Reading Time: 4 minutes “Big Brother” is getting even bigger in China. In a development that the author of “1984” would surely have appreciated, China recently passed an “anti-terrorism law” that seems an excuse for a clampdown. It also eerily mirrors calls by US officials for access to encrypted communications.
Reading Time: 9 minutes In honor of Martin Luther King Day, WhoWhatWhy presents — through a fascinating collection of pictures — a brief history of American racism, a look at the kind of hatred, atrocities, and soul-searing humiliation that spurred King into action. Rather than the stuff of dreams, much of it was a living nightmare. We first published this piece in 2015, but it remains more relevant than ever — because we seem to be going backwards. We want you to see, with your own eyes, just how ugly it can get.
Reading Time: 5 minutes The watchdogs tasked with overseeing the federal government are pushing back against a growing defiance from agencies like the FBI. The agencies’ subtle and not-so- subtle obstruction sheds light on why attempts to fix responsibility for “intelligence failures” — like the probe into the lead-up to the Boston Marathon bombing — typically amount to a whole lot of nothing.
Reading Time: 4 minutes The NRA has millions of dollars, and millions of aggressive supporters who knock on doors, hand out fliers, make phone calls, and register voters — while most of their opponents do nothing but tweet and post clever memes on Facebook. In the meantime, an average of one mass shooting occurs in the US every day.
Reading Time: 6 minutes What effect does the awareness of surveillance have on the behavior of people? WhoWhatWhy looked at the available results of research being conducted, and found that we may be reaching the tipping point — when awareness of being watched starts to affect behavior.
Reading Time: 3 minutes In a victory for privacy advocates, a federal judge for the first time fully lifted a gag order associated with a National Security Letter (NSL). The details of the case are complex, but the decision is a powerful affirmation of free speech protections under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Reading Time: 3 minutes The FBI will be developing software to enable its agents to collect fingerprints and pictures of anyone they encounter. This personal material could then be compared to the Bureau’s massive biometrics database. What could possibly go wrong with this?
Reading Time: 5 minutes Is there anything you can still do on your computer without Facebook or Google or the NSA looking over your shoulder?
Reading Time: 5 minutes Convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers filed a motion last month requesting a new trial, at a different venue. Media superficially covering the filing glossed over an important defense claim: evidence Tsarnaev’s team says shows at least some of the jurors were exposed to “inflammatory” information on their social media feeds.
Reading Time: 2 minutes If you’re a US worker who has ever taken advantage of work-free weekends, lunch breaks, paid vacation, sick leave, social security benefits, minimum wage, overtime pay, or a 40-hour work week, you can thank the American labor movement. This collection of images shows historic parades, strikes, and tragedies that ultimately made way for significantly better working conditions in the US.
Reading Time: 11 minutes In our excerpts from The Ferguson Report, Part 1: Breathing While Black, and Other Offenses, we presented a number of shocking incidents that showed what African-Americans were subjected to every day by the Ferguson Police Department. These outrages were driven by racism at its rawest. But there was another dimension to this predatory behavior: Money. The more tickets the police wrote, the more money they earned for the city. And the more brownie points they earned for themselves. In Part 2 of this two-part series, we present excerpts that show — in appalling detail — how those in authority encouraged illegal predation, and even threatened punishment for police officers who preferred to play it straight. We also present a short happy report on some of the dramatic reforms that are taking place.
Reading Time: 2 minutes In a $100 million lawsuit that has garnered virtually no public attention, five National Security Agency whistleblowers are accusing the federal government of illegally retaliating against them for alerting the NSA and Congress to a waste of taxpayer funds that benefitted a well-connected contractor.
Reading Time: 2 minutes Oklahoma — a red state — signs a Voting Rights Agreement, and without litigation. Could this happen in other states?
Reading Time: 9 minutes Debaters on the subject of abortion never really clash head-on — they don’t even talk to each other. They just trade cliches, endlessly recycling words that deny what is really at stake. And “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are just black-and-white abstractions. They fail to address scientific, ethical, and moral gray areas, such as the definition of “personhood” and the devastating effects that anti-abortion legislation has on the actual lives of women.
Reading Time: 2 minutes In a case with echoes in the US, Germany’s top prosecutor got the boot as a result of his decision to launch an investigation into whether bloggers had committed treason by publishing confidential documents. The prosecutor’s move resulted in Germans taking to the streets to defend freedom of the (digital) press.
Reading Time: 12 minutes It has been said that African-Americans are often arrested for “driving while black.” In fact, African-Americans seem to be arrested for walking, talking—or just breathing—while black. Here we present excerpts from The Ferguson Report, an astonishing catalog of grinding daily harassments, humiliations—and worse—by a police department intent on keeping a people “in their place” while earning revenue for the city by writing as many tickets as possible.
The Ferguson Report. Department of Justice Investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. The New Press, New York, London. 2015
Reading Time: 2 minutes In response to a WhoWhatWhy Freedom of Information Act request, Chicago officials admitted that many teens who are unable to make bail sit in the city’s jails, sometimes for years, before their cases go to trial.
Reading Time: 2 minutes A new study shows that there is a wide gap between states when it comes to providing access to the ballot box for their citizens. States won by President Barack Obama generally performed much better with regard to ballot box access while those won by Mitt Romney in the last presidential election did very poorly.
Reading Time: 1 minute Factory farms have increasingly come under fire for their cruel treatment of animals. In early July, Mercy For Animals, a Chicago-based animal advocacy non-profit, obtained a video of employees at a contract farm for Tyson Foods severely mistreating chickens and baby birds being raised for mass distribution. Just what happens to the food we eat before we eat it, and whose responsibility is it to make sure that animals raised for slaughter do not endure unnecessary hardship?
Reading Time: 5 minutes Only the astonishingly unaccountable FBI could get away with consistently not recording its investigative interviews not only of suspects but of witnesses—then having its agents write up reports based on “memory.” A former Deputy District Attorney tells the story of one judge who felt uncomfortable letting the Bureau wing it when he himself was in the hot seat.