jump to navigation

Pete Seeger and the NSA February 4, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, History, Police.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: Of course, the recent revelations about NSA outdoing George Orwell is no laughing matter.  But if you need a moment of lightness today, click in the first paragraph on Pete’s testimony before HUAC.  It reads like a Monty Python skit.  With the persecutions of Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden among others, and the hounding to death of Aaron Swartz, the U.S. government is just getting started in putting its mega data collection to use.  When the political protests heat up to the next level, I believe we are going to see the same kind of witch hunts that we saw under the era of Joseph McCarthy, only much worse.  Those who lived through that period of history can tell you what it is like to be persecuted by the government for your First Amendment protected beliefs.  Perhaps what is most frightening is the militarization of local police departments, and we saw what state violence against legitimate political protest will look like during the brutal repression of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  Whether you are brought up before a Kafkaesque like official United States government kangaroo court or bashed over the head with police baton or run down by a Homeland Security issues armored vehicle, the chilling result is the same: fascism in our day.  
That it occurs under the auspices of the affable and articulate constitutional lawyer who is the first Black American president or the feisty and charming soon to be first woman American president, will not do much to soften the blow.

 

Published on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 by Deeplinks Blog/EFF

by Cindy Cohn

I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.

Pete Seeger, 1955, testimony pursuant to subpoena before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Pete Seeger (Image: EFF)

The world lost a clear, strong voice for peace, justice, and community with the death of singer and activist Pete Seegerlast week. While Seeger was known as an outspoken musician not shy about airing his political opinions, it’s also important to remember he was once persecuted for those opinions, despite breaking no law. And the telling of this story should give pause to those who claim to be unconcerned about the government’s metadata seizure and search programs that reveal our associations to the government today.

In 1955, Seeger was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he defiantly refused to answer questions about others who he associated with and who shared his political beliefs and associations, believing Congress was violating his First Amendment rights. He was especially concerned about revealing his associations:

I will be glad to tell what songs I have ever sung, because singing is my business. . . .  But I decline to say who has ever listened to them, who has written them, or other people who have sung them.

But if the same thing were to happen today, a Congressional subpoena and a public hearing wouldn’t be necessary for the government to learn all of our associations and other “private affairs.” Since the NSA has been collecting and keeping them, they could just get that same information from their own storehouses of our records.

According to the Constitution, the government is supposed to meet a high standard before collecting this private information about our associations, especially the political ones that the Congressmen were demanding of Seeger. For instance, under the First Amendment, it must“serve compelling state interests, unrelated to the suppression of ideas, that cannot be achieved through means significantly less restrictive of associational freedoms.”

It doesn’t matter whether the government wants associations to look for possibly “illegal” activities of civil rights activists, Communist sympathizers, anarchists, trade unionists, war resisters, gun rights activists, environmental activists, drug legalization advocates, or wants to go after legitimate criminals and potential terrorists, if the government can’t justify the collection of this “metadata” on this “strict scrutiny” standard, they’re not allowed to collect any of it. Yet right now, they collect all of it.

We’re still learning of all the ways the government is able to track our associations without anything like the due process and standards required by the First and Fourth Amendments, but it is the centerpiece of the NSA’s mass telephone records collection program under Patriot Act section 215, which EFF is fighting with our First Unitarian Church v. NSA case that focuses on the right of association.  Our lead client, the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, had its own role in resisting the House Un-American Activities Committee. It’s also part and parcel of the mass collection of content and metadata of people all around the world under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. And it’s a real concern even if the companies hold the data, as we’ve seen with the FBI’s self-certified National Security Lettersand the Hemisphere program, where AT&T employees are embedded in government investigations so that they can more readily search through our phone records for the FBI, the DEA and others.

Each of these programs effectively allows the government to do to you what Pete Seeger refused to let them do to him—track your associations, beliefs and other private affairs without proper legal protections.  And they can do this at scale that was unimaginable in 1955, thanks to the digital nature of our communications, the digital tools that allow them to search automatically rather than by hand and the fact that so much more about these private affairs is in the hands of third parties like our phone and internet companies.

While Seeger escaped jail, he was convicted of contempt for his failure to answer these questions. Thankfully Joseph McCarthy and the Un-American Activities Committees were later widely condemned, and Americans understandably look back sadly and with embarrassment on time when the Committee forced Americans to reveal their own associations, along with the associations and beliefs of others.  With the passing of moral and artistic heroes like Seeger, we should redouble our efforts to make sure that our “private affairs” remain safe and the government’s ability to access them remains subject to careful controls.

Join us on February 11 for the day we fight back against mass surveillance.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Cindy Cohn

Cindy Cohn is legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), as well as its general counsel, coordinating over 40 national class action lawsuits against the telecommunications carriers and the government seeking to stop warrantless NSA surveillance

Worse Than Nixon? Committee to Protect Journalists Warns About Obama Crackdown on Press Freedom October 11, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

freedom-of-expression-1rubdo1

ROGER’S NOTE: THIS IS THE PRESIDENT WHO PROMISED MORE TRANSPARENCY IN GOVERNMENT.  THIS IS THE PRESIDENT WHO IS QUICK TO ACCUSE THE ECUADORIAN AND VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENTS OF SUPPRESSING FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.

http://www.democracynow.org, October 11, 2013

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we shift gears and turn to the first report on press freedom in the United States ever published by the Committee to Protect Journalists, which usually advocates for press freedoms overseas—and the news isn’t good. Titled “The Obama Administration and the Press,” the report looks at the many ways President Obama has ushered in a paralyzing climate of fear for both reporters and their sources. Among the cases it details, six government employees, plus two contractors, including Edward Snowden, have faced felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act for leaking classified information to the press, compared with just three prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. The Department of Justice has also secretly subpoenaed and seized Associated Press reporters’ phone logs and emails, and New York Times reporter James Risen was ordered to testify against a former CIA officer who provided leaked information to him, or Risen would go to jail.

The new report is written by Leonard Downie, former executive editor of The Washington Post. He spoke with dozens of journalists who told him officials are, quote, “reluctant to discuss even unclassified information … because they fear that leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources.” It comes as Glenn Greenwald, columnist for Britain’s Guardian newspaper who is based in Brazil, and his partner David Miranda testified before a Brazilian Senate committee this week about his work with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who remains in Russia while he’s wanted in the U.S. on espionage charges.

GLENN GREENWALD: [translated] In reality, there is a war against journalism and the process of transparency. And this war is with the government of the United States and its closest allies, mostly the British government. They are doing a lot of things against the freedom of press to hide this whole report, which generally the United States or English government say these things only happen in China or Iran or Russia, but now we can see that the United States government is doing these exact same things.

AMY GOODMAN: That of course wasn’t Glenn Greenwald’s voice that you mainly heard, because Glenn Greenwald was speaking Portuguese in the Brazilian hearing. This comes as the Obama administration seized the emails of Fox News reporter James Rosen as part of probes into the leaking of classified information. In May, President Obama said he made no apologies for seeking to crack down on leaks.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Leaks related to national security can put people at risk. They can put men and women in uniform that I’ve sent into the battlefield at risk. They can put some of our intelligence officers, who are in various dangerous situations that are easily compromised, at risk. I make no apologies, and I don’t think the American people would expect me, as commander-in-chief, not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Leonard Downie, former executive editor of The Washington Post, author of this new report, “The Obama Administration and the Press,” commissioned by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Leonard Downie’s 44 years at The Washington Post included overseeing much of its Watergate coverage. During the 17 years he served as executive editor, the paper won 25 Pulitzer Prizes. He’s now is a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

Leonard Downie, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about your findings, this comprehensive, first-time report of the Committee to Protect Journalists on press freedom here in the United States.

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: I found that these leaks investigations and a program called the Insider Threat Program, instituted since the Bradley Manning leaks, that requires government employees to monitor each other to make sure that they’re not leaking information to anyone, including journalists, to have really frightened government officials. Many, many reporters that I interviewed here in Washington say that government officials are afraid to talk to them. They’re afraid that their telephone conversations and their email exchanges would be monitored. That is to say that investigators could come in later, as they did in several leaks investigations, and use their telephone and email records in order to find the contacts between government officials and reporters. So they’re simply scared to talk to reporters.

And this, this is not good, because—I just heard the president saying that he was concerned about the safety of our troops and our intelligence officers. It’s important that responsible, knowledgeable government officials be able to talk to reporters about these matters, so that, among other things, they can alert reporters to information that might be harmful to national security or harmful to human life, in which case no responsible news organization would publish those.

AMY GOODMAN: What were you most surprised by?

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: I guess I was most surprised by—you know, I’m used to reporters complaining about access, because we all want more access than we can get all the time, and that’s understandable. But I was surprised by the pervasiveness of this administration’s control over the—over information, by how much it discourages leaks of all kinds and not just classified information leaks, and how much it does not allow for unauthorized contacts with the press, if it can help it, and how much it uses social media and other digital means—websites and so on—to put out a lot of its own story, a lot of its own information, that makes the administration look good, while restricting access to information that would hold the government accountable for its actions.

AMY GOODMAN: Leonard Downie, for this report you spoke with New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane—we also—

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —just interviewed him—who said sources are now scared to death to even talk about unclassified, everyday issues. He said, quote, “There’s a gray zone between classified and unclassified information, and most sources were in that gray zone. Sources are now afraid to enter that gray zone,” Shane said. “It’s having a deterrent effect. If we consider aggressive press coverage of government activities being at the core of American democracy, this tips the balance heavily in favor of the government.” That was Scott Shane of The New York Times. Leonard Downie?

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: Yes, that’s exactly what he told me. And this is exactly what I heard from dozens of reporters around Washington, from news executives, and even from some former government officials, who are concerned, as I said earlier, about the fact that there—that it’s important that knowledgeable reporters, like Scott Shane, who know so much about national security, and his editors, who can make good decisions about what to publish—if they’re cut off from this information, it’s important for them—but here’s a good example. Look at how much the administration has revealed now about the NSA surveillance program, only because Edward Snowden provided that information to the press. The press published it, and that forced the administration to make public information about this program that Americans ought to have so that they can make decisions about it.

AMY GOODMAN: In May, reporters asked President Obama whether his administration’s probe of the emails of Associated Press reporters and editors’ emails recalls President Richard Nixon’s targeting of the press when it attempted to block The New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the Vietnam War leaked to the paper by whistleblower Dan Ellsberg. This is part of the exchange.

REPORTER: I’d like to ask you about the Justice Department.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

REPORTER: Do you believe that the seizure of phone records from Associated Press journalists this week, or before, that was announced recently this week, was an overreach? And do you still have full confidence in your attorney general? Should we interpret yesterday’s renewed interest by the White House in a media shield law as a response to that? And more broadly, how do you feel about comparisons by some of your critics of this week’s scandals to those that happened under the Nixon administration?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, yeah, I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons. And you can go ahead and read the history, I think, and draw your own conclusions. My concern is making sure that if there’s a problem in the government, that we fix it. That’s my responsibility. And that’s what we’re going to do.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is White House spokesperson Jay Carney questioned in May about the AP spying scandal and the Obama administration’s prosecutions of whistleblowers.

REPORTER: This administration in the last four years has prosecuted twice as many leakers as every previous administration combined. How does that reflect balance?

PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: I would say that the president is committed to the press’s ability to pursue information, to defending the First Amendment. He is also, as a citizen and as commander-in-chief, committed to the proposition that we cannot allow classified information to be—that can do harm to our national security interests or to endanger individuals, to be—to be leaked. And that is a balance that has to be struck.

REPORTER: But the record of the last four years does not suggest balance.

PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: That’s your opinion, Ari, but I—

REPORTER: No, it’s twice as many prosecutions as all previous administrations combined. That’s not even close.

PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: I understand that there—you know, that there were ongoing investigations that preceded this administration. But I—again, I’m not going to—I can tell you what the president’s views are, and the president’s views include his defense of the First Amendment, his belief that journalists ought to be able to pursue information in an unfettered way. And that is backed up by his support for a media shield law, both as senator and as president. And it is also true that he believes a balance needs to be struck between those goals and the need to protect classified information.

AMY GOODMAN: If you can respond to both of those, Leonard Downie? Of course, that’s White House spokesperson Jay Carney—

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —who is the former Washington bureau chief of Time magazine.

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: Yes, and I interviewed him for my report, and he stated responses like those you just heard.

First, there’s too much that’s classified. The president himself has said repeatedly in the past that too much information is classified. It’s not just information that might be harmful to national security or human life; it’s just lots and lots, millions and millions and millions of documents and pieces of information that are classified that shouldn’t be. Obviously that preceded this administration, but it’s not improved during this administration.

The president promised to have the most transparent government in American history. He promised to reduce overclassification. He promised to make it easier to obtain government information through the Freedom of Information Act. And so far, none of these promises have been kept. So, part of the reason for why I agreed to do this report for the Committee to Protect Journalists is I would like to alert the president to the fact that this is one of the most—this is one of the first promises he made. He signed presidential directives about open government his first day in office. These are not being carried out by his administration. He still has time for his legacy to make good on these promises.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the Justice Department acknowledging seizing the work, home and cellphone records used by almost a hundred reporters and editors at the Associated Press. The phones targeted included the general AP office numbers in New York City, in Washington, D.C., in Hartford, Connecticut, and the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, which of course means that many other reporters were speaking on it—the action coming as part of a probe into leaks behind an AP story on a U.S. intelligence operation.

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: This has had a chilling effect on both government officials, government sources and journalists. And it’s not the only one of these investigations in which such records were secretly subpoenaed and seized—half of these eight investigations that took place. So, reporters and sources know that records have been seized in the past, and as a result, reporters told me, people are afraid to talk to them on the telephone, they’re afraid to engage in email traffic with them, and the reporters themselves are concerned about putting their sources at risk by conducting telephone and email conversations with them, which means we have to go back to secret meetings, like the—you know, the underground garage meetings with Deep Throat during Watergate. Reporters are trying to figure out if they can encrypt their email, but we now know that NSA is trying to figure out how to—how to get past the encryption. So, reporters are very, very worried about putting their sources in jeopardy merely by trying to talk to them about the people’s business.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the Insider Threat Program?

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: The Insider Threat Program, which was first described by the McClatchy Newspapers last summer, is a presidential order that came after the Manning case. The government was very, very concerned about other Mannings somewhere in the government, because so much—so much of this information is digitally available to clever people. And so, they instituted this program where they ordered every government department and every agency to order their employees—and there are directives that have gone out, which McClatchy Newspapers obtained, that instruct employees to monitor each other to make sure that there are no leaks of classified information. And it’s been interpreted by some of the agencies, as you look at their plans, to go beyond classified information to information about anything that’s going on in that agency.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you think, overall, Leonard Downie, the press have been impacted? I mean, going back to this point that the Committee to Protect Journalists has never issued a report on press freedom in the United States before.

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: Correct, correct. This has had a chilling effect on not just coverage of national security, but coverage of the government generally. Along with the other policies of the administration, in which they have exercised such tight control over their message, over their information, it makes it very difficult for the press to hold the administration accountable for its actions. Now, that doesn’t mean reporters are going to stop. And even though they complain to me, they’re still out there working aggressively, and there still is good coverage of a lot of things. But we don’t know what we’ve not been able to find out about how this government works, in order to hold it accountable to the American people. If the president said he wants to be able to have his government held accountable to the American people, then I think they should change their policies.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is President Obama doing this? I mean, you hear the questions of Jay Carney. I mean, under the Obama administration, more than twice the number of journalists and sources have been gone after, prosecuted, than all administrations combined.

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: There are two different patterns here. One began with 9/11, and in fairness to the administration, the PATRIOT Act was passed under George Bush. Some of these leaks investigations did begin during the Bush administration, as Jay Carney said, although then they reached fruition and with prosecutions under the Obama administration. And new investigations began, like the one with the Associated Press and Fox News that you’ve talked about. So, that atmosphere of being concerned about national security leaks and pressure from the intelligence community to stop these kinds of leaks, it began during the Bush administration, has accelerated during the Obama administration.

At the same time, the Obama people discovered during the two election campaigns that very tight message control, in which they try to get their news out to people, news that they generate out to Americans, but make it more difficult for reporters to hold them accountable, worked very well during the campaigns. And they’ve been much more successful than previous administrations at carrying that control over into the workings of government itself once they took office. Other administrations have tried this, but they’ve not been as successful at it.

AMY GOODMAN: Leonard Downie—

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: And the third—

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: I’m sorry. And the third factor is, is obviously, you know, the new digital world we live in, which gives them much more levers for controlling the message than we’ve ever had before.

AMY GOODMAN: What needs to be done, very quickly?

LEONARD DOWNIE JR.: The president needs to keep his promises. He needs to reduce overclassification. He needs to make it easier to obtain information through the Freedom of Information Act. He needs to put the word out that government officials should be allowed to talk to the press unless it’s something that’s going to be harmful to national security.

AMY GOODMAN: Leonard Downie, I want to thank you for being with us, former executive editor of The Washington Post, author of the new report, “The Obama Administration and the Press,” commissioned by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the first time the CPJ has looked at freedom of the press in the United States. We’ll link to that report at democracynow.org. We’ll be back in a minute.

A Free-Speech Victory at the ‘University of Nike’ September 22, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Education, Labor.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Friday Sep 20, 2013 6:12 pm

 

By Rebecca Burns

The University of Oregon’s ‘Football Performance Center,’ which was paid for by Nike founder (and U of O alum) Phil Knight. (Photo by Wolfram Burner via Flickr)  

 

The “University of Nike” sounds like an institution straight out of a dystopian novel. But that moniker has actually been embraced by the University of Oregon, where Nike founder and chairman Phil Knight is one of the school’s most important donors. A gleaming new football center, complete with a locker room requiring biometric thumbprints to enter, isn’t the only sign of the corporation’s influence on campus: During negotiations with the school’s faculty union over its first-ever contract, critics say that the university pulled out some fancy footwork meant to preserve the patronage of Nike and other major donors, including provisions that would have narrowed protections for faculty who speak out against university policies. But an ultimate victory this week by the union, which faculty voted to form last year, helped beat back these measures and uphold the academic freedoms that are increasingly endangered by campuses’ corporate ties.

Unionization rates among U.S. faculty members are traditionally lower than those of their counterparts in other countries, and faculty at private colleges and universities are barred from collective bargaining entirely. But the tussle at the University of Oregon demonstrated that dwellers of the Ivory Tower are also workers under attack—and that their ability to take collective action is essential to the future of higher education.

During the past week, several proposals advanced by the Oregon administration have alarmed campus free-speech advocates and captured national attention. Colleen Flaherty reported at Inside Higher Education on the attempt to insert a “civility” clause into a section of the contract on “faculty responsibilities,” a measure that the watchdog Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education (FIRE) says is often abused on campuses in order to “punish unpopular viewpoints.” Even after this proposal was withdrawn last week, City University of New York Professor Corey Robin, who blogs about the politics of higher education, noted that the administration’s insistence on its right to monitor faculty e-mails and even review non-work e-mails “to the extent that they address work-related subjects” represented a “draconian assault on faculty autonomy and privacy.”

Another proposal to limit the ability of faculty members to consult for outside organizations when the Provost deemed it “contrary to the university’s best interests” drew particular concerns that the administration might kow-tow to corporate donors eager to silence their academic critics. Given that Oregon’s Board of Trustees includes “CEOs from the state’s timber and construction industries, the wife of the CEO of Microsoft, and a retired executive from Nike,” wrote Robin, “it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which a professor is forbidden by the provost from consulting with an organization critical of Nike’s labor policies or Microsoft’s market practices.”

But at a bargaining session on Wednesday, the administration backed off these measures, and the two sides reached a tentative agreement on a new contract that also includes average salary increases of 11.75% over the two-year agreement. United Academics (UA), which is comprised of both tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty, also won new contract protections for contingent faculty. Full details of the agreement have not yet been released, but Susan Anderson, a German professor and member of the bargaining committee, tells In These Times that it includes “robust protections” for free speech, including language referring to the First Amendment. The union will vote on whether to ratify the contract on October 8.

In a statement released yesterday by the university, U of O President Michael Gottfredson said that he also welcomed the agreement: “Our students benefit from the talents of professors who share their knowledge and passion for research and scholarship every day and this first contract reflects a fiscally responsible agreement that rewards excellence and invests in our faculty—strengthening the University of Oregon for all of our community.”

The administration’s shift is a particularly significant one because its initial proposal eschewed a union demand to guarantee the right to free speech outside the classroom, including where this concerns debate about institutional policies. Instead, Flaherty notes, the university’s proposal “decouples academic freedom and free speech, addressing them separately. Academic freedom is ‘necessary to teaching and research,’ it says, with no mention of the role of academics in speaking out if not related directly to teaching and research.”

The ability of faculty members to criticize university policies was a key tenet of academic freedom when the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) codified the concept in 1940. But the free-speech rights of university faculty have fallen into murky territory since 2006, when the Supreme Court ruled that public employees were not entitled to these rights for speech “pursuant to their official duties.” The Supreme Court did not address whether this ruling applied to professors at public universities, leaving the question in a legal limbo. Advocates are hopeful that a decision earlier this month from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco—which ruled that a controversial proposal circulated by a former Washington State University Professor David Demers to overhaul the school’s communications department should have constituted protected speech—will form the basis for more robust protections in the future.

But apart from legal uncertainty, academic freedom faces another threat: the growing reliance of universities on corporate patronage. To make up for stunning shortfalls in state funding, public universities have both hiked tuition and courted investment by private donors. “When universities are dependent on the money of private donors, administrators may feel pressure to enact policies that jeopardize the status of the university as a place of free inquiry,” says Anderson. Oregon has already seen this kind of influence wielded—the university reportedly terminated its involvement in the anti-sweatshop Workers’ Rights Consortium following pressure from Nike’s Knight.

Yet in the face of creeping academic commercialism, writes Jen Washburn, author of University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education, the AAUP and other advocates have been slow to respond, adhering to a “narrow, individualistic interpretation of academic freedom” that disregards the broader politics of today’s universities.

According to Joe Lowndes, an associate professor of political science and member of the union’s organizing committee, the contract fight at the University of Oregon “has shown that a unionized faculty can, among other things, act to safeguard academic freedom—a freedom we have learned not to take for granted within the changing structure of American higher education.”

 

 

Rebecca Burns, In These Times Assistant Editor, holds an M.A. from the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, where her research focused on global land and housing rights. A former editorial intern at the magazine, Burns also works as a research assistant for a project examining violence against humanitarian aid workers.

FBI Documents Reveal Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring December 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

See the released documents here

  • December 22, 2012

FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) pursuant to the PCJF’s Freedom of Information Act demands reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did “not condone the use of violence” at occupy protests.

The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.

“This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF).  “These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity.  These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material. We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation,” stated Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF.

  • As early as August 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn’t start for another month. By September, prior to the start of the OWS, the FBI was notifying businesses that they might be the focus of an OWS protest.

 

  • The FBI’s Indianapolis division released a “Potential Criminal Activity Alert” on September 15, 2011, even though they acknowledged that no specific protest date had been scheduled in Indiana. The documents show that the Indianapolis division of the FBI was coordinating with “All Indiana State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies,” as well as the “Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center,” the FBI “Directorate of Intelligence” and other national FBI coordinating mechanisms.

 

  • Documents show the spying abuses of the FBI’s “Campus Liaison Program” in which the FBI in Albany and the Syracuse Joint Terrorism Task Force disseminated information to “sixteen (16) different campus police officials,” and then “six (6) additional campus police officials.”  Campus officials were in contact with the FBI for information on OWS.  A representative of the State University of New York at Oswego contacted the FBI for information on the OWS protests and reported to the FBI on the SUNY-Oswego Occupy encampment made up of students and professors.

 

  • Documents released show coordination between the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and corporate America. They include a report by the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), described by the federal government as “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector,” discussing the OWS protests at the West Coast ports to “raise awareness concerning this type of criminal activity.” The DSAC report shows the nature of secret collaboration between American intelligence agencies and their corporate clients – the document contains a “handling notice” that the information is “meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel…” (The DSAC document was also obtained by the Northern California ACLU which has sought local FBI surveillance files.)

 

  • Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) reported to the DSAC on the relationship between OWS and organized labor for the port actions. The NCIS  describes itself as “an elite worldwide federal law enforcement organization” whose “mission is to investigate and defeat criminal, terrorist, and foreign intelligence threats to the United States Navy and Marine Corps ashore, afloat and in cyberspace.” The NCIS also assists with the transport of Guantanamo prisoners.

 

  • DSAC issued several tips to its corporate clients on “civil unrest” which it defines as ranging from “small, organized rallies to large-scale demonstrations and rioting.” It advised to dress conservatively, avoid political discussions and “avoid all large gatherings related to civil issues. Even seemingly peaceful rallies can spur violent activity or be met with resistance by security forces. Bystanders may be arrested or harmed by security forces using water cannons, tear gas or other measures to control crowds.”

 

  • The FBI in Anchorage reported from a Joint Terrorism Task Force meeting of November 3, 2011, about Occupy activities in Anchorage.
  • A port Facility Security Officer in Anchorage coordinated with the FBI to attend the meeting of protestors and gain intelligence on the planning of the port actions. He was advised to request the presence of an Anchorage Police Department official to also attend the event. The FBI Special Agent told the undercover private operative that he would notify the Joint Terrorism Task Force and that he would provide a point of contact at the Anchorage Police Department.

 

  • The Jacksonville, Florida FBI prepared a Domestic Terrorism briefing on the “spread of the Occupy Wall Street Movement” in October 2011. The intelligence meeting discussed Occupy venues identifying “Daytona, Gainesville and Ocala Resident Agency territories as portions …where some of the highest unemployment rates in Florida continue to exist.”

 

  • The Tampa, Florida FBI “Domestic Terrorism” liaison participated with the Tampa Police Department’s monthly intelligence meeting in which Occupy Lakeland, Occupy Polk County and Occupy St. Petersburg were discussed. They reported on an individual “leading the Occupy Tampa” and plans for travel to Gainesville for a protest planning meeting, as well as on Veterans for Peace plans to protest at MacDill Air Force Base.

 

  • The Federal Reserve in Richmond appears to have had personnel surveilling OWS planning. They were in contact with the FBI in Richmond to “pass on information regarding the movement known as occupy Wall Street.” There were repeated communications “to pass on updates of the events and decisions made during the small rallies and the following information received from the Capital Police Intelligence Unit through JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force).”

 

  • The Virginia FBI was collecting intelligence on the OWS movement for dissemination to the Virginia Fusion Center and other Intelligence divisions.

 

  • The Milwaukee division of the FBI was coordinating with the Ashwaubenon Public Safety division in Green Bay Wisconsin regarding Occupy.

 

  • The Memphis FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force met to discuss “domestic terrorism” threats, including, “Aryan Nations, Occupy Wall Street, and Anonymous.”

 

  • The Birmingham, AL division of the FBI sent communications to HAZMAT teams regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement.

 

  • The Jackson, Mississippi division of the FBI attended a meeting of the Bank Security Group in Biloxi, MS with multiple private banks and the Biloxi Police Department, in which they discussed an announced protest for “National Bad Bank Sit-In-Day” on December 7, 2011.

 

  • The Denver, CO FBI and its Bank Fraud Working Group met and were briefed on Occupy Wall Street in November 2011. Members of the Working Group include private financial institutions and local area law enforcement.

 

  • Jackson, MS Joint Terrorism Task Force issued a “Counterterrorism Preparedness” alert. This heavily redacted document includes the description, “To document…the Occupy Wall Street Movement.”

You can read the FBI – OWS documents below where we have uploaded them in searchable format for public viewing.

The PCJF filed Freedom of Information Act demands with multiple federal law enforcement agencies in the fall of 2011 as the Occupy crackdown began. The FBI initially attempted to limit its search to only one limited record keeping index. Recognizing this as a common tactic used by the FBI to conduct an inadequate search, the PCJF pressed forward demanding searches be performed of the FBI headquarters as well as FBI field offices nationwide.

The PCJF will continue to push for public disclosure of the government’s spy files and will release documents as they are obtained.

Click here to see the FBI documents obtained by the PCJF.

Your chance to free the women of Pussy Riot September 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Russia.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
http://www.kintera.org/TR.asp?a=7pLILXPxHdLOIXMIE&s=jsKVL7MKLfJVL4PEInH&m=fiKWK9NLJfKMJbK
Pussy Riot appeal begins Monday. Help bring them home.
Dear roger,
“Daddy, I’m going to get mommy out of jail with a bulldozer.”
That’s four-year-old Gera speaking about her plan to free her mother Nadya, one of the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot.
As an Amnesty activist, you know we don’t need a bulldozer to free a prisoner – just the power of our voices. And we need your voice more than ever as Pussy Riot faces an appeal hearing on October 1st.
Turn up the volume of protest to end the political persecution of Pussy Riot. Send your message calling for the unconditional release of Nadya, Masha and Katja.
Nadya and the other members of Pussy Riot went to the cathedral to give Russia – and the rest of the world – a wake-up call. They felt it was their civic duty to expose the corruption and repression they saw.
Pussy Riot stood up for their ideals. As artistic expression. Nonviolently. Legally.
Except, of course, in Putin’s Russia, where their dissent was stifled and condemned as “hooliganism.”
But there is hope. The world is watching. Last week, Pyotr Verzilov travelled with his daughter Gera to the United States to work with Amnesty to raise awareness for his wife’s case. During the Amnesty International Youth Town Hall, Aung San Suu Kyi met with Pyotr and Gera and called for the release of the women. With Amnesty at her side, Yoko Ono gave the band the LennonOno Grant for Peace to honor their courage.
During their visit, Pyotr expressed how moved he was by your advocacy on behalf of his wife and the other courageous women imprisoned for expressing their opinions peacefully:
“We are grateful to Amnesty International for your work on the case and all of your support. The most important thing you can do is rally people. We need your voices.”
Use your voice to tell the Russian authorities to release Nadya, Masha and Katja. Take a stand for free speech and human rights before Pussy Riot’s Oct. 1 appeal hearing.
In solidarity,
Michelle Ringuette Chief of Campaigns & Programs Amnesty International USA

 
http://www.kintera.org/TR.asp?a=7pLILXPxHdLPIXMHE&s=jsKVL7MKLfJVL4PEInH&m=fiKWK9NLJfKMJbK http://www.kintera.org/TR.asp?a=asJOI6MJJgKVJ7PUH&s=jsKVL7MKLfJVL4PEInH&m=fiKWK9NLJfKMJbK

© 2012 Amnesty International USA | 5 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10001 | 212.807.8400

Pussy Riot and the Two Russias August 4, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Civil Liberties, Russia.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Published on Saturday, August 4, 2012 by The Nation

 

(Credit: Igor Mukhin)

Pussy Riot is here to stay. International attention has mounted over the months since three members of the punk rock/protest group were imprisoned for a fifty-one-second stunt. All the more so this week, as their trial—on “hooliganism” charges—finally began.

As I’ve described before, members of the group seized the stage of Russia’s iconic Christ the Savior Cathedral just before the country’s March elections, performing (and recording) a musical plea to the Virgin Mary to oust Vladimir Putin. The cadre of Russian artists and activists descended from the performance artists Voina (“War”), who were influenced by the US punk movement Riot grrrl. Its story might have ended there, if not for a truly authoritarian response from the Russian government. Three alleged participants were arrested, threatened with seven years of imprisonment, and placed in a pre-trial detention that’s been extended for months. Now, Pussy Riot is world famous—as is its stunt. The longer they’re in prison, the more attention they get.

It’s been gratifying to see the outpouring of support for these women. It’s come from insiders and outsiders alike, in Russia and abroad. Key Putin backers have broken with him on Pussy Riot. More than 400,000 Russians have signed an online petition protesting their arrest and detention. The Washington Post editorialized in defense of the activists. Punk artists around the world have voiced their solidarity. British writer Stephen Fry has called on his more than 4.6 million Twitter followers “to do everything to help Pussy Riot” and “pressure Putin” in connection with the trial. Amnesty International named Pussy Riot prisoners of conscience; its US activists have planned a guerilla art exhibit and a solidarity concert at the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC.

The crackdown on Pussy Riot is part of a broader attack on dissent in Russia. In recent weeks, we’ve seen the introduction and rapid passage of a quartet of laws that undermine Russia’s democratic ambitions: (Re-)criminalization of “defamation”; a blacklist of “harmful” websites; punitive fines on participants in “unsanctioned” protests; and a mandate that nonprofits declare foreign funding and brand themselves “foreign agents.” Russia, alas, is not the only country cracking down on political freedom. But these broadly worded, swiftly passed laws represent another wave in Russia’s de-democratization, a process started under Boris Yeltsin and continued under Putin.

The righteousness of the Pussy Riot cause is clear-cut: courageous activists up against punitive suppression. As someone who’s worked with the women’s movement in Moscow, and as a longtime student of Russia, it’s horrific to watch the mistreatment of these women, and heartening to see them draw the support they deserve, both outside the country and within it.

But lost in much of the coverage is a sobering reality: there are two Russias. The country’s deep divisions are reflected in the polling on Pussy Riot, with only a 43 percent plurality telling pollsters that a potential two-to-seven-year sentence is disproportionate. Why? There’s more in place here than simple offense at their act.

To many Russians, Russia feels like two different countries: one is urban, hyper-Westernized, aggressively modern, and seems condescending in its attitude to ordinary people; the other is the Russian heartland in the regions and provinces, where people are suffering economically and believe they’re guarding the country’s traditional values and religious convictions. This is the lens through which some Russians view Pussy Riot’s imprisonment: not individual freedom of conscience versus the state but national pride and religious faith versus a well-off, urban elite. Putin has masterfully stoked such resentments, framing the resistance to his authority as an affront to the values of the nation (a segment on state TV last month called protests in defense of Pussy Riot a “vanity fair”). Too many Western journalists ignore or underestimate the effectiveness of that appeal.

Putin’s key partner in this has been the Russian Orthodox Church. In recent years, the church has grown in clout while growing ever closer to the Kremlin. The church’s spokesperson announced that God had personally shared with him, “just like he revealed the gospels to the church,” that He “condemns” what Pussy Riot did. Cynically or in earnest, church leaders are nurturing a patriarchal, paternalistic form of patriotism, and its power and popularity are growing as a result (US readers: this may sound familiar). The prosecution’s indictment against the artists cites “blasphemous acts” and “weighty suffering” of believers—despite Russia’s supposed separation of church the state. That’s a sign of how flimsy the legal case against Pussy Riot is, but also of the church’s role in modern Russia.

In a case replete with ironies, here’s the final one: even as Putin reaps political benefit from the resentments of this other Russia, his economic and social policies are poised to hit its citizens hardest—and his most prominent critics in the opposition are on board as well. Last month ushered in a fairly dramatic increase in utility and transit costs. And austerity, Russia-style, is coming to other sectors as well: neoliberal “reforms” are on the way in education, housing and pensions. These changes will mean socio-economic disaster for already-suffering Russians, many in regions far-flung from Moscow. What is little reported in the West is that Putin’s own critics, those who’ve led many of the street protests in Moscow, also back these measures. These include elite critics like former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, Boris Nemtsov and Ksenia Sobchak, once the Paris Hilton of Russia until she became its Pasionaria. Perhaps that should be no surprise: they’re not the ones about to get hurt.

It is heartening to see the broad attention being paid to the three women of the Pussy Riot group. But perhaps it’s time for some reporting on the millions of working or unemployed Russians who will bear the brunt of economic policies hatched by the Putin government and supported by many of its opposition critics. Putin’s repression has sparked vibrant pro–Pussy Riot activism. The efforts on behalf of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Fear have been important. But if the opposition really wants to mobilize a mass movement for political, social and economic change, it will have to bring the Two Russias back together. That will mean developing a program that calls for fair elections and combating corruption, while also resisting neoliberal measures that will privatize public education and gut pensions. Simply put, the activism we’ve witnessed in these last months will need to expand to encompass Freedom from Want. The fate of the next Pussy Riot could depend on it.

© 2012 The Nation

<!–

–>

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.

 

Federal court enjoins NDAA May 16, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

ROGER’S NOTE:  THIS IS AN ENCOURAGING DEVELOPMENT; HOWEVER, IF AND WHEN THIS GETS TO THE SUPREME COURT, WE CAN, UNFORTUNATELY, ONLY EXPECT  THAT THE TOTALITARIAN MINDED MAJORITY WILL UPHOLD THE DRACONIAN ELEMENTS OF NDAA.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 04:14 PM EST

 

An Obama-appointed judge rules its indefinite detention provisions likely violate the 1st and 5th Amendments

By , www.salon.com

President Obama (Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)

(updated below)

A federal district judge today, the newly-appointed Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York, issued an amazing ruling: one which preliminarily enjoins enforcement of the highly controversial indefinite provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last December. This afternoon’s ruling came as part of a lawsuit brought by seven dissident plaintiffs — including Chris Hedges, Dan Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Brigitta Jonsdottir — alleging that the NDAA violates ”both their free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

The ruling was a sweeping victory for the plaintiffs, as it rejected each of the Obama DOJ’s three arguments: (1) because none of the plaintiffs has yet been indefinitely detained, they lack “standing” to challenge the statute; (2) even if they have standing, the lack of imminent enforcement against them renders injunctive relief unnecessary; and (3) the NDAA creates no new detention powers beyond what the 2001 AUMF already provides.

As for the DOJ’s first argument — lack of standing — the court found that the plaintiffs are already suffering substantial injury from the reasonable fear that they could be indefinitely detained under section 1021 of the NDAA as a result of their constitutionally protected activities. As the court explained (h/t Charles Michael):

In support of their motion, Plaintiffs assert that § 1021 already has impacted their associational and expressive activities–and would continue to impact them, and that § 1021 is vague to such an extent that it provokes fear that certain of their associational and expressive activities could subject them to indefinite or prolonged military detention.

The court found that the plaintiffs have “shown an actual fear that their expressive and associational activities” could subject them to indefinite detention under the law,and “each of them has put forward uncontroverted evidence of concrete — non-hypothetical — ways in which the presence of the legislation has already impacted those expressive and associational activities” (as but one example, Hedges presented evidence that his “prior journalistic activities relating to certain organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban” proves “he has a realistic fear that those activities will subject him to detention under § 1021″). Thus, concluded the court, these plaintiffs have the right to challenge the constitutionality of the statute notwithstanding the fact that they have not yet been detained under it; that’s because its broad, menacing detention powers are already harming them and the exercise of their constitutional rights.

Significantly, the court here repeatedly told the DOJ that it could preclude standing for the plaintiffs if they were willing to state clearly that none of the journalistic and free speech conduct that the plaintiffs engage in could subject them to indefinite detention. But the Government refused to make any such representation. Thus, concluded the court, “plaintiffs have stated a more than plausible claim that the statute inappropriately encroaches on their rights under the First Amendment.”

Independently, the court found that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the NDAA violates their Fifth Amendment due process rights because the statute is so vague that it is virtually impossible to know what conduct could subject one to indefinite detention. Specifically, the court focused on the NDAA’s authorization to indefinitely detain not only Al Qaeda members, but also members of so-called “associated forces” and/or anyone who “substantially supports” such forces, and noted:

Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their vagueness challenge. The terms upon which they focused at the hearing relate to who is a “covered person.” In that regard, plaintiffs took issue with the lack of definition and clarity regarding who constitutes an “associated forces,” and what it means to “substantially” or “directly” “support” such forces or, al-Qaeda or the Taliban. . . .

The Government was unable to define precisely what ”direct” or “substantial” “support” means. . . .Thus, an individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so.

Perhaps most importantly, the court categorically rejected the central defense of this odious bill from the Obama administration and its defenders: namely, that it did nothing more than the 2001 AUMF already did and thus did not really expand the Government’s power of indefinite detention. The court cited three reasons why the NDAA clearly expands the Government’s detention power over the 2001 AUMF (all of which I previously cited when denouncing this bill).

First, “by its terms, the AUMF is tied directly and only to those involved in the events of 9/11,” whereas the NDAA “has a non-specific definition of ‘covered person’ that reaches beyond those involved in the 9/11 attacks by its very terms.” Second, “the individuals or groups at issue in the AUMF are also more specific than those at issue in § 1021″ of the NDAA; that’s because the AUMF covered those “directly involved in the 9/11 attacks while those in § 1021 [of the NDAA] are specific groups and ‘associated forces’.” Moreover, “the Government has not provided a concrete, cognizable set of organizations or individuals that constitute ‘associated forces,’ lending further indefiniteness to § 1021.” Third, the AUMF is much more specific about how one is guilty of “supporting” the covered Terrorist groups, while the NDAA is incredibly broad and un-specific in that regard, thus leading the court to believe that even legitimate activities could subject a person to indefinite detention.

The court also decisively rejected the argument that President Obama’s signing statement – expressing limits on how he intends to exercise the NDAA’s detention powers — solves any of these problems. That’s because, said the court, the signing statement “does not state that § 1021 of the NDAA will not be applied to otherwise-protected First Amendment speech nor does it give concrete definitions to the vague terms used in the statute.”

The court concluded by taking note of what is indeed the extraordinary nature of her ruling, but explained it this way:

This Court is acutely aware that preliminarily enjoining an act of Congress must be done with great caution. However, it is the responsibility of our judicial system to protect the public from acts of Congress which infringe upon constitutional rights.

I’ve been very hard on the federal judiciary in the past year due to its shameful, craven deference in the post-9/11 world to executive power and, especially, attempts to prosecute Muslims on Terrorism charges. But this is definitely an exception to that trend. This is an extraordinary and encouraging decision. All the usual caveats apply: this is only a preliminary injunction (though the court made it clear that she believes plaintiffs will ultimately prevail). It will certainly be appealed and can be reversed. There are still other authorities (including the AUMF) which the DOJ can use to assert the power of indefinite detention. Nonetheless, this is a rare and significant limit placed on the U.S. Government’s ability to seize ever-greater powers of detention-without-charges, and it is grounded in exactly the right constitutional principles: ones that federal courts and the Executive Branch have been willfully ignoring for the past decade.

UPDATE: I really should mention the rest of the plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit beyond the four well-known ones I named above, because each deserves immense credit for doing this. Alexa O’Brien is an independent journalist who writes for WL Central, regarding WikiLeaks, Guantanamo and other issues, and founded a website to work on America’s corrupted elections, Day of Rage. Kai Wargalla is a British activist who founded Occupy London and has done extensive work in advocating for WikiLeaks. Jennifer Bolen, who along with Hedges spearheaded the organization of this lawsuit, is an activist with Revolution Truth who did substantial work to defeat the NDAA.

Though I knew a fair amount about it as it proceeded, I hadn’t written about this lawsuit before, largely because I did not expect it to succeed; I anticipated that it would be dismissed on “standing” grounds, the favored tactic (along with the State Secrets privilege) for both the Bush and Obama DOJs to persuade federal courts not to even adjudicate constitutional challenges to the War on Terror powers. Serious kudos to all of the plaintiffs and lawyers here who persevered in what I’m certain they knew would be an uphill battle.

Neighbors Spying on You? New Program Spreading Across the US Takes Neighborhood Watch to Scary New Level April 1, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, War on Terror.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Salon                                             / ByUzma Kolsy 

            Suspicious Activity Reporting asks citizens to keep an eye out on their neighbors — but the results could be terrible.   

March 31, 2012  |

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/ Everett Collection
 Crime in Los Angeles is a gritty enterprise, and donning an LAPD badge has historically involved getting your hands dirty. Long before the New York Police Department was spying on Muslim students, the LAPD was running a large-scale domestic spy operation in the 1970s and ’80s, snooping on and infiltrating more than 200 political, labor and civic organizations including the office of then Mayor Tom Bradley. Today, the LAPD isn’t quite so aggressive, but it still employs a directive titled Special Order 1, which permits police officers to deem what is “suspicious” and then act on it.

SO 1 enables LAPD officers to file Suspicious Activity Reports on observed behaviors or activities. Where things get murky, however, is how SAR guidelines categorize constitutionally protected, non-criminal and commonplace activities such as using binoculars, snapping photographs and taking notes as indicators of terrorism-related activity. The SARs are coupled with the LAPD’s iWatch program, a campaign the police pioneered to encourage regular citizens to report “suspicious” activity, including “a person wearing clothes that are too big or too hot for the weather,” or things that just plain old don’t “look right.”

Far from being merely a local phenomenon, the standardized program that the LAPD developed in 2008 served as the lead model for a National Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative. “Success” stories from the LAPD’s program are used in national training material, and the LAPD touts it as “the first program in the U.S. to create a national standard” for terrorism-related procedures.

According to the Information Sharing Environment, the nationwide SAR initiative “establishes a standardized process whereby SAR information can be shared among agencies to help detect and prevent terrorism-related criminal activity.” Personal data that is collected on these individuals is treated as criminal intelligence. The rapidly expanding and dangerously intrusive network houses personal data on thousands of Americans. “The level and the rate at which local law enforcement is expanding its intelligence-gathering activity is very alarming,” said Ameena Mirza Qazi, deputy executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations-LA. “We as community advocacy groups hope to continue to work with law enforcement and encourage them to maintain their community policing models working with communities to identify criminal behavior.”

The SAR program’s broad reach extends into every level of the security hierarchy, from citizen policing to federal intelligence agencies. The Minnesota Joint Analysis Center, one of the nation’s 72 “fusion” centers — information-sharing centers created by the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security — is where the SAR report on Najam Qureshi, as well as thousands of others, found its final destination. Qureshi was a kiosk owner at the Mall of America, where security guards stop and question, on average, up to 1,200 people each year.  He was questioned by guards and later visited by the FBI at home after his 70-year-old father negligently left his cellphone at a table in the mall’s food court in 2007. The FBI prodded Qureshi and his family, asking “how many people they knew in Afghanistan” and if “they knew anyone who might want to hurt the United States.”

“The problem with this program is that the behavior range of what can be reported is so broad that it just lends itself to discriminatory application,” said Jumana Musa, deputy director of Rights Working Group, an advocacy group based in Washington. “When it comes to these innocuous activities, what people are reporting on is not necessarily the activity, but who is doing the activity.”

As a counter-terrorism initiative, the SAR program is already in place in major cities like Boston, Miami and Seattle, and is in the process of being rolled out across the nation by September of this year. The Los Angeles model gives citizens in other places an idea of what they can expect. Between 2008 and 2010, the LAPD shared 2,668 SARs with the local fusion center, which only uploaded 2 percent of them to the database — meaning that the majority of the reports did not have a reasonable indication of criminal activity. Though only a fraction were used by the fusion center, the LAPD retained the remaining 98 percent of its SARs in intelligence files, even though they did not serve as evidence of crime.

This is in stark contrast to former LAPD policy, which mandated that any intel amassed to follow a lead had to be destroyed if reasonable suspicion of criminal activity hadn’t been established. “This is such a drain of resources when there are real crime threats out there where these resources could much better be utilized,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent and currently the policy counsel on national security, immigration and privacy at ACLU National. “The real problem with these systems is that they encourage and cause waste and drive resources away from legitimate investigations.”

According to an independent analysis conducted by the Institute for Homeland Security Solutions in April 2011, analysts  “also expressed a desire to obtain feedback on SARs reported to federal agencies on whether the SARs did, in fact, constitute genuine threats; such feedback reportedly occurs rarely, if ever.” The report also found that the majority of thwarted terrorism plots came from investigations into criminal activity as opposed to intelligence gathering. “They’ve created this expensive, and resource-intensive system that has a huge impact on innocent people’s privacy,” said German. “And yet there is no science showing that this is an effective way of going about law enforcement or intelligence gathering.”

The most alarming feature of LAPD’s Special Order 1 is the vague language that lowers the threshold for what can be considered “suspicious,” and does not even meet the already soft federal standards that require “articulable facts and circumstances that [are] …  indicative of criminal activity associated with terrorism.”  Special Order 1 only requires “articulable facts and circumstances that [are] … reasonably indicative of suspicious activity associated with terrorism.” That single word removes a citizen’s safeguards from harassment, eliminates the requirement of probable cause, and encourages officers to investigate non-criminal activity.

“In using different language, it opens the door to somebody saying this is a lower standard,” said German. “What we’re seeing is a lot of people being stopped, harassed, even arrested for doing no more than taking a photograph.” In some cases, police counter-terrorism training has been proven to be blatantly Islamophobic or hyperbolic at the least, which can color an officer’s perception of a “suspicious” threat.

Take, for example, an incident that transpired in December 2009 in Henderson, Nev. An observant bystander called the police to notify them of a suspicious scene — seven Muslim men were praying in a gas-station parking lot. Praying in a public space is a constitutionally protected activity, and though no illegal conduct was described in the tip, the Henderson Police officers detained the seven Muslims for approximately 40 minutes and searched their vehicle. In a recording of the incident, a police officer expresses that he doesn’t know what they could be praying about and suggests that they could be chanting, “I want to kill a police officer today.” The officers later said that “they were not trained well enough to know how to appropriately respond to Muslim religious behavior.”

With recent revelations about the NYPD’s actions, civil liberties groups are concerned that vague criteria provided in SAR policies puts a bull’s-eye on the Muslim American community. “The program absolutely targets the Muslim community,” said Musa. “But I think the issue is that it could really target any community, it depends on what the threat is that people decide they are looking at.”

Uzma Kolsy is an activist and freelance writer based in Southern California. She is the former Managing Editor of InFocus News, the largest newspaper in California serving the Muslim American community.

MTV (Viacom Inc.) REFUSES Ad For The Last War Crime Movie January 21, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Media, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

opednews.com

No sooner had we achieved a real victory in forcing YouTube to reinstate our waterboarding scene preview clip, now we are facing brick wall opposition from MTV (that’s Viacom Inc., a Standard and Poor’s 500 giant media conglomerate) in getting out our PAID advertising for “The Last War Crime” movie. It’s about indicting Cheney for torture . . . and isn’t that something billions of people want to see?
Friends, the corporate political censors have their hands clenched around the throat of our public discourse right now, and only your valiant voices of resistance can save our democracy. The right wing’s rogue Supreme Court says money equates to free speech, but if even if you have the money, you cannot even BUY free speech if the corporations don’t preapprove of your message.
This is the end game, folks. Corporate special interests already write ALL legislation in Congress. We must raise a hue and cry so loud with our voices that we directly force the corporations to be accountable. Otherwise there is no chance whatsoever for meaningful policy change.
If you want to fight back, if you want to keep them from completely suppressing this potentially world changing movie, there are THREE things we urgently need you to do, at the cost to you to do ALL three of a grand total of maybe 99 cents and about three clicks of a mouse.
1) Submit the action page to protest MTV’s rejection of the ad for their Times Square HD video screen for The Last War Crime, and here is the link again.
Protest Viacom Censorship Action Page: http://www.lastwarcrime.com
2) At the top of that same page is a “like” button for the Facebook page for “The Last War Crime”. We MUST demonstrate mass numbers of likes on that page so that the distributors know how huge the potential audience is for this movie and we get real distribution. If you have a Facebook account all you have to do is click the button right there one time before you submit the action page. Please just do it. And here is a direct link to the Facebook movie page.
The Last War Crime on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thelastwarcrime
3) As a collateral action we have produced the most amazing theme song track you ever heard. It’s called, “It’s A Crime”, and we pulled together the absolute top musicians and singers in Los Angeles to cut it live. We need each and every one of you to take just 99 cents and buy the song over at iTunes, so we chart the song in their top 100 and create additional mass visibility for this project, and show there is a market for this kind of political content. From this page just click on “View in iTunes”, and if you don’t have the iTunes application you’ll be prompted on how to get it.
We simply wanted to run a 10 second video ad on MTV’s high definition video screen in Times Square, but first their ad manager demanded to know the content of the film itself. Here are the incriminating admissions we actually have in writing of blatant censorship:
The Pen: “Must MTV approve the underlying content of a movie to accept an ad for that movie (you asked me to tender a synopsis)?”
MTV: “Yes”
The Pen: “Does that not implicate some kind of possibly arbitrary political censorship?”
MTV: “Yes”
Can you even imagine, can you even get your mind around, the sheer arrogance of putting such admissions in writing, as if they were sure they could get away with it?
Viacom Inc. is comprised of approximately 170 media networks reaching more than 600 million global subscribers. We must presume the rejection of this ad represents banning any reference to the movie going forward across all those wide ranging properties, an intolerable result under any construction of free speech in our society.
We are demanding that Viacom Inc. immediately reverse its position with regard to this first ad, and attempt no further act of political censorship against the producers of this movie or anyone else.
Please do ALL three things we are asking of you above. 1) Submit the Viacom protest, 2) “like” the Facebook page for the movie, and 3) get the movie theme song from iTunes. Then and only then can we get this movie out there like it so deserves to be, so we can keep the voice of real truth alive.
 The PEN is an acronym for The People’s Email Network, a resource founded in 2004 with the mission of making sending policy advocacy messages as facile and easy as possible.  With this goal in mind The PEN pioneered one click action pages in the (more…)

Less Lethal, Or You Die November 22, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
11.22.11 – 11:01 AM

by Abby Zimet, www.commondreams.org, November 22, 2011

A chilling look at “crowd management tools” – a.k.a. weapons – made by companies with names like Defense Technology and Combined Tactical Systems and increasingly used by police, from pepperball guns and compressed-air pepper-spray backbacks to projectiles firing bean bag “pain compliance rounds” and fog machines dispensing clouds of tear gas “to provide reliable, less-lethal, effective means of incapacitation.” From Mother Jones.

 

2 Comments so far

Hide All

Posted by Demonstorm
Nov 22 2011 – 11:32am

Most of these – and all the future ones still in development – weapons have one and only one purpose: to be used against Amereichan citizens who have the balls to dissent against the U.S. government. Think about that. Anyone thinking we still live in a democracy needs to have their blinders ripped off.

Posted by Oikos
Nov 22 2011 – 11:45am

The Evil Empire’s ways come home to discipline and punish the citizenry.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 231 other followers