Dissent Is Patriotic
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee's e-mail newsletter
August 12, 2004, Vol. 3, No. 7
In this issue:
- Campus Organizing Handbook
- Election Year reminder: BORDC's online voter education materials
- Companion Guide to 9-11 Commission Report
- Nationwide events in September and October that encourage local participation
- Sources for News and Literature on Civil Liberties
The upcoming elections will determine the climate within which we all will continue working to restore essential rights and liberties. In order to achieve a successful election outcome, voters must recognize what's at stake and where the candidates stand, and then vote for candidates who share their commitment to rights and liberties.
So far 345 communities and states with a combined population of more than 53 million (one in five U.S. residents) have voted affirmatively to uphold their residents' rights and liberties. In June the Unitarian Universalist Association became the first national religious body to approve a resolution (Statement of Conscience) on Civil Liberties.
The Department of Justice's "unprecedented nationwide campaign ... to boost support for the USA Patriot Act and beat back opponents" (Vanessa Blum, Legal Times, 8/11/04) has neither halted the growth of the movement nor banned open discussion and debate about the Act and other civil liberties issues in city and town halls, libraries, bars, and living rooms nationwide. The Tumwater, Washington, public hearing and City Council vote featured in Timothy Egan's Sunday New York Times article are typical of the hundreds that have taken place in communities that have either approved or are considering civil liberties resolutions.
We have made substantial progress, but more work is needed before the November 2nd vote. In many races, voters will choose among candidates who are willing to engage in informed, nonpartisan debate about civil liberties issues with their constituents and others who urge their constituents to "just trust us" without question. Please help ensure that voters in your area know the difference. BORDC invites you to use the resources described in the next section to help local voters differentiate among candidates and understand the issues at stake.
Campus Organizing Handbook
As the 2004 Fall Semester approaches, BORDC encourages students, staff, and faculty to become involved in the grassroots Bill of Rights defense movement. BORDC's Campus Organizing Handbook contains suggestions for passing a student government resolution, tips to help students work with faculty and staff, and samples of a student resolution, press release, letter to the editor, petition, and outreach letter. You'll find several other new resources on our Campus pages. Please contact us about your campus organizing efforts: email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our student list-serve by sending an email to email@example.com.
Election Year Reminder: BORDC's voter education materials
BORDC's voter education packet includes instructions, a timeline, and sample questions that community-based organizations can use to prepare candidate questionnaires and publicize the results in local media on which voters most often rely for news.
Companion Guide to 9-11 Commission Report
According to the Justice Department’s lifeandliberty.gov, a main justification for the USA PATRIOT Act is that it “removed the major legal barriers that prevented the law enforcement, intelligence, and national defense communities from talking and coordinating their work to protect the American people and our national security.” (emphasis added). The 9-11 Commission’s Final Report, released July 22, 2004, denied the existence of these “legal barriers.” It said there “was no legal reason” that prevented the sharing of information. Instead, “a set of complex rules and a widening set of beliefs—a bureaucratic culture—discouraged FBI agents from seeking to share information.”
Few have criticized the government’s desire for agencies to share information in a properly regulated way in order to prevent international terrorism. This debate is symptomatic of a much larger problem: The DOJ is misleading the American people about the justifications for the USA PATRIOT Act. Even the 9-11 report notes that Attorney General Ashcroft’s testimony before the Commission did “not fairly or accurately reflect” the real situation. The Commission calls for “a full and informed debate on the Patriot Act.”
The BORDC Companion to the 9-11 Commission Report contains more information on the so-called legal barriers commonly called the “wall” and other issues brought forth in the report.
Nationwide events: September Project, National Week of Action, and 1984+20 Project
National events this September and October are great ways to initiate a debate about civil rights and liberties in your local community or in a nearby location where such debates have been absent. Consider organizing local events around the following national campaigns:
- Saturday, September 11th: The September Project will bring people around the world together at public places like local libraries to share and discuss their ideas about democracy, citizenship, and patriotism through public talks, roundtables, and performances.
- Week of September 20th: National Week of Action to observe the one-year anniversary of the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides will highlight a range of issues immigrants are working on, into which your local group can fold its own issues. The short-term agenda that the National Immigration Forum is promoting is the passage of AgJOBS and the DREAM Act, and stopping the CLEAR Act. The longer-term agenda is the passage of the Civil Liberties Restoration Act (CLRA) and the Safe, Orderly, Legal Visas and Enforcement (SOLVE) Act.
- October: The 1984+20 Project of the National Council of Teachers of English encourages public awareness of the role of civil rights in maintaining democracy and the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Plans include the presentation of the NCTE Doublespeak Award, for which nominations will be excepted through September 30. President Bush was last year's winner.
Sources for News and Literature on Civil Liberties
To keep yourself and your community up to date, BORDC recommends the following news compilations:
- Our own news articles page, updated Monday through Friday
- Patriotwatch, updated several times per week
- Watching Justice
The latter two sources provide periodic digests to their email subscribers.
For an assortment of fliers, pamphlets, and other helpful documents you can print and circulate, visit this web page, where you will find an assortment of materials developed by BORDC and community-based organizations nationwide.
Story from Guantánamo
Imagine the following scenario: While in Afghanistan, you are picked up by US and UK military and taken to a prison. To get there, you travel in a container without water and air for 18 hours. Of the 200 people you travel with, only 20 arrive alive. At the prison, you are deprived of food, medical care, and proper sanitation. Soldiers kick and beat you. You are then flown to a detention facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Interrogators threaten you with guns and dogs and promise better living conditions if you cooperate. After this ordeal, you are flown to Guantánamo Bay. Throughout the plane ride, you are cold, and shackles cut into your limbs. This treatment forces you to confess to crimes you did not commit. You are then detained incommunicado for two years.
Three British citizens recently released from Guantánamo testify this was their reality. Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed describe their story in a 115-page report, which the Center for Constitutional Rights has made available on its web site. The Red Cross states that if the allegations are true, they amount to war crimes. The men, called the Tipton Three, have been released of all charges.
Four Frenchmen recently released from Guantánamo also described harrowing examples of torture. Earlier this summer, the Washington Post created a list of interrogation “techniques” that Secretary Rumsfeld approved, and compiled Executive Branch documents on interrogation. Nevertheless, the U.S. Government has denied all allegations of “coercive or physically harmful techniques.”
Other Guantánamo News
The Defense Department’s first attempt to satisfy the Supreme Court’s holding that detainees have the right to challenge their detention is through Combatant Status Review Tribunals. The Department of Defense has released comprehensive implementation procedures for the tribunals, which started July 30th. The process is not going smoothly, however, as five of the first eight Guantánamo detainees selected for the tribunals have boycotted the process.
In another affront to the detainees' Sixth Amendment right to counsel, the Defense Department filed a legal brief arguing that the detainees cannot have legal assistance in filing habeas corpus petitions. The U.S. Government claims that the Constitution only guarantees U.S. citizens access to lawyers. The lawyers disagree and have sued to stop the tribunals until their detainee clients are allowed to meet with them. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), “Without access to a lawyer, the Supreme Court’s decision in Rasul would be meaningless. The right to Habeas Corpus has always included the right to legal assistance.” A judge refused the lawyers' request.
To prevent the U.S. government from creating a Constitution-free zone, in denial of the Supreme Court’s decision in Rasul v. Bush,
- Call on the President and your Senators and Representative to implement Human Rights First’s 10 Point Strategy to End Unjust Security Detention and Abuse.
- Send an electronic letter to President Bush from Human Rights Watch’s web site and get contact information for members of Congress here.
- Visit our web site to learn more ways to engage candidates for national office on Guantánamo and other civil liberties issues.
On July 8, Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D–HI) introduced this bill to amend the Whistleblower Protection Act in order to protect employees who come forward with “substantial evidence” of government misconduct; create a new channel for employees to appeal agency decisions to deny or take away security clearances; and establish separate courts to hear whistleblower appeals. According to Tom Devine, Legal Director for the Governmental Accountability Project (GAP), “This is a solid bill that gives government workers back the right to be public servants instead of silent bureaucrats. The legislation is a much-needed breakthrough against abuses of power that betray the public trust. It is unrealistic to expect federal workers to defend the public, if they can't defend themselves." The bill has bipartisan support from 14 cosponsors.
Please contact your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the bill, and ask your Representative to let House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) know that you want both a committee and a floor vote on similar legislation in the House before this Congress adjourns. Congress is on recess from July 23rd until after Labor Day, providing an opportunity to garner support for the bill before Congress reconvenes.
Find complete bill information on Thomas.
BREAKING NEWS: Hamdi May Soon Be Released
Last April the Bush Administration argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that national security depended on its holding Yaser Esam Hamdi, whom it had designated a U.S. citizen "enemy combatant." Yesterday the administration began to negotiate Hamdi's release to his family in Saudi Arabia (Los Angeles Times, 8/12/04).
Albany "Sting" Operation a Preemptive Strike
Having had little luck in finding real terrorists, the FBI now seems to be creating them in order to demonstrate its success. Yassin Aref, 34, the imam of Albany's Masjid As-Salaam mosque, and Mohammed Hossain, 49, a pizzeria owner and founder of the mosque, were arrested August 5th in a sting operation that lasted over a year and that was executed by a convicted felon whose cooperation with federal authorities bought him a reduced prison sentence on document fraud charges. According to the FBI affidavit, the men allegedly laundered money for the purchase of a shoulder-fired missile launcher. The men were allegedly told that the launcher would be used to assassinate the Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations, but the FBI has acknowledged that there was no real threat involved, and that the suspects’ alleged involvement was limited to the financial end of the deal. The official indictment also reveals that Aref told the FBI that now was not the time for “violent jihad,” and that importing such weapons was illegal.
Community members have also expressed suspicion that the arrest may have been politically motivated. Certainly, this arrest reflects the FBI's increasingly aggressive tactics, and it raises some troubling questions:
- Why were these two men targeted? Was ethnic profiling involved?
- Why is the government directing its resources towards the prosecution of individuals who have never been involved in organizing terrorist activities, instead of focusing on the pursuit of actual terrorists?
- Most importantly from a legal standpoint, did the FBI entice Aref and Hossain to commit crimes that they had no inclination of committing on their own?
Holy Land Foundation Charged with Supporting Terrorism
On July 27th, the DOJ charged the Holy Land Foundation and seven of its senior officers for providing material support to terrorists (Section 805 of the USA PATRIOT Act), money laundering (Title III of the USA PATRIOT Act), and filing false tax returns. According to media reports, “Holy Land and its officers have adamantly denied connections to terrorism, contending they provide much-needed assistance in Palestinian areas and other Islamic countries for such things as medical clinics, schools, orphans and needy families.” Hamas has denied the DOJ's assertion that it has received funds from the Holy Land Foundation.
Iraqis Sue U.S. Corporations for Their Involvement in Prisoner Abuse Scandals
On July 27th, a consortium of lawyers called the Iraqi Torture Victim Group sued CACI International and the Titan Corporation for their alleged involvement in torture at the Abu Ghraib prison. The suit was brought on behalf of Iraqi prisoners and their families under the Alien Tort Claims Act. This suit complements another lawsuit filed against the companies by the Center for Constitutional Rights in June alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) law enforcement officers visited young people in Denver, Colorado and Lawrence, Kansas before the Democratic National Convention in Boston. The officers’ mission was reportedly to warn the protesters against committing violent acts during the conventions. However, many criticize the FBI probe as trying to intimidate peaceful people to not exercise their First Amendment rights.
During the DNC, Boston established “free speech zones.” Being bordered by walls and barbed wire, the zones were anything but “free.” Protestors remarked, “The zones defeat the purpose of convention protests. By placing demonstrators out of sight of delegates, planners have silenced their voices.” New York City denied a protest permit for the Great Lawn in Central Park that would have authorized an anti-war demonstration during the RNC. For more information on police tactics to stifle dissent, read this ZNET interview with Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild.
Library Order to Destroy Documents Rescinded
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has rescinded its request that the Government Printing Office Supervisor instruct depository libraries to destroy all copies of five Department publications addressing forfeiture:
- Civil and Criminal Forfeiture Procedure
- Select Criminal Forfeiture Forms
- Select Federal Asset Forfeiture Statutes
- Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Resource Directory
- Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA).
Topics addressed in the materials include information on how citizens can retrieve items confiscated by the government during investigations. The DOJ claimed that these publications were "training materials and other materials that the DOJ staff did not feel were appropriate for external use." The American Library Association (ALA) disputed the classification of the documents, two of which were texts of federal statutes, and expressed its concern over the DOJ's interest in destroying government information. The DOJ's decision to withdraw its instructions occurred after the ALA submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the disputed materials.
DOJ Inspector General conclusion re: FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds
In a classified investigation, the DOJ's inspector general concluded that former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds's allegations that the FBI ignored critical terrorism intelligence "were at least a contributing factor in why the FBI terminated her services." Despite these conclusions, the investigation report nonetheless claims that the FBI did not fire Edmonds to retaliate against her actions. The entire report remains classified, but the New York Times acquired a copy of a letter written by FBI director Robert Mueller which addresses the report. For more information, read the New York Times article Report: Translator fired for blowing the whistle and Sibel Edmonds's Public Letter to the 9/11 Commission Chairman.
Unitarian Universalist Association Resolution
At its annual General Assembly this June, the Unitarian Universalist Association, representing more than 1,000 congregations in North America, passed a Civil Liberties Statement of Conscience. The statement opposes "PATRIOT II" and TIPS, and calls for the repeal of the USA PATRIOT Act. It also urges further local action, as it "call[s] upon local officials to adopt resolutions urging its repeal and declaring their intention not to enforce its onerous provisions." The UUA is the first national religious body to officially oppose the USA PATRIOT Act. We at BORDC hope the UUA's actions will inspire other religious groups and associations to take up civil liberties issues. For information on resolutions passed by other religious bodies, visit this BORDC web page.
Thank you to all our subscribers who have supported the Bill of Rights Defense Committee's work with your tax-deductible contributions. If you value our work, please help keep us going by making a contribution online or via check or money order today.
Your purchase of bumper stickers, buttons, booklets, and Bill of Rights get well cards also helps. Click here for our catalog, which includes our new button: The Patriot Act? That's SO 1984.
Editor: Nancy Talanian, Director
Managing Editor: Jessie Baugher
Contributing Writers: Shannon Anderson, Jennifer DuBois
Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Inc.
8 Bridge St., Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060
We apologize if you have received this newsletter in
To unsubscribe, send a reply to this message and type "UNSUBSCRIBE" in the Subject line.
To subscribe, go to the Bill of Rights Defense Committee's web site and click on the Subscribe button on the left.