- 5/22, Yoojin Cho, WWLP 22 News, Amherst to opt out of Secure Communities
- 5/22, Andrew Rosenthal, New York Times, An Excellent Reason Not to Torture Prisoners
- 5/22, Wilson Ring, Boston Globe, Vt. now part of feds’ ‘Secure Communities’ program
- 5/22, Nancy Lofholm, Denver Post, Garfield County is turning over domestic violence victims to immigration authorities
- 5/22, Catherine Crump, CNN, Are the police tracking your calls?
- 5/22, David Finnigan, Washington Post, LAPD modifies surveillance program of Muslims
- 5/22, Sue Udry, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Takoma Park to Congress: Fix the NDAA
- 5/21, David Cole, The Nation, Can Obama Say He’s Sorry?
- 5/21, Robert Barnes, Washington Post, Supreme Court agrees to hear case on electronic surveillance
Archive for May 22nd, 2012
The following commentary was written by John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. It was originally published in longer form on May 21, 2012.
We’re entering the final phase of America’s transition to authoritarianism, a phase notable for its co-opting of civilian police as military forces. Not only do the police now look like the military—with their foreboding uniforms and phalanx of lethal weapons—but they function like them, as well. No longer do they act as peace officers guarding against violent criminals. And no more do we have a civilian police force entrusted with serving and protecting the American people. Instead, today’s militarized law enforcement officials, having shifted their allegiance from the citizenry to the state, act preemptively to ward off any possible challenges to the government’s power.
In such an environment, free speech is little more than a nuisance to be stamped out. Nowhere is this more evident than in the way police deal with those who dare to exercise their First Amendment right to “peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” For example, most recently, Chicago police in riot gear and gas masks, as well as SWAT teams, clashed with thousands of anti-war protesters who gathered to air their discontent during the NATO summit that took place on May 20-21, 2012.
Anticipating a fracas, police had, in the weeks leading up to the NATO summit, equipped themselves with $1 million worth of militarized riot gear. Then, a few days before the summit commenced, fighter jets—including Air Force KC-135 tankers, Air Force F-16s, and Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopters—took to the skies over Chicago, as part of a “security” drill. Surveillance drones were also sighted. Police also arrested six activists and held them in solitary confinement for 18 hours, then released them without charge. News reports have indicated that some of those “arrested” may have been undercover officers.
All of these tactics of intimidation—the show of force by heavily armed police, the security drills by fighter planes and surveillance drones, even the arrests of protesters—were done with one goal in mind: to deter and subdue any would-be protesters.
Nearly 10 years ago, Khlaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin, was captured by Macedonian authorities, stripped, drugged, detained and tortured for five months. Then, one day, without explanation or redress, el-Masri was left in the Albanian mountains without any explanation and returned to Germany.
While el-Masri did nothing wrong, he continues to await justice in the US. European courts, however, are stepping in to fill the void.
Since his abduction, torture and subsequent release, the CIA operatives who committed these human rights and international law violations have maintained their positions and authority within the government agency and have even been promoted. No apology has been given to el-Masri by the United States government, and the only explanation offered: “the U.S. privately acknowledged to the Germans what had happened.” El-Masri was not the man they were looking for.
According to the ACLU:
To add insult to el-Masri’s long-lasting injury, according to State Department diplomatic cables, the Bush administration pressured Germany not to prosecute CIA officers responsible for his kidnapping and abuse. Despite the fact that the former President Bush and other senior government officials acknowledged the existence of the U.S. rendition program, and the details of el-Masri’s rendition and torture are widely known, the U.S. continues to deny responsibility and has invoked the “state secrets privilege” to protect government officials, CIA operatives and corporations from civil accountability.
The architects of these severe violations by our government have never faced a criminal investigation, let alone the prosecution required under international law.
While justice may remain fleeting in the US, international bodies are not idly standing by. On Wednesday, May 16, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) heard el-Masri’s claims of torture and abuse. A judge said he and his colleagues would deliberate on the admissibility of the case and consider later announcing a date for the judgment.
This video depicts Annie Proulx reading el-Masri’s account of his experience on December 18, 2005: