ALERT: Senators McCain and Lieberman have introduced a mighty dangerous bill -- please take action today!
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You may have heard DDF Vice-President Chip Berlet on Rachel Maddow, or the Diane Rehm show. Media outlets turned to Chip, an expert on right wing groups, after several members of a militia group were arrested in Michigan. Chip and I were both on a panel at the Left Forum (a conference for leftists and progressives held each year in New York City) discussion right wing populism and political dissent. The panel was well-attended and sparked a lively discussion.
Inside this month's newsletter:
McCain and Lieberman introduce a dangerous bill
The Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act of 2010 (S. 3081; H.R. 4892) would allow the President to decide whether you are entitled to a fair trial, or if he should just toss you in jail and throw away the key. If the President accuses you of being a terrorist, or of providing material support to terrorists, you will not be read your Miranda rights, you will not be entitled to a trial, you may not even be charged, you will be interrogated by special teams… and you can be locked up without trial until the war on terror ends. Even if you are a U.S. citizen. Read more here and TAKE ACTION
ACORN closes its doors
The smear campaign against ACORN was a success. Although it was built on lies, it has forced ACORN to wind down as a national organization. Read more...
Disrupting Terrorist Plots: Focus on Community Relations
A subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing to explore ways to disrupt terrorist plots by building relations with Mulsim communities. One Congressman used the hearing to smear the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)... but witnesses wouldn't let him. Read more...
Supreme Court to hear Westboro Baptist Church Case
Are political pickets outside military funerals protected by the First Amendment? Read more...
Suspicious Activity Reporting
After September 11, 2001, Congress ordered the creation of an "information sharing environment" to improve communication between law enforcement and intelligence agencies, with a special emphasis on "Suspicious Activity Reporting." But, instead of better connecting the dots, the Department of Homeland Security funded a counterproductive program that threatens to clog intelligence pipelines with junk data derived from racial, ethnic, religious, and ideological bias. Read more...
Some key statistics on terrorism
The Muslim Public Affairs Council has released a report that looks at the number of actual and attempted terrorist attacks within the U.S. Anyone relying on the mainstream media for analysis of terrorism will be surprised with the findings. Read more...
What have they got on YOU?
You've been meaning to do it for years - use the Freedom of Information Act to find out which government agencies have been spying on you and which of the groups you belong to have been infiltrated. Read more...
APRIL 2010 NEWSLETTER
TAKE ACTION against a Dangerous Bill
Newt Gingrich went apoplectic over the fact that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the so-called "underwear bomber") was read his Miranda rights after his arrest, and that he will be tried in a civilian court. They hit the talk show circuit to criticize Attorney General Eric Holder for his handling of the case. You may remember the case of Richard Reid (the so-called "shoe-bomber") who was arrested, read his rights and sent to trial in civilian court. He pled guilty and is now serving life in prison. I've heard Gingrich and others defend the Bush Administration's handling of Reid by asserting he is a U.S. citizen - he is not. The cases are quite similar and demonstrate how politically-motivated the "outrage" is. Although civilian courts have done a fine job of trying and convicting terrorist (403 terrorists convicted since 9/11 compared to 3 convictions via military commissions) a large group of politicians are working to prohibit the use of civilian courts in terrorism cases (focusing their arguments on the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed).
We are particularly worried by a bill introduced by McCain/Lieberman in the Senate, and by Rep. McKeon in the House. The Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act of 2010 (S. 3081; H.R. 4892) would allow the President to decide whether you are entitled to a fair trial, or if he should just toss you in jail and throw away the key. If the President accuses you of being a terrorist, or of providing material support to terrorists, you will not be read your Miranda rights, you will not be entitled to a trial, you may not even be charged, you will be interrogated by special teams… and you can be locked up without trial until the war on terror ends. Even if you are a U.S. citizen. The accusation can be based on 'secret evidence' that you will never see. It could be based on lies, or misunderstanding. You could be innocent of all charges, and never be allowed to prove it.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. While it probably will not get voted on in Committee, the bill, or provisions of the bill, could be added to another piece of legislation on the floor of the Senate - so we have to fight the provisions in this bill NOW!
Click here to send an email. Or, call your Senators (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) and tell them to oppose these dangerous ideas!
Note: the bill will not likely be voted on as a S. 3081, but rather as an amendment or a series of amendments - so while you can mention the bill number, it is most important to raise concerns about the substance of the bill.
I am concerned that Senators McCain, Lieberman or other Senators may introduce provisions from S. 3081 as amendments to another bill on the floor of the Senate. I urge Senator ______ to vote against any amendments that would:
• Prohibit the use of civilian courts to try terrorism suspects
• Prohibit the reading of Miranda rights to terrorism suspects
• Deny the right of Habeas Corpus to terrorism suspects
ACORN Closes its Doors
The smear campaign against ACORN was a success. Although it was built on lies, it has forced ACORN to wind down as a national organization.
"ACORN has faced a series of well-orchestrated, relentless, well-funded right wing attacks that are unprecedented since the McCarthy era. Our effective work empowering African American and low-income voters made us a target. The videos were a manufactured, sensational story that led to rush to judgment and an unconstitutional act by Congress," ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis said in a statement on March 21, "For ACORN as a national organization, our vindication on the facts doesn't necessarily pay the bills. I know that ACORN's dedicated community members will continue to speak out for justice and organize in their communities."
The attacks against ACORN were overpowering: the McCain/Palin campaign, Fox news, several websites dedicated to discrediting the community organization, and several non-profit groups dedicated to tearing ACORN down. The last straw was the video which purported to show ACORN staff giving tax advice to a pimp and a prostitute (experts examined the video and determined it had been doctored to misrepresent the actions of ACORN staff). Congress overwhelmingly voted to de-fund ACORN (voting record available on our website) without an investigation or evidence of wrongdoing. ACORN has been vindicated however, a Congressional Research Service report concluded that ACORN had broken no laws, and the Center for Constitutional Rights won an injunction against the defunding bill. But as Ms. Lewis pointed out, vindication doesn't pay the bills, and the fiscal damage has been done.
Although many groups did speak out in support of ACORN, we didn't do enough. It is too late now for ACORN, but we need to develop the tools and alliances now to defend the next group that finds itself in the crosshairs.
Disrupting Terrorist Plots
On March 17, a subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing titled "Working with Communities to Disrupt Terror Plots". It was the second in what Committee staff tell us will be a series of hearings to explore how to fight homegrown terrorism without trampling civil liberties. We had met with staff before the hearing to raise a number of concerns and were invited to suggest witnesses for this hearing. We were very pleased that the Committee asked Mohamed Elibiary, the President & CEO of The Freedom and Justice Foundation and active in our working group on homegrown terrorism. However, we were dismayed that Mohamed was the sole representative of a community-based organization asked to participate. The rest of the witnesses were academics or represented the police, the FBI or DHS. Of course they lauded their own efforts at community outreach and building relationships with the Muslim community (and to be fair, many of the witnesses are engaged in good faith and successful community outreach work). It still was left to Mohamed to raise concerns about FBI infiltration of Mosques, the use of agent provocateurs and other methods that are counterproductive.
One lawmaker, Rep. Souder (R-IN) tried to use the hearing to smear the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), claiming it has ties to terrorist organizations. One of the witnesses, Los Angeles County Sherriff Leroy Baca stood up to Rep. Souder vehemently and forcefully asserting that CAIR is not a terrorist organization and that Rep. Souder's attack was un-American. As you know, CAIR has been the target of a relentless smear campaign by various politicians and groups. It was great to see an elected official stand up to innuendo and smears. In fact, several of the witnesses spoke up for CAIR. Here is a link to a video of the hearing, as well as written testimony: http://homeland.house.gov/Hearings/index.asp?ID=241. Mohamed Elibiary's testimony starts at the 2:00 hour mark, Rep. Souder's attack on CAIR starts at the 0:59-1:09 hour mark.
Supremes Take Funeral Picket Case
I like to keep you up-to-date on the saga of the Westboro Baptist Church - the folks who have been picketing outside military funerals claiming that soldiers have died in combat all because the U.S. is too tolerant of homosexuality. Their pickets are offensive, but DDF maintains that they should be protected by the First Amendment. The family of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, whose funeral was picketed, brought suit against the church, and federal judge awarded Snyder's family $11 million in damages. The church is fighting that award, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. Meanwhile, the court refused to rule on another protest case aimed at a Massachusetts law that established a 'buffer zone' forbidding protest within 35 feet of entrances or exits to reproductive health clinics. The law was upheld by the First Circuit Appeals Court on the basis of public safety. In a similar case, Madsen v. Women's Health Center, 1994, the Supreme Court upheld a Florida court order keeping protestors away from clinic entrances and exits.
Suspicious Activity Reporting
After September 11, 2001, Congress ordered the creation of an "information sharing environment" to improve communication between law enforcement and intelligence agencies, with a special emphasis on "Suspicious Activity Reporting."
Instead of better connecting the dots, the Department of Homeland Security funded a counterproductive program that threatens to clog intelligence pipelines with junk data derived from racial, ethnic, religious, and ideological bias, a new report from Political Research Associates (PRA) has discovered.
Platform for Prejudice, a groundbreaking investigation by PRA Civil Liberties Project director Thomas Cincotta, exposes how Suspicious Activity Reporting undermines our Constitutional civil liberties and illuminates the structural flaws in the program that promote a reliance on existing prejudices and stereotypes.
The report's release comes as the Department of Justice and Director of National Intelligence are prepared to link up local Suspicious Activity Reporting programs into a national network and deploy it to all 72 intelligence fusion centers. The SARs program involves enlisting law enforcement as intelligence officers by training police to report 1st Amendment protected activities like photography, taking notes, making diagrams, and "espousing extremist views." The report documents numerous incidents where law-abiding people of "Middle Eastern appearance" received intimidating visits from cops or FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force agents simply because they videotaped a tourist attraction, rented a boat without fishing gear, engaged in religious practice, or took a picture with a friend at an airport.
In one instance, a van of seven Muslim men, one of them a U.S. armed forces veteran, was pulled over and harassed by police after it was reported that they prayed in a gas station parking lot near Henderson, Nevada. In another case, Duane Kerzic was detained because he took pictures of trains at New York's Penn Station. It turns out he was participating in Amtrak's annual photography contest.
Rather than random mistakes, Platform for Prejudice contends that such cases of racial and ethnic profiling are the inevitable result of the Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative's design.
Some Key Facts About Terrorism in the U.S.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council has released a report that looks at the number of actual and attempted terrorist attacks within the U.S. Anyone relying on the mainstream media for analysis of terrorism will be surprised with the findings:
• There were 54 total plots by domestic non-Muslim perpetrators against the United States, compared to 31 total plots by domestic and international Muslim perpetrators since 9/11.
• Less than half of individuals publicly associated with terrorism by the Department of Justice were actually charged with violating an anti-terrorism or national security statute.
• There are at least 4 incidents of non-Muslims possessing or attempting to possess Chemical or Radiological weapons, but no cases involving Muslim have been reported since 9/11.
Click here for the full report.
What have they got on YOU?
You've been meaning to do it for years - use the Freedom of Information Act to find out which government agencies have been spying on you and which of the groups you belong to have been infiltrated.
It's time to find out!
It's now easier than ever for U.S. police agencies to get, keep and share information about you and your political and religious beliefs and activities. The Patriot Act, FISA Reform Act and new FBI guidelines loosen restrictions on spying while new technologies enhance the government's ability to collect and store data. Information about perfectly legal activities of innocent Americans is shared throughout the government, including the military, through Fusion centers, Joint Terrorism Task Forces and other mechanisms.
Host a FOIA party!
Freedom of Information Act requests have led to the disclosure of federal, state and local police spying on political groups. Here are just a few examples:
- In 2010, DOD was forced to release documents that revealed (among other things) that the FBI spied on Planned Parenthood protest activities and shared the info with DOD; NORAD collected and shared intelligence about a protest planned by Alaskans for Peace in 2005; and the Army Reserve collected information about protest groups in Georgia.
- In 2009, a FOIA request to the town of Olympia, Washington, made by a member of IWW revealed that the Army had infiltrated Students for a Democratic Society and a local peace group. The informant had become an integral part of the peace group, and administrator of their listserv.
- A 2006 FOIA request to law enforcement agencies in Maryland revealed that state police had infiltrated anti-death penalty, peace, environment and other groups, and labeled non-violent activists as "terrorists" in a police database.
- What will your FOIA request reveal?
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We've got the resources to make it easy.
The Defending Dissent Foundation is helping activist groups organize FOIA parties around the country - the more parties, the more info we get on illegal government spying.
It's easy, it's fun, and really, you always meant to do it!