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Civil Liberties

Violence In The Capitol, Dangers In The Aftermath

In the days and weeks after the 9/11 attack, Americans were largely united in emotional horror at what had been done to their country as well as in their willingness to endorse repression and violence in response. As a result, there was little room to raise concerns about the possible excesses or dangers of the American reaction, let alone to dissent from what political leaders were proposing in the name of vengeance and security. The psychological trauma from the carnage and the wreckage at the country’s most cherished symbols swamped rational faculties and thus rendered futile any attempts to urge restraint or caution.  Nonetheless, a few tried. Scorn and sometimes worse were universally heaped upon them. 

The Heart Of Darkness In Portland

The chant:  “All Cops Are Bastards,” is becoming much louder since the Feds started kidnapping protesters off the street in unmarked vans, with police not identifying  themselves. It has been swift and terrifying for those who have been arrested in this black ops fascist mentality. It is against the law, as people are being stolen without probable cause, which is a nice way of saying it is a crime being committed by people who took an oath not to do these kinds of things. But, then again, when I was in Viet Nam, the U.S. Government had absolutely no rules in warfare. Geneva Convention Rules were for fools. In a  way, this is the tragedy of what is happening in Portland and all over the country. What is happening domestically in this country, especially involving police who have been militarized, is we are seeing the accumulation of terror that the United States Government commits all over the world. Since the end of World War II, the United States Government has bombed 30 countries. The reason most people don’t believe what I just wrote, is because whenever the truth threatens one’s core belief system, there is an urgent need to deny its reality.

Video: NYPD Officers Throwing Protest Leader Into Unmarked Van

NYPD officers dragged a protest leader into an unmarked minivan van and doused onlookers with pepper spray during an anti-police brutality march in Manhattan on Tuesday night. The individual, who friends identified as an 18-year-old trans woman named Nicki, was grabbed from the group by plainclothes officers at 25th Street and Second Avenue. Video shows a man in an orange shirt marked "Warrant Squad" helping to push the woman into a silver KIA minivan before driving away.  Witnesses said the arrest came as roughly 200 people were leaving a small plaza on 26th Street where they had stopped for a skateboarding event, amid a planned 24-hour demonstration against the NYPD and the raid of City Hall earlier this month. "Suddenly there was an unmarked grey van that moved out in front of us that had been waiting for us," said Derrick, a 32-year-old protester, who declined to give his last name. "Four guys jumped out and a line of police bicycles came out from down the block...

Border Patrol Violently Assaults Civil Rights And Liberties

In the past week, unidentified federal officers in camouflage fatigues, labeled only “police,” abducted people off the streets of Portland in unmarked vehicles and threatened the “Wall of Moms” standing up for our Constitution. The administration later confirmed the unidentified officers were Border Patrol agents.   This blatant demonstration of unconstitutional authoritarianism is demonstrating to the entire country the cruel capabilities of the U.S. Border Patrol. For communities that have historically borne the brunt of Border Patrol’s abuses — and still do — seeing these agents pose as a “secret federal police” force on the streets of Portland is no surprise. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, which includes Border Patrol, has been conducting secret, violent arrests of immigrants for years.    

Fighting Local Surveillance: A Toolkit

In 2019, San Francisco passed a landmark law banning government facial recognition and requiring public oversight for local decisions related to the acquisition and use of other surveillance technologies such as cameras, drones, and more. That effort, led by the ACLU in deep partnership with civil rights partners, is part of a bigger movement afoot in the U.S. In more than a dozen cities and counties, communities have passed laws ensuring that decisions about high-tech surveillance are made by the community through the democratic process, not in secret by police and surveillance companies acting alone. Together, we are achieving important victories against secret and dangerous surveillance. We are raising awareness of how surveillance technology like drones, stingrays, and facial recognition exacerbate discriminatory policing, suppress dissent, and facilitate harm to immigrants and people of color.

2017 – A Year In Courage

As we approach the end of a year that saw increased threats on freedom of the press, right-wing governments on both sides of the Atlantic launch attacks on civil liberties, and the continued persecution of hackers, whistleblowers, and truthtellers of all stripes, we look back on the highlights and lowlights from the front lines of the war for information and the public’s right to know. January: after years of international pressure and outrage against her unprecedented sentence and degrading treatment, Chelsea Manning’s 35-year prison sentence is commuted in one of President Obama’s final acts in office. As we noted at the time, Chelsea’s physical freedom could not be more welcome – but because she wasn’t pardoned, Chelsea’s legal appeal against her egregious sentence, and the dishonorable discharge that comes with it, continues – and continues to need support.

Exploring The Shadows Of America’s Security State

By Alfred W. McCoy for Tom Dispatch. In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Washington pursued its elusive enemies across the landscapes of Asia and Africa, thanks in part to a massive expansion of its intelligence infrastructure, particularly of the emerging technologies for digital surveillance, agile drones, and biometric identification. In 2010, almost a decade into this secret war with its voracious appetite for information, the Washington Post reported that the national security state had swelled into a “fourth branch” of the federal government -- with 854,000 vetted officials, 263 security organizations, and over 3,000 intelligence units, issuing 50,000 special reports every year. Though stunning, these statistics only skimmed the visible surface of what had become history’s largest and most lethal clandestine apparatus.

Psychologist Openly Admits Training Police To Shoot First, Ask Later

By Shaun King in Alternet - For years, to any observer of police brutality, the idea that officers were shooting people first and asking questions later was a foregone conclusion. Such a practice, while blatantly obvious, seemed too unethical, too harsh for police to ever admit. Well, here it is. All of the proof we ever needed. Not only are American police, from coast to coast, shooting first and asking questions later, they are being trained to do so in seminars by a psychologist who openly promises them that he'll testify on their behalf if anything ever goes wrong. He's already done it nearly 200 times. Meet Dr. William J. Lewinski. No matter what the circumstances are in a police shooting, he's the guy departments lean on to say it was completely justified and unavoidable.

Lane County Continues to Violate Constitutional Rights

By Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. EUGENE, OR: On Friday July 24, 2015, the Assistant City Attorney of Eugene dismissed a criminal case that he filed and prosecuted against Hedin Brugh, a long-time SLEEPS activist who advocated for unhoused people. The Civil Liberties Defense Center’s Lauren Regan had filed a constitutional challenge to the third attempt by Lane County to shut down First Amendment rights at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza located at 8th and Pearl Streets. Regan and the CLDC had successfully challenged two prior attempts by Lane County to restrict the constitutional rights of SLEEPS protestors who occupied the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza as an integral aspect of their peaceful protest. “Each time the Court ruled in our favor and found that the County had acted illegally, the County would attempt to devise another scheme to unconstitutionally restrict First Amendment rights on the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza.”

A Nation Of Snitches

A totalitarian state is only as strong as its informants. And the United States has a lot of them. They read our emails. They listen to, download and store our phone calls. They photograph us on street corners, on subway platforms, in stores, on highways and in public and private buildings. They track us through our electronic devices. They infiltrate our organizations. They entice and facilitate “acts of terrorism” by Muslims, radical environmentalists, activists and Black Bloc anarchists, framing these hapless dissidents and sending them off to prison for years. They have amassed detailed profiles of our habits, our tastes, our peculiar proclivities, our medical and financial records, our sexual orientations, our employment histories, our shopping habits and our criminal records. They store this information in government computers. It sits there, waiting like a time bomb, for the moment when the state decides to criminalize us.

All My Heroes Have FBI Files

Here are some of the people who have been targeted with an FBI and Grand Jury investigation allegedly related to providing “material support” to a foreign terrorist organization. Nine of the activists are trade unionists – founding members, officers, staff, member activists, and leaders in AFSCME, SEIU and Teamsters union locals. They are antiwar activists. The activists subpoenaed include 17 women and 6 men, ranging in age from early 20s to 71. Eight are parents of young children ranging in age from 18 months to 6 years of age. One is a great-grandmother. They are workers – including teachers, clerical workers, and cooks. They are mothers, fathers and community organizers.

The Defining Battle for Net Neutrality

The world needs a hero, and that hero is you. Our worldwide web is currently dangling above an alligator-filled moat, tied to the train tracks, strapped to a live bomb (tick-tock), and rapidly headed towards gory destruction at the end of a Comcast/Bell/ [insert-your-country's-biggest-telco-name-here]-branded conveyor belt. Time of death: 12:00am. Cause of death: Big Telecom, aggressive lobbying, money and power imbalances, and a misguided FCC net neutrality decision that ignores over 1.1 million comments and counting from everyday Internet users like you. You know how Facebook asked Page owners to pay up if they wanted their content to actually show up on people's news feeds? Without Net Neutrality, the entire Internet would be like that, for all content ever. Cable company f***ery, indeed. But it doesn’t have to turn out that way. The battle for Net Neutrality is ours to win. Reinforcements pour in every day. We've gained reprieves in the form of not one, but two deadline extensions – a sign that the FCC recognizes how important Net Neutrality is, and how many people care about it. This battle may be located in the United States, but make no mistake—its outcome will affect the entire world.

The Constitutional Nightmare Of The Terror Watch List

At long last, Americans know more about how people end up on a terrorist watchlist—though still not much. Early on in a just-leaked 166-page U.S. government guide to officially declaring someone a terrorist or suspected terrorist, a passage acknowledges that "watchlisting is not an exact science." The whole enterprise has "inherent limitations," in part because "analytic judgments may differ regarding whether subjective criteria have been met," the document states. "Given these realities, the U.S. government's watchlisting process attempts to safeguard the American people from a TERRORIST attack while safeguarding privacy, civil rights and civil liberties." Despite this explicit, official recognition of the system's inherent dangers, the Bush and Obama administrations both conspicuously failed to incorporate basic safeguards to protect innocent U.S. citizens and foreigners from inclusion. Their gross negligence stems from disregard for longstanding legal norms and protections and from unwarranted faith in the federal bureaucracy. This hubris is at direct odds with the logic of checks and balances within the American system that go back to the founding of the country. Consider the features of the U.S. system that have traditionally distinguished us from repressive regimes where innocents are wrongfully labeled enemies of the state, or from Franz Kafka's stories:

The Illegitimacy of the U.S. Government

In this episode clip (watch the full show here) Shahid Buttar outlines why he thinks the biggest enemy to the U.S. Constitution is a domestic enemy. Also, Kevin Zeese makes the point that the U.S. government is illegitimate. “Every member of congress swears an oath of office to protect the constitution from enemies, foreign and domestic,” explains Buttar “and the principle enemy to the U.S. Constitution is a domestic one with three letters. The only debate in my mind is whether it is the NSA or the FBI.” Kevin Zeese adds: “It’s a harsh reality for the country to face. The corporate main stream media’s job is not to give us the truth but to give us the myth that we are the greatest democracy on earth, when in fact I think the democratic legitimacy of this country is disappearing. We just had Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer make that point in his dissent to the (Supreme Court) McCutcheon decision."

Obama’s Drones Made Simple

Under what conditions can we justify the use of violence in our personal lives? I’m certainly no legal expert, but say a person breaks into your house looking to do you harm. Before you know what has happened, they have killed your brother. Sequences of nerve cells fire off shooting adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream. Somehow your mind remembers, and your body approximates, some middle school karate kata and you render the intruder defenseless. Scrubbing the blood drippings from your carpet, you call the police, and some form of justice is administered. We would all agree that is self-defense, yes? A justified (in the moral and legal sense term) use of force. Now imagine it is years later that it is you breaking into someone’s house. It is not the home of the person who broke into your house, but it is in the same zip code.
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