Background and Selected Options for Further Reform

EveryCRSReport.com – Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Background and Selected Options for Further Reform, December 4, 2018: “Prior to the establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) in 1976 and 1977, respectively, Congress did not take much interest in conducting oversight of the Intelligence Community (IC). The Subcommittees on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the congressional Armed Services Committees had nominal oversight responsibility, though Congress generally trusted that IC could more or less regulate itself, conduct activities that complied with the law, were ethical, and shared a common understanding of national security priorities. Media reports in the 1970s of the CIA’s domestic surveillance of Americans opposed to the war in Vietnam, in addition to the agency’s activities relating to national elections in Chile, prompted Congress to change its approach. In 1975, Congress established two select committees to investigate intelligence activities, chaired by Senator Frank Church in the Senate (the “Church Committee”), and Representative Otis Pike in the House (the “Pike Committee”). Following their creation, the Church and Pike committees’ hearings revealed the possible extent of the abuse of authority by the IC and the potential need for permanent committee oversight focused solely on the IC and intelligence activities. SSCI and HPSCI oversight contributed substantially to Congress’s work to legislate improvements to intelligence organization, programs, and processes and it enabled a more structured, routine relationship with intelligence agencies. On occasion this has resulted in Congress advocating on behalf of intelligence reform legislation that many agree has generally improved IC organization and performance. At other times, congressional oversight has been perceived as less helpful, delving into the details of programs and activities…

An oft-cited observation of the Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (i.e., the 9-11 Commission) that congressional oversight of intelligence is “dysfunctional” continues to overshadow discussion of whether Congress has done enough. Does congressional oversight enable the IC to be more effective, better funded and organized, or does it burden agencies by the sheer volume of detailed inquiries into intelligence programs and related activities? A central question for Congress is: Could additional changes to the rules governing congressional oversight of intelligence enable Congress to more effectively fund programs, influence policy, and legislate improvements in intelligence standards, organization and process that would make the country safer?..”

The long, tortured quest to make Google unbiased

The Verge – Can a search engine ever be meaningfully neutral: “[December 11, 2018], Sundar Pichai will try to reassure Congress that Google’s search engine isn’t rigged. The Google CEO is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday [The Hearing is titled – Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and… Continue Reading

Your smartphone’s AI algorithms could tell if you are depressed

MIT Technology Review: “Your smartphone’s AI algorithms could tell if you are depressed. Smartphones that are used to track our faces and voices could also help lower the barrier to mental-health diagnosis and treatment. Depression is a huge problem for millions of people, and it is often compounded by poor mental-health support and stigma. Early diagnosis… Continue Reading

How Incarcerated Parents Are Losing Their Children Forever

The Marshall Project -“Mothers and fathers who have a child placed in foster care because they are incarcerated — but who have not been accused of child abuse, neglect, endangerment, or even drug or alcohol use — are more likely to have their parental rights terminated than those who physically or sexually assault their kids,… Continue Reading

Federal Workers Warned Against Talk of ‘Impeachment,’ ‘the Resistance’

Reason.com: “Employees of the federal government were warned this week that both praising and criticizing the Trump administration while on duty may be considered illegal. Federal workers are specifically barred from “advocating” for or against impeachment and from expressing support for the so-called “resistance” to President Donald Trump. Such expressions could be considered violations of… Continue Reading

PowerPoint and Skype gain live captions and subtitles

VentureBeat: “Real-time captions and subtitles are heading to PowerPoint and Skype, the company today revealed in a pair of announcements timed to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (UN IDPD). “The word ‘empower’ means a lot to every Microsoft employee, it’s a key word in our mission ‘to empower every person… Continue Reading

New study from NC confirms some long-held folk wisdom about race and juries

The New York Times – Prof. Ronald Wright – “A new study from North Carolina confirms some long-held folk wisdom about race and juries. The good news is there are two doable solutions. Race, as a matter of constitutional principle, cannot factor into the selection of jurors for criminal trials. But in the American justice… Continue Reading

Secret Service tests facial recognition system at the White House

FCW.com: “The Secret Service started testing a facial recognition system in and around the White House last week, according to a privacy assessment released by the Department of Homeland Security on Nov. 28. The pilot uses a facial recognition system, unnamed in the privacy document, to pore over faces collected by the Crown closed circuit… Continue Reading

Asylum Decisions and Denials Jump in 2018

“Fiscal year 2018 broke records for the number of decisions by immigration judges granting or denying asylum. Denials grew faster than grants, pushing denial rates up as well. In 65 percent of these decisions asylum was denied. This is the sixth year in a row that denial rates have risen. Six years ago the denial… Continue Reading

U.S. Unauthorized Immigrant Total Dips to Lowest Level in a Decade

“The number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. fell to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on 2016 government data. The decline is due almost entirely to a sharp decrease in the number of Mexicans entering the country without authorization. But the Mexican border remains… Continue Reading

How to Get Your Lawmakers to Listen

ProPublica – “In our final installment of the User’s Guide to Democracy, we asked a live panel of congressional experts to help you stay engaged in politics after the midterms have ended. Congress Works For You. Here’s How to Be a Better Boss.” [h/t Pete Weiss] “You did it! In this month’s midterm election, you… Continue Reading

How China Walled Off the Internet

The New York Times – “Today, China has the world’s only internet companies that can match America’s in ambition and reach. It is years ahead of the United States in replacing paper money with smartphone payments, turning tech giants into vital gatekeepers of the consumer economy. And it is host to a supernova of creative… Continue Reading