[JURIST] Pakistani government authorities detained at least a dozen members of the opposition Saturday as part of an effort to prevent possible "disturbances" relating to President Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile] re-election bid. A high level official in the capital Islamabad indicated that more arrests were likely in as the October 6 election nears. Pakistan's president is chosen by an electoral college made up of national and local parliamentarians. Musharraf's government is expecting widespread protests challenging his controversial bid for another 5-year term, which members of the opposition believe is unconstitutional.
[JURIST] The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] is retaining more detailed information on US-bound travelers than previously acknowledged in its Automated Targeting System (ATS) [CBP backgrounder; ACLU backgrounder], the Washington Post reported Saturday. Privacy activists say that the ATS, designed to help authorities access the security risk posed by all individuals entering the United States, has recorded highly detailed information, including the reading material carried by one of the activists during personal travel. The activists allege that the information retained by the ATS violates the federal Privacy Act [text], and also retained information including contact information of relatives and whom travelers traveled with.
In May, the US Government Accountability Office released a report [PDF text; JURIST report] criticizing the ATS, saying it violated federal privacy laws by allowing personal information "to be used in multiple prescreening procedures and transferred among various Customers and Border Protection Agency prescreening systems in ways that not fully explained in CBP's privacy disclosures." In September, the DHS announced it will reduce the duration [JURIST report] that travelers' risk assessments will be retained on file from the original 40 years to 15 years. The Washington Post has more.
[JURIST] A senior Iraqi Interior Ministry official announced Saturday that Iraqi investigators have a videotape showing Blackwater USA [corporate website] private security contractors shooting unarmed Iraqi civilians and that it has referred the incident to the country's judiciary. Under Iraqi law an investigating judge will review the evidence and decide whether to proceed with a criminal prosecution. Blackwater guards contracted by the US State Department allegedly fired on civilians on September 16, killing 11 and prompting the Iraqi government to withdraw Blackwater's operating license [AP report], although company guards were back on limited duty [AFP report] Friday. AP has more. US federal prosecutors are reportedly also investigating Blackwater for allegedly smuggling weapons into Iraqi black markets. The weapons are said to have ended up in the hands of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) [MIPT backgrounder], which has been designated by the US State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. In early 2007, two former Blackwater contractors pleaded guilty to charges relating to weapons smuggling and have agreed to cooperate with government investigations and testify in future criminal proceedings. AP has more. Blackwater has denied the allegations, saying in a statement posted on its website that that the firm has "no knowledge of any employee improperly exporting weapons." AP has additional coverage.
Private US security contractors in Iraq largely operate outside of Iraqi law [JURIST report] due to an exemption [PDF text] granted by the US government in the days of the Coalition Provisional Authority. A recent bill [text] provision [S. 552, Clarification of Application of Uniform Code of Military Justice During a Time of War] intended to broaden their legal accountability does not apply to private contractors employed by the State Department.
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