Newscast for Tuesday, June 18, 2013

  • Senate immigration bill could exclude many immigrant women workers
  • Navajo community, activists push for transition to solar energy in Arizona
  • New York residents rally at Capitol to press for moratorium on fracking
  • Wisconsin investigative journalism center fights eviction led by Republican lawmakers

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House Intelligence Committee holds hearing on NSA operations

National intelligence officials appeared before the House Intelligence Committee today to speak about the formerly secret programs used to gather telephone metadata and online communications. NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander called the programs “critical” to the Intelligence community’s ability to protect the nation. One of the operations Gen. Alexander discussed was the gathering of online data under the 702 program, also known via leaks to the Guardian as PRISM.

“Under the 702 program, the U.S. government does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of U.S. companies. Rather, the U.S. companies are compelled to provide these records by U.S. law, using methods that are in strict compliance with that law”.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders, which are classified and are supposedly limited to targets believed to be at least 51% foreign. As for the monitoring of calls of US persons, Deputy Attorney General James Cole explained the Fourth Amendment does not apply to telephony metadata.

“There was a case quite a number of years ago by the Supreme Court that indicated that tel records, phone records like this that don’t include any content, are not covered by the Fourth Amendment because people don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in who they called and when they called. That’s something you show to the phone company. That’s something you show to many, many people within the phone company on a regular basis.”

Officials defended the importance of the programs and emphasized the distinction between U.S. persons with privacy rights and persons who are neither US citizens nor legal permanent residents and are physically located outside of the U.S. Witnesses were limited to Obama administration officials and did not include any privacy rights advocates.

Lawsuit challenges surveillance of Muslims in NYC

In New York, civil liberties attorneys have filed a lawsuit against the NYPD’s Muslim  surveillance program arguing it unconstitutionally targets Muslims based on their religion. Salim Rizvi reports from New York City.

The lawsuit, which names New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen as defendants, calls for an end to the city’s Muslim surveillance program. It says the NYPD spying program targeting Muslims is discriminatory and violates the rights of Muslims to freely exercise their religion. The plaintiffs include a young Muslim working for a charity, a cleric, and an Islamic Center. Hamid Hassan Raza is a cleric in a Brooklyn Mosque and a plaintiff in the lawsuit:

“Because of our knowledge and fear that the NYPD is spying on us, I have for years taped the sermons I give because I am afraid that an NYPD officer or an informant will misquote me or take a portion of a sermon out of context.”

In 2011 and 2012, the Associated Press revealed the widespread surveillance program targeting Muslims in the New York area, which included infiltration in mosques, monitoring of sermons, Islamic book shops, restaurants, and other public places. The NYPD admits that the surveillance has not led to any terrorism case, but insists that the progam is legal and required for keeping Americans safe. Salim Rizvi FSRN, New York City.

Scores detained and hundreds missing in Turkey as Justice Ministry mull social media censorship

In Turkey, anti-terrorism squads swept through major cities and detained about 100 people suspected of involvement in anti-government protests. Meanwhile, the justice ministry is drafting a law to restrict social media in the country. FSRN’s Jacob Resneck has the story.

Turkey’s semi-official news agency says police raided the homes of those suspected of inciting violence in the political unrest that’s rocked Turkey for nearly three weeks. Precise numbers were not available but the Istanbul Bar Association says it’s received reports that about 450 people now missing and believed to have been swept up in the dragnet. Rights groups have complained of heavy-handed police tactics including the indiscriminate use of tear gas on crowds assembling in public areas. But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit back today saying police are within their rights to use force and vowed to increase their power to intervene to break up demonstrations. This comes as the Justice Ministry announced it was studying ways to restrict social media in the country. Twitter and Facebook have been widely used by activists and protesters. Demonstrators have complained that Turkish broadcast media practice self-censorship and mislead their audience over the true extent of the political unrest now believed to be the largest challenge to the government during its decade in power. Jacob Resneck, Free Speech Radio News.

Massive protests spread across Brazil

Nationwide protests have rapidly spread across Brazil in the wake of a police crackdown against demonstrators over the weekend in Sao Paolo. Initial demands focused on reversing a fare increase in public transportation but quickly encompassed opposition to a range of other issues, from the cost of hosting the next World Cup to government corruption.

Severe rainstorms and flooding kills more than 70 in India

Heavy rains and flooding in Northern India have killed at least 70 people and displaced thousands. Shuriah Niazi reports from Bhopal.

Severe rainstorms this year have affected nearly all of India ahead of the start of monsoon season. The northern part of the country has been hardest-hit. More than 70 thousand Hindu pilgrims are stranded in different holy places around the state of Uttarakhand. Nearly 200 camps have been set up to receive them. Several roads – including national highways – have been blocked at multiple points. Indo-Tibetan Border Police are engaged in relief and rescue operations in different parts of the state, made difficult by ongoings rains and landslides. The death toll – already estimated at over 70 – is expected to rise further as rescue teams advance. Shuriah Niazi, FSRN, Bhopal.



Senate immigration bill could exclude many immigrant women workers

As the Senate continues debating and amending a comprehensive immigration reform bill that could put millions of undocumented people on a path to citizenship, Republicans in the House of Representatives are pushing what they call “a step-by-step approach.” The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill today that focuses only on immigration enforcement. The legislation would empower local police to enforce immigration law, waive all laws protecting the environment and historic sites within 100 miles of the border, and provide unlimited funding for building more prisons to incarcerate undocumented people. Immigrant rights advocates disrupted the hearing in protest of the bill, but they also took issue with aspects of the Senate legislation, especially provisions that could exclude many immigrant women. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Navajo community, activists push for transition to solar energy in Arizona

In Arizona, Navajo Nation members and activists rallied for clean energy and an end to coal and fossil fuel-based sources. People gathered at a water canal, known as the Central Arizona Project Canal in Scottsdale. They used a solar powered generator to pump water for tribal members to use. Organizers said they’re aiming to show alternatives to the Navajo Generating Station, which is a coal-fired power plant, leased by the tribe. The action is part of a nationwide campaign launched this week, called Our Power, which is pushing for a transition to renewable, community-based energy. The campaign focuses on what it calls “transition hotspots” in communities such as Detroit, Michigan, Richmond, California and Black Mesa, Arizona. For more, we’re joined by Jihan Gearon, director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, one of the organizers at today’s action.

New York residents rally at Capitol to press for moratorium on fracking

As concerns about hydraulic fracturing grow across the country, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law Monday a bill to regulate the industry. Characterizing the measure as the country’s “strongest” fracking regulations, Quinn said the law could lead to the creation of thousands of jobs while also ensuring “natural resources are protected for future generations.” The law requires companies to test water and disclose chemicals before and after wells are fracked. And they’ll have to store toxic waste generated during the process in above ground tanks rather than injecting it back into the ground, as is done in other states. But some environmentalists and residents say the measure doesn’t go far enough, and are demanding the state issue a moratorium until the health and environmental impacts of fracking are more fully known. Fracking opponents in New York also continue to pressure elected officials.Yesterday, thousands of people gathered at the New York state Capitol in Albany to press for a moratorium too.” FSRN’s James Krivo was there and brings the voices of Onondaga Nation Chief Oren Lyons, Stanford University Civil & Environmental Engineering Professor Mark Jacobson, Ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber and musician Natalie Merchant.

Wisconsin investigative journalism center fights eviction led by Republican lawmakers

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin are targeting the award-winning Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. With little discussion and no public debate, a provision to evict the Center from its home at the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism was discreetly slipped into the state budget earlier this month.  Dozens of journalism outlets from across the country are calling on Wisconsin lawmakers to take back this surprise eviction notice.  The final budget could go to Governor Scott Walker’s desk by the end of the week. FSRN’s Dylan Brogan reports from Madison.

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