Dissent Is Patriotic
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee's e-mail newsletter
January 2006, Vol. 5, No. 1
In this issue:
- New Resources and Tools for NSA wiretaps and other domestic spying, new BORDC web search feature
- Grassroots News: 401 resolutions, progress toward California resolution, the grassroots in the reauthorization debate, Bill of Rights/Human Rights Day
- PATRIOT Act Reauthorization Cliffhanger Continues
- Ohio Patriot Act Becomes Law
- Grassroots Victory at Passaic County Jail by Flavia Alaya
- Torture and Habeas Corpus
- Guantánamo News
- Updates on Alleged "Terrorists" Past and Present: Jose Padilla, Sami Al-Arian, Brandon Mayfield
- In Brief: Remembering Frank Wilkinson, BORDC welcomes Linda Stone as new East Region Organizer
Please support our efforts to defend the Bill of Rights!
To contribute funds or stock online, go to http://www.bordc.org/donate.php,
or mail a check or money order to:
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National Security Agency (NSA) Warrantless Wiretaps
Click here for resources and suggestions for doing public education about warrantless wiretapping in your community, including a document that refutes myths being put forward by the Bush administration in defense of its program.
Vermont legislators are considering a statewide resolution, which may be introduced soon. Click here for a model resolution based on the draft that the Vermont legislature is considering.
Information on Domestic Spying in General
This new web page is a collection of articles and other resources about domestic spying by other federal agencies, such as the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force, National Guard, and Pentagon.
Search the BORDC web site!
The BORDC web site now has a search box on every page to help you find the information you need. You may also continue to search via the menu bar, via the site map, or by contacting us.
On December 13 (just two days before Bill of Rights Day), two more Bill of Rights resolutions were passed – one in Coupeville, Washington and one in Haines Borough, Alaska, bringing the total nationwide of resolutions to 401, including seven states.
Earlier this fall, the Coupeville Council had rejected a resolution, but the Coupeville Peace and Reconciliation (CPR) kept going back to the council on a regular basis, and finally won them over. City councilors thanked the group for their perseverance. CPR's Ché Gilliland said the group is now working toward an Island County resolution.
In Haines Borough, the mayor drafted the resolution after the Alaska Native Brotherhood approached the local government with concerns about the PATRIOT Act.
California Statewide Resolution Passes the General Assembly
On Monday, January 30, the California General Assembly passed SJR 10, the Bill of Rights resolution, by a vote of 43-31. The California Senate must now approve the resolution. (That body's overwhelming vote in favor last year does not count.) No Senate vote has been scheduled.
The Grassroots Role in the Reauthorization Debate
The impact of the grassroots in transforming the dialogue in Washington and in preventing the poor compromise bill from becoming law was palpable: The national grassroots debate, the passage of 401 state and local resolutions, and thousands of visits, phone calls, and other contact with federal legislators resounded in Congress. Among the more imaginative strategies was a campaign originated in Fairbanks, Alaska, of constituents sending flowers to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to thank her for supporting civil liberties and the filibuster. City councils in Alaska have also passed resolutions supporting Senator Murkowski and Representative Don Young (R-AK) for opposing the current conference report. (Read story here.)
House and Senate floor statements and the Senators' rallying cries for civil liberties protections clearly showed that they heard you. For example, on December 14, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold lifted the BORDC's 470-page book of resolutions as he addressed his colleagues on the Senate floor and said,
Credit ... has to go to the American people who stood up, despite the dismissive and derisive comments of government officials, and said with loud voices – the Patriot Act needs to be changed.
And these voices came from the left and the right, from big cities and small towns all across the country. So far, over 400 state and local governmental bodies have passed resolutions calling for revisions to the PATRIOT Act. I plan to read some of those resolutions on the floor of the Senate in this debate, and there are a lot of them.
Read statements during the reauthorization debate from Senator Feingold and nine other members of Congress here. See also "Patriot Act Reauthorization Cliffhanger Continues," in this newsletter.
Bill of Rights Day and Human Rights Day
Commemorations of Bill of Rights Day and Human Rights Day took place last December across the U.S. In Friday Harbor, Washington, the San Juan County Bill of Rights Defense Committee joined with the ACLU of Washington for a Bill of Rights Day event. Because the county has a good-sized population of documented and undocumented immigrants, Bill of Rights bookmarks in Spanish were provided at the library and at a local coffee shop. The group also printed “The New Bill of Rights” with several amendments crossed out in red to show post-9/11 changes in fundamental liberties. Both the mayor of Friday Harbor and the Board of County Commissioners adopted Bill of Rights Day Proclamations.
The Long Road to the Conference Report. House and Senate Judiciary Committee hearings over reauthorization began early last April and continued into June. Although the House and Senate passed bills in July 2005 to reauthorize expiring PATRIOT Act provisions, the House postponed negotiations toward a compromise by delaying the appointment of House conferees until November 9. As has been commonplace in recent years, Democratic Senate and House conferees were eventually excluded from negotiations, and a "compromise bill" emerged that was heavily weighted toward the House bill, which the White House favored. The House bill's ineffective reforms to protect civil liberties fell far short of those in the unanimously passed Senate bill.
Shortcomings. Missing from the conference report was a required connection between records the FBI sought and suspected terrorists of foreign spies or a meaningful right to challenge orders and gag orders. Unwanted expansions include new death penalties and a conversion of FBI National Security Letters to National Security Subpoenas, through the addition of penalties for failing to comply. See chronology.
A telltale sign of the administration's influence was a bonus provision that had not been discussed or passed by the House or the Senate, which would reduce our First Amendment free speech rights. Title VI, regarding "national special security events," makes it a federal crime, punishable by prison sentences, to demonstrate in a cordoned off area where a Secret Service protectee may be scheduled to appear or may have appeared. Read section-by-section summary.
The Conference Report Fails. In the years since 9/11 we have learned not to be surprised by undemocratic compromise bills and undebated provisions quietly added to "must-pass" bills. On the contrary, we are now surprised whenever members of Congress show courage and do the right thing. Such a drama played out in mid-December when a bipartisan coalition of senators found their demands for adding civil liberties protections to the conference report rebuffed by Senate leadership on the grounds that the House and the White House would make no further concessions. At the same time, news emerged that for four years, the White House had authorized the National Security Agency to wiretap Americans without warrants, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978.
To nearly everyone's surprise, the senators filibustered and called for a three-month extension to work out differences, risking the Republican leadership's accusations that they wanted the PATRIOT Act to expire. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist refused their proposed three-month extension but eventually allowed a vote for a six-month extension, which House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner soon reduced to a too short, five-week extension. With no compromise at hand, a second extension before the February 3 deadline is likely.
National Call-in Day. When the BORDC heard nothing from Congress about plans for a new reauthorization bill, we proposed a national call-in day to remind members of Congress of their constituents' concerns about civil liberties. Two dozen organizations joined the BORDC in supporting the January 25 call-in, which resulted in thousands of calls to Congress. Many of you reported being told by staffers that they'd received many calls. Others got multiple busy signals or reached voice mailboxes that were full. Find a list of national organizations that supported the call-in day here.
What's Next? Senator Arlen Specter continues to urge his colleagues to accept the undemocratic conference report on the grounds that the House refuses to make more concessions beyond four-year sunsets on three provisions. (An earlier draft of the conference report contained seven-year sunsets.) Fortunately, the Senators who filibustered recognize that civil liberties protections rather than four-year sunsets are what they and their constituents have fought for since October 2001. Republican Senators Larry Craig, Chuck Hagel, Lisa Murkowski, and John Sununu, who joined Senator Russ Feingold and the Democratic Senators in the filibuster, are under tremendous pressure directly from the White House to accede to the weak compromise bill.
What You Can Do: We will inform you of movements in Congress toward any votes or compromises when we learn of them. We expect another temporary extension through mid-March as most likely. If you have not called your senators or representative, please do so now, and ask your friends, families, neighbors, co-workers, and other contacts to join you at this critical and historic constitutional moment. Use our simple form to let us know how your calls go. Experience has proven that legislative action on these issues is impossible without strong and persistent popular support. Find resources here, including op-eds by BORDC board president Chip Pitts and other excellent writers.
On January 11, 2006, Ohio Governor Bob Taft signed into law the Ohio Patriot Act. The legislation, which takes effect in April, was passed with large majorities in the Ohio General Assembly's House and Senate just before the holiday recess in December. Despite growing opposition among Ohio voters, legislators voiced concerns that a vote against any type of security measure would cause them to appear soft on terrorism in an election year. According to Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, "This doesn't have a little to do with the upcoming election. It has everything to do with the upcoming election."
The law gives new powers to police departments and includes the requirement that local law enforcement assist federal authorities carrying out provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act when they are able. With enactment of the law, Ohio police officers can now ask, "What's your name?" as a tool to fight terrorism. Failure to identify oneself could land an individual in jail. The law also requires those applying for state driver's licenses to sign a form that they haven't supported terrorist organizations. At one of the few hearings held for public testimony, Jeff Gamso, Legal Director of the Ohio ACLU spoke in opposition to the legislation and said that the Ohio Patriot Act “does not makes us safer, but makes us less free.” Read more here.
by Flavia Alaya, New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee (NJCRDC)
Editor's Note: Our September 2005 newsletter reported the NJCRDC's efforts to bring abuse of New Jersey immigrant detainees to the attention of Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General. We are pleased to share the outcome of the NJCRDC's tireless efforts to bring the mistreatment of detainees to the outside world. Read Flavia's expanded account in CounterPunch. Flavia is a member of the BORDC's board of directors.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract to hold immigrant detainees at Passaic County Jail in Paterson, New Jersey, has been voluntarily ended by Sheriff Jerry Speziale himself. Officials say that transfer of the remaining hundred or so detainees to other facilities will be complete as of February 1, 2006.
Passaic County Jail (PCJ) was one of five facilities nationwide targeted this past year for audit by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS/IG) owing to substantial complaints of substandard conditions and treatment. The beleaguered PCJ audit, which had stalled in August and was later resumed, was completed in December. On December 29, Sheriff Jerry Speziale announced the termination of contract. The full audit report is due out in February.
The audit also includes Hudson County Jail in nearby Kearny, New Jersey. Activists say that the inclusion of two New Jersey facilities on the IG’s short list owes in good part to vigorous advocacy efforts that joined citizen activists on the outside with detainees willing to seek justice for themselves. The NJCRDC submitted more than 80 detainee affidavits to the IG when the audit was announced.
Indeed, pressure on the IG was originally intensified when National Public Radio, using data about detainees and contact information for former detainees supplied by the NJCRDC, reported on the use of attack dogs in PCJ. Immediately after this report, in November 2004, the IG announced its forthcoming series of audits.
Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale has made it clear that persistent demonstrations and activism both within and outside the jail were responsible for his decision to end the ICE contract. “It's definitely more trouble than it's worth,” he said, speaking on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Show. “There are so many advocacy groups out there…. Regardless where you put these detainees,” he went on, “the advocacy groups and the demonstrations will continue, and you're just going to have problems for other facilities.”
Bergen County Peace & Justice Coalition (BCPJC), one of NJCRDC's activist partners, has just announced its own campaign to end ICE’s contract with Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, one of the several facilities that have received transfers from PCJ. In a statement issued January 10, members of BCPJC wrote:
The Bill of Rights protects everyone, everywhere, from being held without charges by the US Government. It makes no distinction between citizens and non-citizens, or detention within or outside the US border. The Bill of Rights puts limits on the action the government can take at any time. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution says that “No person … shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” .... The detainees have been charged with no crimes. They must be freed.
We demand that the Freeholders end the contract with ICE, stop holding the detainees and stop selling our rights! We have succeeded in ending the ICE contract at Passaic County Jail. Bergen is next!
What you can do: If there is a detention center near you, consider following the lead of the NJCRDC in exposing their plight and helping the detainees and their families. Contact us at email@example.com for help.
President Bush's Signing Statement Circumvents Congress's Torture Ban
Over White House objections and strenuous lobbying by the vice president, Congress passed the McCain torture ban amendment in its Defense Appropriations bill in late December, leaving many to wonder what all the hoopla was about. George W. Bush issued a “signing statement,” declaring that he will reserve the right to waive the restrictions on torture.
Amendment Strips Guantánamo Detainees' Habeas Rights
And a second amendment to the Appropriations bill, the Graham-Levin-Kyl amendment effectively strips Guantánamo detainees of habeas corpus rights, plus allows confessions extracted by torture to be used in their trials. While Senators are proud of themselves for passing the McCain amendment 90-9, they should be ashamed of the vote on the right of Guantánamo detainees to challenge their detention, which was 84-14. It’s quicker to name the 14 who stood up for the foundational and essential right of habeas corpus than to name those who sold it away. Here is the roll-call vote.
As a result of the Graham-Levin-Kyl amendment, Justice Department lawyers immediately asked the Supreme Court to vacate its decision allowing the right of Guantánamo detainees to ask an independent court to determine the validity of their incarceration. In June 2004, the Supreme Court ruled in Rasul vs. Bush that detainees have that right. Many have been released from Guantánamo following that ruling, and might never have won their freedom without the writ of habeas corpus. Read more here.
Hunger Strikers Close to Death
According to their lawyers, several hunger strikers may be close to death. The prisoner rights group, Reprieve, believes that the hunger strike has reached a new, more dangerous stage.
Despite force-feeding by their captors, the condition of the detainees has raised considerable concern and fear about their lives. At the same time, the military has issued denials about the severity of the situation, and has prevented lawyers from visiting their hospitalized clients. Although both British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have called for the closing of Guantánamo, Washington policy is causing a stand-off that advocates believe will lead to the starvation deaths of several prisoners. Read New York Times story on Merkel's criticism.
US to Extend Military Execution Rules to Guantánamo Bay
With a change in rules governing the location of military executions, Guantánamo may be a future site for executions of condemned terror suspects. Until now death sentences could only be carried out at a Kansas military prison. With this change, executions can take place anywhere, including the naval base in Cuba. Also, a detainee who receives a death sentence at a military tribunal could be subject to the new rules. Read more here.
Nine Chinese Muslims Trapped in Legal Limbo
A group of innocent men from East Turkestan in northwest China (Xinjiang) are trapped in a legal fight over presidential authority and court jurisdiction. It has been 10 months since the detentions of these nine Chinese Muslims were ruled illegal, yet they continue to be held at Guantánamo. The men, ethnic Uighurs who oppose their country’s Communist rule, cannot find a nation that is willing to give them refuge.
The U.S. government said the law forbids sending the men home to Xinjiang because they would face persecution there, yet the Bush administration is opposed to allowing them to enter the U.S., even though a military review panel determined that they pose no threat. Read more here.
Guantánamo IDs Must be Released
The names and nationalities of hundreds of detainees at Guantánamo must be released according to a federal ruling January 23, the result of an Associated Press lawsuit under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). In his ruling, the U.S. District Court judge said that the government’s argument that the privacy of the detainees must be maintained was unconvincing. AP lawyers were pleased that the judge rejected the Defense Department’s attempt to use the privacy argument in an effort to keep the public from learning about activities at Guantánamo. Read more here.
Jose Padilla: Enemy Combatant Status Temporarily Suspended
Former enemy combatant Jose Padilla pleaded not guilty in civilian criminal court on January 12 to charges that he attended an al-Qaeda training camp and participated in recruiting for the training camp in Florida. Read more here. This is a major departure from the original allegations that Padilla was a potential “dirty bomber,” ready to unleash a radioactive bomb in the D.C. area, or to blow up apartment buildings in major U.S. cities, as was charged by the government before various courts. The shifting rationales for Padilla's detention was alarming even to the fourth circuit court of appeals, one of the nation's most conservative, which had originally upheld his continued detention as a U.S. citizen enemy combatant.
The Bush Administration seems determined to prevent the Supreme Court from ruling on whether or not a president has the right to indefinitely strip an American citizen of Constitutional rights, as President Bush did to Padilla in May 2002. The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that Yasser Esam Hamdi could be named an “enemy combatant,” because he was fighting against U.S. forces on an Afghanistan battlefield. Read story here. Padilla, on the other hand, was captured at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Just days away from deadlines to file briefs in Padilla’s case before the Supreme Court, the Bush Administration decided to charge Padilla as a civilian, rather than as an enemy combatant. Read more here.
Though the Supreme Court ruled on January 5 that Padilla could be transferred from solitary confinement in the South Carolina military brig to a civilian jail in Florida (story here), it still has not decided whether it will hear Padilla’s case. The Florida court considering his criminal case denied Padilla bond.
Professor Sami Al-Aryan: No Guilty Verdicts in PATRIOT Act Test Case
In what had been hailed as the largest courtroom test of the USA PATRIOT Act's surveillance powers to date, the government failed to convince a jury that Florida professor Sami Al-Aryan and his three codefendants were guilty of any charges. The four were indicted in 2003. Following a five-month trial and 13 days of deliberations, the jury acquitted the four on the most serious charges and deadlocked on the rest. Al-Aryan remains in prison while the government considers a second trial. Read more here.
Brandon Mayfield: Inspector General Releases Partial Report
Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Glenn Fine released his report on FBI abuses in the case of Brandon Mayfield. Mayfield is the Portland (OR) attorney arrested in 2004 as a suspect in the Madrid bombing because of a misanalysis of fingerprints on a plastic bag of explosives. Only a summary of the report has been made public.
One interesting note is that the IG was prevented from conducting a full investigation on the Mayfield case, because the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) claimed jurisdiction over all matters involving Department of Justice attorneys. OPR’s report on attorney conduct, issued a month before the Inspector General’s report, will not be made public.
Some news headlines claimed the IG’s report cleared the FBI of misconduct, but even some FBI agents admit, “Mayfield’s religion was a factor in the investigation.” Read more here. According to the report, “One of the examiners candidly admitted that if the person identified had been someone without those characteristics, like the ‘Maytag Repairman,’ the Laboratory might have revisited the identification with more skepticism and caught the [fingerprint] error.” Mayfield has enlisted the aid of attorney Gerry Spence in his lawsuit against the government.
Remembering Frank Wilkinson
The BORDC notes the passing of stalwart First Amendment champion Frank Wilkinson at home in Los Angeles on January 2. He was 91. In the early 1950s Frank was working in Los Angeles on a state-of-the-art public housing project in Chavez Ravine when he was asked at a hearing to identify the groups to which he belonged. His refusal to cooperate made headlines, and the project was killed.
Fired from his job with the LA Housing Authority, Frank started working for civil liberties and for the abolition of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC). FBI director J. Edgar Hoover targeted Frank as a troublemaker. After Frank defended his First Amendment right to his beliefs and associations before HUAC in Washington, DC, and Atlanta, he was indicted for contempt of Congress. In 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld his conviction by a 5-4 vote, and Frank went to jail for nine months.
Upon his release, Frank continued his First Amendment work, and in 1960 he helped form the National Committee to Abolish HUAC. After HUAC was disbanded, the organization became the National Coalition Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL), headed by Kit Gage. Kit also directs the First Amendment Foundation and is a BORDC board member.
For more on Frank Wilkinson's life and work, read his biography, First Amendment Felon, by Robert Sherrill, edited by Kit Gage; visit the NCARL web site and read Kit Gage's tribute to Frank in the January 2006 newsletter; and listen to this NPR story including an interview with Kit.
BORDC Welcomes New East Region Organizer
The BORDC is pleased to welcome Linda Stone to its staff as East Region Organizer. Linda replaces Jessie Baugher, who held the position for a year and a half, until her recent departure from Massachusetts.
Linda earned a Masters in Social Work degree in community organizing and brings ten years of experience in organizing to the job. Most recently she was the western region organizer for the Massachusetts Senior Action Council. She says, "I feel privileged to work with the BORDC and local groups throughout the region to protect the Bill of Rights and to fight attempts to undermine our civil liberties. I am excited by this opportunity to organize locally around issues that affect people throughout the U.S."
BORDC bids a fond farewell to Jessie Baugher, who joined our staff in May 2004 as Organizer and Administrator, then became East Region Organizer when Hope Marston joined us last January to serve our West Region. Jessie assisted and advised community groups in the East, edited and wrote for this newsletter, managed the web site, and did much more to support the BORDC's work. We wish her the best of luck in her endeavors.
Editor: Nancy Talanian, Director
Managing Editor: Meredith Gray, Administrator
Flavia Alaya, New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee
Hope Marston, West Region Organizer
Linda Stone, East Region Organizer
Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Inc.
8 Bridge St., Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060
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