Monday, November 28, 2005

Doonesbury: Defining Moments in Torture

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Activists Blast U.S. on Prisons

from the Washington Post:
Human rights workers and 20 former inmates at Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. terror-suspect prisons abroad convened a conference here Friday to bring new pressure on Washington to end what they called systematic torture and unjustified detention.

'Torture should have been kept where it belonged, in the 16th century, instead of being imported into the 21st,' said Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International, which is co-hosting the meeting. Ten other foreign prisoners will testify by videotape, in what organizers call the largest gathering ever of former Guantanamo prisoners and prisoners' families."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Patriot Act Progress, Growing Death Penalty Concerns

from the American Civil Liberties Union:
With all the big news coming out of Washington, it’s crucial that we not forget about one of the most important political stories of this decade: the fight to restore the fundamental liberties lost over Patriot Act reauthorization. We, and you, have been in a fierce struggle to bring much needed reform to this controversial legislation.

As you know, the House of Representatives and Senate have passed competing bills for renewal and these versions are set to be resolved in conference committee soon. This moment is our best chance to effect real reform. And our efforts are paying off.

The Bush administration thought they would be able to renew and expand the Patriot Act easily. We — the ACLU and our activists and bipartisan allies — have made the measure controversial enough that opponents of reform can’t just steamroll a bill through. Everyone expected a quick reauthorization this fall, but it is now November and we still cannot say for sure when the bill will reach the floor for a vote.

This is tremendous news and shows that we are winning the public debate. This week, the nation’s attention turned to the alarming Patriot Act proposals for expanding the federal death penalty. These new provisions would, among other things, allow prosecutors to dismiss a jury that deadlocks on a death sentence and replace it with successive “sentencing juries” until they get one to vote for the execution. It would also triple the number of federal crimes that can be punished by death.

The ACLU is aggressively fighting these expansions. Already, Mary Jo White, the former federal prosecutor who tried several al Qaeda suspects in the African embassy bombings, publicly opposed the measure. And we expect more prosecutors and law enforcement officials to come out against the proposal.

As public outcry over Patriot Act powers grows, both The New York Times and the Washington Post have weighed in unequivocally (something that doesn’t happen that often) against the House death penalty expansions. To “get the right answer on the Patriot Act, it is critical that controversial, unrelated legislation be considered separately,” said the Post. While The Times said “The House's simplistic vote for another ‘crackdown’ gesture can only further sully the notion of patriotism in a renewed Patriot Act.”

There is mounting pressure from an increasingly broad group of individuals and institutions to keep the Patriot Act free of divisive and unnecessary measures like the frightening changes to federal death penalty law.

Last month, for instance, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders reached out to Congress and called for reforms to the Patriot Act. In a recent press conference we stood with key conservative and libertarian allies in a bipartisan call for reform. More than 160 representatives and 25 senators who have signed a “dear colleague” letter pressing their fellow lawmakers to support much-needed Patriot Act fixes.

Our fight is also making steady progress in the courts. This week we presented oral arguments in our two cases challenging the constitutionality of “National Security Letters,” FBI demands for personal records issued without any review by a judge.

Our work on behalf of an Internet service provider reached the Second Circuit after a judge struck down one NSL power in the Patriot Act as entirely unconstitutional. The newer case involves an organization with library and Internet records whose identity cannot even be disclosed because of a government gag order. A lower court has already ruled that the gag violates the First Amendment. The government has appealed the decision, and we continue to fight for our client’s voice to be heard now, in the timely and critical debate over the Patriot Act.

Again, I thank you personally for your support. Without it, we would not be able to bring these suits, nor would we be able to corral such a large and amazingly diverse group of voices in favor of reform.

Because we have helped foment true debate in the halls of the Capitol, we cannot say for sure when the final votes on Patriot Act renewal will occur.

But we will have another update for you soon on the current controversy over the Patriot death penalty provisions, the "John Doe" litigation and the prospects for a vote.

Until then, know that we are winning.

Sincerely,

Anthony Romero
Executive Director
American Civil Liberties Union

P.S. One thing you can do today is help build our community of online activists. You are one of almost a quarter million Action Network members. Help us raise our voice even louder by signing up friends for a free subscription to the list. Please send them an email and let them know today.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Amnesty International: Urge Congress to Investigate Allegations of Torture

Urge Congress to adopt legislation to establish an independent commission to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees in US custody and determine responsibility up the chain of command. Urge Members of Congress to cosponsor and pass H.R. 3003, introduced by Congressman Henry Waxman, or similar legislation establishing an independent commission.

Amnesty Interational: Police Abuse and Misconduct against the LGBT Community

Amnesty International has released a report detailing human rights abuses suffered by members of the LGBT community that are perpetuated by law enforcement officials. The report highlights the treatment of LGBT individuals by the police within the larger framework of identity-based discrimination, and demonstrates how the interplay between different forms of discrimination, such as racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, create the conditions in which human rights abuses are perpetuated.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons

from The Washington Post:
The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.">CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons: "The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.