Archive for the ‘Opinion & Commentary’ Category

Turning Americans into Snitches for the Police State: ‘See Something, Say Something’ and Community Policing

Friday, September 26, 2014 at 8:55 am by

This guest post was written by John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute and was reprinted with permission.

“There were relatively few secret police, and most were just processing the information coming in. I had found a shocking fact. It wasn’t the secret police who were doing this wide-scale surveillance and hiding on every street corner. It was the ordinary German people who were informing on their neighbors.”  —Professor Robert Gellately

If you see something suspicious, says the Department of Homeland Security, say something about it to the police, call it in to a government hotline, or report it using a convenient app on your smart phone.

(If you’re a whistleblower wanting to snitch on government wrongdoing, however, forget about it—the government doesn’t take kindly to having its dirty deeds publicized and, God forbid, being made to account for them.)

For more than a decade now, the DHS has plastered its “See Something, Say Something” campaign on the walls of metro stations, on billboards, on coffee cup sleeves, at the Super Bowl, even on television monitors in the Statue of Liberty. Now colleges, universities and even football teams and sporting arenas are lining up for grants to participate in the program.

See_Something_Say_SomethingThis DHS slogan is nothing more than the government’s way of indoctrinating “we the people” into the mindset that we’re an extension of the government and, as such, have a patriotic duty to be suspicious of, spy on, and turn in our fellow citizens.

This is what is commonly referred to as community policing. Yet while community policing and federal programs such as “See Something, Say Something” are sold to the public as patriotic attempts to be on guard against those who would harm us, they are little more than totalitarian tactics dressed up and repackaged for a more modern audience as well-intentioned appeals to law and order and security.

The police state could not ask for a better citizenry than one that carries out its own policing. (more…)

Black actress detained for kissing her White companion: is an end to racial profiling in sight?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 8:30 am by

Racialprofiling

Actress Daniele Watts was accused of prostitution this weekend after kissing her companion. A Los Angeles Police Officer assumed she was a prostitute because she, a Black woman, kissed her companion, a White man, in public. In the meantime, law enforcement agencies are still trying to figure out how and why Michael Brown was shot and killed. Even now, nearly six years after his inauguration, people still can’t stop talking about President Obama’s race.

Our society is fraught with racial tensions, bigotry and everything in between. What are our lawmakers doing to help? First introduced in 2001 by Sen. Russell Feingold (D. Wisc) and Rep. Jon Coners (D. Mich), the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) has been both popularized and unreasonably shot down in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010. So it is no surprise that in the wake of recent  tragedies that people are once more pushing for its passage. But will it finally come to be? Or will it once again succumb as a piece of legislation that is forever wanted but never actualized? (more…)

Resistance is futile: The violent cost of challenging the American police state

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 9:01 am by

This guest post by John Whitehead was originally published on September 9 by The Rutherford Institute and is reprinted with permission.

“Police are specialists in violence. They are armed, trained, and authorized to use force. With varying degrees of subtlety, this colors their every action. Like the possibility of arrest, the threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter. Violence, as well as the law, is what they represent.”

—Kristian Williams, activist and author

If you don’t want to get probed, poked, pinched, tasered, tackled, searched, seized, stripped, manhandled, arrested, shot, or killed, don’t say, do or even suggest anything that even hints of noncompliance. This is the new “thin blue line” over which you must not cross in interactions with police if you want to walk away with your life and freedoms intact.

Resistance_585x585

The following incidents and many more like them serve as chilling reminders that in the American police state, “we the people” are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.”

For example, police arrested Chaumtoli Huq because she failed to promptly comply when ordered to “move along” while waiting outside a Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant for her children, who were inside with their father, using the bathroom. NYPD officers grabbed Huq, a lawyer with the New York City Public Advocate’s office, flipped her around, pressed her against a wall, handcuffed her, searched her purse, arrested her, and told her to “shut up” when she cried out for help, before detaining her for nine hours. Huq was charged with obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. (more…)

Warning against the danger of criminalizing provocative Facebook postings

Monday, September 8, 2014 at 1:00 pm by

dislikeWeighing in on a case that will significantly impact expression on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the conviction of a Pennsylvania man who was charged with making unlawful threats (it was never proven that he intended to threaten anyone) and sentenced to 44 months in jail after he posted allusions to popular song lyrics and comedy routines on his Facebook page.

The Rutherford Institute’s amicus brief in Anthony D. Elonis v. United States of America argues that the First Amendment protects even inflammatory statements that may give offense or cause concern to others unless the statements were a credible threat to engage in violence against another and made by the defendant with the intent to cause fear in the alleged victim. The case arises out of Facebook postings made by Anthony Elonis expressing his anger about events in his life, and which were based upon rap lyrics of artists such as Eminem and a comedy sketch of the group The Whitest Kids U’ Know. (more…)

Government surveillance in public spaces: is your data safe?

Friday, September 5, 2014 at 11:41 am by

big brotherBy Zack Youngren

Zack Youngren is a student at Northeastern University and front end web developer at a medium sized software company. He studies computer science and has particular interests in data analytics, privacy, and legislation surrounding information technology.

Significant public thought and scrutiny is being placed on the collection of data, including what is being collected and by what means. Should the government be collecting photos of your license plates? The metadata of your phone calls? The contents of your online exchanges? Over the past year since the Snowden leak, more thought has been given to what the government does with that data, insofar as storage and security, protecting it from not only people who might wish to access it illegally, but also from people with legitimate access that would use it for illegitimate means. (more…)

Turning America into a war zone where ‘We the People’ are the enemy

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 11:46 am by

This guest post by John Whitehead was originally published on August 20 by the Rutherford Institute and is reprinted with permission.

“If you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?”—Sunil Dutta, an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 17 years

Life in the American police state is an endless series of don’ts delivered at the end of a loaded gun: don’t talk back to police officers, don’t even think about defending yourself against a SWAT team raid (of which there are 80,000 every year), don’t run when a cop is nearby lest you be mistaken for a fleeing criminal, don’t carry a cane lest it be mistaken for a gun, don’t expect privacy in public, don’t let your kids walk to the playground alone, don’t engage in nonviolent protest near where a government official might pass, don’t try to grow vegetables in your front yard, don’t play music for tips in a metro station, don’t feed whales, and on and on.

speak outFor those who resist, who dare to act independently, think for themselves, march to the beat of a different drummer, the consequences are invariably a one-way trip to the local jail or death.

What Americans must understand, what we have chosen to ignore, what we have fearfully turned a blind eye to lest the reality prove too jarring is the fact that we no longer live in the “city on the hill,” a beacon of freedom for all the world.

Far from being a shining example of democracy at work, we have become a lesson for the world in how quickly freedom turns to tyranny, how slippery the slope by which a once-freedom-loving people can be branded, shackled and fooled into believing that their prisons walls are, in fact, for their own protection.

Having spent more than half a century exporting war to foreign lands, profiting from war, and creating a national economy seemingly dependent on the spoils of war, we failed to protest when the war hawks turned their profit-driven appetites on us, bringing home the spoils of war—the military tanks, grenade launchers, Kevlar helmets, assault rifles, gas masks, ammunition, battering rams, night vision binoculars, etc.—to be distributed for free to local police agencies and used to secure the homeland against “we the people.” (more…)

Targeting racial minorities in urban areas: ‘The Newburgh Sting’

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 10:29 am by

NEWBURGHSTINGposterOn May 20, 2009, four men from the impoverished and largely African-American city of Newburgh, NY, were apprehended for an alleged terror plot. They had no history of violence or terrorist ties, but had been drawn by a Pakistani FBI informant into a carefully orchestrated scheme to bomb Jewish synagogues in a wealthy New York City suburb and fire Stinger missiles at U.S. military supply planes. Their dramatic arrest, complete with armored cars, a SWAT team and FBI aircraft, played out under the gaze of major TV outlets, ultimately resulting in 25-year prison sentences for the “Newburgh Four.”

Amidst the media frenzy surrounding the case, political figures extolled the outcome as a victory in the “war on terror” and a “textbook example of how a major investigation should be conducted,” though others believed the four men were victims of FBI entrapment. The documentary The Newburgh Sting delves deeply into this case–one of many cases across the country where people have been allegedly drawn into a plot with extreme consequences.

This is an impressive film that deals with issues of racial profiling in a unique way. Watching this is a fantastic way to educate yourselves and others on issues regarding governmental overreach as it relates to racial profiling and targeting in this country. The Newburgh Sting is currently available on HBO.

The tyranny of the Nanny State, where the government knows what’s best for you

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 10:05 am by

This guest post by John Whitehead was originally published on August 11 by the Rutherford Institute. 

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

—C.S. Lewis

Surveillance cameras, government agents listening in on your phone calls, reading your emails and text messages and monitoring your spending, mandatory health care, sugary soda bans, anti-bullying laws, zero tolerance policies, political correctness: these are all outward signs of a government—i.e., a societal elite—that believes it knows what is best for you and can do a better job of managing your life than you can.

of all tyranniesThis is tyranny disguised as “the better good.” Indeed, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, this is the tyranny of the Nanny State: marketed as benevolence, enforced with armed police, and inflicted on all those who do not belong to the elite ruling class that gets to call the shots. Thus, this explains the recent rash of parents getting charged with negligence and arrested for leaving their kids alone for any amount of time, whether at a park, in a store, in a car, or in their front yard—another sign of what C.S. Lewis referred to as tyranny exercised by “omnipotent moral busybodies.”

For example, working mom Debra Harrell was arrested, spent 17 days in jail, lost custody of her daughter, and if convicted, could spend up to 10 years in jail all because she let her 9-year-old daughter play alone at a nearby park. Single mother Shanesha Taylor, unemployed and essentially homeless, was arrested for leaving her kids in her car during a 40-minute job interview. (more…)

2 Chicago men arrested for participating in activism

Monday, August 11, 2014 at 9:55 am by

Stop_and_FriskKevin Tapia and Felipe Hernandez—young Latino men from Chicago’s southwest side—spent the weeks leading up to the Affordable Care Act’s enactment going door-to-door on behalf of their community, informing residents of the imminent changes laid out in the new law. They found jobs with Grassroots Collaborative and worked to make sure that the citizens of their local neighborhoods would be covered in time for the March 31 deadline.

With the law’s rollout less than a week away, Tapia and Hernandez’s efforts had brought them to Garfield Ridge—a predominately white neighborhood. There they were greeted by four police officers who stopped them, frisked them and charged them with unlawfully soliciting business. Though the Chicago Sun-Times initially reported that the police were responding to a local 911 call presuming Tapia and Hernandez’s work to be little more than an attempt to scam the elderly, Grassroots Collaborative have highlighted the incident as an obvious example of racial profiling.

The precedent for a legal framework regarding stop and frisks was established in 1968 via the United States Supreme Court’s seminal ruling in Terry v. Ohio. The Court’s decision indicated that—in the absence of probable cause for an arrest—the Fourth Amendment to the United States’ Constitution protects citizens from police interrogation and frisks unless the officer can outline a “reasonable articulable suspicion” for a stop and frisk.

Probable cause is often subjective but even the most seasoned prosecutor would be grasping at straws in arguing that these officers acted within their purview when they stopped, frisked and arrested Tapia and Hernandez. The officers were responding to a deeply speculative neighborhood call that two young men were engaging in entirely nonviolent behavior. What basis they had for fearing Tapia and Hernandez were armed and dangerous wasn’t clear at the time and hasn’t become any clearer since. (more…)

Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC July Newsletter

Monday, July 28, 2014 at 6:08 pm by

Constitution in Crisis

July 2014, Vol. 13 No. 07


Journalists reveal government monitoring political activists

Earlier this month, journalists revealed the names of five American targets of the NSA’s surveillance dragnet.  This was the first time that Americans who have never been arrested, or even suspected of terrorist activity, have been individually identified as targets for government monitoring.

Since the story was published, Greenwald has spoken candidly about the reasons for his delay in reporting the names, as well as why it matters. As he explained to Wired magazine, “This is the first time that there’s a human face on who the targets are….I think it’s important for people to judge—are these really terrorists or are these people who seem to be targeted for their political dissidence and their political activism?”



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