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Notes on Civil Liberties for August 26

Here’s some of the latest stories  on civil liberties, digital freedom and WikiLeaks. If you have any news tips and would like to contact me, email

Government prosecutors have asked a court to reconsider its ruling limiting NYT reporter James Risen’s obligation to testify at a trial against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. Prosecutors contend, “There is no equivalent for Risen’s eyewitness testimony.” Sterling is accused of leaking classified information.

And, another update from the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowing: A judge has rejected defense motions asking for charges against State Department analyst Stephen Kim to be dropped. Kim is charged with violating the Espionage Act when he disclosed information indicating US thought North Korea was going to conduct a nuclear test.

Why would the government want to keep information on a person on an assassination list secret? Fox News submitted a FOIA request for all records on Anwar al-Awlaki and now doesn’t get it. The State Department is suspiciously hiding behind this notion that released information would invade his personal privacy to keep documents classified.

Scott Horton interviews Francis Boyle on Antiwar Radio: The FBI and CIA tried to make Boyle an informant in 2004. The refusal to become an informant led to Boyle being placed on watch lists. Listen to the interview here. (h/t to FDL member eCAHNomics )

“Dangerous cybercrime treaty pushes surveillance and secrecy worldwide,” reads the headline of a post by Katitza Rodriguez at Controversial Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime is back on world agenda. The treaty fails to limit “over-broad surveillance powers it grants law enforcement agencies,” Rodriguez concludes.

Mother Jones‘ Mark Follman wants to know what really happened in the Bin Laden raid. How many SEALs were on the raid? Who was in the room Bin Laden was in when the soldiers stormed his room? What is the really story with regards to helmet cams? Is there any footage at all? (WikiLeaks, what’s the best way for whistleblowers to reach your organization these days?)

Adrian Lamo, hacker who turned in Pfc. Bradley Manning to authorities, responds to his “detractors.” Lamo writes some of the same things he has said before in media. What is most interesting is his conclusion that “Openleaks, on further reflection, has presented itself as too autocratic and capricious to be trusted at this time without major and ongoing displays of good faith as it develops.” He now contends WikiLeaks and OpenLeaks are both “mendacious.”

Facebook and Twitter are not going to bow to calls to censor citizens when government says they are “unruly.” Though Techland notes there may be reason to be concerned about what the two will allow government to do instead. Blackberry messages were used to “thwart attacks on major London landmarks,” which seems justified. But, what if this power is used on peaceful protests or other gatherings?

FBI deploys a mobile fingerprinting system for police. The system will allow thousands of officers nationwide to capture and submit fingerprints with mobile devices.


Fantastic round up of just released cables having to do with sex work.’s post includes cables detailing people organizing against sex work criminalization in Rwanda, Kenyan survey findings on gay/male prostitution, how anti-prostitution laws are used to selectively prosecute homosexuals in Tanzania and a report that a trans woman helped overthrow the previous government in Turkey.

The ANC’s forced removal of Zulu shack dwellers—the Abahlali baseMjondolo—gets attention in a cable. A diplomat asks if the African National Congress is as democratic as it claims. Most haunting is the diplomat’s conclusion: “The parallels between AbM’s struggles against the ANC and the latter’s fight against the apartheid regime cannot be ignored.” (Read the cable.)

Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada with a comprehensive post on new revelations. Abunimah hones in on what the cables show on current Egyptian military ruler Muhammad Tantawi and the siege of Gaza. A briefing report for Congresswoman Nita Lowey, a hard-line supporter of Israel, shows the military man coordinated with America to keep Gaza sealed from outside world.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."