NCPCF News Digest – Issue No. 68 –  April 13, 2012

‘Civil Freedoms for All’   

“It is my conviction that if we are neutral in situations of injustice, we have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  Archbishop Desmond Tutu

In this issue

NCPCF Annual Banquet Dinner – Washington DC – April 15, 2012

Get Your Ticket Today!

Special Reports:Tarek Mehanna sentenced to 17 years for translating a Document

US Pentagon Releases Training Manual Used As Basis For Bush’s Torture Program

It’s official. There is a Muslim exemption to the First Amendment

Obama targets journalists

The next cyber security bill is even worse than SOPA

Intelligence Issues for Congress

Upcoming Events

A. NCPCF First Annual Banquet – April 15, 2012 – Washington DC Area- Get Your Ticket Today– Keynote Speaker: Glenn Greenwald 

B. NCPCF Event in Raleigh, NC: A Wake-Up Call For Civil Liberties

April 17, 2012 – 6:30-8:30 PM

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship – Clara Barton Room – 3313 Wade Ave., Raleigh, NC

Speakers: George Friday (BORDC) – Mel Underbakke (NCPCF) – Raul Pinto (ACLU) – Family members

Poll of the Week

Do you think Tarek Mehanna’s sentence of over 17 years excessive?

Website of the Week

Free Tarek Mehanna

Portraits of Injustice/Voices of Victims of Repression

Tarek Mehanna Sentencing Statement 

Useful Reports

Congressional Research Service (26 pp): Intelligence Issues for Congress


To counter violent plots, U.S. law enforcement has employed two tactics that have been described by one scholar as the “Al Capone” approach and the use of “agent provocateurs. The Capone approach involves apprehending individuals linked to terrorist plots on lesser, non terrorism-related offenses such as immigration violations. In agent provocateur cases—often called sting operations—government undercover operatives befriend suspects and offer to facilitate their activities. As the “Al Capone” moniker suggests, historically these tactics have been employed against many types of targets such as mafia bosses, white-collar criminals, and corrupt public servants. While these techniques combined with the cultivation of informants as well as surveillance (especially in and around mosques) may be effective in stymieing rapidly developing terrorist plots, their use has fostered concern within U.S. Muslim communities.

News Digest 

Special Report on Thought Crimes: The Case of Tarek Mehanna 

A. Huffington Post (4/12): Tarek Mehanna sentenced to 17 ½ years for translating a document

A Massachusetts man convicted of conspiring to help al-Qaida was sentenced Thursday to 17 1/2 years in prison after giving an impassioned speech in which he declared his love for Islam and said, “This is not terrorism; it’s self-defense.”

B. Carol rose in the Boston Globe (4/12): It’s official. There is a Muslim exemption to the First Amendment.

In her closing argument during the trial, defense attorney Janice Bassil stated that “the only idea that Tarek Mehanna had in common with al Qa’ida is that Muslims had the right and the obligation to defend themselves when they were attacked in their own lands. And we believe that. When the British came to reassert their hold over America – let’s face it, we were a colony – we fought back.  We rebelled.  We defended our land.” The lesson of the Mehanna case is that where Muslims are concerned, sentiments like these could constitute ‘thought crime.’

C. Boston Herald (4/13): Jurors steps forward in terror case (Video: 1 min.)

Tarek Mehanna defense team is preparing to file unspecified papers today after throwing stunning curveball at his sentencing judge yesterday when one of the jurors turned up to address the courtroom.

D. Glenn Greenwald in Salon (4/13): The Real Criminals of the Tarek Mehanna Case

In one of the most egregious violations of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech seen in quite some time, Tarek Mehanna, an American Muslim, was convicted this week in a federal court in Boston and then sentenced yesterday to 17 years in prison. He was found guilty of supporting Al Qaeda (by virtue of translating Terrorists’ documents into English and expressing “sympathetic views” to the group) as well as conspiring to “murder” U.S. soldiers in Iraq (i.e., to wage war against an invading army perpetrating an aggressive attack on a Muslim nation).

Pre-Crime Reports/Pre-emptive Prosecutions/Material Support/Thought Crimes 

A. BBC (4/10): Abu Hamza US extradition backed by European Court

The Strasbourg court held there would be no violation of human rights for those facing life and solitary confinement in a “supermax” prison.

B. NY Times (4/11): Ruling Averts Testimony by a Detainee, for Now

The judge, Col. James L. Pohl, ordered Guantánamo prison officials to allow Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri to meet with his defense lawyers without being shackled. Mr. Nashiri’s lawyers had contended that their client was being retraumatized because he had been tortured by the C.I.A. while in shackles. In support of that motion, they had proposed calling him to testify on Thursday about his treatment. Prosecutors had asked that the courtroom be closed during his testimony, provoking a legal challenge from the news media. Colonel Pohl’s order, however, probably only delays an eventual fight over whether the news media and the public will be allowed to see Mr. Nashiri testify.

C. Miami Herald (4/11): First Amendment lawyer in Guantánamo to challenge closures

The chief war court judge Tuesday agreed to let a First Amendment attorney argue against closure of the first ever military commissions testimony by a captive about CIA interrogations that the government contends are secret.

Terrorism Industry

Washington Post (3/27): Muslims call new religious freedom appointee a ‘puppet’ for Islam foes

Zuhdi Jasser, who lauded a controversial New York City police surveillance program that targeted Muslims and helped lead the opposition to an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, has been appointed to the commission, which advises the president, Congress and State Department on religious rights abuses internationally. “It would have been better to appoint someone who has some measure of credibility with Muslim Americans,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.


A. New American Media (4/10): ICE Slow to Embrace Alternatives to Immigrant Detention

If the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) relied on … alternatives and only detained immigrants who committed violent crimes, the U.S. government could save more than $2 billion a year, according to the National Immigration Forum.

B. Huffington Post (4/11): NYPD Stop And Frisk: State Attorney General Schneiderman Examining Controversial Program For Fairness

New York’s finest stopped and interrogated people 684,330 times in 2011, according to The Wall Street Journal, a 14 percent increase over 2010. 92 percent of those stopped were males, and 87 percent of those stopped were black or Hispanic, a glaring disparity considering blacks and Hispanics make up only 59 percent of the city’s population. 88 percent of those stopped-and-frisked were not charged with crimes.

Prison Conditions and Abuse/CMUs

CBS Detroit (4/12): ACLU Wants Ban On Type Of Strip Search In Mich                  

The ACLU says women are forced to search expose themselves in view of other prisoners while a female guard checks to see whether they’re concealing contraband, according to a report by The Detroit Free Press. The ACLU believes Michigan’s is the only prison system in the nation to routinely use such searches as a matter of policy and claims the vaginal strip searches are designed to humiliate and degrade the women.

Civil Freedoms Under Threat

A. Forbes (4/10): A Primer on Domestic Drones: Legal, Policy, and Privacy Implications

Already a number of civil liberties groups have concluded that watchful eyes in the sky will be privy to intimate details concerning the private lives of everyday Americans.  While this conclusion is premature their caution is warranted.  However, rather than viewing The FAA Act as a harbinger of privacy invasions to come, it is best viewed as a prudent first step in a public discussion of the role that drones will one day play in the U.S.  If the energetic public debate thus far is any indicator, this policy issue will likely land back in the hands of legislators — the only question is whether it will be a soft landing that takes account of a wide range of public views, or a crash landing that tries to dodge accountability.

B. ABC News (4/10) [Video: 1 min.]: Cybersecurity: Protecting Against Internet Attacks Threatens Civil Liberties

A lot of important work has gone into these bills that are intended to strengthen both the government and civilian response to cyber threats. Yet parts of these bills are alarming because, if passed, any information we put online—work, play, personal and sensitive—could be put at risk.

C. Eurasia Review (4/11): US Pentagon Releases Training Manual Used As Basis For Bush’s Torture Program

[The manual’s disastrous results included] the sickening torture of individuals in a global web of torture prisons run by the CIA; no intelligence that could not have been obtained by non-coercive means; a staggering waste of the resources of both the CIA and the FBI, as operatives were tied up chasing false leads generated through the use of torture; and a tarnished reputation for the US that has not been cleaned up by President Obama’s ostrich-like refusal to confront the crimes committed by his predecessor. So dark is this period in America’s modern history that in Guantánamo, where 14 of the supposed “high-value detainees” … eventually ended up in September 2006, there has been a blanket ban, since that time, on allowing any of the discussions that have taken place between these men and their lawyers being released to the public, for one reason alone — to prevent any mention of the torture to which these men were subjected from becoming public knowledge.

D. Wired (4/12): CIA’s Secret Fear: High-Tech Border Checks Will Blow Spies’ Cover

The increasing deployment of iris scanners and biometric passports at worldwide airports, hotels and business headquarters, designed to catch terrorists and criminals, are playing havoc with operations that require CIA spies to travel under false identities.

Government Policy Under Scrutiny

A. Richmond Times-Dispatch (4/11): Governor agrees to amended detention bill

[The amended bill] would prohibit state police or members of the Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force from aiding in the indefinite detention of citizens as currently allowed under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. The provision raised eyebrows and even elicited a vow from President Barack Obama upon signing the act never to use it to hold citizens. But interests ranging from tea-party groups and the ACLU to the Japanese American Citizens League were quick to rally behind Marshall’s bill, claiming the loophole left open the door to individual rights being trampled upon.

B. Infoworld (4/11): The next cyber security bill is even worse than SOPA

CISPA could be used to shut down sites that have published classified information (like WikiLeaks or the New York Times), as well as prosecute individuals for sharing copyrighted content or blowing the whistle on corrupt organizations. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes: “The language is so vague that an ISP could use it to monitor communications of subscribers for potential infringement of intellectual property. An ISP could even interpret this bill as allowing them to block accounts believed to be infringing, block access to websites … believed to carry infringing content, or take other measures provided they claimed it was motivated by cybersecurity concerns.”


A. Scott Horton in Harpers (4/5): Witness for the Prosecution

[A] memorandum by Philip Zelikow, a high-ranking State Department lawyer and confidant of Condoleezza Rice … concluded that the use of these techniques would constitute prosecutable felonies—war crimes [and] … when it was circulated in February 2006, … senior figures in the Bush White House … sought to collect and destroy all the copies. The memo is not only a significant historical document, it may also provide important evidence in future criminal prosecutions arising out of the Bush-era torture programs.

B. Bill Quigley in Common Dreams (4/9): Thirteen Ways Government Tracks Us

The Washington Post reported there are 3,984 federal, state and local organizations working on domestic counterterrorism. Most collect information on people in the US. Here are thirteen examples of how some of the biggest government agencies and programs track people.

C. Jesselyn Radackin Salon (4/9): Obama targets journalists

While the Bush administration treated whistleblowers unmercifully, the Obama administration has been far worse. It is actually prosecuting them, and doing so under the Espionage Act — one of the most serious charges that can be leveled against an American. The Espionage Act is an archaic World War I-era law meant to go after spies, not whistleblowers. Strangely, using it to target the media and sources is the brainchild of neo-conservative Gabriel Schoenfeld, who would have sources who disclose information to reporters, journalists who then write about it for newspapers, the newspapers that publish the information and the publisher itself all be held criminally liable.

D. Chris Calabrese in Common Dreams (4/11): Making ‘Do Not Track’ A Reality

Attempts to confuse consumers or plead technical impossibility threaten to blunt the enormous momentum DNT has gathered over the last year. An effort that started as something pushed by a few consumer groups now has a realistic chance to succeed. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Jon Leibowitz, actually predicted recently that “consumers will have an easy to use and effective Do Not Track option by the end of the year.”

E. Faiza Patel and Michael Price in (4/12): Surveillance of American Muslims: A tale of three cities

The NYPD certainly has a formidable task and has protected New Yorkers through times of high alert. But the reactions of public officials in cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago, which have also faced serious terrorist threats, suggest that effective counterterrorism does not require such a stark choice between our liberty and our safety. Honest efforts to build partnerships with American Muslim communities present an alternative approach to terrorism that has proven to be both successful and respectful of our Constitutional values.


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NCPCF Mission

Established in October 2010, the NCPCF is a coalition of national and local organizations as well as prominent individuals, whose mission is: To educate the public about the erosion of civil and political freedoms in the society, and the abuses of prisoners within the U.S. criminal justice system especially after 9/11, and to advocate for the preservation of those freedoms and to defend those rights according to the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its related UN Conventions, and the Geneva Conventions.


Member Organizations

American Muslim Alliance (AMA) – Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) – Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) – Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR) – Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility (CLEAR) – Defending Dissent Foundation (DDF) – Desis, Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) – Friends of Human Rights (FHR) – International Action Center (IAC) – Islamic Circle of North America Council for Social Justice (ICNA-CSJ) – Muslim American Society Freedom (MAS-F) -Muslim Justice Initiative (MJI) – Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) – National Lawyers Guild (NLG) – National Liberty Fund (NLF) – Peace Thru Justice Foundation (PTJF) – Project Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims (Project SALAM) – Universal Justice Foundation (UJF)


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