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Civil Rights / Liberties
By Dave Lindorff
I once wrote an article about former President George W. Bush saying that he was a perfect Manchurian candidate. That is, if his missing year when he was supposed to have been flying fighter jets with the Texas Air National Guard was actually spent in the former Soviet Union being reprogrammed as a covert KGB agent whose job it was to go back to America, win election to the White House, and proceed to destroy the US, he couldn’t have done a better job than he actually did.
Now I wonder whether President Obama might not be a perfect Manchurian Candidate of the Republican Party, or perhaps of some nefarious foreign entity—perhaps the China or the always-enigmatic Al Qaeda. How else to explain policies that have wreaked such destruction on the Democratic Party in Washington and on the nation at large.
Political Prisoner Jalil Muntaqim Denied Parole
By Stephen Lendman
On November 18, Jalil Muntaqim (formerly Anthony Bottom) was refused parole a day after his November 17 hearing. The board called his record exemplary, but still denied him. Muntaqim thanked everyone who wrote letters of support and said he'll appeal the decision. Failing that, his next scheduled hearing is in June 2010. His earlier 2002, 2004 and 2006 hearings were also unsuccessful.
In a November 19 letter to supporters, he wrote as follows:
"The parole board ignored the overwhelming support from the community for my release, and denied me parole. I have come to the conclusion after this, my fourth parole appearance....that the parole system is not a fair and impartial decision making body. It is a political institution with a law enforcement agenda....incapable of being fair and impartial in cases where a police officer's death is involved....The judiciary generally supports the law enforcement agenda of the parole board."
To rectify this "double standard," he urged his supporters to:
- "organize a coalition of progressive folks willing and able to concentrate on this issue;"
- get the "religious/faith based community" on board;
- challenge elected officials "for their refusal and failure to intervene....;" and
- New York's "Governor Patterson must be told his choice of parole chairman and commissioners must reflect the desires of the community."
Short of these actions, nothing will reverse the "institutional repression and racism endemic (in) the NYS prison and parole system." Muntaqim is its longest-punished example, an innocent man kept imprisoned since 1971.
The freejalil.com web site calls him a "political prisoner & prisoner of war." Some history and background follows.
On Thursday, December 3, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will hold a news conference in the nation’s capital to release its 14th annual report, titled “Seeking Full Inclusion,” on the status of Muslim civil rights in the United States.
WHAT: CAIR to Release Annual Report on Status of American Muslim Civil Rights
WHEN: Thursday, December 3, 10 a.m. (Eastern)
WHERE: CAIR’s Capitol Hill Headquarters, 453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C.
CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: email@example.com
The Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization’s report - the only annual study of its kind – will offer a summary of incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment reported to CAIR during the 2008 calendar year.
CAIR’s new report will also examine the use of Islamophobic rhetoric in the 2008 presidential election and highlight a number of issues of concern to the American Muslim community, including watch lists, surveillance of mosques and new FBI guidelines that allow religious and ethnic profiling.
The report will offer recommendations for action by the Obama administration, Congress and American Muslim institutions.
United States Backs Illegal Elections in Honduras, Betraying Process to Restore Constitutional Order
United States Backs Illegal Elections in Honduras, Betraying Process to Restore Constitutional Order
By Tom Loudon | Truthout | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
After five months of political chaos in Honduras, repeated attempts to reach a negotiated agreement for restoration of constitutional order have failed due to the defiant recalcitrance of the Roberto Micheletti coup regime and the complicity of the State Department. Given this impasse and the deepening human rights crisis, it is widely recognized that conditions for holding free, fair and transparent elections on November 29, just days from now, do not exist.
Recognizing this dilemma, in late October the United States rushed a high-level State Department delegation to Honduras, bringing Micheletti back to the table and brokering the October 30 "National Reconciliation Agreement" requiring the reinstatement of President Manuel Zelaya by November 5. However, in a move paralleling the behavior of the Micheletti regime, a few days later, State Department officials reversed their position, stating that the elections would be recognized by the United States with or without restitution of President Zelaya, effectively breaking the accord. Read more.
Koeltl concluded that the terrorism enhancement, “while correct under the guidelines, would result in an unreasonable result.” He cited “the somewhat atypical nature of Stewart’s case” and “the lack of evidence that any victim was harmed as a result of the charged offense.” The result of the terrorism enhancement, according to Koeltl, was “dramatically unreasonable in [her] case” because it “overstate[d] the seriousness of [her] past conduct and the likelihood that [she would] repeat the offense.”
Stewart, Koeltl concluded, “has no criminal history and yet is placed in the highest criminal history category [under the terrorism enhancement] equal to that of repeat felony offenders for the most serious offenses including murder and drug trafficking.” Koeltl found that Stewart’s opportunity to repeat “the crimes to which she had been convicted will be nil” because she “will lose her license to practice law” [“itself a punishment”] and “will be forever separated from any contact with Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.”
Koeltl viewed Stewart’s personal characteristics as “extraordinary” and determined that they “argue[d] strongly in favor of a substantial downward variance” from the guidelines. He described her as a dedicated public servant who had, throughout her career, “represented the poor, the disadvantaged and the unpopular, often as a Court-appointed attorney,” thereby providing a “service not only to her clients but to the nation.”
In a decision that reflects the post-911 terrorism hysteria, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed prominent civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart’s convictions and remanded her case to district court Judge John G. Koeltl to reconsider her sentence. The appellate panel directed Koeltl to remand Stewart to custody and the 70-year-old woman is now in prison.
Stewart was convicted of conspiracy to provide and conceal material support to the conspiracy to murder persons in a foreign country (18 U.S.C. sec. 2339A and 18 U.S.C. sec. 2), conspiring to provide and conceal such support (18 U.S.C. sec. 371), and knowingly and willfully making false statements (18 U.S.C. sec. 1001). The majority opinion states that Stewart was convicted “principally with respect to [her] violations of those measures by which [she] had agreed to abide,” namely, Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). Read more.
Targeting Muslim Charities in America
By Stephen Lendman
In a December 2008 article, this writer explained that the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) was the largest American Muslim charity until the Bush administration bogusly declared it an enemy of the state and shut it down.
On December 4, 2001, the Treasury Department declared HLF a terrorist group, froze its assets, and falsely claimed they were being used to funnel millions of dollars to Hamas. HLF's appeal was denied.
It provided vital relief to Palestinian refugees in Occupied Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan as well as aid for the needy in Bosnia, Albania, Chechnya, Turkey, America, and elsewhere.
Its activities included:
- financial aid to needy and impoverished families;
- a sponsorship program for orphaned children;
- numerous social services;
- educational ones;
- medical and other emergency work; and
- community development, including helping Palestinians rebuild homes that Israel maliciously destroyed.
HLF described its work as follows. "We gave:
- books, not bombs;
- bread, not bullets;
- smiles, not scars;
- toys, not tanks;
- liberty, not poverty;
- hope, not despair;
- love, not hate; (and)
- life, not death.
Slate Blogger Urges KSM's Defense Lawyers Not to Try, Pre-Blames Them for Expected Injustices of Court Decisions
This is a curious article in that it blames defense lawyers who might argue that evidence based on torture is inadmissable or 7 years is not a speedy trial, etc., for the unjust responses expected from the courts.
The economic elite have launched an attack on the U.S. public and society is unraveling at an increased rate.
I: U.S. Societal Breakdown
You may have missed it in the mainstream news media, but statistical societal indicators are reading red across the board. Before exposing the root causes of this breakdown, let’s look at some vital statistics and facts:
* The inequality of wealth in the United States is soaring to an unprecedented level. The US already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the middle class and poor much harder than the top one percent, the gap between the top one percent and the remaining 99% of the US population has grown to a record high.
* As the stock market went over the 10,000 mark and just surged to a 13-month high, the three big banks that took taxpayer money and benefit the most from the government bailout have just set a new global economic record by issuing $30 billion in annual bonuses this year, “up 60 percent from last year.” Bloomberg reported: “Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, had a record profit in the first nine months of this year and set aside $16.7 billion for compensation expenses.” Goldman Sachs is on pace for the best year in the firm’s history, they are also benefiting by only paying 1% in taxes.
* The profits of the economic elite are “now underwritten by taxpayers with $23.7 trillion worth of national wealth.”
As the looting is occurring at the top, the US middle class is just beginning to collapse.
* Workers between the age of 55 – 60, who have worked for 20 – 29 years, have lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. During the same time period, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans went up by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion.
Lynne Stewart: Heroic Human Rights Lawyer Jailed
By Stephen Lendman
On November 20, New York Times writer Colin Moynihan broke the news headlining:
"Radical Lawyer Convicted of Aiding Terrorist Is Jailed," then saying:
"Defiant to the end as she embraced supporters outside the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan, Lynne F. Stewart, the radical lawyer known for defending unpopular clients, surrendered on Thursday to begin serving her 28-month sentence for assisting terrorism."
Stewart did what all attorneys should, but few, in fact, do - observe the American Bar Association's Model Rules saying all lawyers are obligated to:
"devote professional time and resources and use civic influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who because of economic or social barriers cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel."
Also to practice law ethically, morally and responsibly to assure everyone is afforded due process and judicial fairness in American courts. Sadly and disturbingly, Stewart was denied what she did for others heroically, unselfishly, and proudly. More on that below.
Stewart (prison number 53504-054) is now jailed at:
Joy First writes:
Below is a brief filed with the Federal Court in Madison, WI by our good friend Brian Terrell. Brian was arrested with a group of activists at an action at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin on August 10, 2008. We went to court, were found guilty, and ordered to pay a fine. Brian has not paid the fine and so the prosecutor filed a motion with the court asking for 30 days in jail for Brian and others who did not pay the fine. This brief is Brian’s response to the court.
We returned to Fort McCoy this past August 2009 and were arrested again. Following this arrest, four of us were illegally transported by military personnel to the Dane County jail in Madison and held overnight. We are pursuing this as a violation of Posse Comitatus. We have not been arraigned or heard anything from the court regarding our arrest in August 2009.
The statement from Brian is powerful and moving and inspires me to continue my work for peace and justice. Please share this with others.
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Case No. 08-po-1008-slc
OPPOSITION TO MOTION FOR RE-SENTENCING
On November 5, 2008, the United States of America, through Acting United States Attorney Stephen P. Sinnott, moved the court for an order re-sentencing me to a 30-day term of imprisonment, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3614. The grounds offered by the United States in support of its motion are clearly insufficient and the court is requested to deny the motion. My response to each of the grounds as listed by the United States, are as follows:
CCR Files Opening Brief in First Supreme Court Case to Challenge Patriot Act | Press Release
Obama Administration Defending Law that Makes Speech Advocating Human Rights a Terrorist Crime
November 17 - Yesterday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the first brief in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the first case to challenge a portion of the Patriot Act before the Supreme Court. The case, originally brought in 1998 on behalf of a human rights group, a retired federal administrative judge, a doctor, and several nonprofit groups, challenges the constitutionality of the law that makes it a crime to provide "material support" to groups the administration has designated as "terrorist." In particular, the plaintiffs charge that the law goes too far in making speech advocating lawful, nonviolent activity a crime. The lower courts have unanimously declared several provisions of the law - including one added by the Patriot Act - unconstitutionally vague because they encompass speech and force citizens to guess as to their meaning.
The case challenges those aspects of the "material support" statute that criminalize pure speech - specifically the prohibitions on providing "training," "personnel," "expert advice or assistance," and "service." Under the law, any speech that falls within these terms - no matter how peaceable and nonviolent - is a crime if communicated to, for, or with the collaboration of any organization placed on a list of "foreign terrorist organizations" maintained by the State Department. Convictions can result in sentences of fifteen years to life. According to the government, the statute requires no showing that the donor intended to further any act of terrorism or violence.
Said CCR Cooperating Attorney David Cole, "This statute is so sweeping that it treats human rights advocates as criminal terrorists, and threatens them with 15 years in prison for advocating nonviolent means to resolve disputes. In our view, the First Amendment does not permit the government to make advocating human rights or other lawful, peaceable activity a crime simply because it is done for the benefit of, or in conjunction with, a group the Secretary of State has blacklisted."
By David Swanson
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the corporate "mainstream" media make quite a pair. We're hearing a very "balanced" debate over whether KSM should be tried in New York City, and whether the most insane objections to that proposal are really insane or not. But what are we not hearing?
We're not hearing that trying criminals for the crime of 9-11 ought to have been what we did years ago, rather than waging wars in response to a crime. We're not discussing the possibility that had alleged 9-11 criminals been tried years ago rather than being imprisoned and tortured together with hundreds of innocents depicted as subhuman monsters, the "war on terror" might have been replaced with simply the wars on Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis. What effect might that have had on Americans' willingness to surrender their Bill of Rights? We aren't hearing about that.
Why the Stupak Amendment to the Healthcare Reform Bill Is Unconstitutional
By Marci A. Hamilton | Find Law
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops registered a major victory this week, when it succeeded in pressuring members of the House to include in the healthcare reform bill the so-called "Stupak Amendment." The Amendment is a provision that carves out new territory for those organizations and persons who oppose abortion -- virtually all of whom are religiously-motivated. It does so by forbidding federal funds from being applied to abortions in any instance, including when those funds are being used to subsidize the purchase by low- or middle-income individuals of private insurance on the open market. Under the Stupak Amendment, federal funds cannot be used to pay for "any part" of an insurance plan that would fund abortions.
Before the Stupak Amendment was added, the bill had already included a compromise provision that grandfathered in the approach taken by a prior federal law that sharply restricts funding for abortions. That law, known as the Hyde Amendment, has forbidden federal spending by Medicaid on non-therapeutic abortions since 1976. There have been times in recent history when no abortions could be federally-funded, but at this point a few circumstances permit federal funding, including a pregnancy deriving from incest or rape, or a threat to the life of the pregnant woman. Despite its burden on women's rights, the Hyde Amendment has been upheld in a series of Supreme Court cases, including Maher v. Roe.
The Health Care Reform Act in the House had included a compromise provision that recognized the Hyde Amendment principle, but did not extend the prohibition to the funding of abortions through private insurance plans. Read more.
The U.S. Supreme Court does not need to hear the appeal of former Gov. Don Siegelman because prosecutors adequately proved at trial that he exchanged an official act for a political donation, according to written arguments filed late Friday by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Siegelman and co-defendant HealthSouth Corp. founder Richard Scrushy in August asked the justices to take up their case because they believe it raises broader legal questions about how much evidence is needed to prove bribery.
They argue that the donations Scrushy made to Siegelman's lottery fund and Siegelman's subsequent appointment of Scrushy to a state health board were normal political transactions, not criminal. And they contend that government prosecutors never proved there was an explicit agreement to exchange the appointment for the $500,000 in donations.
But the solicitor general of the U.S., responding Friday on behalf of the prosecution team, said case law allows the jurors to infer, even from circumstantial evidence, that there was an agreement to exchange the money for the official action. Read more.
Here's a letter I just sent to my local newspaper:
Letter to the Editor:
As an organizer of the protest of former President Bush at Monticello last July, I was sorry to miss Sunday's panel on free speech and rudeness at PVCC but appreciated your Monday report. I also appreciated the panelists' comments you reported to the effect that TV pundits and producers encourage rudeness. If many people's views were not shut out of major communications outlets, they'd probably be less likely to force them in by shouting.
I was sorry to see, at least in your report of Sunday's panel, no indication that the panelists distinguished any types or shades of rudeness, as opposed to lumping it all together. Here are three types worth thinking about:
1) Inciting hatred and violence. This could include demonization, encouraging assaults, staging mock executions, racism or other bigotry, or promoting wars on the basis of lies.
By Dave Lindorff
President Obama, in his visit to China, held a “town meeting” with Chinese students in which he praised openness and lectured them on the value of freedom of information, saying that he is a “supporter of non-censorship” and that open access to information was a “source of strength.”
And yet America is hardly free of censorship. Heck, the president himself has gone to court to prevent the release of photographs of US troops torturing captives in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo. Talk about censorship! But it goes way beyond just such crude, totalitarian style control over information.
Secretary Of Defense Says Americans Should Not See Torture Photos | Press Release
ACLU Says Actions Stifle Transparency and Accountability | ACLU
WASHINGTON – In a brief filed late Friday night, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates invoked his authority to block the release of photos depicting the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody overseas. The photos are the subject of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking their release. Secretary Gates was granted the authority to exempt certain images from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as part of a new law signed by President Obama last month.
“We are disappointed that Secretary Gates has invoked new legislation to keep the torture photos secret,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “These photos are an important part of the historical record and they are crucial to the ongoing debate about accountability. In withholding the photos, Secretary Gates has cited national security concerns, but no democracy has ever been made stronger by suppressing information about its own misconduct."
Please help restore voting rights for former felons in Virginia.
Virginia has an estimated 300,000 former felons who cannot vote. Virginia and Kentucky are the only two states that have this restriction.
Former felons should have their rights automatically restored when they complete their sentence and probation. The Governor can establish this policy entirely on his own, with no permission required from the Virginia General Assembly. We need Governor Tim Kaine to sign an Executive Order to correct this injustice — before he leaves office.
What you can do:
Call Governor Tim Kaine at (804) 786-2211 or send an e-mail and ask him, “Please sign an Executive Order to restore voting rights for former felons so that their rights are automatically restored when they finish their sentence."
Wars come home in strange, unnerving ways -- as Americans have just discovered at Fort Hood. Even before Major Nidal Malik Hasan went on his killing spree, that base, a major military embarkation point for our war zones, was already experiencing the after-effects of eight years of war and repeated tours of duty. The suicide rate at Fort Hood was soaring (with 10 on the base in 2009 alone). Divorce rates were on the rise, as were mental health problems, drug and alcohol use, domestic abuse (up 75% since 2001), and murders among war-zone returnees. Even violent crime in Killeen, the town that houses the base, was up 22% (though it was down, according to the New York Times, "in towns of similar size in other parts of the country"). In an era in which our last president urged Americans to support his Global War on Terror by shopping and visiting Disney World, it often seemed that, except for soldiers and their families, our wars abroad affected little in this country.
And yet for an imperial power past its prime, foreign wars, even ones fought thousands of miles from home, have a way of coming back to haunt. Alfred W. McCoy tends to be ahead of the curve in his writing. In the Vietnam era, he had to fight the CIA to get his book, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, published; in the Bush years, he was perhaps the first person to recognize that the photos from Abu Ghraib represented no anomaly but the product of a long history of CIA torture research -- and published a powerful book, A Question of Torture, on the subject.
His latest book, Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State, meets counterinsurgency, another topic direct from today's headlines, head on. It ends on these lines: "...a state, like the United States, that rules a foreign territory through political repression and pervasive policing soon finds many of those same coercive methods moving homeward to degrade its own democracy. Such are the costs of empire." In his latest TomDispatch post, McCoy lays out just how that impulse for repression and policing, so vividly and violently expressed abroad in these last years, is now quietly taking aim at us. Tom
Welcome Home, War!
How America's Wars Are Systematically Destroying Our Liberties
By Alfred W. McCoy
In his approach to National Security Agency surveillance, as well as CIA renditions, drone assassinations, and military detention, President Obama has to a surprising extent embraced the expanded executive powers championed by his conservative predecessor, George W. Bush. This bipartisan affirmation of the imperial executive could "reverberate for generations," warns Jack Balkin, a specialist on First Amendment freedoms at Yale Law School. And consider these but some of the early fruits from the hybrid seeds that the Global War on Terror has planted on American soil. Yet surprisingly few Americans seem aware of the toll that this already endless war has taken on our civil liberties.
Don't be too surprised, then, when, in the midst of some future crisis, advanced surveillance methods and other techniques developed in our recent counterinsurgency wars migrate from Baghdad, Falluja, and Kandahar to your hometown or urban neighborhood. And don't ever claim that nobody told you this could happen -- at least not if you care to read on. Read more.
If Bill Robinson gets his way, Wakita, Oklahoma, a small town near the Kansas border consisting of 380 residents, will be the home of the first all-Christian prison in the U.S. Robinson, who runs a Dallas-based outfit called Corrections Concepts Inc. (CCI), hopes to have the facility up and running within 16 months.
Located in Grant County and founded in 1898, Wakita (pronounced Wok-ih-taw) was "featured in the 1996 blockbuster movie 'Twister' starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton in which [the town] was destroyed by an F4 tornado …," according to Wikipedia.
OneNewsNow, a news service of Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, recently reported that while there are a number of prisons with "Christian or faith-based units," no prisons have "an all-Christian staff." "All of the employees will be Christians," Robinson said. "We have an opinion letter from the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] that says we can do that." Christian guards and staffers would supervise volunteering inmates.
The news service pointed out that "The facility would house only prisoners who want to transfer there. They will not be required to go to church or Bible study, but will be required to sign an agreement to participate in some prison programs. Inmates will be offered classes in literacy, GED requirements, and life skills."
"It's a faith-based, work ethic, corrections initiative where we take men in their last 12 to 24 to 30 months before their earliest release, and they have to volunteer to come, which makes us constitutional," said Robinson, an ex-con and prison minister. Read more.
ACLU Lawsuit Charges American Citizen Illegally Detained And Mistreated By U.S. Officials | Press Release
New Jersey Man Held For Four Months Overseas And Threatened With Torture And Disappearance
WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit on behalf of a New Jersey man who was illegally detained and mistreated by U.S. officials in Kenya and Ethiopia. After fleeing hostilities in Somalia in 2006, Amir Meshal was arrested, secretly imprisoned in inhumane conditions and subjected to harsh interrogations by U.S. officials over 30 times in three different countries before ultimately being released four months later without charge.
There's no other way to read this report backing the continued lawless imprisonment of those locked up in Guantanamo without charge or trial and proposing that they be transferred to Bagram, thus allowing the pseudo-victory of closing Guantanamo while imprisoning people in another prison that comes under far less scrutiny.
Progress you can believe in?
The House Judiciary just passed Jerry Nadler’s bill reining in state secrets abuse by a vote of 18-12, with Adam Schiff as the sole Democrat voting against the bill. One thing Nadler has added to his bill since it was first introduced are measures to prevent the government from refusing to give plaintiff lawyers clearance to litigate the case (if the govt refuses the first and second choice lawyers for plaintiffs, the govt must give a list of possible lawyers to litigate the case). This would prevent a tactic the government tried to use in both the Horn and the al-Haramain suits. Read more.
The Supreme Court of the United States will soon announce a major decision on our lightly controlled system of campaign funding. Will it retain some limitations on corporate influence or will the court blow the lid off and cause a perpetual flood of unrestricted corporate contributions?
An additional outcome may surprise and shock the public.
If the Supreme Court overturns the lower court's decision, foreign nationals, corporations, and governments with partial ownership of U.S. corporations will, in effect, end up contributing to and influencing U.S. candidates in federal elections.
Take a gander at this:
Solicitor General Elena Kagan argues in a friend of the court brief that local, state, and federal prosecutors must enjoy absolute immunity from citizen lawsuits – even when they sent innocent men to prison for life by fabricating incriminating evidence and hiding exculpatory evidence.