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Dissent Is Patriotic

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee's e-mail newsletter

December 2004, Vol. 3, No. 10


The record of Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's nominee for attorney general, has become synonymous with contempt for the rule of law. In this issue of the BORDC newsletter, we remind our readers to call your Senators and ask them to carefully consider Mr. Gonzales's fitness to serve as our nation's chief law enforcement officer. We also report allegations of cover-ups of torture overseas. And, we recognize the successful work of New Jersey activists to end the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's use of torture by dogs against U.S. immigrant detainees. Finally, we look at the contents of the intelligence reform bill that President Bush signed last Friday.

Please help BORDC continue building and supporting grassroots efforts to restore civil liberties. Your tax-deductible donation will help us meet 2005's challenges. Contribute online or mail your check to:

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
8 Bridge St., Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060

Many thanks to our readers who have already contributed. BORDC wishes all our readers very happy holidays.


In this issue:

Fit for office? Questions for Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales
Torture and abuse at home and abroad
Intelligence reform legislation wins and losses
Tribute to civil liberties defenders
Open Society Institute Awards Grant to BORDC


Fit for office? Please Ask Your Senators to Challenge Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales

The Senate Judiciary Committee http://judiciary.senate.gov/members.cfm may begin questioning Mr. Gonzales about his fitness for the post on January 6. On Friday, BORDC sent an Action Alert containing Senate contacts and sample questions for Gonzales: http://bordc.org/BORDC-Act-Alert25.htm.

Whether or not your senators are on the committee, it is important that they hear from you right away. In light of Congress's upcoming holiday recess, we advise you to pose your questions to your Senator's office via phone or fax no later than Wednesday, December 22, 2004.


Torture and abuse at home and abroad:

New Jersey activists expose, end torture-by-dogs in U.S. detention centers

In our June 2003 newsletter, we introduced you to the efforts of the New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee to protest the many detentions of Middle Eastern and South Asian immigrants in their region. Over the past year, NJCRDC has continued its important work, and recently they won a huge battle to end torture-by-dogs in U.S. jails and detention centers.

Working with a coalition of immigrants’ rights and civil rights groups, NJCRDC began reporting to the press in July 2003 that local detention centers were using dogs to intimidate and torture detainees. Continuing their work to expose these violations, NJCRDC recently arranged detainee interviews for a National Public Radio story--a story which brought national attention to the practice of torture-by-dogs. In response to the NPR story, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has directed all U.S. jails holding immigrant detainees to cease from using dogs around detainees as of December 11, 2004. BORDC thanks NJCRDC for all of their hard work and congratulates them on this huge victory.

To learn more about NJCRDC and their ongoing work to defend civil liberties and protest illegal detentions without charge, visit their web site at http://www.nj-civilrights.org. To find out if there is a detention center near you, see our national list: http://www.bordc.org/detention.php.

Alleged Pentagon cover-ups of abuse at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib

Recently disclosed memos from the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency have revealed that government officials witnessed and reported abuse at both Guantánamo Bay's Camp Delta and Iraq's Abu Ghraib, to no avail.

In a July 2004 letter to the Army's provost marshal, FBI counterterrorism official Thomas Harrington detailed numerous abuses witnessed by bureau investigators at Guantánamo as far back as 2002, including one case in which an interrogator grabbed a detainee's genitals. He asserts that the FBI alerted Pentagon lawyers about the abuse as early as January 2003, but nothing was done in response. According to a recent CNN article, an FBI official has confirmed that the memo is authentic but declined to comment further (December 8, 2004, CNN, FBI reports Guantánamo 'abuse', http://edition.cnn.com/2004/US/12/08/guantanamo.abuse/).

At Abu Ghraib, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) personnel who have witnessed abuse have been threatened and harassed by special operations task force members, according to a memo from Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, who heads the DIA. In his letter to the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Jacoby claims that DIA personnel were warned not to talk about the abuse they witnessed, had their emails monitored, and were ordered to remain on their base. While the Pentagon has not commented on the DIA memo, it maintains--despite the FBI's claims and the testimony of many former detainees--that no one has been tortured at Guantánamo (December 7, 2004, Reuters, FBI Letter Details Guantánamo Prisoner Abuses, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/news/news-security-guantanamo-letter.html).


Intelligence reform legislation wins and losses

The pressure on lawmakers to pass a bill to reform intelligence, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission, was so strong that the public's only option was to keep as many bad provisions as possible out of the two divergent bills and the conference report. Governor Thomas Kean of the 9/11 Commission even recycled the potent argument that had helped the Justice Department rush the USA PATRIOT Act through Congress: 'If you don't pass this bill now, then you will be held responsible for the next terrorist attack.'

Our thanks go to all of you who worked hard to keep as many bad provisions out of the final bill as possible. It was an uphill struggle all the way, and it is still not over: Despite the bill's 336-to-75 win in the House, expect to see House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner's extreme provisions that did not make the conference report to be attached to the first "must pass" bill early in 2005.

The objective of the bill envisioned by the 9/11 Commission was to close intelligence loopholes through better communication and coordination, not to expand law enforcement powers. Here is our summary of the final bill. Read the conference report at http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2004_rpt/h108-796.html.

Positive outcomes:

Negative outcomes:

Civil Liberties Board can help ensure attention to civil liberties in process of drafting policies. Shortcomings: Lacks subpoena power; members appointed by the president. Reject's 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the public know U.S.'s total intelligence budget. Recent revelations of a useless, expensive spy satellite program may have revealed the reason for the continuing secrecy.
Process for those on "no-fly list" to appeal to the Transportation Security Agency to be removed from the list. Automatic deportation of aliens who have received military-type training from terrorist organizations. This penalizes people, including children, who have been kidnapped or otherwise forced to join terrorist bands from obtaining asylum in the U.S. (See Section 6602.)
Strengthens privacy and civil liberties protection roles of the following members of the Department of Homeland Security: Privacy Officer, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer, and Inspector General. Establishes basic national standards for state-issued driver's licenses and personal ID cards (Section 7212) and birth certificates (Section 7211). In the case of driver's licenses, the Secretary of Transportation is to establish the minimum standards within 18 months. The ACLU and others call these standards a precursor to a national ID card.
Struck the most egregious anti-immigrant/anti-refugee provisions in H.R. 10 from final bill. (See BORDC's list of the following provisions at www.bordc.org/hr10.htm.)

Alien identification standardsExpedited removal and other sections that would have permitted removal to countries that torture

Preventing terrorists from obtaining asylum ("One central motive" requirement)

Revocation of visas and other travel documentationCautionary note: These sections may be attached to the first "must pass" bill in the next Congress.
From "Patriot II":
FBI can obtain warrants for secret surveillance and searches without having to link the individual with a specific foreign government or terrorist group. This provision, also known as "lone wolf" and "the Moussaoui fix," loosens standards for the FBI to obtain FISA warrants to conduct secret surveillance.

Law "Sunsets" on December 31, 2005, unless Congress reauthorizes it. Makes it easier for the DOJ to detain suspects indicted by a grand jury on terrorism charges without bail, putting the onus on the defendant to show he or she is not a danger or a flight risk. This opens the door to indefinite detention.
Strengthens Attorney General's reports to Congress about its use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. (See Section 6002.) Expands sharing of grand jury information with foreign governments. This is disturbing in light of the DOJ's record of making charges and allegations that have turned out to be false. Also allows federal prosecutors to share secret grand jury information with local, state, or foreign governments to protect against terrorist attacks.
"Material Support": In order to be in violation, the person must know of the organization's terrorist designation or that it engages in terrorist activity. Law will "sunset" on December 31, 2006, unless Congress reauthorizes it.
"Material Support": Subsequent to two federal court rulings that found this statute to be "unconstitutionally vague," Section 6603 clarifies the statute, criminalizing any tangible or intangible property or service to a named terrorist organization.
Oversight and Privacy Protections for information sharing: Calls for privacy guidelines for sharing information calling for congressional and public input and the civil liberties board's involvement, and for "strong mechanisms to enhance
accountability and facilitate oversight, including audits,
authentication, and access controls." (See Section 1016.)
Registered traveler program: Allows preapproved travelers to sail through customs. Terrorists can be expected to exploit this new loophole.

What's next? BORDC will do the following:

  • Provide updates on the progress toward national driver's license and birth certificate standards
  • Alert you when the anti-immigrant provisions from H.R. 10 that did not survive in the final bill are attached to one or more bills in the next Congress
  • Watch for and keep you informed of the implementation and effectiveness of the Civil Liberties Board, TSA's process for removing people from the "no-fly list," and other positive developments
  • Assess any implementation and apparent misuse of the troubling sections.

Tribute to civil liberties defenders

This month we pay tribute to the New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee (see article in this issue) and to the civil liberties defenders below who have recently received awards. BORDC thanks all our readers who have made others aware of threats to their civil liberties and human rights and of the need to protect them.

BORDC Advisory Board Member David Cole Receives William J. Brennan, Jr., Free Speech Award

On December 17th at the U.S. Supreme Court, Georgetown Law Center Professor David Cole became the fourth recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression's William J. Brennan, Jr., Award in the 12-year history of the award. In presenting the award, Robert M. O'Neil, the Jefferson Center's director, who was formerly a Brennan clerk, described Professor Cole as "one of the nation's most accomplished advocates for freedom of expression and an outstanding scholar of the First Amendment." In his acceptance speech, Cole mentioned the BORDC, the 367 resolutions that have already been enacted, and their political ramifications. For more information about the Thomas Jefferson Center, the award, and past recipients, go to http://unix5.digitalstore.com/pipermail/fen/2004-December/000132.html.

BORDC Board Member Chip Pitts is Dallas Peace Center's Peacemaker of the Year

Joe “Chip” Pitts III, one of BORDC’s new board members, received the Dallas Peace Center’s Peacemaker of the Year award on December 2, 2004. In addition to founding the Bill of Rights Defense Committee of Greater Dallas and spearheading the effort to pass a resolution there, Pitts is chairperson of the board of Amnesty International USA and has worked on a number of social justice issues over the years. Read more here: http://www.dallasnews.com/s/dws/news/localnews/stories/112904dnmetpitts.23066.html.

Maine Civil Liberties Union Recognizes Local Activists

On December 1, 2004, the Maine Civil Liberties Union recognized several activists for their work to pass local resolutions defending civil liberties in the face of the USA PATRIOT Act and related laws and policies. Receiving awards were Bia Winter of Mount Vernon, Gerald Oleson and Bill Sullivan of Bangor, Bernie Huebner of Waterville, Kris Clark of Portland, Maizy Myers of Searsport, and Jane Sanford of Belfast. BORDC thanks them for their work and congratulates them on this recognition.

Tampa Organizer Honored by Local Human Rights Council

Rochelle Reback, member of Tampa Safe AND Free, was awarded the Tampa-Hillsborough County Human Rights Council’s 2004 Human Rights Award on December 10, 2004. Reback has worked to defend human and civil rights in a number of ways, from challenging a local referendum which would have repealed the city's human rights ordinance, to promoting the passage of Tampa’s resolution against the USA PATRIOT Act. BORDC congratulates Rochelle Reback for this great honor. Read more here: http://www.sptimes.com/2004/12/10/Columns/Democracy_gains_from_.shtml.

Robert Downs Intellectual Freedom Award

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science has awarded its annual Robert Downs Intellectual Freedom Award to the Whatcom County (WA) Library system. When the FBI confiscated a book containing a handwritten note quoting Osama Bin Laden and requested information on every patron who had checked out the book, the library filed a motion against the subpoena. Read more here: http://www.lis.uiuc.edu/gslis/school/downs-award.html.


Open Society Institute awards grant to BORDC

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) has received a $50,000 grant from the Open Society Institute (OSI), a private operating and grantmaking foundation that works to strengthen democracy and civil society in the United States and in more than 60 countries around the world.

According to John Kowal, Director of Constitutional Legal Policy for the Open Society Institute’s US Justice Fund, “BORDC brings important Washington policy issues into town halls all across America so people can make their voices heard.”

“Nothing is more critical right now to the future of civil liberties than encouraging ordinary people to stand up for their rights and for the principles that this nation was founded upon," said David Cole, Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center and a BORDC Advisory Board member. "BORDC has shown itself tremendously successful at doing just that, and I hope this grant will permit them to build on the networks they have already created.”

BORDC will use the OSI grant to reach communities in regions where there has been little debate thus far about threats to civil liberties, and to develop new strategies and resources for building community support. BORDC will also work with communities to seek out and protect victims of the new laws and policies that target people of Arab and Muslim descent and those who oppose government policies.


Editor: Nancy Talanian, Director
Managing Editor: Jessie Baugher, Organizer

Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Inc.
8 Bridge St., Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060

Web: http://www.bordc.org/
Email: info@bordc.org
Telephone: 413-582-0110
Fax: 413-582-0116


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