NCPCF NEWS DIGEST Vol. III – Issue No. 141 Tuesday – January 1, 2013
‘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
Happy New Year!
In this issue:
Best Fifty Op-Ed/Commentary Pieces of 2012 on Civil Rights & Freedoms
John W. Whitehead
and many others
Last Appeal in this Charitable and Giving Season 250 Generous Donors Needed @ $105/person in support of NCPCF Programs
Jonathan Turley in the Washington Post (1/13): 10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free
The list of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11 puts us in rather troubling company:Assassination of U.S. citizens, Indefinite detention, Arbitrary justice, Warrantless searches, Secret evidence, War crimes, Secret court, Immunity from judicial review,Continual monitoring of citizens, Extraordinary renditions.
Noam Chomsky in Truthout (2/6): Anniversaries From “Unhistory”
The scope is illustrated by the first Guantanamo case to come to trial under President Obama: that of Omar Khadr, a former child soldier accused of the heinous crime of trying to defend his Afghan village when it was attacked by U.S. forces. Captured at age 15, Khadr was imprisoned for eight years in Bagram and Guantanamo, then brought to a military court in October 2010, where he was given the choice of pleading not guilty and staying in Guantanamo forever, or pleading guilty and serving only 8 more years. Khadr chose the latter. Many other examples illuminate the concept of “terrorist.” One is Nelson Mandela, only removed from the terrorist list in 2008.
Glenn Greenwald in Salon (2/28): The NYPD spying controversy: a microcosm for the 9/11 era
The NYPD spying program exposed by Associated Press may be the most flagrant instance in the War on Terror where “being Muslim” is overtly equated by a government agency to being a Terror threat.
John W. Whitehead in the Huffington Post (3/27): Everybody’s a Target in the American Surveillance State
We have moved into a new paradigm in which surveillance technology which renders everyone a suspect is driving the bureaucratic ship that once was our democratic republic. By the time this UDC spy center is fully operational, no phone call, no email, no tweet, no web search is safe from the prying eyes and ears of the government. People going about their daily business will no longer be assured that they are not being spied upon by federal agents and other government bureaucrats.
Electronic Intifada (4/13): The undercover persecution of Muslim Americans
Khalifah al-Akili, a 34-year-old Muslim American from the Pittsburgh area, was to publicly claim that he was the target of an FBI sting operation at a press conference last month. Had he not been arrested at his home one day before the press conference was to take place, al-Akili would have described how he was harassed and stalked by undercover FBI operatives, one of whose identity was exposed after a Google search of his phone number returned results linking him to another undercover entrapment case in New York state…. The timing of his arrest before the press conference hosted by the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms has caused some, including his lawyer, to suspect that his arrest was timed to prevent him from getting his story out.
Chris Hedges in Truthdig (4/16): First They Come for the Muslims
These trials, where secrecy rules permit federal lawyers to prosecute people on “evidence” the defendants are not allowed to examine, are the harbinger of a corporate totalitarian state in which any form of dissent can be declared illegal. What the government did to Mehanna, and what it has done to hundreds of other innocent Muslims in this country over the last decade, it will eventually do to the rest of us.
Glenn Greenwald in Salon (4/16): Personalizing civil liberties abuses
Al-Arian is in a frozen zone: denied his most basic liberties but without any ability to contest the charges against him. He’s now been imprisoned in one form or another since 2003, all stemming from extremely dubious charges that the U.S. Government, less than two years after the 9/11 attack, could not even get a Central Florida jury — with a very hostile judge — to convict him on. In reality, al-Arian has been persecuted for one reason only: because he’s a Palestinian activist highly critical of the four-decade brutal Israeli occupation. I spoke in Washington at the annual event for the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, a group formed in late 2010 to work against these Terrorism-justified travesties that are now embedded in the American judicial system…..
Andrew F. March in the New York Times (4/21): A Dangerous Mind?
As a political scientist specializing in Islamic law and war, I frequently read, store, share and translate texts and videos by jihadi groups. As a political philosopher, I debate the ethics of killing. As a citizen, I express views, thoughts and emotions about killing to other citizens. As a human being, I sometimes feel joy (I am ashamed to admit) at the suffering of some humans and anger at the suffering of others. At Mr. Mehanna’s trial, I saw how those same actions can constitute federal crimes. Because Mr. Mehanna’s conviction was based largely on things he said, wrote and translated. Yet that speech was not prosecuted according to the Brandenburg standard of incitement to “imminent lawless action” but according to the much more troubling standard of having the intent to support a foreign terrorist organization.
David Cole in the New York Review of Books (5/7): No Accountability for Torture
Sometimes I think being American means never having to say you’re sorry…. [T]he Ninth Circuit’s reasoning was especially disturbing, for it found that it was not clear that “enemy combatants” had a right not to be subjected to the abuse Padilla suffered.
Josh Dratel 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.”
William Fisher in Prism Magazine (5/29): Never Ending Prosecution and Vendetta: The Kafkaesque Story of Sami Al-Arian
In 2003, George W. Bush’s attorney general, the born-again John Ashcroft, trumpeted the arrest of Dr. Sami al-Arian, who he described as “the most dangerous man in the world.” … As Glenn Greenwald wrote in Salon: “Each time it appears that [al-Arian’s] plight will finally be over, the U.S. Government concocts a new process to ensure that he remains a prisoner.”
Doug Bandow in the Daily Caller (6/7): In constitutional republics, presidents don’t have ‘kill lists’
The U.S. has been fighting the “war on terrorism” for more than a decade. Washington has turned targeted killing — or assassination — into routine practice. This new form of warfare raises fundamental questions for a constitutional republic. International law bars arbitrary killing. Domestic law further restricts the execution of U.S. citizens. Moreover, promiscuous assassinations move foreign policy into the shadows, reducing public debate over basic issues of war and peace.
President Jimmy Carter in the New York Times (6/24): A Cruel and Unusual Record
Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.
Laila Al-Arian in the Nation (7/2): When Your Father Is Accused of Terrorism
My father’s trial lasted six months. Prosecutors presented seventy-five witnesses, including nearly two dozen from Israel. Their testimony centered on attacks that even the US government acknowledged my father had nothing to do with. The prosecutors also introduced 400 phone calls out of nearly half a million that the FBI had recorded over a decade of relentless, indiscriminate surveillance of my family. My father’s attorneys did not call a single witness: their defense was the First Amendment.
Petra Bartosiewicz in the Nation (7/2): Deploying Informants, the FBI Stings Muslims
The FBI has employed informants ever since its inception as the Bureau of Investigation in 1908. In 1961 director J. Edgar Hoover established the Top Echelon Criminal Informant Program, in which FBI field offices were instructed to develop live sources in the “organized hoodlum element.” By 1975 the Church Committee found that the bureau was employing more than 1,500 domestic informants. But while the FBI has long used undercover informants to infiltrate criminal networks and build cases against potential suspects, in the domestic front of the “war on terror,” informants have come to play a far more proactive role in surveilling communities deemed suspect by the bureau.
Max Blumenthal in the Nation (7/2): The Sugar Mama of Anti-Muslim Hate
In late April, Geert Wilders arrived in New York City to tell his quixotic tale to a rapt American audience. The far-right Dutch Party of Freedom leader—perhaps the world’s most prominent anti-Muslim populist—was poised to releaseMarked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me, a memoir just out from Regnery, the right-wing US publishing house, in which he recounts his courageous efforts to stop the “Islamicization” of Europe. On his US tour, Wilders proudly portrayed himself as a man on the run—a round-the-clock security detail guarding him against radical Muslims whose violent passions he had supposedly inflamed by his truth-telling—and as a man on the rise: the exodus of his party from the governing coalition had forced new elections in the Netherlands, throwing the country’s ossified establishment into chaos.
Tarek Mehanna in Counter Punch (7/18): In Your Eyes, I’m a Terrorist
When I refused to become an informant, the government responded by charging me with the “crime” of supporting the mujahideen fighting the occupation of Muslim countries around the world. Or as they like to call them, “terrorists.” I wasn’t born in a Muslim country, though. I was born and raised right here in America and this angers many people: how is it that I can be an American and believe the things I believe, take the positions I take? Everything a man is exposed to in his environment becomes an ingredient that shapes his outlook, and I’m no different. So, in more ways than one, it’s because of America that I am who I am.
Glenn Greenwald in Salon.com (7/31): Extremism normalized
Remember when, in the wake of the 9/11 attack, the Patriot Act was controversial, held up as the symbolic face of Bush/Cheney radicalism and widely lamented as a threat to core American liberties and restraints on federal surveillance and detention powers? Yet now, the Patriot Act is quietly renewed every four years by overwhelming majorities in both parties (despite substantial evidence of serious abuse), and almost nobody is bothered by it any longer. That’s how extremist powers become normalized: they just become such a fixture in our political culture that we are trained to take them for granted, to view the warped as normal.
Dave Lindorff in Nation of Change (8/2): Where’s the Outrage: Nobody Seems To Care As America Becomes A Police State
America has been so degraded as a free society that such intrusive violations of our privacy by a police agency or a librarian are now accepted by most people as normal and to be expected.
Glenn Greenwald in Salon.com (8/15): The sham “terrorism expert” industry
These “terrorism experts” form an incredibly incestuous, mutually admiring little clique in and around Washington. They’re employed at think tanks, academic institutions, and media outlets. They can and do have mildly different political ideologies — some are more Republican, some are more Democratic — but, as usual for D.C. cliques, ostensible differences in political views are totally inconsequential when placed next to their common group identity and career interest: namely, sustaining the myth of the Grave Threat of Islamic Terror in order to justify their fear-based careers, the relevance of their circle, and their alleged “expertise.”
Shane Harris in the New York Times (8/22): Giving In to the Surveillance State
Today, this global surveillance system continues to grow. It now collects so much digital detritus — e-mails, calls, text messages, cellphone location data and a catalog of computer viruses — that the N.S.A. is building a 1-million-square-foot facility in the Utah desert to store and process it. What’s missing, however, is a reliable way of keeping track of who sees what, and who watches whom.
Sahar Aziz in Truthout (8/24): Creeping Counterterrorism: From Muslims to Political Protesters
Few Americans are surprised to hear that 9/11 shifted our domestic terrorism focus from neo-Nazis and white supremacists to Muslims in America. What may come as a surprise, however, is the pervasive use of anti-terrorism powers against non-Muslims as well, including white middle-class protesters – as we saw in the Occupy movement.
Steve Downs in Times Union (8/29): “The Albany speech police”, guest post by Steve Downs
Knowing that the police are not protecting you, but instead are following, profiling, and targeting you unfairly, as they do in police states, raises genuine fears. If we are fighting the war on terrorism by terrorizing our own citizens through unjustified surveillance, profiling, bogus police stops, secret evidence, and violations of free speech and free association, the war is already lost.
Shahid Buttar in Uprising Radio (9/6): Four Years Makes a Difference: The Democratic Party on Civil Liberties
In 2008, newly elected President Obama pledged to shut down the US prison at Guantanamo Bay. However, four years later, the facility remains open. In fact, the difference in the Democratic Party’s position on Guantanamo is apparent in the party’s platforms in 2008 and 2012. In addition to keeping Guantanamo open, these policies include: expanding the parameters of indefinite detention to US citizens, continuing warrantless surveillance and racial profiling, extending the Patriot Act, and preserving and defending torture networks internationally.
J. M. Berger in Foreign Policy (9/7): Does the F.B.I. Have an Informant Problem?
Should law enforcement officials be able to employ virtual agents who can skirt restrictions that would tie the hand of sworn officers? Is it acceptable for professional informants to use sex to establish themselves with suspects? Is it fair to prosecute someone whose path toward terrorism is shepherded, prodded, cajoled, and financed at every stage of the plot?
Jonathan Turley in USA Today (9/11): Outrage at U.S. torture dwindles
After World War II, political philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe those who committed war crimes. The Obama administration now can add the “impropriety of torture” to our lexicon. The image of a man beaten, stripped and frozen to death in a CIA prison is not nearly as unnerving as a nation that stood by and did nothing about it. We have become a nation of dull-eyed pedestrians watching as our leaders strip away the very things that distinguish us from our enemies. With our principles gone, we are left with only politics and, of course, our sense of propriety.
Esam Al-Amin in CounterPunch (9/14): America and the Muslims
The criteria to judge whether a society values and respects free speech is when the most vulnerable members of society, those who might be the targets of the majority, can feel safe and free to say what they think when they want on any subject without fear, intimidation or negative repercussions. In other words, to know whether America today honors free speech one must ask one hundred random American Muslim activists that question to get the real answer. In a nutshell, America shall only have credibility as a champion and guardian of freedom of speech and expression when the thoughts, speeches, writings, fatwas, translations, poetry, and web browsing of Tarek Mehanna and his colleagues are not criminalized. Only when they are set free can America reclaim back the mantle.
Charlotte Silver in Al-Jazeera (9/22): The unjust fate of an American ‘terrorist’
Before Hamas was designated a “terrorist organisation” in the United States, it wasn’t. And before Sami al-Arian, The Holy Land Five, and the countless other Palestinian Americans whose lives have been wrung through harrowing immigration and counter-terrorist proceedings for their connections – however slight – to Gaza, there was Muhammad Salah.
Glenn Greenwald in Common Dreams (9/25): New Study Documents the Civilian Terror from Obama’s Drones
A vitally important and thoroughly documented new report on the impact of Obama’s drone campaign has just been released by researchers at NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School. Entitled “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan”, the report details the terrorizing effects of Obama’s drone assaults as well as the numerous, highly misleading public statements from administration officials about that campaign. The study’s purpose was to conduct an “independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians”.
Thom Hartmann in OpEdNews.com (9/27): How Can You Plan a Revolution when Big Brother is Watching?
It’s increasingly looking like the United States is one generation away from completely forgetting what privacy means. And the consequences of this Great Forgetting will be tragic for our nation. Why? Because without privacy – without the ability to be anonymous – America can’t even plan a peaceful revolution or non-violent progressive social change movements – because if big corporations or Big Brother are watching, watching, they can block efforts before they even become public.
Chris Hedges in Truthdig (10/1): What Is Happening to Muslims Will Happen to the Rest of Us
The decision by the European Court of Human Rights last week to refuse to block the extradition of the radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri and four others to the United States on terrorism charges removes one of the last external checks on our emerging gulag state.
John Mueller in Foreign Policy (10/8): Confusion
What if we can’t catch terrorists in America because there aren’t any?
Kathy Manley in Times Union (10/9): Free Speech and Islamophobia
I know that this Islamophobia and preemptive prosecutions have a lot to do with US invasions and bombings of Muslim countries, and also with the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I know that, for instance, prosecutors in the Holy Land Foundation case (where some of the most wonderful people I’ve known of were sentenced to essentially life in prison for their completely peaceful aid to civilians in Gaza) argued that “Assalaamu Alaikum” -peace be with you- was a terrorist greeting. This is insane, as were the convictions in that and many other cases I have been studying.
Alan Levine in the National Law Journal (10/13): Unconstitutional surveillance
New York City has failed to show that its far-reaching program, burrowing deep into the lives and institutions of area Muslim communities, serves a ‘compelling’ interest or is necessary to accomplish that interest.
David Cole in Foreign Policy (10/18): Rewarding Impunity
Why is President Obama’s attorney general handing out prizes for sweeping torture under the rug?
Noor Elashi in the Electronic Intifada (10/24): “Let us not be brought down”: Last legal recourse for Holy Land Five
This Friday, the US Supreme Court will likely decide on whether to hear the Holy Land Foundation case in which my father is a defendant. The decision will come after 11 tumultuous years of raids, arrests, trials and appeals. This will be the last legal recourse for the Holy Land Five charity leaders, who are now serving sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years.
Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian (10/24): Obama moves to make the War on Terror permanent
Complete with a newly coined, creepy Orwellian euphemism – ‘disposition matrix’ – the administration institutionalizes the most extremist powers a government can claim.
David Cole in the Nation (11/2): Checking Big Brother
What if the government was tapping your phone unconstitutionally, and there was nothing you could do about it? That’s just life in the United States of America, at least according to the Justice Department. On Monday, October 29, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. argued in the Supreme Court that, for all practical purposes, the most expansive authority Congress has ever given the government to intercept Americans’ international phone calls and e-mails could not be challenged in court, even by the very people most likely to be harmed by it.
John W. Whitehead in the Rutherford Institute (11/12): Obama’s First-Term Track Record on Civil Liberties
Four years after Barack Obama was elected on a platform of “change you can believe in,” he’s now promising America that the “best is yet to come.” However, on almost every front—fiscally, militarily, politically, socially—the country is in a state of disarray. Most troubling, however, is the state of our freedoms. Indeed, during Obama’s first term, our civil liberties were utterly and completely disemboweled. The great irony, of course, is that this happened with a self-proclaimed constitutional law professor at the helm—a man who was supposed to understand and respect the rule of law as laid out in the U.S. Constitution.
Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian (11/13): FBI’s abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation
That the stars of America’s national security establishment are being devoured by out-of-control surveillance is a form of sweet justice.
David Cole in The New York Review of Books (11/28): It’s Time to Stop Killing in Secret
The real problem is not that there are no guidelines written down—though the administration itself seems now to acknowledge that what it has is insufficient—but that we the people don’t know what they are. The idea that the president can authorize the killing of a human being far from any traditional battlefield without any publically accessible set of constraints, conditions, or requirements is unacceptable in a country committed to the rule of law.
Shahid Buttar in Truthout (11/28): Will Obama’s Second Term Finally Fulfill His 2008 Promises?
Having recently secured re-election to a second term, President Obama should not sit idly by while these problems continue to fester. With all eyes on the federal budget and the looming fiscal cliff, there has never been a better time to act on the president’s longstanding promises to restore liberty and security following the Bush administration’s assault on the Constitution.
Petra Bartosiewicz in the Los Angeles Times (12/7): A permanent war on terror
Would [those arrested under pre-emptive prosecutions] have become truly dangerous to America? Maybe. But in the past, these stings have mostly put behind bars a lot of impressionable young men — rather iffy bad guys — who were often urged toward jihad by the intelligence operation targeting them. Along the way, constitutional protections such as the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial have been put at risk. Everyone is a potential suspect, and everyone is under surveillance.
Mary McCarthy and Bob Barr in the Christian Science Monitor (12/7): How to protect Americans from anti-terrorism data sharing
Across the United States, dozens of ‘fusion centers’ pool and share information in an effort to prevent another September 11. But these centers have not been effective anti-terrorism tools and have violated Americans’ rights. Here’s how they can be fixed.
Eric Posner in Slate (12/11): The War on Terror Will Be Ever With Us
It is true that there is intense controversy among lawyers as to the scope of the president’s constitutional authority, with many on the left arguing that it is limited to repelling sudden attacks. But this is legal posturing. The president has strong incentives to protect Americans from terrorist attacks and the public largely approves of aggressive action, and therefore no one—not the public, nor Congress, nor the courts—will make a fuss if the president uses military force to counter a new terrorist threat to come.
Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian (12/16): New York’s top court highlights the meaninglessness and menace of the term ‘terrorism’
But if these special rules for terrorism cases are prejudicial and unfair when applied to murder defenders, then they are unfair for everyone. It means these rules are inherently unfair. But that’s what has happened in the post-9/11 era: a whole new system of “justice”, with all new rules designed to ensure convictions and long prison terms, have been invented exclusively for those facing “terrorism” charges.
John W. Whitehead in the Rutherford Institute (12/17): EyeSee You and the Internet of Things: Watching You While You Shop
Thanks to the wonders of technology, the indifference of the general public to the growing surveillance state, the inability of Congress to protect Americans’ privacy, and the profit-driven policies of the business sector, the corporate state could write a book about your holiday shopping habits: the websites you’ve visited when trying to decide what to buy, the storefronts you’ve browsed while wandering the mall, and the purchases you’ve made.
Peter Van Buren in the Nation (12/18): Our National Torture Policy
There’s one particular nightmare that Americans need to face: in the first decade of the twenty-first century we tortured people as national policy. One day, we’re going to have to confront the reality of what that meant, of what effect it had on its victims and on us, too, we who condoned, supported, or at least allowed it to happen, either passively or with guilty (or guiltless) gusto. If not, torture won’t go away.
Maher Arar in Al-Jazeera (12/21): To torture, or not to torture?
The debate with respect to torture should not be about if it is “good” or “bad”, but if it is “moral” or “immoral.”
Miko Peled in Tear Down the Wall (12/23): Israel’s Invasion of US Justice
The case of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) in which five Palestinian American Muslims were convicted and sentenced in a US court to decades behind bars based on questionable testimony by two anonymous Israeli intelligence officers, demonstrates the invasive nature of Israeli influence in American courts.
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