At Defending Dissent Foundation, we believe it's possible to fight hate, intolerance and bigotry without limiting First Amendment rights. In fact, calls for the government to curb free speech will surely backfire, silencing us, not our enemies. So how are we to promote tolerance and justice as this tsunami of Islamaphobia and hate swamps our country?
We believe we have to start by fighting the intolerance that emanates from within the government. Senator Durbin (D-IL) convened a hearing on hate crimes in response to the massacre at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin this summer. Unfortunately, the hearing ignored the fact that racial, ethnic and religious profiling by law enforcement sets an example that actually promotes intolerance and hate. In our testimony to the committee, we urged the Senate to look closely at how law enforcement practices such as FBI infiltration of Mosques without any suspicion of criminal activity and the New York Police Department‘s egregious surveillance, mapping and infiltration of the Muslim community support intolerance, bigotry and even hate crimes. When law enforcement treats an entire community as potential criminals, is it any wonder that they become targets of hate crimes? Specifically, we want Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act, write legislation to tighten the FBI guidelines which allow agents to use racial, religious and ethnic profiling, and hold hearings on the national Suspicious Activities Reporting program.
The offensive anti-Muslim video that led to violent protests and attacks on U.S. embassies abroad has led to attacks on the First Amendment here at home. Should the First Amendment even protect blasphemy? We think so. DDF Secretary Treasurer Hussein Ibish, writing for LebanonNow.com argues that “Blasphemy is an indispensable human right. Without the right to engage in blasphemy, there can be no freedom of inquiry, expression, conscience or religion.”
We know that repression flourishes where free speech is denied, and our government already has too many tools at its disposal to silence us. Let's not give them more ammunition.
Whistleblower Bill Passes House
FISA Amendments Act
The Senate will consider the FAA during the lame duck session after the election. The Intelligence Committee has passed a bill similar to the House-passed bill, but the Judiciary Committee has added a few protections. Their version extends the bill for three years rather than five, and requires the Inspector General to “conduct a comprehensive review of the implementation of the FISA Amendments Act, with particular regard to the protection of the privacy rights of United States persons.” The IG is also required to release a declassified summary of the review.
That review is crucial, because know almost nothing about how the FAA has been implemented or about the scope of the surveillance that's being conducted under the Act. But what we do know raises serious concerns:
the NSA intercepts 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other communications every single day. (Washington Post, 7/19/2010)
the NSA says it cannot even give a rough estimate of the number of Americans whose communications have been swept up. (Wired.com, 6/18/2012)
the NSA has reportedly overstepped the bounds of this very lax law, intercepting private emails and phone calls of Americans illegally. (New York Times, 4/16/2009)
all those communications are stored on a searchable database, allowing the government to get information on specific Americans without any suspicion that they have committed a crime. (Huffington Post, 9/6/2012)
About 80 other occupiers were also arrested for trespass and banned from the Plaza, making it an effective tool to weaken the movement.
According to OA activist Kit O’Connell, “The criminal trespass notices and arrests had a profound effect on Occupy Austin. Suddenly dozens of its key members could no longer come onto the site of its major encampment. Some took to protesting and holding meetings across Cesar Chavez Street on a tiny patch of land which is technically Margaret Hoffman Oak Park, but became known as ‘Exile Island.’”
Sanchez and Sleeman challenged the trespass notices, and on September 27 – a U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the ban violated both the First and Fourteenth Amendments – just in time for OA’s one-year anniversary.
It was only a matter of time. After Anthony Haynes agreed to testify against them, the other members of the Cleveland 5 had little choice but to plead guilty also. So, on September 5, the FBI announced that Douglas Wright, Brandon Baxter, and Connor Stevens had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and attempted use of an explosive device to destroy property used in interstate commerce. The one remaining defendant, Joshua Stafford, is undergoing an examination and competency hearing. Rolling Stone magazine has a compelling article about the incident called “The Plot Against Occupy: How the government turned five stoner misfits into the world's most hapless terrorist cell.”
From the very beginning of this tale, it was clear that the defendants didn't have the resources, skills, or even the motivation to pull off a serious crime. But the FBI's agent provocateur followed the script we’ve seen in so many cases, creating a terror plot out of nothing.
Two years is long enough for the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s office to be prying into the first amendment activities of our friends, trying to find some way to charge them with material support for terrorism. These activists have done nothing wrong; it’s time to officially close the investigation.
Actions were held around the country to mark the anniversary of the raids and to demand an end to the investigation. A press conference featuring several of the subpoenaed activists and their attorneys was held in Chicago, and DDF helped organize a protest at the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Headquarters in Washington D.C.
The goal is to build a secure national broadband network that will bring together all sorts of data: from surveillance cameras, live video feeds from the smart phones, GPS data, and even old-fashioned radio communications.
Guantanamo by the Numbers
Total number of detainees held at Gitmo: 779
FBI Raids on Midwest Activists
No charges have been filed against any of the activists – but the case remains open and one activist, Hatem Abudayyeh, is still waiting for the items seized from him to be returned.