You are hereCivil Rights / Liberties
Civil Rights / Liberties
By Dave Lindorff
I don’t know at this point whether Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a good choice for Supreme Court Justice or a bad one.
She certainly is a lousy judge for writers and other creative people, having ruled (and been overruled by an appellate court and then, when that reversal was upheld, by the US Supreme Court in a case called New York Times Inc. v. Tasini) that the Times and periodical publishers could reprint, without any additional compensation, any freelance works they contracted on the basis that they had a general copyright on each entire issue they publish.
By Dave Lindorff
You’d have to say that the American prison system is a rank failure. With two million inmates, it is the largest and at over $60 billion a year, the costliest prison system in the world, not just in the percent of the population that is kept behind bars, but in actual numbers. But it is also a failure because it doesn’t prevent crime, and might even increase it. According to a recent study, two-thirds of inmates who are released from jail after serving their time are re-arrested for new crimes within three years, and half of those so arrested end up being sent back to jail on new charges.
“My Administration is also confronting challenges to what is known as the ‘State Secrets’ privilege. This is a doctrine that allows the government to challenge legal cases involving secret programs. It has been used by many past Presidents - Republican and Democrat - for many decades. And while this principle is absolutely necessary to protect national security, I am concerned that it has been over-used. We must not protect information merely because it reveals the violation of a law or embarrasses the government.”
Thus spoke President Obama in his national security speech last week.
CASE DISMISSED - WHY?
By Max Obuszewski
Activists from the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] regularly try to speak truth to power. For example, seven members of the NCNR went to the Pentagon on the morning of March 17, 2009 to seek a meeting with Secretary of War Robert Gates. Within twelve minutes of getting off the Metro, we were cuffed and stuffed in Pentagon Police vehicles.
We sent a letter to Gates [see below] seeking a meeting to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since there was no response, Ellen Barfield, Michele Grise, Steve Mihalis, Max Obuszewski, Pete Perry, Manijeh Saba and Eve Tetaz went to the Pentagon on St. Patrick's Day.
By David Swanson
The United States has had 44 presidents and nobody knows who the 45th will be. For the sake of argument let’s imagine for a minute something that is a very definite possibility. Let's imagine that the 45th president will belong to a political party you detest, will espouse the opposite position from yours on matters dear to your heart, and will strike you as completely unlikeable, untrustworthy, irresponsible, and dangerous. Let's imagine that #45 will want to do everything you oppose and will speak in the most odious and arrogant way about doing so. You won't like the substance or the rhetoric. Number 45, of course, will not fit that description for every one of us, but someone between number 45 and number 50 (assuming we make it that far) will almost certainly fit that description for you, and it's as likely to be #45 as any other number.
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) has sent a letter (pdf) to President Barack Obama which praises many aspects of his Thursday speech but also expresses concerns about his intention to create a system of “prolonged detention” without trial for certain terrorists.
Feingold announces in the letter that he plans to hold a hearing on the matter next month and asks for top Justice Department officials to testify.
“While I appreciate your good faith desire to at least enact a statutory basis for such a regime,” Feingold writes, “any system that permits the government to indefinitely detain individuals without charge or without a meaningful opportunity to have accusations against them adjudicated by an impartial arbiter violates basic American values and is likely unconstitutional.”
Feingold goes on to note that “such detention is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world. It is hard to imagine that our country would regard as acceptable a system in another country where an individual other than a prisoner of war is held indefinitely without charge or trial.”
“Once a system of indefinite detention without trial is established, the temptation to use it in the future would be powerful,” Feingold continues. “And, while your administration may resist such a temptation, future administrations may not.”
A federal judge on Friday threatened to severely sanction the Obama Administration for withholding a top secret document he ordered given to lawyers suing the government over its warrantless wiretapping program.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco ordered Justice Department lawyers to court on June 3 to tell him why he shouldn't award unspecified damages to the now-defunct Oregon arm of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. The group alleges that government officials eavesdropped on their telephone calls without court authorization.
The National Security Agency has also refused the judge's previous orders to provide security clearances to two of the charity's lawyers so they can view the top secret document.
The judge had issued a written order on Jan. 5 and then reinforced it during a hearing later that month. He also barred the prosecutors from appealing the order, but they asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to step in anyway. The appeals court refused to hear the case.
On May 15, government lawyers told Walker they would refuse to comply with his order.
"Enough is enough," said Jon Eisenberg, the charity's lead appellate attorney. "The DOJ has been so uncooperative for so long that this Draconian approach is now needed."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will soon announce that gay American diplomats will be given benefits similar to those that their heterosexual counterparts enjoy, U.S. officials said Saturday.
In a notice to be sent soon to State Department employees, Clinton says regulations that denied same-sex couples and their families the same rights and privileges that straight diplomats enjoyed are "unfair and must end," as they harm U.S. diplomacy.
The Obama administration's efforts to craft what it calls a "preventive detention" plan for suspected terrorists will face constitutional challenges similar to those raised against the Bush administration's policies.
Some detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are deemed too dangerous to release and may not be able to put on trial, creating a quandary that President Barack Obama said Thursday poses "the toughest issue we will face."
Ian Welsh corrects President Obama, a former constitutional law professor, as to what is his most important duty. (Here's a hint: it has nothing to do with safety.) Recognizing the President's actual most important duty is pivotal to understanding how far off base he is proposing to take the nation. Read Ian Welsh's "The Thought Crimes President" here.
Human Rights Attorney Vince Warren: Obama’s “Preventive Detention” Plan Goes Beyond Bush Admin Policies
We get reaction to President Obama and Vice President Dick Cheney’s dueling speeches on torture from Vince Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Warren took part in a secret meeting Wednesday between Obama and several human rights groups. Warren says although he welcomes Obama’s willingness to hear critical views, he’s disappointed in Obama’s new support for preventive detention.
On Friday, May 15, 2009, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would restart the military commissions he halted in the first days of his presidency. BORDC strongly opposes this decision.
The use of military commissions is not, contrary to its portrayal in the media, a partisan issue. Many conservatives, including BORDC Advisory Board member Bruce Fein, are opposed to these unconstitutional trials. Military tribunals are an inherently flawed system, and regular courts are already suited to situations like this with systems set up to handle intelligence issues and classified information. This is evidenced by the successful prosecutions of terrorists—over 120 of them, including Jose Padilla and Zacharias Moussaoui—in the regular courts. Broad existing laws and regular federal courts are already more than sufficient without needing to resort to legally and practically dubious trial systems.
Internet Threatened by Censorship, Secret Surveillance, and Cybersecurity Laws
By Stephen Lendman
At a time of corporate dominated media, a free and open Internet is democracy's last chance to preserve our First Amendment rights without which all others are threatened. Activists call it Net Neutrality. Media scholar Robert McChesney says without it "the Internet would start to look like cable TV (with a) handful of massive companies (controlling) content" enough to have veto power over what's allowed and what it costs. Progressive web sites and writers would be marginalized or suppressed, and content systematically filtered or banned.
Where's the Support Duh Troops crowd when troops are experimented on by the military?
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.