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ACLU: FBI ‘manipulating’ debate on Patriot Act reform

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The FBI is abusing the powers given to it under the Patriot Act in a way that is stifling the current debate about reforming that law, says the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The FBI continues to use the gag order provision of the Patriot Act’s national security letter (NSL) statute to suppress key information about the agency’s misuse of NSLs,” the group said in a statement released Wednesday.

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National security letters (NSLs), created under the Patriot Act security bill that was passed in the aftermath of 9/11, allow the FBI to demand sensitive information about users of facilities like libraries and Internet service providers, and then bar those organizations from revealing that the order was ever given.

The ACLU’s claim comes weeks after Senate Democrats introduced the Justice Act, an omnibus security bill its authors, including Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), say is designed to protect civil rights threatened by the Patriot Act.

Several elements of the Patriot Act are set to expire at the end of the year. The Obama administration has backed the renewal of three of those elements.

The ACLU says the FBI’s continued use of gag orders is making it impossible for the public to evaluate how national security letters have been used, and what needs to be done to fix them.

The group is challenging the NSLs in a lawsuit known as Doe V. Holder, in which an Internet service provider is fighting the gag order placed on it by the FBI, in a case it says was misuse of government power. Because of the gag order, very few details are known about the case. The public does not know who the Internet provider is, or what the gag order is related to.

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In 2008, a federal court of appeals ruled that the FBI could not maintain the gag order without giving the court a justification for it. Earlier this year, the Obama administration decided not to challenge that ruling, and the FBI complied by handing over a justification.

But, as Jon Stokes reported at Ars Technica, the FBI reported to the judge in secret. Not even the defendants knew what justification the FBI gave for demanding information from the Internet provider. The ACLU challenged that in court, and the court allowed parts of the FBI’s justification to be made public.

“One of the legal documents recently made public reveals that the FBI continues to use the gag order to prohibit the disclosure of an ‘attachment’ to the NSL Doe received that, if disclosed, would show that the FBI tried to obtain records that it was not entitled to obtain under the NSL statute,” the ACLU says.

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“The FBI’s misuse of its gag power continues to prevent NSL recipients like Doe – who have the best first-hand knowledge of the FBI’s use and abuse of NSL power – from participating in the Patriot Act debate in Congress,” ACLU staff attorney Melissa Goodman said in the ACLU’s statement.

“The gag power has allowed the FBI to manipulate the debate, to suppress evidence of its misuse of the NSL power, and to deprive Congress and the public of important information it needs to inform whether these intrusive surveillance and gag powers should be reformed.”

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Trump’s most unhinged supporters paying $5 a pop to use special emojis on YouTube

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The pro-Trump cable network One America News is cashing in on QAnon conspiracy theorists on its YouTube channel.

OAN viewers can pay $4.95 a month to become "members" of the right-wing channel, which then allows them to use customized emojis to signal their recognition of the conspiracy theory's lore, reported The Daily Beast.

"It’s not clear how many people have signed up for the OAN YouTube membership, when OAN started offering the emojis, or how many of those sign-ups were driven by the opportunity to use QAnon emojis," writes The Beast's Will Sommer. "But the creation of the emojis reflects a decision to monetize, not expel, the conspiracy believers. If QAnon fans are going to spam QAnon in the OAN comments, it seems the network has decided they might as well get some money out of it."

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2020 Election

Former federal prosecutor explains how AG Barr could help Trump steal the election — and take the US to ‘a very dark place’

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Between the coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest in major U.S. cities, huge anti-racism protests, bitter political divisions, a heated Supreme Court battle and President Donald Trump’s ruthless voter suppression efforts, the United States’ 2020 presidential election is turning out to be even more chaotic than the elections of 2000 and 1968. Trump has a devoted loyalist in U.S. Attorney General William Barr, and former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade discusses the effect he could have on the 2020 election in a disturbing op-ed published in the Washington Post on September 22.

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You’d think Mitch McConnell would use RGB’s open seat to drive election turnout — but he has a different goal in mind

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President Trump repeatedly says that he's accomplished more than any president in history. I've never heard anyone ask him to lay out specifically what he means by that. He can try to take credit for signing big tax cuts for the wealthy, but that was passed by the Republican Congress with little input from him. It's true that his executive branch agencies have overturned many environmental rules and other regulations, but he hasn't been involved and clearly doesn't know the details.Trump's corruption has given his consigliere, Attorney General Bill Barr, the opportunity to further his own "powerful executive" theory. His craven pandering to white supremacists and the evangelical right has kept the base bonded tightly to the Republican Party. But beyond that his list of accomplishments is nil. He has literally done nothing but run his mouth and turn the U.S. into an object of fear and pity around the world
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