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Professional Troublemaker

 Jonathan Corbett, Civil Rights Advocate

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Federal Judge Sends U.S. Marshals to Prevent Trump from Enforcing Muslim Ban

foreign-us-customsOn Friday, our new President signed an executive order banning those from 7 Muslim countries from entering the United States, even if they had been granted refugee status, and even if they were green card or visa holders.  This blatant discrimination based on national origin (and, let’s be honest, it’s really based on religion, given that all 7 countries are Muslim-majority and Trump had flat-out said he would ban Muslims during his campaign) guaranteed a legal showdown which began yesterday after at least a dozen people with passports from those 7 nations were detained at JFK airport in New York.

Yesterday, attorneys for Hameed Khalid Darweesh filed a class action lawsuit requesting a writ of habaes corpus (court order to free a person) on behalf of Mr. Darweesh, who apparently was detained under this new order, and anyone similarly situated to him.  It’s worthy of note that this man is a refugee from Iraq who cannot return to his home country because he assisted the U.S. military during our operations there.  Filed with his petition was a motion for an emergency temporary restraining order, asking the court to prohibit U.S. Customs & Border Patrol from enforcing Trump’s order, and U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly, after conducting an astoundingly prompt hearing,  granted that request, ordering all officers of the United States be:

ENJOINED AND RESTRAINED from, in any manner or by any means, removing individuals with refugee applications approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and other individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen legally authorized to enter the United States.

This is widely reported by the media (CNN, The Guardian, New York Times), but perhaps because of the late hour and lack of legal analysts on hand, they missed the significance of the next paragraph of Judge Donnelly’s order:

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that to assure compliance with the Court’s order, the Court directs service of this Order upon the United States Marshal for the Eastern District of New York, and further directs the United States Marshal Service to take those actions deemed necessary to enforce the provisions and prohibitions set forth in this Order.

I’ve never seen an order like that directed against the U.S. government in my life.  What the judge just did is sent federal law enforcement affiliated with the court to JFK airport to make sure other federal law enforcement obeys the order.  In other words, Judge Donnelly does not trust that the Trump administration will follow the law and pre-emptively sent muscle to carry out her order.

If you’re to believe the Daily Kos, a source that I don’t necessarily consider reliable due to political bias on par with Fox News, but in the other direction, the U.S. Marshals were sent with good reason: they report that in other airports, U.S. Customs & Border patrol has ignored the order.  [Update: The Guardian also reporting non-compliance by CBP.]

If Trump chooses to direct his agencies to ignore court orders, this could be a very rapid beginning and end to his administration, as I cannot imagine Congress not impeaching a president who does so.  This situation may come to a head quite soon… stay tuned…


“Jon Corbett is a civil rights advocate known for filing the first lawsuit against the deployment of TSA nude body scanners, as well as defeating the body scanners live in ‘How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners.’  Presently a law student, he continues to advocate for travel and privacy rights.  Twitter: @_JonCorbett, Web:https://professional-troublemaker.com/

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DHS “Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties” Admits It Is A Farce

I mean, they didn’t say that explicitly, but you be the judge: the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was asked to review the policy of DHS’s Customs and Border Patrol regarding conducting suspicionless searches of electronic media (generally, your laptop) at border crossings. This policy means that any time you enter the country, the government feels it has the right to look through all the documents on your hard drive, even if there’s no reason at all to suspect that you might be engaged in criminal activity.

The review concluded that “imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefit.”

Do you see a problem here with an office, whose job it is to ensure that an agency respects the civil rights of the people, that does not understand how requiring the government to have a reason before it paws through the photos of your kids and wife (yeah, those photos!), reads through all of your e-mail, and makes sure the music you’re listening to and books you’re reading are not “suspicious,” would have a civil liberties benefit? DHS does this, ostensibly, to prevent the trafficking of child pornography and corporate espionage. I’m no expert on either subject, but it would seem to me that if one were to engage in either crime, wouldn’t they simply upload their contraband to a secure location on the Internet, where they can easily download it at their destination, rather than travel the globe with it sitting on their hard drive?

It seems clear to me that the alleged desired benefit of these searches is unobtainable since they are easier to circumvent than the TSA’s body scanners. It seems clear to me that this is a new technique to spy on the citizens, collect data (“Oh, Mr. Corbett here has files on his hard drive relating to aviation security… let’s put him in a database!”), and chip away at the Fourth Amendment. It seems clear to me that this furthers the government’s, and particularly the Obama administration’s, desire to fellate the copyright industry — from its absurd extrajudicial prosecution of Megaupload, to its attempts to pass SOPA and related laws, to these hard drive searches at borders that have already seen travelers questioned about whether they illegally downloaded songs and movies.

While this battle is fought on the legal front, you can protect your data now: free software such as TrueCrypt can scramble the data on your computer such that, if done right, it cannot be unscrambled without the correct password, even by the government (and, even if the government can decrypt your hard drive, they won’t: to admit that they know how to break the world’s strongest encryption algorithm would be giving away a secret that is worth much more than prosecuting you). As U.S. Courts of Appeals have refused to compel people to provide passwords, for the time being, encryption allows you to force the government to respect your rights.

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