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.

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

El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto Echoes John Cornyn’s Tweet

After the deadly weekend shootings in El Paso Texas and Dayton Ohio, the President’s hateful rhetoric and especially his hardline stance on immigrants has taken center stage. A recent tweet by Senator John Cornyn(R-TX) is also getting closer scrutiny because some claim the El Paso shooter’s manifesto echoed similar anti-Hispanic sentiments as Senator Cornyn’s tweet–that Hispanics are replacing Whites in Texas.

Now we can all agree that it is unfair to pin any national tragedy on a politician’s previous public comments and Yours Truly is certainly not suggesting here that the El Paso shooter read Senator Cornyn’s tweet and then decided to open fire on Hispanic shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso. What is fair debate however is that President Trump has a well documented history of stoking racial tensions using very incendiary language that has even garnered praise from White Supremacy groups. It is also well known that Congressional Republicans like Senator Cornyn rarely push back on the President when he engages in such hateful rhetoric, the subject of Yours Truly’s recent post “GOP Complicit In Trump’s Racism”

Therefore when a hate crime against Hispanic shoppers like the one that happened in El Paso takes place, it is fair to confront Senator John Cornyn and other Republicans about their decision to remain silent even when the President engages in race-baiting speech. In Senator Cornyn’s case in particular, his tweet pointing out the fact that the Hispanic rate of migration to the state of Texas outnumbers that of Whites by a 9 to 1 margin certainly raises justifiable questions in light of the El Paso shooting. Was Senator Cornyn pushing the “White Replacement” conspiracy theory that is very popular among White Supremacy Groups worldwide?

It is well known that one of the grievances raised by hate groups and especially White Supremacists worldwide is this idea of “White Replacement”—that somehow there’s a global conspiracy to replace the White race with other ethnic groups. You’ll remember during the Charlottesville, Virginia riots, that White Supremacy advocates could be heard chanting “Jews will not replace us”. This “White Replacement” hysteria is fueling the growth of anti-immigrant political groups in Western Europe and some political pundits argue is the same hysteria currently being pushed by President Trump and his GOP with their harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric. It is therefore perfectly in order for Senator Cornyn to be questioned about the motivation behind his 9 to 1 tweet.

It also cannot be left unsaid that during a recent Congressional hearing, Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took Deputy FBI Director Michael McGarrity to task over why the FBI and other law enforcement agencies(like DHS) are not doing more to combat the rising threat of domestic terrorism posed by White Supremacy groups, a subject Yours Truly wrote about in “AOC Exposes FBI’s Terrorism Double Standard” . (AOC is always ahead of the curve folks).

Deputy Director McGarrity’s response was that there are no current laws/legal provisions that allow the FBI to vigorously go after domestic terrorists. The question then becomes, how does the same FBI and DHS currently target people they perceive to be “Black extremists” or “Black militants”? What current provisions/laws are they basing these surveillance practices on, that they are seemingly unwilling or unable to apply to White Supremacists? There have been numerous credible media reports that surveillance on “Black militants” is indeed happening as we speak in most major U.S. cities–some for reasons as mundane as anti-Trump/DHS social media posts, or even organizing,/participating in Black Lives Matter protests. Are these media reports “fake news”? These are some of the questions the public expects the mainstream media to pose to FBI and DHS brass in light of the two deadly weekend mass shootings.

Bottom line, the mainstream media fails the public miserably in the way it covers national tragedies. Specifically, the questions that need to be answered are often not answered because other incidents usually pop up and take the cameras/spotlight away. The El Paso shooting has raised two very important questions that needs to be addressed the first one being how surveillance capabilities of the FBI and DHS are being misused/abused. Are the FBI and DHS wasting surveillance resources needlessly chasing down perceived “militants” of color while totally ignoring the actual threat of domestic terrorism by White Supremacists? The second question (a no-brainer), is whether the hate-filled rhetoric emanating from President Trump and his Republican party is fueling the rise White Supremacy groups in the U.S.? These are two questions the mainstream media must seriously delve into in the aftermath of the two deadly shootings in El Paso and Dayton. The Mainstream media will likely give Trump and Senator John Cornyn a pass as they usually do with Republicans. However you can rest assured that Yours Truly, your trusted grassroots journalist, will not only hold Sen Cornyn’s feet to the fire regarding this racist tweet, but will also and make it the citadel upon which his 2020 reelection prospects fail. Stay tuned.

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

AOC Exposes FBI’s Terrorism Double Standard

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(D-NY) grilling the Assistant Director of FBI’s Counter-Terrorism Division Michael McGarrity

In one of her most stunning congressional performances yet, Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(D-NY) grilled FBI’s Assistant Director of Counterterrorism Michael McGarrity on the double standard with which the bureau charges non-White perpetrators as terrorists, while pursuing equally violent White supremacists only with hate crimes–with far fewer legal consequences.

There is no question that FBI’s double standard when it comes to terrorism has to be addressed. However, Rep Ocasio-Cortez and other members of Congress should not focus solely on who gets charged with what statute and instead dig into an even more troubling and still very under-covered topic by the mainstream media and that is, the increasing designation by the FBI/DHS of non-White activists in major urban centers(New York, Houston, LA, Chicago etc) as terrorists or radicalized extremists who then end up on their surveillance lists. Americans will be shocked to find out that even mundane activities like participating in/being an organizer of a Black Lives Matter rally, or Tweeting under “TheResistance” hashtag (#TheResistance)–all activities protected by the 1st amendment–could land someone in these obscure FBI/DHS surveillance lists.

Therefore members of Congress should not be singularly focused on who gets charged with what statute but rather the arbitrariness with which non-White political activists in major cities are increasingly getting caught up in FBI/DHS surveillance dragnets. These kinds of surveillance have disastrous effects on people’s lives whether they result in criminal charges or not, meaning absolute care must be taken to ensure the wrong people don’t end up in these dragnets. It certainly appears given the exchange between Rep Ocasio-Cortez and A.D. McGarrity, that it is infinitely easier for a non-White person to be designated and therefore investigated for terrorism than a similarly situated White person. These seemingly racist/bigoted surveillance policies should greatly trouble members of Congress.

Bottom line, Americans entrust the FBI and DHS with enormous investigative powers including but not limited to, the deterrence of terrorism. AOC and her fellow members of Congress have a duty to step in and ensure that these powerful agencies are not arbitrarily designating minority political activists as terrorism suspects and subjecting them to unjustified long-term surveillance for engaging in constitutionally protected speech.