Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC/DDF June 2016 Newsletter

Rhonda Y Williams
Rhonda Y. Williams Named June 2016 Patriot Award Winner
June 1, 2016
CCTV Camera
California Communities Respond to Police Surveillance Purchases with Oversight Ordinances
June 2, 2016

Dear Troublemakers,

The FBI has built a colossal biometric database that contains the most intimate personal details (photos of your face, your tattoos, your iris, your fingerprints) of millions of people, many, if not most, of whom have never even been convicted of a crime. It’s called Next Generation Identification (NGI), and we’ve been fighting it for almost a decade.

Now, we need your help.

The FBI is asking to exempt NGI from the protections of the Privacy Act, which allows us to know if our information is in the database, to correct it if it is wrong, and to sue the FBI if they misuse the data (say, to monitor political activists).

Time and again, the FBI has shown its willingness to use its crime-fighting tools against movements for peace and justice, especially aiming them at communities of color and immigrants. There is no reason to expect the FBI to use NGI in a more fair and upstanding way than it uses any other tool, so the agency’s attempt to shield this massive database from the protections and accountability mechanisms of the Privacy Act is alarming and dangerous.

The public has a short time to submit comments objecting to the FBI’s outrageous request. We’ve created an online tool to make it easy for you to weigh in. It’s a little more involved than a normal online petition, but I encourage you to take a few minutes to tell the DOJ not to exempt this biometric behemoth from the Privacy Act.

Stay loud, stay strong

Sue Udry, Executive Director, BORDC/DDF

Now keep reading to meet Rhonda Williams, our June Patriot Award Winner, and see the latest articles from the Dissent NewsWire …

Grassroots Updates

BORDC/DDF supports grassroots activism to protect and advance Constitutional rights. Join the movement! Please reach us at Here are some organizing highlights from around the country:

Rhonda Y. Williams Named June 2016 Patriot Award Winner
BORDC/DDF is proud to honor Rhonda Y. Williams, a true patriot. To sum up her philosophy: It’s all about partnerships, history, mentorship, and supporting each other throughout the always changing but never-ending struggle. Thank you for lighting the way and walking the path, Dr. Rhonda.

The Effort to Silence A Movement
BORDC/DDF Vice President Fadi Saba joins Other Voices, to talk about the way Congress and state legislatures around the country are trying to silence the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

RNC Convention Update: Secret Service Announces Cleveland Protest Restrictions
Cleveland Secret Service officials held a briefing this morning to announce a set of special, temporary regulations governing protest and use of public space during the Republican National Convention, to be held in the city July 18-21.

CFAA Rears Its Ugly Head in Rhode Island
The Rhode Island legislature is considering a bill that could be used against whistleblowers who expose corporate malfeasance and anyone who neglects to read and understand website “terms of service”.

Stop LAPD Spying Hosts Surveillance Self Defense Teach-In & Meeting on Countering Violent Extremism in Schools
At two different events, community members learned how to defend themselves from surveillance, and how the Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools program violates students’ rights. Follow up meetings were scheduled for dates in June.

Advocacy and Agitation

BORDC/DDF is your voice in the Nation’s Capitol. We advocate and agitate in Congress and with the Executive branch. Here are just a few of the issues we raised last month:

Support Bill That Would Create a Free Speech Shield for FBI Whistleblowers
Whistleblowers within the FBI have exposed thousands of illegal national security searches, systemic weaknesses in the counterterrorism program, civil rights abuses, and the FBI’s role in numerous wrongful convictions of innocent Americans. These whistleblowers must be protected from retaliation.

50 Days of FOIA: Countdown to the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act
The #50DaysofFOIA campaign aims to highlight the importance of the Freedom of Information Act, while promoting the passage of meaningful reform legislation that now has the potential to become law by the time the statute turns 50 in less than two months.

Will the CIA Disappear the Senate Torture Report?
Torture is a war crime under international law and is thus prosecutable under federal statute, including the War Crimes Act. It is thus of the utmost importance that these reports, which document and review potentially illegal acts not be physically erased from history. Please join BORDC/DDF in taking action to prevent this. You can ask President Obama to use his authority to declassify the Senate Torture Report, as well as to make sure agencies like the CIA take the proper steps to preserve the report.

No, the FBI’s Huge Biometrics Database Should Not Be Exempt From Privacy RulesIn a world where police masquerade as Google Street View cars to spy on citizens, questioning the validity of data amassed by law enforcement is absolutely necessary to protect against abuse. That’s why we think the Department of Justice’s proposal to prevent Americans from finding out if pictures of their fingerprints and tattoos are being stored in the FBI’s Next Generation Identification Database is a terrible idea.

Stop the Orgy of Police Militarization, Groups Tell Senate Appropriations Committee
War Resisters League and The American Friends Service Committee, joined by twenty-one other civil liberties, religious, and social justice groups called on the Senate Appropriations Committee to maintain the President’s cut to Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) funding as a “step in the right direction.”

News and Analysis

Will the Senate Torture Report Disappear?
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is tasked with preserving all federal records. We ask whether that includes the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA torture program.

It’s World Press Day, Do You Know Where Your Press Freedoms Are?
In observance of World Press Day, we took a look back at some of the actions the Obama Administration has taken that undermine press freedom.

Countering Violent Extremism, a ‘Perfect Excuse’ To Restrict Free Speech and Control the Media, Says UN Expert
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, today warned that efforts to counter ‘violent extremism’ can be the ‘perfect excuse’ for democratic and authoritarian governments around the world to restrict free expression and seek to control access to information.

BORDC/DDF Mourns the Passing of Michael Ratner
It was with great sadness that we learned that Michael Ratner has passed away. There will always be those who tell us that now is not the right to time to defend human rights, that we should give deference to the powerful at the expense of the powerless. Yet, Michael was always willing to stand for human rights on principle–even when it was unpopular. His work and legacy are an inspiration to all of us at BORDC/DDF.

Bills Seek to Close Loopholes in Electronic Communications Privacy Act
Advancements in technology have allowed us to change our methods of communicating and interacting with one another. Now it is time for the law to reflect that digital communication is worthy of the same constitutional protections as those afforded to physical documents, photos and letters.

Philadelphia PD Shopping for Security Gear Ahead of Democratic Convention
As the national political conventions approach, much attention has been focused on security preparations underway in Cleveland, host to the Republican National Convention in July. Citing the fractious nature of the GOP primaries and long tradition of protest, authorities in Cleveland have invested heavily in security, spending a $50 million federal grant on police equipment.

Secret Service Restricts Journalists’ Access to National Political Conventions
This year the Secret Service has been given the authority to conduct background checks on journalists seeking to cover the national political conventions. The checks are conducted with no transparency, by a private contractor, and no explanation is given for journalists denied entry. This has us worried.

Some State Secrets Cases May Stay Secret
A definitive accounting of the number of lawsuits in which the U.S. Government has invoked the state secrets privilege cannot be provided because some of those cases may be too sensitive to acknowledge or disclose, the Department of Justice told Congress in newly released correspondence from 2013.

Social Media Profiles To Be Included in Federal Background Checks, House Committee Hears
In a hearing convened last week by the House of Representatives, members of the Subcommittee on National Security and the Subcommittee on Government Operations discussed how social media would be incorporated into federal background checks.