This morning, the world learned of the passing of legendary folk singer Pete Seeger.
In March of 1961 Seeger was facing trial for contempt of Congress after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Pete Seeger wrote to President Kennedy:
“I would not take up your valuable time with my personal problem, except that I feel it is a very fundamental one which concerns all America these days. Do I, or does any citizen, have the right to hold unorthodox opinions, whether they are purely right or horribly wrong, and do I have the right to join with others who think similarly?”
Arlo Guthrie also wrote to JFK asking him to “please do what you can for Pete Seeger."
I only wanted to share a small snippet, but frankly I couldn’t help myself. Glenn Greenwald is at his finest here. Read it and share it with anyone you can…
BEFORE THE BODIES were removed from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last week, Democrats began eagerly exploiting that atrocity to demand a new, secret “terrorist watchlist”: something that was once the domestic centerpiece of the Bush/Cheney war-on-terror mentality. Led by their propaganda outlet, Center for American Progress (CAP), Democrats now want to empower the Justice Department — without any judicial adjudication — to unilaterally bar citizens who have not been charged with (let alone convicted of) any crime from purchasing guns.
Worse than the measure itself is the rancid rhetoric they are using. To justify this new list, Democrats, in unison, are actually arguing that the U.S. government must constrain people whom they are now calling “potential terrorists.” Just spend a moment pondering how creepy and Orwellian that phrase is in the context of government designations.
What is a “potential terrorist”? Isn’t everyone that? And who wants the U.S. government empowered to unilaterally restrict what citizens can do based on predictions or guesses about what they might become or do in the future? Does anyone have any doubt that this will fall disproportionately on certain groups and types of people?
The Democrats’ most extreme attack on due process comes, unsurprisingly, from that party’s supremely authoritarian Terror Warrior, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose bill would “give the attorney general the discretion to block a sale to a given individual suspected of involvement of some kind in terrorism.” In their effort to exploit Orlando and other recent mass shootings, Feinstein and the Democrats encountered a serious problem: Neither Omar Mateen, nor the racist Charleston killer Dylann Roof, nor numerous other mass shooters, were on any terrorist watchlist (Mateen was investigated by the FBI, which — rightly — closed its file on him in 2014 after it found no evidence of wrongdoing). So Feinstein wrote a special provision in her bill to obviate this objection, one empowering the attorney general to put anyone on the banned list “who has been investigated in the last five years for ‘conduct related to a Federal crime of terrorism’” — even if they were ultimately found to have done nothing wrong.
After Feinstein’s bill was rejected last night on a largely party-line vote by the Senate, the Democrats unleashed a fearmongering messaging campaign so exploitative and deceitful that it would have made Karl Rove blush with embarrassment, or at least seethe with envy.
So now, in the lexicon of the leading liberal lights of the Democratic Party, someone deemed by the U.S. government to be suspicious — placed in secret on a list, with no evidence presented and no court process — is the equivalent of “ISIS.” And to demand due process be accorded — says this Harvard Law Professor — is to arm ISIS.
To see how deep down the authoritarian hole Democrats reside, considerthis 1987 New York Times editorial raging against Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese for arguing that criminal suspects don’t deserve Miranda warnings. Meese’s rationale: “You don’t have many suspects who are innocent of crime. That’s contradictory. If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect.” Said the NYT editors in response: “In other words, guilty until proven guilty.” That’s exactly what Elizabeth Warren and Chris Murphy believe: If the U.S. government views you as suspicious, that is proof of your guilt. Thus, a “suspect” is the same as “ISIS.”
Even worse was the messaging that came from an operative with CAP, who has become a little Twitter star among the Democratic faithful for his endless Cheneyite exploitation of terrorism fears to attack Republicans and justify gun watchlists. This is how he described Feinstein’s bill:
It’s hard to put into words how appalling that is. This CAP official is not only outright lying about Feinstein’s bill: pretending that it bars “terrorists” — rather than people placed on a suspicion watchlist — from buying guns. Worse than rank dishonesty, he is literally, explicitly equating people who will be deemed suspicious by the U.S. government — overwhelmingly Muslim, needless to say — with “terrorists.” As Sam Adler-Bell put it about this tweet, “Referring to all people on the DOJ’s watchlist as ‘terrorists’ is legally incorrect and ethically ugly.” In Volsky’s mind, or at least in his propaganda, anyone deemed by the government to be suspicious is now a “terrorist” — no evidence needed, no trial held, no due process accorded.
For eight years, this mentality was the driving force behind the worst Bush/Cheney war-on-terror abuses. No matter what the extremist policy was — indefinite detention, warrantless eavesdropping, torture, no-fly lists, Guantánamo, rendition, CIA black sites — Republicans would justify it by saying it was merely being done to “terrorists” and would accuse their due process-advocating critics of wanting to “protect terrorists.” What they actually meant was that all of this was being done to people accused by the U.S. government of involvement in terrorism. But in their mind, “government accusations of terrorism” were synonymous with “proof of guilt.”
That is exactly the warped, Orwellian formulation Democrats embrace: As is extremely obvious, the Democrats’ definition of “terrorist” is “anyone whom the U.S. government suspects of being a terrorist.” Just as was true of all those GOP abuses, what makes these Democratic proposals so dangerous is that they constitute a war on the most basic right of due process. As Vox’s Dara Lind explained, “If you give the government more power to ban terrorists from having guns, you’re reinforcing the power it has to define who counts as a terrorist.” That’s why the ACLU yesterday wrote to the Senate and denounced Feinstein’s bill:
It’s tempting for some Democratic faithful to believe that their party leaders do not really believe in this blatant attack on due process, but instead are just doing this as a political tactic, a form of trolling to place Republicans in an uncomfortable position on gun control. Though believing that might make Democrats feel better, it is pure fantasy, utterly unsustainable by looking at the naked reality of the Democratic Party.
That theory might have some viability if Democrats had spent the last eight years fighting against the Bush/Cheney no-fly list and other forms of due process-free “terrorism” punishments. But the opposite is true: They have aggressively defended and expanded those policies. As The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux reported in 2014 after they obtained (and published) the U.S. government’s 166-page secret watchlist guidelines, “The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system” — ushering in massive increases in both the number of people on those lists and the ease of placing them on it.
It’s not just that there are huge numbers of people on the watchlist who have done nothing wrong. It’s much worse than that: People who are acquitted of the charges against them can and do remain on the watchlist if the FBI wants them to. As an ACLU report this year documented:
So it’s not that the Democrats have tried but were thwarted by the Big, Bad Republicans to get rid of secret watchlists, and are now using that against the GOP as some sort of genius rhetorical move. Just like George Bush and Dick Cheney did, Democrats love secret, due process-free terror watchlists. They have aggressively expanded their usage — overwhelmingly against American Muslims — and are now seeking to create a whole new list for an entirely different purpose. They’re doing this because they believe in it, and because they do not believe in due process.
But none of this should be surprising. This is who the Democratic Party is. They have proven over and over that they believe that the definition of “terrorist” is “someone whom the U.S. government suggests, in secret, might be a terrorist.”
Thus they have cheered all sorts of attacks on due process in the name of fearmongering over terrorism. Obama presided over a significant increase in mass surveillance. He has gone around the world, in at least seven predominantly Muslim countries, killing people with bombs and missiles shot by drones, then justifying it on the ground that the people he wanted to kill were terrorists. Democrats even stood and cheered as the Obama administration asserted (and exercised) the right to target U.S. citizens for execution via drone, based on nothing more than suspicion and government accusations; they even went to court to deny a father the right to have his American son have his day in court before being killed by the U.S. government.
[It should go without saying that Republicans here are no better. They watched approvingly for years as Bush and Cheney implemented this due process-free system of watchlists and secret punishments for terror suspects because it was predominantly affecting Muslims, and only began caring this year when their system (predictably) expanded, now to include gun rights. As I discussed last night with the ACLU’s Hina Shamsi:
Indeed, this is the 2003 document that created these secret, due process-free watchlists that Democrats have embraced and are now seeking to expand:
Moreover, for years, fearmongering about terrorism and accusing due process-advocating liberals of loving al Qaeda were staples of the GOP’s rhetoric. And GOP leaders still have not lost their touch when it comes to exploiting terror fears; just this week, Mitch McConnell plans to introduce a bill to expand secret, warrantless domestic surveillance by invoking Orlando.]
The Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of “due process” is really not that complicated: It provides that “no person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This is not some ancillary luxury; it’s one of the few genuine safeguards against tyranny. If you want to ban someone from buying a gun because you believe they’re a Terrorist or otherwise a Bad Person, then go create a procedure where the government must go to an actual court, present evidence, the accused can respond, and then a judicial ruling is issued. What kind of a person opposes that?
As many of you probably know yesterday it was 224 years since the ratification of the U.S Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, so this week I want to talk about some of the 10 amendments, so you could (maybe) learn about your rights a little bit more, since the law is being violated in our country quite a lot these days. Today’s topic is the 5th Amendment.
For starters, here’s the original text of the Amendment.
I’ve gotta be honest, it’s one of the most common situations in which authorities abuse the law and in most cases these rights are taken away from people of color. So It’s highly important for PoC to know this very well, if not by heart, not be afraid to report cases of the 5th Amendment’s violation.
You have the right to remain silent!
You have the right to terminate an encounter with a police officer unless you are being detained under police custody or have been arrested. The general rule is that you don’t have to answer any questions that the police ask you.
However, if you are being detained/arrested, please do not ever forget about Miranda’s warning (which is a “preventive criminal procedure rule that
law enforcement are required to administer to protect an individual who is in custody
and subject to direct questioning or its functional equivalent from a violation of his or her Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination”). You might have heard the first two warnings a lot on movies, but there are more:
There is much more to each of the amendments, with the 5th Amendment not being an exception, but I wanted to emphasize the things that are most important in my opinion. Truly hope this can help someone.
The California Supreme Court has ruled that the silence of suspects can be used against them.
Wading into a legally tangled vehicular manslaughter case, a sharply divided high court on Thursday effectively reinstated the felony conviction of a man accused in a 2007 San Francisco Bay Area crash that left an 8-year-old girl dead and her sister and mother injured.
Richard Tom was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter after authorities said he was speeding and slammed into another vehicle at a Redwood City intersection.
Prosecutors repeatedly told jurors during the trial that Tom’s failure to ask about the victims immediately after the crash but before police read him his so-called Miranda rights showed his guilt.
Legal analysts said the ruling could affect future cases, allowing prosecutors to exploit a suspect’s refusal to talk before invoking 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
“It’s a bad and questionable decision,” said Dennis Fischer, a longtime criminal appellate lawyer.
Tom’s attorney Marc Zilversmit said he is deciding whether to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue or renew his arguments in the state court of appeal.
“It’s a very dangerous ruling,” Zilversmit said. “If you say anything to the police, that can be used against you. Now, if you don’t say anything before you are warned of your rights, that too can be used against you.”
The state Supreme Court in a 4-3 ruling said Tom needed to explicitly assert his right to remain silent — before he was read his Miranda rights — for the silence to be inadmissible in court.
You realize that those only apply to American citizens right?
All persons born or naturalized in the United States
and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United
States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or
enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of
citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of
life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any
person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
No State shall make or
enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of
citizens of the United States(this is specifically referring to US Citizens) that; nor shall any State deprive any person of
life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any
person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws (Nor is used specifically to continue the negative, indicating that not only US citizens but, any person within US jurisdiction may not be deprived of due process and equal protection under the law) .
No one debates that non-citizens have the right to free speech and the freedom of religion, so why attempt to argue that they don’t have the right to a trial?
In a major loss for individual rights vis-a-vis the police, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that prosecutors could use a person’s silence against them in court if it comes before he’s told of his right to remain silent. The prosecutors used the silence of Genovevo Salinas to convict him of a 1992 murder. Because this was a non-custodial interview, the Court ruled that the prosecutors could use his silence even though citizens are allowed to refuse to speak with police. It is of little surprise that the pro-police powers decision was written by Samuel Alito who consistently rules in favor of expanding police powers. [continue]
From his car, Brooklyn resident Dick George sees a couple of cops exit an unmarked vehicle and perform a “stop and frisk” and three black youths. George takes pictures of this encounter. After the cops walk away, George tells youths that next time they should demand badge numbers.
Cops overhear this and one says “What did he just say to them, get our badge number? … Let’s go get him,” or words to that effect. The cops then accost George:
After stopping George’s car, the cops roughed him up, handcuffed him, and took him to the precinct house, where he was strip-searched, locked in a cell, and charged with disorderly conduct. When he got his cellphone back after being released with a desk appearance ticket, he found that the photos of the stop-and-frisk encounter had been deleted.
According to George’s complaint, the cops repeatedly told him he was getting what he deserved for “being an activist.” Ferber allegedly said something like: “Now we are going to give you what you deserve for meddling in our business and when we finish with you, you can sue the city for $5,000,000 and get rich. We don’t care.”
That estimate was off by a factor of 40. The New York Daily Newsreported on Monday that the city agreed to settle George’s lawsuit for $125,000. “After a thorough review of the case facts,” a lawyer for the city said, “it was in the best interest of all to resolve this matter without costly litigation and trial.”
The officers, of course, are not on the hook for any of that money, which will instead come out of taxpayers’ pockets. And judging from the comments reported by George, the prospect of litigation does not deter this sort of unlawful bullying. The problem was not that the cops didn’t realize they were violating George’s rights; it was that they did not care, because they did not expect to suffer any negative consequences as a result—for good reason, according to the lawsuit:
The supervisory staff of the NYPD has consistently failed to investigate allegations such as those contained herein and to discipline officers who have violated NYPD guidelines. The investigation of these incidents by central office and/or supervisory staff reflects a bias in favor of uniformed officers. Furthermore, officers and staff who are known to have violated an individual’s civil rights in one command are often transferred by NYPD to another command rather than be disciplined, demoted or fired by the NYPD.
The cost of settling lawsuits like George’s helps explain the recent NYPD memo. But reminding cops that they are supposed to respect people’s constitutional rights will not accomplish much unless they suffer personally for violating them. Since courts have ruled that cops do not receive qualified immunity in cases like this (because the right to record them is well established), officers can theoretically find themselves owing damages to the people they victimize. But the usual practice in settling cases is to drop claims against individual cops along with claims against the city and the police department. Maybe it is time to reconsider that practice. The threat of financial ruin would be harder to laugh off than the threat of taxpayer-funded damages.
Teacher disciplined for informing kids of 5th amendment rights
High school teacher John Dryden from Illinois faces disciplinary action from his school district for informing kids they had the right to not answer questions on a school survey. The questions were about the kids’ tobacco, drug, and alcohol use, and answering them might have incriminated the kids. The Resident (aka Lori Harfenist) discusses the story.
James Duane is one of my professors. In 2008, he recorded a lecture about why you should never, under any circumstances, talk to the police, vouched for by a police officer. It’s gotten over 6,000,000 views now, for good reason; he’s a pretty rad guy.
Last week America was rocked by the cold-blooded murder of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Unlike the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Orlando shooter appears to be a lone gunman who, while claiming allegiance to ISIS, was not actually working with a terrorist group. About the only thing Orlando has in common with 9/11 is the way power-hungry politicians and federal officials wasted no time using it to justify expanding government and restricting liberty.
Immediately following the shooting, we began to hear renewed calls for increased government surveillance of Muslims, including spying on Muslim religious services. Although the Orlando shooter was born in the US, some are using the shooting to renew the debate over Muslim immigration. While the government certainly should prevent terrorists from entering the country, singling out individuals for government surveillance and other violations of their rights because of religious faith violates the First Amendment and establishes a dangerous precedent that will be used against other groups. In addition, scapegoating all Muslims because of the act of one deranged individual strengthens groups like ISIS by making it appear that the US government is at war with Islam.
The Orlando shooting is being used to justify mass surveillance and warrantless wiretapping. For the past three years, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill limiting mass surveillance. But, last week, the same amendment was voted down. The only difference between this year’s debate and previous debates was that this year defenders of the surveillance state were able to claim that the Orlando shooting justifies shredding the Fourth Amendment.
The fact that the Orlando shooter had twice been investigated by the FBI shows that increased surveillance and wiretapping would not have prevented the shooting. Mass surveillance also creates a “needle in a haystack” problem that can make it difficult, or impossible, for law enforcement to identify real threats. Unfortunately, evidence that giving up liberty does not increase security has never deterred those who spread fear to gain support for increased government power.
The Orlando shooter successfully passed several background checks and was a licensed security guard. But, just like those who used Orlando to defend unconstitutional surveillance, authoritarian supporters of gun control are not allowing facts to stand in the way of using the Orlando shooting to advance their agenda. Second Amendment opponents are using Orlando to give the federal government new powers to violate individuals’ rights without due process. One pro-gun control senator actually said that “due process is what’s killing us.”
Ironically, if not surprisingly, one of those calling for new gun control laws is Hillary Clinton. When she was secretary of state, Clinton supported interventions in the Middle East that resulted in ISIS obtaining firearms paid for by US taxpayers!
Mass surveillance, gun control, and other restrictions on our liberty will not prevent future Orlandos. In fact, by preventing law-abiding Americans from defending themselves, gun control laws make us less safe from criminals. Similarly, mass surveillance and warrantless wiretapping erode our rights while making it more difficult for law enforcement to identify real threats.
If Congress really cared about our security and liberty, it would repeal all federal gun laws, end all unconstitutional surveillance, and end the hyper-interventionist foreign policy that causes many around the world to resent the US.
So that all is clear: this ruling means that your right to not incriminate yourself doesn’t protect you from having to unencrypt your laptop, but it does protect you from having the fact that you DID unencrypt it used against you.
This case, notably, isn’t about whether or not the police can force you to unencrypt your laptop as part of a search, i.e. your 4th Amendment rights in this situation. Which is something that I can’t help but wonder about.