AG Barr, FBI’s Wray Sued Over Terrorist Watchlists

An interesting terrorist watch list lawsuit is currently playing out at the United States District Court for the District of Colorado (USDC-Colorado). The lawsuit, Coker v Barr (1:19-cv-02486, filed 08/30/19), names U.S. Attorney General William Barr, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Charles H. Kable, Director of the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) as defendants. The plaintiff James A. Coker, a military veteran and former law enforcement officer believes, as do many other innocent Americans, that he has been wrongfully placed on a terrorist watch list and is fighting to be accorded a court hearing where he can challenge the basis of his inclusion in the watch list(s). Below is a copy of the very well done complaint filed by the plaintiff’s attorney Patricia S. Bangert.

Terror Watch List Lawsuit by Emolclause on Scribd

According to the complaint, James Coker (plaintiff) who is a military veteran and decorated law enforcement officer(Georgia), began experiencing problems at airports on his air travels in 2016. He raised this issue with the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) using the procedure the department has set up for people who suspect they have been wrongfully placed on the no-fly list. DHS never took him off the no-fly list. In 2018 he applied for, and was offered a job by Veterans Affairs(VA) as a police officer. As a condition of the job, he was required to attend training at a VA police officers training center in Arkansas. Two weeks into his training, armed guards informed him that he was on a terrorist watch list and escorted him out of the training center–a totally humiliating experience. With this lawsuit, Coker seeks to find out among other things, how the hell he ended up on a terrorist watch list.

Coker’s lawsuit is very important in that it yet again reinforces one of the strongest arguments made against the terrorist watch list system and that is, it is very possible for innocent Americans to get caught up in these terrorist watch lists for reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism either through errors but also, quite commonly, through malice. In an unrelated terrorist watch list lawsuit for example, the plaintiff claimed that the FBI placed him in a watch list simply because he refused to be an informant against his fellow Muslim friends, a clear cut case of retaliation. This Just Security piece provides other examples of grave abuses of these terrorist watch lists but more importantly, the disastrous effects of the said abuses on the innocent targets’ lives.

The plaintiff in the instant case James Coker, doesn’t fit the profile of someone many Americans would expect to land on the terrorist watch list–a military veteran with a law enforcement background and zero criminal record. The fact that someone like James Coker can also get ensnared in the terrorist watch list dragnet should be reason enough for members of congress to finally crack down on this grotesquely unjust program.

Think about that folks. With all the hue and cry in the mainstream media about FISA surveillance abuses against Carter Page, it is shocking how since 2003, we have seemingly tolerated this grotesquely unjust terrorist watch list system where on any given day and for whatever reason, someone can arbitrarily decide that you pose a threat to national security, throw your name into some watch list turning your life upside down, without you ever getting a chance to challenge the basis of your inclusion in the said watch list. Anyone who claims to be concerned about surveillance abuses regarding Carter Page but is okay with this abuse-prone terrorist watch list system cannot be taken seriously. Simply put, any serious debate about surveillance reforms has to include these terrorist watch lists.

Why is Coker v Barr very important and potentially the ground zero for much anticipated push back against the surveillance state? The simple answer is timing. It is impossible to ignore the backdrop against which this lawsuit is playing out. A reasonable argument can be made that ever since the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, it is in 2020 that the anti-surveillance sentiment has finally reached fever pitch, and a lot of this has to do with the FISA surveillance abuses revealed in the Carter Page case. An investigation conducted by the Department of Justice Inspector General into 29 other FISA surveillance applications after the Carter Page revelations, found errors in all the 29 applications. Coker v Barr is therefore playing out at a time when there is tremendous appetite for surveillance reform and I suspect the USDC-Colorado district judge is fully aware of that.

It also bears pointing out that when a key surveillance law recently came up for reauthorization, it was “law and order” Republican Senators who temporarily held up its automatic renewal. Folks, if “law and order” Republican Senators holding up automatic renewal of a crucial surveillance law is not the ultimate signal that time has finally come for some serious surveillance reform, I don’t know what is.

Bottom line, Coker v Barr comes at a time when there is a great national appetite for a serious overhaul of the surveillance regime. There is a very good chance that USDC-Colorado may finally force the government (AG Barr and Co.) to explain how secretly throwing an individual in some list that upends their life and livelihood, without ever according them a chance to challenge such a placement does not on its face, grossly violate the 5th amendment’s due process requirements. Prior to the Carter Page and DOJ-IG findings of surveillance abuses, courts were reluctant to address the glaring due process concerns raised by the terrorist watch list program. I suspect with Coker v Barr, USDC-Colorado will be very eager to get an explanation from AG Barr and Co. as to how the secretive terrorist watch lists satisfy the 5th amendment’s due process requirements. Major kudos to attorney Patricia Bangert for this forceful legal challenge to the surveillance regime.

For those of you very happy with @Emolclause’s activism don’t shy away from the “tip jar” below on your way out.

You may reach the author via email at author@grassrootsdempolitics.com or author@emolumentsclause.com

Little Known FBI’s Race-Based Surveillance

There have been numerous media reports about a very troubling practice by the FBI to designate Black activists as “Black Identity Extremists”, an often bogus designation which is then used to justify subjecting the said activists to all levels of surveillance–private, local, state, federal and even military surveillance in major cities like Houston, LA, Chicago, New York and others. The rationale, a bogus one, is that a “Black Identity Extremist” or BIE is more likely to attack law enforcement officers and thus needs to be placed under 24-hour surveillance.

The controversy surrounding this program, beyond its prima facie racism, centers around the ease with which a Black activist could end up in this designation. Several media reports have said that even mundane activities like organizing or attending a Black Lives Matter rally could in the eyes of the FBI qualify a Black activist as a BIE subjecting them to unjustified long-term government surveillance, the fruits of which could be used in their criminal prosecution. Needless to say, Black activists who support/sympathize with Black Lives Matter on social media (Twitter, Facebook) can also very easily be designated as BIEs. Simply put, this is a very serious problem that is yet to garner the mainstream media attention it deserves.

Yours Truly has ranted and raved about the lack of mainstream media attention surrounding this seemingly–let’s face it–racist surveillance by the FBI for quite a while now, wondering when House Democrats would take up this serious issue with the justice department.

Well, it turns out Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee (R-TX) did indeed raise this issue with then U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions at a House hearing on November 14, 2017. Rep Jackson-Lee asked Sessions; “My question is, as I hold up the poster dealing with the report under your jurisdiction–Black Identity Extremists. It is interesting to me that you are opposing [meant targeting] individuals who are opposing lethal force, similar to the attack on Reverend Dr Martin Luther King on Cointelpro, but there seems to be no report dealing with the tiki torch parade in Charlottesville chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’. Why is there an attack on Black activists versus any report dealing with the Alt Right and the White Nationalists?” AG Sessions responded that he was not aware of the report.

Cointelpro which Rep Jackson-Lee referenced in her questioning was a controversial and secret surveillance program the FBI deployed on Black civil rights activists in the 60s, most notably, on the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Historians agree that the primary reason the FBI ran Cointelpro on Black civil rights activists was to scare them into silence. This is precisely why when Black activists hear about “Black Identity Extremists” they are immediately reminded of stories they’ve read about Cointelpro and are justified in questioning whether the FBI has indeed reverted back to its 1960s tactic of stifling Black dissent.

Bottom line the “Black Identity Extremist” debate is one that begs for serious mainstream media attention. The mainstream media and indeed members of Congress must not remain silent as a section of the population is unjustly subjected to heightened levels of government surveillance all in an effort to stifle their first amendment compliant political speech. At moments like these, Martin Niemoller’s famous words come to mind; “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist, then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist, then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

For those of you very happy with @Emolclause’s activism don’t shy away from the “tip jar” below on your way out.

You may reach the author via email at author@grassrootsdempolitics.com or author@emolumentsclause.com

Snowden: Govt Making Permanent Record Of Our Private Lives

In a must watch segment on MSNBC’s Last Hour with Brian Williams, Edward Snowden made the bombshell revelation that the current state of big brother surveillance is such that the government is essentially making a permanent record of our private lives. Snowden’s fear is that this information can and will be used against private citizens for intimidation, harassment etc .

Snowden explained to host Brian Williams how the government and some private companies are using our private cell phones against us–absolutely shocking stuff. Snowden said the government now considers hacking into people’s phones a legitimate investigative tool. He says the government will seek out vulnerabilities in your phone’s software to get into(hack) your phone. Once inside, everything you can do with your phone, they can also do remotely. They for example, can video record your living room, your children, your visitors and yeah liberals, even your kinky bedroom activities.

Specifically Snowden said, “Hacking has increasingly become what governments consider a legitimate investigative tool. They use the same methods and techniques as criminal hackers, and what this means is that they will try to remotely take over your device. Once they do this by detecting a vulnerability in the software your device runs such as Apple’s IOS or Microsoft’s Windows, they can craft a special kind of attack code called an ‘exploit’. They then launch this exploit at the vulnerability on your device which allows them to take total control of your device. Anything you can do on that device, the attacker, in this case the government, can do. They can read your email, they can collect every document, they can look at your contact book, they can turn the location services on, they can see anything that is on that phone instantly and send it back home to the mother ship. They can do the same with laptops. “

Another bombshell revelation by Snowden was that in many cases, the government doesn’t even need to hack into our devices, they can get all this information from our good friend Google. Who knew?

And just in case you thought Yours Truly was being facetious earlier with the assertion that the government can record your kinky bedroom activities, listen to Snowden himself explain how easy this is.

Host Brian Williams posed a very important question to Snowden about the usual refrain from law enforcement officials and some members of the public that “If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” Snowden says absolutely you should be worried because these seemingly innocent pieces of information the government collects about you daily can be aggregated and used to create a profile of you which the government then shares/sells to private entities who use them to make decisions about you–some of which may not be accurate.

Snowden specifically said, “Our devices are casting all of these records that we do not see being created, that in aggregate seem very innocent. You were at Starbucks at this time, you went to the hospital afterwards, you spent a long time at the hospital. After you left the hospital you made a phone call. You made a phone call to your mother. You talked to her until the middle of the night. The hospital was an oncology clinic. Even if you can’t see the content of these communications, the activity records, what the government calls ‘metadata’, which they argue they do not need a warrant to collect, tells the whole story. And these activity records are being created and shared and collected and intercepted constantly by companies and governments……As they sell these, as they trade these, as they make their businesses on the backs of these records, what they are selling is not information….what they are selling is us……..”

Bottom line folks, there needs to be a debate about big brother surveillance in general and in particular whether the 4th amendment right to privacy even exists anymore given the latest technological advancements. Another legal issue that needs serious attention is the question surrounding warrants. Law enforcement officials, when confronted about these highly invasive techniques often throw out the answer, “we had a warrant” which we all assume makes all their invasive techniques “legal”. The question that is never asked, and for which yours truly would really like to get an answer to is this–Do the judges who supposedly issue these warrants know exactly what they are authorizing law enforcement officials to do with these technologies? Do they for example know that they can be used to record people in their bedrooms, follow people around on a 24-hour basis etc? Are there mechanisms in place to find out if these devices are abused by law enforcement officials? All these are serious questions that need to be addressed for everybody’s sake–law enforcement officials, the courts, and the increasingly suspicious public.

For those of you very happy with @Emolclause’s activism don’t shy away from the “tip jar” below on your way out.

You may reach the author via email at author@grassrootsdempolitics.com or author@emolumentsclause.com

DHS Harassing Pastor For Ministering To Migrants

Rev Kaji Dousa

In yet another troubling case of abuse of surveillance powers by the Department of Homeland Security, we now find out that the agency is harassing a Christian Pastor Rev Kaji Dousa, subjecting her to among other things heightened surveillance simply because she ministers to migrants and laments the cruel immigration policies of the Trump administration

The details of DHS’ troubling intimidation tactics against Rev Kaji Dousa are laid out in a federal lawsuit she filed on 7/8/2019 which we will definitely keep track of.

Yours Truly has repeatedly warned about how DHS has become nothing more than a political tool of the Trump administration used to wage war against those it perceives as anti-Trump and thus in their warped reasoning, anti-American. This is one of the gravest abuses of surveillance powers by DHS that is playing out in every major U.S. city today with seemingly no pushback from House Democrats or even the mainstream media.

Some of the worst surveillance abuses by DHS on people of color are occurring in Texas not only because it is a border state and home to a lot of immigrants, but also because the state falls under the 5th Circuit Court jurisdiction–a rightwing federal appeals court that has traditionally been indifferent to the plight of poor minorities. DHS is fully aware that whatever complaint is lodged against them in Texas for illegal surveillance will not attract the attention of the 5th Circuit Court or it’s associated district courts–a total travesty of justice. Consequently there is no impetus for DHS to stop targeting minorities with illegal surveillance.

Some civil rights groups like Color of Change and others have pushed back against illegal surveillance on minority activists by DHS and FBI with limited success. With every single passing day it is becoming clear that the problem of illegal surveillance for intimidation purposes has to be addressed by Congress and the mainstream media.

Bottom line, it should go without saying that DHS targeting people with illegal surveillance for engaging in conduct perfectly within their first amendment rights is patently unconstitutional. The bigger injustice is the continued silence by House Democrats and the mainstream media in the face of DHS’ troubling conduct. The U.S. Supreme Court should also start cracking the whip on the 5th Circuit Court for the strange indifference with which the court handles illegal surveillance claims against DHS by minorities.

For those of you very happy with @Emolclause’s activism don’t shy away from the “tip jar” below on your way out

You may reach the author via email at author@grassrootsdempolitics.com or author@emolumentsclause.com

Is The Surveillance State Targeting Dems Using Twitter

California ACLU Technology and Civil Liberties Director Nicole Ozer penned a very troubling piece in December 2016 on how federal spy centers aka fusion centers are increasingly using Twitter for mass surveillance.


According to Nicole’s piece a company called Dataminr, partly owned by Twitter, provides the federal spy centers(fusion centers) with tweet data, including GPS location, which the spy centers use for surveillance purposes. Twitter says it stopped Dataminr from providing tweet data to fusion centers in 2016 but given the Trump administration’s demonstrated hostility towards any form of criticism especially on Twitter, any reasonable person would go back and verify whether Dataminr has indeed stopped its cooperation with federal spy centers.

The article also points out that this kind of Twitter surveillance is  directed more at minorities and political activists. It is therefore not a stretch to suggest that #TheResistance movement which has grown in leaps and bounds on Twitter since December 2016 when Nicole Ozer penned her article, has also become a target of these federal spy centers(fusion centers). In other words there is reason to believe that Dem activists are increasingly being subjected to surveillance by these federal spy centers over their anti-Trump tweets–a clear cut violation of their first amendment rights.

Bottom line congressional Dems must demand hearings on this troubling nexus between Twitter and federal spy centers to make sure the public(especially Dems) are not being punished with unconstitutional surveillance for their anti-Trump posts on Twitter

Alternatively, because congressional Dems have developed a reputation for weakness, ACLU’s Nicole Ozer should revisit the issue and inform the public as to whether Dataminr really terminated its cooperation with federal spy centers as Twitter alleged in 2016.

Yours Truly already knows the answer to this question but will give Twitter/Dataminr the benefit of the doubt nonetheless.

For those of you very happy with @Emolclause’s activism don’t shy away from the “tip jar” below on your way out