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Constitution in Crisis

October 2011, Vol. 10, No. 10

In this issue:

Ten years of lawlessness—and ten years of fighting back


Grassroots News

Law and Policy

New Resources and Opportunities

Ten years of lawlessness—and ten years of fighting back

Patriot ActThis month marks yet another sad anniversary in America’s history. Ten years ago, on October 26, 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Rushed through Congress without debate in the fear-filled weeks following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the USA PATRIOT Act has since proven to be one of the most thoughtless—and dangerous—pieces of legislation ever to bear a president’s signature.

The law dramatically expanded surveillance powers that have enabled widespread privacy and civil liberties violations, subjecting thousands and potentially millions of law-abiding Americans to warrantless surveillance and suspicionless investigation. So much secrecy surrounds the government’s activities that no one even knows their full extent.

We do know the government has used national security letters—administrative subpoenas expanded by the PATRIOT Act—to obtain communications records of law-abiding individuals without justifying such requests with a warrant, as the Fourth Amendment requires. Law enforcement agencies have used its roving wiretap provision to monitor private communications without specifying the person they’re investigating, the device they’re monitoring, or even a reason justifying the surveillance. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But since the very beginning—starting just two weeks after the PATRIOT Act went into effect—the Bill of Rights Defense Committee has been organizing grassroots resistance from across the political spectrum against this profoundly un-American law. Beginning as a small group of activists in Northampton, MA, and growing to a nationwide movement encompassing hundreds of cities and towns, we stood up to the government and refused to stand idly by as We the People were stripped of our most fundamental rights.

Between 2001 and 2007, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee spearheaded campaigns that led to the passage of resolutions opposing the PATRIOT Act by more than 400 municipalities and eight states throughout the country. This movement spanned the political spectrum, with conservatives and liberals, progressives and libertarians uniting across their differences to build coalitions in support of shared goals.

Today, we continue that work, bringing together allies from communities of color, immigrants’ rights groups, civil libertarians, religious minorities, peace activists, and more in support of local protections for civil rights and liberties.

We thank you for your support over the last decade, and we will continue to stand with you as together we work to restore the rule of law in America and recover our constitutional rights.


BORDC in the news

In the past month, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee has had many opportunities to comment on current events and share our work.

In late September, several news outlets, including USA Today and Bloomberg News, covered our participation in an effort calling for an investigation into Facebook’s violations of its users’ privacy. BORDC Executive Director Shahid Buttar was interviewed by Al Jazeera on the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen and also appeared on several radio shows, including Unwrapped Radio, to discuss efforts to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and address dramatic changes in technology over the generation since it was first enacted in 1986.

For more of BORDC’s recent press appearances, visit our media coverage archives.

Not without a warrant: BORDC joins coalition of groups to call for digital privacy protections

Did you know that federal law says the government can read your email and track your movements without first getting a warrant from a judge?

Not Without a Warrant

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was passed in 1986, before web-based email services, cloud computing, and cell phones. Don’t you think it’s time for a privacy upgrade?

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee is joining the Digital Due Process coalition and groups across the political spectrum in calling for Congress to restore online privacy rights.

Our position is simple and logical: if the government wants to enter your house or seize your papers, our Constitution says it must first convince a judge to authorize the search. That same rule should apply to all the email and private photos and documents you store online. And before the government turns your mobile phone into a tracking device, it should go to a judge and get a warrant. That’s our best protection against government intrusions and our best way to ensure that privacy—and democracy—survive the 21st century.

Sign the "Not Without A Warrant" petition.

And please pass on the message. Tell Congress to bring the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment into the digital age.

FBI responds to BORDC’s calls for accountability, conceding our concerns

FBI: hands off solidarity activists!On October 3, BORDC received a letter from the FBI  responding to concerns we have repeatedly raised about the FBI’s ongoing abuses of constitutional rights. While claiming to defend the Bureau’s integrity and professionalism, the letter ultimately conceded the underlying issues BORDC raised.

This summer, BORDC led a diverse coalition of more than 40 organizations concerned about constitutionally offensive FBI practices, inviting congressional resistance to the White House’s (ultimately successful) proposal to extend the FBI director’s term—for the first time since J. Edgar Hoover’s infamous and corrupt reign of intimidation and coercion. At the time, we wrote that:

Under Director Mueller’s leadership, the FBI has frequently violated the rights of diverse law-abiding Americans, abused its investigative powers, failed to abide by its own guidelines, arbitrarily revised those guidelines to permit longstanding abuses even in the face of congressional concerns, and avoided public accountability by cloaking its actions in secrecy—all while actively (and demonstrably) misleading federal courts, Congress and the American people.

Our letter, whose assertions were supported by a wide range of third-party reports and analysis, connected numerous issues that have previously prompted occasional but inadequate scrutiny of FBI operations.

In response, the director of the FBI’s Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison claimed that existing policies "contain numerous measures designed to ensure their authorities are used properly and within the confines of the Constitution." Specifically, the Bureau claims that internal review processes impose meaningful checks and balances to prevent "initiating investigative activities based solely on an individual's exercise of First Amendment rights or on protected characteristics such as race, ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation" (emphasis added). The FBI further noted that "to the extent the searches referenced were conducted pursuant to search warrants, a neutral and detached magistrate made a finding that there was probable cause to believe evidence of criminal conduct could be found" (emphasis added).

A careful read of the Bureau’s response, however, reinforces the concerns that BORDC raised. First, by reiterating that neither First Amendment activity nor constitutionally protected characteristics (such as race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion) may constitute the sole basis for an investigation, the Bureau concedes that these factors are used along with other factors to justify intrusive investigation techniques. Second, the government’s statement that judges have authorized searches in some cases concedes that the FBI can access private information without first securing a warrant in other cases. In fact, BORDC and the coalition behind the letter argued that many FBI investigative powers lack a warrant requirement, opening the door to recurring abuses.

The FBI did not address BORDC’s observations about the Bureau’s repeated misrepresentations to Congress, federal courts, and concerned community groups around the country. The FBI also chose not to defend its extensive secrecy, which continues to block transparency into the policies it uses to justify surveillance operations such as infiltrating activist groups. For instance, an earlier FBI letter that BORDC obtained through the Freedom of Information Act admits that the Bureau "engage[s] in surveillance" without the long-established constitutional safeguards that protect First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In that letter, the Bureau asserted the power to ignore constitutional rights based on any "proper purpose for the surveillance," while noting that "suspicion of wrongdoing could be a proper purpose, but it is not the only proper purpose."

Read the latest news and analysis on our blog

Recent highlights from the People's Blog for the Constitution:

Grassroots News

Patriot Award: Gail Noble

Gail NobleEach month, BORDC recognizes an individual who has done outstanding work in support of civil liberties and the rule of law by honoring that person with our Patriot Award. This month, we recognize Gail Noble from San Jose, CA, for her work to restore justice to the broken criminal justice system.

Gail assists families and individuals in San Jose, CA, contending with our nation’s flawed justice system through her work with Silicon Valley De-Bug and the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project (ACJP), a legal advocacy group she helped to establish.

She grew up in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia as the painful and incomplete work of desegregation was underway. She recalls her surprise, after moving with her family to Palo Alto in 1963, at sharing a school with white students. In the late 1960s, she was involved in sit-ins, walk-outs, and other civil actions to protest the quality of schools and the failure of school curricula to acknowledge the heritage of any students whose ancestors were not European—even where "minority" students were in fact the majority.

Gail’s staunch advocacy came to fruition in her role as the mother of seven children. The issues that concerned her as a student continued to confront her kids, who inherited a school system in many ways as flawed as the one she had endured. She did what she could to get her children into good schools, and then worked—for her kids and other students—to ensure the schools provided a good education. Gail and her children moved to San Jose in 2000.

Beginning in the eighth grade, Gail’s son Karim began to receive unwarranted attention from school officials. In a series of incidents, Karim was presumed guilty of misdeeds despite witnesses and evidence indicating his innocence. As a result, he spent time in juvenile detention.

Karim was eventually charged for breaking a man’s finger in connection with the theft of a bicycle. The circumstances were suspicious, and he was presumed guilty simply because of his proximity to the incident.

The case was badly handled and reflected potential racial bias on the part of the judge, who ruled against Karim without a jury. But two good things came out of this spurious series of events: one, the judge in question is no longer working juvenile cases; and two, Gail connected with Silicon Valley De-Bug, a community advocacy organization in San Jose using art, media, and grassroots organizing to raise awareness of systemic injustice in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Through De-Bug, she met with concerned community members and sympathetic lawyers.

"Standing up to the system had an effect. You know right from wrong, and what they were doing to my son was wrong," Gail says.

Through her often frustrating personal dealings with the criminal justice system, Gail saw a chance to help others in similar positions. With De-Bug, she helped co-found the ACJP to help those who, like her and her son, are often at the mercy of a damaged system. "De-Bug and ACJP have brought so much out of me that I didn’t know was there," she says.

The ACJP, which holds regular meetings and provides legal counseling, has grown dramatically through word of mouth. Gail works tirelessly to make sure that victims of profiling know their rights, and that they feel empowered when facing legal issues. It is for her work in the struggle to guarantee basic rights, and for turning her and her son’s troubles into a positive resource for her community, that we are proud to honor Gail Noble with our Patriot Award.

"It will take all of us to make a difference," she says. We agree and salute Gail for her dedication and initiative.

North Carolina coalition to host city council candidate forum

Civil rights supporters in Asheville, NC, have conducted numerous public education activities over the past several months. As the town prepares to elect three new members of its city council, the coalition will host a candidate forum titled "What can we do to make Asheville more inclusive?" Community members will discuss their concerns about racial profiling, and work together to support members of the community targeted by profiling so that all residents will feel at welcome and at home in Asheville.

If you would like to get involved in the effort to protect civil rights in Asheville, contact BORDC Field Organizer George Friday.

Cleveland coalition works to build new alliances

Cleveland signLocal Civil Rights Restoration (LCRR) organizers in Cleveland have observed that communities vulnerable to profiling often feel inundated with problems in their neighborhoods and are therefore reluctant to participate in proactive efforts to shift the terms of debate. In response, the coalition is working to establish more diverse alliances and raising public awareness among the communities impacted by ethnic and ideological profiling.

Next month, the Cleveland chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations will host an educational event at a local mosque that will include a "know your rights" briefing, a presentation from local ACLU advocates, and a presentation from BORDC about building effective collations and influencing local policy.

If you would like to get involved in efforts to restore civil rights in Cleveland, contact BORDC Field Organizer George Friday.

Committee to Stop FBI Repression to hold conference in Chicago

Stop FBI RepressionOn November 5, the Committee to Stop FBI repression will hold a national conference in Chicago featuring several of the 23 peace activists who were subpoenaed to US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s Grand Jury. The activists include immigrants’ rights activist Carlos Montes, whose LA home was raided and to date is the only member of the group facing charges. BORDC will attend the symposium, along with Project Salam and other groups facing government repression. The organizers of the event hope it will help bolster support nationally for the JUSTICE Act, a bill that would change many of the policies that have allowed injustices like the FBI raids to happen.

If you would like to get involved with the Chicago coalition’s work, contact BORDC Field Organizer George Friday.

Forums planned for Los Angeles area

Organizations in the LA area will hold forums across the city over the next several months to build support for a Local Civil Rights Restoration campaign in Southern California. On October 26, the ACLU of Southern California will mark the Tenth Anniversary of the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act with a panel discussion and call to action. The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, UCLA School of Law, Council on American Islamic Relations, and BORDC will be featured at this evening event in the ACLU’s downtown offices. Then, in early November, the Youth Justice Coalition will explore why they’ve seen more funerals than graduations in their South Central Neighborhood, with a focus on policy change. Additional events in central LA and Pasadena are also planned.

If you would like to join efforts to restore civil rights in Los Angeles, contact BORDC Field Organizer George Friday.

Berkeley coalition organizing cross-community speak-out

A diverse coalition in Berkeley, CA, pursuing a Local Civil Rights Restoration campaign recently renamed itself the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley. It has grown to include the ACLU, National Lawyers Guild, CAIR-SF, Black Alliance for Justice, Asian Law Caucus, National Network of Immigrant & Refugee Rights, and others.

The group has found that collecting and sharing stories from affected communities is helpful in identifying the deeper and broader issues that connect communities, which provides an incentive for building alliances across demographic divides. To that end, the coalition is organizing a speak-out on October 24 that will include BORDC’s Shahid Buttar. The coalition has high hopes that the city council will pass their reforms before the end of the year.

If you would like to participate in efforts to protect civil rights in Berkeley, contact BORDC Field Organizer George Friday.

Coalition holds educational events in Hartford, CT

Organizers of the Hartford Civil Rights Campaign held a community forum in late September, at which they educated residents about the connections between the "war on terror," violations of the rights of immigrants, and racial profiling. They are continuing to hold educational events that aim to build public support before they introduce an ordinance modeled after the Local Civil Rights Restoration Act later this year.

If you would like to get involved in the Hartford Civil Rights Campaign, contact BORDC Grassroots Campaign Coordinator Emma Roderick.

Western Massachusetts campaigns working to preserve rights

Following last month's unanimous city council victory in Northampton, organizers of the Western Massachusetts Preserving Our Civil Rights campaign have been hard at work planning the campaign's next phase. In Northampton, organizers plan to launch a citizen's petition initiative to bring legislation that addresses local "war on terror" civil liberties violations and brings the legislation to a full council vote. In nearby Amherst, organizers are beginning a campaign to pass similar legislation through the Amherst Town meeting.

If you would like to join the Preserving Our Civil Rights Campaign in Western Massachusetts, contact BORDC Grassroots Campaign Coordinator Emma Roderick.

Law and Policy

FBI trains agents to view all Muslims as terrorists

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," wrote Benjamin Franklin.

Now that we are ten years removed from September 11, it is increasingly apparent that we have indeed yielded essential liberty; what is less clear is whether or not we truly are safer as a nation. The government’s ability to interfere with the lives of ordinary citizens is arguably at an all-time high, and yet few seem to mind. Perhaps one factor influencing this is that specific populations—Muslim Americans in particular—disproportionately experience the effects of this interference. This troubling trend is evidenced in part by recent revelations about how the FBI trains its agents to view Muslim communities.

FBI National AcademyIn the last several weeks, troubling reports have come out about FBI training seminars on Islam. At least one instructor, William Gawthrop, told trainees at Quantico that the real enemy in the war on terror was not Al Qaeda, but rather Islamic ideology itself. Asserting—without evidence—that "mainstream" Muslims are "terrorist sympathizers, the more devout of whom are most likely to engage in terrorist acts," Gawthrop methodically painted all Muslims as potential terrorists. Later, a Seattle-based training compared "Arabs, Muslims, and Islam to Nazism." This training reiterated the theme that Islam itself was to blame as the source of "terrorism and violent extremism."  

The Bureau has initiated an internal investigation into incidents of bias, labeling them as "isolated." In fact, FBI spokespeople told at least one major news organization that the problem has been unfettered autonomy on the part of the counterterrorism division. According to the FBI, counterterrorism trainings and modules have largely gone unvetted in the past, something that the Bureau says will change in the wake of these most recent training controversies. Still, however, the FBI refuses to admit that these incidents are part of a larger, more systemic problem within the Bureau.

Regardless of how the trainings came to be, their existence is troubling. FBI trainers charged with preparing law enforcement agents to combat terrorism have instead been indoctrinating them with Islamophobia. Setting aside the egregiousness of depicting an entire faith and class of people as terror suspects for no reason other than the fact that they belong to a particular religion, the practical effect seems to be inefficient, wasteful, and potentially harmful to relations with a community that the FBI director as recently as this month has called critical to the prevention of future terrorist attacks.

Local organizers in MA and PA fight back against license plate scanners

Recent reports indicate that Massachusetts and Pennsylvania soon plan to implement license plate scanners in an effort to identify and track law violators ranging from ticket evaders to felons in stolen cars. Twenty-four cities in the state of Massachusetts are currently employing license plate scanners, usually as wireless infrared cameras installed on the light bar of police cars. Allegedly, the scanners cross-check the license plates of anyone driving by against local, state, and federal computer databases—at the rate of roughly 30 plates per second.

Federal funding, in excess of more than $500,000 in some states, is being used to jumpstart this technology. This, despite the fact that many Americans view the practice as an unconstitutional decoy used to spy on law-abiding people. According to two residents of Brookline, MA:

"I am a little bit wary of things like that, that could potentially be used that could infringe on people’s privacy," said one Brookline resident.

"I think it’s wrong. I think it’s an invasion of privacy," said another resident.

Furthermore, Betsy DeWitt, of the Brookline Board of Selectman states:

There are people concerned about how an innocent person who just wants to park their car feels about having their license shared with all these entities [local, state, and federal databases].

Brookline Police Chief Daniel O’Leary responds to such statements by indicating that the city plans to draft a policy that will define the use of the technology and the retention of the data it collects. But that does little to allay the community’s fears.

The Libertarian Party in York, PA, has successfully lobbied for an injunction to stop the purchase of the license plate scanners, at least temporarily, so there can be more discussion of their use and the privacy and civil liberties implications of such technology—implications illustrated by an appeals court ruling related to the use of license plate scanners.

In 2006, a Michigan man was arrested after a police officer scanned his license plate against a computer database on private premises; he later filed suit. However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Americans have no Fourth Amendment protection against computer checks, including wide-ranging scanning of their license plate numbers.

If the states of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania proceed to endorse this technology, many of their residents are likely to suffer tremendous scrutiny by law enforcement officials, which may lead to lawsuits regarding privacy rights. Many law enforcement officials support this technology in spite of the fact that residents argue the scanners are a blatant violation of the constitutional right to privacy, and that probable cause will play no role in the use of this technology.

NSA may face court challenge to warrantless wiretapping

It may have taken nearly three years to bring the 2008 version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to the courts for judicial review, but now one case is set to move forward thanks to a ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. On September 21, the plaintiffs—the Global Fund for Women, The Nation magazine, Global Rights, International Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, PEN American Center, Human Rights Watch, Service Employees International Union, and others—backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), were granted standing to sue the government for the surveillance measures under FISA in the case Amnesty International USA et al. v. James Clapper Jr. et al.

WiretapThe Second Circuit Court came to a divided decision of 6-6 that gave the case standing. Judge Gerard E. Lynch said, "To reject the plaintiffs’ arguments not because they lack merit, but because we refuse to hear them, runs a much graver risk than whatever invasion of plaintiffs’ privacy might be occasioned by the surveillance authorized by the challenged statute."

Typically, the US government invokes the state secrets privilege—claims that the case would endanger national security by revealing classified information (though those claims are often suspect)—to block such litigation. In this case, the government challenged the plaintiffs’ standing, arguing that they could not prove they had been subject to NSA warrantless wiretaps—something they cannot prove precisely because such programs are so cloaked in secrecy. The ACLU, representing the group of plaintiffs, argued that the law caused them harm by forcing them to take undue measures to avoid government interception of their overseas communications.

The suit argues that provisions of FISA that allow for wiretapping of overseas communications without obtaining a warrant violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unwarranted searches and seizures. ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said, "The government’s surveillance practices should not be immune from judicial review."

Obama administration authorizes extrajudicial assassination of a US citizen

The death of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Imam and an alleged leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was portrayed as another victory for the Obama administration in the ongoing "war on terror." The killing, however, gives cause to revisit questions about the tactics employed by the US government against purported terrorists.

On September 30, al-Awlaki was killed by a targeted, unmanned-drone strike in Yemen, where he had been living since 2004. On October 9, a post by BORDC advisory board member David Cole on the New York Review of Books blog pointed out many of the issues raised (or re-raised) by this act, not least of which is that al-Awlaki’s organization, despite its name, was only tangentially connected with al-Qaeda or the Taliban—the two terrorist organizations against which Congress has determined the president can authorize the use of military force.

Cole notes in his blog post that the Obama administration’s killing of a US citizen without due process and outside a declared warzone may yet be deemed a legal act—but such a determination would strain most understandings of the concept of legality.

In essence, the administration is at once hailing the killing as a victory and denying it as covert actions invariably are. Cole raises a number of questions: Why was capture not an option? When should secret, extra-judicial killings of US citizens cause all Americans to raise their eyebrows?

Eleven days before al-Awlaki’s death The New York Review of Books ran another article by Cole in which he noted that the United States is not involved in an armed conflict with Yemen. He then drew an analogy to the uproar that would result if another country (Russia, in Cole’s example) were to conduct a similar attack within the United States. He further suggests that such acts by the United States in fact set a precedent for other countries to follow suit.

Cited in the article, John Brennan, President Obama’s senior advisor on homeland security and counter-terrorism, plays both sides: he argues in favor of hunting down all high-ranking terrorists wherever they may be found, but also says that the best course of US policy is to abide by our own laws and claim the moral high-ground.

Cole illustrates the nebulous nature of the "war on terror." "Terrorists" are not easily identified, their connection to plots against the US or any other target is often unclear, and they are by no means tied to an identifiable geographical area. In such circumstances, could the "rules of war" be used to justify the total dismissal of due process when the war arena is not clearly defined, and the target is, in fact, a US citizen?

Clampdown on dissent at Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street October 1stOver the past month, there has been a movement of dissent brewing across the country. On September 17, one thousand protesters descended onto Wall Street to occupy its space. The protests have since been replicated in nearly every major city across the country, and the participants have multiplied by the thousands.

The movement focuses on the problematic nature of corporate influence. In recent years, corporations have gained significant power, while the average person has lost dramatic democratic power.

But what is perhaps worst about the response to the protests is law enforcement’s efforts to silence dissent. The Bill of Rights guarantees the right for people to express their distaste for government’s and society’s problems, peaceably assemble to demonstrate their concerns, and petition the government to redress their grievances. And yet, peaceful protesters in the Occupy: Everywhere movement and even members of the press covering the events have been arrested, pepper-sprayed, and otherwise abused for exercising their First Amendment rights.

Regardless of the Occupy: Everywhere movement’s outcome, BORDC will continue to fight for a real democracy, where people, not corporations, are the true source of government’s authority, and all are free to express their dissent without fear of retaliation, arrest, or physical harm.

Secure Communities Task Force sees mass resignations

Shortly before the Secure Communities Task Force released its findings and recommendations on the Secure Communities (S-COMM) immigration enforcement program, five of its 19 members—more than a quarter of its membership—resigned. S-COMM’s purported intention is to remove the "worst of the worst" undocumented criminals. The task force critiqued S-COMM, claiming that it has actually caused the deportation of immigrants who have not committed serious crimes. In protest of S-COMM, those who resigned stated that there were too many discrepancies in the federal government’s investigations of reported civil rights violations.

The Obama administration has shown no signs of increasing its efforts to act upon growing concerns about S-COMM despite the overwhelming opposition to it by immigrant communities and activist organizations. Disapproving attitudes towards S-COMM do not end there. States like Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts have tried to withdraw their participation in S-COMM, but the federal government, despite initially claiming the program was voluntary, unilaterally revoked agreements with individual states in favor of mandatory participation for all states. With some resistance, local law enforcement officials have been forced by the federal government to participated in this program by sharing with the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the fingerprints of any and all people arrested—including those arrested for minor traffic violations as well as those later found to be arrested falsely or mistakenly—before they ever see a judge or face charges. Many immigrants who have not committed serious crimes, and sometimes even victims of crimes, are being deported and separated from their families as a result of this unjust program.

Immigrant activist groups have demanded that the government suspend the program because of racial discrimination and unlawful mistreatment of immigrants. Further, relationships between local law enforcement and immigrant communities are undermined by immigrants’ fear of interacting with police, thus damaging public safety for all communities.

President Obama has stated that the use of technology to identify individuals prevents racial discrimination. In reality, according to Chris Newman of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, discrimination does not come from the technology but from the initial arrest made leading to the use of the fingerprint identification technology.

S-COMM has been used to deport any and all rather than the worst of the worst. And the record number of deportations under the current administration has led an increase in the number of unjustly separated families and a decline in public safety.

New Resources and Opportunities

Upcoming events up and down the West Coast

Shahid Buttar at the Building Bridges event in Seattle May 21, 2011BORDC Executive Director Shahid Buttar and Field Organizer George Friday are headed to the West Coast for events in Washington, Oregon, and California throughout this month.

October 15: Rally and forum in Portland, OR

Shahid Buttar will speak at a rally marking 10 years of the war in Afghanistan as well as the forum following the rally. His comments will focus on human rights and civil liberties. The rally will begin at Shemanski Park at 1 p.m. and the forum will follow at the First Unitarian Church at 2:30 p.m.

October 17: "Opportunities for Change" in Portland, OR

Join Shahid Buttar for a discussion at the First Unitarian Church, 1011 West 12th Avenue. The event, titled "Opportunities for Change: How We the People Can Keep America Free," will begin with a reception at 6:30 p.m. with Shahid’s presentation following at 7:30 p.m. If you plan to attend the reception, you must RSVP to

October 19: "How Concerned Communities Can Restore Civil Liberties" in Redmond, WA

Shahid Buttar will speak at an event sponsored by the Muslim Association of Puget Sound. The event, held at New Masjid (Masjid-Ar-Ramah—MAPS), 17550 NE 67th Court, will begin at 7 p.m.

October 24: Speak-out and community forum on civil rights in Berkeley, CA

The Coalition for a Safe Berkeley will host a speak-out to unveil proposed city legislation to protect civil and human rights in the face of increasing federal surveillance, repression, deportations, and racial profiling. The speak-out will feature testimony from Berkeley residents (and others) about their personal experiences with these abuses of civil and human rights. Shahid Buttar will join Veena Dubal of the Asian Law Caucus and Cinthya Munoz of Just Cause in speaking at the event, which will take place from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian-Universalists, 1924 Cedar at Bonita.

October 26: PATRIOT Act Tenth Anniversary event in Los Angeles

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California will host a panel discussion and call to action to mark the tenth anniversary of the USA PATRIOT Act and its impact on our communities. The discussion will be moderated by Shakeel Syed, Executive Director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. Panelists include the following:

  • UCLA School of Law Professor Hiroshi Motomura
  • Ameena Qazi, Deputy Executive Director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
  • George Friday, National Field Organizer of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC)
  • Ahilan Arulanantham, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU-SC

The event will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the ACLU of Southern California, 1313 West 8th Street in Los Angeles. Light refreshments will be provided.

October 27-28: Advancing Justice Conference in San Francisco

The Advancing Justice Conference is a national civil rights and social justice conference that aims to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders in one place to address a broad range of issues facing the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. It serves as a unique forum where researchers, advocates, direct service providers and other leaders can meet face-to-face, talk about their common challenges and find ways to work collaboratively.

On Thursday, October 27, Shahid Buttar will participate in a panel discussion titled, "10 Year Anniversary of the USA (UN)PATRIOT Act" alongside Nura Maznavi of Muslim Advocates, Zahra Billoo of CAIR San Francisco Bay Area, and Veena Dubal of the Asian Law Caucus.

New flier: How profiling affects different communities

Profiling by law enforcement agencies—at the federal, state, and local levels—affects nearly every racial, religious, and political minority. However, each vulnerable group experiences profiling differently. Different agencies use different strategies to target different groups. And yet, the practice of profiling ties all of these agencies—and more importantly, all of these affected groups—together. To help illustrate the way the same profiling affects different communities, we have created a new infographic flier. Check it out on our website and consider using it to spark discussion at your next event!

Help BORDC restore the rule of law

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Contributors: Adam Arnold, Shahid Buttar, Amy Ferrer, George Friday, Lindsey Needham, Alice Post, Mike Prasad, Emma Roderick, Alicia Williams, and Angela Williams

Banner Photo Credit: Storm Front by Matthew Johnston

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
8 Bridge St., Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060
Telephone: (413) 582-0110
Fax: (413) 582-0116