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The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hear testimony today on proposed changes to the attorney general guidelines. The
guidelines govern FBI investigations and were adopted in the mid-1970's
after it was discovered that the agency was engaged in widespread
abuses and violations of constitutional rights - including
politically-motivated spying on figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. FBI
Director Robert Mueller also answered questions about the guidelines
last week during hearings before both the House and Senate Judiciary
Committees. The American Civil Liberties Union is asking
the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to
investigate whether the FBI violated previous guidelines before the new
guidelines are put into place.
guidelines were originally implemented because the FBI abused its
investigative authorities and, frankly, it's audacious that the bureau
would demand more power after so recently being caught abusing its
Patriot Act authorities," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the
ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The internal oversight at the bureau is notoriously poor. Though
the FBI continues its PR campaign to build public trust, given its
history of malfeasance and abuse, it cannot possibly believe that the
Congress will take the agency at its word."
the revised guidelines, FBI agents no longer need "factual predication"
to use paid informers, spy on a person's activities or engage in other
types of intrusive surveillance; all that will be necessary is a
hypothetical "threat" that does not need to be connected by any facts
to the people or organization under surveillance. The
ACLU remains gravely concerned that this controversial change opens the
door to racial profiling as someone's race, religion or ethnic
background could be used as a factor in opening an investigation.
The ACLU is formally requesting the OIG investigate current abuses of the attorney general guidelines. During
testimony last week, Director Mueller insinuated that
the FBI interpreted its authorities under the current guidelines to
allow the use of intrusive investigative techniques even without any
factual "predication." A plain reading of the guidelines would not support this interpretation. The
OIG investigation should examine whether the FBI has used prohibited
investigative techniques to infiltrate groups engaged in non-violent
protest activities or political demonstrations without a factual
predicate indicating a possible violation of federal law. The
investigation should particularly examine the manner in which the FBI
uses race, religion, national origin or First Amendment protected
activities in determining whether to initiate, expand or continue an
the point of revising the guidelines if the FBI isn't even following
the current ones? Since that very well may be the case, we're asking
the Inspector General to investigate what exactly has been going on at
the bureau," continued Fredrickson. "The FBI already has
far too much authority - and far too grave a history of abusing that
authority - for its investigative powers to have anything but clear,
bright and easily understood boundaries."
To read the ACLU's letter to DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine, go to:
The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.(212) 549-2666
"You should not have to face financial ruin because you want a damn education!" said Sen. Bernie Sanders. "Education, from child care to graduate school, is a human right. It should be free to all."
Borrowers, advocates, and lawmakers converged on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday night and Tuesday morning to defend President Joe Biden's stalled student debt relief plan as justices prepared to consider a pair of right-wing challenges to the popular proposal.
Attendees argued that Biden's move to erase up to $20,000 in student debt for federal borrowers with individual incomes under $125,000 and modify the income-driven repayment program is just, legal, and necessary. Although it falls short of progressives' demands for universal cancellation, speakers made clear that the White House's plan is key to improving economic security.
"You should not have to face financial ruin because you want a damn education!" Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said during Tuesday morning's rally. "Education, from child care to graduate school, is a human right. It should be free to all."
"Today we say to the Supreme Court, listen to the needs of millions of struggling people," Sanders added. "Do the right thing. Support Biden's proposal to cancel student debt."
"President Biden's executive authority to provide student debt relief to borrowers is abundantly clear."
After Monday night's rally, some campaigners planned to camp out overnight in a bid to secure seats in the courtroom for Tuesday's oral arguments, which began at 10:00 am ET.
In both Biden v. Nebraska—brought by the Republican-led states of Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina—and Department of Education v. Brown—filed with the support of billionaires by a pair of plaintiffs who claim they were unfairly excluded from relief—the right-wing-controlled Supreme Court will decide whether Biden's plan exceeds the U.S. Department of Education's (DOE) authority and whether the lawsuits have legal standing.
In a Tuesday statement released ahead of the hearing, Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri said, "Today, far-right Republican attorneys general will bring baseless and politically motivated arguments to the Supreme Court in opposition to providing student debt relief promised to 40 million borrowers across our country."
"Regardless," said Bush, "President Biden's executive authority to provide student debt relief to borrowers is abundantly clear—just look at the facts."
Fact: The basis of the Republican AG's case relies on the claim that this relief plan threatens the profits of loan servicers such as MOHELA and states will be financially injured. Yet, in response to an October letter I sent to MOHELA, they denied involvement in the case and discredited Republicans by stating that they don’t operate to make profits and remain committed to complying with contractual obligations set forth by the U.S. Department of Education.
Fact: Republicans claim that states, like Missouri, also rely on revenue from loan servicers like MOHELA. Yet, MOHELA hasn’t paid their bills to the state in over a decade and owes over $100 million to the state of Missouri.
Fact: President Biden's student debt relief plan would provide 40 million borrowers across our country—including 144,000 of my constituents—with life-changing financial relief. Following the economic devastation of the pandemic, we need transformative policy solutions to foster an equitable economic recovery.
"I know what it's like to carry crushing student debt and to have to make impossible choices between paying rent or paying an exorbitant student loan bill," said Bush. "And I've heard from people across the country who have shared how this relief would change their lives—from being able to afford child care, to paying their medical bills, to being able to put food on the table."
"The facts are clear, and I implore the Supreme Court to affirm the president's executive authority to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt," she added. "I'm confident the Biden-Harris administration's plan will withstand these hurdles and provide the much-needed relief to borrowers."
Right-wing lawmakers and activists filed numerous lawsuits after the White House announced its student debt cancellation bid in August. Applications for relief closed in November after a federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump blocked Biden's plan. At the time, 26 million borrowers had already applied for or were automatically eligible for relief, and 16 million applications were given the green light and sent to loan servicers.
While GOP members of Congress argue that student debt relief is a regressive policy whose benefits would flow disproportionately to wealthy households, DOE data released earlier this month dispels that myth. According to a Politicoanalysis of the data, over 98% of people who applied before the portal was frozen reside in ZIP codes where the average per-capita income is under $75,000. Nearly two-thirds of applicants live in neighborhoods where the average person makes less than $40,000 per year.
With his relief measures obstructed, Biden extended the pause on federal student loan repayments—a measure that was introduced at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 and had been set to expire on December 31, 2022—through June 30, 2023. Payments are set to restart 60 days after that date, or 60 days after the high court hands down its decision, whichever comes first.
The Debt Collective, however, tweeted Monday night: "We're not paying that damn student debt no matter what the Supreme Court and its corrupted judges say."
"Today's ruling is a testament to the incredible power and resiliency of immigrant workers and their communities," said one advocate.
Immigrant rights groups celebrated a historic victory late Monday as a federal judge handed down what is believed to be the first-ever class action settlement over a workplace immigration raid in the United States, awarding $1.17 million to nearly 100 people who were targeted by the Trump administration in 2018.
Most of the plaintiffs will receive more than $5,700 each, while a total of $475,000 will be split between six people who the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee found were eligible to be compensated for "negligent or wrongful acts by agents of the federal government," The New York Timesreported Monday.
The plaintiffs, represented by legal advocacy groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), were rounded up by the Department of Homeland Security in April 2018 after an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) found that their employer at a meat processing plant in Bean Station, Tennessee was evading taxes by paying them in cash.
"They used the pretext of a tax investigation of the plant's owner to plan and carry out a full-blown operation targeting the Latino workers," Michelle Lapointe, deputy legal director for the NILC, told the Times on Monday.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents descended on the plant and violently arrested dozens of Latino workers, separating them from their white coworkers and physically assaulting some of them. The warrant the agents had to enter the premises did not authorize them to arrest anyone. Only one Latino employee avoided the raid—by hiding in a meat freezer.
A majority of the workers were placed in deportation court proceedings and at least 20 were deported shortly after the raid.
More than 150 children were directly affected by the raid, as their parents were detained. The nearby city of Morristown rallied around the immigrant community, providing legal services, donations, help with locating detained people, and child care.
The NILC called the legal victory handed down on Monday "a testament to the power of community organizing to protect workers' rights."
\u201c"I am content to see that justice prevailed over injustice. I am thankful to the legal team and the class members, who stuck together throughout this time. We will always remember that we are one." - Martha Pulido, plaintiff & resident of Morristown, TN\u201d— National Immigration Law Center (@National Immigration Law Center) 1677537498
"Today's ruling is a testament to the incredible power and resiliency of immigrant workers and their communities," said Lisa Sherman Luna, executive director at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. "Violent enforcement tactics like workplace raids are designed to keep immigrant families living in fear, but these plaintiffs and class members refused to stand by when they knew their rights had been violated. This settlement sends a clear message: No matter who we are or where we are from, we all deserve the freedom to work and live safely in our communities."
Meredith Stewart, senior supervising attorney at the SPLC's Immigrant Justice Project, called the ruling "unprecedented" and said the settlement "demonstrates that we, as a nation, will not tolerate racial profiling."
"We can't trust giant corporations like Norfolk Southern to keep communities safe out of the goodness of their hearts," said Rep. Chris Deluzio. "They're in it for profits, plain and simple."
Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Chris Deluzio of Pennsylvania introduced legislation Tuesday that would require the U.S. Transportation Department to impose more strict regulations on trains carrying hazardous materials, an effort to prevent disasters like the toxic derailment in East Palestine, Ohio from happening in the future.
"The people in East Palestine and western Pennsylvania are the working-class folks who feel invisible and abandoned by our nation," Khanna said in a statement. "This is a moment where we need political leaders from all parties and from across the country to speak out loudly for better safety regulations and to acknowledge what so many Americans are going through."
If passed, the Decreasing Emergency Railroad Accident Instances Locally (DERAIL) Act would direct the head of the Department of Transportation to "modify the definition of 'high-hazard flammable train' to mean a single train transporting one or more loaded tank cars of a Class 3 flammable liquid or a Class 2 flammable gas and other materials the secretary determines necessary for safety."
Thanks in part to aggressive industry lobbying, the Transportation Department currently defines a high-hazard flammable train as one carrying hazardous materials in at least 20 consecutive cars or 35 total, limiting the number of trains subject to more stringent safety rules.
Deluzio, who represents constituents located just miles from the East Palestine derailment, said in a statement that many people are "worried about their health and livelihoods and whether their air, water, and soil will be safe" after the East Palestine wreck.
"Following this derailment, many of them are worried about their health and livelihoods and whether their air, water, and soil will be safe after this disaster," Deluzio added. "They want answers, accountability, and assurance that something like this will never happen again. For too long, railroads have prioritized profit ahead of public safety and their workers, and it is time to regulate the railroads. This legislation is an important step forward to finally strengthen our rail regulations and improve rail safety in communities like Western Pennsylvania and across America."
\u201cWe can\u2019t trust giant corporations like Norfolk Southern to keep communities safe out of the goodness of their hearts. They\u2019re in it for profits, plain and simple.\n\nToday I\u2019m introducing the DERAIL Act with @RepRoKhanna to better regulate the railroads and put public safety first.\u201d— Congressman Chris Deluzio (@Congressman Chris Deluzio) 1677586588
As The Lever has reported, the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in eastern Ohio and spilled toxic chemicals—including the flammable carcinogen vinyl chloride—was not being regulated as a "high-hazard flammable train" (HHFT) due to a narrow definition of the category adopted by the Obama administration.
"The Obama administration in 2014 proposed improving safety regulations for trains carrying petroleum and other hazardous materials," The Lever noted earlier this month. "However, after industry pressure, the final measure ended up narrowly focused on the transport of crude oil and exempting trains carrying many other combustible materials."
"Then came 2017," The Lever continued. "After rail industry donors delivered more than $6 million to GOP campaigns, the Trump administration—backed by rail lobbyists and Senate Republicans—rescinded part of that rule aimed at making better braking systems widespread on the nation's rails."
In addition to requiring tougher regulation of trains carrying hazardous substances, Khanna and Deluzio's bill would require rail carriers involved in any potentially toxic derailment to provide the National Response Center, state and local officials, and tribal governments with a list of dangerous materials present on the train no later than 24 hours after the crash.
The House Democrats' legislation comes as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is facing growing pressure to strengthen lax regulations that are allowing railroad giants like Norfolk Southern to cut corners in pursuit of greater profits—often with dangerous consequences.
More than 1,000 trains derail in the United States each year, according to one estimate. A recent USA Todayanalysis found that hazardous material violations by rail companies "appear to be climbing," with federal inspectors flagging 36% more infractions over the last five years than they did in the preceding half-decade.
The Norfolk Southern train that crashed in eastern Ohio had a reputation among workers as a serious safety hazard. The train, formally known as 32N but nicknamed "32 Nasty," included around 20 cars carrying hazardous chemicals.
Greg Hynes, the national legislative director of SMART Transportation Division—the union that represents the workers who staffed the derailed Norfolk Southern train—said Tuesday that Khanna and Deluzio's proposal represents "positive action to improve rail safety for Pennsylvania and America."
PennEnvironment executive director David Masur agreed, saying the measure would "take commonsense and important steps to improve reporting and the public's right to know about volatile and hazardous materials rumbling through U.S. communities every day."
"As the derailment and explosion in East Palestine, Ohio showed us," Masur said, "federal laws excluding freight companies from reporting the dangerous and explosive materials that they are carrying have loopholes large enough to drive a train through."