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Congress should not prevent disclosure of its knowledge and
oversight of the CIA's use of rendition, secret detention, and torture,
three leading human rights groups urged today. The groups - Amnesty
International USA (AIUSA), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR),
and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at
NYU School of Law - expressed concern after a federal court granted the
government more time to consult with Congress about CIA records sought
in the groups' Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation.
"These records purport to describe the CIA's notifications and
briefings to Congress about U.S. rendition, secret detention, and
torture," stated CCR attorney, Gitanjali Gutierrez,
speaking on behalf of the groups. "Congress should promote full
disclosure of information about whether or not it exercised appropriate
oversight authority and its involvement with torture and secret
prisons. The American public deserves to know whether political leaders
were keeping the CIA in check or actually encouraging the agency's
The court has granted the government more time to consult with Congress
about the ten records, a process the government describes as being
"unexpectedly complex." The records include 26 pages of charts related
to prior congressional notifications and briefings, summaries of
briefings to and closed hearings before Congress, and memoranda
describing meetings of senior officials.
The 2007 lawsuit is based on administrative FOIA requests dating
back to 2004 filed by AIUSA, CCR, and CHRJG with several U.S.
government agencies - including the CIA, the Department of Defense
(DOD), the Department of State (DOS), the Department of Justice, and
the Department of Homeland Security - seeking records about secret
detention, "enhanced" interrogation, and rendition. Morrison &
Foerster LLP serves as co-counsel in the case.
To see the most recent documents released from the CIA, DOD, and DOS,
as well as the prior filings and other documents previously released
through this litigation, visit CCR's Freedom of Information Act page at
"The Biden administration has apparently decided to assume that corporate landlords are good-faith actors with their tenants' best interests at heart, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, and just plain common sense."
Economic justice advocates on Thursday said that to determine the strength of the Biden administration's new nonbinding push for renter protections from the federal and state governments and private sector, one needs to look only at the elated response from corporate landlords.
The Revolving Door Project (RDP) pointed to comments from the National Apartment Association (NAA) and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), lobbying groups that represents landlords, that followed the White House's unveiling on Wednesday of its "Resident-Centered Housing Challenge" and "Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights."
"What we can say with certainty is NAA's advocacy helped avert an executive order advanced by renters advocates and members of Congress, which would have imposed immediate policy changes," said the NAA in a statement on Thursday.
\u201cNEW: Corporate landlords are celebrating Biden's weak new renter protection plan, openly boasting that their lobbying efforts stopped the White House from issuing a more powerful executive order to immediately crack down on rent-gouging. \nhttps://t.co/3lLbUwXhXB\u201d— Revolving Door Project (@Revolving Door Project) 1674758300
"The NMHC—which does the bidding of the nation's leading corporate landlords—celebrated the omission of national rent control from the White House plan while also objecting to other 'onerous regulations' contained in the release, which it claimed would 'discourage much-needed investments in housing supply,'" said Andrea Beaty, research director for the RDP.
"The Biden administration has apparently decided to assume that corporate landlords are good-faith actors with their tenants' best interests at heart, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, and just plain common sense," added Beaty. "The best the Biden administration offered is industry-approved, nonbinding measures that kick the can down the road."
The lobbying groups' response came as housing justice advocates noted that they have spent roughly a year calling on President Joe Biden to do everything in its power to address housing insecurity and the crisis facing households that are rent-burdened.
As Moody's Analytics reported on Thursday, the average U.S. tenant is now rent-burdened, which is defined as paying 30% or more of a household's income on rent.
"Tenant stories and expertise informed these actions, and tenants will continue to be central to policymaking that concerns their lives."
The firm compared the national median household income—$71,721—with 2022's average rent of $1,794. In 2021 the average renter paid 28.5% of their income on rent, and in 2020 they paid 25.7%.
The latest statistics represent "a symbolic threshold, a milestone," Thomas LaSalvia, director of economic research at Moody's, toldThe New York Times.
"The rent-to-income ratio continued to climb up because income growth was not able to catch up with the rent growth," Lu Chen, a senior economist at the firm, told the newspaper.
Following months of meetings between tenant groups and administration officials, as well as advocacy by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on behalf of renters, the White House on Wednesday proposed a number of actions the government will take to gather data about the housing crisis and push federal agencies—but not require them—to consider how they can curb rent costs.
The White House said it had secured commitments from the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to "collect information to identify practices that unfairly prevent applicants and tenants from accessing or staying in housing."
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) said it would "launch a new public process to examine proposed actions promoting renter protections and limits on egregious rent increases for future investments," while a workshop by the U.S. Department of Justice will address "anti-competitive information sharing, including in rental markets."
The Biden administration also said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will propose new rules requiring public housing and rental assistance authorities to provide 30 days' notice before terminating a lease due to rent nonpayment.
The White House also released a nonbinding Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, affirming tenants have the right to clear and fair leases, to organize, and to have access to safe, quality, and affordable housing. Its Resident-Centered Housing Challenge, starting in the spring, will encourage state and local governments to enhance policies that promote fairness in the rental market, urging them to "make their own independent commitments that improve the quality of life for renters."
People's Action, whose Homes Guarantee campaign helped lead efforts to secure renter protections and rent price regulations, said its organizers helped "shape this policy for the better," and said the commitment from the FHFA offers an opportunity for the agency "to create a policy that helps check the power of landlords."
But as the NAA boasted, People's Action told The Washington Post that the policies will not change "tenants' lives materially today."
"Tenant stories and expertise informed these actions, and tenants will continue to be central to policymaking that concerns their lives," said Tara Raghuveer, director of the Homes Guarantee campaign. "The rent is still too damn high. While the White House announcement affirms a role for the federal government in correcting the imbalance of power between landlords and tenants, the president can do much more to provide relief to tenants. We are counting on this administration to continue working with our campaign to make it happen."
Ahead of Biden's proposal, People's Action led 281 national and local tenant organizations in calling on the White House to direct federal agencies to:
By obsessing about the former president's online status, warns one digital rights advocate, "we are utterly missing the point."
Fight for the Future director Evan Greer argued Wednesday that the battle over whether former President Donald Trump should be banned from major social media platforms like Facebook is "a huge distraction" from broader Big Tech conversations that are urgently needed.
"Discussions about online content moderation and what policies are needed to ensure human rights, free expression, and safety are some of the most important and consequential societal debates in human history," Greer said in a statement. "When we center these debates about specific moderation decisions, especially ones involving high-profile, wealthy, politically powerful individuals like Donald Trump, we are utterly missing the point."
Greer's comments came as free speech advocates and Trump critics faced off over Meta's decision to allow the twice-impeached former president back on Facebook and Instagram. Trump, who is now seeking the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination, was suspended from both platforms—and others—after his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol attack on January 6, 2021.
"We need to... instead focus on putting in place transformative policies based in human rights, and regulations that strike at the root of Big Tech giants' harm."
Meta global affairs president explained Wednesday that his accounts will be reinstated in the coming weeks "with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses." The move was blasted by groups including Common Cause, Free Press, Media Matters for America, and the NAACP, while others—including some Trump adversaries—agreed with the ACLU that "this is the right call. Like it or not, President Trump is one of the country's leading political figures and the public has a strong interest in hearing his speech."
Greer, meanwhile, echoed some of the warnings from Big Tech experts two years ago, when tech giants began banning Trump—a serial liar who ultimately launched his own platform called Truth Social, which strongly resembles Twitter.
The digital rights advocate pointed out that Trump "doesn't need social media to spread his hateful ideas. He has access to the mainstream press, who religiously cover his every move. And he can afford to hire public relations firms, pay for advertising, and leverage his notoriety and influence to gain attention, something he has shown himself to be uniquely good at."
"The Donald Trumps of the world are not the people most impacted by deplatforming, censorship, and overreaching moderation," Greer stressed. "It is the most marginalized who are the most censored online. Arab and Muslim folks living outside the U.S. routinely have their posts erroneously censored and their accounts unjustly banned by hamfisted 'anti-terrorism' filters used by most of the largest platforms."
"LGBTQ content creators, sex workers, and sexual health educators face constant deplatforming, debanking, and demonetization," she continued. "Abortion rights organizations consistently encounter obstacles placing online ads, and have seen an uptick in unjust account suspensions and post removals in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade."
According to Greer:
By allowing the former president to remain the center of attention in world-changing debates about content regulation, free speech, and the harms of Big Tech, we're helping him accomplish his vile goals of silencing and oppressing the most vulnerable. We need to move past circular discussions over specific moderation decisions impacting high-profile elites, and instead focus on putting in place transformative policies based in human rights, and regulations that strike at the root of Big Tech giants' harm. Passing a privacy law would do way more to slow the viral spread of hateful content and disinformation than keeping Trump off of any specific platform. Enacting antitrust reforms would do far more to protect our democracy from Trump and his ilk than banning any one account.
Let's refuse to let Trump derail the conversations we need to have. Let's keep fighting for policies that lead not just to the type of internet we want to have, but the type of world we want to live in: a world where everyone has a voice, and decisions that impact our lives are made transparently and democratically, rather than in closed-door corporate meetings.
However, even modest legislation to rein in Big Tech seem unlikely in the second half of President Joe Biden's first term, with the U.S. House of Representatives now narrowly held by Republicans and after two years of Democrats controlling Congress but failing to advance relevant bills—which many critics largely blame on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
"Both countries show striking parallels in their attempts to harass and intimidate into silence all actual or perceived government critics and opponents."
As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as the chief guest at his nation's 74th Republic Day celebrations, Amnesty International on Thursday led calls for both right-wing leaders to "address the ongoing human rights and impunity crises" in their respective countries.
Meeting ahead of events commemorating the adoption of India's constitution—including a military parade in which members of the Egyptian army marched—Modi and El-Sisi agreed to elevate bilateral ties to a "strategic partnership," while calling for a "coordinated and concerted" effort to combat "terrorism."
Modi—who said Wednesday that he and El-Sisi "are in agreement that terrorism is the biggest threat to humanity"—has, like his Egyptian counterpart, been accused of using anti-terrorism laws to crush critics and silence dissent.
"The current human rights crises in India and Egypt are characterized by entrenched impunity and misuse of counterterrorism legislation to clamp down on civic space and peaceful dissent."
"The current human rights crises in India and Egypt are characterized by entrenched impunity and misuse of counterterrorism legislation to clamp down on civic space and peaceful dissent," Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
"Both countries show striking parallels in their attempts to harass and intimidate into silence all actual or perceived government critics and opponents. This unrelenting assault on human rights must end," he added.
\u201cThe Indian and Egyptian authorities must address the ongoing human rights and impunity crises in the two countries. Both show striking parallels in their unrelenting assault on rights. https://t.co/gbmoAkMnXT\u201d— Amnesty India (@Amnesty India) 1674710907
As Amnesty noted:
In recent years, authorities in both countries have severely repressed the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly and failed to address entrenched discrimination against religious minorities.
Human rights defenders, lawyers, political opponents, peaceful protesters, academics, and students, face arbitrary arrests and detention, unjust prosecutions, and other forms of harassment and intimidation solely for their peaceful exercise of their human rights in both India and Egypt.
"India and Egypt seem to have taken their long-standing bilateral cooperation to a different level where they share tactics to increasingly repress rights and freedoms," Amnesty International India board chief Aakar Patel said in a statement. "As the leaders of the two countries take the center stage, celebrations of the adoption of India's constitution 74 years ago should not overshadow the grim reality that the human rights situations in both countries have been on a downward spiral."
\u201c\u201cThe current human rights crises in #India & #Egypt are characterized by entrenched impunity and misuse of counterterrorism legislation to clamp down on civic space & peaceful dissent\u201d, @amnesty said today, as India hosts President Sisi as the chief guest at its Republic Day.\u201d— Nuria Tes\u00f3n (@Nuria Tes\u00f3n) 1674743767
Leading an open letter from Egyptian and Indian diaspora members published Tuesday by the Canadian alternative news site rabble.ca, Ehab Lotayef, Samaa Elibyari, and Jooneed Jeeroburkhan noted that India's constitution "guarantees full equality and rights to all Indians and declares the country a secular, socialist republic."
"However today's India is led by a Hindu ethno-nationalist party committed to converting it into a Hindu nation," the authors continued, and "the government of India has been called out by domestic and international human rights organizations for unleashing and engendering violence and detentions against Muslim, Dalit, and Christian minorities as well as any human rights defenders."
"Meanwhile, January 25 marks the start of the 17 days in 2011 which forced one of the region's longest-serving and most influential leaders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, from power," they continued. "We recall that moment of incredible exhilaration as all Egyptians aspired to more democracy and social justice. Unfortunately, on July 3, 2013, then-Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi staged a coup d'état that toppled President Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president of Egypt, and returned the country to dictatorial rule."
\u201c"What is happening in Egypt and India should be of interest to all Canadians, even if they are not of Egyptian or Indian origin. Support for governments that violate fundamental rights diminishes democracy everywhere." https://t.co/sXAmcQlOba\u201d— Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (@Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East) 1674656645
"Since his ascent to power through dubious elections, El-Sisi has governed Egypt with an iron fist," the trio wrote. "Under his direct command, on August 14, 2013, two encampments of protesters in Rabaa and al-Nahda squares, demanding that President Morsi be reinstated, were dismantled by lethal force and more than 1,000 people were killed."
"To date, no one has been held accountable," the authors added. "Since then, all dissenting voices have been silenced and more than 60,000 political prisoners languish behind bars in abject conditions."