Posts Tagged 'Patriot Act'

Welcome Lynne Stewart Back to San Francisco!

Welcome Lynne Stewart
Back to San Francisco!
Friday, May 2, 6-8 PM
518 Valencia Street
(betw. 16th & 17th Sts)
1 1/2 blocks from 16th St. BART

Lynne, Mumia, & Pam

This is Lynne’s first trip to the Bay Area since her release from Federal prison. We will celebrate her life and struggle, and focus on the work ahead to free all political prisoners and fight racist mass incarceration.

Because of a determined people’s movement Lynne is finally home with her family on compassionate release. But she has urgent medical needs fight her metastatic breast cancer; This event is to help raise the needed money. Lynne gave a lifetime of courageous legal help to those of us who needed it the most. Now it’s our turn to help her. Please come.

This SF event is part of a series of Bay Area meetings with Lynne Stewart. For more information, contact Jeff Mackler at jmackler@imi.net or call 510-268-9429.

Background:

Lynne Stewart is a radical human rights attorney who has devoted her life to the oppressed and those deprived of their freedom and rights. During the massive suppression of civil liberties following 9/11, Lynne was falsely accused of helping terrorists and in outrageous legal proceedings was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in Federal prison. Her case stands as a prime example of government action to silence dissent, curtail vigorous defense lawyers, and install fear in those who would fight the government’s racism and injustice.

Advertisements

May 17th Gray Panther Program: MayDay! MayDay! Civil Liberties Under Attack!

MayDay

Civil Liberties under Attack

MayDay! MayDay! Civil Liberties Under Attack!
A SF Gray Panthers Program
Tuesday, May 17, 1 PM
Fireside Room, Unitarian Center
1187 Franklin Street (at Geary)

The extra-judicial killing of Osama Bin Laden has stimulated a flurry of right-wing radicals — Cheney for one — who now propose that torture be legalized. Congress is debating extension of the USA Patriot Act, for three years. The SF Gray Panthers will present a program on the Patriot Act and the Bill of Rights.

Hastily passed after 9/11, the USA Patriot Act is considered by many to be the greatest threat in decades to civil liberties and constitutionally-protected rights of free speech and protections against unwarranted searches and seizures. The Act was due to expire in February, but the Senate did not authorize renewal, so the Act was extended for debate until May 27.

The three most controversial sections of the Patriot Act are:

1) “Section 215,” allowing the government to seize records or “any tangible thing” from any person.

2) “Roving Wiretap” orders which do not have to specify the names or devices targeted.

3) a “Lone Wolf” provision which reduces legal protections for individuals alleged to be a threat.

SF Gray Panthers has opposed the USA Patriot Act from the beginning, hosting public informational meetings and participating in demonstrations against the Act. A list of Gray Panther articles on the Patriot Act is available at http://tinyurl.com/4yk7mdn .

short link to this post: http://wp.me/p3xLR-rf

Free Lynne Stewart!

Protest the Jailing of Lynne Stewart.   One of the first victims of the Patriot Act, she was convicted of aiding and abetting terrorism in the course of her legal work. Based on her years of defending the most exploited, and government infringement of attorney-client confidentiality in the case, she was sentenced to only 28 months of detention, and was freed on appeal.  Now, at age 70 and battling breast cancer, she has been ordered to jail, and her sentence is being reviewed to be increased. Read more.

SF Gray Panther Newsletter, December, 2009
Lynne Stewart’s Appeal Denied

Lynne at the SF Gray Panthers

Lynne at the SF Gray Panthers

After a long career representing the poor, oppressed and unpopular, radical attorney Lynne Stewart has been sent to jail. On November 17, a federal appeals court upheld her 2005 conviction of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists and ordered her bond revoked. It also faulted District Judge John G. Koeltl for failing to issue a finding on whether she had committed perjury, and ordered him to review the mitigating circumstances that led him to sentence her to 28 months rather than the 30 years requested by the government. .

In the many years since charges were brought against her, the Gray Panthers have participated in nation-wide support and fundraising efforts for Lynne. In a typical political analysis of the events, she said the decision’s timing, “coming as it does on the eve of the arrival of the tortured men from the offshore prison in Guantánamo,” carried a message. “If you’re going to lawyer for these people, you’d better toe very close to the line that the government has set out.”

To send Lynne a letter, write:

Lynne Stewart, #53504-054
MCC-NY
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007

Read SF Gray Panthers page on Lynne Stewart

Jeff Mackler wrote:

Dear Friends of Lynne Stewart,

I just got off the phone with Lynne Stewart a few minutes ago, that is, late Wednesday (early Thursday, November 19, New York time).  She bravely told me that she has been ordered to report to U.S. Federal Marshals to be imprisoned at 5 pm, Thursday, November 19.  There will be a 4 pm NY rally of her supporters, who will escort her to the courthouse for imprisonment.

In San Francisco, we will rally on Monday, Nov. 23 to protest Lynne’s frame-up trial and imprisonment.  Be there!  (See above.)

Background:

Following the November 16 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit that rejected Lynne Stewart’s appeal of her 1995 frame-up conviction on five counts of aiding and abetting terrorism, Lynne’s legal team as well as the federal district court were in a quandary as to how to proceed.  (Lynne has been a leading civil and human rights attorney for 30-years.  She is a member of the National Lawyers Guild and a member of the Continuations Committee of the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations.)

The Second Circuit made what amounted to an unprecedented decision to not only affirm her conviction and reject her appeal but to order that her bail be revoked and that she be remanded to prison.  But lacking clear orders as to who would carry out this decision and when it would happen, the last two days have seen Lynne appear, along with her supporters at two rallies in her defense and numerous press conferences and interviews while judges and lawyers tried to ascertain what to do.  That decision has been made and Lynne will begin serving a 28-month prison term.

However, the Second Circuit’s 2-1 decision also remanded the issue of the length of Lynne’s sentence back to Judge John Koeltl’s Federal District Court ordering Koeltl to reconsider the 28-month jail sentence that he originally imposed.  Obviously furious at the relatively short duration of the sentence, the Second Circuit accepted the prosecution’s assertion that Koeltl had not properly considered the question of whether or not Lynne has perjured herself during her trial.  If that were to be determined, according to the Second Circuit, the length of Lynne’s sentence could be extended.  The single dissenting judge went further — expressing his outrage at Lynne’s relatively short sentence and suggesting that a qualitatively longer sentence be imposed than the majority contemplated.  The government originally demanded a 30-year sentence!

Still fighting, Lynne’s attorneys will ask the Second Circuit for a delay in her incarceration based on Lynne’s scheduled December surgery.  Here too, Lynne guesses that this will be denied, with the court holding that prison facilities are adequate for any medical needs that Lynne, a diabetic with hypertension and recovering from breast cancer surgery, may have.

Meanwhile, a new sentencing hearing before Judge Koeltl is scheduled for December 2 at the Foley Square Courthouse.  Federal prosecutors are expected to ask for the maximum sentence possible.  Also appearing in court will be Mohamed Yousry, Lynne’s innocent co-defendant and translator.  Koeltl was also ordered to reconsider Yousry’s 20-month sentence.  The prison term of a third defendant in Lynne’s case, Ahmed Sattar, who was sentenced to 20-plus years, was not challenged.

At this point we can only speculate as to whether Judge Koeltl will stand by his original sentence or be pressured by the Second Circuit to extend Lynne and Mohammed’s sentences.  The judge is known to carefully consider his sentences.  Close observers believe that he is unlikely to bend and impose a longer sentence.

Should Koeltl refuse to add additional years to Lynne’s prison term, the government is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Government prosecutors and obviously the Second Circuit are outraged that a “convicted terrorist” has been walking around the streets for the past five years, free to champion her own cause and those of all others who suffer political repression.  It was clear from Judge Koeltl’s short sentence and high praise of Lynne’s record as an attorney and human being, a “credit to her profession,” said Koeltl during the sentencing hearing, that he felt compelled to take his distance from the government’s desire to put Lynne, 70, in prison for what would amount to the rest of her life.

Lynne will appeal the Second Circuit’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.  She has repeatedly stated that her prosecution and persecution are consciously orchestrated by the government to chill the defense bar, that is, to instill the fear of government prosecutions into any attorney who seeks to afford alleged terrorists or others who are victims of unjust government persecution a vigorous and dedicated defense.  Lynne points to the upcoming U.S. prosecution efforts of Guantanamo prisoners as a prime example.

For further information contact: Jeff Mackler, Coordinator, West Coast Lynne Stewart Defense Committee 510-268-9429, <jmackler@lmi.net>.  Mail tax-free contributions payable to National Lawyers Guild Foundation.  Write in memo box: “Lynne Stewart Defense.”  Mail to: Lynne Stewart Defense, P.O. Box 10328, Oakland, CA 94610.

Lynne Stewart is charged for her actions acting as attorney for blind Egyptian cleric named Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, who is accused for the basement bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.  Further investigation of this bombing shows that operatives for Federal agencies were involved in setting up this action.  Read more here.

Obama Backs Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions

Wired, September 15, 2009

Obama Backs Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions

The Obama administration has told Congress it supports renewing three provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire at year’s end, measures making it easier for the government to spy within the United States.

In a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department said the administration might consider “modifications” to the act in order to protect civil liberties.

“The administration is willing to consider such ideas, provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness of these important authorities,” Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general, wrote to Leahy, (.pdf) whose committee is expected to consider renewing the three expiring Patriot Act provisions next week. The government disclosed the letter Tuesday.

It should come as no surprise that President Barack Obama supports renewing the provisions, which were part of the Patriot Act approved six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

As an Illinois senator in 2008, he voted to allow the warrantless monitoring of Americans’ electronic communications if they are communicating overseas with somebody the government believes is linked to terrorism. That legislative package, which President George W. Bush signed, also immunized the nation’s telecommunication companies from lawsuits charging them with being complicit with the Bush administration’s warrantless, wiretapping program. That program was also adopted in the wake of Sept. 11.

These are the three provisions due to expire:

*A secret court, known as the FISA court, may grant “roving wiretaps” without the government identifying the target. Generally, the authorities must assert that the target is an agent of a foreign power and/or a suspected terrorist. The government said Tuesday that 22 such warrants — which allow the monitoring of any communication device — have been granted annually.

*The FISA court may grant warrants for “business records,” from banking to library to medical records. Generally, the government must assert that the records are relevant to foreign intelligence gathering and/or a terrorism investigation. The government said Tuesday that 220 of these warrants had been granted between 2004 and 2007. It said 2004 was the first year those powers were used.

*A so-called “lone wolf” provision, enacted in 2004, allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of an individual even without showing that the person is an agent of a foreign power or a suspected terrorist. The government said Tuesday it has never invoked that provision, but said it wants to keep the authority to do so.

“The basic idea behind the authority was to cover situations in which information linking the target of an investigation to an international group was absent or insufficient, although the target’s engagement in ‘international terrorism’ was sufficiently established,” Weich wrote.

The American Civil Liberties opposes renewing all three provisions, especially the lone wolf measure.

Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s legislative counsel, said in a telephone interview, “The justification for FISA and these lower standards and letting it operate in secret was all about terrorist groups and foreign governments, that they posed a unique threat other than the normal criminal element. This lone wolf provision undercuts that justification.”

The committee hearing is set for 10 a.m. Sept. 23 and will be webcast live.
See Also:

More on the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act

“Violent Radicalization” is defined as “The process of adapting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically-based violence, (or) advance political, religious, or social change.”

“Homegrown terrorism” is defined as “The use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States, to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the US, or any segment thereof, in furthance of political or social objectives.”

“Ideologically-based violence” is defined as “The use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individuals political, religious, or social beliefs.”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Baltimore Sun, November 20, 2007

Here come the thought police

By Ralph E. Shaffer and R. William Robinson

With overwhelming bipartisan support, Rep. Jane Harman’s “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act” passed the House 404-6 late last month and now rests in Sen. Joe Lieberman’s Homeland Security Committee. Swift Senate passage appears certain.

Not since the “Patriot Act” of 2001 has any bill so threatened our constitutionally guaranteed rights.

The historian Henry Steele Commager, denouncing President John Adams’ suppression of free speech in the 1790s, argued that the Bill of Rights was not written to protect government from dissenters but to provide a legal means for citizens to oppose a government they didn’t trust. Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence not only proclaimed the right to dissent but declared it a people’s duty, under certain conditions, to alter or abolish their government.

In that vein, diverse groups vigorously oppose Ms. Harman’s effort to stifle dissent. Unfortunately, the mainstream press and leading presidential candidates remain silent.

Ms. Harman, a California Democrat, thinks it likely that the United States will face a native brand of terrorism in the immediate future and offers a plan to deal with ideologically based violence.

But her plan is a greater danger to us than the threats she fears. Her bill tramples constitutional rights by creating a commission with sweeping investigative power and a mandate to propose laws prohibiting whatever the commission labels “homegrown terrorism.”

The proposed commission is a menace through its power to hold hearings, take testimony and administer oaths, an authority granted to even individual members of the commission – little Joe McCarthys – who will tour the country to hold their own private hearings. An aura of authority will automatically accompany this congressionally authorized mandate to expose native terrorism.

Ms. Harman’s proposal includes an absurd attack on the Internet, criticizing it for providing Americans with “access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda,” and legalizes an insidious infiltration of targeted organizations. The misnamed “Center of Excellence,” which would function after the commission is disbanded in 18 months, gives the semblance of intellectual research to what is otherwise the suppression of dissent.

While its purpose is to prevent terrorism, the bill doesn’t criminalize any specific conduct or contain penalties. But the commission’s findings will be cited by those who see a terrorist under every bed and who will demand enactment of criminal penalties that further restrict free speech and other civil liberties. Action contrary to the commission’s findings will be interpreted as a sign of treason at worst or a lack of patriotism at the least.

While Ms. Harman denies that her proposal creates “thought police,” it defines “homegrown terrorism” as “planned” or “threatened” use of force to coerce the government or the people in the promotion of “political or social objectives.” That means that no force need actually have occurred as long as the government charges that the individual or group thought about doing it.

Any social or economic reform is fair game. Have a march of 100 or 100,000 people to demand a reform – amnesty for illegal immigrants or overturning Roe v. Wade – and someone can perceive that to be a use of force to intimidate the people, courts or government.

The bill defines “violent radicalization” as promoting an “extremist belief system.” But American governments, state and national, have a long history of interpreting radical “belief systems” as inevitably leading to violence to facilitate change.

Examples of the resulting crackdowns on such protests include the conviction and execution of anarchists tied to Chicago’s 1886 Haymarket Riot. Hearings conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee for several decades during the Cold War and the solo hearings by a member of that committee’s Senate counterpart, Joseph McCarthy, demonstrate the dangers inherent in Ms. Harman’s legislation.

Ms. Harman denies that her bill is a threat to the First Amendment. It clearly states that no measure to prevent homegrown terrorism should violate “constitutional rights, civil rights or civil liberties.”

But the present administration has demonstrated, in its response to criticism regarding torture, that it can’t be trusted to honor those rights.

Ralph E. Shaffer, professor emeritus of history at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and R. William Robinson, an elected director of a Southern California water district, wrote this article for the History News Service.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In These Times, November 1, 2007

Examining the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act
http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3388/examining_the_homegrown_terrorism_prevention_act/

By Lindsay Beyerstein

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act passed the House of Representatives on Oct. 23 by a vote of 404-6. The wide margin is indicative of a growing concern among U.S. authorities about the potential for so-called “homegrown terrorism” in the United States.

“The impetus is that homegrown terror is something that we now see in Western Europe. It’s by far the number one threat to security in Britain,” Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), who introduced the bill, told In These Times.

Some of the most infamous terrorist attacks in U.S. history have been carried out by citizens, including the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Harman doesn’t believe homegrown terrorism is a major threat to U.S. security today, but she says that it is important to learn from experiences in other countries like Britain and Canada, where citizens have been inspired to commit terrorism at home by Islamic propagandists reaching out over the Internet.

One of the findings of the bill is that, “the Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.”

“A chief problem is radical forms of Islam, but we’re not only studying radical Islam,” Harman says. “We’re studying the phenomenon of people with radical beliefs who turn into people who would use violence.”

That worries Mike German, policy counsel for the ACLU, who calls the legislation “wrongheaded” because it focuses on ideology, rather than criminal activity. The bill calls for heightened scrutiny of people who believe, or might come to believe, in a violent ideology. German wants the government to focus on people who are actually committing crimes, rather than those who are merely entertaining violent ideas, something perfectly legal.

Harman’s bill would convene a 10-member national commission to study “violent radicalization” (defined as “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change”) and “homegrown terrorism” (defined as “the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States […] to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”).

The bill also directs the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to designate a “center of excellence,” a university-based research center where academics, policy-makers, members of the private sector and other stakeholders can collaborate to better understand and prevent radicalization and homegrown terrorism.

Some experts have raised concerns about whether politics will unduly influence which institution DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff will pick.

“The bill replicates what already exists without peer review and safeguards,” says Chip Berlet, a senior policy analyst for Political Research Associates, an independent non-profit research organization that studies political violence, authoritarianism, and homegrown terrorism.

The bill stipulates that the research center be chosen on the basis of merit and according to existing DHS protocols.

However, Amy Kudwa, a spokeswoman for DHS, says she “would be surprised” if the selection process were peer-reviewed. Kudwa could not supply the full details of the selection process and funding arrangements as of press time.

Berlet characterizes the proposed research center as “a slush fund for politically connected people inside the Beltway.”

Mark Hamm, a former warden and current professor at Indiana State University who studies radicalization in prisons, expressed confidence in the good intentions of the Homeland Security administrators, but he echoed Berlet’s concerns about the potential for insularity.

“Government tends to reach out to the people that are known within the government to do this type of work,” Hamm says. “When the government reaches out in the area of terrorism, they reach out to Washington, they reach out to the Beltway.”

Rep. Harman strongly disputes the notion that political concerns will influence the selection of Commission members or the selection of the center of excellence.

“We’re not looking for political cronies,” Harman says.

But each of the 10 commission members will be appointed by a high-ranking elected official. The appointers include the president, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Speaker and ranking member of the House, the Majority and Minority leaders of the Senate, and senior members of the House and Senate committees overseeing homeland security.

The FBI already has a domestic terrorism unit. The U.S. intelligence community also monitors the homegrown terrorists and overseas networks that might be reaching out to US residents. The July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate included a section headed, “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland.” But Harman argues that a national commission on homegrown terrorism could benefit the country in much the same way as the 9/11 Commission, the Silberman/Robb Commission or other high-profile national security inquiries.

Whatever the merits of a commission, they seem to be separate from the arguments for a center for excellence. After all, Congress can request testimony from the experts of its choice. There are other ways to fund research into domestic terrorism, including research grants awarded by peer review. One of the amendments to the bill emphasized the importance of international cooperation between U.S. authorities and experts in countries that have already contended with homegrown Islamic terrorist plots, but there is nothing stopping Congress from consulting with those experts now.

Berlet questions why the country needs the Secretary of Homeland Security to channel resources through a handpicked “center of excellence” when there are already so many scholars organizations studying political violence in America. He cited the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center as long-established, institutional sources of expertise on homegrown terrorism. Their efforts are complimented by independent scholars and writers across the country.

“Congress could just read their books,” he says.

Harman says she did not know who would be chosen to sit on the Commission. Nor did she suggest any names that might appear on the short list. She also told In These Times that it hasn’t been determined which institution will be chosen to host the Center for Excellence.

Hamm believes DHS might look to preexisting Centers of Excellence, such as the START program at the University of Maryland, which already has a working group on terrorist group formation and recruitment.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill will cost approximately $22 million over four years.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) voted against the bill because he objected to the government spending new money on this project when the House just passed a $37 billion appropriations bill for Homeland Security, Flake’s spokesman told In These Times.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) issued a statement saying that the money could be better spend funding preexisting law-enforcement efforts, rather than funding another commission. None of the three Democrats who voted against the bill—Reps. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Neil Abercrombie (Hawaii), and Jerry Costello (Ill.)—was available for comment.

The bill’s broad language and loose definitions of “violent radicalization” and “homegrown terrorism” also arouse the concerns of many civil libertarians.

The broad wording of the bill leaves open many questions. If homegrown terrorism is defined to include “intimidation” of the United States government or any segment of its population—could the Commission or the Center of Excellence task itself with investigating groups advocating boycotts, general strikes, or other forms of non-violent “intimidation”?

“While we wholeheartedly support efforts to curtail terrorism, primarily coming from white supremacists, we would also like to see legislation that more vigorously defends civil rights,” says Devin Burghart, an expert on domestic terrorism at the Center for New Communities, a national civil and human rights organization based in Chicago.

Rep. Harman is careful to emphasize the language in the bill that states that the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts “shall not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.” However, the bill also directs the DHS to write its own rules to protect civil rights and puts the Department’s office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in charge of making the rules for the commission and the research center as well as administering the audits.

The ACLU’s German says that an internal civil liberties and privacy review is no substitute for independent oversight.

“Nobody should be fooled that such an office would have authority to address policies that are approved at a high level of the administration,” German says.


Archives

Categories

RSS Gray Panthers in the News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 589 other followers


%d bloggers like this: