International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
10 avril 2020
Starting today, we will be publishing the News Digest every other week
‘The Charter still applies’: Canadians urged to monitor civil liberties during pandemic
The Canadian Press 04/04/2020 - While Canadians monitor their bodies for signs of COVID-19 symptoms, civil liberties advocates and human rights lawyers are urging citizens to also keep track of the possible erosion of democratic rights.The ongoing states of emergencies across the country have given authorities sweeping new powers, and police forces have started — or are considering — using cell phone data to track the movement of people. Civil rights advocates say citizens need to remain hyper-vigilant about how authorities are using these new powers, and what kind of legacy will be left once the pandemic is over. Montreal-based human rights lawyer Pearl Eliadis said despite the emergency orders, "the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has not disappeared. The government has more leeway to do certain things because of the emergency powers and we should all agree and obey with those, but at the same time, people need to know what their rights are under the act," she said in a recent interview. [...]

Provincial police spokesman Guy Lapointe told Montreal's La Presse on Friday that under the public health emergency, officers do not need a warrant signed by a judge to track people using geolocation. Neither Lapointe nor the Montreal police responded to a request for comment. A spokesman for Quebec's public prosecutor's office would not say whether police had the right to geolocate people without a warrant. Jean Pascal Boucher said Saturday his office is not authorized to give an opinion on matters that have the chance to come before the courts. Montreal-based defence lawyer Arij Riahi said there are currently many unknowns about how police are using their discretion in issuing fines, limiting travel around the province, as well as how they are collecting cell phone data. "It has to come with some sort of accountability," she said, regarding the collection of personal data. "How long will it last? Where will the data be stored? When will it be deleted? The concerns among my criminal defence colleagues is about surveillance creeping in."

Dominique Peschard, spokesman with a Quebec civil liberties group, La Ligue des droits et libertes, said he doesn't see why a judge can't be assigned to review applications by police for cell phone data surveillance — even during the current state of emergency.
He said he has concerns that the use of warrantless surveillance will become more generalized without proper supervision, leaving room for abuse. The charter, he said, states that citizens' rights can be limited, "but these limits have to be reasonable and justified in a free and democratic society." Eliadis said police in Canada are using facial recognition technology and cyber surveillance "more aggressively now than they were just a few weeks ago." She explained that citizens need to be aware of a phenomenon within law enforcement and national security forces that is known as "force drift." Force drift can occur, Eliadis said, "when certain extraordinary powers are given, particularly during interrogations, and they spread quickly and the lose their normal bearings and their rules-based bearings. "And there is a lot of experience with this and I do think people need to be careful." Read more - Lire plus

COVID-19: Civil liberties group warns of 'unfair and arbitrary' law enforcement as hefty fines across Canada pile up
ICLMG 03/04/2020 - A civil liberties group is cautioning police and municipal bylaw officers against levelling increasingly draconian fines against people who fail to adhere to social distancing measures, as cities and towns double down on efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19. Police and bylaw officers across Canada have issued hundreds of fines against people who break social distancing rules, turning unwitting dog walkers into social deviants and sowing confusion over what is acceptable behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Municipal law enforcement in Halifax, Montreal and Ottawa in particular have slapped residents with harsh penalties in recent days, according to a review of fines in major cities by the National Post. “At some point this pandemic, in some jurisdictions, stopped being about public health and started being about public order, because politicians weren’t seeing the behaviour that they wanted out of their constituents,” said Michael Bryant, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. He warned that the still-hazy social distancing measures being enforced across the country could lead to further negligence if people feel targeted, or if government is seen to be overreaching its authority. Various pundits and political observers have warned that the social fallout from overly strict isolation measures could outweigh the health risks themselves.

“When laws are unworkable or indecipherable, people will ignore them,” Bryant said. “When enforcement is unfair and arbitrary, people become less compliant and more defiant. They focus less on trying to obey the rules, and more on trying to not get caught.” The warning comes amid mounting confusion and frustration over the introduction of stringent social distancing rules, which have been enforced in a patchwork manner across Canadian cities and towns. Bylaw officers in Ottawa handed out more than 40 tickets this weekend, including an $880 fine for a man who was caught walking his dog. Corey Yanofsky was fined for walking through Ottawa’s Britannia Park, which has been closed to pedestrians in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, according to a report by the Ottawa Citizen. Officers ticketed another Ottawa man $2,000 for declining to identify himself. As of Monday morning, the Montreal Police Service had issued 67 fines at around $1,546 each, including fees. The Quebec provincial police had filed 157 reports on people as of Monday.

In the last four days alone, RCMP in Nova Scotia have fined 38 people for offences under the Nova Scotia Health Protection and Emergency Management Acts, according to a press release. Those include $697.50 fines to three people for reasons that police declined to specify, as well as another $7,500 fine against a Nova Scotia business, which RCMP also did not specify in public documents. Bylaw officers also threatened fines against Montreal woman Mélissa Leblanc for “disrespecting social distancing,” after a group of Leblanc’s friends wished her happy birthday by driving to her house and honking their car horns. Leblanc had watched the celebration through the window of her home, according to the La Presse report. The influx in fines feeds into deeper fears that public officials could abuse their newfound powers, as well as bylaw officers and police who already demonstrate overbearing or controlling instincts. Read more - Lire plus

Communiqué : Géolocalisation cellulaire des personnes à l’ère du COVID-19
Ligue des Droits et Libertés 03/04/2020 - La Ligue des droits et libertés (LDL) rappelle au gouvernement du Québec et aux autorités concernées que la géolocalisation cellulaire pour retracer les personnes ayant été testées positives à COVID-19 et qui ne respecteraient pas les directives de confinement doit être une mesure d’exception.L’utilisation de la géolocalisation pourrait à la limite être justifiée pour rejoindre les personnes ayant été testées positives à la COVID-19 qui refuseraient de respecter les consignes de confinement, après avoir utilisé sans succès les moyens traditionnels de communication, et ceci à la demande de la Direction de la santé publique.
« Une telle mesure serait normalement assujettie à une autorisation judiciaire », rappelle Dominique Peschard, porte-parole de la LDL, qui souligne que l’exploitation des données de géolocalisation et de celles qui touchent à la vie privée des individus est extrêmement sensible. « Les Chartes prévoient qu’il peut y avoir des limites aux droits et libertés, mais celles-ci doivent être raisonnables et proportionnelles à la menace. En particulier, les mesures utilisées ne disposent pas de la présomption d’innocence et ne permettent pas de traiter toute une population comme potentiellement coupable et l’assujettir à une surveillance généralisée », affirme M. Peschard.

Ce que les autorités envisagent doit être rigoureusement encadré et circonscrit dans le temps. « Il est du devoir des autorités de garantir que la géolocalisation sera utilisée uniquement à la demande de la Direction de la santé publique pour retracer une personne testée positive à la COVID-19 et dont on a des motifs raisonnables de croire qu’elle ne se conforme pas aux directives de la santé publique. On ne doit pas élargir cette surveillance à tout le monde et en faire ainsi une surveillance de masse », continue-t-il. De plus, l’utilisation de la géolocalisation cellulaire doit absolument en être une de dernier recours. « Il est du devoir du gouvernement du Québec et des autorités concernées de nous le garantir et de rendre des comptes publiquement de l’utilisation qui sera faite de ces pouvoirs », conclut M. Peschard. Lire plus - Read more

After 9/11, we gave up privacy for security. Will we make the same trade-off after Covid-19?
Stat News 08/04/2020 - Underscoring the urgency, the federal agency in charge of policing data breaches is now saying it will back off enforcement of certain privacy rules to make it easier for hospitals and their vendors to share patient medical records with public health officials. Meanwhile, the nation’s tech behemoths are collecting health information through Covid-19 symptom checkers, data that could prove invaluable to disease trackers when combined with travel and location data from smartphones. While the relaxing of health privacy rules can be justified during a crisis in which so many lives are at stake, some experts are asking what happens after the pandemic fades. Will we go back to normal, or will the erosion of privacy become part of the fabric of American health care, accepted as the price of continued vigilance against new viruses, in the same way Americans tolerated the loss of privacy and personal freedoms after the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

“Anything that has the potential of making people less safe, even if it involves giving people back some privacy they’ve already given up, is just much harder to sell, “ said Glenn Cohen, a professor of health law policy and bioethics at Harvard University. Attempts to implement digital monitoring of infected people may also be tied to the re-opening of the economy and the easing of social distancing, which may make intrusions easier to accept. Cohen noted that there was enormous pressure on lawmakers to repeatedly renew the Patriot Act, which broadly expanded the government’s surveillance powers following the 2001 attacks. “We tend to accept what we live in as far as what privacy is, and once we’re there, the status quo has a lot of power over us,” Cohen said.

In the case of the Patriot Act, there were opportunities to debate the law and the surveillance capabilities it enabled. But the speed of the coronavirus — and the urgency of the health threat it poses — is not allowing time for a deliberative approach. Instead, government officials and technology company executives are discussing ways to respond to the virus in private meetings , including a March teleconference hosted by the White House, and making decisions with enormous implications for public health and individual freedoms. While the participants and the broad topics raised in that meeting were made public, the full details have not been released, and the White House has reportedly ordered federal health officials to treat top level meetings on the coronavirus response as classified. Lire plus - Read more

Don’t Violate Human Rights While Responding to COVID-19, Say 33 NGOs
Human Rights Council virtual informal conversation with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Joint NGO statement on civil and political rights.
LRWC 09/04/2020 - We urge States to ensure transparency and accountability as there are risks that without strong oversight and transparency, the measures being taken will be less effective.

In particular, we urge States to:

  1. Ensure all measures adopted in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic fully take into account and comply with States’ international human rights obligations, and that any associated restrictions on human rights are necessary, proportionate, inclusive, time-limited and meet all other requirements under international human rights law, and maintain regular contact with civil society including in assessing compliance of such measures with international standards.
  2. Ensure that COVID-19 is not used as a pretext for imposing unjustified restrictions on civil society, targeting of human rights defenders and journalists, unjustified curbs on fundamental rights and freedoms, and authoritarian power grabs.
  3. Ensure the COVID-19 pandemic is not used as an excuse to impose forced returns or refoulement in violation of international human rights law; or as a pretext to suspend or derogate from the fundamental right to seek asylum.
  4. Ensure that is the independent judiciary itself, and not other branches of government, who decide on any measures limiting access to or operations of the courts of law, and ensure that independent courts remain able to evaluate and if necessary nullify any unlawful imposition or unjustified extension of emergency measures, or the unlawful curtailment of the rule of law and existing human rights.
  5. Ensure that judiciaries and other relevant state authorities give particular consideration to urgent cases, where delay is most likely to cause irreparable harm, or where protective measures are required for persons deprived of liberty, migrants including asylum-seekers and refugees as well as internal migrants, women and children, LGBT+ community, older persons, persons with disabilities, religious minorities and other vulnerable groups who do or may face increased risks of violence, abuse or neglect, whether as a result of general confinement measures, or who would otherwise be at greater risk if access to protective measures were suspended, denied or limited.
  6. Ease the pressure on the prison system and lower the risk to the health of the prison population, and the population more broadly, by releasing detainees and in particular immediately and unconditionally releasing all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience who were imprisoned for their human rights activities, or for expressing critical views
  7. Pay special attention to traditionally marginalized or vulnerable groups and ensure access to appropriate support, resources and protection mechanisms including regarding any issues of stigmatization, exclusion, violence, hatred, labelling and the targeting of victims of COVID-19.
  8. Ensure that no one is left behind in the national policies and strategies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and that such policies and strategies are inclusive and effectively protect against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, disability language, religion, caste or descent, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Communication and information should be delivered in accessible formats, while making sure that all measures taken do not perpetuate any form of disability-based discrimination and consider persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.
  9. Apply a gender perspective in all policies relating to the prevention, combat of, and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  10. Maintain reliable and unfettered access to the internet so that all have the right to access and share information. End all unjustified interference with internet connectivity.
  11. Protect the role of independent media news and public interest journalism. Ensure that measures to contain the virus, as well as the fight against disinformation, are not used as a pretext to muzzle the media or implement regressive regulations against media freedoms.
  12. Ensure any use of surveillance to track the spread of coronavirus is limited in purpose and time, abides by strict and explicit human rights safeguards consistent with international human rights standards guaranteeing the rights to free expression and privacy, among others, as well as, non-discrimination, confidentiality and protection of journalistic sources, and other norms and principles. Read more - Lire plus

Coronavirus: Beware the power grab
African Argument 07/04/2020 - There is a long history of citizens being told by their governments to accept limitations on their rights to protect them from harm. Since 9/11, the US government has fuelled a global “War on Terror” that has seen governments across the world expand their arsenal of unchecked powers. This same toolbox of measures to counter terrorism – the power to detain without charge or trial, ban travel, impose house arrests (“lockdowns” by another name) and expand surveillance – are now being used to to tackle the pandemic.

Governments are enacting such powers at breakneck speed. According to the Centre for Civil and Political Rights , at least 70 countries, including 12 in Africa, have declared an official state of emergency. Many more have passed decrees that expand the powers of police and the state. More than 3.9 billion people, or half of the world’s population, have now been asked or ordered by their governments to stay at home. The difference between the current pandemic and the usual justification for emergency laws is that, today, we are facing a genuine crisis. Unlike most instances in which a country is threatened by “terrorism”, coronavirus really does imperil “the life of the nation”, the legal threshold for declaring a state of emergency that, in the past, has rarely been met. To tackle this crisis, it genuinely is in citizens’ interests to accept an unusual degree of government intervention in their lives. However, this comes with some serious dangers.

As a human rights lawyer working on counter-terrorism laws and states of emergency, I know where this story leads. Examples from across the world show us that once governments, police and security services gain extra powers, they do not give them up without a fight. Egypt’s state of emergency that ended up lasting 31 years, from 1981 to 2012, is a well-known example, but there are many more. In 2015, for instance, France gave itself wide-ranging emergency powers in response to a series of coordinated ISIS attacks in Paris. It eventually ended the state of emergency in 2017, but not before it incorporated some of its new powers – such as the right to shut down mosques by executive decree and ban people from leaving their towns without having to go through a court – into its ordinary counter-terrorism law and with little opposition.

Another lesson from previous states of emergency around the globe is that governments and police often use their new powers to target already victimised groups. This has been the case with anti-terror law across Africa – from eSwatini , to Ethiopia , to Mali – and the world more broadly. In 2016, for example, Turkey used emergency powers to replace 94 elected mayors in Kurdish-dominated provinces with government lackeys. The failed coup that triggered the state of emergency had had little to do with the Kurds, but the government took the opportunity nonetheless to enact further repressive measures against the marginalised minority. In response to today’s pandemic, we have already witnessed a wave of police abuse, including in Africa. In Kenya, a 13-year-old boy was allegedly shot and killed by officers enforcing a curfew in Nairobi. In Nigeria, police are accused of beating a man to death while enforcing a 14-day lockdown in Abuja. In South Africa, an officer has been arrested for shooting and killing a man found violating lockdown orders. In Uganda, 20 LGBT+ residents of a shelter were charged with disobeying social distancing rules. In many African countries, lockdowns have only just begun.

For many, coronavirus presents a triple threat: there is the virus itself, the economic consequences of lockdown, and the state repression used to enforce it. We must not lose sight of the latter. Learning from past states of emergency, we can expect that police will abuse their newfound powers with already marginalised groups among their first victims. We may have to accept the enacting of these new powers, but we must ensure we monitor and challenge their inevitable abuse. Moreover, we must be ready to fight for our rights back. While we look forward to returning to how things were before COVID-19, many governments won’t be as eager. Across the world, some states will seek to cling on to the authoritarian powers they got used to exercising during the emergency. Once the pandemic is over, it will be up to us to regain the rights we have sacrificed. Read more - Lire plus
How the coronavirus pandemic is making strongmen stronger, from Hungary to Serbia to the Philippines
The Globe and Mail 06/04/2020 - With governments around the world adopting extraordinary measures amid the pandemic, ostensibly to protect their citizens – but often in directions that have little or nothing to do with public health – one of the most potent legacies of this era may prove to be a global erosion of democratic freedoms. The power grabs have been dubbed “coronavirus coups” in some countries, and three months into the crisis, with no end in sight, there are concerns that leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban are capitalizing on COVID-19 to seize powers they may never relinquish. Some of the countries that have seen the biggest changes to personal liberties are still dealing with the legacies of past authoritarian rule. The steps they have taken in recent weeks toward autocracy may prove hard to reverse. The most dramatic example so far has been Hungary, where Mr. Orban used his Fidesz party’s parliamentary majority late last month to push through legislation that allows him to rule by decree for an indefinite period of time. [...]

Similar accusations are being made about Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who shut down his country’s parliament as part of an open-ended state of emergency he declared on March 15. The army has since been deployed in parts of the country, a 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is in effect and people older than 65 have been banned from leaving their homes. Borko Stefanovic, a prominent opposition politician, told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Vucic, who served as information minister to strongman Slobodan Milosevic, was resorting to the same tactics his former boss did to consolidate his power during the wars of the 1990s. [...] The key to preventing temporary powers from becoming permanent ones, Mr. Ignatieff added, was ensuring that the media remain free during the crisis to put questions to both the politicians and those advising them. But that is not what’s been happening.

In Hungary, a new law has made it an offence to publish “misinformation” about the government’s pandemic-control efforts. In Zimbabwe, the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has authorized 20-year prison terms for anyone who publishes or communicates “false news” about any police officer or government official who is involved in enforcing the national lockdown. Human-rights groups have warned that such laws are so vague and excessive that they allow the government to silence journalists or social-media voices. In the past week, authorities in Myanmar have blocked access to 221 news websites, saying they carried “fake news.” At least six journalists have been arrested or have fled. In Thailand, where military rule has already scrubbed local media of much dissent, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has assumed the power “to censor or shut down media if deemed necessary,” according to a government decree. Cambodian authorities have arrested more than a dozen people for sharing pandemic information, four of them people aligned with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which has been formally dissolved.

Hong Kong, which until the crisis had been the scene of regular protests calling for greater autonomy from China, has been under particular pressure. In February, police arrested Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy media tycoon despised by Beijing, and several other top democracy figures, accusing them of participating in an illegal assembly last summer. An outspoken nationalist lawmaker has pushed for the passing of national security laws that would prohibit treason, “subversion against the Central People’s Government” or ties with foreign political entities. His timing has historical resonance: A previous attempt to enact such laws in 2003 failed amid the SARS crisis. This time, “some people in the pro-Beijing camp may think that it is a good time to try to take very harsh measures because the world, especially those countries which may support Hong Kong, are now very preoccupied with their own problems,” said Emily Lau, a pro-democracy politician in Hong Kong. Read more - Lire plus

100+ organisations tell governments: don’t use the coronavirus pandemic as cover for expanding digital surveillance
AccessNow 02/04/2020 - Today, Access Now, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Privacy International, and more than 100 human rights and civil liberties organisations and consumer groups from all over the world are uniting to tell governments not to use the coronavirus pandemic as a cover to usher in digital surveillance.In a joint statement , the signing organisations urge governments to show leadership in tackling the pandemic in a way that ensures any use of digital technologies to track and monitor individuals and populations is carried out strictly in line with human rights.

“Governments risk compounding the harms of this outbreak by running roughshod over our privacy and dignity, and ignoring protections that arose in direct response to overreach during past global crises. By selling tools of surveillance as public health solutions, authorities and all-too-willing companies could rewrite the rules of the digital ecosystem in corona-colored ink – which we fear is permanent,” said Peter Micek, General Counsel at Access Now. Technology can and should play an important role during this effort to save lives, such as to spread public health messages and expand access to healthcare. However, an increase in state digital surveillance powers — such as obtaining access to mobile phone location data — threatens privacy, freedom of expression, and freedom of association. Further, violating these rights degrades trust in public authorities, undermining the effectiveness of any public health response.

To assist governments in developing rights-respecting measures as a response to the COVID-19 crisis, Access Now released privacy and data protection recommendations earlier this week. We focus on three categories of measures that authorities have advanced around the world: (1) collection and use of health data, (2) tracking and geolocation, and (3) public-private partnerships. “There will be an aftermath to the COVID-19 outbreak. We must ensure that the measures governments are taking right now do not transform this health crisis into a global human rights crisis,” said Estelle Massé, Senior Policy Analyst at Access Now. Read more - Lire plus

Privacy and Data Protection in the Fight Against COVID-19
AccessNow 03/2020 - Location data is highly revealing. By simply following a person’s movement based on location data from a smartphone, you can deduce their home address and workplace, map their interaction with others, identify their doctor visits, infer their socio-economic status, and more.

Without proper safeguards, tracking and geo-location tools can enable ubiquitous surveillance. In the context of a public health crisis, such as the COVID-19 outbreak, governments may want to rely on location tracking to map the evolution of the virus and plan responses. But such tracking comes with a number of concerns. First, it is important to note that tracking smartphone location will track ​people’s phones​, not the virus. Governments map the disease by cross-referencing peoples’ location data with information on infected cases, a practice that has inherent risks. Second, even so-called anonymous location data can easily be re-identified; a study from 2013 showed that people could be re-identified from just four datapoints.

Third, geographic location might not be useful because people may drive, walk, take16the subway, or work on the 50th floor of an 80 floor building; knowing a person’s geographic location gives only part of the story, but still sacrifices personal privacy. Finally, previous17uses of phone records and location data in humanitarian response were shown to be inefficient and ineffective. Thus, using geo-location to help address the spread of viruses18should be conducted in a rights-respecting manner that promotes trust in government and protects individual safety and security, given the heightened risk of snowballing into state-sponsored mass surveillance. Read more - Lire plus
Carol Rosenberg: The Growing Culture of Secrecy at Guantánamo Bay
Pulitzer Center 04/04/2020 - During a court session this year in the case of the men accused of plotting Sept. 11, defense lawyers spotted something curious: Prosecutors were huddled around a wireless silver tablet computer.When confronted about it, the judge made a surprising disclosure. He had secretly approved use of the device to allow real-time communication between prosecutors and representatives of the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies monitoring the trial from afar. The purpose, he said, was to allow the agencies to signal when they were concerned about a potential “spill,” the inadvertent disclosure of classified information.

“Spills cannot occur,” said the judge,  Col. W. Shane Cohen , defending his decision to give the agencies a way to relay requests to silence the court audio. “That is the bottom line. The goal is zero spills.” The judge said he regretted that he had agreed with prosecutors to keep secret the new communication system, but he stood by his decision to allow its use. He  released his secret order , calling the wireless silver tablet a “teletype machine.”
In granting the request, Colonel Cohen added another layer of secrecy to the at times remarkably opaque national security court at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Government censors black out portions of transcripts of public hearings before they are posted on  the military commissions website , which is adorned with the motto, “Fairness Transparency Justice.” Witnesses from the prison, including lawyers and some commanders, testify anonymously. Soldiers strip their name tapes off their Army uniforms when on the courtroom premises.

The judge and a court security officer can hit a mute button to silence the audio system that pipes the proceedings — on a 40-second delay — into the sealed-off observation room at the back of the courtroom where relatives of victims, journalists and other visitors watch. But the secrecy extends beyond the courtroom, which is at the heart of the hybrid federal-military justice system that the United States created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. All court filings, including a judge’s order, undergo a security review before the public can see it. By Defense Department regulation, court filings are to be released to the public within 15 business days. But they undergo a censorship scrub first, with representatives of a series of security agencies like the C.I.A., F.B.I., Guantánamo prison and the Pentagon’s United States Southern Command having a say on what portions of the filing are classified. But delays are common. It took 10 months from filing until the public could read a legal motion from May 2019 asking the Army judge in that case to hold a hearing on  the question of granting time served credit  for the torture endured by Majid Khan, who pleaded guilty to being a courier for Al Qaeda.

Before Mr. Khan was brought to Guantánamo in 2006, the C.I.A. held him for three years in isolation and incognito in the C.I.A.’s secret prison network, the black sites. There, members of the medical staff “infused” a puréed meal into his rectum after he had gone on a hunger strike, an episode that itself was kept secret at the court until it was included in a declassified portion of a Senate study of the interrogation program. It is a matter of not only concealing information that is classified — for example the countries that hosted the black sites — but also blacking out words that the intelligence agencies say could create a mosaic of information that could let people discern government secrets. So a continent that was the location of a black site is also classified. Transcripts of public court sessions are also censored, with at times perplexing results. Read more - Lire plus

FBI Opened Terrorism Investigations Into Nonviolent Palestinian Solidarity Group, Documents Reveal
The Intercept 05/04/2020 - In 2006, St. Louis-based activist and academic Mark Chmiel received a message on his answering machine from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI wanted to talk to Chmiel about trip three years ago that he and other St. Louis activists took with the International Solidarity Movement to the West Bank, in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. When Chmiel’s attorney reached out to the FBI, they did not respond.

Chmiel later wrote that he was motivated to travel to the West Bank by Palestinians’ calls for volunteers, international organizations’ inability to deal with the occupation, and his own country’s complicity in Israel’s actions. The International Solidarity Movement, or ISM, which would be Chmiel’s vehicle, encourages international volunteers to come to the occupied territories and engage in nonviolent direct action against the occupation. During the delegation Chmiel was on, Israel soldiers opened fire on a Palestinian protest and injured one of the St. Louis activists. An aging Holocaust survivor who was also part of the delegation was subjected to a humiliating and invasive search when departing from Israel.

These deprivations of rights experienced by Americans at the hands of Israeli authorities, however, were not what interested the FBI. Instead, the FBI was conducting an international terrorism investigation into Chmiel and another activist from the delegation (The Intercept reached out to the second activist, who asked that their name be withheld). Neither Chmiel nor the general public ever learned of the official terrorism investigation until now. Its existence was revealed by hundreds of pages of FBI files about the International Solidarity Movement obtained by The Intercept through a public records request. The documents make references to other investigations from FBI field offices around the country involving ISM or its members, but many of the files are so heavily redacted that it is impossible to tell what they refer to. In at least some instances, the FBI appears to be monitoring the political activity of ISM members or at the very least noting ISM affiliation of subjects of FBI monitoring.

It is clear, however, that the FBI conducted at least two major investigations into ISM. In addition to the international terrorism investigation into the two St. Louis activists, the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office initiated a domestic security investigation into ISM as an organization. Nothing in the documents suggests any of these investigations ever resulted in criminal charges. Instead, the documents reveal sprawling investigations involving FBI field offices in multiple states and the national headquarters, as well as local law enforcement. FBI agents resorted not only to confidential informants and physical surveillance, but a scandal-prone unit formed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks accessed the phone records of at least one activist. In both investigations, the FBI relied heavily on biased right-wing publications making fantastical claims of questionable veracity.

Throughout the documents, the political beliefs of International Solidarity Movement (ISM) members and other Palestinian solidarity activist were treated as though they were synonymous with terrorism. The approach is of a piece with the FBI’s long history of using its intelligence and national security powers to track domestic dissent. “These cases demonstrate the FBI’s unwillingness to distinguish non-violent civil disobedience protesting government policy from terrorism,” Michael German, a former FBI agent and current fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, who reviewed the documents, told The Intercept. “The first” — the Los Angeles probe — “shows the FBI doesn’t even follow its own rules in opening Terrorism Enterprise Investigations. And the second” — in St. Louis ­— “shows the FBI’s use of tools designed to target foreign enemies against Americans exercising their First Amendment rights.” Read more - Lire plus
Watchdog finds new problems with FBI wiretap applications
Associated Press 31/03/2020 - The Justice Department inspector general has found additional failures in the FBI's handling of a secretive surveillance program that came under scrutiny after the Russia investigation, identifying problems with dozens of applications for wiretaps in national security investigations. The audit results, announced Tuesday by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, suggest that FBI errors while eavesdropping on suspected spies and terrorists extend far beyond those made during the investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. They come as the FBI has scrambled to repair public confidence in how it uses its surveillance powers and as lawmakers uneasy about potential abuses have allowed certain of its tools to at least temporarily expire.

The new findings are on top of problems identified last year by the watchdog office, which concluded that the FBI had made significant errors and omissions in applications to eavesdrop on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page during the early months of the Russia investigation. Those mistakes prompted internal changes within the FBI and spurred a congressional debate over whether the bureau's surveillance tools should be reined in. After the Russia report was submitted last December, Horowitz announced a broader audit of the FBI's spy powers and the accuracy of its applications before the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The watchdog office selected for review a subset of applications in both counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations covering the period from October 2014 to September 2019. It found problems in each of the more than two dozen applications it reviewed, including “apparent errors or inadequately supported facts."

The audit examined how well the FBI was complying with internal rules that require agents to maintain a file of supporting documentation for every factual assertion they make in an application. Those rules, or “Woods Procedures," were developed in 2001 with a goal of minimizing errors in the surveillance applications, known by the acronym FISA.
Horowitz said in a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray that in four of the 29 FISA applications his office selected for review, the FBI could not locate any of the supporting documentation that was supposed to have been produced at the time the application was submitted. Each of the 25 other applications it reviewed contained “apparent errors or inadequately supported facts," the inspector general said. In those instances, the facts stated in the applications were either not backed up any documentation or were inconsistent with the documentation. The watchdog office said it found an average of about 20 issues per application, including one application with about 65 issues. As a result, Horowitz wrote, “we do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy, or that the process is working as it was intended to help achieve the ‘scrupulously accurate’ standard for FISA applications." Read more - Lire plus
Australia: Is counterterrorism policy out of step with reality?
Policy Forum 31/03/2020 - Since 9/11, Australia’s counterterrorism framework has expanded dramatically, through a seemingly endless program of legislative reforms that have reduced the rights and freedom of all Australians. Amongst the most serious of these intrusions are marginalisation of the judiciary in key processes, the imposition of control and detention orders without proven offences, restrictions on free speech, freedom of movement and freedom of the press, and provisions to unilaterally repeal citizenship. These are just a few of the dozens of intrusive measures imposed by fearful and panicky governments without reference to the empirical facts.

Add to this anti-privacy measures which give tens of thousands of government officials warrantless access to the metadata of all Australians, and more recently demands for access to encrypted private communications, and the results are truly disturbing. The first of these measures has already been widely abused and the second is strongly opposed on security grounds by industry experts . The collective effect of these changes has not gone unnoticed by many commentators, with reports that Australia has become obsessed with anti-terror laws and that Parliament has lost touch with reality , giving rise to worries the Government is damaging Australia’s world class democracy. The public record reveals a division between Australia’s security agencies and civil society, with the former seeking increased authorities and the latter, more often than not, resisting such claims. This worrying picture has seen technocratic experts, including the Government’s own Intelligence and Security Legislation Monitor , resisting many proposed initiatives and recommending the repeal of others as either ineffective or disproportionate to the threat.

Political opposition has been appallingly muted throughout this debate, with successive oppositions paralysed by the fear of being portrayed as weak on terror. Successive governments have justified reducing the rights and freedoms of Australian citizens by claiming there has been no alternative in the face of extremist terrorist threats and that a ‘ new balance ’ was needed between rights, freedoms, and national security. Regrettably, the empirical facts tell a different story. Since 9/11, terrorism in Australia has not been distinguishable from background crime either in severity or frequency of incidents. Indeed, terrorism has been dwarfed by it, with only 11 deaths in 18 years, five of which were the alleged terrorists themselves. This compares with 357 homicides in 2018 alone. Often-quoted arrest figures involving just over 100 alleged offenders since 9/11 reinforce this observation. This number may seem large, but arrest totals for comparable offence categories including homicide and related offences, acts intended to cause injury, and weapons and explosives offences, collectively exceeded 100,000 in just 10 years. Read more - Lire plus
2019 has been very busy, and we are looking at a busy year 2020! Before giving you the summary of what we've been up to in the second half of 2019, here are a few things we will do in 2020:

  • We will continue to call for justice for Dr. Hassan Diab’s case and for the reform of the Extradition Act.

  • We will monitor the implementation of the National Security Act, 2017 (formerly Bill C-59), especially around mass surveillance and immunity for CSIS employees, in order to protect our civil liberties.

  • We will continue to push for a strong and effective review mechanism for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

  • We will continue advocating for the repeal of the Canadian No Fly List, as it violates mobility rights and due process, and for putting a stop to the use of the US No Fly List by air carriers in Canada for flights that do not land in or fly over the US, as it violates both our rights and Canada’s sovereignty.

Say NO to facial recognition in your community
Click on the Action button and send a letter to your city council to stop invasive, biased and unregulated facial recognition surveillance in your community!

Controversial facial recognition technology is spreading in Canada, even though our privacy laws don’t regulate its use.

If we can get cities to ban facial recognition, we’ll ramp up the pressure on the Canadian government to take action nation-wide. Send the letter below to take action!
Stop CSIS from targeting everyday citizens & community groups
A recent report revealed that CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, collected over 8,000 pages of documents, spying on citizens like you, people who exercise their democratic rights by attending a community meeting at a local church or taking peaceful action for what they believe in. And CSIS shared this info with Big Oil corporations.

Sign this petition to tell the govt to stop using taxpayer money to unconstitutionally spy on Canadians part of peaceful community groups.
Stop Facial Recognition in Canada
Facial recognition is invasive, biased and unreliable. But Canadian agencies and law enforcement have started using the tech despite the huge controversies.
Canada’s out-of-date privacy laws don’t yet cover facial recognition tech, leaving our government free to experiment on us with no oversight or regulations. We need to slam the brakes on the spread of this dangerous technology before it’s too late. Demand a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technologies and a full review of our privacy laws — before it becomes entrenched as a surveillance method in Canada.
Release Yasser Albaz from arbitrary detention in Egypt
It's been more than a year since Yasser has been detained without charge - take action now!

On February 18, 2019, my dad, Yasser Albaz, was stopped at Cairo airport, his Canadian passport was confiscated, and he was kidnapped by Egyptian State Security. My dad remains in the notorious Torah prison where he is forced to sleep on cold, concrete floor. He has not been charged and continues to receive 15-day extensions to his arbitrary detention.

Sign to tell PM Justin Trudeau to do everything in their power to bring this Canadian citizen home to his family.

Canada must act to end Islamophobia in Xinjiang, China
There is credible evidence that up to one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other mainly Muslim groups in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are being detained in secret internment camps. Detainees are brainwashed, tortured and are forced to renounce their religion and culture.

And send a message to Chrystia Freeland demanding that Canada actively support an independent and unrestricted international fact-finding initiative to Xinjiang.

Saudi Arabia: Free jailed activists
In Saudi Arabia, human rights violations are legitimized through the ‘Specialized Criminal Court’. The past 2 years have seen an unprecedented crackdown on Saudi activists, and this court acts to legitimize this oppression. Now is our chance to put pressure on King Salman to end grave human rights violations.

Sign the petition and demand that the King of Saudi Arabia, King Salman immediately and unconditionally releases all those who have been imprisoned for peacefully protesting.
All-in-one action page: Stop Mohamed Harkat's Deportation to Torture
Call PM Trudeau, write a letter to Public Safety Minister & your MP, and sign Sophie Harkat's petition to stop the deportation of Moe Harkat.

If sent back to Algeria, Moe faces detention, torture and death.

No one should be deported to torture. Ever.
Send a letter opposing cameras in the ByWard Market
Send a letter in support of CAMS Ottawa's response to Mayor Watson. While we share concerns about ongoing violence in the Market, installing surveillance cameras is not an appropriate solution. The very premise that CCTV can deter violent crime is highly doubtful. Video surveillance also raise significant concerns regarding the treatment of marginalized members of our community. We urge you to take the above problems and the following evidence into consideration and reconsider implementing such an ineffective, costly, and intrusive system.
Your phone is not safe at the border
Canada’s border agents can search your phone and laptop at borders and airports, including looking through your private photos, personal messages, and call history.

These ‘digital strip searches’ are allowed because our laws are incredibly out of date. But politicians are refusing to update them for our digital age.

Fight back with us: demand updated laws , learn more about your rights, and make a complaint if your privacy has been violated at the border.
OPP must be held accountable for violent repression of land defenders
The terrifying incident happened in April 2008 during a land occupation and road blockades by members of Tyendinaga Mohawk Nation, near Belleville, Ontario. Although the road blockades involved only a small number of community members – none of whom were armed -- the Ontario Provincial Police sent more than 200 officers, including the Tactics and Rescue Unit (TRU), tasked with responding to “the most serious threats to peace and order”. The UN Committee against Torture called on Canada to launch a thorough and impartial review to ensure accountability.
Five Eyes: Save encryption
Ministers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the U.S. have gone public with their plans for a huge attack on our personal security.

They want to force companies to crush the encryption that protects our private data and messages. But ordinary people need and use encryption every day, in everything from online banking to personal messaging in apps like WhatsApp.

Tell ministers to stop their attacks, and commit to protecting our privacy and security.
Call on Justin Trudeau to ensure justice for Abousfian Abdelrazik
In September 2003, Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik was arrested in Sudan, while he was back in the country visiting his ailing mother. Over the next three years he was imprisoned for nearly 20 months and was held under house arrest for 12 months. He was denied a lawyer, and was never charged or brought before a judge. During that time he was badly tortured in three different prisons. Not only did Canada fail to take steps to protect him, CSIS officials frequently obstructed efforts to secure his release.
Make January 29 a National Day
On Jan. 29, 2017, a lone gunman entered a mosque in Quebec City and opened fire on dozens of Muslim-Canadian worshipers. By the time the shooting had ended, six had been tragically killed, and 19 more injured. 

 W e, citizens and residents of Canada, call on the government of Canada to henceforth designate January 29th as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination or a National Day of Action against Hate and Intolerance .
Les opinions exprimées ne reflètent pas nécessairement les positions de la CSILC - The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the positions of ICLMG.
to our amazing supporters!
We would like to thank all our member organizations, and our patrons who are supporting ICLMG on Patreon ! As a reward, we are listing our patrons who give $10 or more per month (and wanted to be listed) directly in the News Digest. Without you, our work wouldn't be possible!

Kathryn Dingle
Mary Ann Higgs
Kevin Malseed
Brian Murphy
Karen Seabrooke
Colin Stuart
James Turk
Jo Wood
Late Bob Stevenson

Nous tenons à remercier nos organisations membres et toutes les personnes qui soutiennent la CSILC sur Patreon ! En récompense, nous nommons ci-dessus nos mécènes qui donnent 10$ ou plus par mois directement dans le News Digest. Sans vous, notre travail ne serait pas possible!