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Civil Rights / Liberties
Good for him.
Though most of us can’t afford to bring suit against this worthless agency, some people can.
By Dave Lindorff
The US government doesn't like Iran. I get that. It claims, on pretty dubious grounds, that Iran might be planning, at some point down the road, to take some of the uranium it is processing into nuclear fuel to a higher level of purity and make it into an atomic bomb.
The Salt Lake Tribune has done a comprehensive, detailed analysis of TSA data, such as it is, and has concluded that . . . there isn’t much.
Over two years ago, the Salt Lake Tribune made a FOIA request that the TSA release data on the number and type of prohibited items confiscated at checkpoints — you know, those items the TSA is always bragging about in its weekly show-and-tells?
First Constitutional Amendment to be Introduced in Congress Stating Corporations Are Not People & Money Is Not Speech
Reps. Nolan & Pocan Respond to Over 500 Municipal Resolutions Calling for “We the People” Amendment
On Monday, February 11, Move to Amend will join members of Congress as they introduce Move to Amend’s “We the People Amendment” an amendment that clearly and unequivocally states that: 1) Rights recognized under the Constitution belong to human beings only, and not to government-created artificial legal entities such as corporations and limited liability companies; and 2) Political campaign spending is not a form of speech protected under the First Amendment.
Our buddy at Taking Sense Away has a new post up, which he’s given us permission to cross-post here:
Read the rest at TSA News.
A young man who goes by the name Sai — yes, that’s his full name — was abused by TSA agents at Boston Logan International Airport on January 21st. And he’s not about to take it lying down.
Shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday, February 4th, the City Council of Charlottesville, Va., passed what is believed to be the first anti-drone resolution in the country. According to my notes, and verifiable soon on the City Council's website, the resolution reads:
WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Charlottesville; and
WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and
WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;
NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, endorses the proposal for a two year moratorium on drones in the state of Virginia; and calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt legislation prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being; and pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.
The same City Council passed a resolution on January 17, 2012, calling for an end to drone wars, as well as ground wars, excessive military spending, and any possible attack on Iran.
(Photo by Ted Strong of Daily Progress)
The wording of Monday's resolution comes largely from a draft suggested by the Rutherford institute. An initial line was deleted and two amendments were made to the final paragraph, one endorsing a two-year moratorium on drones (something that had passed in committee in both houses of the Virginia legislature as of Saturday in the House and Monday in the Senate), the other committing the City not to use drones for surveillance or assault.
The wording was not as comprehensive as the draft that had appeared in the City Council's official agenda for Monday's meeting, a draft I had authored. See it here in the city agenda or on my website.
At the previous meeting of the City Council on January 7, 2013, I and a few other residents had spoken in support of a resolution, and three of the five city council members agreed to put it on the agenda for the February 4th meeting. Some of the public comments were excellent, and the video of the meeting is on the city's website.
On Monday, citizens speaking in favor of the anti-drone resolution dominated the public speaking period at the beginning of the meeting, shortly after 7 p.m. Many were quite eloquent, and the video will be available soon on the city's site. The council members did not discuss and vote on the matter until shortly after 11 p.m. The discussion was quite brief, coming on the heels of hours devoted to other matters.
The same three city council members who had put the item on the agenda voted in favor of the resolution, passing it by a vote of 3-2. They were Dave Norris, Dede Smith, and Satyendra Sing Huja. Norris and Smith negotiated the slight improvements to the Rutherford Institute's draft with Huja, who initially favored passing that draft as it was written. Norris and Smith favored banning the City from purchasing drones, but Council Member Kristin Szakos argued that there might be a positive use for a drone someday, such as for the fire department. Kathy Galvin joined Szakos in voting No.
Norris has been a leader on the City Council for years and sadly will not be running for reelection at the end of his current term.
Following the January meeting, I submitted my draft to the city, asked people to phone and email the council members, published a column in the local daily newspaper, and organized an event in front of City Hall on Sunday, the day before the vote. Anti-drone activist John Heuer from North Carolina delivered a giant model drone produced by New York anti-drone activist Nick Mottern. Our little stunt produced coverage on the two television channels and in the newspaper. I asked people to commit to attending the meeting on a FaceBook page. The room ended up packed, and when I asked those who supported the resolution to stand, most of the room did so.
No organized pro-drone lobby ever developed. We met and confronted the argument that localities shouldn't lobby states or Washington. And, of course, some people are opposed to drones in the United States but eager to see them used however the President may see fit abroad. Charlottesville's City Council ended up not including the section in my draft that instructed the federal government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing. But there was no discussion on that point, and several other sections, including one creating a local ordinance, were left out as well. The problem there, according to Smith, was that "we don't own the air."
Yet, we should. And Oregon is attempting to do so with its draft state legislation.
In the past, Charlottesville has passed resolutions that have inspired other localities and impacted federal and state policies. Let us hope this one is no exception.
Where I live in Virginia a member of the county board of supervisors was recently charged with the crime of "forcible sodomy," which carried a sentence of five years to life in prison. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of sexual battery and was sentenced to 30 days in jail plus probation, etc. He professed his innocence of the original charge.
But what is sexual battery if not forcible sex? The fine line drawn between 30 days and life may have less to do with the action being alleged than with the persuasiveness of the allegation, the prosecutor's confidence of winning a conviction, the schedule and budget of the court, the desire of the accuser or victim to participate in a trial, etc.
If the man was guilty, his penalty seems too light, the lack of a trial seems wrong, and some creative restorative justice seems in order. Little has been done to aid the victim or heal the community.
It is entirely possible that he was entirely innocent. People plead to 30-day sentences in our legal system to avoid a risk of life in prison (including the possibility of becoming a serial rape victim while in prison) all the time. Had the threat been five years rather than "five-years-to-life," an innocent man might have been more likely to risk a trial to declare his innocence.
If this man was innocent, his penalty is of course too great. Any penalty would be too great. And the lack of any charges against his false accuser would be a miscarriage of justice.
I have no way of knowing which direction our justice system misfired in this case. I know only that it compromised, choosing to lessen the harm done, but aware of necessarily doing harm. And I can think of many ways the system might be improved.
At the same time, I'm aware that there are systems in the world immeasurably worse. There is no system that imprisons people at the rate the United States does, including largely for nonviolent and victimless crimes. But there are epidemics of rape, of gang rape, of rape and torture, of rape and murder. There are epidemics of rape in societies in which no man can be punished in any way, but in which a woman known to have been raped is herself punished, along with her family, along with her children -- children who grow up seeing only one path to an existence of reduced shame and humiliation: the path of becoming a soldier in the war that produced the epidemic of rape. And there are echoes of all of this in our own society.
Such horrific situations are described in Ann Jones' book, War Is Not Over When It's Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruins of War. They lead her to an interesting conclusion:
"One stronghold of the battered women's movement -- in Maryland, if I remember rightly -- distributed T-shirts bearing the words WORLD PEACE BEGINS AT HOME. I believed it. Raise up children in peaceful homes free of violence, I thought, and they will make peace. But now, having spent the last many years in and around wars, I think the motto is painfully idealistic. The relationship it describes is reciprocal, but not fair. World peace may begin at home, but violence just as surely begins in war; and war does not end."
Jones documents the use of rape in war and its continuation after the announced end of wars, including its adoption by civilian men who did not participate in the war. The rapes that Jones describes are often viciously brutal and sometimes deadly. The physical injuries are severe and lasting, including the inability to sit or to walk, internal bleeding, miscarriages, and sexually transmitted diseases. And then there is the mental damage, the societal damage, and the economic damage.
Jones takes her readers to Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burmese refugees in Thailand, and Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Liberia was founded by former U.S. slaves who, Jones writes, brought to Africa "a few of America's worst features: elitism, discrimination, forced labor, religiosity, and a penchant for violence."* Liberia's modern history has been no happier. The World Health Organization in 2005 estimated that 90 percent of Liberian women had suffered physical or sexual violence and 75 percent had been raped.
Following war in the DRC, teachers, pastors, and fathers took up the practice of rape. The same pattern was found in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where horrors unknown or rare before war (civilian rape, child rape, gang rape) became normal. In the DRC, Jones observed a vicious cycle. Husbands abandon raped wives, sometimes departing the village out of shame; so raped wives without visible injuries try to conceal the rape from their husbands. Women are afraid to go outside for wood or water or to work in their fields (much as female U.S. soldiers in Iraq were so afraid of male U.S. soldiers that they would not venture outside to the bathrooms at night). With no crops to sell, women have no money, and their children cannot go to school without money to pay for it. Girls are also afraid to go to school where they may be raped. With nothing left, women and girls turn to prostitution while men turn to the military. A local famine develops, and women are afraid to make the trip to a hospital when ill; so people begin to die from diarrhea, pneumonia, or malaria. A study found 5.4 million "excess deaths" in the DRC between 1998 and 2007, 2.1 million of them after the war "ended."
Good news in war reporting is not always accurate. In 2007 (and right up to this moment with no let-up in sight) USians heard of a successful "surge" in Iraq. Iraqis saw increased civilian death and displacement, increased sectarian segregation, and a surging population of refugees. That war created what the United Nations High Commission for Refugees calls "the most significant displacement in the Middle East" since the Nakba. Iraq now confronts a situation in which millions of its citizens have fled and a million of its women are widows:
"There is more than one way to lose a husband. Illness, accident, assassination, murder, warfare. Rape is another. Many women lose their husbands to rape. How many thousands of Iraqi women and girls have been raped is impossible to know; but rape is commonplace. Of 4,516 cases of sexual violence in Iraq reported to UNHCR in Jordan, women were the victims in 4,233 cases; and for each reported case, there are countless others."
Iraqi men lost their houses, their land, their status, and their self respect. As refugee families in neighboring nations, Iraqis rely on women to make a living. One way in which men try to reassert their authority is domestic violence.
Jones didn't just visit war-torn areas. She brought there something that the U.S. and other western governments would never think to send. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; and when all you spend money on is soldiers and missiles, you imagine those tools capable of things they are not suited to. Jones brought with her a different tool: photography lessons.
Jones gave women who had never seen a camera or a photograph, cameras and memory chips and lessons in using them. The women did not recoil in superstitious horror. They became artists, activists, and empowered members of communities that until that moment had treated women as objects to be owned.
"Prudence in Zokoguhe photographed a man beating his wife with a broom. Martine in Zokoguhe photographed a woman landing in the dirt face-first and the man who had thrown her to the ground. Jeanette in Koupela-Tenkodoko photographed a man beating his wife with a stick."
Change began swiftly.
"One woman reported that her husband, who had never before shared the proceeds from the family field, now proposed to give a little something to his photographer wife. Another reported that her husband, who had never before provided money for a sick child's medicine, rode his bike all the way to the health center to make sure that his photographer wife and child, who had gone ahead on foot, were being served by the pharmacy. Another told of her neighbor, an habitual wife beater, never deterred by others who tried to intervene. When she threatened to fetch her camera, he stopped hitting his wife and ran away."
Women showed their photographs in a public meeting. Never having spoken in public before, women took over the meeting. The village chief took their side and followed their lead. They began participating in writing laws to stop the violence in their village.
Jones collected her cameras to take them to another country, and by that time the women no longer needed them. But wouldn't it be nice if they could keep them? With a $1.3 trillion military budget in the United States alone, you'd think we could afford a few cameras that actually accomplish things that missiles and soldiers are falsely advertised as accomplishing. In fact, I don't just want to give women cameras. I want to give them websites.
Jones is an advocate for making women part of peace negotiations, part of government. Give women power and rights, and things will improve, Jones believes. And she's right, of course, up to a point. But the notion of "no justice, no peace" has to be reversed. Without peace we cannot build justice. We must end the wars. HOME VIOLENCE BEGINS IN WAR.
We must keep our priorities straight as critics soften their complaints with the pro-torture and pro-murder movie Zero Dark Thirty in part because it was made by a woman, and as a pro-war woman named Hillary Clinton positions herself to run for a presidential office that has been given single-handed power of life and death over great masses of human beings.
* Jones is wrong, I believe, that the first African-American settlers arrived in Africa in 1822, since a group sailed from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone in 1792 including slaves who had escaped to fight for the British, including a man formerly owned by George Washington.
Personally, I love dogs. I think they’re everything fans claim and more. I think they do amazing things for their human companions, up to and including saving lives. But when it comes to “security,” they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.
For years people have been claiming that bomb-sniffing dogs will solve all our problems at the airport. And for years I've been gainsaying that claim.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Many millions around the world are convinced they know imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal from closely examining the ‘whodunit’ contentions surrounding his contentious conviction for the December 9, 1981 slaying of a Philadelphia policeman.
By John Grant
Marcy Wheeler blogs as Emptywheel at Emptywheel.net. She says John Brennan, the nominee for CIA director, has been Obama's Dick Cheney, operating outside the law, lying about bin Laden, and lying about drones; the White House has killed an American for his speech; the CIA has stopped lying to Congress only by starting to tell Congress nothing at all; Senator Diane Feinstein is complicit in the drone kill program; Congress has asked President Obama 10 times for a legal basis for the drone kill program and been blown off every time; the prosecutorial abuse in the case of Aaron Swartz is not uncommon, but evidence suggests retribution for Swartz's making accessible the Department of Justice's own public information, requesting of information on the treatment of Bradley Manning, and possible (entirely legal) assistance to WikiLeaks.
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"The real answer is better training and more sensible rules."
In what is surely the howler of the week, TSA Administrator John Pistole has declared the TSA “the gold standard of aviation security.”
It gets better:
Aaron Tobey, the 1st and 4th Amendment hero who got arrested for speech — silent speech, as you can see in the photograph — has won a battle in his lawsuit against the TSA.
Those of you who remember Aaron Tobey know that he was unlawfully detained by the TSA at Richmond International Airport in 2010 because when he declined to go through the strip-search scanner and opted for a pat-down, he stripped down to his skivvies, thus showing that he had nothing to hide.
We’ve written about the TSA’s so-called VIPR teams many times, but most Americans still don’t know about them. These teams conduct warrantless searches on all modes of transportation all over the country — buses, trains, subways, ferries. Even highways. Yes, that means the TSA isn’t only at the airport.
As I listen to or read about the hue and cry over our Second Amendment rights if any new laws or restrictions on “bearing arms” are instituted, I wonder about the relative lack of concern over our Fourth Amendment rights.
On one hand, citizens rail against losing one Constitutional right — to bear arms —and on the other, they meekly submit to actions that abrogate another, unreasonable search and seizure.
American citizen Shoshana Hebshi, who was hauled off a plane in handcuffs, taken to a jail cell, and strip-searched, is finally suing the TSA.
Read the rest at TSA News.
Kick-ass new post by Bill Fisher. Full of pertinent information and links to supporting evidence.
The TSA sh*ts on the 4th Amendment daily. Its agents also bully, harass, rob, and assault people. That includes sexual assault. And if you think I'm exaggerating, you've obviously been asleep for the past several years.
Read the rest at TSA News.
By Dave Lindorff
There were no memorable lines in President Obama’s second inaugural address. Certainly nothing like Franklin Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” which was in his first inaugural, or like John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.”
But there was plenty he said that was troubling.
The problem mostly wasn’t what he said. It was how he said it, and what he left unsaid.
It’s become a cliché among those who support the TSA’s unprecedented intrusions into and under the clothing of innocent travelers: “Flying is a privilege, not a right.”
Media outlets keep pushing misleading headlines and people keep repeating false reports that "the scanners are being removed from airports." No, they're not. As I wrote last Friday, only the scanners manufactured by Rapiscan are being removed from U.S. airports (they were never used in the EU, where they are banned).
I was a guest on Alyona Minkovski’s program on Huffington Post Live last night, along with Declan McCullagh of CNET and a frequent flyer named Marc Marrero.
Read the rest at TSA News.
As we reported here on September 3, 2012, the TSA last year started quietly removing the radiation-emitting backscatter (x-ray) scanners from airports and replacing them with millimeter wave scanners.
By Dave Lindorff
What is wrong with America?
By Ann Wright, OpEdNews
Despite his January 22, 2009 executive order closing Guantanamo Prison in one year, President Obama ensured the continued operation of Guantanamo for another year by signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, and refused to challenge the Congressional mandated ban on transfers from Guantánamo to the federal court and prison system in the United States.
There are 166 out of 779 still imprisoned, including 87 cleared for release, but still held at Guantanamo
On her last four trips through U.S. airport security, Anita Nagelis says she’s been pulled aside and subjected to a more thorough search by TSA agents, including an aggressive pat-down.
Nagelis, who works for a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., doesn’t know why. She never set off a metal detector, isn’t on a no-fly list, and no suspicious items are ever discovered in her luggage.
Read the rest at TSA News.