Assaults on Civil Liberties
Few American values are more important than protection of civil liberties and civil rights. These are not quite the same. Both "rights" and "liberties" appear in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Though they are sometimes used interchangeably, and sometimes the areas between them blur, they refer to different kinds of guaranteed protections.
Civil liberties offer protections against government actions. The First Amendment guarantees, among other things, that U.S. citizens may practice whatever religion they please. Government cannot interfere in an individual's freedom of worship. Amendment I gives the individual "liberty" from the actions of the government. Civil rights are positive actions of government takes to create equal conditions for all Americans.
This page focuses on actions and statements of Trump and his administration that threaten civil liberties.
|2017.09.25||The Department of Homeland Security is planning to collect social media information on all immigrants, including permanent residents and naturalized citizens, a move that has alarmed lawyers and privacy groups. buzzfeed.com (See also Fascism, Nationalism, Department of Homeland Security)|
|2017.09.29||The Justice Department is demanding that Facebook turn over information from three accounts that could provide access to the personal details of thousands of activists who expressed interest in anti-Trump rallies. nbcnews.com (See also Fascism)|
|2017.10.04||A Texas judge has dealt a blow to Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, ruling that state officials would be violating state privacy laws if they hand over voters’ personal information to commission members. thedailybeast.com (See also Fascism, Legal Issues)|
The commission has asked state election officials to share specific voter information, voters' felony conviction history, voter history, and partial Social Security numbers, along with a host of other details.
|2017.10.06||The intelligence division at the Treasury Department has repeatedly and systematically violated domestic surveillance laws by snooping on the private financial records of US citizens and companies. buzzfeed.com (See also Department of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin)|
|2017.10.09||A judge ordered the web hosting company DreamHost to redact identifying information about visitors to a website used to coordinate a protest during Donald Trump’s inauguration, imposing further limits on an extensive warrant obtained by the Justice Department that initially aimed to collect visitors’ IP addresses. gizmodo.com (See also Fascism, Department of Justice)|
|2017.10.11||Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened NBC over a news report he called "pure fiction," and he lashed out at the news media, threatening NBC's broadcast license. washingtonpost.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior, Rex Tillerson)|
|2017.10.18||Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to discuss his conversations with Donald Trump about James Comey or Russia, despite 5 hours of testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. nytimes.com (See also Russian Meddling in Election, Legal Issues, Department of Justice, LGBTQIA)|
|2017.10.18||In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he can’t ‘make a blanket commitment’ not to jail journalists for doing their jobs. washingtonpost.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media, Jeff Sessions, Department of Justice)|
|2017.10.23||Democratic members of Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission are voicing mounting frustration about its mission and lack of collaboration, as two of the commission’s four Democrats have written letters to its executive director, demanding basic information such as when the panel might meet again, what kind of research is being conducted by its staff and when it might send a report to the president. washingtonpost.com (See also Unprecedented Actions)|
|2017.10.24||Senator Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who has tangled with Donald Trump for months, declared on the Senate floor that he “will no longer be complicit or silent” in the face of the president’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified” behavior. nytimes.com (See also Assaults on Facts, False Statements)|
|2017.10.25||The Federal Communications Commission is planning to eliminate a decades-old rule designed to preserve media diversity in local markets, which critics say it will lead to greater media consolidation and the loss of independent voices. washingtonpost.com (See also Censorship)|
The regulations, passed in 1975, prevent any single company from owning both a full-power TV station in a given market and a daily newspaper at the same time.
|2017.10.26||The Government Accountability Office will investigate Donald Trump's voting commission to understand the funds used, the body's work on voter participation, what methodology is being used, how it is protecting voter information, and how it is following regulations. cnn.com (See also Corruption)|
|2017.11.09||Donald Trump's judicial nominees, who recieve lifetime appointments, are so unqualified, so far outside the mainstream, even some conservative Republicans have expressed dismay. nytimes.com (See also Unprecedented Actions, Legal Activity)|
|2017.11.09||Donald Trump's voter-fraud commission was hit with a new federal lawsuit Thursday, from one of the panel's own members, claiming that he's being denied access to the commission's records and effectively frozen out of its activities. politico.com (See also Assaults on Government, Legal Issues)|
|2017.11.13||A judge just ruled that Federal prosecutors involved in the Inauguration Day rioting cases will be allowed to access the Facebook accounts of anti-Trump activists who challenged search warrants for their information. buzzfeed.com (See also Legal Issues)|
The ACLU proposed having an outside, neutral party search the Facebook accounts, as opposed to law enforcement officials, but the judge said the government can do the search.
|2017.11.16||Federal regulators rolled back decades-old rules, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold — potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by just a small handful of companies. washingtonpost.com (See also Censorship, Fascism)|
|2017.11.19||An FBI report on the rise of black “extremists” is stirring fears of a return to practices used during the civil rights movement, when the bureau spied on activist groups without evidence they had broken any laws. apnews.com (See also Racism, Jeff Sessions)|
|2017.11.21||The Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday that it planned to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites. nytimes.com (See also Censorship)|
|2017.11.21||The Trump administration is leaning toward naming Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience, to the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, as he has testified more than half a dozen times on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts, and is the author of a 2008 book titled “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.” politico.com (See also Voter Suppression, Voter Fraud)|
|2017.11.23||NY Attorney General Schneiderman estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans’ identities were stolen and used in spam campaigns that support repealing net neutrality, while a new analysis reveals that at least 1.3 million comments supporting the new FCC position on net neutrality were fake. hackernoon.com (See also Legal Issues, Unprecedented Actions)|
|2017.11.24||Jeff Sessions is methodically reshaping the Justice Department to reflect his nationalist ideology and hard-line views, from calling for prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible to altering the department's legal stances in cases involving voting rights and LGBTQ issues some would call discrimination. washingtonpost.com (See also Jeff Sessions, Department of Justice, LGBTQIA, Racism, Nationalism, Immigration, Muslim Immigration Ban)|
|2017.11.27||Donald Trump, through his foundation, donated to "Project Veritas," an agency with a history of trying to take down liberal organizations, an agency that is now accused of trying to dupe The Washington Post with a fake Roy Moore claim in an undercover operation. newsweek.com (See also Belief in Conspiracy Theories, Censorship, Donald J. Trump Foundation)|
|2017.12.04||The Trump Administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince (Betsy DeVos' brother) and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, as a means of countering “deep state” enemies. theintercept.com (See also Mike Pompeo, Unprecedented Actions)|
The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration's political agenda.
|2017.12.04||The presidency of Donald Trump has caused Democrats to experience a surge in confidence in the press at the same time that Republicans and Trump supporters are expressing more extreme, negative views of the media. poynter.org (See also Censorship, Trump Effect)|
|2017.12.08||FCC Chair Ajit Pai says the agency's net-neutrality rules are discouraging investment, leaving consumers with fewer, and less robust, choices for internet service, and potentially widening the digital divide, but broadband providers' own financial reports tell a different story. wired.com (See also False Statements)|
Within the first two weeks of Trump's presidency, he and his administration demonstrated low tolerance for dissent in and outside of the government. He fired the acting attorney general who would not defend his controversial immigration order. Sean Spicer, Trump's press secretary, told career diplomats to “either get with the program or they can go.” His chief strategist, the white nationalist Steve Bannon, also labeled the news media as an “opposition party” that should “keep its mouth shut.”
Civil libertarians are alarmed. “The whole thing is scary," David Boaz of the Cato Institute told the Washington Post. "They have no appreciation for the Constitution, much less the unwritten norms of liberal democracy.” (Source: Washington Post)