Archive for the 'Obama' Category

08
Dec
10

What is Gerrymandering

http://www.youtube.com/v/pQntvUtIiIc&hl=en&fs=1

Redistricting doesn’t always mean better representation.

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10
Nov
10

Edie Windsor and the ACLU Challenge the “Defense of Marriage Act”


 

Edith “Edie” Windsor, who shared her life with her late spouse, Thea Spyer, for 44 years, filed a lawsuit against the federal government for refusing to recognize their marriage. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the “Defense of Marriage Act”, a federal statute that defines marriage for all federal purposes as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. Windsor and Spyer were married in Canada in 2007 and were considered married by their home state of New York.

Stand with the ACLU in the fight for equality.

 

10
Nov
10

Well if Bush Can Get Away With It – So Can I

Our President and the DNC wonders how we lost so many House seats and did poorly in the Senate races; well maybe they should look back at what got them into office.  So far there’s really been “No” change from the Cheney Administration of “Law of Rule” as opposed to the “Rule of Law” from which we have always believed in.

Obama Administration Claims Unchecked Authority To Kill Americans Outside Combat Zones

 

Federal Court Hears Arguments Today In ACLU And CCR Case Challenging Administration’s Claimed Authority To Assassinate Americans It Designates Threats.

 

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration today argued before a federal court that it should have unreviewable authority to kill Americans the executive branch has unilaterally determined to pose a threat. Government lawyers made that claim in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) charging that the administration’s asserted targeted killing authority violates the Constitution and international law. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard arguments from both sides today.

 

“Not only does the administration claim to have sweeping power to target and kill U.S. citizens anywhere in the world, but it makes the extraordinary claim that the court has no role in reviewing that power or the legal standards that apply,” said CCR Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, who presented arguments in the case. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the government’s claim to an unchecked system of global detention, and the district court should similarly reject the administration’s claim here to an unchecked system of global targeted killing.”

 

The ACLU and CCR were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that, outside the context of armed conflict, the government can carry out the targeted killing of an American citizen only as a last resort to address an imminent threat to life or physical safety. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the government to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.

 

“If the Constitution means anything, it surely means that the president does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state,” said Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, who presented arguments in the case. “It’s the government’s responsibility to protect the nation from terrorist attacks, but the courts have a crucial role to play in ensuring that counterterrorism policies are consistent with the Constitution.”

 

The government filed a brief in the case in September, claiming that the executive’s targeted killing authority is a “political question” that should not be subject to judicial review. The government also asserted the “state secrets” privilege, contending that the case should be dismissed to avoid the disclosure of sensitive information.

 

The lawsuit was filed against CIA Director Leon Panetta, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barrack Obama in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Attorneys on the case are Jaffer, Ben Wizner, Jonathan Manes and Jennifer Turner of the ACLU; Kebriaei, Maria LaHood and Bill Quigley of CCR; and Arthur B. Spitzer of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital. Co-counsel in Yemen is Mohammed Allawo of the Allawo Law Firm and the National Organization for Defending Human Rights (HOOD).

 

For more information on the case, including fact sheets and legal papers, visit:www.aclu.org/targetedkillings and www.ccrjustice.org/targetedkillings

 

 

10
Nov
10

No Tickee – No Laundry

Exiled From Home

Source: (http://goo.gl/JPAWB)  from Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union

 

Last summer, the ACLU and its affiliates in Oregon, Southern California, Northern California and New Mexico filed a lawsuit on behalf of 17 U.S. citizens and legal residents to challenge their placement on the U.S. government’s No-Fly List and the failure of the government to give them a chance to defend themselves. Some of these people were in the United States when they found themselves suddenly and without explanation unable to board a plane. Others — including military veterans, students and people visiting family — were overseas and were effectively exiled from their own country because they couldn’t board a plane to fly home.

Although all of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were facing serious problems, those stuck abroad were in the most immediate need. In August, we filed a motion seeking preliminary relief on behalf of these individuals to help them return to their families, jobs, and homes in the United States. The government has since permitted these individuals to fly home, but will not tell them whether they were taken off the list or if were just given one-time waivers to fly home. Because of the secrecy surrounding the No-Fly List, they won’t know until they try to fly again.

Not having the ability to fly has a huge impact on people’s lives — including their ability to perform their jobs and visit their families. Here is the story of one of the plaintiffs, in his own words:

 

My name is Raymond Earl Knaeble IV. I am an American citizen. I have served my country honorably as a member of the U.S. military.

I am also a new Muslim. I recently converted to Islam when I was in Kuwait about a year ago. I never thought I would become a Muslim until I learned and studied about the Truth of Islam.

I believe it was because of my new faith that the FBI forced me into exile earlier this year. In March, I tried to fly home to the United States from Colombia, where I was recently married. I was not allowed to board the plane. Airline representatives told me to go to the U.S. embassy, and when I got there a government official took my passport. No one told me why I couldn’t fly home. I was forced to stay in a foreign country with no way to return. I fully cooperated with government officials. I answered every question officials asked me, provided my SIM card and all of the contacts I knew in the Middle East, and told them my life story. I was interrogated day in and day out by the FBI, but no one ever told me what charge they had against me or why I could not fly home. What is my crime? The only thing I know is that I am an American citizen, but I am also a Muslim. It seems that being Muslim has become a crime in the United States.

I lost a good job because I could not make it to a mandatory medical screening when the FBI excluded me from America, the country of my birth.

Eventually, desperate to get home, I attempted to fly to Nuevo Laredo in Mexico in order to cross a land border into the United States. I was turned back — after a lengthy detention and questioning — by officials in Mexico City and not allowed to travel by air or land to the U.S. border.

In August, I began a new journey in which I flew to Panama, then traveled by bus through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and all of Mexico to the U.S. border at Mexicali. During this journey I was subjected to three separate detentions by government officials who searched my belongings and subjected me to extended interrogations. In Guatemala, I was questioned and followed. On one occasion, I had to run after my bus, which had left while I was being questioned. When I finally reached the United States, the country of my birth and my home, U.S. officials handcuffed me. They detained me for 10 hours, put me through intense interrogation, and searched all of my belongings, including my laptop computer and other electronic equipment. They released me at 2:30 in the morning and finally allowed me to enter my country. I took a bus from the border to San Francisco.

I am a veteran of the U.S. armed forces and I have no criminal record. I am no threat to national security and have been charged with no crime. The FBI put me on a list that turned my life upside-down and there is no process in place to make them tell me why, or let me respond to any accusations they may have against me. Now that I have made it home, I cannot fly to visit my new wife in Colombia or other relatives within the United States. Adding insult to injury, since I’ve been back, I am followed by federal agents wherever I go.

Now I am waiting for the legal process to work. But it may be years before I can freely exercise my right to travel in and out of the country freely — a right that belongs to all Americans, but that our government has put on hold for many of us, apparently for no other reason than our religious beliefs and practices.

While the return home of our clients who were once stuck abroad marks a victory, the fundamental problems with the No-Fly List remain and our lawsuit continues. It’s unconstitutional for the government to put people on a list and stop them from flying without telling them why or giving them a reasonable chance to defend themselves. Due process requires that each of the 17 plaintiffs we represent get this chance, including veterans of our armed services, like Ray Knaeble.

 

04
Nov
10

It’s Time to Get your Kicks – Where – The Airport

Only one question prevails: Is life imitating the movies or are the movies imitating what’s happening in our police state (country)?

Conducting a pad-down search on individuals simply on the grounds they won’t submit themselves to a peek-a-boo scanner test is foolishness.  What about prudish grandma coming to visit the grandchildren or perhaps the Queen of England, our President or maybe even the Pope?

Okay, these are extremes, never the less where’s the line drawn?  Aren’t we really becoming what we fought against in the Cold War, regarding the Police States in Eastern Europe – Yes we are!

TSA Meets “Resistance” with New Pat-Down Procedures

Source: (http://goo.gl/x949Efrom Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union

 

The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) even-more-invasive pat-down searches for people who opt-out of the strip-search machines at airports have generated some striking stories of people’s encounters with TSA agents. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlanticrecounts:

At BWI, I told the officer who directed me to the back-scatter that I preferred a pat-down. I did this in order to see how effective the manual search would be. When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them — the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down — said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. “No way. You think Congress would allow that?”

I answered, “If you’re a terrorist, you’re going to hide your weapons in your anus or your vagina.” He blushed when I said “vagina.”

“Yes, but starting tomorrow, we’re going to start searching your crotchal area” — this is the word he used, “crotchal” — and you’re not going to like it.”

“What am I not going to like?” I asked.

“We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance,” he explained.

“Resistance?” I asked.

“Your testicles,” he explained.

The New York Times‘ Joe Sharkey was manhandled less delicately: “[I] was required to stand still while I received a rough pat-down by a man whose résumé, I suspected, included experience at a state prison.”

Another passenger gives an even more graphic description of his humiliating and invasive pat-down here:

He stood behind me and placed his arms around my neck, surprising me with how strong and firm his grip was — it felt like someone choking me from behind. He squeezed the area around my collar, his neoprene blue gloved hands tickling my ears. And he kneaded around my shoulders, pressing with his fingertips into my muscle, as if he were tenderizing a piece of meat. With my arms held out straight he grasped both his hands around each one and pulled all the way down to my wrist.

Unfortunately, the TSA’s escalation from a back-of-the-hands pat-down to a full-on grope is no laughing matter — in fact, they tried to make a more invasive grope the norm back in 2004, until travelers pushed back and the TSA quietly retreated back to lighter touch.

Travelers have the right to opt for a pat-down instead of exposing themselves to the radiation and prying eyes of an anonymous TSA agent in another room. But as ACLU Legislative Counsel Chris Calabrese told USA Today: “Are we giving people two intolerable actions at airports? They can be virtually strip-searched or endure a really aggressive grope?”

That’s exactly what the TSA is doing, in its latest bit of security theater designed to try to make us feel safer without actually increasing safety. And it’s really no choice at all. As Goldberg points out, “the effectiveness of pat-downs does not matter very much, because the obvious goal of the TSA is to make the pat-down embarrassing enough for the average passenger that the vast majority of people will choose high-tech humiliation over the low-tech ball check.” In fact, Goldberg reports that he was told directly by a screener, “That’s what we’re hoping for. We’re trying to get everyone into the machine.”

The TSA’s website reports that 317 strip-search machines (a.k.a. “advanced image technology” machines, or AITs) have been deployed at 65 airports across the country. Is your home airport one of them? Check this list, and if you’re of the male persuasion and not keen on the naked machine, we suggest you prepare The Resistance.

If you’ve been forced through an AIT or want to report abuse during airport passenger screening, contact us using this form. We’re collecting individuals’ stories in order to determine the scope of this problem and evaluate future action. The information you provide in this questionnaire will be kept confidential unless we contact you and obtain your permission to share it with others.

 

 

25
Oct
10

We Must Face Up to the Truth

It’s been overdue for some time now that we admit to the world we didn’t practice what we preached “Winning the hearts and minds” of the counties of Iraq and Afghanistan.  President Obama, a good leader, must have our Defense Department and Justice Department investigate these Human Rights abuses we inflected on the innocent people of these countries.

Iraq: Wikileaks Documents Describe Torture of Detainees

Source: (http://goo.gl/CPrg) – from United States

The Iraqi government should investigate credible reports that its forces engaged in torture and systematic abuse of detainees, Human Rights Watch said today. Hundreds of documents released on October 22, 2010, by Wikileaks reveal beatings, burnings, and lashings of detainees by their Iraqi captors. Iraq should prosecute those responsible for torture and other crimes, Human Rights Watch said.

The US government should also investigate whether its forces breached international law by transferring thousands of Iraqi detainees from US to Iraqi custody despite the clear risk of torture. Field reports and other documents released by Wikileaks reveal that US forces often failed to intervene to prevent torture and continued to transfer detainees to Iraqi custody despite the fact that they knew or should have known that torture was routine.

“These new disclosures show torture at the hands of Iraqi security forces is rampant and goes completely unpunished,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s clear that US authorities knew of systematic abuse by Iraqi troops, but they handed thousands of detainees over anyway.”

The 391,831 documents released by Wikileaks, mostly authored by low-ranking US officers in the field between 2004 and 2009, refer to the deaths of at least six detainees in Iraqi custody. The reports also reveal many previously unreported instances in which US soldiers killed civilians, including at checkpoints on Iraq’s roads and during raids on people’s homes.

The documents indicate that US commanders frequently failed to follow up on credible evidence that Iraqi forces killed, tortured, and mistreated their captives. According to the documents, US authorities investigated some abuse cases, but much of the time they either ignored the abuse or asked Iraqis to investigate and closed the file. In one incident on January 2, 2007, Iraqi security forces took detainees to an abandoned house and beat them, resulting in a death. The report stated, “As Coalition Forces were not involved in the alleged abuse, no further investigation is necessary.”

Even when US officials reported abuse to Iraqi authorities, the Iraqis often did not act. In one report, an Iraqi police chief told US military inspectors that his officers engaged in abuse “and supported it as a method of conducting investigations.” Another report said that an Iraqi police chief refused to file charges “as long as the abuse produced no marks.”

The documents reveal extensive abuse of detainees by Iraqi security forces over the six-year period.

In a November 2005 document, US military personnel described Iraqi abuse at a Baghdad facility that held 95 blindfolded detainees in a single room: “Many of them bear marks of abuse to include cigarette burns, bruising consistent with beatings and open sores… according to one of the detainees questioned on site, 12 detainees have died of disease in recent weeks.”

On June 16, 2007, US soldiers reported that Iraqi forces interrogated and tortured a terrorism suspect by burning him with chemicals or acid and cutting off his fingers. According to the Wikileaks file, “Victim received extensive medical care at the Mosul General Hospital resulting in amputation of his right leg below the knee[,] several toes on his left foot, as well as amputation of several fingers on both hands. Extensive scars resulted from the chemical/acid burns, which were diagnosed as 3rd degree chemical burns along with skin decay.”

In a case reported on December 14, 2009, the US military received a video showing Iraqi Army officers executing a bound detainee in the northern town of Talafar: “The footage shows [Iraqi] soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him, and shooting him.”

In at least two cases, postmortems revealed evidence of death by torture. On December 3, 2008, a sheikh who a police chief claimed had died from “bad kidneys” in fact was found to have “evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen. The incision was closed by 3-4 stitches. There was also evidence of bruises on the face, chest, ankle, and back of the body.”

On August 27, 2009, a US medical officer found “bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck” on the body of another detainee. Police claimed the detainee had committed suicide while in custody.

The disclosures by Wikileaks come almost six months after Human Rights Watch interviewed 42 detainees who had been tortured over a period of months by security forces at a secret prison in the old Muthanna airport in West Baghdad. The facility held about 430 detainees who had no access to their families or lawyers. The prisoners said their torturers kicked, whipped, and beat them, tried to suffocate them, gave them electric shocks, burned them with cigarettes, and pulled out their fingernails and teeth. They said that interrogators sodomized some detainees with sticks and pistol barrels. Some young men said they were forced to perform oral sex on interrogators and guards and that interrogators forced detainees to molest one another. Iraqi authorities have still not prosecuted any officials responsible.

Between early 2009 and July 2010, US forces transferred thousands of Iraqi detainees to Iraqi custody. International law prohibits the transfer of detained individuals to the authorities of another state where they face a serious risk of torture and ill-treatment.

“US authorities have an obligation not to transfer any of the 200 or so detainees still in their custody to Iraqi forces or to anyone else who might mistreat them,” said Stork. “The US should also make sure those detainees already transferred are not in a dungeon somewhere currently facing torture.”

At a Pentagon news conference on November 29, 2005, Gen. Peter Pace, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded to a question about Pentagon guidance in situations where US commanders witness abuse by Iraqi forces, saying, “It is absolutely the responsibility of every US service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it.” Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who was also on the podium, intervened and said: “But I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.” Pace responded, “If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.”

A reporter then asked Rumsfeld if it was his sense that alleged Iraqi abuses were not widespread. Rumsfeld responded that he did not know.

“It’s obviously something that the – General Casey and his troops are attentive to and have to be concerned about,” Rumsfeld told the reporter. “It – I’m not going to be judging it from 4,000 miles away – how many miles away?”

 

23
Oct
10

Our President can’t look forward on this issue any longer

I support the President fully, but this is an issue he should have attended to months ago and one Attorney General Holder had better be prepared to investigate without screwing-up or forever delaying in the court system.

Iraq war logs: UN calls on Obama to investigate human rights abuses

 

The UN has called on Barack Obama to order a full investigation of US forces’ involvement in human rights abuses in Iraq after a massive leak of military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.

The call by the UN’s chief investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak, came as Phil Shiner, human rights specialist at Public Interest Lawyers in the UK, warned some of the deaths documented in the Iraq war logs could have involved British forces and would be pursued through the UK courts. He demanded a public inquiry into allegations that British troops were responsible for civilian deaths during the conflict.

The Guardian has analysed the 400,000 documents, the biggest leak inUS military history, and found 15,000 previously unreported civilian deaths. The logs show how US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and generally unpunished.

Nowak said that if the files released through WikiLeaks pointed to clear violations of the UN Convention Against Torture the Obama administration had a clear obligation to investigate them.

The logs paint a disturbing picture of the relationship between US and Iraqi forces. Nowak said that UN human rights agreements obliged states to criminalise every form of torture, whether directly or indirectly, and to investigate any allegations of abuse.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Nowak, who has spent years investigating allegations of US participation in extraordinary rendition and the abuse of detainees held by coalition forces, said the Obama administration had a legal and moral obligation to fully investigate credible claims of US forces’ complicity in torture.

A failure to investigate, Nowak suggested, would be a failure of the Obama government to recognise its obligations under international law. He said the principle of “non-refoulement” prohibited states from transferring detainees to other countries that could pose a risk to their personal safety.

The documents, which cover the period in Iraq from 2004 onwards, have prompted claims that this principle has not been observed. The files contain evidence that US forces were ordered to turn a blind eye to abuses committed by the Iraqi authorities.

Numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee’s apparent death.

Nowak said the US had an obligation “whenever they expel, extradite or hand over any detainees to the authorities of another state to assess whether or not these individuals are under specific risk of torture. If this assessment is not done, or authorities hand over detainees knowing there is a serious risk of them being subjected to torture, they violate article 3 of the UN convention that precludes torture.”

Nowak said it would be up to the Obama administration to launch an “independent and objective” investigation with a view not only to “bring the perpetrators to justice but also to provide the victims with adequate remedy and reparation”.

He noted that neither the US nor Iraq had ratified the international criminal convention that would see officials from either country brought before the international courts for war crimes. It would be up to the US courts to determine whether US officials or soldiers had breached human rights laws. “If it is established that a particular individual is responsible for torture directly or by complicity, this person should be brought to justice in the domestic courts,” Nowak said.

As recently as December the Americans were passed a video apparently showing Iraqi army officers executing a prisoner in Tal Afar, northern Iraq. The log states: “The footage shows approximately 12 Iraqi army soldiers. Ten IA soldiers were talking to one another while two soldiers held the detainee. The detainee had his hands bound … The footage shows the IA soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him and shooting him.”

The report named at least one perpetrator and was passed to coalition forces. But the logs reveal that the coalition has a formal policy of ignoring such allegations. They record “no investigation is necessary” and simply pass reports to the same Iraqi units implicated in the violence. By contrast all allegations involving coalition forces are subject to formal inquiries. Some cases of alleged abuse by UK and US troops are detailed in the logs.

In two Iraqi cases postmortems revealed evidence of death by torture. On 27 August 2009 a US medical officer found “bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck” on the body of one man claimed by police to have killed himself. On 3 December 2008 another detainee, said by police to have died of “bad kidneys”, was found to have “evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen”.

A Pentagon spokesman told the New York Times this week that under its procedure, when reports of Iraqi abuse were received the US military “notifies the responsible government of Iraq agency or ministry for investigation and follow-up”.

Shiner has told a press conference organised by WikiLeaks in London today that he plans to use material from the logs in court to try to force the UK to hold a public inquiry into the unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians.

Shiner warned that it would be wrong to assume the US military files “had nothing to do with the UK”. He said: “Some have been killed by indiscriminate attacks on civilians or the unjustified use of lethal force. Others have been killed in custody by UK forces and no one knows how many Iraqis lost their lives while held in British detention facilities.

“If unjustified or unlawful force has been used, prosecutions for those responsible must follow, so we are bringing forward a new case seeking accountability for all unlawful deaths and we argue that there must be a judicial inquiry to fully investigate UK responsibility for civilian deaths in Iraq.”

He cited one case in which he claimed a British rifleman had shot dead an eight-year-old girl who was playing in the street in Basra. “For some reason the tank stopped at the end of the street, she’s there in her yellow dress, a rifleman pops up and blows her away,” he said.

The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, told the press conference that the disclosure of the secret files was about getting to the truth of the Iraq conflict.

“We hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which has continued since the war officially concluded. While I am not sure we have achieved the maximum possible [political impact], I think we are getting pretty close.”

Assange highlighted how the reports documented 109,000 deaths – including 66,000 civilians, of which 15,000 were previously undocumented. “That tremendous scale should not make us blind to the small human scale in this material. It is the deaths of one and two people per event that killed the overwhelming number of people in Iraq.”

The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.

Source: (http://goo.gl/wI4sDavid Batty and Jamie Doward guardian.co.uk, Saturday 23 October 2010 13.41 BST

 




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