Dissent Is Patriotic
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee's e-mail newsletter
May 2005, Vol. 4, No. 4
In this issue:
- Call for National Week of Action
- New Resources: New BORDC web site; resources for state resolutions
- Resolution News: 7 state resolutions; DC bill protects right to demonstrate
- In Congress: PATRIOT Act Reform Caucus; REAL ID revisited
- Other News:
- Denver City Council asked to withdraw from JTTF
- National Security Whistleblowers Coalition holds conference
- Heroic librarian receives award, launches foundation
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As Congress considers reauthorizing or amending portions of the USA PATRIOT Act that sunset on December 31, 2005, their disagreements about the issues and the meaning of the Constitution and Bill of Rights are evident. Many members regret their inability to provide meaningful oversight of the current laws, while others are considering expanding the FBI's powers. On May 26, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hold a closed-door mark-up of a bill that would grant the FBI "administrative subpoena" powers in national security investigations, which would allow the FBI to circumvent both judicial approval and meaningful congressional oversight.
What can we do to ensure our civil liberties are restored?
Save the Dates: National Week of Action, July 2-8, 2005
Your voice is needed during upcoming national Patriot Days of Action to show our elected officials that we, the people must take part in this debate. We’ve already passed nearly 400 resolutions nationwide opposing parts of the Act and other laws and policies that threaten civil liberties, and now we must renew our demands and build upon our success.
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee is teaming up with our local and national allies to hold events from July 2 to 8 to reinforce the power of the people and our inherent right to be involved in an open process. You are invited to be a part of the Patriot Days of Action by organizing and holding local events in your community.
Scheduling these events on July Fourth weekend, when we celebrate America's founding principles of liberty and justice, provides a useful historical perspective for our message. During the weekdays following the Fourth, while members of Congress are in their districts, we are asking participants to hold in-district meetings with their legislators to reinforce their concerns.
- For more information about the week of action, go to http://www.bordc.org/involved/weekofaction.php. We will send you details in an email alert that you can forward to others to inform them about the week of action.
- For a menu of event suggestions, go to http://www.bordc.org/involved/menu.php. BORDC thanks the many community organizers from 14 states who helped us compile the list.
- Submit information about your plans to us so we can list your event(s) on our web site. Fill out our online form at http://bordc.org/involved/event_userform.php. The more locations and events involved, the more attention we'll receive from Congress, the press, and the public.
- Over the next few weeks, we will post new materials, such as flyers, talking points, sample press releases, and more on our web site, so please visit http://www.bordc.org/involved/weekofaction.php or drop us a line at email@example.com.
By holding local actions across the country around the Fourth of July, we will reclaim the spirit of Independence Day. As our government is poised to make decisions that could stifle or renew the dream of our country's founding fathers and mothers in 1776, it is up to all of us to make our forebears and future generations proud.
BORDC's new web site
Last weekend, BORDC switched over to its new, more "user-friendly" web site. The url, www.bordc.org, is unchanged. We hope you like it.
Thank you to the many local committees who helped us update our data on the communities and states that have passed or are working on resolutions. That information is now stored in a database that users can display by state, alphabetically, and chronologically. Very special thanks to Glenn C. Devitt, former chair of the New York City Bill of Rights Defense Campaign and Technical Director of Isotope Media, who contributed his knowledge, skills, and hundreds of hours to bring the project to completion.
New resources for state resolutions
BORDC has greatly expanded its resources for those working on statewide resolutions. Hope Marston, who took the lead in pulling together these resources, thanks the many people who shared their knowledge and materials with us, including Paul Edwards of Montana and Peter Chabarek of Oregon. We welcome others to share their suggestions and materials via our web site.
Seven State Resolutions!
Three state legislatures--Idaho, Montana, and Colorado--have enacted statewide civil liberties resolutions in the past two months.
- Idaho's joint memorial, passed March 30, urges the state's congressional delegation to support the SAFE Act, which was introduced by Idaho Senator Larry Craig.
- The Montana joint resolution, which passed on April 2, opposes "any portion of the USA PATRIOT Act that violates the rights and liberties guaranteed under the Montana Constitution or the United States Constitution, including the Bill of Rights." It backs up its opposition with several firm demands.
- The Colorado joint resolution, passed on May 9, affirms the state's opposition to "any provision or application of the 'USA PATRIOT Act' that would violate the rights and liberties guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions."
Congratulations to everyone who took part in drafting and supporting the resolutions.
Strong DC Demonstration Bill Becomes Law
by Kit Gage
The introduction of DC's “First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act of 2004” came on the heels of a series of over-the-top police round-ups of demonstrators and others who were not engaged in any violations of law. Those arrests overwhelmingly proved a massive public embarrassment and increasing financial loss to the city as suits were lost or settled for significant sums.
After passage by the DC City Council, the bill had to be reviewed by the U.S. Congress. [Editor’s note: Remember that the District of Columbia is a colony, has no Senators, nor a voting Representative, and all its laws must be approved by the U.S. Congress]. Oddly, the Congress let it slip through, despite opposition by the FBI and others. So now it’s law.
How important is DC law 15-352?
This First Amendment Rights law encourages and enshrines dissent, understanding peoples’ right to demonstrate “near the object of their protest so they may be seen and heard.” It prohibits preemptive arrests and dispersals, police lines to entrap demonstrators, and the use of tear gas and pepper spray on peaceful protesters. It reinforces a permit process of parades but remarks that people don’t need a permit to assemble. The standard for arrest is criminal activity – and then only people engaged directly in crimes (breaking windows etc) should be arrested – not the whole crowd. The police role regarding demonstrations is crowd management which should “emphasize communication and voluntary compliance” according to Councilmember Kathy Patterson’s release announcing the new law.
The Next Steps – A National Movement to Adopt this Model Legislation
For us, and for all of you who come to Washington to demonstrate, this is an important law. But it is more. It is landmark legislation, and a template for all of you: New York and San Francisco with your huge demonstrations; Chicago, Los Angeles, Des Moines, and Seattle, with your recent and historic history of police abuses. The time is now to introduce this or similar legislation around the country.
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee has set the stage for 378 cities and counties and now 7 states and counting, to pass Bill of Rights resolutions. As you can see from their web site, www.bordc.org, these resolutions vary, but cover a wide area of law enforcement and jurisdictional issues, often including the right to demonstrate. The new DC law is specific to demonstrations and includes detailed and comprehensive guidelines as to city and police roles, presumptions, and behavior. Local laws like the DC law would be a critical complement to a local bill of rights resolution. Where there is no such resolution, this might be a wonderful first step.
To read the law B15-968, click here (PDF).
Kit Gage is the director of the First Amendment Foundation and the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation and is president of the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom. She serves on the board of BORDC.
Reprinted with permission from the April 2005 issue of the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL) newsletter
Patriot Act Reform Caucus
On April 28, House members announced a new, tri-partisan Patriot Act Reform Caucus http://bernie.house.gov/documents/releases/20050429181320.asp chaired by Reps. Sanders, Flake, Paul, and Nadler. According to the release, "The caucus will work with outside groups to educate Congress on the need for Patriot Act reforms and develop legislative proposals to ensure that constitutional freedoms and protections are maintained in any Patriot Act reauthorization."
If your representative is not already a member of this caucus, encourage him or her to join.
REAL ID Revisited
Thank you to everyone who worked to stop REAL ID in both the 108th Congress, when its provisions were part of the House Intelligence Reform bill H.R. 10, and in the 109th Congress. The House voted to attach REAL ID to the emergency supplemental spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for tsunami relief, but REAL ID was never introduced to the Senate, where it lacked sufficient votes.
REAL ID became part of the supplemental bill following a flawed conference process whereby Republican conferees shut out their Democratic colleagues and voted to send the spending bill, with a slightly amended REAL ID bill attached, to the House and Senate for up or down votes. The Senate voted unanimously for the spending bill.
For more information and links to analyses, go to our legislation page.
Denver City Council asked to withdraw from JTTF
by Mark Cohen
In March of 2002, it was revealed that for decades, the Denver Police Department (DPD) Intelligence Bureau had been conducting surveillance and keeping “criminal intelligence” files on activists engaged in constitutionally-protected activities. These files recorded, among other things, membership in organizations, attendance at demonstrations, expressed opinions, car license numbers, and addresses of private residences. While labeling groups and individuals as “criminal,” and attaching the label “criminal extremist” to some files, the bureau recorded no facts connected with criminal activity.
As a result of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the DPD eventually created a new intelligence policy, which, among other things, explicitly forbids the department from conducting surveillance and maintaining files on activists without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The agreement also provided for the creation of an independent auditor to monitor DPD adherence to the new policy.
In its most recent report, however, the auditor’s office indicated that the DPD officers assigned to work with the JTTF have refused to discuss their work with the agency, asserting that they are prohibited by federal guidelines from revealing anything and that they are subject only to federal guidelines when working with the JTTF. Meanwhile, the JTTF has continued to target local activists with no basis for suspicion of criminal activity. In July 2004, members of the FBI, accompanied by two DPD officers, “visited” young activists at their homes in Denver and questioned them about theirs “plans” to participate in the upcoming national political conventions (none of those questioned even planned to attend the protests around the conventions).
Following the example of the city of Portland, Oregon, which recently removed its officers from the JTTF, Denver community members are now asking members of the Denver City Council to take a close look at Denver’s participation in the JTTF. Read article.
Parts of this article previously appeared in a different form in Building Bridges.
National Security Whistleblowers Coalition holds conference
Despite the government's best efforts to hide evidence of its pre-9/11 failures and of continued failures since the tragic attacks, courageous national security employees have endured retaliation, harassment, and the loss of their jobs to bring those failures to the attention of Congress and the public. Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, one of the best known whistleblowers, has founded the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (see web site at www.nswbc.org), whose membership includes 50 national security whistleblowers. The coalition's demands include criminalizing "retaliation for whistleblowing if the retaliation is undertaken to prevent or punish a whistleblower in reporting illegal activity or illegal efforts to mislead Congress."
At their conference in Washington, DC, last month, Edmonds and other coalition members met with members of Congress to ask for legislative support and oversight. Without it, the whistleblowers' employers will continue to silence them and to invest millions more taxpayer dollars to fight their claims, rather than correct the critical shortcomings that have given rise to the whistleblowers' claims. An amendment version of a House bill introduced by Rep. Ed Markey to provide protections for whistleblowers was rejected on a party line vote.
As if to reinforce the whistleblowers' claims, the National Security Agency fired Intelligence Analyst Russ Tice after he spoke at the conference. Read May 4 press release by Program on Government Oversight.
Heroic librarian receives award, launches foundation
The December 2004 issue of Dissent Is Patriotic reported that the Whatcom County (WA) Library system had received an award for refusing to fulfill an FBI request for a list of everyone who had borrowed a biography of Osama bin Laden. On April 20, Whatcom library director Joan Airoldi received the PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award, which honors "a U.S. resident who has fought courageously, despite adversity, to safeguard the First Amendment right to freedom of expression as it applies to the written word."
According to an April 21 article in the Seattle Times, Airoldi is using the $25,000 award to establish a foundation to put on programs "where people will talk about intellectual freedom for many years to come."
As its first project, the Whatcom County Library Foundation is considering developing a training film that would instruct librarians on protecting reader privacy. Send donations to:
Whatcom County Library Foundation
5205 Northwest Road
Bellingham, WA 98226
To learn more about why Airoldi refused to hand over her library records to the FBI, read her May 18 op-ed in USA Today.
Editor: Nancy Talanian, Director
Managing Editor: Jessie Baugher, East Region Organizer
Hope Marston, West Region Organizer
Kimberly Kossick, National Lawyers Guild Haywood Burns Fellow
Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Inc.
8 Bridge St., Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060
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