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Law and Disorder August 11, 2014


Updates:

  • Attorney Michael Smith Remembers 69th Anniversary of U.S. Dropping A-Bombs On Japan
  • Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam: The Use of the Atomic Bomb and the American Confrontation with Soviet Power

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The Logic of Israeli Violence

Ongoing reports of Israel engaging in senseless cruel violence against Palestinian people in Gaza throughout Operation Protective Edge is not a random bombing campaign but a strategic war experiment in colonial management as Greg Shupak explains in his recent article The Logic of Israeli Violence.  Shupak points out the attacks on civilians fleeing for shelter, the bombing of the medical infrastructure, fishing boats and wheat mills, killing Arab speaking journalists are in the larger plan of ethnicide and to render the Palestinian people dependent. His article reminds readers that there is a measured plan of attack to systematically erase the historic memory of the Palestinian society.

Greg Shupak:

  • There’s good reason to believe according to some reporting by 97 Magazine and Max Blumenthal that the Israeli security forces knew quite perfectly well the teens were almost certainly killed as soon as they were abducted and yet they carried on this charade of pretending that they could be rescued in some way.
  • Rocket fire from Hamas didn’t start until after Israel carried out strikes within Gaza, and carrying out various forms of killing Palestinian civilians and or people they described as militants.
  • The rockets were a response to Israeli violence.
  • Israeli propaganda has insinuated that these tunnels have in fact been used to kill Israeli civilians or that they may well be, but that simply has not happened.
  • If the aim was to destroy tunnels, Egypt which is being ruled by a brutal regime, in its own right, was able to get rid of these tunnels without killing huge numbers of civilians.
  • Israel’s aim vis a vis Gaza is to isolate Palestinians there from the outside world render them dependent on external benevolence and at the same time absolve Israel of responsibility toward them.
  • The thesis I put forth about the current violence of Operation Protective Edge, is that one way Israel is attempting to achieve that goal, that goal of Jewish supremacy in historic Palestine with as much land as possible and as few Palestinians as possible is to aim to obliterate Palestinians as a people with the capacity to live independently in their homeland.
  • The pattern of Israeli violence . . . is not only to kill and maim Palestinians but to impede their capacity to live autonomously in historic Palestine.
  • It’s a settler colonial project.
  • This is part of a longer term pattern. If you look at the work of Dr. Sarah Roy of Harvard she has documented extensively what she calls the deliberate de-development of the Gaza Strip economy.  She has warned that Gazans are at risk for mass starvation.
  • Five hospitals have been shut down. 24 health facilities have been damaged.
  • We also that there’s been direct strikes on hospitals from Israeli fire.
  • The ability of Palestinians to care for themselves has very much been undermined.
  • Two thirds of Gaza’s wheat mills are inoperative, 3000 of its herders are in need of animal feed. We’ve seen fishermen attacked, we’ve seen attacks on agricultural sites, these are all part of those processes that Sarah Roy has talked about in the longer term.
  • If religion is way for a cultural group to understand its identity then attacking the cultural institutions of that religion are ispo facto an attack on the people to have an identity.
  • When you attack an educational institution you undermine the ability of a people to educate their young, to train them for future work, to train them to think critically, to develop artists, and inventors and so on.
  • This to me is a very significant way for stifling a cultural groups independent existence.
  • At its simplest, Israel can be seen as a giant military base for the United States.

Guest – Greg Shupak, a writer, activist and PhD candidate at the University of Guelph’s School of English and Theatre Studies. He teaches Media Studies at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
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The National Security State: The End of Separation of Powers

Retired Professor of Law from Duke University Michael Tigar joins hosts to talk about his recent article The National Security State: The End of Separation of Powers published in the latest Monthly Review Magazine.  Michael has explained how the Executive branch of government has come to dominate both the Judicial and Legislative branches of the United States government.  Attorney Michael Tigar has been working on social issues for many years, his books include Law and The Rise of Capitalism, Fighting Injustice, and Thinking About Terrorism: The Threat To Civil Liberties In Times of National Emergency.

Attorney Michael Tigar:

  • The basic principle of constitutional government that is established in our Constitution is that the actions of the legislative and executive branches, particularly the executive branch, are always reviewable by independently appointed judges and that the legality of whatever the executive branch does harms any protected interest, citizen or otherwise ought to be reviewable in the courts of the United States.
  • The main thing about this is the harm to the judicial branch is in a real sense a self inflicted wound.
  • That is to say judges confronted with assertions of executive power have proven inadequate to the task of restraining exercises of executive power
  • We recall the massive illegality of the Japanese relocation at the beginning of the Second World War.
  • It is now been shown that the premise upon which that relocation took place confining Japanese-Americans in concentration camps was false.
  • At the time the Constitution was being debated Patrick Henry opposed the adoption of the Constitution on the ground that the ideal that independent judiciary could act as an effective check upon the exercise of executive power particularly military power was bound to be dis-proven in history.
  • Law is legal ideology. That is to say its erected around social relations. In every time of recorded history there is a sense in which the formal guarantees that rules of law make about individual rights are simply lies the regime tells the people in order to sustain itself.
  • That was the burden of book I wrote called Law and The Rise of Capitalism.
  • The ideal that you rally people to the cause of social change by promising them liberty is also not new.
  • The Cherokee people of Georgia read the Constitution and they said Aha, the Constitution guarantees that any group or individual can exercise certain social rights.
  • So they drafted a Constitution for their nation and set up institutions then they brought suit against the state of Georgia to enforce these rights, that the letter of the American Constitution guaranteed that.
  • What did Chief Justice Marshall say? What a minute, these are inferior and subject people. When the Constitution gives the right to all people, persons, citizens whatever, to bring lawsuits under Article 3 and to bring them to us, it wasn’t talking about these people.
  • Michael Ratner you and others, courageous lawyers who have been struggling to get reviewablility of unlawful executive action should not give up the fight.
  • The kinds of effort you make deserve support and turn out in historic context to be important.
  • Historically the role of lawyers has been to articulate people’s claims for justice.
  • What Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have done is reveal to the world fundamental defects in the way that the American political society has been operating and yet rather than saying thank you in some form of another, the government is hell-bent on prosecuting them.

Guest – Michael Tigar, a research professor of law. He holds expertise in Constitutional Law; Supreme Court; French legal system; criminal law and procedure; human rights. He is fluent in French. Tigar represented Terry Nichols in the Oklahoma City bombing trial. One of the most renowned lawyers in the country today, he has argued seven cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and more than 100 appellate cases. Tigar has written extensively about litigation, aspects of trial practice, criminal law, the death penalty, and the role of the criminal defense lawyer. His books include Fighting Injustice (ABA, 2002); Federal Appeals: Jurisdiction and Practice; and Examining Witnesses. In addition, he has written several plays about famous trials. Throughout his career, Tigar has been active in pro bono cases, the American Bar Association, continuing legal education programs, and international human rights. During the apartheid period, he went to South Africa to train black lawyers. Prior to joining AU, Tigar served as a professor at the University of Texas Law School.

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Law and Disorder August 4, 2014


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Folk Music, Labor Movements and Radical Politics

Especially in times of revolution or crisis, the role of music has been a defining element in telling the stories of labor movements, against the war in Vietnam and civil rights. Folk musician Eli Smith gave a presentation at the Left Forum this year on satirical songs of the IWW including the work of Joe Hill and many others. The early works of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie are a great place to start along with the lesser known work of John L. Handcox, and the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. It was the first racially integrated union in the South that used indigenous folk music to fight for the rights of sharecroppers.

Guest – Eli Smith, a banjo player, writer, researcher and promoter of folk music living in New York City. Eli is a Smithsonian Folkways recording artist and produces two folk festivals annually, the Brooklyn Folk Festival in the Spring and Washington Square Park Folk Festival in the Fall.  He has appeared as a guest on terrestrial radio stations such as WBAI, WNYC, WKCR and WDST in New York and KPFA, KPFK and KUCI in California. Eli has presented panels and discussions on folk music at the Left Forum conference at Cooper Union and at the Podcamp podcasting conference in New York City. He has performed and recorded with his old time string band The Down Hill Strugglers, Peter Stampfel, John Cohen and Sam Shepard. The Down Hill Strugglers were recently featured on the soundtrack album to the Coen Brothers’ film “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which was produced by T Bone Burnett.

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Terrorization of Dissent: Corporate Repression, Legal Corruption, and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

Terrorization of Dissent: Corporate Repression, Legal Corruption, and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is a collection of essays by lawyers, scholars and activists that includes interviews with those who suffered from the AETA’s conspiracy provisions. Editors Jason Del Gandio and Anthony Nocella have compiled essential information to document how the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is a clear violation of the First Amendment. Specifically, the book documents how corporations and the U.S. Government conspire under this law to prosecute animal rights activists and acts of civil disobedience involving environmental issues under the specter of terrorism. Right now, according to Nocella and Del Gandio, corporate profit determines what can or can’t be done to animals and the environment.

Anthony Nocella:

  • The importance of this act has really shaped how the government looks at one of the larger movements in the United States.
  • The animal advocacy, animal rights, animal liberation movements have been demonized and stigmatized as terrorists, through the media and the government through this particular act.
  • What are the effects of this law? Who influenced this act to be pushed into law? It wasn’t really government.
  • There were main organizations that pushed this law into effect. The Animal Enterprise Protection Coalition, The Animal Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) The Center for Consumer Freedom.
  • Any logical CEO of a corporation will say I don’t want anything to threaten my product.
  • That product in the case of animals is any where from circuses to sea world, to clothing, from leather to fur, to also eating.
  • We can do away with circuses and fur and a lot of different clothing, but one thing we can’t live without is food.
  • We have to look at the real conflict and that’s between food.
  • Do we want people to have a plant based diet or an animal based diet?
  • There are hundreds of billions of dollars protecting that paradigm of people eating meat, fish and chicken.
  • If anyone threatens that industry, under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, you’re deemed a terrorist.
  • To wash away all the rhetoric that is what this law is specifically speaking about. That’s why it was expanded from the Animal Enterprise Protection Act to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
  • CCR Condemns Terrorism Indictment for Activists Freeing Mink from Fur Farms
  • The point is – regarding the book, law schools, political science departments, think tanks, need a text that comes from a variety of viewpoints specifically looking at the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
  • I think we have understand the difference between how corporations are influencing laws and literally writing the bills into laws and into effect, while political repression is really law enforcement and senators influencing laws.
  • We’re not criminalizing activists like we did in the 70s and 80s, now we’re labeling them as terrorists.
  • National Weekend of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act – Sept 5-6-7, 2014
  • Website – The Institute For Critical Animal Studies

Guest – Anthony Nocella II, Ph.D., an intersectional academic-activist, is Senior Fellow of the Dispute Resolution Institute at the Hamline Law School, co-founder and Director of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies, and editor of the Peace Studies Journal. He has published more than sixteen books including Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (2004), Call to Compassion: Religious Perspectives on Animal Advocacy (2011), and Defining Critical Animal Studies: An Intersectional Social Justice Approach for Liberation (2014).

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Law and Disorder July 14, 2014


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Campaign Demanding Proper Health Care For Incarcerated COINTELPRO Target Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)

A campaign was recently launched demanding immediate health care for political prisoner Imam Jamil Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown. Once the chairperson of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and minister of justice for the Black Panther Party, Al-Amin was one of the original four targets of the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO. Now 70 years old, he has been held in a federal prison at Florence, Colorado since 2006 where he is serving a life sentence for what many claim was the wrongful conviction in 2002 for shooting two deputy sheriffs. At the time, four leading Muslim organizations – CAIR, the AMC, ISNA and the Muslim American Society – issued a joint statement: “The charges against Imam Jamil are especially troubling because they are inconsistent with what is known of his moral character and past behavior as a Muslim.”

Al-Amin has multiple health issues have rapidly accelerated, including dental problems, a swollen jaw, broken teeth and swollen legs, ankles and feet, and has lost 30 pounds in just a few weeks, likely the result of recently-diagnosed cancer. Recently, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark visited Al-Amin.

Attorney Karima Al-Almin:

  • I met Jamil on July 1st 1967. I had graduated from college and started a job on that day. He walked into the job where I was to see someone who he was staying with.
  • At that time he was under house arrest and he could only stay in the borough of Manhattan, the Bronx and then William Kunstler’s house up there in Westchester county.
  • He invited me to go to lunch. The lunch was with Louis Farrakhan. So I met him on the same day, we joke about that but I married Jamil.
  • In May of 1967 he was elected chairperson of SNCC Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
  • Based on the fact that he didn’t appear for trial in Maryland for inciting to riot charge which was later dismissed, he was put on the 10 most wanted list in May 1970.
  • For 19 months he was being sought and not found but then he was found and capture in October 1971. He was attempting to clean up New York City’s drug problem.
  • There was an H. Rap Brown Anti-Dope Campaign. As a result he was captured in what was labeled as an “armed robbery.” He did go to trial and William Kunstler and Howard Moore defended him.
  • He was given a sentence of 5-15 years. He served 5 years in the New York State prison system and then he got out in 1976.
  • After getting out in October 1976 he can come to Atlanta where I had moved.
  • He spent years, establishing a Muslim community again cleaning up the neighborhood making it safe for families and children.
  • In May of 1999 he was stopped which ended up being an illegal stop outside of Atlanta city limits. He was charged with driving a stolen car which he did not know about.
  • In January of 2000 he was given a date to appear in court on those charges there was a storm and it was postponed. He didn’t know he was supposed to return and a warrant was issued in March 2000. That’s when the incident happened.
  • A Fulton County deputy was killed and one was shot and then we had the trial in 2002. There were so many problems with the trial. There were so many constitutional violations during the trial. As a result he was found guilty in March 2002 and given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
  • Georgia in 2003 tried to get him transferred and held in a federal facility, but it didn’t come to happen until July 2007. They were moving him based on his popularity.
  • Georgia (the state of) is paying a per diem to the Federal Bureau of Prisons for him to be housed.
  • It goes back to what he thought was a dental problem about a year and a half ago. He developed abscesses. He was unable to get out of bed.
  • A petition has already been sent to President Obama, Eric Holder and Charles Samuels.
  • Call ADMAX – 719-784-9464.
  • Create an email and fax flood. Email FLM/execassistant@bop.gov or use the form at http://www.bop.gov/inmates/concerns.jsp (location Florence ADMAX USP). Fax 719-784-5290. Jamil Al-Amin, #99974555
  • He dared to step out when he was 23 years old to speak out about injustices and make a difference.

Guest – Attorney Karima Al-Amin is an attorney at law and the wife of political prisoner Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. In addition to her private practice, Mrs. Al-Amin continues to work with attorneys in appealing her husband’s conviction and in working on his civil lawsuits challenging First Amendment and religious violations. Mrs. Al-Amin is a member of several legal and community organizations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the Clarkston Business Association, and the Georgia Association of Muslim Lawyers (GAML).

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US Attorney General Ramsey Clark:

  • I met first through FBI memos, a stack that reached floor to ceiling. He had a wonderful talent to irritate the FBI.
  • The country needs that sort of skill. So I got a lot of memos before I even met him.
  • He committed the supreme offense in the hierarchy of offenses of the FBI that is he embarrassed the bureau by making them look foolish cause they couldn’t catch him.
  • The legal staff were cheering him on. He made our day with narrow escapes. After this Congress enacted this absurd statute in his honor that shows he was a productive citizen concerned for our welfare.
  • He’s big strong tall guy and he has to duck under that door on the other side of that glass that you meet him through, he looked smaller.
  • Usually his energy level is very high. His energy level is way down, he looked frail in spite of his large frame.
  • Went back Sunday and his condition was the same, confirmed. He’s got a real health problem that needs to be addressed.
  • I think ideally he’d go to the Mayo Clinic first, get the thorough work up and diagnosis and everything. If its going to be long range treatment get him over to North Carolina.
  • The main thing is he needs the help of caring people from all over the country. We have to organize that to pressure the United States to do the only moral thing.

Guest – Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General of the United States, under President Lyndon B. Johnson. The first Attorney General at the Justice Department to call for the elimination of the death penalty and all electronic surveillance. After he left the Johnson administration, he became a vociferous critic of the Vietnam War and continued on a radical path, defending the underdog, defending the rights of people worldwide, from Palestinians to Iraqis, to anyone who found themselves at the repressive end of government action.

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U.S. Government To Prosecute 67-year-old Palestinian-American Rasmea Odeh

In the fall of 2013, the Department of Homeland Security arrested Rasmea Odeh, a 67 year old Palestinian American community activitist and teacher in her Chicago home for failing to disclose a 1969 conviction in an Israeli military court. She was charged with unlawful procurement of naturalization. Odeh had allegedly failed to disclose her time in an Israeli prison 45 years ago. In 1969 Rasmea Odeh, her father and fiancee were brutally tortured in an Israel relating to a bombing at a Jerusalem supermarket. Israel extracted a confession from Odeh, and she spent 10 years in an Israeli prison where she was tortured and sexually assaulted.

Odeh is Associate Director of the Arab American Action Network and leader of that group’s Arab Women’s Committee. The events bring together disenfranchised women, mostly recent immigrants, from Arabic-speaking countries. Odeh is scheduled for trial at a Detroit Federal court in September. If convicted she could be imprisoned, have her citizenship revoked and be deported.  Human rights campaigners in the United States are calling on the Obama administration to drop charges against Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian-American community organizer in Chicago who is accused of lying on a citizenship application two decades ago.

Attorney Michael Deutsch:

  • She was arrested Israel military and secret police in February of 1969. Her family, her father and two sisters were also arrested, taken out of the house in the middle of the night.
  • She was then transported by herself to a prison in Ramallah. On the way she was brutally beaten, when she arrived at the prison she was beaten again to the point where her whole body turned black.
  • She was then transferred to another prison which is called the Russian compound which is in the West Jerusalem.
  • There she was horrifically beaten subject to electronic torture, alligator clips to her breasts and genitals.
  • Prisoners and soldiers came into her room, she was raped repeatedly. She was raped with sticks. She was denied food, denied sleep, this went on for 45 days until she gave in and confessed.
  • Her father was brought in a room with her and they said her father was going to rape her. Her father of course refused and they beat her father to the point of unconsciousness and they dragged him out.
  • She was accused of being involved in two bombings one at a British counsel and one at an Israeli grocery store.
  • When she was brought into an alleged court, which was a military court run by soldiers, she renounced her confession and said that she was innocent. That was ignored and she was convicted of these bombings and being a member of an illegal organization and given a life sentence.
  • Ultimately in 1979, she was traded with 70 other Palestinian prisoners for the return of an Israeli soldier where she was taken to Syria, then Lebanon then to Jordan where she lived til 1994. She obtained a VISA to come to the United States.
  • Basically for almost the following ten years she’s been working as a community activist in Chicago particularly with the Arab-American Action Network.
  • In 2010 there were all these raids by the FBI toward anti-war activists and the executive director of the AAAN. He was subpoenaed to a grand jury after the FBI raided his home and took all his papers.
  • They claim that he was providing material support for the PFLP and as a result the whole AAAN was put under investigation and the grand jury subpoenaed all the documents of the organization.
  • As a result of this investigation into the AAAN, the US attorney in Chicago sent word to Washington that they wanted to get Rasmea’s files from Israel.
  • In a year or two years they got the records or alleged to be her records of arrest, conviction and sentence by the Israeli military court.
  • I don’t believe a conviction or arrest by the IDF and a conviction by an Israeli military tribunal is consistent with International Law, fundamental fairness or due process.
  • One of the things were going to say is that the conviction and arrest can’t be given any kind of credit in a U.S. courtroom because its fundamentally unfair and shouldn’t be considered.
  • The question is whether she answered those questions with an intent to falsely procure her naturalization.
  • I would add the judge in this case has been a fervent supporter of Israel since the 50s.
  • The Israeli tribunals are not only based on torture but illegal occupation. They invade a people’s land and set up these military courts.
  • The question in my mind in Rasmea’s trial is how are they going to keep out the issue of torture? Which is want they’re going to want to do.
  • To support Rasmea Odeh, contact the Arab-American Action Network
  • CCR Statement

Guest – Attorney Michael Deutsch, after clerking for United States Court of Appeals Judge Otto Kerner, Mr. Deutsch went into private practice, joining People’s Law Office in 1970 where he has represented political activists and victims of police and government civil rights violations. His advocacy has taken him all around the world, including to hearings in the United Nations. He has tried many civil and criminal cases in federal and state courts, and has written and argued numerous appeals, including several in the United States Supreme Court.

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Please help support Law and Disorder, the show is now a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Law and Disorder must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

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Law and Disorder June 16, 2014


Updates:

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The Electronic Privacy Information Center, The NSA, FOIA Requests, And Wikileaks

The Electronic Privacy Information Center or EPIC is among a handful of organizations trying to reveal the massive surveillance of the National Security Agency. We talk about a few of EPIC’s most important cases being litigated that you may not have heard about. EPIC had filed a massive FOIA request on behalf of Wikileaks to the Criminal and National Security Divisions of the Department of Justice, and to the FBI asking for multiple records including any individuals targeted for surveillance for support for or interest in WikiLeaks. We talk about that and their lawsuit involving the NSA not being subject to FOIA requests plus a victory involving the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to deactivate wireless communications networks in a crisis.

Attorney Marc Rotenburg:

  • The FOIA requests we made five years ago for the NSA Cybersecurity Authority was a request that we sent to the NSA, litigated in the district court and on appeal in the DC Circuit last Friday just a few days before the government’s brief was due, they contacted us and said they were disclosing to us the document we had been trying to obtain.
  • This is National Security Presidential Directive 54 and that outlines all the cyber security authorities for the federal agencies.
  • The scope of our work is very much driven by our mission. Our mission is to focus public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues.
  • The FBI wants to put together the next generation identification system which will be the largest biometric database in the world and we think the implications for privacy and freedom are just staggering.
  • Google also retains everybody’s search histories.
  • We also do a lot of open government litigation so people can learn about these issues and we do a lot of amicus briefs.
  • In our organization there’s actually deep division about Wikileaks. Some people think Julian Assange is a hero and some people would like to see him arrested.
  • What was interesting to us about the Wikileaks case – we did see a persons of expressions of support for Wikileaks as core First Amendment speech.
  • We became very interested through the FOIA with how the federal government was apparently intervening with private companies, bank payment companies, cloud service providers and others to try to chill the ability of Wikileaks supporters to contribute to the organization, to get access to hosted documents.
  • We simply believe it was wrong for the government to simply discourage people their support or even their opposition.
  • With the FOIA, one of the things you’re trying to do is get information out to the public and hope that others find that its useful.
  • We think its a fundamental obligation for any internet company that collects personal data to stand up to the government when there are court orders.
  • Our other case in the DC Circuit – this concerns a technique used in San Francisco basically to shut down cell phone service among people who had gathered at a protest to object to the police conduct that I think resulted in the death of a person on the BART system.
  • Pursuant to a secret policy known as Standard Operating Protocol 303, somehow the Department of Homeland Security got the local telephone service to shut down cell phone service in the region and people couldn’t communicate and the protest was effectively stopped.
  • Our FOIA request was for the policy which we think has to be made public. You can’t have a secret procedure that so deeply implicates First Amendment freedoms.
  • We went laser focused after that one document and the DHS was throwing up all these law enforcement exemptions, 7E and 7F involving techniques and methods saying this was vitally important to protect public safety which was an interesting argument too.
  • Submit FOIA requests – if a government agency has a reason to withhold a record, the burden is on the agency to justify the reason for the withholding.

Guest – Attorney Marc Rotenburg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in Washington, DC. He teaches information privacy law at Georgetown University Law Center and has testified before Congress on many issues, including access to information, encryption policy, consumer protection, computer security, and communications privacy. He testified before the 9-11 Commission on “Security and Liberty: Protecting Privacy, Preventing Terrorism.” He has served on several national and international advisory panels, including the expert panels on Cryptography Policy and Computer Security for the OECD, the Legal Experts on Cyberspace Law for UNESCO, and the Countering Spam program of the ITU.

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Hundreds of California Prisoners in Isolation to Join Class Action Lawsuit

Last year we spoke with attorney Jules Lobel about his lawsuit challenging long term solitary confinement in California prisons. Recently, a federal judge in Oakland California ruled to agree to consider as part of that lawsuit if long term isolation violates a prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights. Prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay prison can spend 22 to 24 hours a day in a cramped, concrete windowless cell. Mostly, they’re there for their alleged connection to gangs and their refusal to become government informants.

Attorney Jules Lobel:

  • Pelican Bay is a prison that holds over 1000 prisoners. It’s located on one of the most isolated sections of the United States coast line border between California and Oregon.
  • It was deliberately placed there because most of the prisoners are from Los Angeles.
  • It’s very hard for their friends and family to visit them.
  • They spend virtually their whole day in an 80 square foot cell with no window.
  • They virtually get no visitors, they can’t make any phone calls. They’re fairly isolated from the outside world and from each other.
  • Many of my clients have been in this kind of cell for over a decade.
  • California estimates there are about 225 that have been there for over a decade.
  • A number of my clients have been there for over 2 decades.
  • California puts them there not because they’ve done anything violent in prison, or in some cases they haven’t done anything violent outside of prison . . mainly drug offenses . . . but because they have an association could be very loose, could be because of having a tattoo or a piece of art work which suggests you’re in some way associated with a gang.
  • The only way out was to become an informant and then you and your family were in grave danger of being killed or assaulted by the gang.
  • Recently in California after 3 hunger strikes, pressure from the lawsuit, pressure from the legislature, has instituted some reforms so there are for some of the people a way at least to another solitaire prison or the general population.
  • They come up for review once every six years in the system that’s currently in place.
  • The Ninth Circuit court has said anything over 1 year is too long for reviews.
  • There have been hundreds of law suits challenging various aspects of this situation in Pelican Bay, from the due process to they’re not given any chance to prove that they can get to its cruel and unusual punishment to keep people in there for 10-15-20 years.
  • Now for the first time the judge has said I’m going to take this as a class action which means I’m going to look at the general policies that California is instituting and if we were to win, try to change the system.
  • Our argument is that these conditions are cruel and unusual to keep people in for this long of time.
  • We said we need to meet with all of our clients all together. We can’t meet with one individual then another individual.
  • The state said that’s impossible, these people are so dangerous you can’t possibly meet with them all together, but the judge ordered it.
  • We got a meeting, if you can imagine the cell that Hannibal was in? They put 10 of these cages side by side, and they put us in a big conference room. They mandated that we had to wear flak jackets. We were seated at a table with Marine outfits.
  • What it really is is to force these guys to become informants, to make it as cruel as possible and the only way out is to become an informant.
  • It essentially alters your personality. You die a social death.
  • Our case, if we were to win would be the beginning of the death knell of solitary confinement in this country.
  • 80 thousand prisoners as we speak are in some form of solitary in this country.
  • One of the things about this case is that it requires substantial funding and we’re always looking for people to help with funding the case.

Guest – Attorney Jules Lobel, has litigated important issues regarding the application of international law in the U.S. courts. In the late 1980’s, he advised the Nicaraguan government on the development of its first democratic constitution, and has also advised the Burundi government on constitutional law issues.  Professor Lobel is editor of a text on civil rights litigation and of a collection of essays on the U.S. Constitution, A Less Than Perfect Union (Monthly Review Press, 1988). He is author of numerous articles on international law, foreign affairs, and the U.S. Constitution in publications including Yale Law Journal, Harvard International Law Journal, Cornell Law Review, and Virginia Law Review. He is a member of the American Society of International Law.

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Law and Disorder June 9, 2014


Updates:

  • Michael Ratner: Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Exchange
  • Five Taliban In Exchange For A U.S. Prisoner Held In Afghanistan
  • 149 Detainees Left In Guantanamo Prison – 88 Cleared For Release
  • Michael Smith Reports Back On Highlights At the 2014 Left Forum

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9/11 Memorial Museum Protests

There were many protests during the official opening of the 911 Memorial Museum. Muslim communities and other groups have voiced concern about the film in the musuem titled  “The Rise of Al-Qaeda” and how it fails to adequately discern between Al-Qaeda and those of the Islamic faith. Meanwhile, the museum’s official response is that the film is objectively telling the story of what happened.

Donna Nevel:

  • We came together because of a concern about a video they were showing called The Rise of al-Qaeda. It’s a 7 minute documentary and the concern is about the problematic language that its using. It makes it seem as if the acts of 9-11 are equated with Islam.
  • Our feeling is that the film needs to be edited and could exacerbate an already anti-Muslim climate.
  • Quoting criticism – The film in its current state presented risks that visitors would assign collective responsibility for September 11th to Islam and all Muslims.
  • There’s a historian Todd Fine who says its an inconsistent array of terminology that gets carelessly thrown around with little concern for the harmful impact it can have on people.
  • The video didn’t do enough to separate al-Qaeda from Islam and from mainstream Islam. It’s reckless.
  • Despite the fact that the own museum’s own advisory board was instantly concerned when they saw the film and said it should be reviewed and edited – despite the fact that 400 scholars wrote letters saying it contains problematic and contested terminology that conflates terrorism with Islam – and despite the fact that leaders from so many different inter-faith communities have spoken out about this – that the museum continues to stand by its decision not to edit the video – is astonishing.
  • I was doing a little research on her (Debra Burlingame-on 911 Memorial Museum Board of Directors) and there’s a high number of racist quotes she’s said. “Islam’s a transnational threat.”
  • Millions and millions of people will be going to this museum and museums can have a big impact.
  • We have to remember that this is in the context not of a society that welcomes and embraces the Muslim community but one that’s surveilling the Muslim community.
  • It’s feeding into this notion that all Muslims are responsible for the acts of a few individuals.
  • This video also feeds into police surveillance because what do they say? After 911 we have to be more vigilant and that means surveilling an entire community.
  • Communities are coming together and speaking out, including about this video.
  • We have to change the structures that enable this to happen. The Islamophobes are really problematic and have connections to some of the institutions.
  • We have to make sure our institutions are fomenting Islamophobia.
  • Book – Islamophobia and Israel by Elly Bulkin and Donna Nevel
  • We wanted to analyze the intersection of Islamophobia and Israeli politics and to look at the way the “war on terror” impacts both. Also to raise an issue that’s basically taboo in the Jewish community as well as outside the Jewish community.
  • We have 4 different areas that we look at. Our lengthiest area is “follow the money” where you basically see how connected the Islamophobes are with right-wing Israel crowd, the settlement movement and others as well.
  • Jews Against Islamophobia / Jews Say No / Jewish Voices For Peace / Jews For Racial and Economic Justice
  • Contact Donna Nevel – denevel(at)gmail(dot).com

Guest – Donna Nevel, a community psychologist, educator, and writer whose work is rooted in Participatory Action Research (PAR) and popular education. Co-author with Elly Bulkin of Islamophobia and Israel.  She has been involved with a wide range of organizing efforts to challenge segregation and inequality and further equity and racial justice in public education. She has also been a long-time organizer for Palestinian-Israeli peace and justice and works with groups to challenge Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism.

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Free Flow of Information Act (Journalist Shield Law)

Current shield laws for journalists in the United States have broad exceptions for national security. This means that a prosecutor can override the law by showing how the information sought would “materially assist” the government in “preventing” or “mitigating” an act of terrorism. Initially, the shield law is set up to provide a confidentiality privilege for journalists so a police officer or FBI agent can’t get that information even with a court order unless there is an unusually strong justification for it. The latest version of the shield law as of September 2013 has a clause telling judges that it only covers legitimate news gathering. This of course makes very easy to declare any kind of news gathering you don’t like as illegitimate, and therefore the sources are not protected. Last month, the House of Representatives voted to approve an amendment to an appropriations bill barring the Justice Department from compelling reporters to testify about confidential sources.

Carey Shenkman:

  • We are going to get a shield law but its going to be one that doesn’t protect any journalists or sources.
  • It’s a lot easier for the FBI and the DOJ to just skip the investigation and go straight to the reporters. Why do they have to any work when they have the journalist getting all the sources for them.
  • They subpoenaed records from the Associated Press last summer, they subpoenaed the source for James Risen who wrote a book and that actually appeared before the 4th Circuit of Appeals and was turned down by the Supreme Court for review.
  • There’s been a push to try and pass a shield law before but Obama back in 2009 said he wouldn’t let any shield law pass that didn’t have a big national security exemption.
  • What happened back in September is that there was a massive compromise with 2 Senators, Diane Feinstein from California and Dick Durbin from Illinois. They wouldn’t let this law go through unless it contained a big national security exception. Meaning any reporter covering national security would have to disclose their sources, and second it had a big exclusion for wikileaks and other organizations that published leaks.
  • There’s actually a balancing test as part of this law that tells judges to consider if a journalist is engaged in legitimate news gathering. This is problematic because anyone can be a journalist, this has been the case since the founding of this country.
  • They’re trying to put into law the fact that some journalists are legitimate and some are illegitimate.
  • The internet has brought this country back to the time of its founding in terms of journalism because when the “press clause” in the First Amendment were passed, anyone could be a journalist.
  • The “press clause” was defined as the right to publish.
  • I believe we do need shield laws, but not this shield law.
  • I think there is a big push by the institutional media to keep journalism as a profession, but that’s not what journalism is. Now with the internet, anyone can publish. As long as anyone as the intention to disseminate information, they should be protected as a journalist.
  • When it helps the government the definition of the media is very broad.
  • It’s going to be political suicide if Holder or anyone from the Obama administration pushes to send James Risen to jail.
  • The DOJ argued in an affidavit that James Rosen was aiding and abetting his source.
  • More and more, we’re seeing this administration trying to frame the news gatherer and the source, not as a journalist and a source but as criminals in a conspiracy.
  • I was a radio journalist for 3 years. I used to work at the Center for Constitutional Rights where I met Michael Ratner and was involved with Chelsea Manning’s trial.

Guest – Carey Shenkman, has worked with several legal teams including Chelsea Manning’s defense, and legal research defining  the protection of new media under the Bill of Rights and The U.S. Constitution.  

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Law and Disorder May 12, 2014


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The Muslims Are Coming

Since the so called war on terror, thousands of innocent Muslims have been entrapped, surveilled, and their communities infiltrated while spending untold resources in search for the radicalized terrorist. In Arun Kundnani’s recent book titled the Muslims Are Coming, he carefully looks at the ideologies and strategies of law enforcement used to create the domestic war on terror. He unveils the disturbing processes of radicalization theories and racial profiling followed by law enforcement.

Arun Kundnani:

  • There wasn’t any reflection of what the political causes might be of 9/11 or the political context that might give rise to Al-Qaeda.
  • That discussion was basically censored at least in the United States.
  • The war on terror has basically failed.
  • Radicalization is the chief lens that security officials in Western government lock up Muslim populations.
  • The idea of radicalization is that there’s this kind of ideology out there that turns ordinary Muslims into terrorists.
  • The FBI and the police department both have the same model of radicalization which they claim tells you the process that someone goes through from being an ordinary member of the public to becoming a terrorist.
  • Within that there are various indicators such as behavior or things that people might say or believe that are supposed to be signs that someone is traveling on this path to becoming a terrorist.
  • This provides the basis for the very aggressive practice of surveillance that we’ve seen from both of those law enforcement agencies.
  • It enables them to have a frame of reference to intervene within Muslim populations within the United States, to tackle the ideology that they see is the root driver for this.
  • There are 4 stages in this model. Growing a beard, wearing Islamic clothing, changing the mosque that you attend, being active in a pro-Muslim in a social or political group.
  • They often correspond to expression of political opinion.
  • The FBI as of 2008 had 15,000 paid informants on its books. That’s a huge number given that half of the FBI’s budget is given to counter-terrorism. The sting operations using informants are the key method of dealing with this.
  • The Stasi in Germany had one spy for every 66 East German citizens. It’s that kind of ratio that you can talk about a totalitarian system of surveillance.
  • Muslims in America are probably experiencing the same level of surveillance that East Germans faced under the Stasi.
  • The liberal take on the war on terror is not the same as the neoconservative take.
  • As a Muslim you’re potentially bad and you need to prove that you’re not by the kind of ideology you express. That’s characterized the Obama period in the war on terror.
  • The way that the word terrorism or the word extremism or radicalization works is that is serves to criminalize and demonize people who have radical political opinion, irrespective if they’re involved in any kind of violence.
  • The structures of surveillance that have been set up in the war on terror, get recycled for all kinds of other purposes.

Guest – Arun Kundnani writes about race, Islamophobia, political violence, and surveillance. His latest book The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic War on Terror was published by Verso Books in March 2014. Born and bred in London, he moved to New York in 2010 on a fellowship with the Open Society Foundations and now lives in Harlem. He is the author of The End of Tolerance: racism in 21st century Britain, which was selected as a New Statesman book of the year in 2007. A former editor of the journal Race & Class, he was miseducated at Cambridge University, holds a PhD from London Metropolitan University, and teaches at New York University

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Ukraine’s Neo Nazis

We look at Ukraine’s neo-Nazis and Stepan Bandera and the legacy of World War II. Every important ministry in the Ukraine is now held by ultra-nationalists. The Ministry of Education, social policy, policing, prosecution and national defense are all headed up by people whose party is a direct descendant of the Stepan Bandera movement in the Ukraine during World War II. Bandera and his movement were responsible for the genocide of more than 500 thousand including Poles, Ukrainians and Jews. This fact is played down by the U.S. government, the mainstream media in the United States, the state of Israel and its defenders amongst the Jewish establishment including Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League.

Joel Kovel:

  • I think its important to recognize this utterly illegitimate US puppet government I think in large part because it doesn’t have any standing for the Ukrainian people as a whole – has to be defended by neo-Nazi elements which aren’t enormously plentiful, but plentiful enough and they will do the bidding of their masters.
  • It started (Odessa, Ukraine) as a quarrel in a soccer stadium, and moved to Odessa. Odessa is an extremely important town it was one of the centers of world Jewish culture for a long time, still has 30 thousand Jews in it.
  • The Ukrainian loyalists overwhelmed the other people and drove them into this building, they set fires within the building which led to a hideous massacre.
  • One on one violence but also people jumping out of the windows, smoke inhalation.
  • Watching it on youtube you saw the total savagery and unspeakable brutality of these thugs, they were laughing, having the time of their lives.
  • There were police around, military around, they did nothing to stop this.
  • Utterly mystified and denied by the mainstream media, including the main springs thereof, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times.
  • My parents were both born in the Ukraine. In the early years of the last century, one third of the Jews in the world lived in the Ukraine.
  • You have a blood strewn, contentious history marked by an enormous amount of hatred and vindictiveness. I think all nationalisms are pathological frankly.
  • Ukrainian nationalism was particularly virulent. We’re dealing with another brand of ultra-nationalism with the state of Israel, and they’re not unconnected with all this.
  • Fascism being a right wing alliance between large bourgeois and nationalist forces using some kind of mythic or racist ideology to legitimate itself.
  • Ukraine: there’s never been a solid national identity there’s a tremendous complex mixture of things.
  • There’s a book called Organized Antisemitism in Contemporary Ukraine: Structure, Influence and Ideology.
  • Of course the US thinks they’re manipulating the puppets so they can control them. You go down that road, there’s going to be a lot of tragedies as the puppet turns on the master.
  • The number of Rabbis quoted as saying we’re getting ready to evacuate, we have plans. We’re ready to go in a half an hour. We’re afraid its going to happen again. Meanwhile, this Foxman is saying, don’t worry.
  • New York Times had a headline about 3 or 4 weeks ago how this was all overblown Ukraine’s Jews say that Putin not antisemitism is the problem.
  • That’s the headline in the New York Times. How could they do that?
  • We need a massive onslaught against the program of lies and deception that is being waged by our national media in total lockstep with the imperial interest of the United States. I’ve never in my life seen journalism sink to such an abyss as it has and in the very least this is a front that we can occupy.
  • It means a lot because the American don’t want this to be happening. This is something that our power system. One front is the ruthless critique of the media and the lies that our government is putting out.

Guest- Joel Kovel, scholar and an activist. In the former capacity he has published nine books and over a hundred articles and reviews. His books include White Racism, which was nominated for a National Book Award in 1972; A Complete Guide to Therapy; The Age of Desire (in which his work in the psychiatric-psychoanalytic system is detailed); Against the State of Nuclear Terror; In Nicaragua; The Radical Spirit; History and Spirit(1991) – Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism

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Law and Disorder March 10, 2014


Updates:

 

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NJ Federal Court Dismisses NYPD Spying On Muslims Case

We take a look into the failed lawsuit challenging the New York City Police Department’s broad surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey. As listeners may know the case Hassan v City of New York brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Muslim Advocates was dismissed last month. Since 2002, the NYPD spied outside its jurisdiction on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools and two Muslim Student Associations in New Jersey. The monitoring included using racial and ethnic profiling systems, video surveillance, photographing, community mapping and infiltration.

Professor Deepa Kumar:

  • It was very troubling for me too Michael. At Rutgers where I teach, we found out that the NYPD had a safe house just off of our New Brunswick campus.
  • It’s really troubling that student groups on my campus not to mention grade schools and Muslim book stores and community centers have been invaded.
  • It’s created a chilling sentiment among the Muslim community. People self-censor, they’re afraid that what they say will be used against them in entrapment cases.
  • This decision by this judge is completely stunning. The logic that he puts forward and I’m reading from his ten page report. He says “the police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself. The motive for the program was not solely apparently to discriminate against Muslims but to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary law abiding Muslims.”
  • If you examine what he says, the notion that there are terrorists in the Muslim community, therefore its alright to go out and spy on them.
  • It’s based on the notion that somehow Islam serves to radicalize Muslim Americans into performing political violence.
  • This program has been active since 2002, but there hasn’t been one terrorism related lead, let alone any kind of conviction.
  • Since the events of 9/11 there have been all sorts of pseudo-scientific attempts to show that somehow the religion Islam creates political violence.
  • If you look at Hamas, the group in Palestine, they’ve gone to the Quran to justify violence as well as to justify cease fire.
  • It’s politics really as the key reason why people turn to violence and so to somehow blame Islam, this is a form of cultural racism.
  • What this means is that the NYPD can go around with impunity and spy on religion minorities, not just in New York City, but in New Jersey, in Connecticut.
  • It sends a green light to other police departments across the country as well as the FBI which has similar programs.
  • He (Judge Martini) justified his ruling referring to a case in the Supreme Court. I think we have a lot of work to do ahead of us in pushing back against this racist logic.
  • Some people claim that there isn’t racism against Muslims because Muslims aren’t a race.
  • There’s tremendous variation between human to human in terms of our genetic make up and 85 percent of this variation occurs within a so called race.
  • Why are we calling it racism? Because its a form of cultural racism, because its based on the premise that Islam somehow creates an ideology, it creates a culture that programs people to act in violent ways.
  • The reason why people turn to violence often is because peaceful movements failed.
  • I’m currently working on a book on the cultural logic of the national security state.
  • If you look the campaigns If You See Something, Say Something. What’s being asked of you is to become an agent of state surveillance.

Guest – Deepa Kumar, an Associate Professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University. Her work is driven by an active engagement with the key issues that characterize our era–neoliberalism and imperialism. Her latest book is Islamophobia and The Politics of Empire by Haymarket Books and is in response to the events of 9/11, the Bush administration launched a “war on terror,” ushering in an era of anti-Muslim racism, or Islamophobia.  Her first book, Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization and the UPS Strike (University of Illinois Press, 2007), is about the power of collective struggle in effectively challenging the priorities of neoliberalism.

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Net Neutrality – Time Warner/Comcast Merger

A merger of media cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable threatens net neutrality. Comcast intends to take over Time Warner for more than 44 billion dollars in stock. This proposed merger would unite the nation’s largest cable TV and internet service provider with the second largest cable company. If combined, these companies would offer service to two thirds of U.S. households. The deal must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department and the FCC.

Attorney Matt Wood:

  • What we would have here is a 45 billion dollar deal combining the nation’s largest and second largest cable company.
  • They face some competition especially from video from satellite providers.
  • The place where they don’t face competition at all is on the broadband platform.
  • This deal would strengthen them both in their cable TV programming dominance and on the broadband side too.
  • You’d have one company that reaches two thirds of the country and its the only option some people have for advanced communications services, putting video and broadband together.
  • That would give tremendous power of everything we see on both TV and online. Comcast is already a must have for any independent programmer.
  • For even web providers such as Netflix.
  • Even without that horizontal competition today between Comcast and Time Warner cable this is not good news for the American people, for free expression, for lower prices, for anything we care about.
  • Net-neutrality means preventing unreasonable discrimination against content.
  • Verizon went to court and had these net neutrality rules struck down that the FCC put forward.
  • They (Verizon) said they internet is really like a newspaper than it is like a phone system and what that means is that we at Verizon should have editorial discretion over the internet content we transmit.
  • An internet service provider used to be somebody you went to who rode over the top of an open phone system. Right? Back in the dial up days there were a number of internet service providers and you could switch from one to the other.
  • Internet content should not be regulated by the Federal Communications Commission full stop yet the communications network that we all use to get online is something where have to have a public oversight role and a certain degree of universality, affordable and openness.
  • Susan Crawford talks about these issues as well. She said “What the companies want to do is confuse the conversation for the sidewalk.”
  • We need these rules to keep open the sidewalks, to keep open the public spaces and this concept of public communications network that serves everybody.
  • The twin review by the FCC and the Department of Justice might seem cumbersome but they have different mandates.
  • DOJ and the FTC are looking to prevent a decrease in existing competition.
  • The FCC has a broader mandate to make the sure the deal is actually in the public interest.
  • Comcast bought up NBC only 3 years ago. Since then, AT&T tried to acquire T-mobile.
  • Verizon has almost 50 percent of the entire (wireless) industry’s profits.

Guest – Attorney Matt Wood helps shape the policy team’s efforts to protect the open Internet, prevent media concentration, promote affordable broadband deployment and prioritize a revitalized public media. Before joining Free Press, he worked at the public interest law firm Media Access Project and in the communications practice groups of two private law firms in Washington, D.C. Before that, he served as editor-in-chief for the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, worked for PBS, and spent time at several professional and college radio and television stations. Matt earned his B.A. in film studies from Columbia University and his J.D. from Harvard Law School.

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Law and Disorder March 3, 2014


Updates:

 

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Russell “Maroon” Shoatz Released Into General Population After 22 Years of Solitary

Here on Law and Disorder we’ve been keeping you updated on the campaign to release Russell “Maroon” Shoatz from solitary confinement. We’re heartened to broadcast the news that he has been released from solitary confinement and is now in the general prison population. Maroon has spent 40 years in the U.S. prison system and 22 of those years were spent under intense lock down. He was allowed only one hour a day outside of that cell. In May of 2013 Maroon brought a lawsuit on the grounds that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of to the U.S. Constitution and that he was denied his legal rights to proceed with a case.

Attorney Bret Grote:

  • We had a legal phone scheduled to take place Thursday February 20, when we received notice from the prison that the housing unit that he was in. The restricted housing unit was not going to be able to facilitate that phone call because he was not longer on the unit.
  • I received a call from him at 1PM confirming that he had been released from solitary confinement just hours before that very morning. We notified his family. That same night he had his first contact visit in more than 20 years when his son Russell III, and his daughter Sharon were able to go see him. There’s a real wonderful picture of the 3 of them circulating on the internet.
  • A constellation of forces and various tactics and strategies that had been deployed over a course of 3 years of renewed, reinvigorated effort to get Maroon out of solitary confinement.
  • It started back in August of 2010 when State Representative Ron Waters held a hearing on solitary confinement in front of the House Judiciary Committee and Maroon’s daughter Theresa Shoatz was there and seeing former survivors of solitary confinement and advocates testify in the presence of DOC officials and state legislators inspired her.
  • She said on that very day. I remember it crystal clear. “I’m going to get my Dad out of solitary.”
  • That began a series of advocacy efforts including phone calls, including action alerts that saw the construction of a coalition of more than 30 organizations including the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Human Rights coalition in Pennsylvania.
  • There was no change in condition or indication that anything was going to change until late March of 2013. What had been happening at that time was Maroon was getting increasing visits from lawyers. There were more correspondence coming from the legal team.
  • Right when we were about to send the Department of Corrections our demand letter that he be released in 30 days or else they’d be hit with a civil rights lawsuit, they abruptly without any notice that this was going to happen, transferred him from the state correctional institution at Greene where he’d been for 18 years to SCI Mahanoy.
  • In my experience of 6 years of being a human rights advocate for prisoners in Pennsylvania, I’ve never heard of prison officials going to somebody in the solitary units and telling them we’re going to do what you want.
  • In the process of constructing this massive imperial prison state they have resorted to similar ideology, punitive ideologies and tactics to manage that prison population once they’re behind the walls, and that includes widespread use solitary confinement in a way that is qualitatively different than it had been used throughout most of the 20th century.
  • It had been used as a long term affirmative strategy for managing the prison population for warehousing for people that were problematic for prison officials because maybe they filed a lot of grievances, or they were jailhouse lawyers, maybe they were political prisoners or dissidents . . .
  • In the 30 years that this has been ongoing, there have been waves of activism that really at the outset were led by people like Bonnie Kerness, director of AFSC’s Prison Watch Project.

Guest – Attorney  Bret Grote, a member of the Russell Maroon Shoatz legal team and the Abolitionist Law Center. Bret has worked with the Human Rights Coalition since 2007 as an investigator, organizer, and researcher. He was the Isabel and Alger Hiss Racial Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights in 2012. He graduated from the University of Pitt Law School in May 2013 and was recognized as the school’s Distinguished Public Interest Scholar.

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U.N. Expresses “Deepest Concern” over Widespread Sexual Abuse by Clergy

Here on Law and Disorder we continue to report on the work of the Center for Constitutional Rights and SNAP, the Survivor’s Network of Those Abused By Priests in bringing accountability within the Catholic Church for widespread sexual violence against perhaps hundreds of thousands of victims, mainly children. Recently, the Vatican was summoned before the United Nations Committee On the Rights of the Child to respond to allegations of systemic sexual violence and practices that have allowed abuse to continue.

Attorney Pam Spees:

  • We were in Geneva with members of the Survivors network, those abused by priests because the Vatican was having to report to the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child for the first time ever on the issue of sexual violence.
  • This is in the wake of more than a decade of scandals that have broken out in different parts of the world and investigations in different countries which really revealed that the Vatican has a system in place that actually facilitates this widespread sexual violence.
  • The treaty set up a committee of independent experts. Their job is to see compliance with the treaty and review different countries that have ratified this convention, basically in a dialogue with them in how they’re complying with the treaty, protecting children’s rights.
  • The committee had asked for data on the scope of sexual violence. The information the Vatican has about it. What was done in these cases, with individual priests but also evidence of higher officials who helped cover up these crimes around the world.
  • Vatican officials are claiming that this is a thing of the past and that they’ve made changes. They point to 2011 when Pope Benedict issued a new set of guidelines, essentially an instruction to Catholic authorities around the world that they should comply with civil laws.
  • We’ve seen similar types of policy and language in the U.S. We’ve seen similar language in Ireland. But what has happened in Ireland and the U.S. is in that realm, officials at the Vatican have overridden the national level bishops plan to require mandatory reporting of sexual violence.
  • The same practices are happening behind the policies, and the policies have no teeth.
  • You have a former archbishop in Wisconsin who has talked about shredding documents on a routine basis under sworn testimony, he had admitted to this, but the priest-shifting is just common. One former cannon lawyer said its part of the DNA of the church.
  • We know sexual violence can occur in every institution but when you have a closed system like the Vatican that is saying it can police itself and its really not. It’s actually continuing to enable – they (the committee) got the way it was operating and that was really important for the survivors to be there and they called them out on that.
  • It’s not just putting the blame on individual perpetrators, its about changing the system fundamentally and the way it operates.
  • We’ve seen Vatican officials come out in two ways and criticize the report. One is the focus on the committees questions about non-discrimination issues.
  • The treaty is a wide ranging treaty that sets out a number of rights that are to be protected, respected and fulfilled by the state’s parties.
  • The Vatican has operated as a state when its convenient and then falls back to its religious entity status when its not convenient to be a state.
  • What’s coming up next is UN Committee Against Torture has decided to call the Holy See for review. That will be happening in April, again in Geneva.

Guest – Pam Spees, senior staff attorney in the international human rights program at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She has a background in international criminal and human rights law with a gender focus, as well as criminal trial practice. She serves as lead counsel on several of CCR’s cases and initiatives including, Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively, a case brought against a U.S. based anti-gay extremist for his role in the persecution of LGBTI people in Uganda; Murillo v. Micheletti, a case brought by the parents of a youth killed by the coup regime in Honduras;  and in the legal effort to hold Vatican officials criminally responsible for the crimes against humanity of rape and sexual violence within the church.

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Law and Disorder February 24, 2014


Updates:

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The Drug War: Policing and U.S. Militarism at Home and Abroad

Last week the Center for Constitutional Rights hosted an event titled The Drug War: Policing and U.S. Militarism at Home and Abroad. We’re joined by one of the panelists David Vivar, he’s an author and scholar at National Autonomous University of Honduras at the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations of the University of Calabria. His work focuses on the U.S. cooperation in the Honduran military coup of 2009 and the centrality of drug trafficking to state power in Honduras. What you will hear in this interview is that the U.S. Drug War has not only fueled mass incarceration and discriminatory policing practices here in the U.S. but also supports violence and militarization throughout Latin America. We get the details of that and David’s strategies to resist the racist, and devastating war.

David Vivar:

  • It’s been constant that Congress asks to stop human rights violations.
  • This goes all the way back to the simulation of the rule of law, to a democratic state.
  • We have the highest murder rate in the whole world, and we have no war, not a consistent war declared except the war on drugs.
  • We’re fighting a war that has turned the current conditions into a civil war.
  • When you start having conflicts between drug lords, Mexican cartels and Colombian cartels – what do they do? They go to the space right in the middle, which is Central America and the northern triangle.
  • Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have seen the consequences. We are the collateral damage.
  • 79 percent of the cocaine that travels to the United States goes via Honduras. Basically what the Department of State is doing is investing money on kingpins and drug lords in the Honduran institutions.
  • After the coup the military took back power and the U.S constantly supported this new democratic military civil alliance, which in the hand is what happened in Mexico.
  • The (Honduran) military has drug lords of its own.
  • Miguel Facusse is the most powerful man in Honduras. He’s got the Dinan Corporation which has African Palm plantations throughout the whole drug path.
  • Basically the conflict around land is a failed agrarian reform.
  • You have indigenous populations that lost their land. Their land was given to this man. The most powerful person, he gets the African Palm plantations which is the best place, as we know from wikileaks to establish small airports for aircraft to land there and deal with the drugs.
  • The resistance is still in the streets against a lot of laws – the opening for business of the country – model cities and charter cities are something we’re fighting back in keeping our resources ours.

Laura Raymond:

  • The U.S. did cut off military aid for a short amount of time directly after the coup but instead of backing the movement from the Honduran civil society for reinstatement of President Zelaya – throughout that summer and fall there was a huge movement, the streets were filled with people calling for the reinstatement of their president – the United States instead pushed for new elections that fall which was what ended up happening.
  • The elections were heavily boycotted by civil society yet the U.S. was the primary force in the region for supporting those elections.
  • After those elections took place and Pepe Lobo is elected as president, the U.S. reinstated their support for the Honduran military and police, despite massive human rights violations that were taking place on an almost daily basis.
  • You really have a very close relationship between the Honduran military and police and the U.S. government and military.
  • There have known to be drug planes that have landed on his property (Miguel Facusse) We know that the U.S.State Department knows about that because of wikileaks and the U.S. goes on to have this cozy relationship with him and the political arm of Honduras that he runs in.
  • The World Bank continues to fund him and give him subsidies for the African Palm plantations. Where is the interest in stopping the drugs if you’re working with this person who there are drug planes landing on his property.
  • He has a private army basically. He has all these private security contractors that implicated in murders. The Center for Constitutional Rights has laid those out in a report to the International Criminal Court, naming Miguel Facusse as a criminal that needs to be prosecuted.
  • The U.S. depends on the Honduran government to have a very friendly government in the region. We have a lot of military presence there, we have a lot of bases. It’s a relationship that depends on the repression of civil society throughout Honduras.
  • There’s a massive resistance movement that has taken a lot of repression in the last four years. What’s going on with the drug wars, its very dark and scary but the other side is this movement that David is part of.

Guest – David Vivar, is a sociologist, currently a scholarship holder from the National Autonomous University of Honduras at the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations of the University of Calabria, where he studies dependence, international asymmetry and the division between center and periphery nations.  His articles and essays analyze media discourse and public opinion; the representative intermediations of Honduran democracy, the influence of U.S. cooperation in the military coup of 2009 and the centrality of drug trafficking to state power in Honduras and its inextricable relation with the neoliberal impoverishment and the ongoing usurpation of democracy.

Guest – Laura Raymond, has over fourteen years of experience organizing, writing, and advocating on social justice and human rights issues in the U.S. and internationally.  Much of Laura’s work focuses on the impact of U.S. actors, corporations and government policies and practices abroad.

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Imagine: Living In A Socialist U.S.A – Kazembe Balagune

In the past weeks we’ve featured contributors to the book Imagine: Living In A Socialist U.S.A. This book as many know was conceived and edited by Frances Goldin and our own Michael Smith with his wife Debby. We continue to discuss the essays in this ground breaking anthology. Today we speak with Kazembe Balagun, who wrote We Be Reading Marx Where We From: Socialism and the Black Freedom Struggle.

Kazembe Balagun:

  • The chapter starts out with a short story on Paul Robeson at the Carnegie Hall in 1957. He sang a song called I Dreamed of Joe Hill last night.
  • When we talk about Wall Street, the first commodity were Black slaves. The reason they called it Wall Street is to keep the Native Americans out.
  • There’s always been an interweaving of Black freedom struggles in the socialist experience.
  • One of the first socialist experiments happens in the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia where General Butler issuing Article 15 calling for all land held in common for negros.
  • Then you have John Brown issuing an alternative constitution of the United States which calls for all land to be held in common between blacks and whites.
  • Martin Luther King Jr (in a speech said) there has to be some form of socialism in the United States in order to achieve economic democracy.
  • The Poor People’s march going forward in 1968 in his fight for Memphis, these are all parallels for economic democracy.
  • What we find today is that these socialist ideas are prevalent in the African-American community.
  • I think there’s a way we can excavate this history for our own social movement.
  • This capitalist society really has little to offer people, particularly young people of color.
  • I always take into account is that there’s always been a tradition of African-American prophetic tradition which always looks beyond what’s been given to us and looks at the condition of possibility.

Guest – Kazembe Balagun, an activist and cultural organizer from the Bronx and former program director at the Brecht Forum. He is currently the project manager at the Rosa Luxemburg New York Foundation.

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Law and Disorder February 17, 2014


Updates:

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Jury Trial Begins for Occupy Wall Street’s Cecily McMillan

Cecily McMillan faces 7 years in prison after being beaten by the New York Police that left her unconscious at an event marking the 6 month anniversary of the occupation in Zuccotti Park. The Occupy Wall Street activist is charged with felony assault on a police officer a Class D felony in New York. In the course of her arrest McMillan sustained bruised ribs, a seizure and numerous cuts across her body. McMillan was a political organizer and activists speculate that’s why the prosecutor is seeking the full penalty.

Attorney Marty Stolar:

  • Cecily is indicted which is somewhat unusual in the Occupy Wall Street cases. There are only 2 serious felonies that made it through the indictment process, Cecily’s is one of them.
  • She’s accused of assault in the second degree. She’s accused of assaulting a police officer with intent to disrupt his ability to perform his official duties. She wacked him in the face with her elbow and left a good sized mouse under his left eye, causing him substantial pain and also to miss some work.
  • The circumstances however under which she delivered the blow to his cheekbone are what the trial is about.
  • Cecily is not the kind of person who would assault a police officer just for the hell of it.
  • The police at midnight decided to clear the park of all the people who were there to celebrate the anniversary. Cecily was there not necessarily to celebrate the anniversary but to meet somebody to continue her pub crawling on St Patrick’s day being a McMillan when Cecily is grabbed from behind on her right breast and jerked upwards and she reacts, her arms go up in the air, her elbows go up, and that’s when her elbow and that’s when the elbow makes contact with the officer’s cheekbone.
  • At that point Cecily is knocked down to the ground hits her head on the sidewalk and really has no memory of what has occurred until she wakes up somewhat later in a hospital.
  • All of sudden she realizes she’s got bruises all over her body. She’s got a bruised rib, cuts all over her back, bumps on her head, she really has no idea how they occurred.
  • Cecily for whatever reason was singled out to be prosecuted for a felony and they didn’t offer her a decent plea in the case.
  • The officer lost a couple days of work, he was back on the job, his vision was not impaired.

Guest – Attorney Marty Stolar is a criminal defense lawyer and former president of the New York chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

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Fair Sentencing Of Youth Campaign

Here on Law and Disorder we’ve been covering the issue of children being sentenced to prison for life without parole for an offense committed during adolescence. The United States was the only country in the world to mete out life without parole to juveniles. But, in the last few years, the United States Supreme Court acted to curb the use of mandatory life sentences for juveniles. It accepted the argument that children, even those who are convicted of murder deserve a chance at redemption. However most state courts are not following the spirit of the recent Supreme Court decision. In Florida, which is the number one state that puts children in prison for life without the possibility of parole, several lawsuits have been brought accusing the state of handing out massive sentences in non-homicide cases that they basically amount to life without parole.

Jody Kent Lavy:

  • The youths were involved in homicide cases, Human Rights Watch estimates that 25 percent of those individuals were convicted of felony murder meaning they were the primary perpetrator or they were there at the time the crime was committed but weren’t the trigger men.
  • The majority of them 60 percent had no prior record.
  • This most extreme sentence has been imposed on people we could not define as our most serious offenders.
  • June of 2012 the Miller v Alabama decision was issued which struck down mandatory life without parole sentences for children.
  • Each of these cases the court has relied on a growing body of research that really articulate the fundamental differences between children and adults.
  • We know that the vast majority of them tend to grow out of any criminal behavior.
  • The court has said we can’t impose these most extreme sentences on our children.
  • The court has said that children are constitutionally different when it comes to sentencing.
  • Two thirds of the people serving these sentences are concentrated in just five states.
  • In Pennsylvania the state that leads the nation in this practice there are 500 serving this sentence.
  • Back in the 1990s there was this theory known as the super-predator theory that there was going to be this juvenile crime wave.
  • The super-predator theory has since been dis-proven by the criminologists who were even the authors.
  • We now have an opportunity to be really mindful and careful about how we implement policies at the state level that hold young people accountable for serious crimes.
  • Some legislatures have abolished life without parole altogether, Wyoming, Texas, Delaware among them. Some states have reacted in imposing the next available harshest sentence.
  • The Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Wisconsin.

Guest – Jody Kent Lavy, director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, the organization calls on states to reconsider mandatory terms dispensed before the Miller ruling.

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CSPAN Book Club Video – Imagine: Living In A Socialist U.S.A.

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