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Shahid Buttar
Shahid Buttar is a civil rights lawyer, hip-hop & electronica MC, independent columnist, non-profit leader, grassroots community organizer, singer and poet. Professionally, he leads the Bill of Rights Defense Committee as Executive Director. He also serves as co-Director of the Rule of Law Institute, a U.S.-based organization supporting international efforts to defend or restore the rule of law.

As a litigator in the nation's capital, Shahid organized litigation seeking marriage equality for same-sex couples in the State of New York in 2004, and also represented the campaign finance reform community in an ultimately successful appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Until 2008, he directed the media and communications operations of the American Constitution Society for Law & Policy, as well as the ACS ResearchLink program. From 2008-2009, he directed a national program addressing racial & religious profiling based in San Francisco.

Shahid also served as a spokesperson for grassroots resistance at the 2005 Counter-Inaugural and the 2004 Republican National Convention – where Democracy Now! named one of his public addresses among "The Best of 2004." As an organizer, Shahid has founded numerous grassroots groups across the country, including the Stanford Spoken Word Collective; the San Francisco Collaborative Arts Insurgency; the DC Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency; and the DC Resistance Media Collective.

Shahid graduated in 2003 from Stanford Law School, where he served as Executive Editor of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal, as well as Professor Lawrence Lessig's 2002-03 Teaching Assistant for Constitutional Law. He worked in the investment banking industry while pursuing his undergraduate degree from 1991 until 2000, when he graduated summa cum laude from Loyola University Chicago and was invited to join the Foreign Service of the U.S. State Department.

As a musician, Shahid has performed around the world for audiences as large as 50,000. His debut CD, Get Outta Your Chair, was released in 2008 and features music from the funk, blues, hip-hop, house, drum 'n bass, and South Asian fusion traditions, including Bumpin’ in My SUV and the Baghdad Blues.

A comprehensive list of Shahid’s prior publications, as well as his music, is available at

Entries by Shahid Buttar

House Committees Take First Step to Reform NSA

(0) Comments | Posted May 16, 2014 | 9:31 AM

Last week, the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees approved a bill that would begin the process of restoring constitutional limits to dragnet government surveillance. While a praiseworthy step in the right direction, the progress to date remains both entirely too slow, and deferential to the intelligence agencies.


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Hedges v. Obama: The Supreme Court Digs Its Head Deeper Into the Sand

(5) Comments | Posted April 29, 2014 | 8:38 PM

On Monday the Supreme Court declined to consider Hedges v. Obama, a constitutional claim challenging a law that could enable the indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens -- within the U.S. -- without trial, charge, or evidence of crime. The decision is remarkable both for its...

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Beyond CIA and NSA Spying: Corruption

(0) Comments | Posted March 19, 2014 | 11:03 PM

Even before open war erupted last week between the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), embattled NSA officials had woven tangled skeins to downplay public crimes including lying to Congress.

Many observers have noted the double standard apparent in Feinstein challenging the CIA...

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Dueling Judicial Rulings on NSA Spying, and Why They Don't Matter

(0) Comments | Posted December 31, 2013 | 2:27 PM

Two federal judges reached opposite conclusions in separate cases challenging NSA spying. One was thoughtful; the other reflected much of what is wrong with our courts. Ultimately, however, neither will matter. The NSA's dragnet continues unabated, and only Congress is poised to stop it.

Dueling judicial rulings on NSA Spying

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FBI & NSA Spying Revealed: Uncle Sam Is Watching You, and Both Congress and the Courts Are Complicit

(0) Comments | Posted June 7, 2013 | 12:12 PM

The (UK) Guardian published a previously secret court order authorizing dragnet surveillance of millions of Americans without any pretense of justification, confirming concerns raised by civil libertarians (including me) for years.

Since first taking office in 2009, the Obama administration has repeatedly extended the USA PATRIOT Act,...

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President Obama vs. His Administration's Legacy

(1) Comments | Posted May 30, 2013 | 10:23 AM

President Obama's recent speech, presenting his vision of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy, included welcome rhetoric about the importance of constitutional principles, including due process and rights to dissent. It may represent the high watermark for civil liberties since his inauguration five years ago.

It is disappointing, given his thoughtful words,...

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An Implausible Inauguration Speech

(16) Comments | Posted January 28, 2013 | 4:24 PM

If observers want to criticize the president, they should challenge his derogation in practice of the same values he professes.

Critics of Mr. Obama have described his inaugural address as radical.  But insisting on values as fundamental as "equality before the law" and the "enduring strength of our Constitution" are...

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Will Obama's Second Term Finally Fulfill His 2008 Promises? (Part II)

(0) Comments | Posted November 13, 2012 | 11:57 AM

The first installment in this series reviewed President Eisenhower's prescient warnings about "the military-industrial complex...endanger[ing] our liberties or democratic processes." It also examined various casualties of the national security state, including transparency, accountability, and democratic legitimacy. Part II, below, continues the analysis and identifies further costs of national security...

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Will Obama's Second Term Finally Fulfill His 2008 Promises? (Part 1)

(0) Comments | Posted November 12, 2012 | 3:22 PM

President Obama's reelection has sparked an onslaught of analysis attempting to define the agenda for his second term. Will it reflect the vision of restoring liberty and security on which the president ran in 2008, or the disappointing passivity towards the national security state that characterized his first term?


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Fazaga v. FBI: Eroding Democracy, in Two Dimensions at once

(0) Comments | Posted August 22, 2012 | 5:03 PM

On Tuesday, August 14, a federal judge issued a disturbing ruling allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to evade public accountability for infiltrating faith institutions, monitoring law-abiding people, recording sexual encounters, and then apparently lying about all of it. Carney's decision erodes democracy in two dimensions at once, enabling...

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America's One-party State

(7) Comments | Posted July 19, 2012 | 9:47 AM

Both 2012 presidential campaigns advance the legacy of Dick Cheney

Among the most tragic casualties of the war on terror is the separation of powers that our Founders envisioned to help keep America free. Not only has executive power expanded to disturbing -- and profoundly dangerous -- proportions in the...

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What Do We Celebrate this July Fourth?

(0) Comments | Posted July 6, 2012 | 11:29 AM

When the United States championed democracy, freedom, and opportunity, it made sense to celebrate the Fourth of July.  But are we still promoting those values? If we are paragons of neither opportunity nor freedom, what exactly do we celebrate today?

Our Statue of Liberty bears an inscription welcoming the world's...

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Decades Late and (Billions of) Dollars Short: the U.S. Begins Considering the Facts in Pakistan

(0) Comments | Posted February 1, 2011 | 1:22 PM

For the past three years, I -- and many others, including my colleagues at the Rule of Law Institute -- have argued that the shameless human rights abuses of the Pakistani government would undermine the government's efforts to address violent extremism. Like U.S. policies that favor...

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Dragnet Searches on DC Transit Prompt Local Advocates to Mobilize

(1) Comments | Posted December 21, 2010 | 9:10 AM

On the same day that the Washington Post revealed that our federal government is "is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators," the District of Columbia continues to reel from

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Bush Boasts of Approving Torture, While Holder Declines Prosecution for Destroying Evidence

(1) Comments | Posted November 11, 2010 | 1:28 PM

This Veterans' Day, executive impunity for human rights abuses is once again in the news. Former President George W. Bush openly admitted authorizing techniques long recognized as torture in his recent memoir, and this week, Attorney General Eric Holder resigned the opportunity to file criminal charges relating to the CIA's...

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Unhappy Anniversary: Eight Years of Continuing Lawlessness

(3) Comments | Posted August 9, 2010 | 12:40 PM

Last week marked the eighth anniversary of memos written by Justice Department lawyers to authorize cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees. The Bush administration's abuses were the beginning of a dismal chapter in American history. This unhappy anniversary offers a sad reminder that this chapter remains open.

To restore...

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(11) Comments | Posted August 2, 2010 | 1:21 PM

The week before last, The Washington Post concluded a two-year investigation of our government's domestic spying activities, revealing a lack of accountability pervading its far-flung and vast operations. Last Wednesday, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, confirming that the FBI is...

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Restoring the Fourth Amendment: How We the People Can Win Over Washington

(5) Comments | Posted June 14, 2010 | 4:38 PM

Despite promises of change, the Obama administration has proven itself either unwilling--or unable--to shift the paradigm driving increasingly invasive surveillance, or increasingly pervasive profiling according to race, religion, and national origin. Nearly halfway through the Obama administration's term, the battle to banish the Bush administration's policy legacy remains largely...

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"We Need Courage": Will Obama Nominate a Justice Who Can Help Restore Justice?

(36) Comments | Posted April 12, 2010 | 1:12 PM

In the retirement of Justice Stevens, President Obama has an immense opportunity -- should his Administration demonstrate the courage to engage it -- to begin the lagging project of reshaping a key Washington institution, while also mobilizing his liberal base heading into the mid-term elections.

After 35 years...

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1984 in 2010: Hijacking Democracy to Spy on Americans

(5) Comments | Posted February 14, 2010 | 7:12 PM

Nearly a decade ago, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) stood alone as the Senate's constitutional conscience. Casting the only dissenting vote against passage of the PATRIOT Act in 2001, he was powerless to stop an opportunistic power grab by neo-conservatives who had long sought, well before the tragedy of...

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