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Archives for May, 2013

Law and Disorder May 27, 2013


  • FDNY Lawsuit Update
  • Guatemalan Genocide Verdict Overturned


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We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks –  Michael Ratner

Our own Michael Ratner delivers a critical review of the film documentary “We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks” by director Alex Gibney. The annotated transcript, reveals errors, rank speculation and a focus on personality that detracts from the important revelations by Manning and published by WikiLeaks. Bradley Manning’s 12-week trial commences on Monday (3 June) and the film may have been released to take advantage of that date.  Manning may face life in prison and could potentially face the death penalty. Julian Assange remains in the Ecuadorian embassy legitimately fearful that extradition to Sweden is a one way ticket to the US and potential for life in prison.

Attorney Michael Ratner, attorney in the US for Julian Assange and Wikileaks:

  • (The film) does a great disservice to Bradley Manning and Julian Assange.
  • I think it trivializes the incredible courage that both of them had as well as what was revealed by the documents.
  • Julian Assange declined an interview by Alex Gibney and no one currently associated with Wikileaks participated in the film. This may explain in part Gibney’s poor treatment of Julian Assange.
  • What grabs you immediately is the title, “We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks.” Wikileaks is a publisher. Yet the title implies that the story of Wikileaks is the story of it stealing secrets.
  • That implication plays into the government’s theory that somehow Wikileaks and Julian Assange are co-conspirators with Bradley Manning in taking secrets. The film does so in other places as well.
  • A second criticism is that part of the film focuses on Bradley Manning’s psychological problems and implies that those are the basis for Manning’s revelation of documents.
  • Gibney has said as much in interviews given after the film: “I think it raises big issues about who whistleblowers are, because they are alienated people who don’t get along with people around them, which motivates them to do what they do.”
  • In fact, Manning gave an incredibly moving political explanation for each leak of documents; an explanation not covered in any detail in the film.
  • Third, Gibney claims Wikileaks is dead. Nothing could be more of fable.
  • Since December 2011 Wikileaks has released the SpyFiles, the Stratfor emails dubbed the GIFiles, the Syria Files and in April 2013 both Cablegate and 1.7 million Kissinger Cables in an easily searchable Plus Public Library of US Diplomacy.
  • Fourth, somehow, Gibney claims there are no charges filed against Julian Assange. How does he know that? It’s a secret Grand Jury, and if there’s an indictment, it’s going to be a sealed indictment because an indictment is not made public when a person is not in custody. In fact, there is significant, irrefutable evidence of an on going investigation and its likely there is a sealed indictment.
  • Gibney diminishes the risk to Julian Assange if he were sent to the United States because he wants to claim that Assange is in the embassy to avoid going to Sweden to answer questions about sexual misconduct allegations. But it does not work. Were Sweden to guarantee Assange would not be sent to US he would go there to answer questions.
  • Assange has also offered to answer those questions in the embassy–Sweden has refused. In the end, the problem is the United States–Gibney, in his effort to demean Assange, needs to play down the huge risk he faces in the US.

Law and Disorder Co-host Attorney Michael Ratner,  President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a non-profit human rights litigation organization based in New York City and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) based in Berlin. Ratner and CCR are currently the attorneys in the United States for publishers Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He was co-counsel in representing the Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States Supreme Court, where, in June 2004, the court decided his clients have the right to test the legality of their detentions in court. Ratner is also a past president of the National Lawyers Guild and the author of numerous books and articles, including the books The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book, Against War with Iraq and Guantanamo: What the World Should Know, as well as a textbook on international human rights.


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Palestinian Prisoners Legal Support: Addameer

On the 17th of April, hundreds of Palestinians filled the streets in the West Bank in protest to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day. Right now there nearly 5000 Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails, 14 of them are women. More than half have been convicted, 33 percent have not been sentenced and 3 percent are being held in administrative detention.  235 of Palestinian prisoners are minors ranging in age from 14 to 18.  As many listeners may know, Palestinian activists are often targeted and detained. In prison, tactics are used such as solitary confinement and forbidding family contact.

Attorney Sahar Francis:

  • Currently there are still 4900 Palestinians inside Israeli prisons. Most of them are adults. There are 236 minors under age 18. 14 women and 14 Parliamentarians.
  • The majority of them I would say were arrested because of political activism and being involved in the peaceful struggle, and resistance especially in the last couple of years against the wall, the checkpoints, the settlements, land confiscation, house demolition all these practices of the occupation.
  • Including Jerusalem residents, they would be arrested inside Israel but they could be subjected to 2 different legal systems. The Israeli legal system or the military system that applies just to the Occupied Territories.
  • Settlers are not subjected to the military court system that is imposed on the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
  • It’s violation of International Law to move them to prisons inside Israel.  This is what Israel was doing since 1995.
  • They moved the prisoners from prisons inside the Occupied Territories to prisons inside Israel and this is a violation for the 4th Geneva Convention Act actually.
  • The number of Palestinian prisoners decreased compared to previous years, 2005, 2006.
  • Since 1967 til today more than 750 thousand Palestinians were arrested. It’s almost hitting every Palestinian house. It’s estimated to be about 40 percent of the Palestinian men population that were at least once incarcerated in their life.
  • In the 7 years of Oslo, Israel kept 1500 political prisoners.
  • Now I can say that the majority of the prisoners would be sentenced for periods less than 10 years.
  • There’s around 430 of them sentenced for life.
  • We still have cases of families where they have 4 sons or 5 sons in the same time in prison.
  • In some cases they (the sons) would be distributed in all prisons, in north, south of Israel and the mother would be traveling all the way trying to visit them.
  • The women prisoners number was much higher we used to have 120 female prisoners.
  • Most of them involved in political activism, mainly supporting their brothers or husbands in their political activism or in stop cases involved in trying to stop soldiers.
  • Addamer was established in 1991 by ex Palestinian political prisoners and lawyers who were aiming to give legal support for free to Palestinian prisoners in military court system.
  • Our focus is on political arrests. We have 8 members in Addamer. We are members of the Israeli Bar Association and members of the Palestinian Bar Association.
  • Most of the cases in military court would end in plea bargain without exhausting the system because neither the system or the lawyers don’t have much trust in the system.
  • You could end up being interrogated in the detention centers inside Israel and they will decide whether to transfer the case for the civil prosecution or the military prosecution.
  • You can have a person 90 days before charging them (military system) Civil system it’s 35 days.
  • Law In These Parts – Film Documentary.
  • Regarding torture and terms such as enhanced interrogation techniques : In our place its called moderate physical pressure.
  • We can’t sue them because the prosecutors claim out of necessity we used the torture.
  • Seeing the photos of Abu-Ghraib with this sack on the detainee’s heads, this was used in the Palestinians case since the early years of the occupation.
  • This is the method that was used to prevent them from breathing, from sleeping, and they were tied to these kindergarten small chairs with the sack on their head, with playing music 24 hours a day. Then after in this position for 2 weeks, the interrogator shake you.
  • We’re promoting Boycott Divest and Sanction.

Guest – Sahar Francis, human rights lawyer and director of the Palestinian NGO Addamer.  (Arabic for conscience) Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association is a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution which focuses on human rights issues. Established in 1992 by a group of activists interested in human rights, the center offers support to Palestinian prisoners, advocates the rights of political prisoners, and works to end torture through monitoring, legal procedures and solidarity campaigns.It’s an organization offering legal services to political prisoners under Israeli occupation and represents prisoners in Israeli military and civil courts.


Law and Disorder May 20, 2013



fdnyvulcans FDNY

Court Upholds Broad Injunction to Remedy FDNY Discrimination

We talk today about recent developments in the New York City Fire Department discrimination case known as the US and Vulcan Society v. City of New York. Last week, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that, in light of the City’s “distressing pattern of limited FDNY minority hiring,” broad relief ordered by the district judge to end discrimination in the FDNY was “entirely warranted.”

This decision includes an independent monitor in order to “oversee the FDNY’s long awaited progress toward ending discrimination.”  The Court also ruled that the plaintiffs’ intentional discrimination claim should proceed to a trial.  The district court had found that the evidence of intentional discrimination was so overwhelming that no trial was necessary. The Court of Appeals also reinstated the plaintiffs’ claim that former FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta is individually liable for intentional discrimination.

Attorney  Dana Lossia:

  • The Vulcan Society which is our client, a fraternity of black fire fighters sued the city of New York and said that the reason why the fire department back in the 60s and 70s was virtually all white was because of the hiring process that the city was using, it was discriminatory, it was unlawful.
  • A federal judge agreed back in 1973 and ordered the city to hire one minority firefighter for every 3 white firefighters that was hired.
  • Decades went on, we get up to the 90s and you look at the FDNY and it’s still 3 percent African American.
  • It instituted the quota that was required for the bare minimum amount of time that was required and then it reverted to the all white club that the fire department has been its entire history in New York City.
  • In a city that is 25 percent African American or more and 25 percent Latino.
  • We made the case that not only was the city using these exams but they were continuing to use them with the knowledge and intent to perpetuate the fire department as it has existed.
  • So that fathers could bring their sons and their nephews into the force and it would stay the way it had always been which is virtually all white, more than 90 percent white.
  • The District Court Judge in Brooklyn agreed with us he said this was clearly intentional discrimination. He issued a remedial order requiring broad oversight  of the FDNY hiring process.
  • The city didn’t like that, they appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals came down with a decision that largely upheld this very broad and deep oversight on everything the city does to hire firefighters.
  • Every other fire department in a big city across the country is more racially diverse than in New York City.
  • Back in the 80s women came into the fire department and face horrible harassment and retaliation.
  • One of the things we learned is that fire fighting is less dangerous than construction work, its far less dangerous job than being a police officer, a roofer.
  • Fire fighters are revered wherever they go and the job is much much more safe than sanitation work.

Guest – Attorney Dana Lossia (Northwestern University, B.A., summa cum laude 2001, Harvard Law School, J.D., 2005) joined Levy Ratner in December 2005. She represents unions in New York and New Jersey in arbitrations, administrative proceedings, NLRB cases and federal and state court litigation. She also represents plaintiffs in complex employment discrimination actions, including a challenge to racially discriminatory hiring practices at the NYC Fire Department. Lossia has also litigated on behalf of tenants in land use and zoning appeals before the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals.



Lawyers You’ll Like: Anne O’Berry 

As part of our Lawyers You’ll Like series we’re joined by attorney Anne O’Berry, she’s the Vice President of the Southern Region of the National Lawyers Guild and the author of The Law Only As An Enemy:  The Legitimization of Racial Powerlessness Through the Colonial and Antebellum Criminal Laws of Virginia. While in law school, she served as Director of the Women in Prison Project at Rikers Island, where she taught incarcerated women how to prevent termination of their parental rights. In the last 12 years, Anne has served as counsel at a Florida law firm that specializes in class action litigation, particularly in the areas of securities, consumer and economic fraud, as well as some environmental and privacy rights litigation.

Attorney Anne O’Berry:

  • We did a lot of historical research in terms of racism and the law back in pre-civil war Virginia.
  • We focused on Virginia because it was a paradigm for slavery basically in the slave laws that were in place.
  • We wrote an article for publication, it was published in the University of North Carolina law review. The Law Only As An Enemy:’ The Legitimization of Racial Powerlessness Through the Colonial and Antebellum Criminal Laws of Virginia.
  • Depending on your status, if you were a free white person or a slave, you were treated differently by the law.
  • As an overall theme, depending on the race of the victim was that would effect what your sentence would be.
  • For example, if a black woman was raped, that was not considered a crime.  If you were a black person and you stole something, you would be put to death.
  • It was ironic for the slave owner because if their slave was put to death, they would have to be compensated by the state.
  • If the victim was black, the crime was treated less seriously than if the victim was white.
  • I started out working at a firm in New York, a large prominent, Wall Street type.
  • Among some people I was known as the pro-bono queen.
  • I was there for 2 and a half years and the first pro-bono case was a death penalty case.
  • The court ruled back then (1990s) that it was ok to execute the mentally retarded.
  • I was so moved by that experience that I gave up my cushy job in New York and go do death penalty work full time.
  • I ended up at the Federal Resource Center doing death penalty work in Tallahassee Florida.
  • I worked for the Battered Women’s Clemency Project in Florida.
  • More recently the Supreme Court did rule that it is unconstitutional to execute people who were juveniles at the time of the offense and unconstitutional to execute people who are mentally retarded.
  • I believe in my lifetime we will see the end of the death penalty in this country.
  • It’s just an amazing system that we have where the courts will say – yes you’ve got compelling evidence of innocence but we’re not going to hear your case.
  • I would say what got me through was the victories.
  • Presently,  I’m working with an attorney Jim Green, who’s a prominent civil rights attorney in West Palm Beach,  kind of a legend down here.
  • I also some volunteer work with El Sol. It’s a day laborer center in Jupiter, Florida.

Guest – Anne O’Berry, National Lawyers Guild’s Regional Vice President for the Southern Region and a member of the Guild’s South Florida chapter.  She obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983 and her law degree from New York University Law School in 1986.  While in law school, she served as Director of the Women in Prison Project at Rikers Island, where she taught incarcerated women how to prevent termination of their parental rights.  She was a member of the law school’s civil rights clinic and an editor on one of the law school’s journals, and authored a law review article on prisoners’ rights.

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Guatemalan Ex Dictator Found Guilty of Genocide

After weeks of powerful testimony the trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and his intelligence chief José Rodríguez Sánchez ended with a guilty conviction on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The verdict marked the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide in his or her own country.The government’s lead prosecutor, Orlando López, gave more than two hours of summation based heavily on the Guatemalan military plans, manuals, and operational records entered as evidence. During the months of General Ríos Montt’s rule, the army used a scorched-earth policy to flush out leftist guerrillas fighting in the hills. The villages of the Mayan highlands suffered the worst of the army’s brutality in the early 1980s, during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war.

Kate Doyle:

  • I’m one of a couple of analysts that look at foreign policy in Latin America. My specialty is Central America and Mexico and I’m the director of something called the Evidence Project at the Archive, which is a way of connecting the right to information, right the truth with human rights and justice struggles around the region.
  • We’ve worked very closely with truth commissions, with prosecutors and judges to try to get some of the classified US documents and sometimes even the national documents from their countries in to their hands when they’ve got a human rights investigation underway.
  • The impetus for this case really came from the affected communities themselves that is in this case, the community of the Mayan Ixil.
  • In the Northwestern part of the country, which worked for decades to identify exhumation sites. Sites where they knew there were clandestine mass graves of their own mothers, fathers, children who had massacred during the scorched earth operations of Rios Montt in 1982 and 1983.
  • In March of 1982, Rios Montt headed a trio of military officers that overthrew the previous president. There was a guerrilla armed insurgency underway in Guatemala and had been since the 1960s. Rios Montt decided he was going to launch a series of counterinsurgency operations not only to target the armed insurgents in the highlands but also to destroy or eliminate their social base.
  • That meant going after communities of mostly Mayan peoples that lived in the same area where the insurgents operated. It’s one of the most brutal acts of what used to be called low intensity warfare.
  • The officials that carried out those operations were left to enjoy total impunity after the regime ended some 17 months later.
  • Prosecutors and both the government prosecutors and civil prosecutors who represent the victims who also get to sit at the table ask questions and participate in the investigation pulled together a real interesting case for genocide and crimes against humanity.
  • I’ve been working with those prosecutors for years to help them incorporate both declassified US documents as evidence in the case but also those Guatemalan military archives.
  • Because of the very tight relationship between the United States and the Guatemalan regime of Rios Montt and predecessor regimes, we knew these agencies would have countless records of the operations themselves of the Guatemalan military structure of command and control.
  • Some of the most extraordinary testimony for me came from women because the Guatemalan military like many militaries in these irregular wars used sexual abuse and violation as a part of their counterinsurgency tactics and they actually talk about the destruction of the “semia” the seed.
  • The day the verdict came down, the court that seats about 500 people, was absolutely packed to the gills, so every seat was full. When the mood in the room began to feel tense, because of the intensity of the verdict and what that meant for Guatemala. Everybody began to stand up and sing this beautiful song, this poem that was set to music by a Guatemalan musician, over and over again and brought the tension down slowly slowly, it was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever witnessed in a court room.
  • The Guatemalans were focused on legally convicting the authors of genocide, and they did it.

Guest – Kate Doyle,  a Senior Analyst of U.S. policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive. She directs several major research projects, including the Guatemala Project, which collects declassified U.S. and Guatemalan government documents on the countries’ shared history from 1954, and the Evidence Project, connecting the right to truth and access to information with human rights and justice struggles in Latin America. Since 1992, Doyle has worked with Latin American human rights groups, truth commissions, prosecutors and judges to obtain government files from secret archives that shed light on state violence. She has testified as an expert witness in numerous human rights legal proceedings, including the 2008 trial of former President Alberto Fujimori of Peru for his role in overseeing military death squads; the case before the Spanish National Court on the 1989 assassination of the Jesuit priests in El Salvador; and the 2010 trial of two former policemen in Guatemala for the forced disappearance of labor leader Edgar Fernando García in 1984


Law and Disorder May 13, 2013

Law and Disorder May 6, 2013

REIT2 CCApatch2 taxevasion

IRS Allows Private Prison Corporation Tax Exemption Status

Billboard companies, casinos and private prisons are among many American corporations declaring the status of special trusts in order to avoid paying federal taxes. The Corrections Corporation of America which owns and operates 44 prisons and detention centers in the United States has quietly received permission by the Internal Revenue Service to switch it’s status saving millions on taxes. These special trust structures however are usually reserved by funds holding real estate. As we’ve discussed on Law and Disorder handing over state related tasks such as running penal institutions to the private sector is often at the expense of the inmates’ welfare.

Max Wolff:

  • REIT is increasingly popular these days as an investment choice by both some institutions and individuals.
  • REIT’s by law have advantageous tax treatment, its a legal structure of ownership and it requires you to get a better tax structure to pay out 90 percent of your earnings in dividends.
  • What you have is individuals and institutions, looking to get an income on their wealth and finding it difficult to find appealing incomes on that wealth.
  • This drives them into the area of REIT, its a unit investment trust.
  • The tax rates on dividends and capital gains are lower, than say the people who work for a living in standard jobs are then compensated then taxed.
  • This was probably made famous in a comment by Warren Buffet who wrote a famous letter and proposed a solution now called the Buffet Rule.
  • Tax based on labor income vs. investment income
  • The real estate class of investments enjoys any number of special abilities to generate income and pay less taxes. One of them is ensconced in the law of Real Estate Investment.
  • The Corrections Corporation of America, private prisons – – if they are a unit investment trust, and they do get their income from rents, from a variety or type, from a property or type, its a prison, then they can get tax exempt treatment.
  • Once you have a popular with investors category that can also receive advantageous tax treatment, then teams of lawyers will go out and get to work with economists and accountants and figure out how to shove everything they possibly can into that bucket.
  • The regulators are usually a bit behind, in the staffing and acumen of their various attorneys. We call it regulation arbitrage.
  • Anytime you can take a series of assets and reduce the tax burden on those assets, it means the various state and local authorities depending or needing those tax revenues, will go without.
  • We’ll see more regressive taxes, in terms of more lottery tickets sold, hitting the general public for more money or reducing services.
  • Part of what we’re seeing here is privatization of public assets.
  • The United States of America has a fairly high corporate tax rate, legal not effective. 35 percent corporate tax rate.
  • Once you’re a multinational enterprise you will try to pay taxes in whatever jurisdiction has the lowest rate.
  • At one point in the 50s and 60s corporations paid about 30 percent of their income to the federal government in taxes. As we sit and chat now in New York City, they pay about 8 percent of the taxes.
  • Tax avoidance strategy, Dutch Double Irish, its done by most of the leading tech companies. Maybe most aggressively pursued by Apple.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people make a good living helping people pay less taxes.
  • We now know its hundreds of billions of dollars in money that the government didn’t collect.
  • The middle, upper middle class American is paying virtually the entire tax bill.
  • Very very affluent Americans are able to off-load significant portions of their tax liability and large corporations.

Guest – Max Wolff teacher of economics in the New School University Graduate Program in International Affairs. He’s
Senior Analyst & Chief Economist at Greencrest Capital. Mr. Wolff is an economist specializing in international finance and macroeconomics. Before joining Greencrest Capital he spent four years as the senior hedge fund analyst at the Beryl Consulting Group, LLC. Mr. Wolff teaches finance and statistical research methods in the New School University’s Graduate Program in International Affairs. Mr. Wolff’s financial markets and macroeconomics work appears regularly in Seeking Alpha, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Bloomberg, The BBC, Russia Today TV, and Al Jazeera English.


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Bush Library Direct Action: We Will Not Be Silent

Late last month in Dallas, Texas,  four living presidents and countless dignitaries attended the opening of the Bush Library.  In response to the library opening, relegated to the so called free speech zone across the street were the members of the white masked group, March of the Dead. While George W. Bush was being celebrated a procession of We Will Not Be Silent marchers carried the names of many who lost their lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons. The marchers also carried names of civilians, US military and detainees tortured to death because of war crimes committed by the Bush Administration.

Laurie Arbieter:

  • We made some signs just for this and the one we designed was The Bush Library: A Crime Against the Mind.
  • Hearing that the library was opening, this was several years ago, I felt compelled that we had to be there.
  • The organizing force behind this were people in Dallas.
  • They organized something called the people’s response.
  • We were invited to do something we did in Washington, the March of the Dead.
  • So, the March of the Dead returned to the opening of the Bush Library.
  • We searched names that lost their lives in prisons under the Bush regime.
  • They call it a “free speech zone” which is really Orwellian, we call it a “no speech zone” where they try to render us invisible.
  • We were across a highway, several lane highway. They even tried to take that away. They tried to use an old ordinance – you can’t hold a sign within 75 feet of a highway.
  • A lot of people now know the truth about Iraq, that we shouldn’t have gone in there.
  • There were no weapons of mass destruction, no imminent threat.
  • Lawrence B. “Larry” Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell says we invaded Iraq because of oil.
  • We have a war criminal that is being honored by 4 other living presidents. I can understand his father showing up, but Barack Obama, Clinton, Carter, caught in pictures that the media showed, laughing and joking around . . ?
  • This man gave orders to torture people and admitted with his vice president on a book tour.
  • How do you follow, with having men admit publicly that they did water-board, water boarding is torture, torture is a crime and the law is not coming to prosecute them.
  • That’s a crime against our mind too and our intelligence.
  • I also look at Lynne Stewart as another casualty in Bush’s war on terror.
  • Sign Lynne Stewart Petition For Her Compassionate Release
  • We pulled up right to the prison (where Lynne Stewart is currently being held) and about 15 of us came together, 2 of us from New York carrying signs that said “release Lynne Stewart, compassion, the right to justice, “

Guest – Laurie Arbieter helped coordinate the direct action at the opening of the George W. Bush Library, Laurie is an artist/activist and creator of the “We Will Not Be Silent” collective.


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