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Civil Rights / Liberties
Bush Justice Department Continues Harassment Campaign Against Tamm
By Scott Horton | Harper's
Tyrrell "is the one that should have managed a probe into the Madoff affair and myriad other frauds and schemes that have damaged the nation’s finances. Instead, while white-collar crime prosecution all but came to a standstill, the resources of Tyrrell’s department were turned to attacking the administration’s political adversaries like Tamm. Perhaps Tyrrell is just a loyal Justice department functionary doing as instructed–but in doing so he is failing to exercise the independent discretion that used to be the hallmark of the Justice Department."
United States Chief Prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz, was only 26 years old when he successfully prosecuted 24 Nazis SS officers for war crimes, at the infamous "Einsatzgruppen (Nazis Death Squads) Trials", including SS General Dr Otto Ohlendorf who pleaded not guilty due to self-defense in the murders of over 1,000,000 jews.
From Prison Planet
Armed with his Canon 5D and his new Lensbaby lens, photographer Duane Kerzic was out to win Amtrak's annual photo contest this week, hoping to win $1,000 in travel vouchers and have his photo published in Amtrak's annual calendar.
He ended up getting arrested by Amtrak police; handcuffed to a wall in a holding cell inside New York City's Penn Station, accused of criminal trespass.
Kerciz says he was hardly trespassing because he was taking photos from the train platform; the same one used by thousands of commuters everyday to step on and off the train.
"The only reason they arrested me was because I refused to delete my images," Kerzic said in a phone interview with Photography is Not a Crime on Friday.
"They never asked me to leave, they never mentioned anything about trespassing until after I was handcuffed in the holding cell."
By Dave Lindorff
Last week, a US federal district judge, Henry Kennedy, ruled in favor of a case brought by the survivors of the crew of the USS Pueblo, a spy ship captured by the North Korean Navy in 1968, who were held prisoner by North Korea for 11 months, and who were reportedly tortured in captivity. The judge awarded the men $65 million in damages from the state of North Korea.
Now I’m happy for the plaintiffs. Torture is flatly banned under international law, and nobody should be tortured under any conditions (whatever Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may think). But let’s not ignore the irony of this ruling. In general, the federal courts have been incredibly reluctant about making such rulings against the US government for doing the same thing that North Korea did, or even worse.
by Linda Milazzo
I don't believe in god. I never have. I don't believe in religions. I study them, but I don't practice them. I try to understand them to be sensitive to the beliefs and traditions of others, and to attempt to appreciate the motivations behind religious thought and deed. But they are irrelevant to living my life.
Long ago as a freshman at CUNY's Queens College I was introduced to Taoism. Taoism began in ancient China as a religion, then morphed into a dogma free/deity free philosophy. Since my late teens I've tried hard to apply MY understanding of my Tao to my life. I have the freedom to choose my own path and not judge the paths of others. But since I have freedom of opinion, I fall prey to judge. I try not to. But I do.
Through the Tao, I'm both a peacemaker and a warrior since Taoism couples with the art of self-defense. I understand my right to protect myself when needed, and to protect the defenseless when they need me. Since I'm by nature protective, it suits my sensibilities to aid the weak, where I fancy myself absurdly as inordinately strong.
It is quite easy to imagine a working class crushed down to the worst depths of poverty and still remaining bitterly anti-working-class in sentiment; this being, of course, a ready-made Fascist party.
The corporate forces that are looting the Treasury and have plunged us into a depression will not be contained by the two main political parties. The Democratic and Republican parties have become little more than squalid clubs of privilege and wealth, whores to money and corporate interests, hostage to a massive arms industry, and so adept at deception and self-delusion they no longer know truth from lies. We will find our way out of this mess by embracing an uncompromising democratic socialism-one that will insist on massive government relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars-or we will continue to be fleeced and impoverished by our bankrupt elite and shackled and chained by our surveillance state.
Cheney hints that one more vote was needed on the Supreme Court to fully implement the absolute powers of his unitary executive George W. Bush.
Cheney also argued that the President's wartime powers trump laws passed by Congress.
"The Congress has -- clearly has the ability to write statutes and has certain constitutional authorities granted in the Constitution," Cheney said. "But I would argue that they do not have the right by statute to alter presidential constitutional power. In other words, you can't override his constitutional authorities and responsibilities with a statute."
As Vice President Dick Cheney goes public in exit interviews about his vision of expansive executive powers, it's getting clearer how close the American Republic came to suffering major deformity – if not destruction – in the past eight years.
It is also apparent that the risks to the Republic are not over, unless incoming President Barack Obama repudiates many of the executive powers that Cheney and his boss, George W. Bush, made central to their governing style.
by Linda Milazzo
For years since the United States invaded Iraq, I've witnessed countless photo and video images of innocent civilians - men, women, teens and children - being rudely and aggressively threatened by hired uniformed militants (mostly men), wielding guns. I've seen these images from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti, Palestine, and more. Whether they be armed American military threatening Iraqis, armed Israeli soldiers threatening Palestinians, or armed Ethiopian troops threatening Somalis, the images have always disturbed me. There's an inherent injustice to such blatant imbalance of power. An injustice I suffered recently myself.
The oddity here is that unlike those less fortunate innocents in war zones who faced the guns of hired aggressors, I was not in a war zone when I faced mine. I wasn't even in a high crime zone. I was in a gentle middle class suburb, where my aggressor, an armed Brinks, Inc. security guard, was in full combat-mode performing his non war-zone duty. My aggressor more typified the machismo of a Blackwater guard than the demeanor of community-minded Brinks, when he flailed his loaded gun at me, as though he'd done it often before. My armed Brinks aggressor was not merely disrespectful. He was downright hostile and dangerous. He treated me as his enemy and freely showed me his force.
Here's how it happened:
Thank heavens the Nation magazine exists. Otherwise, subjects that should matter to us might simply disappear into the void, along with key aspects of our history. Recently, for instance, the magazine produced Nick Turse's major historical investigation, "A My Lai a Month," on the pattern of U.S. war crimes during the Vietnam War. Important and startling as that piece was, it's hard to imagine what other magazine might have carried it. In its latest issue, the Nation (with the help of the Nation Institute's Investigative Fund) turns to a more recent set of crimes that, until reporter A.C. Thompson investigated, few paid the slightest mind to.
CCR Statement on the Selection of Rev. Rick Warren to Lead the Convocation at the Presidential Inauguration
The Center for Constitutional Rights is outraged at President Obama's choice of the right wing Rev. Rick Warren to lead the convocation at his inauguration. This is "change" we can neither believe in nor support. Many of us have been looking forward to this inauguration as we have no other in the past, with great hope that the new administration will restore our Constitution and its place in a nation of laws. We understand, too, that the new president is working to reach across the aisle and make people of different beliefs welcome at his table.
The Current Detainee Population of Guantánamo: An Empirical Study
By Benjamin Wittes and Zaahira Wyne | Brookings Institution
Introduction - The following report represents an effort both to document and to describe in as much detail as the public record will permit the current detainee population in American military custody at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba. Since the military brought the first detainees to Guantánamo in January 2002, the Pentagon has consistently refused to comprehensively identify those it holds. While it has, at various times, released information about individuals who have been detained at Guantánamo, it has always maintained ambiguity about the population of the facility at any given moment, declining even to specify precisely the number of detainees held at the base.
The United States Thursday became the lone major western nation to refuse to sign a United Nations statement affirming that human rights protections include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Rama Yade, French foreign affairs and human rights secretary, appeared before the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday to present the document calling for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be amended to include the new protections.
The document has been signed by the member states of the European Union. It was drafted by France which currently holds the rotating EU Presidency. But it also has been signed by about 40 other states.
A woman in the San Francisco Bay area was jumped by four men, taunted for being a lesbian, repeatedly raped and left naked outside an abandoned apartment building, authorities said Monday.
Detectives say the 28-year-old victim was attacked Dec. 13 after she got out of her car, which bore a rainbow gay pride sticker. The men, who ranged from their late teens to their 30s, made comments indicating they knew her sexual orientation, said Richmond police Lt. Mark Gagan.
"It just pushes it beyond fathomable," he said. "The level of trauma — physical and emotional — this victim has suffered is extreme."
Rumsfeld's "authorisation of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody," the report said. The report added that Rumsfeld's authorisation of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay "was a direct cause of detainee abuse there."
Under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, people who fraternized with foreigners or criticized the Kremlin were "enemies of the people" and sent to the gulag. Now there's new legislation backed by Vladimir Putin's government that human rights activists say could throw Russia back to the days of the Great Terror.
The legislation, outspoken government critic and rights activist Lev Ponomaryov charged Wednesday, creates "a base for a totalitarian state."
The National Football League's unprecedented new effort to protect its image by cracking down on loutish behavior is making some of the league's 1,952 players a little nervous.
Children Forced Into Cell-Like School Seclusion Rooms
By Ashley Fantz | CNN.com
A few weeks before 13-year-old Jonathan King killed himself, he told his parents that his teachers had put him in "time-out."
"We thought that meant go sit in the corner and be quiet for a few minutes," Tina King said, tears washing her face as she remembered the child she called "our baby ... a good kid."
But time-out in the boy's north Georgia special education school was spent in something akin to a prison cell -- a concrete room latched from the outside, its tiny window obscured by a piece of paper.
Called a seclusion room, it's where in November 2004, Jonathan hanged himself with a cord a teacher gave him to hold up his pants.
CIA Embedded in Every State Government
A head scarf landed a Muslim woman in jail Tuesday after she refused to remove it during a hearing at the Douglasville Municipal Court.
Lisa Valentine, also known by her Islamic name, Miedah, 40, was arrested for 'violating a court policy of no headgear', Chris Womack, deputy chief of operations for the Douglasville Police Department said on Wednesday.
Valentine was in court with a nephew who was facing a traffic citation. She was wearing a hijab, the head covering worn by Muslim women.
When she refused to remove it she was handcuffed and taken to Judge Keith Rollins' chambers. He cited her for contempt and ordered her held in jail for 10 days.
A former Justice Department lawyer says he tipped off the news media about the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program because it "didn't smell right," Newsweek magazine reported Sunday.
Thomas Tamm, whose suburban Washington home was searched by federal agents last year, told the magazine he leaked the existence of the secret program to The New York Times 18 months before the newspaper broke the story.
By DOUG IRELAND, Gay City News
Next week, in an historic event for the global gay community, for the very first time a declaration in favor of the universal decriminalization of homosexuality will be presented at the United Nations and read from the podium of the General Assembly. This declaration has already been formally signed and endorsed by the governments of 55 UN member states.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is not among them.
We celebrate 60 years of failure. Human rights have been converted from a noble goal into an instrument of foreign policy used by rich and powerful nations against the poorest and weakest people of the world.
In 2008, almost 3 billion people throughout the world suffer the most basic privations.
After 60 years of empty human rights rhetoric, we demand that governments focus their attention on fulfilling the promises of 1948. We write this document on the parchment of the environment, which everyone shares, and has warned us all to drastically change the ways in which mass production and consumerism take place.
1. The United State is a member of the commonwealth of nations.
2. Benefits accrue to those who cooperate with the global community and view other countries as potential partners for the upliftment of humankind.
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
By Stephen Lendman
It's a familiar story. A Muslim American is accused of terrorism for supporting Al Queda and conspiracy to provide support for a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The prosecution asks for the maximum sentence. Once again, an innocent man is arrested, charged, indicted and convicted with no substantiating evidence except for what prosecutors say they have. All of it is bogus and much classified and withheld from the defense. Witnesses are enlisted to cooperate and proceedings orchestrated to intimidate juries to convict. Justice again is denied. Those accused bear the mark of cain for being Muslim in America at the wrong time - especially if they're devout, activist, and for some prominent and engaged in charitable work.
By Marc Fisher, Washington Post
For years, the Maryland State Police, eager to play anti-terrorist surveillance agents just like the big boys on TV, spied on suburban peace activists who may have been loud, but never posed the slightest threat to the nation or the state.
So what did Maryland taxpayers get for their investment in the state police's investigations of 53 people, including lawyers, a candidate for Congress, a leader of an effort to curb military recruiting in Montgomery County high schools, and a sportswriter?
Have a look for yourself--it's pitiful.
Tue, Dec 2, 2008 PB Online
ST. PAUL -- Charges have been dropped against 29 people arrested during the Republican National Convention.
St. Paul City Attorney John Choi says Monday's dismissed charges included 15 gross misdemeanor riot cases and 14 misdemeanors involving unlawful assembly.
Choi says the charges were dropped because there's not enough evidence to prove the allegations.
Still, he says dismissing the charges doesn't mean there wasn't probable cause to arrest the individuals.
The city has dealt with or is dealing with 171 out of 650 cases stemming from the convention protests by assigning a prosecutor, reviewing the case or making a decision on the case.
There have been 27 cases resolved with guilty pleas or payment of a fine. A total of 72 cases have been dropped.
Post-Bulletin Company, L.L.C.
From the Committee on "Homeland" Security
On Wednesday, December 3rd, the Majority Staff of the House Committee on Homeland Security will host a series of roundtable discussions on the future of privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties at the Department of Homeland Security. The event, entitled “A Path Forward: Constitutional Protections in Homeland Security”, is sponsored by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. Experts from the public sector will give their views on the focus the Department should take in dealing with privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties during the new Administration. There will be a total of six panels, all listed below.
Chairman Thompson released the following statement regarding the event:
By Dave Lindorff
Before the odor of burned gunpowder has left the air of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, the US is lecturing India not to go off half-cocked and attack Pakistan, simply because all of the attackers in the terrorist assaults in that city arrived by boat, apparently from neighboring Pakistan. US officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, are calling on India to engage in a “transparent” and “thorough” investigation into the attacks to establish who was responsible.
How different this is from the American government’s response to the 9-11 attacks in the US!
David, this is a letter from a vet that has been protesting a land grab of VA land by the Veterans Park Conservancy who want to take 16 acres of land deeded in the 1800's for the exclusive use of vets and turn it into a public park. I'll be writing something up on this later in the week when I have gathered more information. But I think this is worth calling attention to. -- Amy Branham
Colonel Thomas Bowman (USMC retired)
Chief of Staff
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Just when we thought the VA couldn't crawl any lower, your bureaucrats at the West LA VA donned their top-hats and shamelessly walked under the belly of a snake.