Archive for the ‘civil_liberties’ tag
If only I could report people for reading their bibles in public – there is a lot of violent, disgusting content contained in it. Just browse the Brick Testament for a moment…
Some legislators battle against public displays of pornographic content, at least on the roadways. A bill is pending in the New Jersey legislature to criminalize the playing of obscene material in cars — say, on seat-back DVD players or in party buses — that could viewed by, and distract or offend, others on the road. State Senator Anthony Bucco, who sponsored the bill, said people who view such videos in public “don’t care what anybody around them thinks.”
Similar laws have passed in the last decade in Tennessee, Louisiana and Virginia, and one failed last year in Pennsylvania, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
An antipornography group, Morality in Media, has in recent months launched a “no porn on the plane” campaign, and has contacted most major airlines to argue that they should commit to policing what people watch.
The group took up the cause after its executive director, Dawn Hawkins, was on a flight in January and noticed a man in the row in front of her looking at images on his iPad of naked women whipping each other.
She complained to the flight attendant, who told her he was powerless to force the man to stop, she recalled. The man eventually turned off the images, but Ms. Hawkins continued to press him on why he was looking at those images in public.
She said a woman then came up to her and said, “Be quiet, nobody cares.”
(click here to continue reading Pornography in Public Causes Some to Gasp, Others to Shrug – NYTimes.com.)
So these assholes won’t be content until America turns into a Christian Taliban nation. How about you don’t look at someone else’s iPad? How’s that for a solution? These jerk-stores don’t even want you to be able to watch Pulp Fiction or Apocalypse Now while flying.
One reason the issue is so thorny is that not everyone agrees on what might be considered offensive. That is the case even within Morality in Media, where Ms. Hawkins said people should also be careful with public viewings of violent content.
I’ll say it again, free speech is a civil liberty enshrined in the laws of our civil, secular society; if these zealots want to destroy our country’s traditions, perhaps a better solution would be to start their own country. Maybe get Alabama to secede, and take Texas with it? Or buy an island somewhere? Anywhere but my country.
The mentality of law enforcement is that since there is information available about suspects, law enforcement officers should have free reign to sift through it, no matter what. However, if one is a suspect, and a warrant is executed for one’s home, the officers are usually limited to certain areas as precisely described by the warrant, they are not1 allowed to look through every single nook and cranny, unless the warrant has been constructed this broadly. Why isn’t digital data treated the same way?2
SAN FRANCISCO — Concerned by the wave of requests for customer data from law enforcement agencies, Google last year set up an online tool showing the frequency of these requests in various countries. In the first half of 2010, it counted more than 4,200 in the United States.
Google is not alone among Internet and telecommunications companies in feeling inundated with requests for information. Verizon told Congress in 2007 that it received some 90,000 such requests each year. And Facebook told Newsweek in 2009 that subpoenas and other orders were arriving at the company at a rate of 10 to 20 a day.
As Internet services — allowing people to store e-mails, photographs, spreadsheets and an untold number of private documents — have surged in popularity, they have become tempting targets for law enforcement. That phenomenon became apparent over the weekend when it surfaced that the Justice Department had sought the Twitter account activity of several people linked to WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy group.
Many Internet companies and consumer advocates say the main law governing communication privacy — enacted in 1986, before cellphone and e-mail use was widespread, and before social networking was even conceived — is outdated, affording more protection to letters in a file cabinet than e-mail on a server.
(click to continue reading Privacy Law Is Outrun by Speed of Web’s Progress – NYTimes.com.)
For some reason, The New York Times didn’t actually link to this Google tool, I’m not sure why. Anyway, after a few minutes of searching3, found it.
Like other technology and communications companies, we regularly receive requests from government agencies around the world to remove content from our services, or provide information about users of our services and products. This map shows the number of requests that we received in six-month blocks with certain limitations.
(click to continue reading Google Transparency Report: Government Requests.)
As of the current moment, Google has received 4287 requests for information in the United States alone4 from law enforcement in the last six months (an average of 714.5 requests a month, or nearly 24 requests a day).Footnotes:
Damn, I love the ACLU. Contribute to them if you can spare a few pennies. I should make a t-shirt with this phrase: The federal government acknowledges that there are no federal laws or regulations that prohibit photography outside federal buildings. Photography is not a crime!
In settling a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the federal government today recognized the public’s right to take photographs and record videos in public spaces outside federal courthouses throughout the nation.
The settlement comes after the NYCLU sued the federal government in April on behalf of a Libertarian activist who was unlawfully arrested by federal officers after exercising his First Amendment right to record digital video outside of a federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan.
“This settlement secures the public’s First Amendment right to use cameras in public spaces without being harassed,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “While we understand the need for heightened security near federal buildings, any rule that results in the arrest of people for exercising their First Amendment rights is clearly unconstitutional. We’re pleased the federal government finally recognizes this fact.”
Plaintiff Antonio Musumeci was arrested on Nov. 9, 2009 after using a hand-held camera to record a protestor in a public plaza outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.
During the arrest, federal officers forced Musumeci to the pavement and confiscated video from his camera. Musumeci, a software developer for an investment bank, was detained for about 20 minutes and issued a ticket for violating a federal regulation. That charge was later dismissed.
On two subsequent occasions, federal officers threatened Musumeci with arrest after trying to record protests at the courthouse.
“The courthouse plaza is public property paid for by taxpayers, and the public should not be prohibited from using video cameras there. Now people now can freely express their First Amendment right there without being harassed and arrested by federal officers,” said Musumeci, a resident of Edgewater, N.J.
In the settlement approved today by a federal judge in Manhattan, the federal government acknowledges that there are no federal laws or regulations that prohibit photography outside federal courthouses. It agreed to provide federal officers written instructions emphasizing the public’s right to photograph and record outside federal courthouses. The settlement has even broader implications, though.
“Not only will this settlement end harassment of photographers outside federal courthouses, it will free people to photograph and film outside of all federal buildings,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the case. “The regulation at issue in this case applies to all federal buildings, not only courthouses, so this settlement should extend to photography near all federal buildings nationwide.
Wonder how the torture apologists will spin this case? Two American citizens were tortured after bringing forth allegations of bribery. Whistleblowers should be feted, not treated as enemy combatants. Hope Rummy has to defend his actions in open court, and soon.
Two Americans claim they were tortured by US officials after making bribery allegations
A federal judge in Chicago ruled on Friday that a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, brought by two Americans who had worked for an Iraqi contractor, can be allowed to proceed.
In his ruling (PDF), US District Judge Wayne R. Andersen said the plaintiffs had provided enough concrete evidence of torture to allow the suit to go forward. The judge dismissed Rumsfeld’s arguments that his position near the top of the executive branch immunized him from lawsuits involving the authorization of torture
According to court documents, Nathan Ertel and Donald Vance went to Iraq in 2005 to work for an Iraqi contractor, Shield Group Security. Once there, they say they witnessed SGS employees handing money over to “Iraqi sheikhs.” After they notified two FBI agents in Baghdad and one in Chicago of what they say, they say their employer cut off their access pass to Baghdad’s Green Zone and were struck in the city’s dangerous “Red Zone.”
But the lawsuit claims things got really bad once they were “rescued” from the Red Zone by US authorities. Instead of being treated as witnesses to potential crimes, the two plaintiffs say they were told they could be classified as “enemy combatants”
[Click to continue reading Judge allows lawsuit against Rumsfeld over torture of US citizens | Raw Story]
Judge Wayne Anderson describes the details (click here for PDF version of MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER):
Plaintiffs allege that they then were taken by United States forces to the United States Embassy. Plaintiffs allege that military personnel seized all of their personal property, including their laptop computers, cellular phones, and cameras. At the Embassy, plaintiffs claim they were separated and then questioned by an FBI agent and two other persons from United States Air Force Intelligence. Plaintiffs contend that they disclosed all their knowledge of the SGS transactions and directed the officials to their laptops in which most of the information had been documented. Plaintiffs also assert that they informed the officials of their contacts with Agent Carlisle in Chicago and Agents Nagel and Treadwell in Iraq. Following these interviews, plaintiffs claim they were escorted to a trailer to sleep for two to three hours.
Next, plaintiffs claim they were awakened by several armed guards who placed them under arrest and then handcuffed and blindfolded them and pushed them into a humvee. Plaintiffs contend that they were labeled as “security internees” affiliated with SGS, some of whose members were suspected of supplying weapons to insurgents. According to plaintiffs, that information alone was sufficient, under the policies enacted by Rumsfeld and others, for the indefinite, incommunicado detention of plaintiffs without due process or access to an attorney. Plaintiffs claim to have been taken to Camp Prosperity, a United States military compound in Baghdad. There they allege they were placed in a cage, strip searched, and fingerprinted. Plaintiffs assert that they were taken to separate cells and held in solitary confinement 24 hours per day.
After approximately two days, plaintiffs claim they were shackled, blindfolded, and placed in separate humvees which took them to Camp Cropper. Again, plaintiffs allege they were strip searched and placed in solitary confinement. During this detention, plaintiffs contend that they were interrogated repeatedly by military personnel who refused to identify themselves and used physically and mentally coercive tactics during questioning. All requests for an attorney allegedly were denied.
Despicable behavior, rule of law, my ass. Just because some official asserts a suspect is an enemy combatant, does not make it so, and even enemy combatants still deserve consideration under the Geneva Convention and so forth.
Judge Anderson concludes:
In ruling that the lawsuit can go forward, Judge Andersen said the decision “represents a recognition that federal officials may not strip citizens of well settled constitutional protections against mistreatment simply because they are located in a tumultuous foreign setting.”
Marc Thiessen, the former Bush speechwriter, is a torture apologist, attempting to whitewash his advocacy of crimes against humanity. I’m obviously not a religious person, but even I can see through his self-serving misreading of Catholic doctrine to justify waterboarding.
To justify killing in self-defense, Catholics point to Thomas Aquinas’s principle of double-effect: the intended effect is to save your own life; killing is the unintended effect. By the same logic, Mr. Thiessen argues, “the intent of the interrogator is not to cause harm to the detainee; rather, it is to render the aggressor unable to cause harm to society.”
While Mr. Thiessen points out that the church does not forbid specific acts, his antagonists say the church’s guidelines are hardly nebulous. The blogger Andrew Sullivan has noted that the catechism condemns “torture which uses physical or moral violence.”
The philosopher Christopher O. Tollefsen, whose essay attacking Mr. Thiessen’s views appeared Friday in the online magazine Public Discourse, pointed in a phone interview to the 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor. There, Pope John Paul II wrote that there are acts that “are always seriously wrong by reason of their object,” including “whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity.”
The belief that waterboarding is morally or physically violent seems to unite all the writers who have criticized Mr. Thiessen, a group that includes the conservative blogger Conor Friedersdorf; Mark Shea, who edits the Web portal Catholic Exchange; and Joe Carter, who blogs for First Things, a magazine popular with conservative Catholics.
“Thiessen has been vigorously criticized by both so-called liberal and so-called conservative Catholics,” said Paul Baumann, who edits the liberal lay-Catholic magazine Commonweal. “That is one good indication of how erroneous his view is. “
[Click to continue reading Beliefs – Marc Thiessen Gets an Earful for Waterboarding Views – NYTimes.com]
I’ve yet to see Marc Thiessen get waterboarded, I’d pay for a viewing of that. And not waterboarding as a lark, but real waterboarding where the victim doesn’t know when the torture is going to stop. Even Christopher Hitchens waterboarding experience was partially for show; he was able to stop the torture by a signal.
Jonathan Evans is a liar, in other words
The director general of Britain’s MI5 security service denied Friday that his agency colluded in torture, after a court ruling showed that it knew that a detained British resident had been abused by American intelligence officers. The court disclosed information provided to MI5 by the C.I.A. that Binyam Mohamed, a British resident from Ethiopia, had been shackled, threatened and deprived of sleep in American custody.
The MI5 director general, Jonathan Evans, left, wrote in The Daily Telegraph that British intelligence had been slow to detect “the emerging pattern of U.S. mistreatment of detainees” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “But there wasn’t any similar change of practice by the British intelligence agencies,” he said. “We did not practice mistreatment or torture then and do not do so now, nor do we collude in torture or encourage others to torture on our behalf.” One paragraph of the judge’s ruling that strongly criticized MI5 was deleted at the request of a government lawyer. Mr. Mohamed has been fighting to prove that he was tortured and that British authorities knew about it. [Click to continue reading World Briefing | Europe: Britain: Security Chief Denies Collusion With U.S. In Instances of Torture]
Since the NYT doesn’t bother to include the link so you can read Mr. Evans statement, here it is in all its self-serving glory
Note: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Mathew Ahmann, Executive Director of the National Catholic Conference for Interrracial Justice, in a crowd.
U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: NWDNS-306-SSM-4C(51)13
From: Series: Miscellaneous Subjects, Staff and Stringer Photographs, compiled 1961 – 1974 (Record Group 306)
Created by: U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 – ca. 1978)
Production Date: 08/28/1963
Persistent URL: http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=542014
Repository: Still Pictures Unit at the National Archives at College Park (College Park, MD)
For information about ordering reproductions of photographs held by the U.S. National Archives’ Still Picture Unit, visit: www.archives.gov/research/order/still-pictures.html.
Reproductions may be ordered via an independent vendor. The U.S. National Archives maintains a list of vendors at www.archives.gov/research/order/vendors-photos-maps-dc.html.
Access Restrictions: Unrestricted
Use Restrictions: Unrestricted
Too much data, indiscriminately accumulated, is just as much a problem as too little intelligence data, if not worse. Remember when we were America, land of the Free?
It has been demonstrated that when officials must establish before a court that they have reason to intercept communications — that is, that they know what they are doing — we get better intelligence than through indiscriminate collection and fishing expeditions.
The failure of the U.S. Government to detect the fairly glaring Northwest Airlines Christmas plot — despite years and years of constant expansions of Surveillance State powers — illustrates this dynamic perfectly. As President Obama said [Janurary 5th, 2010], the Government — just as was true for 9/11 — had gathered more than enough information to have detected this plot, or at least to have kept Abdulmutallab off airplanes and out of the country. Yet our intelligence agencies — just as was true for 9/11 — failed to understand what they had in their possession. Why is that? Because they had too much to process, including too much data wholly unrelated to Terrorism. In other words, our panic-driven need to vest the Government with more and more surveillance power every time we get scared again by Terrorists — in the name of keeping us safe — has exactly the opposite effect. Numerous pieces of evidence prove that.
Today in The Washington Post, that paper’s CIA spokesman, David Ignatius, explains that Abdulmutallab never made it onto a no-fly list because there are simply too many reports of suspicious individuals being submitted on a daily basis, which causes the system to be “clogged” — overloaded — with information having nothing to do with Terrorism. As a result, actually relevant information ends up obscured or ignored. Identically, Newsweek’s Mike Isikoff and Mark Hosenball report that U.S. intelligence agencies intercept, gather and store so many emails, recorded telephone calls, and other communications that it’s simply impossible to sort through or understand what they have, quite possibly causing them to have missed crucial evidence in their possession about both the Fort Hood and Abdulmutallab plots:
This deluge of Internet traffic — involving e-mailers whose true identity often is not apparent — is one indication of the volume of raw intelligence U.S. spy agencies have had to sort through as they have tried to assess Awlaki’s influence in the West and elsewhere, said the officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information. The large volume of messages also may help to explain how agencies can become so overwhelmed with data that sometimes it is difficult, if not impossible, to connect potentially important dots.
Newsweek adds that intelligence agencies likely possessed emails between accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki — as well as recorded telephone calls between al-Awlaki and Abdulmutallab — but simply failed to analyze or understand what they had intercepted.
[Click to continue reading Glenn Greenwald – Backfiring of the Surveillance State : Salon.com]
Pretty pathetic. And the solution is simple: start being much more targeted with information collection so there is less noise and more actionable signal. Allowing 8 year old kids like Mike Hicks to remain on the No-Fly List for seven years is just idiotic
Mikey, who would rather talk about BMX bikes and his athletic trophies than airport security, remains perplexed about the “list” and the hurdles he must clear. “Why do they think a kid is a terrorist?” Mikey asked his mother at one point during the interview.
Mrs. Hicks said the family was amused by the mistake at first. But that amusement quickly turned to annoyance and anger. It should not take seven years to correct the problem, Mrs. Hicks said. She applied for redress in December when she first heard about the Department of Homeland Security’s program.
“I understand the need for security,” she added. “But this is ridiculous. It’s quite clear that he is 8 years old, and while he may have terroristic tendencies at home, he does not have those on a plane.”
[Click to continue reading Mikey Hicks, 8, Can’t Get Off U.S. Terror Watch List – NYTimes.com]
and he’s not alone
For every person on the lists, hundreds of others may get caught up simply because they share the same name; a quick scan through a national phone directory unearthed 1,600 Michael Hickses. Over the past three years, 81,793 frustrated travelers have formally asked that they be struck from the watch list through the Department of Homeland Security; more than 25,000 of their cases are still pending. Others have taken more drastic measures. Mario Labbé, a frequent-flying Canadian record-company executive, started having problems at airports shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, with lengthy delays at checkpoints and mysterious questions about Japan. By 2005, he stopped flying to the United States from Canada, instead meeting American clients in France. Then a forced rerouting to Miami in 2008 led to six hours of questions.
“What’s the name of your mother? Your father? When were you last in Japan?” Mr. Labbé recalled being asked. “Always the same questions in different order. And sometimes, it’s quite aggressive, not funny at all.” Fed up, in the summer of 2008, he changed his name to François Mario Labbé. The problem vanished.
Boy, that makes me feel so much safer – just change your name, and voila, no problems!
The mind-set doesn’t appear to be ending soon, if Massachusetts Police policy is any indication:
A report from the New England Center For Investigative Reporting has chronicled a pattern of what civil liberties advocates say is a misuse of police powers: Massachusetts police are using the state’s stringent surveillance laws to arrest and charge people who record police activities in public.
It’s a situation that is pitting new technologies against police powers. With recording equipment now embedded into cellphones and other common technologies, recording police activities has never been easier, and has resulted in numerous cases of police misconduct being brought to light. And that, rights advocates argue, is precisely what the police are trying to prevent.
In October, 2007, Boston lawyer Simon Glick witnessed what he said was excessive use of police force during the arrest of a juvenile. When he pulled out his cellphone to record the incident, he was arrested and charged with “illegal electronic surveillance.”
In December, 2008, Jon Surmacz, a webmaster at Boston University, was attending a party that was brok
[Click to continue reading Massachusetts cops can arrest you for making them famous | Raw Story]
Even the Chicago Transit Authority is getting into the action
The Chicago Transit Authority is so “committed to safety,” that it is urging commuters to report people committing “excessive photography/filming.”
The sign posted inside the train stations places photographers on the same level as, say, a non-CTA employee walking the tracks or an unattended package or “noxious smells or smoke.”
In other words, it accuses photographers of being possible terrorists or just suicidal maniacs.
The problem is that these signs not only encourage commuters to dial 911 when seeing someone taking photos, which will tie up real emergencies, it contradicts the CTA’s own policy on photography and videography within train stations.
[Click to continue reading Chicago Transit Authority urges commuters to report photographers | Photography is Not a Crime]
More data, more clutter in the system for intelligence to sort out, or the already overloaded judicial system, and for what reason? We need a change in direction, and soon.
A few interesting links collected December 10th through December 11th:
- Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border– “Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.”In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.”
- The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs : A not-so-brief chat with Randall Stephenson of AT&T – By April, twelve weeks after that album came out, the Beatles had the top five spots on the Billboard chart.Now there was a lot of demand for that record — so much that the plant that printed the records could not keep up. Now here’s the lesson. Do you think the guys who were running Capitol Records said, Gee whiz, the kids are buying up this record at such a crazy pace that our printing plant can’t keep up — we’d better find a way to slow things down. Maybe we can create an incentive that would discourage people from buying the record. Do you think they said that? No, they did not. What they did was, they went out and found another printing plant. And another one and another one, until they could make as many records as people wanted. … Randall, baby. we’ve got a hit on our hands. We’ve got the smartphone equivalent of Meet the Beatles.
- ‘Editor & Publisher’ to Cease Publication After 125 Years– Editor & Publisher, the bible of the newspaper industry and a journalism institution that traces its origins back to 1884, is ceasing publication.An announcement, made by parent company The Nielsen Co., was made Thursday morning as staffers were informed that E&P, in both print and online, was shutting down.
So how many photos of St Paul’s Cathedral are taken every day? How easy would it be for someone to find a photo without even having to visit London? Pretty easy, methinks.1 Or just purchase a postcard, usually sold right in front of the building in question. And of course, what terrorist needs to have snapped art photos of architecturally and culturally significant buildings before planning their attack? None, remember? It’s just a movie plot, never happened in real life.
A BBC photographer was stopped from taking a picture of the sun setting by St Paul’s Cathedral in London. A real police officer and a fake “community support officer” stopped the photog and said he couldn’t take any pictures because with his professional-style camera, he might be an “al Qaeda operative” on a “scouting mission.” Now, St Paul’s is one of the most photographed buildings in the world (luckily, there is zero evidence that terrorists need photographs to plan their attacks), and presumably a smart al Qaeda operative with a yen to get some snaps would use a tiny tourist camera — or a hidden camera in his buttonhole. An ex-MP2 goes on to describe being stopped for talking into a hand-sized dictaphone in Trafalgar Square (where thousands of people talking in their phones — most of which have dictaphone capabilities — can be seen at any given time).
The real damage from terrorist attacks doesn’t come from the explosion. The real damage is done after the explosion, by the victims, who repeatedly and determinedly attack themselves, giving over reason in favor of terror. Every London cop who stops someone from taking a picture of a public building, every TSA agent who takes away your kid’s toothpaste, every NSA spook who wiretaps your email, does the terrorist’s job for him. Terrorism is about magnifying one mediagenic act of violence into one hundred billion acts of terrorized authoritarian idiocy. There were two al Qaeda operatives at St Paul’s that day: the cop and her sidekick, who were about Osama bin Laden’s business in London all day long.
[Click to continue reading BBC photographer prevented from shooting St Paul’s because he might be “al Qaeda operative” – Boing Boing]
video interview at the BBC:
BBC News photographer Jeff Overs was stopped and questioned for taking photographs in Westminster.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, for which he takes photographs, Mr Overs said he was worried that policing against terrorism was making the UK feel like “the Eastern Bloc”.
[Click to continue reading BBC News – BBC photographer on being stopped by police]
Is there hope for Texas? We’ll see…
Even in Texas they are having their doubts. The state that executes more people than any other by far – it will account for half the prisoners sent to the death chamber in the US this year – is seeing its once rock-solid faith in capital punishment shaken by overturned convictions, judicial scandals and growing evidence that at least one innocent man has been executed.
The growth of DNA forensic evidence has seen nearly 140 death row convictions overturned across the US, prompting abolition and moratoriums in other states that Texas has so far resisted.
But the public mood is swinging in the conservative state, which often seems to have an Old Testament view of justice. A former governor, Mark White – previously a strong supporter of the death penalty – has joined those calling for a reconsideration of capital punishment because of the risk of executing an innocent person.
The number of death sentences passed by juries in Texas has fallen sharply in recent years, reflecting a retreat from capital punishment in many parts of America after DNA evidence led to the release of scores of condemned prisoners.
The number of death sentences passed annually in the US has dropped by about 60% in the past decade, to around 100.
“In Texas we have seen a constant stream of individual cases that really destroy public faith and integrity in our criminal justice system,” said Steve Hall, former chief of staff to the Texas attorney general for eight years, who is now an anti-death penalty activist.
[Click to continue reading Texas accounts for half of executions in US – but now has doubts over death row | World news | The Guardian ]
The vocal and partisan Christian Taliban minority in Texas has given the state a bad name, but perhaps they might come to their senses, in our lifetimes. How can killing an innocent man be reconciled with their god’s commandments? It cannot, so either the Christian Taliban has to give up their doctrine, or change their government’s behavior in in their name. Rick Perry would rather kill a few innocents than admit he might be wrong, will he remain governor?
In Dallas county alone, 24 people have been exonerated and the new district attorney has created a conviction integrity unit to examine other suspected miscarriages of justice.
Recent attention has focused on a high profile case which may become the first officially acknowledged miscarriage of justice which led to a man being executed.
The governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has been accused of gerrymandering a commission examining the evidence against Cameron Todd Willingham who was executed in 2004 for the murder of his three young daughters in an arson attack on his home. Perry abruptly replaced the chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission as it was about to hold hearings into a report by its own expert, who described the conviction as based on “junk science”. The new chairman called off the hearing.
Here’s why there needs to be a formal, public investigation into what crimes were committed during the Bush years in the name of The War On Terra. The news will come out, and the world will be paying attention to how the United States follows its own rules prohibiting such atrocities. Are we a rogue nation? or a nation of liberty?
CIA interrogators carried out mock executions and threatened an al Qaeda commander with a gun and an electric drill, according to an internal report that provides new details of abuses inside’s the agency’s secret prisons, two leading U.S. newspapers reported on Saturday.
The tactics — which one official described to the Post as a threatened execution — were used on Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri by CIA jailers who held the handgun and drill close to the prisoner to frighten him into giving up information.
Nashiri, who was captured in November 2002 and held for four years in one of the CIA’s “black site” prisons, was one of three al-Qaeda chieftains later subjected to a form of simulated drowning known as waterboarding, the paper said.
The report, completed in 2004 by the inspector general, John L. Helgerson, also says that a mock execution was staged in a room next to one terrorism suspect. CIA officers fired a gun in the next room, leading the prisoner to believe that a second detainee had been killed, the Times said.
A federal judge in New York has ordered a redacted version of the classified CIA report to be made public on Monday, in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
[Click to continue reading CIA report has new details of prisoner abuse | U.S. | Reuters ]
There’s no excuse for government officials condoning torture, none. There isn’t really an excuse for sadists conducting the torture either, but even worse, in my eyes, are the bosses who thought this would be a good policy to approve.
Further information about the CIA torture case from the NYT:
The Justice Department’s ethics office has recommended reversing the Bush administration and reopening nearly a dozen prisoner-abuse cases, potentially exposing Central Intelligence Agency employees and contractors to prosecution for brutal treatment of terrorism suspects, according to a person officially briefed on the matter.
Former government lawyers said that while some detainees died and others suffered serious abuses, prosecutors decided they would be unlikely to prevail because of problems with mishandled evidence and, in some cases, the inability to locate witnesses or even those said to be the victims.
A few of the cases are well known, like that of Manadel al-Jamadi, who died in 2003 in C.I.A. custody at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq after he was first captured by a team of Navy Seals. Prosecutors said he probably received his fatal injuries during his capture, but lawyers for the Seals denied it.
Over the years, some Democratic lawmakers sought more details about the cases and why the Justice Department took no action. They received summaries of the number of cases under scrutiny but few facts about the episodes or the department’s decisions not to prosecute.
The cases do not center on allegations of abuse by C.I.A. officers who conducted the forceful interrogations of high-level Qaeda suspects at secret sites, although it is not out of the question that a new investigation would also examine their conduct.
That could mean a look at the case in which C.I.A. officers threatened one prisoner with a handgun and a power drill if he did not cooperate. The detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was suspected as the master plotter behind the 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole.
All civilian employees of the government, including those at the C.I.A., were required to comply with guidelines for interrogations detailed in a series of legal opinions written by the Justice Department. Those opinions, since abandoned by the Obama administration, were the central focus of the Justice Department’s internal inquiry.
It has been known that the Justice Department ethics report had criticized the authors of the legal opinions and, in some cases, would recommend referrals to local bar associations for discipline.
But the internal inquiry also examined how the opinions were carried out and how referrals of possible violations were made — a process that led ethics investigators to find misconduct serious enough to warrant renewed criminal investigation.
[Click to continue reading Justice Dept. Report Advises Pursuing C.I.A. Abuse Cases – NYTimes.com]
Welcome news, some small steps back towards democracy and away from the Bush years and terrorism theatre.
In a ruling that threw into doubt one of the government’s main counterterrorism tools, a federal judge said the Treasury Department acted unconstitutionally three years ago when it froze the assets of an Ohio charity suspected of aiding terrorists.
The ruling challenged a key tactic used by the government under an emergency executive order signed by President George W. Bush two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. If upheld, the ruling could severely undercut the government’s authority and ultimately require it to get a warrant and submit to court review in moving against charities.
In the last eight years, the Treasury Department has used its broadened authority to freeze tens of millions of dollars in assets held by eight charities within the United States and hundreds of other groups and individuals outside this country, all without warrants and court approval.
[Click to continue reading Judge Rejects a Key Tactic in Terror Cases – NYTimes.com]
The government should be required to follow all the rules and laws of due process, just like everyone else. Otherwise, we just live in a Constitutional Monarchy. The Fourth Amendment has been around for a while for good reason – remember the British?
A brief refresher of the text and meaning of the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In Colonial America, legislation was explicitly written to enforce English revenue gathering policies on customs Until 1750, all handbooks for justices of the peace, the issuers of warrants, contained or described only general warrants. William Cuddihy, Ph.D. in his dissertation entitled The Fourth Amendment: Origins and Original Meaning, claims there existed a “colonial epidemic of general searches.” According to him, until the 1760s, a “man’s house was even less of a legal castle in America than in England” as the authorities possessed almost unlimited power and little oversight.
In 1756, the colony of Massachusetts enacted legislation that barred the use of general warrants. This represented the first law in American history curtailing the use of seizure power. Its creation largely stemmed from the great public outcry over the Excise Act of 1754, which gave tax collectors unlimited powers to interrogate colonists concerning their use of goods subject to customs and permitted the use of a general warrant known as a writ of assistance, allowing them to search the homes of colonists and seize “prohibited and uncustomed” goods.
A crisis erupted over the writs of assistance on December 27, 1760 when the news of King George II’s October 23 death arrived in Boston. All writs automatically expired six months after the death of the King and would have had to be re-issued under the name of the new King, George III, in order to remain valid.
In mid-January 1761, a group of over 50 merchants represented by James Otis, petitioned the court to have hearings on the issue. During the five hour hearing on February 23, 1761, Otis vehemently denounced English colonial policies, including their sanction of general warrants and writs of assistance. However, the court ruled against Otis. Because of the name he had made for himself in attacking the writs, he was elected to the Massachusetts General Assembly and helped pass legislation requiring that special writs of assistance be “granted by any judge or justice of the peace upon information under oath by any officer of the customs” and barring all other writs. The governor overturned the legislation, finding it contrary to British law and parliamentary sovereignty. John Adams, who was present in the courtroom when Otis spoke, viewed these events “as the spark in which originated the American Revolution.” Seeing the danger general warrants presented, the Virginia Declaration of Rights explicitly forbade the use of general warrants. This prohibition became precedent for the Fourth Amendment:
That general warrants, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted
[Click to continue reading Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
Eric Lichtblau adds:
[Judge Thomas Carr ]rejected the Justice Department’s contention that the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, did not apply to groups suspected of foreign terrorist ties because of the president’s separate national security authority.
Citing British seizures and searches without warrants in colonial America, Judge Carr called the Fourth Amendment “a bulwark against the abuses and excesses of unchecked government authority.”
He said that “nothing in our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence or constitutional tradition supports complete elimination” of the need for the government to establish probable cause, allow judicial review and use court warrants in such cases.
Judge Carr also said that the limited information that the Treasury Department provided to the charity about why its assets were frozen came only after “long, unexplained and inexplicable delay” and repeated requests from the group’s lawyers.
A few interesting links collected August 10th through August 11th:
- Which Tweets Matter ? – icerocket has added a Twitter search function, and allows a searcher to save more than the 10 searches that Twitter restricts a searcher to.
- Nearly Getting Arrested in Downtown Atlanta – “I had a run-in with the law this evening while I was with my friends Scott Kublin and Rick Shearer. Just next door to the Olympic Park is the aquarium and the Coke Museum with a big field in between. There were about a fifty people or so there at the park. I set up my tripod to take a photo of downtown and the Coke Museum was in the middle of the shot. A female cop of came over and told me I had to take down the tripod because I looked like a professional. Coke does not allow that, so she said. I said I’m a blogger with expensive toys and hardly a threat. Then she got quite huffy and agitated before telling me if I did not take down the tripod that I would be arrested.”
- Let’s talk about tasers – “Tasers are routinely used by police to torture innocent people who have not broken any law and whose only crime is being disrespectful toward their authority or failing to understand their “orders.” There is ample evidence that police often take no more than 30 seconds to talk to citizens before employing the taser, they use them while people are already handcuffed and thus present no danger, and are used often against the mentally ill and handicapped. It is becoming a barbaric tool of authoritarian, social control.”
Gordon Erspamer [a San Francisco lawyer]…has filed suit against the CIA and the US Army on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans of America and six former American soldiers who claim they are the real thing: survivors of classified government tests conducted at the Army’s Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland between 1950 and 1975. “I get a lot of calls,” he says. “There are a lot of crazy people out there who think that somebody from Mars is controlling their behavior via radio waves.” But when it comes to Edgewood, “I’m finding that more and more of those stories are true!”
That government scientists conducted human experiments at Edgewood is not in question. “The program involved testing of nerve agents, nerve agent antidotes, psychochemicals, and irritants,” according to a 1994 General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) report (PDF). At least 7,800 US servicemen served “as laboratory rats or guinea pigs” at Edgewood, alleges Erspamer’s complaint, filed in January in a federal district court in California. The Department of Veterans Affairs has reported that military scientists tested hundreds of chemical and biological substances on them, including VX, tabun, soman, sarin, cyanide, LSD, PCP, and World War I-era blister agents like phosgene and mustard. The full scope of the tests, however, may never be known. As a CIA official explained to the GAO, referring to the agency’s infamous MKULTRA mind-control experiments, “The names of those involved in the tests are not available because names were not recorded or the records were subsequently destroyed.” Besides, said the official, some of the tests involving LSD and other psychochemical drugs “were administered to an undetermined number of people without their knowledge.”
Erspamer’s plaintiffs claim that, although they volunteered for the Edgewood program, they were never adequately informed of the potential risks and continue to suffer debilitating health effects as a result of the experiments. They hope to force the CIA and the Army to admit wrongdoing, inform them of the specific substances they were exposed to, and provide access to subsidized health care to treat their Edgewood-related ailments. Despite what they describe as decades of suffering resulting from their Edgewood experiences, the former soldiers are not seeking monetary damages; a 1950 Supreme Court decision, the Feres case, precludes military personnel from suing the federal government for personal injuries sustained in the line of duty. The CIA’s decision to use military personnel as test subjects followed the court’s decision and is an issue Erspamer plans to raise at trial. “Suddenly, they stopped using civilian subjects and said, ‘Oh, we can get these military guys for free,'” he says. “The government could do whatever it wanted to them without liability. We want to bring that to the attention of the public, because I don’t think most people understand that.” (Asked about Erspamer’s suit, CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf would say only that the agency’s human testing program has “been thoroughly investigated, and the CIA fully cooperated with each of the investigations.”)
[Click to continue reading Uncle Sam’s Human Lab Rats | Mother Jones]
The CIA lying to the American people? I’m sure that has only happened in the past, and not in the present day. Ahem…
From the Project MK-Ultra wikipedia page:
The Agency poured millions of dollars into studies probing dozens of methods of influencing and controlling the mind. One 1955 MK-ULTRA document gives an indication of the size and range of the effort; this document refers to the study of an assortment of mind-altering substances described as follows:
- Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public.
- Substances which increase the efficiency of mentation and perception.
- Materials which will prevent or counteract the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
- Materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
- Materials which will produce the signs and symptoms of recognized diseases in a reversible way so that they may be used for malingering, etc.
- Materials which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness.
- Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so-called “brain-washing”.
- Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
- Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
- Substances which produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
- Substances which will produce “pure” euphoria with no subsequent let-down.
- Substances which alter personality structure in such a way that the tendency of the recipient to become dependent upon another person is enhanced.
- A material which will cause mental confusion of such a type that the individual under its influence will find it difficult to maintain a fabrication under questioning.
- Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts.
- Substances which promote weakness or distortion of the eyesight or hearing faculties, preferably without permanent effects.
- A knockout pill which can surreptitiously be administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad hoc basis.
- A material which can be surreptitiously administered by the above routes and which in very small amounts will make it impossible for a man to perform any physical activity whatsoever.
Historians have learned that creating a “Manchurian Candidate” subject through “mind control” techniques was undoubtedly a goal of MK-ULTRA and related CIA project
I would not be surprised to learn that the CIA has continued their experiments up until the present. They just probably outsourced the location to Gitmo and Syria and Abu Ghraib.I had not ever heard this allegation:
A considerable amount of credible circumstantial evidence suggests that Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, participated in CIA-sponsored MK-ULTRA experiments conducted at Harvard University from the fall of 1959 through the spring of 1962. During World War II, Henry Murray, the lead researcher in the Harvard experiments, served with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was a forerunner of the CIA. Murray applied for a grant funded by the United States Navy, and his Harvard stress experiments strongly resembled those run by the OSS. [Alexander Cockburn article at Counter-Punch]
Beginning at the age of sixteen, Kaczynski participated along with twenty-one other undergraduate students in the Harvard experiments, which have been described as “disturbing” and “ethically indefensible.
nor this one:
Jonestown, the Guyana location of the Jim Jones cult and Peoples Temple mass suicide, was thought to be a test site for MKULTRA medical and mind control experiments after the official end of the program. Congressman Leo Ryan, a known critic of the CIA, was assassinated after he personally visited Jonestown to investigate various reported irregularities [M Meier]
though I have heard this conspiracy theory, and dismissed it2
Lawrence Teeter, attorney for convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan, believed Sirhan was under the influence of hypnosis when he fired his weapon at Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Teeter linked the CIA’s MKULTRA program to mind control techniques that he claimed were used to control Sirhan. Teeter’s assertions are generally dismissed due to lack of supporting evidence