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Bennie Thompson Sues Trump, His Mobsters, and Rudy G under the NAACP Act

Congressman Bennie Thompson, who is the Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, just sued the Former President, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers under the Ku Klux Klan Act for setting off a mob on January 6. Effectively, Thompson argues that the conspirators deliberately set off an insurrection and the insurrection succeeded in preventing Thompson from performing his duties in certifying the vote.

4. In furtherance of this common goal of preventing the timely approval of the Electoral College vote count, the Defendants acted in concert to incite and then carry out a riot at the Capitol by promoting an assembly of persons to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct or the threat of it that created grave danger of harm to the Plaintiff and to other Members of Congress.

5. This conduct jointly undertaken to threaten the Plaintiff and other Members of Congress in order to disrupt the Electoral College vote count was part of an ongoing course of action pursued by the Defendants for the purpose of contesting the announced results of the presidential election held in November 2020 and preventing the duly elected President and Vice President from attaining approval of Congress of their election necessary to their inauguration.

6. The insurrection at the Capitol was a direct, intended, and foreseeable result of the Defendants’ unlawful conspiracy. It was instigated according to a common plan that the Defendants pursued since the election held in November 2020, culminating in an assembly denominated as the “Save America” rally held at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, during which Defendants Trump and Giuliani incited a crowd of thousands to descend upon the Capitol in order to prevent or delay through the use of force the counting of Electoral College votes. As part of this unified plan to prevent the counting of Electoral College votes, Defendants Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, through their leadership, acted in concert to spearhead the assault on the Capitol while the angry mob that Defendants Trump and Giuliani incited descended on the Capitol. The carefully orchestrated series of events that unfolded at the Save America rally and the storming of the Capitol was no accident or coincidence. It was the intended and foreseeable culmination of a carefully coordinated campaign to interfere with the legal process required to confirm the tally of votes cast in the Electoral College.

It combines many of the allegations laid out in the impeachment inquiry with the allegations laid out in some — but not the most recentOath Keeper and Proud Boy conspiracy cases.

There are old details not included — such as that Trump’s DOJ treated threats from Proud Boys against Judge Amy Berman Jackson to be a technicality, as well as recently revealed details not included, including details about how the Proud Boys prevented cops from shutting down access to the tunnels.

But there are a lot of key details, down to lawmakers contracting COVID after he was stuck sheltering with colleagues who refused to wear masks.

126. By being required to shelter in place, Plaintiff Thompson and other Members of Congress were forced to occupy space that did not allow for the social distancing measures that minimized the risk of transmission of the virus.

127. Shortly after the siege on the Capitol ended, at least two other Members of Congress who shared the confined space with Plaintiff Thompson tested positive for COVID-19.

It is a well-argued suit and we will see what happens (bmaz warns that a criminal conspiracy charge against Trump is a ways off, which it is, temporally, though he doesn’t consider the object of the conspiracies actually being charged, which is very similar to what Thompson alleges).

If nothing else, this will oblige the defendants to retain documents until such time as the FBI comes looking for them.

Update: Corrected that Thompson did not contract COVID and my defendants/plaintiff problem.

House Intelligence Committee Moves to Learn How OTHER Services Don’t Throw Away Incidental US Person Data

I’ve long been tracking the implications of the Air Force’s policy to keep US person data incidentally collected using domestic drones. Effectively, it would allow the government to collect data on select locations (such as a likely drug trafficking route), so long as it didn’t target any particular American, and then refer back to or data mine that information in the future.

The policy is (not surprisingly, since both are DOD) very nearly parallel to what we think is happening with the NSA’s collections. So long as they weren’t originally targeting a US person, the government seems to be saying, nothing prevents them from going back to use the data in the future.

Which is why I’m not all that impressed by the House Intelligence Committee’s push, in this year’s appropriations bill, to require other services and DOD agencies to lay out what they’re doing with domestic collections.

Congress has directed the Secretary of Defense to report on the handling of surveillance data collected by military unmanned aerial systems operating in domestic airspace.  A provision in the 2013 continuing appropriations conference bill approved by the House yesterday explained:

“The conferees are aware of concerns that have been raised regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and their sensors in domestic airspace. The conferees understand that the Air Force has policies and procedures in place governing the disposition of UAV collections that may inadvertently capture matters of concern to law enforcement agencies. These policies and procedures are designed to ensure constitutional protections and proper separation between the military and law enforcement. However, it is unclear if other Services and Defense agencies have similar policies and procedures in place, or if these policies and procedures need to be revised or standardized. Therefore, the conferees direct the Secretary of Defense to report to the congressional defense committees on the policies and procedures in place across the Services and Defense agencies governing the use of such collections and to identify any additional steps that need to be taken to ensure that such policies and procedures are adequate and consistent across the Department of Defense. This report shall be submitted not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act.” [my emphasis]

Given the liberal policies the Air Force uses on “incidentally” collected information, it doesn’t seem to offer much protection under the Fourth Amendment (not least because the Clapper decision means we would never be able to challenge such collection). Rather, this effort seems designed to placate concerns about violations of Posse Comitatus and potentially stave off real privacy efforts.

When the Michael Chertoff threatened to use satellites to conduct this kind of surveillance 5 years ago, Democrats (led by Bennie Thompson and Jane Harman) balked, and forced Chertoff to back down. Since then, however, drones that can and do conduct the same kind of surveillance (in the guise of training, mind you!) have been rolled out without, until just recently, any focus on the same issues.

Yet another example of what a Democratic President can get away with that a Republican cannot.

Bennie Thompson to Peter King: What about the White Supremacists?

Ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson, just wrote a letter to Peter King asking him to include other terrorists, in addition to Islamic extremists, in his fear-mongering hearing this month.

I write to request that you broaden the scope of your examination of ideological-based violence.

Terrorists of all ideologies seek to do Americans harm. According to a polling of state law enforcement agencies conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s START Center of Excellence, there are a variety of domestic extremist groups more prevalent in the United States than Islamic extremists, including neo-Nazis, environmental extremists, anti-tax groups, and others. Islamic extremist groups were named a threat in 31 states, according to the poll; Neo-Nazi groups, by contrast, posed a serious threat in 46 states.

Ideological-based violence of all kinds has been on the rise, according to a variety of indicators. As the incident in Spokane, Washington, this past Martin Luther King Day has shown, Islamic extremists aren’t the only ones willing and able to utilize sophisticated devices intended to kill many Americans. In fact, three of the five CBRNE plots since 2001 were planned by white supremacist groups; none of them were attributed to Muslim extremists.

While I share your concern about the threat posed to our nation from violence borne of ideologically driven extremism, I believe that this Committee’s exploration of the current and emerging threat environment should be a broad-based examination of domestic extremist groups, regardless of their respective ideological underpinnings. I hope you share my belief that in the final analysis, the ideology of a bomb maker matters less than the lethal effects of his creation.

Sadly, I think the entire point for Peter King has always been about ideology, both back when he supported the IRA and now that he opposes Islamic extremism.

And given the response of new Republicans Chairs in the last month, King is likely to completely ignore Thompson’s request.

But at this letter puts King on notice that his ideological fear-mongering has little to do with the real threats to the US.

John Pistole: “What I Think Is Appropriate in Terms of Privacy”

This entire interview between TSA Director John Pistole, James Fallows, and Jeffrey Goldberg is worth reading. But I’m particularly interested in what Pistole says about his role in finding the appropriate balance between security and privacy.

James Fallows: I’d like to start with a question both Jeff and I have raised, which is the whole question of the balance between security, on the one hand, and liberty and privacy concerns, on the other. Is it TSA’s job to set that balance? Or how do you think that balance is set?

John Pistole: The way I view it is for TSA to develop the security protocols that afford the best security, while recognizing that there is a balance. The best security would be something way beyond what we’re doing.

Jeffrey Goldberg: The best security would be to just not allow people on planes. That’s perfect security.

Pistole: That’s “risk elimination.” And we’re not in the risk-elimination business, we’re in risk mitigation, informed by the latest intelligence, informed by our friends [in the intelligence agencies], and informed by the results of our covert testing.

Those things inform judgments and actions and then we take that information — I take that information — and then ask the experts how can we address these threats? They come up with different things based on all the information they have, and then they make a recommendation, and then it’s up to me to say, OK, does that exceed what I think is appropriate in terms of privacy?

So that’s my responsibility. To say, does this give us security, without violating something that would be a Fourth Amendment issue? [my emphasis]

According to Pistole, it’s up to him–his responsibility–to determine what the appropriate balance between privacy and security.

Now, I appreciate that, at some level, it is up to him. He’s in charge of TSA and he’s got to make the final decision whether to implement (or discontinue) a controversial scanning technology.

But it’s not up to him.

It’s up to the entities that review counterterrorism techniques for their civil liberties and privacy impact. Specifically it’s up to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which is mandated by Congress to do the following:

(1) analyze and review actions the executive branch takes to protect the Nation from terrorism, ensuring that the need for such actions is balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties; and

(2) ensure that liberty concerns are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of laws, regulations, and policies related to efforts to protect the Nation against terrorism.

The PCLOB never got fully off the ground after it was passed in 2007. More appallingly, Obama hasn’t even nominated anyone to the board.

Absent review by the PCLOB, Department of Homeland Security is required to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment, which it appears not to have done either. And Pistole should know that these reviews should take place, since Bennie Thompson reminded him of the fact several weeks ago.

In the absence of an Executive branch level Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that would evaluate decisions such as this, it was crucial that the Department of Homeland Security’s Privacy Officer and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties thoroughly evaluate and publish written assessments on how this decision affects the privacy and civil rights of the traveling public. To date, the Department has not published either a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) nor a Civil Liberties Impact Assessment (CLIA) on the enhanced pat down procedures. Without a published PIA or CLIA, we cannot ascertain the extent to which TSA has considered how these procedures should be implemented with respect to certain populations such as children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. By not issuing these assessments, the traveling public has no assurance that these procedures have been thoroughly evaluated for constitutionality.

There is a means to conduct an independent review of where the line between privacy and security is–or at least there’s supposed to be, even if Obama refuses to fulfill that mandate.

I’m sure it’s nice for Obama and Pistole that, rather than having an independent board review gate grope before it gets implemented, Pistole just took it on himself to decide whether it’s constitutional and appropriate or not.

But that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

House Committee on Homeland Security Expressed Concerns about “Gate Rape” on September 22

Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Bennie Thompson sent Transportation Security Administration Director John Pistole a letter on Friday expressing concern that the TSA did not review privacy and civil liberty concerns before implementing the new “gate rape” procedures at airports. The letter demands additional information on the pat-downs and calls on Pistole to reconsider them.

But most troubling, it reveals that at a member briefing on the new protocol conducted on September 22, the Committee expressed concern about the pat-downs.

As you know, on September 22, 2010, the Committee on Homeland Security held a Member briefing on a pilot that TSA was conducting at Boston Logan International Airport and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport to evaluate enhanced passenger screening protocols. At that time, Members viewed a demonstration of the protocols and expressed concern about their intrusiveness as well as about the risk of inconsistent nationwide implementation and urged TSA to work to educate the traveling public on the need for these reforms. Subsequently, TSA, over a two month period, began implementing these new protocols at our Nation’s airports.

While some of this appears to be a belated attempt to raise privacy issues about the “gate rape,” Thompson rightly points out the Administration’s failures to fulfill privacy and civil liberties requirements.

In the absence of an Executive branch level Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that would evaluate decisions such as this, it was crucial that the Department of Homeland Security’s Privacy Officer and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties thoroughly evaluate and publish written assessments on how this decision affects the privacy and civil rights of the traveling public. To date, the Department has not published either a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) nor a Civil Liberties Impact Assessment (CLIA) on the enhanced pat down procedures. Without a published PIA or CLIA, we cannot ascertain the extent to which TSA has considered how these procedures should be implemented with respect to certain populations such as children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. By not issuing these assessments, the traveling public has no assurance that these procedures have been thoroughly evaluated for constitutionality.

Now, Thompson has been successful in the past at forestalling abusive surveillance by raising precisely these kinds of privacy issues, notably when he prevented Michael Chertoff from implementing a satellite surveillance program in the US. But that was when the Democrats had a majority in the House. In just weeks, Thompson will lose his gavel and Peter King–who used to materially support terrorists in Ireland but now loves to fearmonger on terror–will take over.

Which means Pistole and the Obama Administration will probably just blow off this request for some proof that gate rape has passed constitutional review.

Sign the petition demanding Congress investigate the TSA’s porno scanners, aggressive groping, and abuses of power.

On Jane Harman and NAO

A number of you have sent this piece, reporting that Jane Harman is trying to shut down the National Applications Office.

[Harman] has introduced two bills that would shutter the Department of Homeland Security’s innocuously-named National Applications Office.

In the waning days of the Bush administration, DHS officials began implementing plans to use NAO to oversee the training of military satellites on domestic targets — with funding for the program tucked in last year’s stopgap funding funding bill.

To the surprise of some in Congress, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano quietly inserted renewed funding for the program in the "classified annex" to the agency’s FY2010 budget.

Harman’s bill would eliminate the office — and a companion measure from Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) would completely de-fund NAO.

Glenn Thrush unfortunately ties Harman’s actions to the AIPAC-related wiretaps, which has led a number of people (including, perhaps, Thrush) to suggest she’s doing this solely because she’s smarting about being surveilled.

That’s unfortunate, because the surveillance is unrelated, and because the House Committee on Homeland Security–particularly its Chair, Bennie Thompson–has been taking a very proactive lead on this issue from the start. Harman, remember, chairs the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, which makes her exactly the right person to oppose this provision put through in the funding bill’s classified annex.

Harman, Dicks, and Thompson are doing the right thing in opposing this. Thompson, in particular, has been pushing for some oversight on this for a long time. We should be applauding efforts to insist on that oversight.