Posts Tagged ‘detention’

American citizen seeks justice after illegal rendition and detention

Friday, December 13, 2013 at 8:45 am by
From the Telegraph

From the Telegraph

Amir Meshal is a Muslim American from New Jersey. In 2006, he traveled to Mogadishu, Somalia to study Islam, but had to quickly leave the country when violence and unrest erupted. In order to escape, Meshal was forced to cross the border into Kenya because a recent bombing shut down the airport in Somalia. While in Kenya, Meshal was arrested and handed over to U.S. officials who detained him in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia for the next four months.

During this period, Meshal was interrogated over thirty times about connections to al Qaeda, which he continually denied. The interrogators threatened him with torture and rendition to another country that could “make him disappear.” He was subjected to unsanitary conditions without consistent access to food and water, while being denied contact with a lawyer or his family. Without any charges brought against him, Meshal was released in May, 2007.


Detention mandate keeps immigrants locked up and prison companies rich

Friday, November 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm by

21-immigrants-for-saleEvery single day, 34,000 beds need to be filled by immigrant detainees in the United States, not because there are 34,000 people who legitimately need to be detained, but because Congress mandates it. The immigration “detention bed mandate” comes from Congressional appropriations language referring to the budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Essentially, the language specifies how ICE has to use its detention budget, in this case requiring that the funding be used to “maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds.” This requirement is wildly expensive as it costs $120 a day to detain each individual, which comes out to $2 billion a year for the whole system.

Momentum builds to limit the detention powers of the NDAA

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm by

indefinite-2013-ndaa-warOn October 9, the town of Oxford, MA passed a resolution limiting the detention powers of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA). The resolution also made the provision that the Massachusetts legislature must “recognize the duty of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to interpose itself between unconstitutional usurpations by the federal government or its agents and the people of this state.”

The city council of Worcester, MA, the state’s largest city after Boston, considered such a resolution on Tuesday, October 15. While it was referred to the council’s Rules Committee, Benjamin Selecky, the Massachusetts representative for People Against the NDAA (PANDA), said the council was strongly supportive. Selecky added that the council stated their wish to educate the public about indefinite detention by putting the draft resolution through the standard approval process, including a public hearing.


Appeals court rejects indefinite detention challenge

Monday, July 29, 2013 at 9:47 am by

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently rejected a challenge to the sections of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that could allow for indefinite military detention of those who are suspected of substantially supporting terrorism.

As we have previously covered (here, here, here and elsewhere), the suit was brought by journalists and activists concerned about being subjected to indefinite military detention if they interviewed or interacted with groups deemed hostile to the US. At the trial stage, a federal district court recognized the statute’s constitutional faults.

In her 2012 rulings, Judge Katherine Forrest prohibited military detention based on allegations of ‘substantially supporting’ or ‘directly supporting’ unspecified ‘associated forces’ of our nation’s enemies, finding that the plaintiffs could likely show that the NDAA violated the First Amendment, that it was overly vague, and that it violated the Fifth Amendment. The government appealed the ruling, prompting BORDC and other groups to file briefs with the appeals court highlighting the grave historical and present concerns with unchecked indefinite detention.

Earlier this month, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned the lower court’s ruling. The appeals court held that Section 1021 of the NDAA does not control the government’s ability to detain American citizens and thus the citizen plaintiffs had no standing to have their challenge heard. Further the court ruled that the non-citizen plaintiffs could not demonstrate a “sufficient basis to fear detention under the statute” and as such, they also had no standing.


Solitary confinement abused in immigration and national security

Monday, June 10, 2013 at 9:59 am by

Prisoners may face solitary confinement (i.e. imprisonment in a small cell for up to 23 hours a day without contact with other people) throughout the US criminal detention system. A new report published by Physicians for Human Rights focuses on the use (and abuse) of solitary confinement in immigration and national security settings, and provides specific recommendations to ensure that it does not contravene domestic and international laws against torture.

The PHR report explains that this subject has received relatively little attention because it involves “vulnerable populations from foreign countries, perceived as ‘other,’ assumed to be guilty of illegal activity, and having no political voice in the United States.”

It points out that solitary confinement in the immigration and national security settings is used excessively and arbitrarily, and in many cases constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that violates domestic and international laws. Solitary confinement generally has been recognized within the US as a locus of torture, notably in the Resolution Proclaiming Chicago to be a Torture Free Zone.

Medical and prison experts agree that solitary confinement can cause severe harm to the detainee, outweighing any benefit in all but the most extreme cases. In fact, isolation can cause severe and long-lasting psychological effects such as hyperresponsivity to external stimuli, perceptual distortions, illusions, and hallucinations, panic attacks, difficulties with thinking, concentration, and memory, intrusive obsessional thoughts, and overt paranoia. What’s more, it can result in corresponding physiological effects such as sleep disturbances, dizziness and heart palpitations, severe digestive problems, and deterioration of eyesight.


CT breaks the ICE between immigrant communities and local police

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 9:38 am by

In a historic triumph for human rights and civil liberties, Connecticut unanimously passed the first statewide policy to counter  the profoundly flawed  Secure Communities (S-Comm) program. Under the Trust and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act, Connecticut’s immigrant communities can remain intact, enjoy protection from prejudiced policing, and participate in upholding peace in their communities. Furthermore, Connecticut now assumes a leadership role in immigration reform and resisting pervasive state surveillance.

secure_communities1S-Comm essentially transforms state and local law enforcement into automated immigration checkpoints. Upon arrest, a detained persons’ fingerprints and criminal background, if any, are shared with federal agencies to cross-check against Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) immigration database.

If the feds find an ‘individual of interest’, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sends local police a detainer request to hold that individual while ICE determines whether or not to initiate deportation proceedings.

Though described by ICE as an initiative to  remove dangerous undocumented criminals, S-Comm separates hard-working immigrant families and immerses entire communities in fear. Profiling, mistaken identity, and disproportionate pursuit of low-level perpetrators undermine trust between immigrant communities and local police. Studies indicate that the fear of deportation significantly decreases community cooperation with legitimate law enforcement investigations.

Additionally, S-Comm enables the type of prejudiced policing infamously observed in East Haven, CT.


Constitution USA: Episode IV “Built to Last”

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 11:05 am by

Viewers of PBS’ new series Constitution USA join Peter Sagal, host of Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! on his motorcycle tour of the United States and its constitution.  Episode one gave viewers a brief summary of the constitution’s role and the role that each branch of government plays in our system of checks and balances.  With the help of political figures and legal scholars, Sagal highlighted two important themes in the series’ introductory episode.

First, that the constitution is by no means a complete and exhaustive political document; rather, it leaves plenty of room for interpretation, debate and additions (which we know as amendments).

Second, Sagal highlighted the fact that presidents in particular, though bound to the constitution, often choose not to play by its rules, or bend and reinvent rules to suit their needs.  Sagal spent the latter half of the episode tracing the first example of this executive overreach (the Watergate scandal), to a more contemporary one (the Patriot Act).

The ardent defense of our constitution (which so many political figures employ in trite political rhetoric) actually invokes the question of whether or not the four page document should evolve from generation to generation or be preserved in its original state.  The Founding Fathers were the first to debate this question – while James Madison believed the constitution should remain unchanged, Thomas Jefferson argued, “The earth belongs to the living,” and that therefore each new generation should be free to alter the constitution to suit its needs.


Senator Udall’s fight to amend our past

Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 12:35 pm by

The George W. Bush Presidential Library  and Museum opened to the public this week, a great unveiling that has  reignited the debate about the Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques” (read: torture).  One of the most controversial elements of the new museum is a video narrated by former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.  The video explains that President Bush asked two “very important” questions in his decision to use torture in the post-9/11 “War on Terror”: was it legal?  And was it necessary?  When allegedly answered “yes” to both of these questions, President Bush proceeded in making detention and torture an instrumental part of his administration’s work.

The real surprise of the video, though, is in Rice’s suggestion that the United States was spared further terrorist attacks because of Bush’s detention and torture policies.  Rice argues that, “The fact that we have not had a successful attack on our territory traces directly to those difficult decisions in a new kind of war after September 11th.”  This is a dangerous allegation to make, and it underscores the need for our government to reconsider the effectiveness of detention and torture, a fight of which Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) has been at the forefront.

Udall correctly commented that the video in the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum “could potentially leave thousands of visitors to the library with the false impression that this wrongheaded program prevented terrorist attacks here in the United States.”  Udall seeks to correct the record on the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation program and to declassify the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence more than 6,000 page report on that program.

Understanding the effectiveness of Bush’s detention and interrogation programs is particularly crucial as the U.S. now faces a new moral dilemma posed by the Obama administration’s drone programs and the new executive power to legally authorize the targeted killing of American citizens.  To move forward without rectifying past misuses of executive power would likely make any hope of future executive accountability unattainable.  In order to hold the Obama administration to a higher humanitarian standard and reject the executive power to assassinate American citizens, we must demand truth and accountability from past administrations as well.  It is for this reason that Udall’s push to correct the record on the post-9/11 detention and interrogation programs and declassify the 6,000 plus page report is so crucial.  You can support Senator Udall’s fight by signing BORDC’s petition to declassify the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report.

Hunger Strike at Guantánamo Continues, National Day of Action planned

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm by

WaitingNow entering its third month, the hunger strike among prisoners at Guantánamo Bay continues, as the men there continue to risk their lives to protest their indefinite detention. According to defense lawyers, almost all of the men in Camp 6, a communal living area for more “cooperative” prisoners, are participating in the hunger strike.

Prisoners who have stopped eating have lost more than 30 pounds. Medical experts confirm that the consequences of extended fasting can be extreme:

irreversible cognitive impairment and physiological damage such as loss of hearing, blindness, and hemorrhage may begin to occur by the 40th day of a hunger strike, and death follows thereafter.

The hunger strike presents in stark terms the criminal nature of our government’s detention policy.  The government has cleared over half of the men at the prison for release, but still keeps then locked away from their families and contact with the outside world, with no end in sight.  That these men are willing to risk their lives to protest their confinement, despite the fact that they have been cleared for release highlights the emptiness of President Obama’s promise to close the prison.

Even the military has recognized that the administration’s failure to close the prison has triggered this desperate protest.

Gen. John Kelly, the head of U.S. Southern Command, explained to the House Armed Services Committee last week, detainees “had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed. They were devastated . . . when the president backed off. . . . He said nothing about it in his inauguration speech. . . . He said nothing about it in his State of the Union speech. . . . He’s not restaffing the office that . . . looks at closing the facility.”

In solidarity with the hunger strikers, organizations, including Witness Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International and World Can’t Wait are calling for an emergency National Day of Action on April 11 to demand the closure of Guantánamo and an end to indefinite detention.The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently echoed these calls, noting that the imprisonment of many of the prisoners without charge or trial is a violation of international law.  A number of groups, including BORDC, sent a letter to President Obama to ask that he begin to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo and appoint a high level official to take responsibility for closing the prison.

People of conscience can take action to call for the forever prison’s closure:

Raise your voice! Join the Day of Action!  You can:

Organize a local demonstration demanding the closure of Guantánamo. Ideal locations are Federal buildings, congressional offices, and U.S. military sites like recruitment centers. We can help you plan a rally.  Write to

Call the White House comment line at 202.456.1111 or switchboard at 202.456.1414 and say, “President Obama, there is a humanitarian crisis at Guantánamo. I urge you to swiftly close the prison by releasing the men you will not charge and by giving fair trials to those you will.” You can also e-mail the White House from

Twitter Storm President @BarackObama @WhiteHouse Keep your promise: #closegitmo #GitmoHungerStrike

News Digest 04/08/13

Monday, April 8, 2013 at 5:00 pm by