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Civil Rights / Liberties
Upcoming DC Panel: "Congress vs. the President: The Scope and Limits of Congressional Oversight Powers"
The Constitution Project is holding a panel "Congress vs. the President: The Scope and Limits of Congressional Oversight Powers" on July 16th. Details and RSVP here.
Sixty years ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson left Washington to pursue what he later called "the most important, enduring, and constructive work of [his] life": prosecuting international war crimes committed during WWII. Justice Jackson helped usher in a new international regime that promised to help deter human rights abuses.
Unfortunately, Jackson's achievements have proven less enduring than he hoped. Our nation continues to undermine international law by sweeping torture under the rug, with serious implications going forward.
The Nuremberg Trials established a timeless principle: individuals are criminally liable for violating fundamental human rights, even if their governments authorized those violations. Some laws, Nuremberg held, transcend those of any nation.
Reflections on this Fourth of July
Daphne Eviatar has this shameful story. There are those who would like to establish the precedent that a president can decree such an unconstitutional law into being, rather than risk allowing Congress to legislate the same thing (they might come up with something worse). Hmm. Are those the only two possible courses of action here?
Iowa & Wisconsin Green Parties Sue Davenport, Iowa
By Ronald Hardy | Green Party Watch
Last year two Wisconsin Greens went to Iowa to help Iowa Greens get Cynthia McKinney on the ballot. They hit Iowa City, and several other cities, before going to Davenport, IA for the Bix Street Fest, a large event with lots of people - ideal for gathering signatures. Event organizers DavenportOne confronted the petitioners and tried to force them to leave the streets of Davenport. They called the police.
The ACLU of Iowa took up the case and now the Green Party of the United States, The Wisconsin Greens and the Green Party of Iowa are suing Davenport for violating their first amendment rights to petition." Read more.
The Society of American Law Teachers has sent President Obama a letter uring him to take a leadership role in seeking the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and to replace it with a nondiscrimination provision that would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces. Reminding the President of his campaign rhetoric, SALT reiterated the demographic data that supports repeal. In a recent Gallup poll, over 70 percent of the American public believed that gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly in the armed forces. Perhaps more importantly, in a poll of verterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 75% reported being "personally comfortable" with gays and lesbians. Former Chairmen of the Join Chiefs of Staff, John Shalikoshvili and Colin Powell, among other high ranking military officials, have also recognized the time for repeal is now.
Spies In the Classroom: The Government Is Running a Secretive Intelligence Recruitment Program in Schools
Spies In the Classroom: The Government Is Running a Secretive Intelligence Recruitment Program in Schools
The "Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program" may become a permanent budget item, making universities unwitting agents of state intelligence.
By David Price | Alternet
As the continuities and disjunctures between the Bush and Obama administrations come into focus it becomes increasingly clear that while Obama’s domestic agenda has some identifiable breaks with Bush’s, at its core, the new administration remains committed to staying the course of American militarization. Now we have an articulate, nuanced president who supports elements of progressive domestic policies, can even comfortably say the phrase LGBT in public speeches, while funding military programs at alarming levels and continuing the Bush administration’s military and intelligence invasion of what used to be civilian life.
The latest manifestation of this continuity came last week when Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence, announced plans to transform the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (PRISP) from a pilot project into a permanent budget item. Blair also announced plans to establish a “Reserve Officers' Training Corps” to train unidentified future intelligence officers in US college classrooms. Like students receiving PRISP funds, the identities of students participating in these programs would not be known to professors, university administrators or fellow students -- in effect, these future intelligence analysts and agents would conduct their first covert missions in our university classrooms. Read more.
HR 1966 has cleared the House and now faces the Senate as S.909, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (officially, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act). The bill is expected to sail through the Senate as it did in the House. It will provide federal assistance to the states, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes, and for “other purposes.” It creates special protective status based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.
S.909 is a direct violation of the First Amendment. It allows the federal government to prosecute people involved in “hate speech” transmitted over television, radio, and the internet. The House version of the bill states:
Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce [radio, TV, internet] any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both. (HR 1966, SEC 3, Sec. 881a)Read more.
Dissidents, Hate Speech, Free Speech and Propaganda
Szandor Blestman | American Chronicle
I saw Glenn Beck the other day talking about the shooting at the holocaust memorial. On this particular program he wasn´t so much reporting the facts of the case as he was regaling us with his opinion. It appears as if this man James von Brunn has set a tempest upon us with his despicable action. One man kills another and mainstream media personalities are suddenly condemning entire groups of people numbering in the hundreds of thousands if not the millions. One crazy, paranoid, violent old man, perhaps suffering from who knows what kind of brain disorder, takes it upon himself to murder someone in cold blood and suddenly he is not responsible, but shadowy groups of hate mongers must have been pulling his strings? One tragic incident and suddenly I´m hearing rumblings that one of humankind´s most cherished birthrights needs to be monitored by those in power, thus tarnishing the memory of thousands who died in defense of such rights.
Mr. Beck made a statement something to the effect that he felt "9/11 truthers" were dangerous, potentially violent people. He´s been saying things like that for some time. James von Brunn is a racist, angry, violent man whose actions may be judged as that of a madman. Mr. Beck used that man´s individual actions as an excuse to condemn many who are nothing more than peaceful activists or those trying to express a point of view that may seem unacceptable to the majority. Any affiliations James von Brunn may have had, be they with the 9/11 truth movement or with some kind of white supremacist organization, are incidental. Just because he went out and decided to initiate violence against others doesn´t mean that everyone else in all the organizations he was affiliated with are going to go out and start doing the same. Read more.
FBI compounds mystery with secret justification of gag order
The FBI continues its secrecy binge by filing a classified justification of its use of a gag order on an ISP in the ongoing Doe v. Holder battle.
By Jon Stokes | Arstechnica
When the FBI uses a national security letter (NSL) to force the cooperation of an ISP or phone company in the surveillance of a suspect, the agency typically slaps a gag order on the service provider to prevent it from revealing the existence of the NSL. Civil liberties groups have successfully challenged the DOJ on these gag orders in the ongoing Doe v. Holder, and last month the Obama administration decided not to appeal a federal court ruling that the FBI must justify these gag orders by meeting a relatively high First Amendment standard.
The implication of the court's ruling was that the FBI would finally have to justify the gag order that it had placed on the John Doe in the Doe v. Holder case, so that the plaintiff could talk about the NSL. The FBI has now cooperated, and has given the court a justification of the gag order, in secret.
The classified declaration that justifies the gag order can't even be seen by Doe's attorneys at the ACLU. In a statement, the ACLU elaborated on the move: "The government did not even file a redacted version of its secret affidavit or even an unclassified summary of what the secret affidavit says. Basically, the government is asking us just to trust that the gag is justified." Read more.
EFF Demands Public Release of FBI Surveillance Rules | Press Release
Lawsuit Seeks Disclosure of Guidelines Governing Investigations of Americans
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Justice today, demanding the public release of the surveillance guidelines that govern investigations of Americans by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The FBI's Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines went into effect in December of 2008 and detail the Bureau's procedures and standards for implementing the Attorney General's Guidelines on approved surveillance strategies.
Decision Allowing Yoo Lawsuit to Continue Carries Narrow Implications
Civil Rights Lawyers Hopeful District Court Ruling Could Be Persuasive
By Daphne Eviatar | Washington Independent
Since U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled late Friday in San Francisco that former “enemy combatant” Jose Padilla can proceed with his lawsuit against “torture memo” author John Yoo, the decision has been interpreted by many in the media as a broad vindication of detainees’ rights to sue former Bush administration officials.
In fact, the ruling’s implications are narrower than that, and could also be appealed. But, still, the opinion has heartened some civil rights lawyers because it rejects many of the claims made by former Bush officials that they’re not liable for their actions formulating policy in the “war on terror.” That could persuade judges hearing other claims against former officials as well. The ruling also allows the civil case to move forward against John Yoo, and could in the process reveal significant new information not only about Yoo, but about his interaction with the White House, and exactly how he reached the legal conclusions that he did. That information could, in turn, be used against him in future criminal or congressional proceedings. Read more.
Hi Doug, Doug and Tom of "Wake Up Daytona" on WELE 1380 AM,
I've been listening in and am glad to hear you guys talking about the U.S. Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and "the Rule Of Law" on your program. Hopefully you will take the time to watch the following short YouTube videos from the recent gathering in Tampa of the Florida Oathkeepers and the speeches given by the national commander of The Patriots, Lt. Col. Robert M. Bowman, and the coordinator for the Orlando chapter of We Are Change Florida, Joshua Parrish.
By Linda Milazzo
As a critic of media, in particular of cable/satellite "news," I'm troubled by American corporate-media, specifically CNN's near non-stop coverage of the turmoil in Iran. Not because the story isn't important. It's critically important and warrants the personal coverage it's getting from the Iranian people as they bypass corporate channels to tell their stories on facebook, youtube, flickr and twitter.
Thanks to Iran's tech-savvy society, old-time corporate media is now relegated to the position of new-media aggregator, whoring its visibility to co-opt the Iranian people's new-media messages to America and the world. Old-media, and specifically CNN, are learning the difficult lesson that with or without their vast resources and state of the art studios, the Iranians' stories will be told. And they'll be told to tens of millions more viewers than cable and satellite programs tend to reach.
Dear Mr. President,
I'm a pretty patient guy, Mr. President. I must be, considering that while you were celebrating your 6th birthday I was putting my life on the line for my country, serving as a Military Policeman in Vietnam, even though I had to lie every minute of every waking hour to do so. I kept myself going with the faith that someday other patriotic gay and lesbian Americans would be able to proudly serve their nation without having to live a lie.
I must be a patient man, Mr. President. When you were 8 years old I gave up a promising law enforcement career with the Washington State Patrol rather than continue to put up with the incredible pressure of attempting to pass as a heterosexual. I kept myself going with the faith that someday GLBT people would be protected in their jobs from the whims of heterosexual bigots.
By David Swanson
Two statements, 144 years apart:
"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."
Major General Gordon Granger, June 19, 1865.
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama, referring to the violent attacks on protesters against the controversial election results in Iran’s just-completed presidential election, this week lectured Iran’s government, saying, “Peaceful dissent should never be subject to violence.”
Referring to the tens and hundreds of thousands of frustrated and angry Iranians who have taken to the streets accusing Iranian authorities of rigging the election in favor of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Obama said that “the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected."
But there is a certain hypocrisy going on here.
New UN Report Denounces America's Human Rights Record
by Stephen Lendman
On May 26, the UN Human Rights Council issued a report titled "Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development - Report of the Special Rapporteur (Philip Alston) on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions."
Alston was damning in his criticism regarding "three areas in which significant improvement is necessary if the US Government is to match its actions to its stated commitment to human rights and the rule of law:"
Sabin is the lead attorney for the Guantanamo Uighurs. Please read his message. -- Nancy Talanian
Bermuda's domestic govt is a parliamentary system. The release of the uighurs prompted the minority party to call for a vote of no confidence to unseat the government. Over the weekend the threat that this might succeed has grown. The men are now present under a discretionary grant by the sitting govt of guest worker status. If the govt is unseated, no one knows what will happen.
On an urgent basis, we need the international human rights community
speaking as loudly as possible in praise of the humanitarian decency shown by the bermuda govt. Statements should praise in particular premier Dr. Ewart Brown.
A man who claims he lost his job with a vendor for the Missouri Department of Corrections because of an anti-Bush letter has settled his federal lawsuit with the state for $150,000.
The Columbia Daily Tribune reported on its Web site Friday that Tim Kniest said the settlement equals three years of back pay. Read more.
Two of three people arrested in a southern Arizona home invasion that left a little girl and her father dead had connections to a Washington state anti-illegal immigration group that conducts border watch activities in Arizona.
Jason Eugene Bush, 34, Shawna Forde, 41, and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42, have been charged with two counts each of first-degree murder and other charges, said Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, Ariz....
Forde is the leader of Minutemen American Defense, a small border watch group, and Bush goes by the nickname "Gunny" and is its operations director, according to the group's Web site. Read more.
A plan to create a new Pentagon cybercommand is raising significant privacy and diplomatic concerns, as the Obama administration moves ahead on efforts to protect the nation from cyberattack and to prepare for possible offensive operations against adversaries’ computer networks.
President Obama has said that the new cyberdefense strategy he unveiled last month will provide protections for personal privacy and civil liberties. But senior Pentagon and military officials say that Mr. Obama’s assurances may be challenging to guarantee in practice, particularly in trying to monitor the thousands of daily attacks on security systems in the United States that have set off a race to develop better cyberweapons. Read more.
By Linda Milazzo
As angry uprisings take place in Iran over the questionable "re-election" of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As innocents are murdered at every corner of this planet - indeed at EVERY CORNER - when considering those at its furthest coordinates suffering the effects of global warming brought on by human greed -- there appears on this day a message of hope that can make us ALL smile.
Regardless of ideology, the common denominator I would hope true adults will agree on is that ALL children are OURS to protect. The clear right of passage to be an adult is the knowledge that our principal obligation is to protect and serve the world's children; that ALL children are precious and should be accorded their mutual rights to safety and joy.
DC Vote to Travel to Key States To Defeat Gun Amendment | Press Release | DC Vote
Supporters to Ramp Up Efforts in Target Congressional Districts
Washington, DC - In the wake of a months-long battle to remove an amendment to the DC Voting Rights Act (H.R.157/S.160) that would gut the District's gun control laws, DC Vote is bringing their fight to the states.
"We're going to send a clear message to members of Congress," said Ilir Zherka, DC Vote Executive Director, "you mess with the District and we're coming after you. We will not allow you to stand in the way of our basic civil right to voting representation in Congress and full local democracy."
DC Vote will partner with members of its coalition and local supporters to travel to key states, place ads in local media and rally supporters around the cause. First stop on the group's agenda: Mississippi.
"Representative Childers has gone too far in his attempts to write DC gun laws," said Zherka. "We think his constituents need to know how he is spending his time. His constituents elected him to act as their voice in Congress. But what he, and other pro-gun politicians are doing, is expending their energy to write DC's laws. We're going to states like Mississippi to tell constituents that their member of Congress is standing in the way of DC's right to democracy."
By Senator Jim Webb, Huffington Post
America's criminal justice system is broken.
How broken? The numbers are stark:
• The United States has 5% of the world's population, yet possesses 25% of the world's prison population;
• More than 2.38 million Americans are now in prison, and another 5 million remain on probation or parole. That amounts to 1 in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release;
• Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980, up from 41,000 to 500,000 in 2008; and
• 60% of offenders are arrested for non-violent offensives--many driven by mental illness or drug addiction.
Numbers only tell part of the story.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation’s largest Arab-American civil and human rights organization, is appalled by the shooting that took place earlier today at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Federal law enforcement sources have confirmed that the suspect, James von Brunn, is a known white supremacist.
ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora said, “This act of hate against the Holocaust Museum in our nation’s capital is revolting. Once again, ADC is consistent in condemning hate-motivated crimes and any attacks aimed at civilians no matter who the victims or the perpetrators may be. We commend the many law enforcement agencies that responded to this attack and glad to see the suspect apprehended in quick fashion.”