Classified Information "Classified information is information to which access is restricted to particular classes of people. It formalizes what constitutes a "state secret" and accords different levels of protection based on the expected damage the information might cause in the wrong hands. Executive Order 13292 sets out the categories of classification, those who have authority to classify information, how and when information is declassified, and prohibitions to classification. President Clinton, by Executive Order 12958, set up a uniform system for "classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information," which was amended on March 25, 2003 by President Bush. While many changes are technical or procedural, some of the important changes are set forth herein.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is designed to protect the United States against possible hostile acts, sabotage, terrorism, or clandestine intelligence activities by a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. Since it was passed in 1978 it has been amended several times. FISA regulations do not apply to foreign nationals abroad. Its restrictions apply only when the surveillance target is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or when the surveillance or search is to be physically located within the United States. A U.S. person may not be determined to be an agent of a foreign power "solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States."
Martial Law Martial law is the system of rules that take effect when a military authority takes control of the normal administration of justice. In the U.S., the President has limited law enforcement powers. Those powers have been delegated to the states. The Insurrection Act and the Posse Comitatus Act are the principal means of controlling federal intervention into domestic disturbances in the states. However, HR 5122, signed by President Bush on October 17, 2006, has amended these controls and given the President the power to intercede in any domestic disturbance he so chooses. Adamantly opposed by the National Governor's Association, Congress did the President's bidding and passed it. Martial law can now be declared for just about any reason.
Militarization of Police With the police brutality against Occupy Wall Street protesters, I thought it was time to look at what's going on. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 and the Insurrection Act of 1907 have, in recent years, been significantly watered down. The federal government has been providing military armament to local law enforcement. Is there cause for concern?
President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board was originally created in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It has gone through several changes, the most interesting of which is the creation of a standing committee called the Intelligence Oversight Board, which is supposed to oversee the legality of intelligence gathering.
The New Surveillance Law Last week Congress passed sweeping new spying powers as an up-date to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It allows the government to eavesdrop on international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants. Earlier this year a FISA court determined parts of Bush's surveillance programs were illegal. While Congress was willing to fix the FISA problem, Bush insisted on more power, and Congress rolled over and gave him what he wanted. Bush won and the United States Constitution and the American people lost.
The REAL ID Act The REAL ID Act of 2005 had a difficult birth, but was signed into law in May, 2005 as Public Law 109-13. The Act pertains to 5 areas: eligibility for asylum and withholding of removal, limiting judicial review of certain immigration decisions, waiving authority over laws that might impede expeditious construction of barriers and roads along the U.S.-Mexican border near San Diego, expanding the scope of terror-related activity making an alien inadmissible and deportable, and requiring states to meet certain minimum security standards in issuing drivers' licenses and personal ID cards. The waiver of environmental laws and mandating the issuance of personal identification cards are the areas that have come under the most contention.
The USA Patriot Act The USA Patriot Act, passed shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, was designed to enhance federal investigations so that terrorists could be found and caught by giving federal law enforcement unprecedented power. 16 provisions were set to expire on December 31, 2005. The Act had already been extended multiple times and, finally, on March 9, 2006, 14 of the 16 most contentious sections were made permanent; the other 2 were extended for 4 years. The Act amends, by addition or expansion, various sections of the United States Code, primarily in 5 areas: Criminal Investigations: Tracking and Gathering Communications, Foreign Intelligence Investigations, Money Laundering, Alien Terrorists and Victims, and Other Crimes, Penalties, & Procedures.
Warrantless Surveillance The revelation that President George W. Bush has been using the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on citizens shook the country. In the wake of Watergate, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and created the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. It appears that both have failed. FISA was amended through the passage of the USA Patriot Act and further changes could have been made to allow the President to do the kind of surveillance he wanted. His administration sought no such changes. Many justifications have been offered up by the President, but reports by the Congressional Research Service have found them wanting. Though the allegations of illegal search and seizure and abuse of power are varied and complex, only a full-scale investigation could determine if the actions are impeachable, but neither the Senate nor the House has endeavored to conduct an investigation.