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Why Does the FBI Have to Manufacture its Own Plots if Terrorism and ISIS Are Such Grave Threats? February 28, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: some of us remember the days when it was joked that the American Communist Party would go broke if the undercover FBI agent members failed to pay their dues.  We also remember Herb Philbrick, the intrepid hero of the television series “I Led Three Lives,”  who in each episode as a double agent uncovered one Russian Commie plot after another to sabotage American industry or security.  The Imperial rulers need an enemy in order for it to pose as a victim and justify its aggressions.  This phenomenon goes back at least as far as the Roman Empire.  Today we have “terrorists” hiding under every bed.  You’d better check yours before you go to sleep tonight (although it may be as likely an FBI agent there as an actual fully fledged time bomb toting terrorist).

nypd_fbi_plot

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, right, speaks during a news conference at police headquarters, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, in New York, regarding three men who were arrested on charges of plotting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group and wage war against the U.S. Bratton is joined by assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office Diego Rodriguez, second from right, NYPD chief of counterterrorism James Waters, second from left, and Bill Sweeney special agent in charge of the counterterrorism division of the New York field office. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

 

By Glenn Greenwald

February 26, 2015, http://www.firstlook.org

The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the agency’s latest counterterrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS (photo of joint FBI/NYPD press conference, above). As my colleague Murtaza Hussain ably documents, “it appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.” One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. Noting the bizarre and unhinged ranting of one of the suspects, Hussain noted on Twitter that this case “sounds like another victory for the FBI over the mentally ill.”

In this regard, this latest arrest appears to be quite similar to the overwhelming majority of terrorism arrests the FBI has proudly touted over the last decade. As my colleague Andrew Fishman and I wrote last month — after the FBI manipulated a 20-year-old loner who lived with his parents into allegedly agreeing to join an FBI-created plot to attack the Capitol — these cases follow a very clear pattern:

The known facts from this latest case seem to fit well within a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots.

First, they target a Muslim: not due to any evidence of intent or capability to engage in terrorism, but rather for the “radical” political views he expresses. In most cases, the Muslim targeted by the FBI is a very young (late teens, early 20s), adrift, unemployed loner who has shown no signs of mastering basic life functions, let alone carrying out a serious terror attack, and has no known involvement with actual terrorist groups.

They then find another Muslim who is highly motivated to help disrupt a “terror plot”: either because they’re being paid substantial sums of money by the FBI or because (as appears to be the case here) they are charged with some unrelated crime and are desperate to please the FBI in exchange for leniency (or both). The FBI then gives the informant a detailed attack plan, and sometimes even the money and other instruments to carry it out, and the informant then shares all of that with the target. Typically, the informant also induces, lures, cajoles, and persuades the target to agree to carry out the FBI-designed plot. In some instances where the target refuses to go along, they have their informant offer huge cash inducements to the impoverished target.

Once they finally get the target to agree, the FBI swoops in at the last minute, arrests the target, issues a press release praising themselves for disrupting a dangerous attack (which it conceived of, funded, and recruited the operatives for), and the DOJ and federal judges send their target to prison for years or even decades (where they are kept in special GITMO-like units). Subservient U.S. courts uphold the charges by applying such a broad and permissive interpretation of “entrapment” that it could almost never be successfully invoked.

Once again, we should all pause for a moment to thank the brave men and women of the FBI for saving us from their own terror plots.

One can, if one really wishes, debate whether the FBI should be engaging in such behavior. For reasons I and many others have repeatedly argued, these cases are unjust in the extreme: a form of pre-emptory prosecution where vulnerable individuals are targeted and manipulated not for any criminal acts they have committed but rather for the bad political views they have expressed. They end up sending young people to prison for decades for “crimes” which even their sentencing judges acknowledge they never would have seriously considered, let alone committed, in the absence of FBI trickery. It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking this is a justifiable tactic, but I’m certain there are people who believe that. Let’s leave that question to the side for the moment in favor of a different issue.

We’re constantly bombarded with dire warnings about the grave threat of home-grown terrorists, “lone wolf” extremists and ISIS. So intensified are these official warnings that The New York Times earlier this month cited anonymous U.S. intelligence officials to warn of the growing ISIS threat and announce “the prospect of a new global war on terror.”

But how serious of a threat can all of this be, at least domestically, if the FBI continually has to resort to manufacturing its own plots by trolling the Internet in search of young drifters and/or the mentally ill whom they target, recruit and then manipulate into joining? Does that not, by itself, demonstrate how over-hyped and insubstantial this “threat” actually is? Shouldn’t there be actual plots, ones that are created and fueled without the help of the FBI, that the agency should devote its massive resources to stopping?

This FBI tactic would be akin to having the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) constantly warn of the severe threat posed by drug addiction while it simultaneously uses pushers on its payroll to deliberately get people hooked on drugs so that they can arrest the addicts they’ve created and thus justify their own warnings and budgets (and that kind of threat-creation, just by the way, is not all that far off from what the other federal law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, are actually doing). As we noted the last time we wrote about this, the Justice Department is aggressively pressuring U.S. allies to employ these same entrapment tactics in order to create their own terrorists, who can then be paraded around as proof of the grave threat.

Threats that are real, and substantial, do not need to be manufactured and concocted. Indeed, as the blogger Digby, citing Juan Cole, recently showed, run-of-the-mill “lone wolf” gun violence is so much of a greater threat to Americans than “domestic terror” by every statistical metric that it’s almost impossible to overstate the disparity:

In that regard, it is not difficult to understand why “domestic terror” and “homegrown extremism” are things the FBI is desperately determined to create. But this FBI terror-plot concoction should, by itself, suffice to demonstrate how wildly exaggerated this threat actually is.

Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

UPDATE: The ACLU of Massachusetts’s Kade Crockford notes this extraordinarily revealing quote from former FBI assistant director Thomas Fuentes, as he defends one of the worst FBI terror “sting” operations of all (the Cromitie prosecution we describe at length here):

If you’re submitting budget proposals for a law enforcement agency, for an intelligence agency, you’re not going to submit the proposal that “We won the war on terror and everything’s great,” cuz the first thing that’s gonna happen is your budget’s gonna be cut in half. You know, it’s my opposite of Jesse Jackson’s ‘Keep Hope Alive’—it’s ‘Keep Fear Alive.’ Keep it alive.

That is the FBI’s terrorism strategy — keep fear alive — and it drives everything they do.

Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’ February 27, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Constitution, Criminal Justice, Jeb Bush, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: I post this article so that you can get an idea of what kind of man is the very possible next US president.  This is a well researched piece of investigative journalism, and the apparent reason for this labor is to warn of us of a possible future president who is an uncompromising ideologue who puts himself above the law.  Now, I have no love for Jeb Bush, but I find something ironic in this.

Most presidents do in fact put themselves above the law and usually get away with it.  Poor Dick Nixon put himself so far above the law that he ended up hoisted on his own petard.  He is the exception.  The current and penultimate president have taken this putting themselves above the law to new heights (including but not limited to brutal torture, drone missile mass murder and presidential kill lists).  Tricky Dick would be envious.  Irony number one, you can warn us all you want about Jeb Bush, but you can bet on the fact that whomever becomes the next president — from super-hawk Democrat Hillary Clinton to the wackiest of the Republican menagerie — will continue in this honored tradition.

Irony number two: as you will see, in the end Bush did in fact respect the law when all political channels had been exhausted, and, as you will also see, the nut case murderous pro-lifers (sic) saw him thus as a traitor to the cause. 

Finally, thanks to Jeff Nguyen for posting this on his excellent Blog (www.deconstructingmyths.com).

 

Posted on January 19, 2015by Jeff Nguyen
Once in a while I come across an article that, in my not-so-humble opinion, is so outstanding, I want to share it with anyone who will listen. I especially enjoy long-form articles which can provide a venue for deep dives into genres such as creative nonfiction or narrative journalism. I would now like to present the Longform series…

Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’

By Michael Kruse

CLEARWATER, Fla.—Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.

For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.

“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”

Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.

But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. On sustained, concentrated display, seen in thousands of pages of court records and hundreds of emails he sent, was Jeb the converted Catholic, Jeb the pro-life conservative, Jeb the hands-on workaholic, Jeb the all-hours emailer—confident, competitive, powerful, obstinate Jeb. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office. They say it’s the Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done.
The case showed he “will pursue whatever he thinks is right, virtually forever,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. “It’s a theme of Jeb’s governorship: He really pushed executive power to the limits.”

“If you want to understand Jeb Bush, he’s guided by principle over convenience,” said Dennis Baxley, a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives during Bush’s governorship and still. “He may be wrong about something, but he knows what he believes.”

And what he believed in this case, and what he did, said Miami’s Dan Gelber, a Democratic member of the state House during Bush’s governorship, “probably was more defining than I suspect Jeb would like.”

For Michael Schiavo, though, the importance of the episode—Bush’s involvement from 2003 to 2005, and what it might mean now for his almost certain candidacy—is even more viscerally obvious.

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Jeb Bush speaks to reporters during a news conference about Terri Schiavo on March 18, 2005. | AP Photo

“He should be ashamed,” he said. “And I think people really need to know what type of person he is. To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.”

***

November 10, 1984, is when they got married; February 25, 1990, is when she collapsed, early in the morning, in their apartment in St. Petersburg, for reasons that never were determined with specificity but had something to do with a potassium imbalance probably caused by aggressive dieting. Michael Schiavo woke up when he heard her fall. She was facedown, feet in the bathroom, head in the hall. He called 911. Police noted in their report “no signs of trauma to her head or face.” The ambulance raced to the closest hospital, but her heart had stopped, robbing her brain of oxygen, and the damage was catastrophic. A court named her husband her guardian that June. Her parents didn’t object. All of this was before Bush was elected. And after years of rehabilitation, of waiting for any sign of improvement and seeing none, Michael Schiavo decided to remove the feeding tube that kept his wife alive, saying she had told him and others she never would’ve wanted to be this way.

To this, Terri Schiavo’s parents objected. Bob and Mary Schindler, Catholics, argued that their daughter, also Catholic, would want to live, even so debilitated.

She had left no will. No written instructions. She was 26. To try to determine what she would have wanted, there was a trial, in the Pinellas County courtroom of circuit judge George Greer, in which Michael Schiavo relayed what she had told him in passing about what her wishes would be in this sort of scenario. Others did, too. She also had next to no chance of recovery, according to doctors’ testimony. Greer cited “overwhelming credible evidence” that Terri Schiavo was “totally unresponsive” with “severe structural brain damage” and that “to a large extent her brain has been replaced by spinal fluid.” His judgment was that she would not have wanted to live in her “persistent vegetative state” and that Michael Schiavo, her husband and her legal guardian, was allowed to remove her feeding tube.

“DONE AND ORDERED,” he wrote on February 11, 2000.

The St. Petersburg Times had covered the trial. Bush, a year and a month into his first term, started hearing about it almost immediately. Staffers replied at first with a variety of form responses.

“The Florida Constitution prohibits the Governor’s intervention in matters that should be resolved through the court system,” read one. But here’s what else it said: “As a concerned citizen, you have the opportunity to influence legislation pertaining to guardianship matters in cases similar to Terri’s. By contacting your local legislative delegation, such as your senator or representative, new legislation can be introduced. If such a bill ever comes before the Governor for signature, he will certainly remember your views.”

Bush couldn’t do anything. Laws didn’t let him. But that didn’t mean he didn’t want to. He did.

He heard from Terri Schiavo’s father in April 2001. “Allow me to introduce myself,” Bob Schindler wrote in an email. He told the governor his daughter had been “falsely depicted” as a “hopeless vegetable.” He told the governor she was indeed “responsive to family and friends.” “I desperately need your help,” he said, adding that “Terri’s case may be beyond your realm of authority”—Schindler knew it, too—“but I sincerely believe you could be helpful.”

Staffers didn’t respond to Bob Schindler’s email. The governor did.

Mr. Schindler, thank you for writing. I am asking that Charles Canady look into your daughter’s case.

Jeb Bush

Canady had been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives. He later would be an appellate judge in Florida. He is now a state Supreme Court judge. At the time, though, he was Bush’s top staff attorney.

Meanwhile, the Schindlers appealed, asking for new trials, asking for delays, asking for Greer to recuse himself, asking to remove Michael Schiavo as her guardian based on unproven allegations of abuse and neglect and because he now was living with another woman with whom he had children, asking for new doctors who might make new diagnoses—and they were sufficiently successful to stretch the case into the summer of 2003. Media coverage had intensified, especially on conservative talk radio and websites, and activists convinced the Schindlers to violate a court order and post on the Internet snippets of videos of their daughter appearing to respond to what was going on around her. They also continued their zealous email campaign to attempt to prevent what they saw as imminent court-dictated murder. The top target of their efforts? Bush.

“I’m really limited on what I can do,” the governor reiterated to the conservative online publication World Net Daily in August. A judge had made a decision. Other judges had upheld the decision.

The emails flooded the governor’s inbox.

Bush responded by sending a letter to Greer. He acknowledged it was out of the ordinary. “I normally would not address a letter to the judge in a pending legal proceeding,” Bush wrote. “However, my office has received over 27,000 emails reflecting understandable concern for the well-being of Terri Schiavo.”

Greer said he respected the governor’s position. Then he put the letter with everything else in the already massive file.

“This isn’t his concern,” Michael Schiavo told reporters, “and he should stay out of it.”

He didn’t. Bush filed a federal court brief on October 7 supporting the Schindlers’ efforts. A judge said his court lacked the jurisdiction to do anything.

The feeding tube was to come out on October 15.

Bush met with the Schindlers. He told them his staff attorneys were conferring with experts on the Florida Constitution to see if he could intervene. “He does not have the authority to overrule a court order,” his spokesman told reporters.

The emails didn’t stop.

They came from all over the country. They begged him. They used capital letters. They used exclamation points. They told him to talk to God. They told him there were laws higher than man’s laws and that he, as a Catholic like Terri Schiavo, like her parents, should know that and should act on it and that he had to. “DO NOT LET HER DIE!!!” said a man from Michigan. “Let’s see what kind of compassionate conservative you really are,” said a man from Jacksonville. “If you have any aspirations for a higher office,” said a man from California, “don’t let this be the rallying cry for those who would oppose you.”

To most of them, he didn’t respond—to many, though, he did.

“It is very sad,” he wrote.

“I cannot issue an executive order when there is a court order upheld at every level in the judiciary. … I wish I could but I have no legal authority to do so,” he wrote.

“I am sickened by this situation and pray for her family. We have looked at every angle, every legal possibility, and will continue to do so,” he wrote.

The emails kept coming.

***

“I hope George W. Bush is president some day,” former Republican Party chairman Rich Bond told the late Marjorie Williams, writing for Talk magazine in September 2000. “I know Jeb will be.”

“I want to be able to look my father in the eye and say, ‘I continued the legacy,’” he told the Miami Herald in 1994.

That year, he ran for governor of Florida—as an ultra-conservative, a “head-banging conservative,” as he put it—and lost. In 1998, he ran again, sanding those hard-right edges—and won.

But one constant from the first campaign to the next and beyond: what Bush said he believed was the right role of government. “Government needs to be constrained,” he said in speeches in 1994. “We should be finding practical solutions where we provide incentives for people to take care of themselves.” “Our lack of self-governance is the single biggest reason we’ve seen the growth of government,” he said in 1995. “Good government,” he wrote that year in his book Profiles in Character, “is grounded in its limitations.”

In 1999, in his first inaugural address, he said, “let state government give families and individuals greater freedom”—also, though, “let state government touch the spiritual face of Florida.” In the speech, he mentioned “our Creator” and “the Divine Giver” and said “state government can draw much from these reservoirs of faith.” He was raised as an Episcopalian but became a Catholic because that’s how his Mexican wife grew up. It also suited his disposition. He wrote in Profiles in Character that he believed in the need for a “renewal of virtue” and “passing moral judgments.” He once said “the conservative side” of an issue is “the correct one” because “it just is.”

Bush, 6-foot-4 and stout, quickly established himself as the most powerful governor in Florida history, according to University of North Florida political science professor Matthew Corrigan and others. His ascension coincided with both houses of the state legislature being Republican majorities for the first time since Reconstruction. Voters also opted to alter the state constitution to shrink the size of the cabinet, leaving the governor, the position itself, with more executive power. Bush did a lot with it. He was reelected in 2002, easily, winning 61 of the state’s 67 counties. By this time, of course, his brother was the president.

“He didn’t get told no very often,” Corrigan said.

“My gift, perhaps,” Bush would say toward the end of his two-term tenure, in an interview with the Tampa Tribune, “is that with this office now, we’ve shown that governors can be activist …”

So on October 15, 2003, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube came out. Judge’s orders. She would die within two weeks. This stage of the case looks in retrospect like the start of a test. Just how much power did Jeb Bush have?

HB 35E was filed after 8 at night on October 20. Many lawmakers already were gone for the day. Gelber, the state representative from Miami, put his suit back on at his apartment in Tallahassee and hustled back to the Capitol. Fellow Democrats gathered around as the attorney and former prosecutor began to read the bill one of Bush’s staff attorneys had helped to write.

“Authority for the Governor to Issue a One-time Stay …”

Gelber looked up.

“I don’t have to read anymore,” he said. “It’s clearly unconstitutional.”

“The governor can’t just change an order of the court,” Gelber explained this month. “It’s one of the most elemental concepts of democracy: The governor is not a king.”

The rest of the language described a situation involving a patient with no written will, in a persistent vegetative state, with a family conflict, whose feeding tube had been removed. Terri Schiavo. It gave the governor a 15-day window to step in.

“The courts have listened to sworn testimony and they have determined, court after court, one way,” said state Senator Alex Villalobos, a Republican from Miami.

But it passed in the House, and it passed in the Senate.

Bush signed it, and Chapter No. 2003-418, “Terri’s Law,” as it came to be known, was official less than 22 hours after it had been introduced. He then issued Executive Order 03-201. “The Florida Department of Law Enforcement shall serve a copy of this Executive Order upon the medical facility currently providing care for Theresa Schiavo,” it stated. A police-escorted ambulance whisked her from her hospice in Pinellas Park to a nearby hospital to have her feeding tube put back in.

“The citizens of Florida should be alarmed by what is happening,” George Felos, one of Michael Schiavo’s attorneys, told reporters. “This is not the former Soviet Bloc, where you don’t have the liberty to control your own body.”

Even one of the law’s architects up in Tallahassee expressed unease.

“I hope, I really do hope, we’ve done the right thing,” Republican state Senate president Jim King said. “I keep thinking, ‘What if Terri Schiavo really didn’t want this at all?’ May God have mercy on us all.”

Bush had no such qualms.

“I honestly believe we did the right thing,” the governor wrote to one emailer.

The emails poured in. Some chided him. More praised him.

One arrived with the subject line “Oh Great One!!” Another woman wondered: “How does it feel to be not only a child of God’s, but to actually feel His Hand guiding you and using you as an instrument to do His work on earth?” A husband and wife wrote to him from near Philadelphia: “I wish we lived in Florida and could support you directly—maybe you’ll run for President one day??”

***

“Yes,” said President George W. Bush, in late October, at a news conference in the Rose Garden, “I believe my brother made the right decision.”

“Terri’s Law” had mandated the appointment of a guardian ad litem, and Jay Wolfson, a respected lawyer and professor of public health at the Stetson University College of Law and the University of South Florida, issued his report in December. Wolfson had spent a month reading the court records, observing Terri Schiavo, meeting with Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers and their attorneys, and also the governor, who struck him as “a very intense, highly committed, very informed, faith-driven person who believed in doing the right thing, and doing so through the governor’s office.”

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Left: A supporter of Terri Schiavo keeps vigil outside the hospice where she was being held in Pinellas Park, Florida. Right: Mary Porta prays for Terri Schiavo in Pinellas Park, Florida. | Getty Images

None of this was “easy stuff,” Wolfson noted in his report, “and should not be.” Nonetheless, he wrote, Terri Schiavo was in “a persistent vegetative state with no likelihood of improvement” and “cannot take oral nutrition or hydration and cannot consciously interact with her environment.” He wrote that the practically unprecedented amount of litigation consisted of “competent, well-documented information” and was “firmly grounded within Florida statutory and case law.”

In parts, too, Wolfson was prescient: “The Governor’s involvement has added a new and unexpected dimension to the litigation. It is reasonable to expect that the exquisite lawyering will continue, and the greatly enhanced public visibility of the case may increase the probability of more litigation, more parties entering as interveners, and efforts to expand the case into federal jurisdiction.”

Soon after that, the pope weighed in.

Without using the name Terri Schiavo, but clearly referring to her, John Paul II said “the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory …”

Back in Florida, though, the courts were focused not so much on what was “morally obligatory” but more on what was legally mandatory.

A circuit judge ruled Bush’s “Terri’s Law” unconstitutional.

“The court must assume that this extraordinary legislation was enacted with the best intentions and prompted by sincere motives,” W. Douglas Baird wrote in his ruling. He then quoted Daniel Webster, a lawyer and senator, who died in 1852: “It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

The Schindlers’ attorneys appealed. The Florida Supreme Court was up next.

Bob Destro, an attorney and professor at the law school at the Catholic University of America in Washington, joined Bush’s legal team and emerged from meetings with the governor thinking “this was something he felt very deeply about … that this was a decision that he made, personally, and that he saw this as a question of an injustice being done.”

The state supreme court judges listened to arguments the last day of August.

After the hearing was over, outside the courthouse in Tallahassee, Michael Schiavo angrily asked reporters about the whereabouts of Bush.

“If this was so important to the governor, where is he?” he said. He then got personal, referring to Bush’s daughter, Noelle, who had been arrested in 2002 after trying to buy Xanax with a forged prescription and then relapsed in rehab. “I can remember you sitting here in front of every one of these reporters with tears in your eyes when your daughter had problems,” he raged, “and you asked for privacy and you got it. Why aren’t you giving me my privacy and Terri her privacy?”

The seven state supreme court judges took less than a month to dismiss unanimously “Terri’s Law.”

“If the Legislature with the assent of the Governor can do what was attempted here,” chief justice Barbara Pariente wrote in her ruling, “the judicial branch would be subordinated to the final directive of the other branches. Also subordinated would be the rights of individuals, including the well-established privacy right to self-determination. No court judgment could ever be considered truly final and no constitutional right truly secure, because the precedent of this case would hold to the contrary. Vested rights could be stripped away based on popular clamor. The essential core of what the Founding Fathers sought to change from their experience with English rule would be lost …”

Bush told reporters he was “disappointed, not for any political reasons, but for the moral reasons.” He said he didn’t think it had been “a full hearing.” Legal analysts disagreed. They called the ruling a categorical rebuke of what Bush had done.

The governor responded by petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.

The words at the top of the docket of the country’s highest court were black-and-white blunt about what this had become: JEB BUSH, Governor of the State of Florida, v. MICHAEL SCHIAVO, Guardian: Theresa Schiavo.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review it.

“It means that the governor’s interference in this case has ended,” said Felos, Michael Schiavo’s attorney.

“This matter is now at an end for the governor,” said Ken Connor, another one of Bush’s attorneys.

It did not. It was not.

That week, Connor, the Bush attorney, sent an email to two of Bush’s staff attorneys. “Here is an op-ed I drafted for Dan Webster,” Connor wrote. Connor was active in social conservative causes and organizations. Webster was a Florida state senator, and this Dan Webster, not the lawyer and senator from the 1800s, had beliefs that couldn’t have been more different than those of his namesake.

The op-ed Connor had written ran under Webster’s name on Page 10A of USA Today on January 27, 2005. “By any definition, Terri Schiavo is alive,” the op-ed said. “She has now been issued a death sentence by the courts.” Serial killers, like Ted Bundy, it said, had more rights on death row than Terri Schiavo did at her hospice.

Connor talked on the phone with Dave Weldon, a Republican Congressman from Florida who also was a doctor. Weldon says Connor called him; Connor says it was the other way around—either way, it led to Weldon meeting with the Schindlers in Washington.

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At left, Bobby Schindler attends a special session in Congress to express his sentiments before a right-to-die debate among senators and representatives. At right, activists pray in front of the U.S. Supreme Court for Terri Schiavo on March 24, 2005. | Getty Images

“They showed me some videos of them walking into her room and calling her name and her face lit up and she smiled,” Weldon, no longer in Congress, said this month. “They said, ‘She does that all the time, she’s not a vegetable,’ and they said a bunch of stuff about the husband and were very critical of him, that he had a new girlfriend or something like that. And I felt very compelled.” That, he said, is when he “got Mel Martinez involved.”

Martinez, then a Republican from Florida in the U.S. Senate, talked with Bush. “He’s been saying, ‘I’m not sure we can get it done here in Florida,’” Martinez told the Palm Beach Post. Martinez told Bush he and Bill Frist, at the time the Senate majority leader, were ready to do what they could in Washington but that it wouldn’t be easy.

On March 14, a woman from Clearwater named Pamela Hennessy, who had helped stoke the email onslaught that spurred “Terri’s Law,” emailed Bush, too. She attached a letter she had addressed to the hospice saying she intended to “file formal complaints” to the state Department of Children and Families. The hope was that the agency charged with protecting mainly kids and the elderly might intervene in this case.

Bush wrote back: “thank you Pamela.”

On March 18, in Pinellas Park, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed again.

***

“If she dies, I will kill Michael Schiavo and the judge,” a woman in California wrote on an AOL message board. “This is real!” She was arrested.

On a different message board, at blogsforterri.com, an anonymous poster called The Coming Conflict declared, “FL gun owners, it’s in your hands.”

Michael Schiavo and the mother of his two kids got letters addressed to their “Illegitimate Bastard Children” talking about how sometimes kids disappear.

Up in Washington, Congress debated the case of Terri Schiavo, searching for possible methods of federal intervention—with Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, both of whom now say they don’t want to talk about it, vowing to work together through the weekend of Palm Sunday if necessary. A memo that came from Martinez’s office called it “a great political issue” for Republicans. Frist, a surgeon from Tennessee, said on the Senate floor that Schiavo didn’t seem to him to be in a vegetative state, based on his viewing of the Schindlers’ video snippets. Senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania called the removal of the feeding tube “a sentence that would not be placed on the worst criminal.” Majority Leader Tom DeLay led the way in the House. Santorum and Frist did in the Senate. Few members of Congress spoke against it. South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was one. “There is no room for the federal government in this most personal of private angst-ridden family members,” she said. Republican John Warner from Virginia was the only senator to speak against it. Hillary Clinton from New York didn’t. Neither did Barack Obama from Illinois. A bill emerged from the Senate after midnight on March 21 that would let the Schindlers ask the federal courts to take another look at the decision made by the state courts.

President Bush flew on Air Force One from vacation in Crawford, Texas, back to Washington to sign it into law just after 1 in the morning.

“Our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life,” he said in a statement.

His brother issued a statement of his own: “I thank the Congress for its swift action allowing Terri’s parents to seek a federal review of the case.” He echoed the op-ed that had run in USA Today. “Certainly, an incapacitated person deserves at least the same protection afforded criminals sentenced to death.”

Michael Schiavo called the federal legislation “outrageous.” If politicians are allowed to meddle with him like this, he said, “they’ll do it to every person in this country.”

A federal judge in Tampa heard attorneys’ arguments for the justification of the relitigation of a case that had been up and down the judicial ladder for the better part of a decade. He said no. The federal legislation had failed. The feeding tube stayed out, and Terri Schiavo neared death.

Bush’s last-ditch effort involved the Department of Children and Families. Attorneys for the state agency made motions to intervene based on thousands of anonymous allegations of abuse against Terri Schiavo. Bush ordered the mobilization of officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement—in essence his own police force—and they readied to seize Terri Schiavo if a court order allowed it. “I requested that FDLE in concert with the Department of Children and Families be prepared to enter,” Bush told reporters, “if that was going to be the option available to us”—which it wasn’t, because judges said no. “We were ready to go,” a Bush spokesman told the Miami Herald. “We didn’t want to break the law.”

“I cannot violate a court order,” Bush told CNN on March 27.

People in his email inbox continued to plead with him to do exactly that.

“I do not have the authority that you suggest I have,” Bush responded to one of them. “Under your thesis of executive authority, should I shut down abortion clinics since I abhor abortion?”

On March 30, meanwhile, Bush called a woman in Tampa named Dawn Armstrong, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Robert Armstrong, had died of a heart attack two days before in Camp Shelby, Mississippi, while readying for deployment to Afghanistan. She emailed him later that night, thanking him for “the time you took out of your busy day to express your sorrow for the loss of my husband.”

On March 31, at 6:29 a.m., Bush responded. “Bless you Dawn,” he wrote. “Please let me know if I can be of assistance to you.”

Two and a half hours later, across the bay from Tampa, at the hospice in Pinellas Park, Terri Schiavo died.

Shortly after 12:30, Bush got another email from Dawn Armstrong. “I will be deriving strength from many sources—one source of strength is from you, Governor,” she wrote. “We have witnessed your steadfastness in the face of many challenges for a very long time now …” She continued: “May God grant us all the peace we so long for, in His perfect timing. Take care. I’ll be praying for you and your administration.”

Later that night, just before 9, Bush wrote back.

you are making me cry. Maybe it is the day with Terri’s death. I don’t know but the fact that you would write what you did given your loss, makes me thank God Almighty that there are people like yourself. I am nothing.

Let me know how I can ever be of help to you and your family.

Jeb

***

Terri Schiavo’s death did not spell the end of the governor’s intervention in her case.

One email suggested the firing of Greer.

“I will look into this,” the governor responded.

In an email to one of his staff attorneys, less than 48 hours after the death, Bush asked about her autopsy. “We need to get the details of the autopsy,” he wrote, “meaning what was done if possible.”

The staff attorney responded: “I got an update this morning from FDLE. Six board certified examiners participated. They were attuned to the issues involved. Are working on their reports.” She added: “Santorum’s office called me yesterday …”

In early May, Bush gave a speech in Savannah, Georgia, at the state’s Republican convention, in which he stressed that the party had to be uncompromising in what he saw as “a time of moral ambivalence.”

“There is such a thing as right and wrong,” he said. “Republicans cannot continue to win unless we talk with compassion and passion about absolute truth.”

Saxby Chambliss, then a senator from Georgia, followed by telling the crowd he wanted this Bush to be the next Bush in the White House. He asked the people what they thought. They hollered their approval.

In June, the medical examiner released Terri Schiavo’s autopsy, which confirmed what the judges had ruled for years based on the testimony from doctors concerning her prognosis. Her limbs had atrophied, and her hands had clenched into claws, and her brain had started to disappear. It weighed barely more than a pound and a third, less than half the size it would have been under normal circumstances. “No remaining discernible neurons,” the autopsy said. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t feel, not even pain. Forty-one years after her birth, 15 years after her collapse, Terri Schiavo was literally a shell of who she had been.

Bush read the autopsy—then wrote a letter to the top prosecutor in Pinellas County. He raised questions about Michael Schiavo’s involvement in her collapse and about the quickness of his response calling 911. “I urge you,” the governor wrote to Bernie McCabe, “to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome.”

McCabe, a Republican, responded less than two weeks later, saying he and his staff “have attempted to follow this sound advice”—without any preconceptions—“unlike some pundits, some ‘experts,’ some email and Web-based correspondents, and even some institutions of government that have, in my view, reached conclusions regarding the controversy …” McCabe’s assessment: “all available records” were “not indicative of criminal activity.”

Bush relented. “I will follow your recommendation,” he wrote to McCabe, “that the inquiry by the state be closed.”

Michael Schiavo buried the ashes of his wife in a cemetery not far from his house.

***

Today, looking back, what makes Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, angriest about the case is Bush’s letter to McCabe. Even after 18 months of legal wrangling, even after her death, even after the autopsy—after all that—the governor asked a prosecutor to initiate a retroactive criminal investigation of his client. It struck Felos as “odd,” “bizarre”—“personal.”

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Michael Schiavo at home. “He should be ashamed,” Schiavo said of Jeb Bush. “To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.” | Maggie Steber/Redux for POLITICO Magazine

“It was such an abuse of authority,” Felos said. “I think that really raises red flags about his character and his fitness to be president. Jeb didn’t get his way in the Schiavo case. I think he tried to take it out on Michael.”

That, Michael Schiavo said this month, is what makes Jeb Bush “vindictive.” “Knowing that he had no standing in this, he made it worse for everybody,” he said. “He made life, for a lot of people—the nursing home people, the local police, lawyers—he made everybody miserable.”

What makes him “untrustworthy,” he said, is that he fought the courts as long as he did just because he didn’t like the decisions they kept making. “I wouldn’t trust him in any type of political office,” he said.

But for the now former governor of Florida, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates — what makes him a “coward,” Michael Schiavo said, sitting on his brick back patio, is that they’ve still never talked.

Bush has never said he’s sorry. He wasn’t. What he was sorry about is how it turned out. “I wish I could have done more,” he told reporters the day of the death.

Other politicians have said they’re sorry, though, Michael Schiavo said. “I’ve had politicians come to my home and apologize to me for what they did to me.” Names? “No names.” But he mentioned Barack Obama and something he said during a debate in Cleveland with Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primaries in early 2008. The question was about what he’d like to have back.

“Well, you know, when I first arrived in the Senate that first year,” Obama said, “we had a situation surrounding Terri Schiavo. And I remember how we adjourned with a unanimous agreement that eventually allowed Congress to interject itself into that decision-making process of the families.

“It wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but it was not something I stood on the floor and stopped. And I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.”

Did Obama apologize to Michael Schiavo? In a call? At his house? “I can’t comment on that,” Schiavo said with a smile.

“But I never heard from Jeb,” he said.

What would Jeb Bush say to Michael Schiavo now? Nothing. He didn’t want to talk about the Schiavo case for this story.

What would Michael Schiavo, though, say to Jeb Bush?

“Bring it on,” he said. “Come visit me. I’m asking you. Almost 10 years later and I still haven’t heard from you.

“Was he afraid to meet with me? To see me? Why? That’s what burns me. You got so much to say—but where are you? You lost against this little ordinary man from Philadelphia. You lost. And then to continue on? Unspeakable.

“Why? Give me an answer. Why? Why? What was Terri Schiavo to you? Why? Tell me why. Why do you think you had the right to be involved? Why would you put me and my family through hell? And what did you gain from that? And after you lost, why did you pursue it? What did you gain from that?”

The emails didn’t stop.

“Please do not run for President of the United States,” a man from Goshen, Connecticut, wrote. “If you cannot protect the life of an innocent woman in Florida, how can I expect you to protect the United States of America as Commander in Chief?”

The governor also heard from people like Rick Warren. “On behalf of everyone who truly understood the issues, thank you for doing all you could for Terri Schiavo,” the evangelical megachurch pastor and author of the bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life wrote to Bush in an email. “It’s a sad ending but you lead the right side with courage and conviction. I’m proud to call you my friend.”

“Thank you so much,” Bush responded. “You have lifted my spirits.”

Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s brother, emailed to say that “in time everyone in my family will understand your situation and that you were doing your best …” “I think he probably did as much as possible within his jurisdiction at the time,” he added this month.

“I found him to be a person of principles, and I hold his actions in the Schiavo case in esteem,” said David Gibbs III, one of the Schindlers’ attorneys. Gibbs said that as “a devout Catholic,” Bush was “very personally bothered” by the case and that the governor felt what he did “was the right thing to do.”

Polls showed majorities of people in Florida and around the country disagreed. They objected to his intervention as well as the ensuing flurry of federal involvement. Some of the most fervent believers in what he had done turned on him because of what he had not. They said he “blinked.” “He failed us miserably with Terri Schiavo,” Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said this month. “If Jeb had acted, Terri Schiavo would be alive today.”

Still, said Connor, the Bush attorney, “I never, ever heard Jeb Bush waver in the midst of the political fallout. He was steadfast.”

That’s what bothers his critics.

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Maggie Steber/Redux for POLITICO Magazine

“He doesn’t accept loss. He doesn’t accept that the answer is no. He couldn’t possibly consider that he may be wrong,” Wasserman Schultz said this month. “If he had the chance to be president, he’ll do what he’s always done—he’ll do everything he can to implement his very rigid, ideological view of how the world should be. Voters are going to have to ask: Do you want a president who thinks the executive, the president, is supreme, above all else? It’s frightening to think about what he could do with that kind of power as president.”

“Trying to write laws that clearly are outside the constitutionality of his state, trying to override the entire judicial system, that’s very, very dangerous,” said Arthur Caplan, a New York University bioethicist who edited a book about the Schiavo case. “When you’re willing to do that, you’re willing to break the back of the country.”

“It was appalling,” said Jon Eisenberg, one of Michael Schiavo’s attorneys and the author of The Right vs. the Right to Die. “And I think it’s important for people to understand what Jeb Bush is willing to do. It’s important for people to know who Jeb Bush is, and the Terri Schiavo case tells us a great deal about who Jeb Bush is.”

The Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done hasn’t been an issue so far in Bush’s pre-campaign because it won’t help his potential opponents in the primaries. They’re trying to paint him as a moderate. This demonstrates the opposite.

“People who agree he’s a conservative point to the Schiavo case,” Florida International University political science professor Dario Moreno said this month.

So most of the talk has touched on his more measured stances on immigration and Common Core. He’s been portrayed as a cerebral policy wonk in contrast to his father, the solicitous writer of thank you notes, and his brother, the clownin’-around worker of rooms. This bloodless depiction, though, ignores the intensity, the vehemence, the practically gladiatorial certitude with which he pursued what he wanted in the Schiavo case, and more generally the fervid way in which he believes in what he believes—that “absolute truth” he talked about in his speech in Savannah, two months after the death of Terri Schiavo, and one month before he asked the prosecutor to investigate her husband.

(Source: POLITICO Magazine)

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Eric Holder, Patron Saint of Killer Cops February 25, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Police.
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Roger’s note: the Uruguayan journalist and historian, Eduardo Galeano, coined the phrase “upsidedown world” to characterize the reverse moral reality that governs our capitalist world.  I find myself constantly outraged by the way in which men (well, almost always men) in high positions gain wealth,  fame, and honor, having committed grievous crimes.  Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney are surely poster boys for this “charity” in our day.  Recently I have posted stories about George Washington, Winston Churchill and General George Patton, men held in high esteem who deserve the opposite.  Today I bring you news about the United States’ first Afro American Attorney General, who is about to retire after an apparently illustrious career in law enforcement.  This is news you will not find in the main stream media.  This is a man who deserves condemnation, not praise, a man who after a life time of work in government retires with a net worth of 11.5 million dollars (I looked it up).

Putting Police Above the Law

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by JAMES BOVARD

Attorney General Eric Holder is collecting buckets of accolades in his final weeks in office. Newspapers are especially praising Holder’s suggestion that the feds begin keeping tabs on shootings by police across the nation. But Holder’s own career shows his devotion to ignoring or covering up law enforcement killings unless a bonanza of profitable publicity awaited him.

As the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from 1993 to 1997, Holder was in charge of policing the local police. When police violence spiraled out of control, he did little or nothing to protect D.C. residents from rampaging lawmen.

The number of killings by D.C. police quadrupled between 1989 and 1995, when 16 civilians died owing to police gunfire. D.C. police shot and killed people at a higher rate than any other major city police department, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post investigation revealed in late 1998. But Holder had no problem with D.C.’s quick-trigger force: “I can’t honestly say I saw anything that was excessive.” He never noticed that the D.C. police department failed to count almost half the people killed by its officers between 1994 and 1997.

Even when police-review boards ruled that shootings were unjustified or found contradictions in officers’ testimony, police were not prosecuted. In one case an officer shot a suspect four times in the back when he was unarmed and lying on the ground. But Holder’s office never bothered interviewing the shooter.

Holder is now being portrayed as a champion of minorities victimized by police but he did not play that role in the 1990s. The Post noted that “none of the police shootings of civilians has occurred in the more affluent areas west of Rock Creek Park.” Because most victims of the police were from the lower-income parts of the city, their plight went largely unnoticed.

Holder is now trumpeting the need for openness, but in the 1990s he acceded to pervasive secrecy on lawmen’s killings. The Post noted, “The extent and pattern of police shootings have been obscured from public view. Police officials investigate incidents in secret, producing reports that become public only when a judge intercedes.”

Shortly after Holder became U.S. attorney, a local judge slammed the D.C. government for its “deliberate indifference” to police-brutality complaints. In 1995 the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which supposedly investigated alleged police abuses, was shut down because it was overwhelmed by a backlog of accusations from aggrieved citizens. Despite the collapse of the system’s safeguards, Holder’s office remained asleep at the switch. Even D.C.’s assistant police chief Terrance Gainer admitted, “We shoot too often, and we shoot too much when we do shoot.”

Some of the most abusive cases involved police shooting unarmed drivers — a practice that is severely discouraged because of the high risk of collateral damage. Holder told the Post, “I do kind of remember more than a few in cars. I don’t know if that’s typical of what you find in police shootings outside D.C.” Actually, D.C. police were more than 20 times as likely to shoot at cars as were New York City police and “more than 50 officers over five years had shot at unarmed drivers in cars,” the Post noted.

When he visited Missouri last August, Holder made a heavily trumpeted visit to the parents of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old killed by a Ferguson policeman. But did Holder ever bother visiting the families of young people unjustifiably slain by the D.C. police? I called the Justice Department press office asking that question but never heard back. Press clips from the 1990s do not include any reports of Holder’s meeting with parents of children unjustifiably slain by the D.C. police.

At 9 a.m. on May 15, 1995, a D.C. policeman pursued a car that he claimed he had seen moving recklessly on Florida Avenue NW. The policeman walked up to the vehicle and shot 16-year-old Kedemah Dorsey in the chest. The car began pulling away, and the policeman hopped alongside and shot the boy again in the back, killing him. Lawyer Doug Sparks, sitting in a nearby car, told the Post, “It was basically at point-blank range. I thought it was some kind of drug shooting.” The policeman claimed that he fired because Dorsey, who was scheduled to start his shift at Burger King later that morning, was trying to run him down. Attorney Michael Morganstern, who sued the District government and collected $150,000 for the family, commented, “It’s somewhat difficult to use the car as a weapon when it is wedged in rush-hour traffic and the officer is standing to the side of it, not in front of it.” A police department investigation concluded that the shooting was unjustified, but Holder’s office refused to file charges against the policeman.

Holder was feckless even when a policeman confessed to lying about killing an unarmed teenager. After Roosevelt Askew killed a 19-year-old motorist during a 1994 traffic stop, he claimed he fired because the driver was trying to run over another policeman. But that story soon collapsed. In early 1995, Askew admitted to Holder’s office that he had lied and then claimed he shot the teenager accidentally. No charges were filed against Askew until a year and a half after his confession. The case lingered on the back burner until after Holder moved on to become deputy attorney general under Janet Reno. The U.S. attorney’s office eventually signed off on a deal that let Askew plead guilty merely to filing a false police report; he received two years probation and a $5,000 fine. Federal judge Harold Greene was appalled at the wrist slap: “This is a bizarre situation. Everybody, including the government and the probation office, suggests that probation is the appropriate remedy. Although I am not entirely satisfied we have the full story, I’m going to go along.”

The Post series sparked an uproar that resulted in the Justice Department Civil Rights Division’s investigating D.C. police shootings from the prior five years. And whom did Attorney General Janet Reno put in charge of that effort? Eric Holder. His office denied that any conflict of interest existed, instead insisting that Holder’s “oversight of the review signifies the importance of this endeavor to the Department of Justice.” But a 1999 Post article observed, “A closer look at the role of Holder and the U.S. attorney’s office shows the difficulty that arises when law enforcement investigates itself.” Holder’s review of D.C. police shootings was careful not to uncover anything that might impede Holder’s political career.

In a speech this past Martin Luther King day, Holder lamented “the troubling reality…that we lack the ability right now to comprehensively track” police shootings across the nation.   But there was a law on the books that Congress enacted in 1994 to require the Attorney General to collect and publish annual data on “the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers.” Holder, like prior attorney generals, ignored the law. And Holder’s Justice Department continues covering up killings by federal agents, including a rash of fatal shootings by Border Patrol agents and the FBI killing of 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev during questioning at his Florida apartment in 2013 regarding the Boston Marathon bombing.

There is no reason to expect Holder’s closing public relations gestures to diminish government agents’ prerogative to kill other Americans. Nor is there any reason to expect the Justice Department to admit that the Bill of Rights prohibits placing the vast majority of police above the law.

James Bovard, a policy advisor to the Future of Freedom Foundation, is the author of Public Policy Hooligan, Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, Terrorism and Tyranny, and other books. More info at www.jimbovard.com; on Twitter @jimbovard

 

28-Year Crime Sprees of a Peacenik and a Colonel February 25, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Peace, War.
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Roger’s note: this story symbolizes for me not only what is wrong with the American judicial system, but what is essentially wrong with the country itself.

Career Opposites

War-amp-Peace
by JOHN LAFORGE

A former Army Brigadier General was busted two ranks and fined $20,000 this year after being charged with sexual assault of an Army Captain — a subordinate he reportedly threatened to kill if she revealed their affair. Jeffrey A. Sinclair’s multiple convictions should have gotten him thrown out of the military, sent to prison and registered as a sexual predator, but the judge in the case, Col. James L. Pohl, allowed him to retire as a Lt. Col. with full benefits and a $105,000 pension. Sinclair, 51, spent 28 years in the Army.

Meanwhile Nukewatch just celebrated the retirement of peace activist Bonnie Urfer, 62, who has stopped answering the Nukewatch phone after co-directing here for 28 years.

Bonnie won’t get a pension from our small, non-profit nuclear watchdog, just her $662.00-per-month Social Security check which amounts to about $8,000 a year (Col. Sinclair will get $8,750 every month). This is no hardship since Bonnie is a master of political economy and downward mobility. She lives rent-free and mortgage-free in a house she helped build with her own hands at the Plowshares Land Trust. She grows her own vegetables and has reduced her expenses to a fraction of what most North Americans mistakenly believe to be bare minimum. Property taxes, groceries, gas, dog food and vet’ bills, insurance, art supplies, sundries and an internet connection are about all she needs to cover.

Bonnie’s conscientiously self-limited income keeps her from supporting the war system which now gets about half of everyone’s federal income taxes. Living under the taxable limit has always been part of her life of resisting militarism in thought, word and deed.

Bonnie’s been focused and committed in her work for nuclear disarmament and has done every sort of action to shine some light on the weapons complex: from interrupting a Gulf War “victory” parade in Madison, and sitting-in at the Oak Ridge, Tenn. H-bomb factory, to shutting down Wisconsin’s former nuclear first-strike ELF antenna with peace activist Michael Sprong (using Swede saws). She’s served a total of over six and a half years in jail and prison for taking part in about 100 civil resistance actions. In addition to her Nukewatch work, she’s spent five decades using her art and direct action in defense of women’s rights and gender equality, and against any sort of bullying, sexual harassment or abuse. With Jane Simons she helped found the Women’s Jail Project in Madison, Wis.

Compare her record to that of Sinclair, which the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, condemned as displaying “a pattern of … illegal behavior both while serving as a brigadier general and a colonel.” Sinclair was initially charged with forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, wrongful personal relationships with subordinates, misuse of gov’t charge cards (he arranged trysts with it), maltreatment of subordinates and conduct unbecoming an officer. The L.A. Times reported that the Army Captain who was his mistress accused Sinclair of threatening to kill her and her parents if she divulged their affair and of groping and fondling her against her will in public. The charges of sexual violence and assault carried a possible life sentence and registration as a sex offender.

But Sinclair’s more serious charges were dismissed. He pleaded guilty to “maltreatment,” adultery, soliciting explicit pictures from female officers, using derogatory and demeaning language toward female officers, impeding an investigation, disobeying an Order to stay away from the Captain, and Army travel card theft. Jamie Bartlett, a lawyer for the Captain, called the sentence “a travesty” and said, “Now the Army has to face the reality that this is likely to happen again, and victims will be less likely to come forward.”

In contrast, Bonnie wears her peace activism and years of incarceration almost anonymously as something of a badge of honor as she embarks on new adventures — although her “record” will keep her from landing conventional jobs for some pocket money. Conversely, Sinclair’s solid gold plea bargain and military record of warrior heroics and ambitious rank-climbing guarantee him a fat pension and decades in which to pursue a second income-doubling career — probably with weapons contractors.

Sinclair’s lawyer said after sentencing, “He is a highly decorated war hero who made great sacrifices for his country, and it’s right that he be permitted to retire honorably.” Now, thanks to the Army Captain who leveled the charges, Sinclair will be remembered mostly as a violent, abusive sexual predator.
Bonnie on the other hand, with decades of simple, sustainable living and 35 years of nonviolent resistance to sexism, militarism and nuclear madness, is simultaneously a humble (if impish) laughing Buddha and a luminous living example of how a person can enjoy life harmlessly, thrive while living below a taxable income and still shame the devil every day.

John LaForge works for Nukewatch and lives on the Plowshares Land Trust near Luck, Wisc.

 

Dianne Feinstein, Strong Advocate of Leak Prosecutions, Demands Immunity For David Petraeus January 13, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Whistle-blowing.
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Roger’s note: Just one of many examples of the double standard when it comes to American (sic) justice.

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By Glenn Greenwald , The Intercept, January 11, 2014

 

Dianne Feinstein, Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2010 (“Prosecute Assange Under the Espionage Act”):

When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released his latest document trove—more than 250,000 secret State Department cables—he intentionally harmed the U.S. government. The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.

The law Mr. Assange continues to violate is the Espionage Act of 1917. That law makes it a felony for an unauthorized person to possess or transmit “information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”

The Espionage Act also makes it a felony to fail to return such materials to the U.S. government. Importantly, the courts have held that “information relating to the national defense” applies to both classified and unclassified material. Each violation is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The Hill, June 10, 2013 (“Feinstein Calls Snowden’s NSA Leaks an “Act of Treason”):

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Monday said the 29-year-old man who leaked information about two national security programs is guilty of treason. . . . “I don’t look at this as being a whistleblower. I think it’s an act of treason,” the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee told reporters.

The California lawmaker went on to say that Snowden had violated his oath to defend the Constitution. “He violated the oath, he violated the law. It’s treason.”

Ars Technica, November 3, 2013 (Feinstain says “Forget About Clemency for Snowden”):

If it wasn’t already clear that the US government was unhappy with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden—and the feds want him extradited, President Obama denounced him—it is now. Today, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and her House counterpart, Mike Rogers (R-MI), both emphasized there would be no mercy coming from Washington.

“He was trusted; he stripped our system; he had an opportunity—if what he was, was a whistle-blower—to pick up the phone and call the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and say I have some information,” Feinstein told CBS’ Face The Nation. “But that didn’t happen. He’s done this enormous disservice to our country, and I think the answer is no clemency.”

The New York Times, 3 days ago (“FBI and Justice Dept. Said to Seek Charges for Petraeus”):

The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors have recommended bringing felony charges against David H. Petraeus, contending that he provided classified information to a lover while he was director of the C.I.A., officials said, and leaving Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to decide whether to seek an indictment that could send the pre-eminent military officer of his generation to prison.

The Huffington Post, yesterday (“Dianne Feinstein Urges Government Not To Seek David Petraeus Indictment”):

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) urged the Department of Justice not to bring criminal charges against former CIA Director David Petraeus over his handling of classified information.

This man has suffered enough in my view,” Feinstein said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, explaining why she doesn’t think Attorney General Eric Holder should seek an indictment.

Petraeus “made a mistake,” added the senator, who is vice chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “But … it’s done, it’s over. He’s retired. He’s lost his job. How much does the government want?”

David Petraeus, the person who Feinstein said has “suffered enough,” was hired last year by the $73 billion investment fund KKR to be Chairman of its newly created KKR Global Institute, on top of the $220,000/year pension he receives from the U.S. Army and the teaching position he holds at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Let us all pause for a moment to lament the deep suffering of this man, and the grave injustice of inflicting any further deprivation upon him.

In 2011, I wrote a book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, that examined the two-tiered justice system prevailing in the U.S.: how the U.S. imprisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world (both in absolute numbers and proportionally) often for trivial transgressions, while immunizing its political and economic elites for even the most egregious crimes. Matt Taibbi’s book, The Divide, examines the same dynamic with a focus on the protection of economic elites and legal repression of ordinary citizens in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

This latest example from Feinstein is one of the most vivid yet. She wanted Julian Assange – who isn’t even a U.S. citizen and never served in the U.S. Government – prosecuted for espionage for exposing war crimes, and demanded that Edward Snowden be charged with “treason” for exposing illegal eavesdropping which shocked the world. But a four-star general who leaked classified information not for any noble purpose but to his mistress for personal reasons should be protected from any legal consequences.

Long-standing mavens of DC political power literally believe that they and their class-comrades are too noble, important and elevated to be subjected to the rule of law to which they subject everyone else. They barely even disguise it any more. It’s the dynamic by which the Obama administration prosecuted leakers with unprecedented aggression who disclose information that embarrasses them politically while ignoring or even sanctioning the leaks of classified information which politically glorify them.

It is, of course, inconceivable that someone like Dianne Feinstein would urge the release of ordinary convicts from prison on the ground that their actions are “in the past” or that they have “suffered enough.” This generous mentality of mercy, forgiveness and understanding – like Obama’s decree that we Look Forward, Not Backward to justify immunity for American torturers – is reserved only for political officials, Generals, telecoms, banks and oligarchs who reside above and beyond the rule of law.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Prison State of America December 30, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Labor.
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Roger’s note: Some twenty odd years ago I traveled to Munich, Germany and took the opportunity to visit, with my daughter and infant granddaughter, the Dachau Concentration Camp.  We took a short train ride from Munich to the small quaint Bavarian town of Dachau, and a walk from the town took us to the Camp, which has been turned into a museum, with most of its original facilities intact.  It is impossible not to ask the question: how could the people of Dachau not known of the systematic murder that was going on a stone’s throw from their village?  I have read that when the Allied forces liberated Dachau, they took the townspeople to the Camp to show them what was going on almost literally under their eyes.  Some responded that they had noticed a strange burning odor, but had no idea what it was (!).

Of course, this was true not only of Dachau, but also of dozens of other German and Polish towns around which were located the various death factories and slave labor factories.

I don’t think it is far fetched to ask the same kinds of questions about what Americans know with respect to the myriad atrocities that are being committed by their government, with their tax dollars, and in their name.  The truth abut the barbaric torture of recent years is finally seeping out to the mainstream, not that the current government under Barack Obama is going to do anything about it.  As well, it may not be generally known, but the fact of the thousands of civilians killed by drone missiles in several Islamic countries is well documented in various mostly alternative news sources, largely on the Internet and available to anyone who cares to investigate.

This brings me to the question of the Prison Industrial Complex as reported in the article below.  The author doesn’t go deeply into the torturous brutality of systematic solitary confinement, rather he concentrates on the increasingly abusive reality of prisoner slave labor in the context of our voracious and inhuman capitalist economy.  If you are like me, you will ache with sorrow and indignant anger when you read the details.

And I wonder if some day, when the sorry state of American neo-Fascism is finally brought to account, will we be asking the question of what the American people knew of their government’s various atrocities; and probing further to uncover those in the corporate, media and government spheres, who were criminally responsible for obfuscating the ugly truth.

Dec 28, 2014

By Chris Hedges

Prisons employ and exploit the ideal worker. Prisoners do not receive benefits or pensions. They are not paid overtime. They are forbidden to organize and strike. They must show up on time. They are not paid for sick days or granted vacations. They cannot formally complain about working conditions or safety hazards. If they are disobedient, or attempt to protest their pitiful wages, they lose their jobs and can be sent to isolation cells. The roughly 1 million prisoners who work for corporations and government industries in the American prison system are models for what the corporate state expects us all to become. And corporations have no intention of permitting prison reforms that would reduce the size of their bonded workforce. In fact, they are seeking to replicate these conditions throughout the society.

States, in the name of austerity, have stopped providing prisoners with essential items including shoes, extra blankets and even toilet paper, while starting to charge them for electricity and room and board. Most prisoners and the families that struggle to support them are chronically short of money. Prisons are company towns. Scrip, rather than money, was once paid to coal miners, and it could be used only at the company store. Prisoners are in a similar condition. When they go broke—and being broke is a frequent occurrence in prison—prisoners must take out prison loans to pay for medications, legal and medical fees and basic commissary items such as soap and deodorant. Debt peonage inside prison is as prevalent as it is outside prison.

States impose an array of fees on prisoners. For example, there is a 10 percent charge imposed by New Jersey on every commissary purchase. Stamps have a 10 percent surcharge. Prisoners must pay the state for a 15-minute deathbed visit to an immediate family member or a 15-minute visit to a funeral home to view the deceased. New Jersey, like most other states, forces a prisoner to reimburse the system for overtime wages paid to the two guards who accompany him or her, plus mileage cost. The charge can be as high as $945.04. It can take years to pay off a visit with a dying father or mother.

Fines, often in the thousands of dollars, are assessed against many prisoners when they are sentenced. There are 22 fines that can be imposed in New Jersey, including the Violent Crime Compensation Assessment (VCCB), the Law Enforcement Officers Training & Equipment Fund (LEOT) and Extradition Costs (EXTRA). The state takes a percentage each month out of prison pay to pay down the fines, a process that can take decades. If a prisoner who is fined $10,000 at sentencing must rely solely on a prison salary he or she will owe about $4,000 after making payments for 25 years. Prisoners can leave prison in debt to the state. And if they cannot continue to make regular payments—difficult because of high unemployment—they are sent back to prison. High recidivism is part of the design.

Corporations have privatized most of the prison functions once handled by governments. They run prison commissaries and, since the prisoners have nowhere else to shop, often jack up prices by as much as 100 percent. Corporations have taken over the phone systems and charge exorbitant fees to prisoners and their families. They grossly overcharge for money transfers from families to prisoners. And these corporations, some of the nation’s largest, pay little more than a dollar a day to prison laborers who work in for-profit prison industries. Food and merchandise vendors, construction companies, laundry services, uniforms companies, prison equipment vendors, cafeteria services, manufacturers of pepper spray, body armor and the array of medieval instruments used for the physical control of prisoners, and a host of other contractors feed like jackals off prisons. Prisons, in America, are a hugely profitable business.Our prison-industrial complex, which holds 2.3 million prisoners, or 25 percent of the world’s prison population, makes money by keeping prisons full. It demands bodies, regardless of color, gender or ethnicity. As the system drains the pool of black bodies, it has begun to incarcerate others. Women—the fastest-growing segment of the prison population—are swelling prisons, as are poor whites in general, Hispanics and immigrants. Prisons are no longer a black-white issue. Prisons are a grotesque manifestation of corporate capitalism. Slavery is legal in prisons under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States. …” And the massive U.S. prison industry functions like the forced labor camps that have existed in all totalitarian states.

Corporate investors, who have poured billions into the business of mass incarceration, expect long-term returns. And they will get them. It is their lobbyists who write the draconian laws that demand absurdly long sentences, deny paroles, determine immigrant detention laws and impose minimum-sentence and three-strikes-out laws (mandating life sentences after three felony convictions). The politicians and the courts, subservient to corporate power, can be counted on to protect corporate interests.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest owner of for-profit prisons and immigration detention facilities in the country, had revenues of $1.7 billion in 2013 and profits of $300 million. CCA holds an average of 81,384 inmates in its facilities on any one day. Aramark Holdings Corp., a Philadelphia-based company that contracts through Aramark Correctional Services to provide food to 600 correctional institutions across the United States, was acquired in 2007 for $8.3 billion by investors that included Goldman Sachs.

The three top for-profit prison corporations spent an estimated $45 million over a recent 10-year period for lobbying that is keeping the prison business flush. The resource center In the Public Interest documented in its report “Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations” that private prison companies often sign state contracts that guarantee prison occupancy rates of 90 percent. If states fail to meet the quota they have to pay the corporations for the empty beds.

CCA in 2011 gave $710,300 in political contributions to candidates for federal or state office, political parties and so-called 527 groups (PACs and super PACs), the American Civil Liberties Union reported. The corporation also spent $1.07 million lobbying federal officials plus undisclosed sums to lobby state officials, according to the ACLU. CCA, through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), also lobbies legislators to impose harsher detention laws at the state and federal levels. The ALEC helped draft Arizona’s cruel anti-immigrant law SB 1070.

The United States, from 1970 to 2005, increased its prison population by about 700 percent, according to statistics gathered by the ACLU. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the ACLU report notes, says for-profit companies presently control about 18 percent of federal prisoners and 6.7 percent of all state prisoners. Private prisons account for nearly all newly built prisons. And nearly half of all immigrants detained by the federal government are shipped to for-profit prisons, according to Detention Watch Network.

But corporate profit is not limited to building and administering prisons. Whole industries now rely almost exclusively on prison labor. Federal prisoners, who are among the highest paid in the U.S. system, making as much as $1.25 an hour, produce the military’s helmets, uniforms, pants, shirts, ammunition belts, ID tags and tents. Prisoners work, often through subcontractors, for major corporations such as Chevron, Bank of America, IBM, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Starbucks, Nintendo, Victoria’s Secret, J.C. Penney, Sears, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Eddie Bauer, Wendy’s, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Fruit of the Loom, Motorola, Caterpillar, Sara Lee, Quaker Oats, Mary Kay, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, Dell, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin and Target. Prisoners in some states run dairy farms, staff call centers, take hotel reservations or work in slaughterhouses. And prisoners are used to carry out public services such as collecting highway trash in states such as Ohio.

States, with shrinking budgets, share in the corporate exploitation. They get kickbacks of as much as 40 percent from corporations that prey on prisoners. This kickback money is often supposed to go into “inmate welfare funds,” but prisoners say they rarely see any purchases made by the funds to improve life inside prison.

The wages paid to prisoners for labor inside prisons have remained stagnant and in real terms have declined over the past three decades. In New Jersey a prisoner made $1.20 for eight hours of work—yes, eight hours of work—in 1980 and today makes $1.30 for a day’s labor. Prisoners earn, on average, $28 a month. Those incarcerated in for-profit prisons earn as little as 17 cents an hour.

However, items for sale in prison commissaries have risen in price over the past two decades by as much as 100 percent. And new rules in some prisons, including those in New Jersey, prohibit families to send packages to prisoners, forcing prisoners to rely exclusively on prison vendors. This is as much a psychological blow as a material one; it leaves families feeling powerless to help loved ones trapped in the system.

A bar of Dove soap in 1996 cost New Jersey prisoners 97 cents. Today it costs $1.95, an increase of 101 percent. A tube of Crest toothpaste cost $2.35 in 1996 and today costs $3.49, an increase of 48 percent. AA batteries have risen by 184 percent, and a stick of deodorant has risen by 95 percent. The only two items I found that remained the same in price from 1996 were frosted flake cereal and cups of noodles, but these items in prisons have been switched from recognizable brand names to generic products. The white Reebok shoes that most prisoners wear, shoes that lasts about six months, costs about $45 a pair. Those who cannot afford the Reebok brand must buy, for $20, shoddy shoes with soles that shred easily. In addition, prisoners are charged for visits to the infirmary and the dentist and for medications.

Keefe Supply Co., which runs commissaries for an estimated half a million prisoners in states including Florida and Maryland, is notorious for price gouging. It sells a single No. 10 white envelope for 15 cents—$15 per 100 envelopes. The typical retail cost outside prison for a box of 100 of these envelopes is $7. The company marks up a 3-ounce packet of noodle soup, one of the most popular commissary items, to 45 cents from 26 cents.

Global Tel Link, a private phone company, jacks up phone rates in New Jersey to 15 cents a minute, although some states, such as New York, have relieved the economic load on families by reducing the charge to 4 cents a minute. The Federal Communications Commission has determined that a fair rate for a 15-minute interstate call by a prisoner is $1.80 for debit and $2.10 for collect. The high phone rates imposed on prisoners, who do not have a choice of carriers and must call either collect or by using debit accounts that hold prepaid deposits made by them or their families, are especially damaging to the 2 million children with a parent behind bars. The phone is a lifeline for the children of the incarcerated.

Monopolistic telephone contracts give to the states kickbacks amounting, on average, to 42 percent of gross revenues from prisoner phone calls, according to Prison Legal News. The companies with exclusive prison phone contracts not only charge higher phone rates but add to the phone charges the cost of the kickbacks, called “commissions” by state agencies, according to research conducted in 2011 by John E. Dannenberg for Prison Legal News. Dannenberg found that the phone market in state prison systems generates an estimated $362 million annually in gross revenues for the states and costs prisoners’ families, who put money into phone accounts, some $143 million a year.

When strong family ties are retained, there are lower rates of recidivism and fewer parole violations. But that is not what the corporate architects of prisons want: High recidivism, now at over 60 percent, keeps the cages full. This is one reason, I suspect, why prisons make visitations humiliating and difficult. It is not uncommon for prisoners to tell their families—especially those that include small children traumatized by the security screening, long waits, body searches, clanging metal doors and verbal abuse by guards—not to visit. Prisoners with life sentences frequently urge loved ones to sever all ties with them and consider them as dead.

The rise of what Marie Gottschalk, the author of “Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics,” calls “the carceral state” is ominous. It will not be reformed through elections or by appealing to political elites or the courts. Prisons are not, finally, about race, although poor people of color suffer the most. They are not even about being poor. They are prototypes for the future. They are emblematic of the disempowerment and exploitation that corporations seek to inflict on all workers. If corporate power continues to disembowel the country, if it is not impeded by mass protests and revolt, life outside prison will soon resemble life in prison.

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was part of the team of (more…)

‘Gagged’ by the Government December 26, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Surveillance State.
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Roger’s note: Here is a phrase I find myself using with increasing frequency: “this is truly frightening.”  Do you know what a National Security Letter is?  Do you think that one in a hundred thousand Americans has any idea what a National Security Letter is, or that the notion even exists?  It is a lock-you-up-and-throw-away-the-key kind of thing, the kind of thing Kafka and Orwell tried to warn us about.  The government orders you to provide certain information.  You will go to jail if you refuse to  provide it.  You are not allowed to tell anyone that you have been so ordered.  You are not allowed to tell anyone that you have been ordered not to tell anyone.  If you do, you will be financially ruined and thrown into jail.  No appeal.  No recourse.  Add this to the loss of habeas corpus, indefinite detention, state sponsored and sanctioned systematic torture programs, and presidential kill lists.  Does “truly frightening” really do the trick here anymore?

 

th

A Police State Story

by ALFREDO LOPEZ

For the past three months, I and other leaders of the organization May First/People Link have been under a federal subpoena to provide information we don’t have. During that time, we have also been forbidden by a federal court “gag order” to tell anyone about that subpoena, although we had already announced it and commented on it before the order was sent. Finally, we were forbidden from telling anyone about the gag order itself.

It all sounds comical but any laughter would end if we violated that “gag order,” because that would be a felony and we could face prison sentences and huge fines.

We were silenced by our own government in a case we had nothing to do with and over information we didn’t have…and we couldn’t tell anyone about any of it.

Alfredo Lopez writes about technology issues for This Can’t Be Happening!

 

Take Action: Share Fahd’s Story December 11, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Torture, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: On the very day of his inauguration in 2009, Obama promised to shut down the Guantánamo Gulag.  Since then he has murdered thousands with his drone missiles, including United States citizens, bombed several Muslim countries, including Libya, Iraq and Pakistan, escalated the invasion in Afghanistan, returned to warfare in Iraq, allowed windfall payouts to corrupt financial institutions, kept his head in the sand about torture in Bagram and torturous forced feeding in Guantánamo, passed a health reform plan that is a windfall to private HMOs and other insurance companies, gone after whistle blowers with a vengeance, developed the doctrine of indefinite detention, deported more undocumented immigrants than all the presidents before him combined, etc. etc. etc.  But over a hundred remain in the rotting confines of  Guantánamo. He claims he lacks the power to close it.

This is known as “hope you can believe in.”

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After months of planning, filming, and production, we are excited to launch our short documentary “Waiting for Fahd: One Family’s Hope for Life Beyond Guantánamo,” which tells the story of CCR client Fahd Ghazy. Last night, we debuted the film at an event in New York City and people were moved to tears. Now we turn to you: please help us SHARE FAHD’s STORY.

Fahd has been illegally detained at Guantánamo since he was 17. He is now 30 years old. Through moving interviews with his family in Yemen, the film paints a vivid portrait of the life that awaits a man who, despite being twice cleared for release, continues to needlessly languish at Guantánamo because of his nationality. A heartbreaking tale of a dream deferred, “Waiting for Fahd” is also a story about the durability of hope.

Over Thanksgiving, I met with Fahd in Guantánamo. He was moved to know that so many of you will now know more about his plight. On his behalf, I ask you to help us tell Fahd’s remarkable story! Please share the film through e-mail, Facebook and Twitter (hashtag #FreeFahd). Stand in solidarity with Fahd by taking a photograph of yourself holding a #FreeFahd sign and uploading it to our Tumblr page.

Raising public awareness around Fahd’s story and the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo is critical to moving decision-makers in the Obama Administration to release Fahd and the scores of other men now approaching their thirteenth year without charge or trial at Guantánamo, including CCR clients Ghaleb Al-Bihani, Tariq Ba Odah, and Mohammed Al-Hamiri.

I asked Fahd what he would say to someone who had seen his film. “Now that you have heard my story and seen my dreams, you cannot turn away… Be a voice for the voiceless – for another human being who is suffering,” he answered.

Be that voice. SHARE FAHD’s STORY. Help us share this film and send a clear message to those who have power over his fate that now is the time to free him so that he can be reunited with his family. Together we can work towards ending indefinite detention at Guantánamo once and for all.

Thank you for your support,

Omar Farah

© Center for Constitutional Rights

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(212) 614-6464

Louisiana AG ‘committed’ to keeping Angola 3 member Albert Woodfox imprisoned despite court ruling November 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Racism, Torture.
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Roger’s note: Albert Woodfox, unfairly tried and convicted, has served nearly all of his 42 imprisoned years in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day, seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year in a closet sized cell with no windows and a bare minimum of human contact.  During this time he has been subjected to multiple daily strip and cavity searches.  What this amounts to is state vengeance for his Black Panther political organization and human rights activities.  Multiply this by the thousands of American prisoners suffering the TORTURE of solitary confinement, and we see that we give the ISIS/ISIl and our allied Saudis a run for the money when it comes to outright barbarism.

 

Emily Lane, NOLA.com | The Times-PicayuneBy Emily Lane, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Email the author | Follow on Twitter, November 22, 2014 at 11:33 AM, updated November 23, 2014 at 3:27 PM

 

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After four decades in solitary confinement in Louisiana prisons for a murder he and his supporters maintain he did not commit, Angola 3 member Albert Woodfox got news this week his release might soon be possible. A federal appeals court issued a ruling Thursday (Nov. 20) in which they agreed Woodfox’s conviction for the 1972 murder of a prison guard should be vacated.

But on Friday (Nov. 21), Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell suggested in a statement that the state plans to persist in its decades-long effort to keep Woodfox imprisoned for a previously ordered life sentence.

“We respectfully disagree with the Court’s ruling, and remain committed to seeing that the trial jury’s judgment finding Albert Woodfox guilty of murdering Officer Brent Miller is upheld,” Caldwell said.

Woodfox and another prisoner in the early 1970s at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Herman Wallace, who died last year days after his release from prison, were both implicated in Miller’s murder. Supporters of the Angola 3, though, say there was no physical evidence linking them to the crime. A bloody fingerprint at the scene matched neither of the men, according to International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. And supporters say the case’s only witness, a now-dead inmate, was promised favor in his case in exchange for his testimony against the men.

In 2008, Miller’s widow Leontine Verrett — a teenager at the time of her late husband’s murder — told The Los Angeles Times: “If I were on that jury, I don’t think I would have convicted them.”

Caldwell also said in his statement that “no court decision, including this one, has ever made a finding which disputes the fact that Albert Woodfox murdered Brent Miller at Angola in 1972. Those facts will always remain true.”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal’s unanimous decision this week to uphold a District Court judge’s ruling to overturn Woodfox’s conviction was the third time a court has ruled to do so. The case was re-tried in 1998, and a jury again found Woodfox guilty after testimony of the deceased witness was read in court. It’s the 1998 conviction that the three-judge panel this week agreed should be vacated on the basis that Woodfox didn’t receive a fair trial because of racial discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson.

Amnesty International, a major human rights organization, has called for Woodfox’s release since the ruling.

If the state moves on its commitment to try to uphold the conviction, it could be months or even years before the case is resolved.

Woodfox’s lawyer George Kendall said in an email, “It’s time for the case to come to an end.”

“This decision is fully consistent with decades of Supreme Court law,” he said of the ruling. “It is also consistent with our view that, because he is innocent, the only way for Louisiana to get that conviction was to violate the safeguards of a fair trial.”

At 67, Woodfox has spent nearly 43 years in prison for the conviction, “nearly all of it in solitary confinement, despite an overwhelmingly positive conduct record.”

His designation as a member of the Angola 3 stems from what Angola 3 supporters believe are wrongful convictions for prison murders in which Woodfox and two other prisoners were implicated for the purpose of silencing their activism. The International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 asserts the men essentially became political prisoners for organizing an official Black Panther Party chapter inside the prison, which led hunger strikes and other demonstrations opposing inhumane conditions inside the prison at Angola. Those conditions in the early 1970s at Angola included continued segregation, corruption and “systematic prison rape,” coalition manager Tory Pegram said.

Woodfox, who has moved facilities a number of times, remains incarcerated at David Wade Correctional Center in Homer. He is also seeking a restraining order against the state for daily strip and cavity searches by guards at the facility.

Wallace was released in October of last year, two days before his death from complications of liver cancer. He maintained his innocence in the murder until his death.

Robert King, the third member of the Angola 3 who was convicted of killing a fellow inmate, was exonerated and released from prison in 2001 after 29 years in solitary. King remains active in the campaign to release Woodfox from prison as well as ending the practice of solitary confinement, which is the subject of a civil suit involving the Angola 3.

King, who now lives in New Orleans and gives talks about his prison system experience, said despite the uncertainty of the action the state will take in response to the ruling, it’s an important, overdue step in a long process to secure Woodfox’s release.

“It’s been an uphill battle… but with this ruling, I think we have the wind at our back,” King said.

King said he was able to maintain his sanity, for the most part, while in solitary for all of those years by coming to understand — with the help of Wallace and Woodfox — that their struggle was “part of a bigger picture.” That bigger picture, he said, is painted by the country’s history with racism and injustice in the penal system.

“It kept me afloat — understanding why things were (as they were) with me and people who look like me,” King said.

King said he likes to think that Wallace, upon learning of the court’s recent ruling, would be smiling.

“We are just that much closer to Albert being released from prison,” King said. “One giant step toward that freedom.”

Woodfox, of New Orleans, was originally sentenced to prison at Angola on charges of armed robbery. That sentence would have expired decades ago, Pegram said. Woodfox was at Angola only a few years before he was implicated, along with Wallace, in Miller’s murder.

“At 67, Mr. Woodfox should be able to live of whatever life he has on this earth in peace,” Kendall, his attorney, said.

. . . . . .

Emily Lane is a news reporter based in Baton Rouge. Reach her atelane@nola.com or 504-717-7699. Follow her on Twitter (@emilymlane) orFacebook.

Senator: White House Simply Doesn’t “Want Public to Know” Scope of CIA Torture November 22, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Members of Intelligence Committee say White House is stalling release of torture report as high-level disagreement over what American people can know about abuses by CIA reaches boiling point; Transparency advocates tell lawmakers with access to report, ‘Just read it into the record.’

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee (from left) Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., listen to testimony in a Senate hearing room in this file photo. (Photo: AP)

“The public has to know about it. They don’t want the public to know about it.”

That’s what Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) told the Huffington Post on Thursday night regarding continued White House stalling over release of a report that catalogs the internal investigation of CIA torture during the Bush years. The comments followed a close-door meeting between Senate Democrats and Obama administration officials that took place just hours before the president gave a much-anticipated speech on another subject, immigration reform.

Rockefeller said the torture report is “being slow-walked to death” by the administration and told the HuffPost, “They’re doing everything they can not to release it.”

“[The report] makes a lot of people who did really bad things look really bad,” Rockefeller continued, “which is the only way not to repeat those mistakes in the future.”

Though the report has been completed for many months, the members of the Senate Intelligence committee have been fighting with the White House, which allowed CIA officials to review its findings, over the scope of redactions to the report’s summary before it’s made public. Though the full report is not expected to be released to publicly, human rights and transparency advocates have urged members to simply enter the report into the public record, something they have legal authority to do, as a way to inform the American people, and the world, of the full scope of the tactics used by U.S. government agents during the earlier years of the so-called ‘war on terror.’

The New York Times reports:

During a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill with Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, the senators said that the White House was siding with the C.I.A. and trying to thwart negotiations over the report’s release. The negotiations have dragged on for months because of a dispute over the C.I.A.’s demand that pseudonyms of agency officers be deleted from the report.

The C.I.A., supported by the White House, has argued that even without using the real names of the officers, their identities could still be revealed.

According to several people in attendance, the meeting was civil, but neither side gave ground, and it ended without resolution. The Senate Intelligence Committee spent five years working on the 6,000-page report, which is said to provide grim details about the torture of detainees in C.I.A. prisons during the Bush administration, and describe a persistent effort by C.I.A. officials to mislead the White House and Congress about the efficacy of its interrogation techniques. The committee voted this year to declassify the report’s executive summary, numbering several hundred pages, but the fight over redactions has delayed the release.

Earlier this week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), also member of the committee, characterized the CIA’s arguments for leaving the report heavily redacted “ludicrous.”  Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said the version under discussion would leave all but 15 percent of the report blacked-out. “Try reading a novel with 15 percent of the words blacked out—” Heinrich said. “It can’t be done properly.”

Chair of the Intelligence Comittee Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) has let her frustrations be known but has not made clear what she intends to do in order to move the White House towards greater transparency on the report.

As the HuffPost reports:

Feinstein declined to discuss the meeting with reporters Thursday. “I ain’t talkin’,” she said.

Rockefeller said the administration’s unwillingness to use aliases reflects a broader contempt for congressional oversight.

“The White House doesn’t want to release this. They don’t have to. And all we do is oversight, and they’ve never taken our oversight seriously,” he said. (He then added that he did allow for one exception, the Church Committee.) “Under Bush there was no oversight at all. Remember the phrase, ‘Congress has been briefed’? What that meant was that I and our chairman […] and two comparable people in the House had met with [former Vice President Dick] Cheney in his office for 45 minutes and given a little whirley birdie and a couple charts.”

“They had a specialty for being unforthcoming in our efforts at oversight,” he added, “and therefore there is no incentive for them to change their behavior.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of advocacy groups—including RootsAction, Demand Progress, Win Without War, CodePink, USAction, and others—argue the senators on the Intelligence Committe have another path if they truly want to give the public a look at the scope of the abuses perpetrated by the CIA. And, according to the groups, the senators have no obligation to wait for permission from the White House to act. As the coalition points out in a statement,  “Members of Congress have an absolute right to free speech, and a member could enter the report into the Congressional Record in its entirety—just as the Pentagon Papers were by Senator Mike Gravel in 1971—without fear of prosecution.”

A online petition sponsored by the coalition, which they intend to deliver to members of the committee, reads in part:

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s “torture report” is expected to detail shocking abuse of prisoners at the hands of the CIA during the Bush administration, and even possible CIA lying to Congress.

But seven months after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted overwhelmingly to release the report to the American people, the White House is stonewalling Congress and demanding “redactions”—blacked-out sections and information—before making its contents public.

The group has put particular focus on outgoing Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to step forward and release the report. Udall lost his re-election bid earlier this month and will be leaving the Senate in January. Signers of the petition say that if Udall, or other members in a position to do so, take the “heroic and courageous act” of releasing the full report,  “we and countless others will support you.”

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