Nick Sibilla recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with BAs in Political Science and Religious Studies. Prior to interning at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Nick interned for NORML, the American Enterprise Institute, and Reason magazine.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has vetoed a bill that would have banned Montanan officials from cooperating with and “providing material support for” federal agents who attempt indefinite detention. Known as HB 522, this bill would have provided some measure of defense for people living in Montana from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill had transcended party lines, passing both the statehouse and state senate by wide margins and was backed by groups including the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the ACLU, and the Tenth Amendment Center.
As Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center points out, “By using his veto on HB522…Bullock has made his position quite clear. He not only supports indefinite detention, he wants to ENSURE that Montana resources are used to help carry it out.”
Rep. Nicholas, Schwaderer, the freshman Republican who introduced the bill, issued a statement shortly after the House vote: “I am encouraged by the motivation and enthusiasm of liberty loving folks like you all. Although the session is concluding, I am just getting started in my fight. I hope you can continue to fight with me as we go forward.”
UPDATE: The Montana Senate also attempted to override the governor’s veto, but this motion failed, 31-19. Like in the House, the override attempt was a mere 3 votes shy.
Montana’s vote is just the latest in a growing nationwide movement against indefinite detention. Anti-NDAA legislation has been approved by Hawaii and Virginia, as well as the state senates in Michigan, Indiana, and South Carolina and the statehouses of Arizona and New Hampshire. Meanwhile, another dozen states are still considering bills to oppose the NDAA. In addition, almost two dozen local jurisdictions have enacted resolutions and legislation to restore due process, including cities like San Francisco and Las Vegas.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are two of the most controversial pieces of legislation of the past year. Signed by President Obama last December, the NDAA authorizes the military to indefinitely detain anyone accused of being a terrorist or offering “material support.” This includes American citizens.
Meanwhile, SOPA (and it Senate version, the Protect IP Act, PIPA) would have blocked domain names and cut off funds to websites that were accused of infringing copyright. However, a national backlash to “Stop SOPA” forced Congress to table those bills.
Recognizing the grassroots thirst for stronger stands to protect liberties, a diverse array of candidates has emerged across the nation — including Democrats, Republicans, and independents — campaigning against the NDAA and SOPA.
…are practicing because they have a license. And that license is issued at the state level. It’s not issued by the federal government. It’s not issued by the Army or the Navy or the CIA. It’s issued by the state government. So it’s quite appropriate that the state is where these issues are regulated.
By contrast, in 2005, the American Psychological Association (APA) Report of the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (the PENS Report) found that psychologists could actually render “enhanced” interrogations “safe, legal, ethical and effective.” But the PENS Report grossly ignored the abuse detainees suffered. Even more galling, Dr. Michael Gelles, the same psychologist involved with Daniel King, served on the PENS Task Force. A coalition including BORDC and luminaries like Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky and Philip Zimbardo, is currently supporting a petition to annul the APA’s findings.
Learning how to pilot these unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is now one of the more lucrative college majors. Depending on the college attended, starting salaries can vary wildly. According to Tom Kenville, founder of Unmanned Applications Institute International, a drone trade group, starting salaries for drone pilots usually range from $50,000 to $120,000 per year. In addition, those who analyze images captured by the unmanned aircraft can start at $100,000 a year. By comparison, entry-level salaries for airline pilots are around $20,000.
We get calls almost every day from other universities wanting to come and see what we have. We’ve got industry partners who are hiring even before our students graduate.
Drones will soon be big business. The Teal Group, a market research firm, predicts annual global spending on drones will double after 2020, or $11.3 billion per year. That’s $94 billion over the next ten years. In addition, the United States is expected to account for almost 70% of drone procurement spending and 77% of worldwide spending on research, development, testing, and evaluation.
Doctors of the Dark Side examines how doctors and psychologists helped the Bush administration torture detainees. Directed by Martha Davis, the film is bolstered by critically acclaimed talent. Mercedes Ruehl, best-known for her Oscar winning performance in The Fisher King, narrates, while Doctors of the Dark Side is written by Mark Jonathan Harris, a three-time Academy Award winner renowned for his documentaries about the Holocaust.
Fittingly, the movie opens with footage of the Nuremberg Trials. After World War II, the United States held medical professional accountable, unlike this past decade, which has seen shameful disrespect for the rule of law. In 1946, 23 leading German physicians and administrators were charged with abetting war crimes. 16 were found guilty. Of those, seven were executed.
In stark contrast lies the actions of the Bush administration. Jay Bybee and John Yoo drafted the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos that justified so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques. Yoo once even argued that the president had the authority to torture anyone, even if it involved crushing a young boy’s testicles. However, these interrogations could only be justified if medical professionals were on-site and their methods did not cause “severe pain.” A sign at a prison operated by the Joint Special Operations Command was even more blunt: “NO BLOOD, NO FOUL.”
Doctors and psychologists who were involved with torture at Guantanamo Bay and other American detention sites, legitimized physical assault and extreme physical and psychological stress on detainees. According to Kristine Huskey, “those dark days are not far behind us, and they will be in our future if no one speaks out or acts against such policies.” But if medical professionals refused to cooperate, these “enhanced interrogations” could no longer be justified.
In the film, retired Brigadier General Stephen Xenakis, MD, elaborates on how this rejection could have led to a “curtailment” on torture:
Had the senior physicians come out forcefully and more or less unified that clinical practitioners were not going to participate in or condone any of these practices, that there could have very likely been at least a curtailment and a serious limitation of their happening.
Doctors uses standard documentary methods such as interview clips, but the film truly excels with its staged demonstrations of torture. Prisoners are waterboarded, slammed against walls, and locked in pitch-black cages. While these scenes don’t show any blood, they’re still agonizing to watch. Add in Ruehl reading the OLC’s detailed descriptions of how to torture someone, while doctors act as willing accomplices and Doctors of the Dark Side can seem like a Kafkaesque horror flick.
Yet the film never neglects the human element. Doctors of the Dark Side centers around the victims of torture, revealing distressing details about US foreign policy. For me, the most gripping narrative involved Daniel King. In 1999, Petty Officer and Navy cryptanalyst Daniel King was finishing a tour of duty on Guam when he took a polygraph test. Standard procedure.
But this time, the test found “inconclusive” results. On the basis of no other evidence, the Navy charged King with espionage. The man who proudly served his nation for more than two decades was now forced to endure interrogations that lasted up to 19 hours straight. Breaching medical ethics, King’s assigned psychologist, Dr. Michael Gelles, even acted in concert with the interrogation.
Ultimately, King was detained for 520 days. In the end, the Navy dropped all charges against King and he was honorably discharged. As for Dr. Gelles, he was assigned to Guantanamo Bay. But incredibly, Dr. Gelles even served on a task force by the American Psychological Association that found ”enhanced” interrogation could be “safe, legal, ethical and effective.”
While many of the worst practices at Guantanamo have ceased under the Obama administration, Doctors of the Dark Side notes that those who abetted torture have yet to face any accountability.Unfortunately, Doctors of the Dark Side has a very limited release. However, groups can request to host a screening. This is a poignant documentary about how the war on terror became a war of terror. Or as Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote in Beyond Good and Evil:
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that he does not become a monster. And when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you.
The New Jersey chapter of the ACLU has developed a new mobile app to stealthily record police. Called “Police Tape,” this free application is very user-friendly: there are only three buttons. One button informs users about their rights when encountering police while the other buttons are for audio and video recording. But when the app is recording, the screen goes dark, so it looks like it’s still turned off. In a promotional video, a stop motion Lady Liberty elaborates:
The recording on your phone will also go the ACLU-NJ for review of any civil liberties violations. Once it has been uploaded it’s saved on an external server, so police cannot permanently delete the file.
This app provides an essential tool for police accountability…Police often videotape civilians and civilians have a constitutionally protected right to videotape police. When people know they’re being watched, they tend to behave well.
685,724 people were stopped on the street in 2011, of which over 87 percent were black or Latino. Even more jarring, black and Hispanic males between age 14 and 24 made up 41.6 percent of stops, despite only accounting for 4.7 percent of the city’s population. And of these nearly 700,000 stops, only 780 guns were found and less than six percent were arrested.
On Thursday, officials from the Berkeley, Albany, and the University of California police departments announced that they are no longer seeking an armored vehicle. Also known as a BearCat, the vehicle would have been paid for by a $200,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). But once the plan to procure this armored personnel carrier (APC) was made public, the decision sparked a public backlash. As I noted last week, there were also grave concerns about police militarization and a lack of accountability for law enforcement. A petition to stop the APC earned over 900 signatures on change.org.
In an interview, George Lippman from the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley (which is advised by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee) praised “community pressure” for cancelling the BearCat. Lippman called for the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) to end its relationship with UASI. He continued:
The Coalition is campaigning to bring Berkeley’s policing in line with its human rights values. Cancellation of the police request for the armored vehicle is an important win for our campaign.
We also urgently call for a re-evaluation of the department’s relationship with the UC police. UC cops violently cracked down on peaceful Occupy Cal protesters last fall. That is not the kind of agency that should have prime responsibility for an armored personnel carrier!
When we found out about this grant application we sort of went ballistic. I mean, why do we need this here in Berkeley, and why would we want to militarize our police force?
Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, university spokeswoman Janet Gilmore, noted ”In a university setting, it’s not really appropriate” for police to operate an APC. While this is a huge victory, activists are already looking to future organizing. Lippman urged greater citizen engagement:
Now, how about an investigation into how these proposals get cooked up without notification of the public or even the City Council? And, a campaign to ensure civilian control of the police?
The police departments for Berkeley, Albany, and the University of California system have partnered together to buy an armored personnel carrier (APC). Not quite a tank, the APC is a Lenco Ballistic Engineered Armoured Response Counter Attack Truck, better known as a BearCat.
However, David Muhlhausen, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has criticized UASI: ”Currently, there appears to be a virtual absence of independent, objective evidence indicating the effectiveness of UASI…Increased spending does not equal increased effectiveness.” Daniel Borgstrom, a former US Marine now active in the Occupy movement, recently urged the Berkeley City Council to reject the APC and police militarization: “I’m asking, please stay out of this urban warfare stuff.”
Meanwhile, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan praised the BearCat, calling it “a defensive resource” necessary to protect officers from being killed. But according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks the deaths of law enforcement officials, no officers from UC Berkeley or Albany have been killed in the line of duty and only two Berkeley police officers have ever been killed by gunfire. The last Berkeley police officer killed in the line of duty was in 1973. Furthermore, as Radley Balko observes at the Huffington Post:
We’re now about halfway through 2012, and this year is on pace to be the safest ever for America’s police officers…Fifty officers have died on duty so far this year, a 44-percent decrease from last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). More remarkably, 17 have died from gunfire, down 55 percent from last year. (21 died in traffic accidents, the remaining 12 in various other incidents.) If the second half of this year follows the first, fewer officers will have died on duty this year than in any year since 1944, a time when there were far, far fewer police officers.
However, there has been a third American citizen executed by drone: Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Anwar’s 16-year-old son. Born in Denver, Abdulrahman was with his 17-year-old Yemeni cousin when they were killed by a drone strike in southeastern Yemen. A senior congressional official spoke to the Washington Post about the United States accidentally killing these teenagers:
If they knew a 16-year-old was there, I think that would be cause for them to say: “Gee, we ought not to hit this guy. That would be considered collateral damage.”