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Civil Rights / Liberties
By Dave Lindorff
A new study of 1004 union organizing drives conducted by the director of labor education research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations has found that two-third of the companies involved were violating US labor law by holding one-on-one interrogations of workers, by threatening workers about their union support, by firing union organizers or using half a dozen other illegal tactics to defeat unionization campaigns.
Prof. Kate Bronfenbrenner, author of No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition ot Organizing, says that these illegal tactics by employers have been used to drive union representation at American companies down to only 12.4 percent from a level of 22 percent just 30 years ago.
High Court Sides With Ashcroft, Mueller in 9/11 Detainee Abuse Case
By Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press | ABCNews
A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that FBI Director Robert Mueller and former Attorney General John Ashcroft can't face a lawsuit from a former Sept. 11 detainee who argued they were responsible for his restrictive confinement because of his religious beliefs.
The court on Monday overturned a lower court decision that let Javaid Iqbal's (Ick-ball) lawsuit against the high-ranking officials proceed.
Iqbal is a Pakistani Muslim who spent nearly six months in solitary confinement in New York in 2002. He had argued that while Ashcroft and Mueller did not single him out for mistreatment, they were responsible for a policy of confining detainees in highly restrictive conditions because of their religious beliefs or race.
Ten people blocked the entrance to Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor WA, where the U.S. military operates the nuclear weapons, and plans and prepares the nuclear incineration of millions of people. Since we think mass murder is wrong, we're obviously "out of step" with America. But we resist.
Narration by Ray McGovern starts a few minutes in, asking: Where are the Raging Grandpas?
Obama Dares Judge to Order Release Of NSA Spy Document
By David Kravets | Wired
Setting the stage for a constitutional showdown, the Obama administration dared a federal judge here late Friday to do what no judge has yet done: disclose classified data the government has declared a national security state secret.
The administration urged (.pdf) U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to order such a disclosure in a 3-year-old lawsuit weighing whether a sitting U.S. president may bypass Congress and adopt a program of eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. Such an order, the administration said, could halt three years of convoluted litigation and force the appellate courts to weigh in on the hotly contested issue.
WASHINGTON - May 14 - May 14, 2009. In testimony presented today by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Policy, the DOJ opposed giving national security whistleblowers judicial due process protections. The policy presented by the DOJ was in stark contrast to the position taken by President Obama during the presidential campaign, when his campaign endorsed judicial protection for all federal employee whistleblowers.
As part of its plans to close Guantanamo Bay, the Obama administration is considering holding some of the detainees indefinitely and without trial on US soil, US media reported Thursday.
President Barack Obama's "administration is weighing plans to detain some terror suspects on US soil -- indefinitely and without trial -- as part of a plan to retool military commission trials that were conducted for prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay," The Wall Street Journal said....
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who met with White House Counsel Greg Craig this week about the Guantanamo plans, told the Journal that the administration was namely seeking authority for indefinite detentions granted by a national security court.
From Human Rights Watch
Detainee Cases Should Be Transferred to US Federal Courts
WASHINGTON - May 12 - Reviving the discredited US military commissions to try Guantanamo detainees would result in needless litigation, delays, and flawed trials, Human Rights Watch said today. To ensure that terrorism suspects are tried promptly and fairly, the Guantanamo cases should be transferred to US federal courts.
Unnamed officials were quoted in the Washington Post saying that the Obama administration is preparing to restart the military commissions under new rules that would offer terrorism suspects greater legal protections. The new rules would reportedly prohibit the introduction of evidence obtained through coercion, tighten the use of hearsay evidence, and allow detainees greater choice in selecting defense lawyers than under existing military commission rules.
Two Fridays ago on the first day of its release, I went to an early afternoon screening of the film The Soloist. I'd been eager to see it since it focuses on the real life relationship between Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a homeless member of Los Angeles' Skid Row community suffering from debilitating mental illness. In the story, as told in Lopez' columns in the LA Times, in his book, and in the screenplay by Susannah Grant, Lopez first meets middle-aged Nathaniel Ayers in downtown Los Angeles in front of a statue of Beethoven where Ayers is playing a two string violin. In that serendipitous meeting Lopez discovers that as a youth Ayers had been a gifted student at Juilliard, New York's prestigious school for the performing arts. This revelation leads Lopez on a personal mission to rehabilitate the troubled man - a mission Lopez is still on today, four years after their first encounter.
My intense desire to see this film had been predicated, foolishly as I have since come to learn, on the romantic notion that viewers would see The Soloist and be moved to help the homeless. But the film I saw, with its cartoon-like unsympathetic portrayal of the people of Skid Row, that displayed none of their individuality, humanity or humor, would never provoke such action. Instead of showing the hearts of the inhabitants and telling a few of their tales, the film portrayed them as a Fellini-esque monolith - a tainted Gomorrah teeming with decadence and dereliction.
At a press conference to mark his first 100 days in office, President Obama declared, “We have rejected the false choice between our security and our ideals by closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay and banning torture without exception.” I have looked at the President’s misleading statement about Guantánamo, and analyzed his progress -- or lack of it -- in closing the prison in a previous article, and in this second article I’m going to focus on his assertion that the new administration has been responsible for “banning torture without exception.”
By Michael Haas
Muddled thinking characterizes a May 6 Wall Street Journal column by Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain about those confined in American-run prisons abroad. They reject Geneva Convention trial requirements and even military courts-martial, preferring to have Congress write new guidelines for their imprisonment and trials beyond those in the untested and possibly unconstitutional Military Commissions Act of 2006.
Defying war crimes provisions that have been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court, they fail to recognize that those collected on Afghanistan battlefields are prisoners of war, are fully covered by the Geneva Conventions, and cannot be held indefinitely. Such prisoners are entitled to hearings to determine whether they are indeed “enemies” or were mistakenly captured.
By Corey Robin and Jeanne Theoharis
We’re writing to update you on the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi, our former student at Brooklyn College who is still being held in solitary confinement awaiting trial on four counts of providing material support to Al Qaeda. We’d like to ask you to email this new Administration about his case (to do so, please go to: http://www.educatorsforcivilliberties.org/HashmiRights.html).
An American academic is to be prosecuted for drawing parallels between the plight of Gazans and that of the Jews who suffered under Nazi rule.
Jewish Sociology and Global Studies Professor William Robinson of the University of Santa Barbara in California sent the electronic post entitled 'Parallel photos of Nazis and Israelis' to 80 students in his class, Ynet reported on Thursday.
Book Can Now Be Ordered, Book Tour Being Planned
You can now pre-order my book at Amazon.com
Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part Two)
By Andy Worthington | www.andyworthington.co.uk
Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, analyzes ten particularly disturbing facts to emerge from the four memos, purporting to justify the use of torture by the CIA, which were issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in August 2002 and May 2005, and released by the Obama administration last week. The first part of this two-part article, available here, looked at the background to the August 2002 memo and its disturbing contents, provided an overview of the three memos issued in May 2005, examined the use of the ticking time-bomb scenario as a justification for torture, and highlighted the excessive use of waterboarding on Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the crucial differences between the torture technique as practised by the CIA and in the military schools where it was used to train soldiers to resist interrogation when captured by a hostile enemy. This article was originally published here.
6: The 94 “ghost prisoners”
Another disturbing revelation of Bradbury’s May 2005 memos was the disclosure of the number of prisoners held in secret CIA custody — 94 in total — and the additional note that the agency “has employed enhanced techniques to varying degrees in the interrogations of 28 of these detainees.” What’s disturbing is not the number — CIA director Michael Hayden admitted in July 2007 that the CIA had detained fewer than 100 people at secret facilities abroad since 2002 — but the insight that this exact figure provides into the supremely secretive world of “extraordinary rendition” and secret prisons that exists beyond the cases of the 14 “high-value detainees” who were transferred to Guantánamo from secret CIA custody in September 2006.
U.S. Accountability: The Difficult But Necessary Task | Press Release
NEW YORK, May 1 – The first 100 days of the Obama administration marked a policy change in the treatment of terrorism suspects. But it has not yet answered the questions, “What is to be done about what is known?” and “What is still hidden from public view?” They can best be answered by appointing a special prosecutor and establishing an independent commission of inquiry.
On Wednesday, April 29, 2009, the Board and Staff of the Equal Justice Society sent the following to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.
The Equal Justice Society would like to go on record as supporting the call to start a criminal investigation by a special counsel into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects. We have been shocked by recent revelations of abuses that were committed in our name as Americans. We were shocked to learn that our government used tactics perfected during the Spanish Inquisition and refined by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. As a civil rights organization, we denounced the use of torture during the Bush administration to no avail. Now as a country, we have an opportunity to reclaim our honor.
NEW YORK – A federal appeals court today ruled that a landmark American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. for its role in the Bush administration's unlawful extraordinary rendition program can go forward. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court dismissal of the lawsuit, brought on behalf of five men who were kidnapped, forcibly disappeared and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they were interrogated under torture. The government had intervened, improperly asserting the "state secrets" privilege to have the case thrown out. Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, as the ACLU has argued, that the government must invoke the state secrets privilege with respect to specific evidence, not to dismiss the entire suit.
Quarantine may seem the stuff of mediocre melodramas, but if the swine flu explodes into an epidemic, involuntary isolation could become a reality for more than a few unlucky Americans.
So far the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 68 documented cases of swine flu in the United States, with at least seven people hospitalized. And New York Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden announced that "many hundreds" of New York City schoolchildren are sick with suspected cases of swine flu. Across the country, in Los Angeles, the coroner's office is investigating two possible deaths.
By Dave Lindorff
For almost a generation, the Democrats in Congress have been able to pretend to be the party of ordinary working people, the party of progressives, and the inheritor of the mantel of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, all the while doing little of substance and catering primarily to the interests of Wall Street and the nation’s corporate interests.
The Democrats managed this sleight of hand for so long by claiming that while they had the best of intentions, reality, in the form of their inability to pass legislation, even when they were in the majority in both houses of Congress, that could avoid being filibustered to death by a Republican minority.
That situation has continued to this day, with the party currently having 58 seats in the Senate.
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) last week reintroduced several bills that he said were needed to limit presidential power and to restore the proper constitutional balance among the three branches of government.
By Harry Giroux | Truthout
With the election of Barack Obama, it has been argued that not only will the social state be renewed in the spirit and legacy of the New Deal, but that the punishing racial state and its vast complex of disciplinary institutions will, if not come to an end, at least be significantly reformed. From this perspective, Obama's presidency not only represents a post-racial victory, but also signals a new space of post-racial harmony. In assessing the Obama victory, Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein wrote, "It is a place where the primacy of racial identity - and this includes the old Jesse Jackson version of black racial identity - has been replaced by the celebration of pluralism, of cross-racial synergy." Obama won the 2008 election because he was able to mobilize 95 percent of African-Americans, two-thirds of all Latinos and a large proportion of young people under the age of 30. At the same time, what is generally forgotten in the exuberance of this assessment is that the majority of white Americans voted for the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket. While "post-racial" may mean less overt racism, the idea that we have moved into a post-racial period in American history is not merely premature - it is an act of willful denial and ignorance. Paul Ortiz puts it well in his comments on the myth of post-racialism:
The idea that we've moved to a post-racial period in American social history is undermined by an avalanche of recent events. Hurricane Katrina. The US Supreme Court's dismantling of Brown vs. Board of Education and the resegregation of American schools. The Clash of Civilizations thesis that promotes the idea of a War against Islam. The backlash facing immigrant workers. A grotesque prison industrial complex. [Moreover] ... [w]hile Americans were being robbed blind and primed for yet another bailout of the banks and investment sectors, they were treated to new evidence from Fox News and poverty experts that the great moral threats facing the nation were greedy union workers, black single mothers, Latino gang bangers and illegal immigrants.
From the earliest days of its "war on terrorism," the Bush Administration has been intent on giving generous legal cover to government officials, CIA operatives, and others responsible for brutalizing detainees in U.S. custody. Its latest attempt to grant impunity for abuses comes in the form of proposed amendments to the War Crimes Act, a federal statute that criminalizes violations of the laws of war.
Last week, the Administration circulated the text of its proposed legislation to selected members of Congress. The draft bill, which would amend subsection c3 of the War Crimes Act, is a direct response to the Supreme Court's recent decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.
In Hamdan, the Court found that Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions was applicable to alleged members of al Qaeda captured in Afghanistan. Common Article 3 (so named because it appears in all four of the Geneva Conventions) aims to protect detainees from murder, torture, cruel, inhuman and humiliating treatment, unfair trials, and "outrages upon personal dignity."
Common Article 3, in short, bars many of the measures that have been used against detainees in U.S. custody abroad. Hence the Bush Administration's concern.
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By Dave Lindorff
Enough is enough. It’s time to free John Walker Lindh, poster boy for George Bush’s, Dick Cheney’s and John Ashcroft’s “War on Terror,” and quite likely first victim of these men’s secret campaign of torture.
Lindh is in the seventh year of a 20-year sentence for “carrying a weapon” in Afghanistan and for “providing assistance” to an enemy of the United States. The first charge is ridiculously minor (after all, it’s what almost everyone in Texas does everyday). The second is actually a violation of a law intended for use against US companies that trade with proscribed countries on a government “no trade” list like Cuba or North Korea. Ordinarily, violation results in a fine for the executives involved.