Department of Homeland Security

  • March 4, 2013

    by E. Sebastian Arduengo

    One of the more immediate effects of the so-called federal budget sequestration will be its impact on the federal judiciary.

    The entire judicial branch takes up substantially less than one percent of the federal budget, but because of the sequester the judiciary is facing a funding cut of 5.3 percent,or about $323 million below the funding level of 2012. And, unlike other parts of government, much judicial spending is mandatory. The Constitution mandates that judges be paid, and the government has to make its rent payments. That means that cuts to the judiciary will fall overwhelmingly on court services and support personnel, the very people who make the court system function. Up to 4.400 staff could be laid off (over 1,000 people already have been), including law clerks who help judges manage enormous case loads, court security officers, and probation officers. Funding would also be cut for necessary security equipment. Those metal detectors at the entrance to every federal courthouse aren’t just for show – In 2010 a gunman opened fire at the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas, killing a security officer before he himself was gunned down.

    Cuts would also go to the heart of the justice system’s constitutional obligations. For example, many federal courts would not be able to pay for jurors or commissioners, with the result that nearly all jury trials would be suspended. The effect of this would be profound because all criminal trials require a jury and the parties demand a jury in most civil matters.

     

  • December 14, 2012

    by Joseph Jerome

    Whenever an American citizen interacts with her government, the government’s first concern is increasingly ascertaining whether that individual is a terrorist. The Wall Street Journal’s Julia Angwin reports that top intelligence and law enforcement officials met in March to establish new rules permitting the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) “to create a government dragnet, sweeping up millions of records about U.S. citizens -- even people suspected of no crime.”  Flight records, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students, and even casino-employee lists can be stored for up to five years, analyzed for suspicious behavior, and shared with foreign governments all in the name of fighting terrorism.

    According to Angwin, the impetus of the program came in the wake of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing. After President Obama directed government agencies to send NCTC any and all leads on terrorist threats, the Department of Homeland Security provided NCTC with a vast database of information on the condition that any data of innocent U.S. persons be purged within 30 days. The tiny, unknown NCTC was unable to process the number of leads it received, so its solution was to seek unlimited access to any government information with no time limits imposed on the data’s analysis and study. 

    “All of this happened in secret,” the ACLU’s Chris Calabrese bemoans. “No public debate or comment and suddenly, every citizen can be put under the terrorism microscope.”