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Civil Rights / Liberties
Washington D.C. (February 25, 2010) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a vocal critic of the USA Patriot Act and advocate for civil rights, today made the following statement regarding the House vote to extend provisions of the USA Patriot Act:
“This legislation extends three problematic provisions of the PATRIOT Act and, at the same time, leaves some of the most egregious provisions in place, absent any meaningful reform and debate.
At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, a 7,000-pound truck bomb, constructed of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and nitromethane racing fuel and packed into 13 plastic barrels, ripped through the heart of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The explosion wrecked much of downtown Oklahoma City and killed 168 people, including 19 children in a day-care center. Another 500 were injured. Although many Americans initially suspected an attack by Middle Eastern radicals, it quickly became clear that the mass murder had actually been carried out by domestic, right-wing terrorists.
The slaughter engineered by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, men steeped in the conspiracy theories and white-hot fury of the American radical right, marked the opening shot in a new kind of domestic political extremism — a revolutionary ideology whose practitioners do not hesitate to carry out attacks directed at entirely innocent victims, people selected essentially at random to make a political point. After Oklahoma, it was no longer sufficient for many American right-wing terrorists to strike at a target of political significance — instead, they reached for higher and higher body counts, reasoning that they had to eclipse McVeigh's attack to win attention.
What follows is a detailed listing of major terrorist plots and racist rampages that have emerged from the American radical right in the years since Oklahoma City. These have included plans to bomb government buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics, synagogues, mosques, memorials and bridges; to assassinate police officers, judges, politicians, civil rights figures and others; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles, explosives and biological and chemical weapons. Each of these plots aimed to make changes in America through the use of political violence. Most contemplated the deaths of large numbers of people — in one case, as many as 30,000, or 10 times the number murdered on Sept. 11, 2001.
Here are the stories of plots, conspiracies and racist rampages since 1995 — plots and violence waged against a democratic America. Read the rest.
The family of a suburban Chicago high school student is considering legal action against the school after their son was suspended for creating a Facebook page that criticized a teacher.
Justin Bird, 16, a sophomore at Oak Forest High School, used his Facebook page to criticize a teacher.
Oak Forest High School's superintendent says the Facebook posting disrupted the school day, and that's why the student was suspended.
Bird's suspension has raised questions about whether school officials overstepped their authority. Read more.
Call them what you will: bottom feeders, corporate con-men, flim-flam artists, peddlers of crisis, you name it.
You can't help but marvel how enterprising security firms have the uncanny ability to sniff-out new opportunities wherever they can find, or manufacture, them.
After all, nothing sells like fear and in "new normal" America fear is an industry with a limitless growth potential.
While Republicans and Democrats squabble over who's "tougher" when it comes to invading and pillaging other nations (in the interest of "spreading democracy" mind you), a planetary grift dubbed the "War on Terror," waiting in the wings are America's new snake-oil salesmen.
Welcome to Scannergate!
With airport security all the rage, companies that manufacture whole body imaging technologies and body-scanners stand to make a bundle as a result of last December's aborted attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.
Like their kissin' cousins at the Pentagon, poised to bag a $708 billion dollar windfall in the 2011 budget, securocrats over at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stand to vacuum-up some $56.3 billion next year, a $6 billion increase.
According to the agency's February 1 budget announcement, funding requirements will prioritize "efforts to enhance security measures that protect against terrorism and other threats ... reflecting the Department's commitment to fiscal discipline and efficiency."
In keeping with America's unstoppable slide to the right, President Obama created a commission on Thursday by executive order promising to "fix" the yawning budget deficit by establishing--what else!--a "bipartisan fiscal commission."
A state appeals court has unanimously upheld a ruling against a local attorney who sued the town of Guilderland, saying he was wrongly kicked out of Crossgates Mall for wearing an anti-war shirt days before the Iraq War began in 2003.
Stephen Downs argued his freedom of speech was violated and that he was falsely arrested for trespassing inside the mall in 2003.
In a 5-0 ruling, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court disagreed on both issues.
The appeals court noted that while the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, that is against government infringement.
"Restrictions regarding expression on private property, including malls," it stated, "do not typically implicate the constitutional right to free speech." Read more.
Philly Rampage Shows Social Media's Potential: Youthful Rage, Instead of Ineffectual, Could be Potent
By Dave Lindorff
City leaders and the downtown business community in Philadelphia are wringing their hands and calling for “tough action” against a horde of some 150 high school kids from eight of the city’s decrepit and failing high schools who rampaged late Tuesday afternoon through the Center City district’s shops, from the Gallery mall at 10th Street to Macy’s near City Hall, frightening tourists and suburban shoppers, and knocking over shopping displays.
By evening, police had reportedly locked up 15 kids who were charged with violent offenses, such as beating other kids or bystanders, or destroying property (Macy’s claimed damages to its flagship store totalling $700). Some of these kids were held overnight on lesser charges such as shoplifting or disturbing the peace.
I’m not going to diminish the seriousness of the incident. Nobody should be trashing stores or stealing things, and certainly nobody should be hurting other people.
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Viterbo University (La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA) will be the sites for the 2010 Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies conference on Human Rights (October 7-9, 2010).
Conference themes of the Universal Declaration include:
- Torture. Life, liberty and security of persons, Slavery
- Equality under the law
- Arbitrary arrest, detention or Exile
- Right to freedom of movement and residence
- Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
- Freedom of Opinion and Expression
- Peaceful assembly and association
- Right to participate in Government
- Economic, social and cultural rights
- Right to be treated with dignity
- Right to Education
- Right to Health and wellbeing
Visit the conference website for more details.
We are excited about the keynote speakers and in particular that this conference includes both an “academic” component for people to present scholarly papers on human rights issues as well as pedagogical sessions for people to either present or to get ideas about how to introduce human rights into the K-University curriculum. Please consider submitting a proposal (the deadline is coming up soon—April 1) and encourage your colleagues to submit proposals. In addition, please let K-12 teachers in your area know about this and encourage them to attend and/or submit proposals.
Broad Coalition Urges Senate To Defeat Legislation To Block Funding For Civilian Trials In 9/11 Cases
WASHINGTON – A broad coalition of human rights and civil liberties groups sent a letter to the Senate today urging defeat of a bill that would prohibit the use of Justice Department funds to prosecute the accused 9/11 plotters in federal court. The bill, introduced earlier this month by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), is aimed at forcing the Obama administration to use the unconstitutional and discredited military commissions to try these cases. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) has introduced a similar companion bill in the House.
In its letter to the Senate, the coalition stated, “This legislation would needlessly tie the President’s hands in resolving the problem of Guantánamo and disposing of cases in ways that comport with human rights principles and the rule of law. The legislation would restrict the Obama administration’s ability to employ one of the most valuable counterterrorism tools available — criminal prosecutions in regular federal courts.”
ICE Uses Threats of Deportation to Produce Terrorism “Intel” and in a somewhat related abuse I keep hearing stories about student visas not being renewed unless the student enlists in the U.S. military -- Anybody got such a story with names and dates and sources?
By Dave Lindorff
The deliberate suicide crash bombing by a domestic terrorist pilot of a small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas has exposed a grave failure of the Homeland Security Department to protect us Americans from the threat posed by the virtually unregulated use in this country of small aircraft.
Just about anyone can own and fly a small plane, and these, as we have now seen, are readily adaptable into kamikazi missiles capable of destroying large buildings.
MK-ULTRA: The CIA's Mind Control Program
By Stephen Lendman
Note: MK-ULTRA and Ruhullah's story will be featured on the Progressive Radio News Hour this Thursday, February 18 at 10AM US Central time on The Progressive Radio Network. Listen live or later through archives.
MK-ULTRA was the code name for a secret CIA mind control program, begun in 1953, under Director Allen Dulles. Its purpose was multifold, including to perfect a truth drug for interrogating suspected Soviet spies during the Cold War. It followed earlier WW II hypnosis, primitive drugs research, and the US Navy's Project Chatter, explained by its Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request as follows:
It began "in the fall of 1947 focusing on the identification and testing of drugs (LSD and others) in interrogations and the recruitment of agents. The research included laboratory experiments on both animal and human subjects. The program ended shortly after the Korean War in 1953."
It was run under the direction of Dr. Charles Savage of the Naval Medical Research Institute, Bethesda, MD from 1947 - 1953, after which CIA's Office of Scientific Intelligence continued it under the name Project Bluebird, its first mind control program to:
- learn how to condition subjects to withstand information from being extracted from them by known means;
- develop interrogation methods to exert control;
- develop memory enhancement techniques; and
- establish ways to prevent hostile control of Agency personnel.
VR Celebrates 5-Year Anniversary By Exposing Chamber of Commerce's Campaign for Corporate Takeover of America
VR’s Five Year Anniversary:Help Us Celebrate With Ads Exposing The Chamber Of Commerce’s Campaign For The Corporate Takeover Of America
Join Our Stop The Chamber Campaign
This week, thanks to all your participation, VR celebrates its five year anniversary of grassroots activism and government accountability. We look forward to the next five years with more campaigns and greater citizen involvement. Let’s start with a full page ad in Washington and Internet ads exposing the Chamber of Commerce for its billion dollar campaign to put elections in the hands of corporations rather than the American people.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to manipulate elections. The driving force behind this decision was the Chamber of Commerce and its army of corporate bad guys. Since the decision, we have learned that the Chamber spent $144 million for lobbying in 2009 — more than either the Democrats or Republicans. The Chamber has announced plans to spend more than ever in 2010 to elect candidates that support polluters and robber barons.
Two weeks ago, Congress held hearings on ways to blunt the Chamber’s takeover of all branches of government. The Brennan Center testified about the Chamber’s shameful and illegal practice of laundering money for big corporations in order to avoid disclosure requirements, comparing it to people using Swiss bank accounts to avoid paying US taxes.
We want to expose the Chamber’s illegal, unethical and opaque practices with a full page print ad in Washington and ads across the Internet. Our last print ad drew lots of attention from the mainstream media, with Fox News and Rush Limbaugh calling us out for taking on big corporations, and their fans warning us to back off of the Chamber. We had to complain to the FBI to stop the threats.
Let’s let them know that we are not intimidated and we will continue to expose the Chamber’s corruption. Our ads will call on Congress and the Department of Justice to investigate the Chamber’s money laundering operation with full subpoena power, grand jury action and public hearings. We need your help.
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 9-11, to expand our government's reach into the lives of law-abiding Americans.
Today, the draconian authorities foisted on an unsuspecting public by the PATRIOT Act once again place the Constitution in the cross-hairs of a complacent Congress, acquiescing to another administration whose political agenda lies at conspicuous odds with its leader's oath to defend the Constitution.
Afghanistan War Vet Faces Jail Time for Taking Daughter to Church in Violation of Court Order
Joseph Reyes Baptized Daughter Without Informing Estranged Wife
By Chris Cuomo, Lauren Pearle, Felicia Patinkin and Suzan Clarke | ABC News
A veteran of the war in Afghanistan could find out today if he'll get jail time for taking his daughter to church in defiance of a Chicago family court order obtained by his estranged wife.
The two are in a bitter divorce battle, and the question of what faith their child should be raised in is pushing the boundaries of child custody arrangements.
Reyes' decision to baptize his daughter without his wife's permission resulted in what some are calling an extraordinary court order: The Hon. Edward R. Jordan in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., imposed a 30-day restraining order forbidding Joseph Reyes from, according to the document, "exposing his daughter to any other religion than the Jewish religion. …"
The couple married in 2004. Joseph Reyes was Catholic, but he converted to Judaism -- he said the decision wasn't "voluntary" -- to please his in-laws.
Despite his conversion, Reyes, 35, said he never stopped practicing Catholicism. Read more.
It's Official: 2009 Was Record Year For Lobbying, Despite Recession
By Arthur Delaney | Huffington Post
Every big sector spent more, first and foremost the pharmaceutical and health products industry, which spent $266.8 million -- "the greatest amount ever spent on lobbying efforts by a single industry for one year," according to CRP. Business associations spent $183 million, oil and gas interests spent $168.4 million and the insurance industry shelled out $164.2 million.
The final reports are in and we can now officially say that 2009 was the most profitable year ever for the lobbying industry.
The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics tallied lobbying income data from tens of thousands of disclosure filings, and the data show that special interests of all stripes spent $3.47 billion lobbying the federal government in 2009, up from $3.3 billion the previous year.
How did the influence industry manage such a banner year despite a battered economy? The simple answer is that the Obama administration's aggressive change agenda has prompted businesses to open their wallets to an unprecedented degree in the hope of preventing reform. Read more.
By Linda Milazzo
Tomorrow morning, ABC's Jonathan Karl will audition to replace George Stephanopoulos on the network's flagship Sunday morning program, This Week. Karl's exclusive "get" for his hosting debut is former Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Karl last interviewed on December 16, 2008 - a month after Barack Obama was elected President, and a month after Jonathan Karl was named ABC's Senior Congressional Correspondent.
The IndictBushNow movement has captured the imagination and support of hundreds of thousands of people.
This is a grassroots movement and it is a classic example of the people acting together to defend democracy and the Constitution from government law-breakers.
The struggle for government accountability has entered a new phase. This movement needs your active participation.
Powerful corporate forces who have bowed in the past to pressure from the Bush-Cheney gang are now trying to block this movement from getting our message out.
IndictBushNow had spent weeks communicating with CBS representatives for the launch in Washington, D.C., for our wrap-around bus ads that read: "TORTURE is not just wrong ... it is ILLEGAL. Because NO ONE is above the law," followed by our organization's website address.
But now, CBS officials have suddenly changed their tune. In a communication we have just received from CBS Outdoor (which has the contract for the placement of bus ads in the nation's capital), the advertising media giant rejected our bus ad, suddenly claiming it constituted "attack advertisement." Read more, take action.
Protest at the University of HI Challenges Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence & CIA Campus Recruitment
Protest at the University of Hawaii Challenges Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence and CIA Recruitment on Campus
By Ann Wright | Click "Read more" below for large photo
Hawaii activists protested on February 10, 2010, the University of Hawaii’s participation with U.S. intelligence agencies in a symposium on national security and called on students and faculty to remember the criminal track record of these agencies in torture, assassination, kidnapping and illegal prisons.
Protesters called on the University administration to reject any request by the federal government to create a National Intelligence Center of Academic Excellence (ICCAE, pronounced “icky”) at the University of Hawaii.
Government intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Homeland Security, have created in the past four years twenty-two Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence on university campuses to provide “systematic long-term programs at universities and colleges to recruit and hire eligible talent for [intelligence community] agencies and components” and to “increase the [intelligence recruiting] pipeline of students.”
The EU Parliament voted today–by big margins–to end the temporary deal allowing the US access to data from SWIFT.
The European Parliament on Thursday broadly rejected an agreement with the United States on sharing information on bank transfers that was aimed at tracking suspected terrorists through their finances.The vote in Strasbourg, France, underlined differences between the United States and the European Union over how to balance guarantees of personal privacy with concerns about national and international security.
A resolution to reject the deal passed 378-196, with 31 abstentions. The vote means that the agreement, which provisionally went into force at the beginning of February, cannot be used as planned.
The agreement would have freed the United States from having to seek bank data on a country-by-country basis. But Washington still could press for access to the data through such avenues.
Remember, this deal would have given European citizens more protections than Americans currently get from their banks (because it would have allowed them to check whether their data had been accessed). Read more.
My Country Has Been Hijacked
Munich Peace Rally Speech
By Cynthia McKinney
Thank you for allowing me to come from the United States and participate in this rally for peace.
My country has been hijacked by a criminal cabal intent on using the hard-earned dollars of the American people for war, occupation, and empire.
As a result, the national leadership of my country, both Democratic and Republican, became complicit in war crimes, torture, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the peace.
As a Member of Congress from the Democratic Party, I drafted Articles of Impeachment against George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice. Later, when Democrats voted to support more war rather than take care of the needs of the people, I declared my independence from them and all national leadership; the Green Party nominated me to run for President, which I did on a platform of truth, justice, peace, and dignity.
I watched as Candidate Barack Obama came here to Germany to speak. I saw tears on the faces of many in the crowd who believed that, finally, there was something worth believing in again. That America had turned a page from its evil playbook that had so outraged and disappointed the world. That good was finally about to triumph over evil.
I know that beleaguered people all over the world, victims of cruel and deadly military, economic, imperial policies finally could believe in hope and change. And America could be believed in again.
Everywhere I went all over the world there were pictures of Barack Obama, slogans "Yes, We Can," and the words "Hope" and "Change" plastered everywhere.
And after eight years of George W. Bush, Barack Obama seemed to be the man the world was waiting for.
So when the Candidate became the President, we held our breath in anticipation.
That torture and rendition; spying on innocent, dissenting Americans; war and occupation; crimes against the U.S. Constitution and crimes against the peace would end and that the United States would finally join the community of nations.
Sadly, one year into the Presidency of Barack Obama, that is not the case.
No more illegal wiretapping of American citizens....This administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not. - Barack Obama, Aug. 1, 2007
On second thought, never mind.
With the world's attention riveted by the earthquake in Haiti, few noticed when, late last month, a federal judge took a pair of sharp scissors to the Bill of Rights. But on Jan. 22, federal district judge Vaughan Walker agreed to dismiss a lawsuit over warrantless wiretapping, as the administration - the current one - had requested.
The suit was the second of its type to get tossed out. The first suit was filed against AT&T, and it accused the company of forking over to federal agents the calls and e-mails of customers in the United States. But Walker dismissed that suit last June, after Congress passed legislation granting retroactive immunity to telecom compa-
nies for cooperating with federal surveillance efforts.
The second suit was filed against the National Security Agency. Walker threw it out on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not show they had been individually harmed, because they could not "differentiate themselves from the mass of telephone and Internet users in the United States." They needed a "direct, personal stake" to claim standing for the right to sue, not merely "a right to have the government follow the law."
This seems to suggest that as long as the government is hoovering up vast amounts of communications records from many thousands of Americans - "dragnet surveillance," as the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls it - no harm done: The more people the government wiretaps, the more authority the federal government has to do so.
That is...interesting. Because the Obama administration had asked to have the case dismissed on entirely different grounds - the state- secrets doctrine: Litigating the dispute would require the government to disclose "a range of facts concerning whether, when, how, why, and under what authority the NSA may have utilized certain intelligence sources and methods," it argued, which could lead to "exceptionally grave harm to national security."
"Congress has not waived sovereign immunity," says the administration's brief, "and summary judgment for the Government on all of plaintiffs' remaining claims against all parties...is required because information necessary to litigate plaintiffs' claims is properly subject to and excluded from use in this case by the state secrets privilege."
This is precisely the position taken by the Bush administration. Indeed, by some lights the Obama position is even worse, since the Bush program was created while the country was in full panic mode after 9/11. Obama not only has had time to reflect from a distance; having reflected, he concluded the Bush position was wrong. Then he turned around and embraced it. Read more.
[Padilla] claimed that Yoo, as a Justice Department lawyer and self-described member of the Bush administration's "war council," approved his detention and wrote legal opinions that justified his treatment.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White refused to dismiss the suit in June. It was the first time a court had held a Justice Department attorney potentially responsible for the abuse of prisoners.
Yoo has appealed, saying the suit would interfere with presidential war-making authority. The Obama administration has taken his side, arguing that courts should not meddle in questions of national security.
But in filings over the last 10 days, groups of constitutional law professors, legal ethics scholars and former government attorneys urged the court to keep Padilla's suit alive.
They argue that this is not a dispute over legal advice, as Yoo contends, but the case of a lawyer who allegedly stepped out of his role to take part in planning detention and interrogation policies, and then devised legal opinions to justify those policies.
As reports circulate that the Justice Department has softened its criticism of attorney John Yoo for memos approving the Bush administration's treatment of terrorism suspects, several prominent lawyers are urging a federal appeals court in San Francisco to hold Yoo accountable. Read more.
"If we don't act quickly, the court's ruling will have an immediate and disastrous impact on the 2010 elections," said Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate.
Democratic leaders in Congress unveiled proposals Thursday that would limit the impact of a Supreme Court decision allowing unfettered corporate spending on political campaigns.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) called for a ban on companies with more than 20 percent foreign ownership, government contractors and bank bailout recipients from participating in U.S. elections. They also want to require companies to inform shareholders about political spending, and to mandate that corporate chief executives to appear in any political advertising funded by their companies.
Schumer told reporters that the proposals will be introduced later this month. Read more.
Nurse Whistle-Blower Not Guilty for Reporting Doctor
Texas Nurse Fired After Sheriff Seizes Computer and Finds Letter of Complaint
By Susan Donaldson James, Steve Osunsami and Michael Murray | ABC News
A Texas jury has found veteran nurse Anne Mitchell not guilty of harassment after she wrote a confidential letter to the Texas Medical Board complaining about a doctor she believed practiced shoddy medicine.
Her lawyer, John Cook, announced the verdict today on the fourth day of the trial in Andrew, Texas.
Mitchell, 52, could have faced 10 years in prison for doing what she believed was her obligation under the law -- to report unsafe medical practices.
The verdict could have had a profound effect on whistle-blowers in Texas and nationwide. People are certainly talking. Phil Parks told ABC News, "I think that nurses must be on the side of patients. They spend more time with patients than doctors do." Read more.
Americans have been losing the protection of law for years. In the 21st century the loss of legal protections accelerated with the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” which continues under the Obama administration and is essentially a war on the Constitution and U.S. civil liberties.
The Bush regime was determined to vitiate habeas corpus in order to hold people indefinitely without bringing charges. The regime had acquired hundreds of prisoners by paying a bounty for “terrorists.” Afghan warlords and thugs responded to the financial incentive by grabbing unprotected people and selling them to the Americans.
The Bush regime needed to hold the prisoners without charges because it had no evidence against the people and did not want to admit that the U.S. government had stupidly paid warlords and thugs to kidnap innocent people. In addition, the Bush regime needed “terrorists” prisoners in order to prove that there was a terrorist threat.
As there was no evidence against the “detainees” (most have been released without charges after years of detention and abuse), the U.S. government needed a way around U.S. and international laws against torture in order that the government could produce evidence via self-incrimination. The Bush regime found inhumane and totalitarian-minded lawyers and put them to work at the U.S. Department of Justice (sic) to invent arguments that the Bush regime did not need to obey the law. Read more.
By Dave LIndorff
I guess I may as well get out front of things here. I’m about to fly to Switzerland to lead a panel on how to change pro-capital punishment attitudes in a country at the Fourth Congress Against the Death Penalty, being sponsored by the United Nations in Geneva. And judging from the stories I’ve been reading about the Transportation Security Administration, or at least its Philadelphia International Airport operation, and the Philadelphia Police who backstop the TSA here, I’m afraid I’m liable to be hauled away as a suspected terrorist before I can get on my flight.
Why? Because I will be carrying copies of one of my books, which has the title “Killing Time” (It’s an investigation into the death penalty case of Philadelphia journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, and was published in 2003 by Common Courage Press), and more importantly, because I just got a haircut.