Liberal Anti-Drone-Policy activists ask legal accountability — but Obama and Congress could not care less

Rights Groups, in Letter to Obama, Question Legality and Secrecy of Drone Killings

[Yahya Arhab/European Pressphoto Agency — A drone model burned Friday at a protest in Sana, Yemen. Most American drone attacks have been in Yemen and Pakistan.]
By , New York Times, April 12, 2013

In a letter sent to President Obama this week, the nation’s leading human rights organizations questioned the legal basis for targeted killing and called for an end to the secrecy surrounding the use of drones.

The “statement of shared concern” said the administration should “publicly disclose key targeted killing standards and criteria; ensure that U.S. lethal force operations abroad comply with international law; enable meaningful Congressional oversight and judicial review; and ensure effective investigations, tracking and response to civilian harm.”

The nine-page letter, signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, the Open Society Foundations and several other groups, is the most significant critique to date by advocacy groups of what has become the centerpiece of the United States’ counterterrorism efforts.

While not directly calling the strikes illegal under international law, the letter lists what it calls troubling reports of the criteria used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command to select targets and assess results. The reported policies raise “serious questions about whether the U.S. is operating in accordance with international law,” the letter says. It is also signed by the Center for Civilians in Conflict and units of the New York University and Columbia Law Schools. Continue reading

ACLU Sues On Behalf Of PA Man Arrested For Recording Police Officer

By Guest Blogger on ThinkProgress.org, July 19, 2012

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pennsylvania resident Gregory Rizer, who was arrested in January for recording a police officer aggressively questioning his quadriplegic friend. The officer also confiscated Rizer’s cell phone.

When Rizer complained to the mayor’s office about the arrest, the Point Marion Police Department arrested him at home and charged him with violating Pennsylvania’s wiretap law, which bans audio recording unless all parties consent. The district attorney has since removed the charges and returned Rizer’s cell phone – without the recording. The ACLU argues that Rizer was within his rights to record the officer because “the state’s Wiretap Act does not apply if the person being recorded does not have a reasonable ‘expectation of privacy.’” ACLU cooperating lawyer Glen Downey explained,

“The explosion of technology that allows almost every citizen to document and record the interactions between police and civilians makes it incumbent that both the officers and those seeking to record them understand that officers cannot shield themselves from public scrutiny by invoking wiretap laws. Police officers performing their official duties do not possess the requisite reasonable expectation of privacy necessary to be covered by the statute.”

There have been reports from across the country of police officers interfering with cell phone recording of their actions. Earlier this month, the New York City Police Department put out a flyer warning against a couple who record “stop-and-frisk” searches in the city. New York’s ACLU chapter released a phone app, “Stop-and-Frisk Watch,” to help New Yorkers hold police officers executing these controversial searches accountable.

Last week, New Jersey’s ACLU chapter released a similar app, “Police Tape,” an Android phone app that allows users to discreetly videotape and record police officers. The app also explains American civil rights and allows users to send recordings to ACLU databases for backup storage.

– Ben Sherman

USA: The hollow words and empty claims of “democratic rights”

[The noted Black author James Balwin wrote to Angela Davis in 1970, when she was being unjustly prosecuted during the Nixon era, that “we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”  These words continue to ring true, and loud, today. Those who act like nothing’s wrong, those who do not speak and act against the unjust persecution of people of whatever shape, size, color, and belief, will certainly face such fate themselves, in due time.  The time to resist is now. — Frontlines ed.]

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President Obama Signs Indefinite Detention Bill Into Law

Statement from the American Civil Liberties Union–FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–December 31, 2011

CONTACT: media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON – President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law today. The statute contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision.  While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use the authorities granted by the NDAA, and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations.  The White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA, but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill.

“President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.  The ACLU will fight worldwide detention authority wherever we can, be it in court, in Congress, or internationally.” Continue reading

FBI’s racial profiling of targeted communities in the name of “national security”

ACLU in NY accuses FBI of racial profiling

By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press, October 20, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union accused the FBI on Thursday of abusing increased powers it was given after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by collecting and analyzing racial and ethnic demographic information across the country based on widespread stereotypes.

The civil rights group based findings in its report on documents obtained from the FBI through Freedom Of Information Act requests made last year through 34 ACLU affiliates. It said the partially redacted documents put on its website show the FBI crossed the line in its assessment of Arab Americans in Michigan, blacks in Georgia, Chinese and Russian-Americans in California and large groups of Hispanic communities in Michigan.

“The FBI’s own documents confirm our worst fears about how it is using its overly expansive surveillance and racial profiling authority,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project. “The FBI has targeted minority American communities around the country for investigation based not on suspicion of actual wrongdoing but on the crudest stereotypes about which groups commit different types of crimes.” Continue reading

Videotaping Philadelphia Police–legal rights and repressive reality

Even a top cop concedes a right to video arrests – but the street tells a different story

September 03, 2011|
BY JAN RANSOM, ransomj@phillynews.com

TAMERA MEDLEY begged the police officer to stop slamming her head – over and over – into the hood of a police cruiser.

Thinking they were helping, passers-by Shakir Riley and Melissa Hurling both turned their cellphone video cameras toward the melee that had erupted on Jefferson Street in Wynnefield, they said.

But then the cops turned on them.

Riley had started to walk away when at least five baton-wielding cops followed him, he said, and they beat him, poured a soda on his face and stomped on his phone, destroying the video he had just taken.

Meanwhile, two officers approached Hurling, urged her to leave and, after exchanging a few words, slammed her against a police cruiser, Hurling said. They pulled her by her hair before tossing her into the back of a cop car, she said. Continue reading

Judge dismisses case of US citizen on ‘kill list’ of the Obama administration and military

Islamic preacher and leader Anwar al-'Awlaqi

 

Court Dismisses Targeted Killing Case On Procedural Grounds Without Addressing Merits

Judge Acknowledges ACLU And CCR Case Raises Important Questions About Legality Of Obama Administration’s Claimed  Authority To Kill Americans Outside Combat Zones

“The government has unreviewable authority to carry out the targeted killing of any American, anywhere, whom the president deems to be a threat to the nation.”

WASHINGTON – A federal court today acknowledged the serious issues raised by a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s targeted killing policy, but dismissed the case on the grounds that the plaintiff did not have legal standing to challenge the targeting of his son, and that the case raised “political questions” not subject to court review.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)  filed the lawsuit in August, charging that the administration’s asserted authority to execute U.S. citizens outside combat zones who do not pose an imminent threat violates the U.S. Constitution and international law. The judge did not rule on the merits of the case.

Despite granting the government’s motion to dismiss the case, Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia called the case “unique and extraordinary,” said it presented “[s]tark, and perplexing, questions” and found that the merits “present fundamental questions of separation of powers involving the proper role of the courts in our constitutional structure.”

Ultimately, however, he dismissed the case on procedural grounds and found that “the serious issues regarding the merits of the alleged authorization of the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen overseas must await another day…” Continue reading

Obama Administration Defending Black Site Prison at Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan

Bagram air force base

October 28, 2010, This Can’t Be Happening

What Are They Hiding?
by Dave Lindorff

A victory for the government in a federal court in New York City Monday marks another slide deeper into Dick Cheney’s “dark side” for the Obama Administration.

In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been seeking to force the Pentagon to provide information about all captives it is holding at its huge prison facility at Bagram Airbase outside Kabul in Afghanistan, Federal District Judge Barbara Jones of the Southern District of New York has issued a summary judgement saying that the government may keep that information secret.

The lingering question is: Why does the US government so adamantly want to hide information about where captives were first taken into military custody, their citizenship, the length of their captivity, and the circumstances under which they were captured?

Says Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, “The military says that they can’t release the information because it would be a threat to national security, but they provided that information for the prisoners at Guantanamo.” Continue reading