NCPCF News Digest – Issue No. 80 –  May 25, 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

Sign Ziyad Yaghi Petition: Investigate the case of Ziyad Yaghi who is wrongfully imprisoned

Updates in the War on Civilian Privacy

Are the police tracking your calls?

Senate panel votes to extend government’s broader surveillance authority

FISA Amendments Act is Back

Can Obama say he is sorry?


Upcoming Events

A. MCLU Event: June 2, 2012 – Houston, TX – 2:00-4:00 PM

Solidarity with those in Solitary Confinement

B. NCPCF Event: June 2, 2012 – Minneapolis, MN – 3:00-6:00 PM
Co-Sponsored by: Committee to stop FBI Repression

Fight for your Right to Dissent: A Town Hall on Civil Liberties

C. NCPCF Event: June 5, 2012 – Decorah, IA – 7:00-9:00 PM

Are Your Civil Liberties in Danger?

D. Two NCPCF Event: June 8-9, 2012 – Dearborn, MI – 5:30-7:30 PM

When will there be justice for Muslim Americans?

Action Items

Sign Ziyad Yaghi PetitionSenator Dick Durbin of Illinois: Investigate the case of Ziyad Yaghi who is wrongfully imprisoned

Poll of the Week

Do you think the Police is tracking your calls?

Website of the Week

Ziad Yaghi Petition to Sen. Durbin

Portraits of Injustice/Voices of Victims of Repression

Ziad Yaghi: Convicted Solely For His Associations

News Digest

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

Lawyers for three out-of-state men accused of plotting to firebomb police stations and other political targets during the NATO summit in Chicago complained Tuesday that their clients have been held in solitary confinement in Cook County Jail, calling their treatment “cruel and unusual.” Michael Deutsch, an attorney for the National Lawyers Guild, said after a brief court hearing that the suspects, dubbed the “NATO 3” by supporters, have been held since Saturday in “hospital-white” cells 24 hours a day and not allowed to communicate with anyone. “They are totally in isolation from everyone else in the jail and each other,” Deutsch told reporters. “They have nothing to read. They have no writing material. It’s a kind of sensory deprivation situation.”


A. (5/18): Distrust lingers over NYPD surveillance for some North Jersey Muslims

A sense of anxiety and unease continues to grip some members of the Muslim community in the fallout from the New York Police Department’s surveillance controversy — and that distrust has undermined cooperation with law enforcement agencies that rely on Arab- and Muslim-Americans as partners in the fight against homegrown terrorism, some local leaders say. “I would tell people not to cooperate,” said Khader Abuassab, a leader of the Arab American Civic Organization in Paterson. “I can’t promise people they will be safe or not be spied on again.”

B. WWLP (5/22): Amherst to opt out of Secure Communities

Amherst’s resolution specifically states, “Municipal employees of the Town of Amherst, including law enforcement employees, shall not monitor, stop, detain, question, interrogate or search a person for the purpose of determining that individual’s immigration status.” adding: “Officers shall not inquire about the immigration status of any crime victim, witness or suspect unless such information is directly relevant to the investigation.”

 Community Action/Building Our Coalition

A. Religion News Service / Washington Post (5/21): LAPD modifies surveillance program of Muslims

Since 2008, the LAPD has used the federal Suspicious Activities Reporting (SAR) program to file reports on potential terrorist-related actions, such as someone photographing certain buildings. Sikh and Muslim leaders said the LAPD’s Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau should ensure that future suspicious activity reports are prompted by actual behavior with apparently genuine criminal or terrorist elements. Under the new guidelines, information that’s gathered on what later is determined to be innocent behavior, but still remaining in SAR files, will be erased from counterterrorism databases.

B. Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (5/22): Takoma Park to Congress: Fix the NDAA

Congress began debate last week on the 2013 NDAA, but the House of Representatives rejected an amendment that would have overturned the indefinite detention/no trial provisions (Representatives Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards who represent Takoma Park voted for the amendment). Instead, the House passed an amendment that further narrowed the Constitutional rights of citizens and non-citizens alike. The NDAA now moves to the Senate. The members of the MCCRC plan to bring the Takoma Park resolution to the attention of Senators Cardin and Mikulski. “We expect our Senators to honor the Constitution and work to include language in the 2013 NDAA that will ensure that no president or government official will ever be able to order the military to put people in the United States into indefinite detention without charge or trial,” said [Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition member Thomas] Nephew.

C. ACLU (5/23): FISA Amendments Act is Back

Remember the George W. Bush warrantless wiretapping program? The one that was so illegal that Congress had to pass a special law to ensure that no one was prosecuted for it or sued by their customers for facilitating it? And was found by independent reviewers to be pretty pointless anyway? And was then brilliantly codified and written into stone by Congress? And which almost immediately went off the rails, being used to collect all sorts of stuff it wasn’t supposed to? It’s back!

 Civil Freedoms Under Threat

A. CNN (5/22):  Are the police tracking your calls?

What little has come to light so far about the companies’ practices does not paint a comforting picture. Addressing a surveillance industry conference in 2009, Sprint’s electronic surveillance manager revealed that the company had received so many requests for location data that it set up a website where the police could conveniently access the information from the comfort of their desks. In just a 13-month period, he said, the company had provided law enforcement with 8 million individual location data points. Other than Sprint, we do not have even this type of basic information about the frequency of requests for any of the other cell phone companies. The poorly understood relationship between cell phone companies and police raises grave privacy concerns. Like the companies, law enforcement agencies have a strong incentive to keep what is actually happening a secret, lest the public find out and demand new legal protections.

B. NY Times (5/22): Google Privacy Inquiries Get Little Cooperation

After months of negotiation, Johannes Caspar, a German data protection official, forced Google to show him exactly what its Street View cars had been collecting from potentially millions of his fellow citizens. Snippets of e-mails, photographs, passwords, chat messages, postings on Web sites and social networks — all sorts of private Internet communications — were casually scooped up as the specially equipped cars photographed the world’s streets. “It was one of the biggest violations of data protection laws that we had ever seen,” Mr. Caspar recently recalled about that long-sought viewing in late 2010. “We were very angry.”

Government Policy Under Scrutiny

A.  Wired (5/21): High Court to Hear Warrantless Eavesdropping Challenge

The announcement is a win for the Obama administration, which like its predecessor, argues that government wiretapping programs and laws can’t be challenged in court. At issue is the FISA Amendments Act, (.pdf) the subject of lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and others, that authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is outside the United States.

See also: 

New York Times (5/21): Justice agree to hear surveillance challenge

LA Times (5/21): Supreme Court to consider case on secret international wiretappingB. Washington Post (5/22): Senate panel votes to extend government’s broader surveillance authority

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) opposed the extension on civil liberties grounds. Wyden, concerned that the provision allows innocent Americans’ e-mails and phone calls to be monitored without a warrant, has asked the administration to disclose how many Americans have had their communications monitored under the law. “We have not gotten any clear answer on that,” said Jennifer Hoelzer, a Wyden spokeswoman. “Before the Senate passes any long-term extension, we need to know how many law-abiding Americans are having their communications reviewed with these authorities.”


A. Josh Draetel in Guernica (5/22): Updates in the War on Civilian Privacy

The war on civilian privacy has escalated. Recently, Congress the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which allows for the commercial use of surveillance drones in the United States. And in late March, the Obama administration revised guidelines with respect to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center’s retention of data on law-abiding persons. According to the New York Times, those revisions were designed in part “to relax restrictions on how counterterrorism analysts may retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats.” Among the revisions is an increase in the length of time—from 180 days to five years—that the NCTC can, according to the Times, which cited intelligence officials, “retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism.”

B. David Cole in the Nation (5/21): Can Obama Say He’s Sorry?

Can the President say he’s sorry to an innocent man whom the United States delivered to Syria to be tortured? Sixty thousand Americans have done so, signing a petition that begins, “I apologize to Maher Arar for the torture he suffered because of the actions of US officials and I urge you to do the same.”


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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 Civil Liberties Union (MCLU) – Muslim Justice Initiative (MJI) – Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) – National Lawyers Guild (NLG) – National Liberty Fund (NLF) – The Peace Thru Justice Foundation (PTJF) – Project Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims (Project SALAM) – Universal Justice Foundation (UJF).


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