Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category
Community groups and residents from across Washington, DC voiced a desperate plea to the District of Columbia City Council last Wednesday, October 8, 2014. Councilmembers Tommy Wells, Anita Bonds, Kenyon McDuffie, and David Grosso attended a community hearing at Howard University to examine Metropolitan Police Department Policy and Procedures.
The main themes that emerged through testimony were the need for increased accountability by documenting the impacts of policing practices, a change of tactics and equipment, as well as a change of culture among police and their relationship with the people they serve. Overall, people wanted to return to their communities a sense of safety and liberty.
Seema Sadanandan, Program Director at ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, and a prolific voice in the community, was the first speaker of the night and set the tone. She questioned the effectiveness of police practices, and whether they truly make the city any safer as 96% of all arrests are for non-violent offenses.
Ms. Sadanandan also described the effect police have on children, who are subject to the controversial tactic of “jump outs.” A jump out is a police tactic that can only be described as an ambush. Undercover officers in unmarked cars aggressively swarm on unsuspecting groups, frisking people, and searching cars and bags, often with no basis for suspicion that would enable them to do so legally. This tactic hardly resembles anything that could be defined as a “reasonable search and seizure”. (more…)
RICHMOND, Va. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a brief with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the court to reject the claims of a Chesterfield County mental health screener that he was not responsible or liable for the seizure and week-long detention in a psychiatric ward of a decorated Marine by a swarm of Secret Service and FBI agents and local police because of controversial song lyrics and political views posted on his Facebook page. In asking the Court of Appeals to reinstate the lawsuit, which was dismissed in February 2014 by a federal judge who termed its concerns over government censorship as “far-fetched,” Institute attorneys argue that Brandon Raub’s seizure and detention were the result of a mental health screener’s dislike of Raub’s “unpatriotic” views on federal government misconduct, thereby violating the ex-Marine’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
“Some members of Congress have recently suggested that NSA [Nation Security Agency] reform could undermine national security and hamper our nation’s efforts targeting violent extremist networks. These concerns are entirely misplaced.”
This language, from a letter drafted by a coalition of civil rights organizations, including the BORDC, is just the beginning of a debate around the USA FREEDOM Act. Two letters have recently gone out about the act. Each letter poses a very differing opinion than the other. One letter states that since the FREEDOM Act doesn’t even begin to adequately address the serious issues of privacy and surveillance in the U.S., it shouldn’t be passed, especially since it would reauthorizes the PATRIOT Act for an additional 2.5 years. The other letter also points out the inefficiency of the FREEDOM Act, but instead suggests, that even though it isn’t a perfect start, it is still a start in fighting for privacy of U.S. citizens. (more…)
Today, dozens of grassroots advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum urged Congress to enact substantial reforms to surveillance authorities. The coalition supports the proposed USA FREEDOM Act while emphasizing the need to impose in the next congressional session further limits on surveillance practices beyond those currently under consideration in Congress.
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) sent a letter to Congress on behalf of dozens of grassroots advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum, comprising a diverse array of organizations representing millions of Americans from every region of the country. The letter explains that while the USA FREEDOM Act will be a step in the right direction, it does not go nearly far enough to protect fundamental constitutional rights.
[UPDATE: The letter was covered, and quoted at some length, by media outlets including the Hill.]
If you’re concerned about mass surveillance, read it to inform what you might request your Senators to do once they return to Washington for the lame duck session next month.
On August 21st, the Coalition along with its community partners launched the Drone-Free LAPD/No Drones, LA! Campaign. Later at a press conference on September 15th, the Drone-Free LAPD/No Drones, LA! Campaign called upon the governor to veto AB 1327 because Drones signify a giant step forward in the militarization of local law enforcement that is normalizing continued surveillance and violations of human rights of our communities. AB 1327, while masked under the guise of police seeking warrants to use drones, essentially authorized and legitimized their use under myriad of situations and loopholes that would allow the use of Drones for collection of information and surveillance.
Last month’s police crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri revealed to many Americans for the first time how unaccountable police have grown. Around the country, local police forces are effectively militarized, widely discriminate against people of color, and suppress democratic dissent despite its constitutional protection.
This week’s announcement of new forthcoming federal guidance by the Justice Department addressing racial profiling — as well as Holder’s decision to leave the Department — are welcome signs. Both, however, come with disturbing implications.
Better late than never
Proposed changes to the Justice’s Department guidance to law enforcement agencies include prohibiting religious profiling, and closing longstanding loopholes allowing blatant profiling in the context of national security and border integrity. These are intelligent choices, not only for the rights at stake, but also for the national security and border integrity interests that profiling also undermines.
The timing, however, is striking. First, why are these changes being implemented on the eve of the Attorney General leaving office? Without being codified in law, the new standards will survive only at the whim of the AG’s successors.
The long awaited and highly anticipated Senate Intelligence Committee Torture Report remains classified, and the subject of an ongoing battle between the Senate and CIA over how much of it to declassify to the public.
The Constitution Project commissioned a poll, administered Public Policy Polling, to find out exactly how Americans feel about the Torture Report. The poll finds that Americans overwhelmingly agree that the torture report should be made public, that it is important to establish whether or not the CIA’s interrogation methods after 9/11 were effective or more harsh than previously reported, and that CIA Director John Brennan should resign following revelations that the CIA hacked into Senate computers.
- 69% of Americans believe a declassified version of the Senate Intelligence Committee report should be released to the public.
- 60% of Americans believe that the CIA hacking incident violates our system of checks and balances and merits further investigation.
- 54% of Americans believe that the CIA director should resign since it has been established that the CIA hacked into Senate computers.
- 52% of Americans believe it is important to establish whether it is true that the CIA’s interrogations were “far more harsh” and less effective than has been previously reported.
The results are in and the country has spoken. Please help us spread the word.
“It’s eerie to see the resurgence of many of the same dynamics in the public debate that we saw ten years ago, namely, fears of national security threats justifying overbroad counterterrorism policies…. There were very important reforms moving through Congress that have been all but derailed…due to the fear mongering about ISIS….The fact of the matter is the FREEDOM act wouldn’t impact the NSA’s foreign signals intelligence capabilities at all. It would only keep [the NSA] from spying on Americans. The idea that somehow fears about ISIS should justify insulating the NSA from accountability for years of lies and deception to Congress and the American people — and documented abuses violating [legal limits on] its powers, and breaking the Federal statutes that were set up in the first place to keep it from doing these things — is preposterous. We should all expect much more from our public officials.”
Protesters gathered together in Charlotte, North Caroline to address the depressing reality of police brutality against people of color. A year ago, a police officer was charged with shooting and killing a 24 year old unarmed black man, Jonathon Ferrell.
Jonathon was a former A&M University football player who moved to Charlotte a year prior to be with his fiancée. At the time of his shooting, he was working two jobs and had high hopes of returning back to school to receive his automotive engineering degree. The night of September 14th, Jonathon had been seeking assistance for a car accident when he was violently targeted. A woman who had been home alone with her baby was frightened and did not understand why Ferrell was knocking at her door at such a late hour. Ferrell left to seek aid elsewhere and the woman called the police. In the end, instead of receiving help from a person of the law, he ended up dead from multiple gunshot wounds. This shooting had no cause. Not only did the woman who called the police say nothing about Ferrell being threatening but he also made no violent move toward Officer Randall Kerrick. (more…)