| America’s Gulag: Obama sentences political prisoner Lynne Stewart to Death!

America’s Gulag: Obama Sentences Political Prisoner Lynne Stewart to Death ~ Stephen Lendman, Global Research.

Lynne’s crime was compassion. She was imprisoned for doing the right thing. She did it honestly, admirably and courageously.

She did it defending some of America’s most disadvantaged for 30 years.

She’s dying. She has Stage Four cancer. She was given 12 months to live. She qualifies in all respects for compassionate release.

Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) authorities denied her. Doing so reflects official Obama administration policy. In Lynne’s words, BOP “stonewall(ed) since August.”

“They know (she’s) fully qualified.” Over 40,000 supporters “signed on to force (BOP) to do the right thing which is to let (her) go home to (her) family and receive the advanced care in New York City, (her) home.”

“Yet they refuse to act. I must say it is entirely within the range of their politics and their cruelty to hold the political prisoners until we have days to live before releasing us,” Lynne stressed.

Indeed so! Longtime political prisoners Herman Wallace and Marilyn Buck were treated this way. On October 1, Wallace was released. On October 3, he died. He was too ill to be saved.

Buck called prisons warehouses to “disappear the unacceptable to deprive their captives of their liberties, their human agency, and to punish (and) stigmatize prisoners through moralistic denunciations and indictment based on bad genes – skin color (ethnicity, or other characteristics) as a crime.”

Many thousands of prisoners aren’t incarcerated because they’re criminals, she said.

They’re locked in cages for their activism and beliefs, she stressed. For advocating peace, not war.

For resisting injustice. For defending freedom, equality and other democratic values. For struggling courageously for beneficial change.

On July 15, 2010, BOP authorities released Buck. On August 3, she died. She served 25 years of an 80 year sentence.

Her crime was opposing racial injustice and US imperialism. In 2009, she was diagnosed with uterine sarcoma.

With proper timely treatment she might have lived. Obama prison authorities wanted her dead.

They kept her imprisoned long enough to kill her. They’re treating Lynne the same way.

She’s one of thousands of wrongfully incarcerated political prisoners. They’re confined in US gulag hell.

It’s bar far the world’s largest. It’s the shame of the nation. It reflects the worst of unconscionable ruthlessness. It’s the American way.

Around 2.4 million prisoners languish in federal and state facilities, local jails, Indian, juvenile, and military ones, US territories, and separate Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities.

Many are imprisoned for supporting right over wrong. The Free Dictionary call political prisoners people “imprisoned for holding or advocating dissenting political views for holding, advocating, expressing, or acting in accord with particular political beliefs.”

In the 1960s, Amnesty International (AI) coined the term “prisoner of conscience.”

It denotes anyone incarcerated for their race, religion, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, beliefs, or lifestyle.

Incarceration is an instrument of social control. Prisoners are denied all rights. They languish under cruel and inhumane conditions. Some die. Others fade slowly.

Many endure punishing years of isolation. Proper medical care is denied. Abuse is commonplace. Perfunctory parole hearings are a travesty of justice.

A November ACLU report is titled “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses.”

“Ever wonder what could land you in prison for the rest of your life,” asked ACLU?

For thousands it was “shoplifting a few cameras from Wal-Mart, stealing a $159 jacket, or serving as a middleman in the sale of $10 of marijuana.”

Children young as 13 get life sentences without parole for nonviolent crimes, invented ones, or dissenting political beliefs.

“People convicted of their first offense will be permanently denied a second chance,” said ACLU.

“Many young Black and low-income men and women will be locked up until they die. And taxpayers will spend billions to keep them behind bars.”

Dissenting advocacy is considered terrorism. ACLU’s report focused on extreme sentences for minor property and drug-related crimes.

America’s criminal injustice system “reached absurd, tragic and costly heights,” it said.

Locking nonviolent people in cages longterm reflects sentencing them to death slowly. Imprisoning children this way is unconscionable.

So is incarcerating people for their political beliefs and advocacy. ACLU calls life imprisonment without parole (LWOP) “the harshest imaginable punishment.”

Any hope for freedom is denied. LWOP is “grotesquely” unconscionable. It “offends the principle that all people have the right to be treated with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity.”

ACLU documented thousands of ruined lives. Families suffer with loved ones behind bars. Wives are separated from husbands, husbands from wives, children from fathers or mothers, extended families from one of their cherished members.

America spends billions of dollars annually keeping people locked in cages. Decades ago, historian Arnold Toynbee said:

“America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in the defence of vested interests.”

“She now stands for what Rome stood for: Rome consistently supported the rich against the poor…and since the poor, so far, have always and everywhere been far more numerous than the rich, Rome’s policy made for inequality, for injustice, and for the least happiness of the greatest number.”

Criminal injustice defines US policy. It’s morally and ethically reprehensible.

America spends more on prisons than education. In the last two decades, prison spending increased around 570%. Education funding grew only one-third.

One year in prison costs more than Harvard’s annual tuition. America has 5% of the world’s population. It incarcerates 25% of world prisoners.

Many thousands are held for their political beliefs and advocacy. HL Menchen once said:

“The most dangerous man to any government (is someone) who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.”

“Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.”

Attorney/activist Stan Willis said earlier:

“The United States is very, very concerned when its citizens begin to raise (uncomfortable) questions.”

America “prefers to posture itself, including the Obama administration, as the leader of the free world and that they don’t have any human rights violations, and they certainly don’t have any political prisoners, and we have to dispel that notion in the international community.”

US officials want this issue hidden from public view. It preaches democracy at home and abroad.

It practices injustice writ large. It locks thousands in cages unconscionably. It does so for political reasons.

It sentences them to slow death. It violates constitutional law doing so. The Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.”

The First Amendment guarantees free speech. Democratic principles include equal justice under law.

In Griffin v. Illinois (1956), the Supreme Court said “there can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.” Nor when core constitutional rights are denied.

Everyone is entitled to constitutional protections. Too few get it. Thousands are denied it for their political beliefs and advocacy. They’re imprisoned for doing the right thing.

Judicial unfairness is US official policy. Guilty by accusation is standard practice. Constitutional scholar Thomas Emerson (1908 – 1981) once said:

The FBI is an instrument of repression. It “jeopardizes the whole system of free expression which is the cornerstone of our society (raising) the specter of a police state.”

“In essence, the FBI conceives of itself as an instrument to prevent radical social change in America. The Bureau’s view of its function leads it beyond data collection into political warfare.”

It protects privilege from beneficial social, political and economic change. Criminal injustice in America denies fundamental constitutional rights.

Society’s most vulnerable are harmed most. So is anyone for dissenting political views and advocacy.

Howard Zinn called dissent “the highest form of patriotism. (It) means being true to the principles for which your country is supposed to stand,” he said.

“(T)he right to dissent is one of those principles. And if we’re exercising that right, (it’s) patriotic.”

“One of the greatest mistakes (about) patriotism (is thinking it) means support(ing) your (government right or wrong).”

“(W)hen governments become destructive (of life, liberty and equality), it is the right of the people to alter or abolish (it).”

Michael Tigar is Washington College of Law Professor Emeritus. He’s a constitutional law expert. He’s one of America’s most respected defense attorneys.

He’s written extensively on litigation, trial practice, criminal law, capital punishment, and the role of criminal defense attorneys. He represented Lynne. He did so at the district court level.

He called it a “great honor” to do it. He represented her struggle for freedom and justice. “The entire legal profession ought to be standing up and shouting about (her) case,” he said.

He called charges against her “an attack on the First Amendment right of free speech, free press and petition.”

Lynne was targeted for “speaking and helping others to speak.” Doing so was fundamentally unconstitutional.

So-called evidence against her “was gathered by wholesale invasion of private conversations, private attorney-client meetings, and private faxes, letters and emails. I have never seen such an abusive use of government power,” said Tigar.

Convicting Lynne was chilling. It warned other defense attorneys. It intimidated them. Representing clients prosecutors want convicted is dangerous. Doing so leaves them vulnerable going forward.

US police state laws are menacing. Anyone can be targeted for supporting right over wrong. America is unfit to live in.

Thousands of political prisoners reflect its harshness. Justice is a four-letter word. It’s systematically denied.

_______________________________________________________________________

LYNNEhourglass1

| Bradley Manning cleared of ‘aiding the enemy’ but guilty of most other charges!

Bradley Manning cleared of ‘aiding the enemy’ but guilty of most other charges ~  at Fort Meade, theguardian.com.

• Pfc. Manning convicted of multiple Espionage Act violations
Acquitted of most serious ‘aiding the enemy’ charge
• Army private faces maximum jail sentence of 130 years

Bradley Manning at Fort Meade

Bradley Manning has already spent 1,157 days in detention since his arrest in May 2010. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Bradley Manning, the source of the massive WikiLeaks trove of secret disclosures, faces a possible maximum sentence of more than 130 years in military jail after he was convicted of most charges on which he stood trial.

Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the court martial of the US soldier, delivered her verdict in curt and pointed language. “Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty,” she repeated over and over, as the reality of a prolonged prison sentence for Manning – on top of the three years he has already spent in detention – dawned.

The one ray of light in an otherwise bleak outcome for Manning was that he was found not guilty of the single most serious charge against him – that he knowingly “aided the enemy”, in practice al-Qaida, by disclosing information to the WikiLeaks website that in turn made it accessible to all users including enemy groups.

Lind’s decision to avoid setting a precedent by applying the swingeing “aiding the enemy” charge to an official leaker will invoke a sigh of relief from news organisations and civil liberties groups who had feared a guilty verdict would send a chill across public interest journalism.

The judge also found Manning not guilty of having leaked an encrypted copy of a video of a US air strike in the Farah province of Aghanistan in which many civilians died. Manning’s defence team had argued vociferously that he was not the source of this video, though the soldier did admit to later disclosure of an unencrypted version of the video and related documents.

Lind also accepted Manning’s version of several of the key dates in the WikiLeaks disclosures, and took some of the edge from other less serious charges. But the overriding toughness of the verdict remains: the soldier was found guilty in their entirety of 17 out of the 22 counts against him, and of an amended version of four others.

Manning was also found guilty of “wrongfully and wantonly” causing to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the US, “having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet is accesible to the enemy”. That guilty ruling could still have widest ramifications for news organisations working on investigations relating to US national security.

The verdict was condemned by human rights campaigners. Amnesty International’s senior director of international law and policy, Widney Brown, said: “The government’s priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence.

“Yet they decided to prosecute Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing – reveal credible evidence of unlawful behaviour by the government. You investigate and prosecute those who destroy the credibility of the government by engaging in acts such as torture which are prohibited under the US Constitution and in international law.”

Ben Wizner, of the American Civil LIberties Union, said: “While we’re relieved that Mr Manning was acquitted of the most dangerous charge, the ACLU has long held the view that leaks to the press in the public interest should not be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.

“Since he already pleaded guilty to charges of leaking information – which carry significant punishment – it seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”

In a statement to the Guardian, Manning’s family expressed “deep thanks” to his civilian lawyer, David Coombs, who has worked on the case for three years. They added: “While we are obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, we are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way. Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform.”

Once the counts are added up, the prospects for the Manning are bleak. Barring reduction of sentence for mitigation, which becomes the subject of another mini-trial dedicated to sentencing that starts tomorrow, Manning will face a substantial chunk of his adult life in military custody.

He has already spent 1,157 days in detention since his arrest in May 2010 – most recently in Fort Leavenworth in Kansas – which will be deducted from his eventual sentence.

A further 112 days will be taken off the sentence as part of a pre-trial ruling in which Lind compensated him for the excessively harsh treatment he endured at the Quantico marine base in Virginia between July 2010 and April 2011. He was kept on suicide watch for long stretches despite expert opinion from military psychiatrists who deemed him to be at low risk of self-harm, and at one point was forced to strip naked at night in conditions that the UN denounced as a form of torture.

Lind has indicated that she will go straight into the sentencing phase of the trial, in which both defence and prosecution lawyers will call new witnesses. This is being seen as the critical stage of the trial for Manning’s defence: the soldier admitted months ago to being the source of the WikiLeaks disclosures, and much of the defence strategy has been focused on attempting to reduce his sentence through mitigation.

With that in mind, the soldier’s main counsel, David Coombs, is likely to present evidence during the sentencing phase that Manning was in a fragile emotional state at the time he began leaking and was struggling with issues over his sexuality. In pre-trial hearings, the defence has argued that despite his at times erratic behaviour, the accused was offered very little support or counselling from his superiors at Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad.

The outcome will now be pored over by government agencies, lawyers, journalists and civil liberties groups for its implications for whistleblowing, investigative reporting and the guarding of state secrets in the digital age. By passing to WikiLeaks more than 700,000 documents, Manning became the first mass digital leaker in history, opening a whole new chapter in the age-old tug-of-war between government secrecy and the public’s right to information in a democracy.

Among those who will also be closely analysing the verdict are Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has disclosed the existence of secret government dragnets of the phone records of millions of Americans, who has indicated that the treatment of Manning was one reason for his decision to seek asylum in another country rather than face similar aggressive prosecution in America. The British government will also be dissecting the courtroom results after the Guardian disclosed that Manning is a joint British American citizen.

Another party that will be intimately engaged with the verdict is WikiLeaks, and its founder, Julian Assange. They have been the subject of a secret grand jury investigation in Virginia that has been looking into whether to prosecute them for their role in the Manning disclosures.

WikiLeaks and Assange were mentioned repeatedly during the trial by the US government which tried to prove that the anti-secrecy organisation had directly steered Manning in his leaking activities, an allegation strongly denied by the accused. Prosecutors drew heavily on still classified web conversations between Manning and an individual going by the name of “Press Association”, whom the government alleges was Assange.

______________________________________________________________________

Whistleblowing B

white-houseA

| Big Brother: Former DOJ prosecutor sues over surveillance programs!

 

Former DOJ prosecutor sues over surveillance programs Kimberly Bennett, JURIST.

[JURIST] Activist attorney and former government prosecutor Larry Klayman filed a class action lawsuit [complaint, PDF] on Wednesday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], challenging the government’s recently revealed phone data collection. Klayman, founder of the political advocacy group Freedom Watch [advocacy website], claims the surveillance practices violate citizens’ reasonable expectation of privacy, their rights to free speech and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, due process rights, as well as certain common law claims. The complaint names the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official websites], US President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and 12 communications and Internet companies as defendants and seeks $23 billion in damages.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in conjunction with the New York Civil Liberties Union[advocacy websites] on Tuesday filed a similar suit [JURIST report] against the NSA. Klayman filed the first private suit [text, PDF] the day prior, in a separate lawsuit against Verizon and the Obama administration, requesting the same orders as his second suit in addition to $3 billion in damages. Although the president and top officials have defended the surveillance as a lawful counterterrorism measure, several US lawmakers have called [JURIST report] for a review of the government’s surveillance activity in light of recent reports revealing phone and Internet monitoring. Lawmakers have also called for a criminal investigation into the activities of Edward Snowden, who came forward [Guardian report] on Sunday as the whistleblower in the NSA surveillance scandal. Snowden is a 29-year-old former CIA technical worker that accessed the surveillance files when he was contracted as a civilian to work on projects for the NSA. He stated in an interview with The Guardian that he released the material because he believed the surveillance violated the right to privacy. Congressman Peter King (R-NY) [official website] called [press release] for the arrest of Snowden, who is now seeking asylum and is allegedly missing in Hong Kong.

___________________________________________________________________

 

NSA1

 

Paranoia1

| ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of NSA Phone Spying Program!

ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of NSA Phone Spying Program ~ ACLU.

The ACLU, a Verizon Customer, Says Government Data Collection Violates Its First and Fourth Amendment Rights.

June 11, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a constitutional challenge to a surveillance program under which the National Security Agency vacuums up information about every phone call placed within, from, or to the United States. The lawsuit argues that the program violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment. The complaint also charges that the dragnet program exceeds the authority that Congress provided through the Patriot Act.

“This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy.”

The ACLU is a customer of Verizon Business Network Services, which was the recipient of a secret FISA Court order published by The Guardian last week. The order required the company to “turn over on ‘an ongoing daily basis’ phone call details” such as who calls are placed to and from, and when those calls are made. The lawsuit argues that the government’s blanket seizure of and ability to search the ACLU’s phone records compromises sensitive information about its work, undermining the organization’s ability to engage in legitimate communications with clients, journalists, advocacy partners, and others.

“The crux of the government’s justification for the program is the chilling logic that it can collect everyone’s data now and ask questions later,” said Alex Abdo, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The Constitution does not permit the suspicionless surveillance of every person in the country.”

The ACLU’s 2008 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act, which authorized the so-called “warrantless wiretapping program,” was dismissed 5–4 by the Supreme Court in February on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not prove that they had been monitored. ACLU attorneys working on today’s complaint said they do not expect the issue of standing to be a problem in this case because of the FISA Court order revealed last week.

Yesterday, the ACLU and Yale Law School‘s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic filed a motion with the FISA Court, requesting that it to publish its opinions on the meaning, scope, and constitutionality of Patriot Act Section 215. The ACLU is also currently litigating a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed in October 2011, demanding that the Justice Department release information about the government’s use and interpretation of Section 215.

“There needs to be a bright line on where intelligence gathering stops,” said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. “If we don’t say this is too far, when is too far?”

Attorneys on the case are Jaffer and Abdo along with Brett Max Kaufman and Patrick Toomey of the ACLU, and Arthur N. Eisenberg and Christopher T. Dunn of the NYCLU.

An interactive graphic examining the secret FISA Court order revealed last week is available here.

Today’s complaint is at:
aclu.org/national-security/aclu-v-clapper-complaint

campaign»

Keep America Safe and Free

________________________________________________________________________

BlackHole1

NSA1 Paranoia1

| US Debate: Supreme Court OKs Unfettered DNA Collection — An Invasion of Privacy or a Blow to Crime?

Debate: Supreme Court OKs Unfettered DNA Collection — An Invasion of Privacy or a Blow to Crime? ~ Democracy Now.

In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the police can collect DNA samples from people they arrest even before they are convicted of a crime. Supporters of the swabbing method call it “the fingerprinting of the 21st century” that will help nab criminals and break open unsolved cases. But privacy advocates say the ruling is vague because it does not define what constitutes a “serious crime,” and could create an incentive for police to make more arrests. The Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling will likely fuel an expansion of DNA swabbing nationwide. We host a debate between Michael Risher of the American Civil Liberties Union and Mai Fernandez of the National Center for Victims of Crime.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to a major decision by a divided U.S. Supreme Court that allows police to take DNAsamples when a person is arrested for a, quote, “serious” crime. The case centered on a Maryland law used to take a DNA test of a man arrested for a felony assault. The test matched DNA in a rape case six years earlier that had previously gone unsolved. This is an exchange from the case’s oral arguments, between Maryland’s Chief Deputy Attorney General Katherine Winfree and Justice Antonin Scalia, who later wrote in his dissent that the law violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

KATHERINE WINFREE: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court, since 2009, when Maryland began to collect DNA samples from arrestees charged with violent crimes and burglary, there have been 225 matches, 75 prosecutions and 42 convictions, including that of respondent King.

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA: Well, that’s really good. I’ll bet you if you conducted a lot of unreasonable searches and seizures, you’d get more convictions, too. That proves absolutely nothing.

KATHERINE WINFREE: Well, I think, Justice Scalia, it does in fact point out the fact that the statute is working. And in the state’s view, the act is constitutional.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ultimately, the court upheld Maryland’s law, which lets police use a swab to collect DNA from the cells inside a person’s cheek. Supporters of the method call it, quote, “the fingerprinting of the 21st century.” So far, 25 states have passed laws that are similar to Maryland’s. Some even allow DNA swabs for misdemeanor arrests. But privacy advocates say the ruling is vague because it does not define what constitutes a “serious crime” and could create an incentive for police to make more arrests.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, with this five-to-four ruling, more states are likely to adapt similar measures despite such concerns.

________________________________________________________________________
fascist-police

police state usaA

| Top US rights groups question legality + secrecy of drone killings in Letter to Obama!

Rights Groups, in Letter to Obama, Question Legality and Secrecy of Drone Killings, NYT.

In a letter sent to President Obama this week, the nation’s leading human rights organizations questioned the legal basis for targeted killing and called for an end to the secrecy surrounding the use of drones.

The “statement of shared concern” said the administration should “publicly disclose key targeted killing standards and criteria; ensure that U.S. lethal force operations abroad comply with international law; enable meaningful Congressional oversight and judicial review; and ensure effective investigations, tracking and response to civilian harm.”

The nine-page letter, signed by the American Civil Liberties Union,Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, the Open Society Foundations and several other groups, is the most significant critique to date by advocacy groups of what has become the centerpiece of the United States’ counterterrorism efforts.

While not directly calling the strikes illegal under international law, the letter lists what it calls troubling reports of the criteria used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command to select targets and assess results. The reported policies raise “serious questions about whether the U.S. is operating in accordance with international law,” the letter says. It is also signed by the Center for Civilians in Conflict and units of the New York University and Columbia Law Schools.

The letter comes as American strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and the example the United States has set for the world, are drawing intense scrutiny. United Nations human rights investigators are reviewing the American record, and Congress has shown a new willingness to discuss the classified program in public, with a House subcommittee hearing on the constitutional and counterterrorism implications of targeted killing set for April 23. That hearing was postponed for a week in an effort to persuade the administration to send an official to testify, a committee aide said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

By the count of the New America Foundation, a research group that tries to track targeted killing, the United States has carried out 422 strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, 373 of them since Mr. Obama took office in 2009, in addition to a handful in Somalia. The foundation estimates the number of deaths resulting from the strikes to be between 2,426 and 3,969, of which about 10 percent were of civilians and nearly as many of which were identified as “unknown.” An overwhelming majority of the strikes have been carried out by unmanned drone aircraft, though cruise missiles, fighter jets and helicopter gunships have also been used.

Agreeing to the degree of openness sought by the human rights groups would mean a sea change for the Obama administration. Though officials have given a series of careful speeches on the administration’s legal reasoning, the Justice Department’s classified legal opinions on the subject have been shared only recently, even with the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, and the government has asserted in battling Freedom of Information Act lawsuits that the Pakistan strikes are too politically delicate even to be officially acknowledged.

Gabor Rona, the international legal director of Human Rights First, said that the letter to Mr. Obama reflected increasing concern that government secrecy has hidden grave legal and practical problems with the strikes.

“The more the administration is rightly forced to disclose about who it is killing and why,” he said, “the more obvious it becomes that the practice is growing, is illegal in its scope, is causing large-scale civilian casualties and is a slow-moving train wreck with serious blowback consequences to U.S. national security.”

In pushing for greater candor, both the human rights groups and Congress are responding to Mr. Obama’s own stated goal. In his State of the Union address in January, the president said: “In our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

No action has followed so far. In announcing his plans for a Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Richard J. Durbin, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, noted that Mr. Obama “has made it clear he wants to work with Congress to establish ‘a legal architecture’ for drone strikes to prevent abuses.” Mr. Durbin said the hearing would “begin this important constitutional debate.”

The Obama administration has been asked to provide a witness to discuss its position on the drone strikes, but the administration has so far not agreed to provide one, according to the committee’s staff. Similarly, efforts on Thursday by Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, to get John O. Brennan, formerly the president’s counterterrorism adviser and now the C.I.A. director, to discuss strike policies during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee went nowhere.

“I would say right now that I am at the helm of the C.I.A. and will carry out policy guidance as directed by the administration,” Mr. Brennan said. “And I will continue to focus our efforts on making sure that terrorists are not able to carry out murderous attacks against our citizens, whether it be overseas or domestically.”

Ms. Schakowsky was prompted to question Mr. Brennan in part by an article this week by McClatchy News Service reporting that it had obtained classified government documents showing that the drone strikes had killed hundreds of low-level suspected militants whose identities were not known. The article suggested that the documents undercut assertions by Mr. Obama and his aides that the strikes were aimed at terrorists plotting to attack the United States.

“There are a lot of things that are printed in the press that are inaccurate, in my mind, and misrepresent the facts,” Mr. Brennan said. When Ms. Schakowsky pressed the point, he said, “I’m not going to engage in any type of discussion on that here today, congresswoman.”

_____________________________________________________________________

STOP DRONE WARa Related articles

DroneEerie1

| Rendition blues: CIA ‘tortured and sodomised’ terror suspect, rules ECtHR!

CIA ‘tortured and sodomised’ terror suspect, human rights court rules ~ The Guardian.

Landmark European court of human rights judgment says CIA tortured wrongly detained German citizen!

Khaled el-Masri

The European court of human rights has ruled German citizen Khaled el-Masri was tortured by CIA agents, the first time the court has described treatment meted out by the CIA as torture. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/AP

CIA agents tortured a German citizen, sodomising, shackling, and beating him, as Macedonian state police looked on, the European court of human rights said in a historic judgment released on Thursday.

In a unanimous ruling, it also found Macedonia guilty of torturing, abusing, and secretly imprisoning Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese origin allegedly linked to terrorist organisations.

Masri was seized in Macedonia in December 2003 and handed over to a CIA “rendition team” at Skopje airport and secretly flown to Afghanistan.

It is the first time the court has described CIA treatment meted out to terror suspects as torture.

“The grand chamber of the European court of human rights unanimously found that Mr el-Masri was subjected to forced disappearance, unlawful detention, extraordinary rendition outside any judicial process, and inhuman and degrading treatment,” said James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

He described the judgment as “an authoritative condemnation of some of the most objectionable tactics employed in the post-9/11 war on terror”. It should be a wake-up call for the Obama administration and US courts, he told the Guardian. For them to continue to avoid serious scrutiny of CIA activities was “simply unacceptable”, he said.

Jamil Dakwar, of the American Civil Liberties Union, described the ruling as “a huge victory for justice and the rule of law”.

The use of CIA interrogation methods widely denounced as torture during the Bush administration’s “war on terror” also came under scrutiny in Congress on Thursday. The US Senate’s select committee on intelligence was expected to vote on whether to approve a mammoth review it has undertaken into the controversial practices that included waterboarding, stress positions, forced nudity, beatings and sleep and sensory deprivation.

The report, that runs to almost 6,000 pages based on a three-year review of more than 6m pieces of information, is believed to conclude that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” adopted by the CIA during the Bush years did not produce any major breakthroughs in intelligence, contrary to previous claims. The committee, which is dominated by the Democrats, is likely to vote to approve the report, though opposition from the Republican members may prevent the report ever seeing the light of day.

The Strasbourg court said it found Masri’s account of what happened to him “to be established beyond reasonable doubt” and that Macedonia had been “responsible for his torture and ill-treatment both in the country itself and after his transfer to the US authorities in the context of an extra-judicial ‘rendition'”.

In January 2004, Macedonian police took him to a hotel in Skopje, where he was kept locked in a room for 23 days and questioned in English, despite his limited proficiency in that language, about his alleged ties with terrorist organisations, the court said in its judgment. His requests to contact the German embassy were refused. At one point, when he said he intended to leave, he was threatened with being shot.

“Masri’s treatment at Skopje airport at the hands of the CIA rendition team – being severely beaten, sodomised, shackled and hooded, and subjected to total sensory deprivation – had been carried out in the presence of state officials of [Macedonia] and within its jurisdiction,” the court ruled.

It added: “Its government was consequently responsible for those acts performed by foreign officials. It had failed to submit any arguments explaining or justifying the degree of force used or the necessity of the invasive and potentially debasing measures. Those measures had been used with premeditation, the aim being to cause Mr Masri severe pain or suffering in order to obtain information. In the court’s view, such treatment had amounted to torture, in violation of Article 3 [of the European human rights convention].”

In Afghanistan, Masri was incarcerated for more than four months in a small, dirty, dark concrete cell in a brick factory near the capital, Kabul, where he was repeatedly interrogated and was beaten, kicked and threatened. His repeated requests to meet with a representative of the German government were ignored, said the court.

Masri was released in April 2004. He was taken, blindfolded and handcuffed, by plane to Albania and subsequently to Germany, after the CIA admited he was wrongly detained. The Macedonian government, which the court ordered must pay Masri €60,000 (£49,000) in compensation, has denied involvement in kidnapping.

UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, described the ruling as “a key milestone in the long struggle to secure accountability of public officials implicated in human rights violations committed by the Bush administration CIA in its policy of secret detention, rendition and torture”.

He said the US government must issue an apology for its “central role in a web of systematic crimes and human rights violations by the Bush-era CIA, and to pay voluntary compensation to Mr el-Masri”.

Germany should ensure that the US officials involved in this case were now brought to trial.

_______________________________________________________________

cia rendition1

police state usaA

| Defective Remedy: Giant loophole in Feinstein Amendment to NDAA!

Giant Loophole In The Feinstein Amendment To The NDAA ~ Michael Kelley, Business Insider.

ndaa

 

An amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and passed by a 67-29 vote late Thursday has been hailed as a way to end the prospect of indefinite detention of U.S. citizens.But it isn’t, because there’s a catch.Here’s the key sentence of the amendment:

“An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent lawmakers a letter that said “the clause ‘unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention‘ could be read to imply that there are no constitutional obstacles to Congress enacting a statute that would authorize the domestic military detention of any person in the United States.”

Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) seemed to agree: “This is a big ‘unless,'” he said.

Michael McAuliff of The Huffington Post points out that Levin himself said that he believes “the 2001 authorization for the use of military force [AUMF] authorized the detention of U.S. citizens when appropriate in accordance with the laws of war.” The AUMF gives the president the authority to indefinitely detain anyone involved in carrying out the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

And, as we reported yesterday, lawyer Bruce Afran said that the 2013 NDAA “states that persons lawfully in the U.S. can be detained under the [AUMF]” because it equates the AUMF with section 1021 of the NDAA, which allows the president to indefinitely detain anyone who commits a “belligerent act” or provides “substantial support” to the Taliban, al-Qaeda or “associated forces.”

“Therefore, under the guise of supposedly adding protection to Americans, the new statute actually expands the AUMF to civilians in the U.S,” Afran said.

That means that the 2013 NDAA may be the only statute that Congress would need to pass to “authorize the domestic military detention of any person in the United States.”

Or, as Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.) put it, “that Act of Congress is the 2012 NDAA, which renders the rest of the Feinstein amendment meaningless.”

The blog Belligerent Acts echoes Afran and Amash: “The Feinstein-Lee Amendment, in the guise of protecting Constitutional rights, has instead simply extended the unconstitutional powers that the 2012 NDAA granted to the President, also to the Congress.”

Both the ACLU and Amnesty International have detailed what they consider other issues with the legislation.

SEE ALSO: Actually, The Newest Version Of NDAA Makes It EASIER To Detain Citizens Indefinitely

_______________________________________________________________

NDAA5

____________________________________________________________________

Don’t Be Fooled by New NDAA Detention Amendment

Chris Anders, ACLU, Washington Legislative Office.

The Senate is once again debating the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and is within a day or two of voting yet again on the issue of indefinite detention without charge or trial in the United States itself.

Last year, Congress passed the NDAA and made permanent very broad authority for the military to throw civilians into prison without charge or trial. While military detention without charge or trial is illegal in the United States, some key senators urged that even American citizens and others picked up in the United States could be detained under NDAA.

They did not succeed. The NDAA that was signed into law on New Year’s Eve last year was bad enough, but it did not authorize military detention within the United States. Some in Congress now want to have a second crack at it-some to make it better and some to make it worse.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced an amendment that superficially looks like it could help, but in fact, would cause harm. Feinstein was a forceful leader last year against the NDAA detention provisions and believes that she is doing the right thing this year. But the problem is that the actual text of her amendment is bad.

It might look like a fix, but it breaks things further. Feinstein’s amendment says that American citizens and green-card holders in the United States cannot be put into indefinite detention in a military prison, but carves out everyone else in the United States.

There are three problems with her amendment:

  • It would NOT make America off-limits to the military being used to imprison civilians without charge or trial. That’s because its focus on protections for citizens and green-card holders implies that non-citizens could be militarily detained. The goal should be to prohibit domestic use of the military entirely. That’s the protection provided to everyone in the United States by the Posse Comitatus Act. That principle would be broken if the military can find an opening to operate against civilians here at home, maybe under the guise of going after non-citizens. This is truly an instance where, when some lose their rights, all lose rights — even those who look like they are being protected.
  • It is inconsistent with the Constitution, which makes clear that basic due process rights apply to everyone in the United States. No group of immigrants should be denied the most basic due process right of all — the right to be charged and tried before being imprisoned.
  • It would set some dangerous precedents for Congress: that the military may have a role in America itself, that indefinite detention without charge or trial can be contemplated in the United States, and that some immigrants can be easily carved out of the most basic due process protections.

The executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League just wrote to Congress:

The [Feinstein] amendment is of particular concern to the Japanese American Citizens League because of our historic concern stemming from the Japanese American incarceration experience during World War II.  Nearly half of the internees were not United States citizens, and would not have been protected by this amendment.  In consideration of due process and the rule of law within the United States, we urge you to oppose the Feinstein amendment, unless revised to protect all persons in the United States from indefinite detention without charge or trial.

There are good ways and bad ways to amend the NDAA. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) has introduced two amendments that would change the NDAA in good ways. But Sen. Feinstein, despite good intentions, has introduced a harmful amendment.

There is still time to stop it. Call your senators now and say “Vote NO” on the Feinstein amendment, unless it is fixed to make the entire United States off-limits to indefinite detention without charge or trial by the military. The congressional switchboard number is 202-225-3121. This amendment goes to the very heart of who we are.

And here is a letter from a coalition of organizations urging a NO vote:
http://www.aclu.org/national-security/due-process-guarantee-letter-re-opposition-feinstein-amendment-3018-ndaa.

____________________________________________________________

| Join ACLU and ask Obama to deliver by finally closing Gitmo!

Close Guantánamo ~ ACLU, Because Freedom can’t protect itself!

GITMO ON OBAMA‘S WATCH: 1387 DAYS 09HRS 16 MINS 49 SECS

More than 10 years have passed since the first prisoner arrived in Guantánamo Bay, making it the longest-standing war prison in U.S. history. Almost 800 men have passed through Guantánamo’s cells. Today, 166 men remain. Fashioned as an “island outside the law” where terrorism suspects could be detained without process and interrogated without restraint, Guantánamo has been a catastrophic failure on every front. It is long past time for this shameful episode in American history to be brought to a close.

READ OUR STATEMENT »
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST »
SEE THE INFOGRAPHIC »
WATCH THE VIDEO »
ACTIVIST TOOLKIT »
TAKE ACTION! »

 

Ten years on, we are stuck in a multi-branch quagmire, where no arm of government is willing to act to end Guantánamo’s blight on our reputation and our security. All must change tack, and Guantánamo must close.

  • The Supreme Court must define the scope of war-time detention, and ensure that the right to habeas corpus is a meaningful one that tests, and does not endorse, the government’s case.
  • Congress must lift the unnecessary restrictions on transfer and release from Guantánamo, particularly for the 86 men whom our security services and military have unanimously determined should be released.
  • And the President must show the courage of his previously-stated convictions and either prosecute the other 77 men in federal court, if there is untainted evidence against them, or set them free (the 3 remaining prisoners were convicted by deeply flawed military commissions).

From the Blog:

 

press»

ACLU Asks Guantánamo Tribunal Not to Censor 9/11 Defendants’ Accounts of Torture

________________________________________________________

| US Timeline: The Long History of Voter Suppression!

Timeline: The Long History of Voter Suppression ~  and , Mother Jones.

The 200-year battle over which Americans get to cast their ballots on Election Day.

 

“Your Right to Vote is Your Opportunity to Protect” Library of Congress

We’ve come a long way from the days when women, blacks, immigrants, and pretty much anyone who wasn’t a while male was kept from the polls. This timeline explores 200 years of efforts to restrict and expand the right to vote. (And for more on current efforts to disenfranchise voters, read about the 10 most common vote-blocking tricks.)

For more information on voting rights history, check out these great timelines from the ACLUand KQED.

___________________________________________________________