We previously discussed the curious step of President Obama seeking approval for a new war while insisting that he does not need such authorization to attack Syria. Now, Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to a one week period for Syria to comply with U.S. demands or presumably face an attack. It so happens that the Senate is set to vote this week, but opposition in this country is extremely high to yet another military intervention by the Administration. Moreover, unsuccessful in his earlier pitch for a free war, Kerry is now trying to sell the world on an “unbelievably small” military campaign. The U.S. seems to be saying that President Obama just needs the world to let him attack briefly to show that he cannot be dismissed or mocked in his earlier red line announcement. However, Kerry suggested a new red line in turning over control of the weapons and Russia has now announced that it will ask Syria to put chemical weapons under international control. That would undermine further the U.S. rationale for war if Russia says that it is moving to comply with Kerry’s demand. However, State Department handlers are trying to again walk back from the Secretary’s public statements.
Archive for the 'Constitutional Law' Category
Kerry Suggests Assad Has One Week To Avoid Attack While Promising Obama Only Wants An “Unbelievably Small” Military CampaignPublished 1, September 9, 2013 Bizarre , Congress , Constitutional Law , International , Military , Politics 152 Comments
We previously discussed the shocking sentence handed down by Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh to a teacher who raped a 14-year-old student. Stacey Rambold, 54, (left) was given just 30 days in jail after Baugh found that the victim was “older than her chronological age.” It produced an outcry on this blog and other sites. Baugh then magnified the concerns over his judicial judgment by responding to the outcry by trying to re-sentence Rambold. It left the impression of a judge seeking a longer sentence in direct response to public pressure. The Montana Supreme Court stepped in to order Baugh to cancel the resentencing hearing.
Ninth Circuit Reverses Federal Judge Who Ruled That False Statement Of Prosecutor In Closing Argument Was HarmlessPublished 1, September 9, 2013 Bizarre , Constitutional Law , Criminal law 50 Comments
The Ninth Circuit ruled last week that La Carl Mertez Dow deserves a new trial in reversing a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton (left) in Oakland, California that it was harmless for a prosecutor to give false information to a jury that Dow was trying to hide a scar in a lineup. The fact that this case had to go to the federal court of appeals to be overturned is a chilling reminder of how our criminal justice system has been warped by the harmless error standard. Courts routinely find constitutional violations in federal cases only to dismiss them as harmless by saying that the defendant would likely have been convicted anyway. The case is Dow v. Virga, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 18468.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
The Show Me state, has been making news lately. Unfortunately, the news it has been making has nothing to do with the St. Louis Arch or the baseball Cardinals, but its legislature’s penchant for attempting to nullify Federal laws that it does not agree with. The State of Missouri is working hard to nullify Federal gun laws and Obamacare.
“If you ever wondered what a 21st century nullification crisis would look like, look no further than Missouri. One hundred and forty eight years after the end of the Civil War, the New York Times reports, “the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them.” Meanwhile, the Show Me State is doing everything it can to effectively block implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” Daily Kos
I guess Missouri wants to Show the rest of the nation that the Constitution and its Supremacy Clause is not worth the parchment it is written on. In case you are not sure what is meant when a State tries to nullify a Federal law, here is a little primer on the subject. Continue reading ‘Nullification-Missouri Style’
Guile For The Camera: Seattle Spends Five Million On Surveillance System It Cannot Decide How To UsePublished 1, September 7, 2013 Bizarre , Constitutional Law , Politics , Society 18 Comments
Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
In another shining example of “The White Elephant in the room might go away” the City Council of Seattle approved, in an 11 minute consultation, to proceed with acting to implement a large surveillance system on Seattle waterways before a five million dollar Homeland Security grant would be forfeited due to a “use it or lose it” clause. And so far, nobody has decided how to use it.
The system originated from the city seeking and being approved for a five million dollar federal grant to purportedly prevent terrorist acts on the popular waterfront areas of Puget Sound. The system operated 28 cameras connected by a wireless network. It seems the hunger for free money was to be quickly satisfied before any sort of plan or discussion as to the privacy or constitutional implications was considered. The council none-the-less snapped at the money unanimously but now is in disarray as to what to do with this new system.
by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
This is an update to a story originally posted here by Charlton Stanley, “Polygraphers trigger fear response in Federal prosecutors.“
Chad Dixon, a 34 year old Marion, Indiana little league coach who ran the “PolygraphExpert.net” website teaching people how to defeat polygraph tests, was sentenced to eight months in jail for threatening national security by teaching government job applicants how to beat lie-detector tests. Teaching such techniques and discussing them is not per se illegal. It is an admitted gray area in 1st Amendment jurisprudence. However, U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady found the evidence compelling enough that Dixon had crossed the line when he advised some clients, including two undercover officers, to conceal what he taught them while undergoing government polygraphs. This is in addition to the charges of obstruction and wire fraud Dixon plead guilty to last year.
Nina Ginsberg, Dixon’s attorney, accused prosecutors of trying to turn her client into a “poster child for its newly undertaken campaign” to stop people from using the polygraph disruption techniques. the prosecution had sought a two year sentence, but Judge O’Grady thought that eight months was sufficient. O’Grady said, “There’s nothing unlawful about maybe 95 percent of the business he conducted,” although he added that “a sentence of incarceration is absolutely necessary to deter others.”
As Charlton Stanley’s original column indicated, lie detectors are anything but a lie detector. “[L]ie detector technology has no known statistical properties with regard to detecting deception of any kind. It has not been accepted as science in the scientific community. The only thing scientists seem to agree on is most of these machines measure stress reactions in humans, and to that extent, they can measure stress in people who feel stress—that’s it.”
Deterrent based on legitimate concerns or chilling of free speech in the name of protecting a test of dubious value?
What do you think?
Source: Seattle Times
~submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
Tags: ACLU, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, DHS, Edward Snowden, encryption, FBI, FOIA, Internet Security, NSA, PRISM, Stingray, WikiLeaks
Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe) Guest Blogger
First there was WikiLeaks, then there was Edward Snowden. The drip, drip, drip of information about secretive spy agencies continues. There have been bombshell revelations about the extent to which government agencies like the FBI, CIA, NSA and others are invading our most private communications. Of course, spies do what spies do, and that is to spy on whoever or whatever they can get away with. Few people understood the implications of PRISM when news of the program was leaked. Additionally, I suspect that despite revelations of its existence, the full extent of its capability and reach will never be known by the public.
The NSA reportedly paid tech companies millions of dollars to cover the cost of compliance with their “requests” for back-door access to the software package.
Another program to keep in mind is the FBI Stingray operation that sucks up wireless telephone communications. Last May, in the first litigation where the government admitted having Stingray, Arizona Federal District Judge David Campbell dismissed a motion to suppress. Judge Campbell is a George W. Bush appointee. PDF of his ruling is here. Last July, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in the Northern District of California, in an effort to learn more about Stingray, and if it is scooping up domestic phone calls.
Continue reading ‘Encryption and the Spymasters: Is Privacy Dead?’
by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
There is an old adage, “What’s good for the goose is [not] sauce for the gander” or as phrased today “What’s good for the goose is [not] good for the gander”. The implication being that what is good for one is good for all or not good for all if stated in the negated form. A case out of Florida provides a perfect example to give this adage a workout.
The goose is former President George W. Bush.
The member of the gander in this case is William T. Woodward of Titusville, Florida. Woodward is charged with shooting three of his neighbors, two of them fatally, over the 2012 Labor Day weekend.
His defense? The sauce.
Woodward’s attorneys are asserting Florida’s “Stand Your Ground’ law and the Bush Doctrine.
Let’s examine this case in the light of the history and consequences of “Stand Your Ground”, the Bush Doctrine and how an equally controversial foreign policy stance might impact a domestic criminal proceeding.
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Arguments by analogy are used to justify a controversial claim by invoking a similar claim in a less controversial instance. While not deductively valid, a good analogy can provide a strong reason to accept the claim. In an effort to drum up support for a military strike on Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said that Syrian President Bashar Assad “now joins the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein who have used these weapons in time of war.” Other war drum beaters are warning about the “lessons of Munich” and Obama looking like Neville Chamberlain. When the analogy is tenuous, the argument becomes ludicrous.
In Ohio, Athens County Municipal Judge William A. Grim has been reversed in his denial of the right to appointed counsel to a young man accused of interfering with police. While Kelly Kasler, 22, is an adult and her parents declined to pay for a lawyer, Grim refused counsel to her because she was being supported in college by her parents. It was a clearly wrong decision and the concerns over Grim’s judgment were magnified in a case where a citizen is accused of interfering with police.
In a culture of the oppression and abuse of women, Sushmita Banerjee stood out. An Indian married to an Afghan businessman, Banerjee wrote of the rule of the Taliban and her effort to flee the medieval Islamic rules placed on women. Her book “A Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife” was an inspiration for women facing religious oppression and was later made into the movie “Escape From The Taliban.” The title proved tragically optimistic. This week, after she returned to her husband in Afghanistan, Banerjee was executed at her home by the Taliban.
The video below of Michigan State University Professor William Penn on the first day of his creative writing class has triggered an investigation by the university into a diatribe against Republicans. A student filmed the comments (and it was released by a conservative group) where Penn is heard attacking Republicans for “raping” America and refusing to pay taxes. The case will pit values of academic freedom against the need for an open and welcoming environment for students at universities.
Techdirt found an interesting example of how easy it is to censor videos on YouTube. After this faux ad appeared to criticize the control of cable companies, someone filed a defamation complaint and, as shown below, the video was removed. That’s right a faux ad criticizing unnamed cable companies was the basis for a defamation complaint according to the site.
In its latest attack on the free speech, the Obama Administration has secured a gag order to prevent activist-journalist Barrett Brown and his lawyers from discussing his work exposing online surveillance by the Administration. On this occasion, however, Eric Holder and the Obama Administration convinced a federal judge to go along. U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay in Dallas Texas has issued a sweeping gag order to prevent not just Brown but his legal team from discussing the online surveillance. The Justice Department insisted on the order to protect Brown. That’s right, they insist that, if Brown discussed the abusive surveillance by the Obama Administration, it would endanger his right to a fair trial.
Once Upon A Time There Was An Imperial President. . . Pelosi Explains To Five-Year-Old Why We Are Again At WarPublished 1, September 4, 2013 Congress , Constitutional Law , Military , Politics , Society 80 Comments
We have been following the abandonment of virtually core liberal values by Rep. Nancy Pelosi in her adherence to the cult of personality surrounding Barack Obama. From her attack on privacy to her new enthusiasm for war, Pelosi is the truest believer of the true believers surrounding Obama in the Democratic Party. Now she has been sharing a charming little story of how “Mimi” explained to their grandson how we are now at war. It turns out it is all about the children . . . not about the chemical weapons or reports that Obama is playing to turn the tide of the losing war for the rebels. Sort of like Save The Children . . . but with cruise missiles.
Despite the obvious free speech concerns, UCLA’s undergraduate student government unanimously passed a resolution last week to declare that any use of the term “illegal immigrant” is now deemed racist and offensive. It is an example of how anti-discrimination policies are cutting deeply into free speech. Millions of people in this country are indeed here illegally. While many would prefer to use “undocumented workers,” many others believe that these individuals are illegal by definition and should not be allowed to circumvent immigration laws. It is a worthy debate with arguments on both sides. However, I am very uncomfortable with students (who historically have been voiced for free speech) declaring that use of this descriptive term is now considered racist or prejudicial.
Another one of our close Arab allies are back in the news to remind us that basic freedoms are not part of our common alliance. Oman has shut down The Week newspaper after it published an article viewed as too sympathetic to homosexuality in the Gulf state. The country has a gay population but it insists that these citizens live like criminals under Islamic prohibitions of homosexuality. The Week is the largest circulation English-langauge weekly in the country.
There is an interesting ruling out of the Sixth Circuit this month where the court threw out a $10 million defamation lawsuit by a resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The resort was ranked the Number 1 on the 2011 “dirtiest hotels” list by TripAdvisor. Hotel owner Kenneth M. Seaton sued the website for defamation but Judge Thomas W. Phillips in Knoxville correctly rejected the claims in August 2012. The case is Seaton v. TripAdvisor LLC, 2013 FED App. 0255P (6th Cir.).
Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends: Obama Seeks Sweeping Authorization In The Name Of “Limited” WarPublished 1, September 2, 2013 Congress , Constitutional Law , Military , Politics 112 Comments
While claiming that he just needs a “limited” war against Syria to back up his “red line” threat, President Barack Obama is actually seeking a far broader mandate from Congress. The authorization would allow Obama to take any action that he “determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria” as well as acting to “prevent or deter the use or proliferation” of the weapons or to “protect the United States and its allies and partners” from the weapons.”
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
A story four days ago caught my attention and I thought I’d present it for discussion. In recent years many have claimed that there is a “war on religion” taking place in America. This “so-called war” has been the result of many rulings that have tried to enforce the cherished principle of “freedom of religion”, but of necessity could also be called “freedom from religion.” When I was young most of the stores in my neighborhood were required to close on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. This was a hardship for Jews that celebrated their Sabbath on Saturday and Muslims that celebrated their Sabbaths on Friday. It affected Asian merchants, with their own native beliefs, that didn’t have a formal Sabbath. Many of these “blue laws” have been repealed because of the reality that they are showing preferential treatment to one particular religion, in a country that is made up of many religions and whose Constitution is believed by many to ban such preferential treatment.
The Supreme Court’s most important case on “blue laws” is McGowan vs. Maryland.
“The Supreme Court of the United States held in its landmark case, McGowan v. Maryland (1961), that Maryland‘s blue laws violated neither the Free Exercise Clause nor the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It approved the state’s blue law restricting commercial activities on Sunday, noting that while such laws originated to encourage attendance at Christian churches, the contemporary Maryland laws were intended to serve “to provide a uniform day of rest for all citizens” on a secular basis and to promote the secular values of “health, safety, recreation, and general well-being” through a common day of rest. That this day coincides with Christian Sabbath is not a bar to the state’s secular goals; it neither reduces its effectiveness for secular purposes nor prevents adherents of other religions from observing their own holy days.
There were four landmark Sunday-law cases altogether in 1961. The other three were Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market of Mass., Inc., 366 U.S. 617 (1961); Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 (1961); Two Guys from Harrison vs. McGinley, 366 U.S. 582 (1961). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_laws
I personally disagree with the SCOTUS decision in these cases and think that the logic used is disingenuous. The purpose of the Sunday “blue laws” was of course to promote religious attendance and encourage that attendance at Christian services on Sunday. A secondary reason was one of respect to Christianity and its belief that the Sabbath day of rest demanded in the Ten Commandments was Sunday. To say that it was to serve as a “uniform day of rest for all citizens” is frankly an untruth and adds intent to these laws that was never present in their imposition. This week though another ruling came down in what I see as a related case involving what I see as our right to have “freedom from religion” and I would like to add that to the discussion. Continue reading ‘Higher Power or Else!’
In the cult of personality surrounding President Barack Obama, the ultimate test of loyalty is to shoot a cherish value. No one has proven herself more blindly loyal than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who previously led the fight to kill privacy in America as a demonstration of absolute fealty. Now, Pelosi appears to be advocating military action. In a meeting with the White House. Pelosi voiced the need for action. Presumably, this means military action — again — because Obama said that the use of chemical weapons would be a redline and of course Obama is not to be mocked. It is a test that England appears to have failed and now there is a concern that the White House views England with suspicion and distrust for balking at war.
In the 1930s, Bertolt Brecht asked in a poem ”What if they gave a war and nobody came?” The question today is of course silly. The United States will always be there for a war. In the first rejection of a request for military action since 1782, the Parliament voted 285 to 272 against approving a military strike against Syria. Undeterred, the White House today is saying that it is considering just bombing the country on its own and throwing aside any pretense of an international effort. By the way, that last time Parliament refused further military action was when the Crown was fighting a collection of colonies in the New World who, after independence, strongly opposed “foreign entanglements” and military ventures. The United States of America.
While President Obama continues to maintain that only he decides what constitutes a war and requires consultation (let alone a declaration) from Congress, there remains a modicum of democratic process in England. The Obama Administration was surprised to learn that British Prime Minister David Cameron could not simply plunge his nation into another military conflict and that Parliament did not want to blindly follow the United States into attacking Syria. They would like to wait for all of the facts to be established by the United Nations before deciding how to act. It is of course a ridiculous notion that was long ago discarded in this country. If that was the approach in the United States, we would never have been able to invade Iraq on false pretenses and spend hundreds of billions in a war that has cost us tens of thousands of dead and wounded service members. Indeed, such knowledge is steadfastly avoided by our own politicians. By simply giving Bush a blank approval, politicians like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry could later deny that they really approved of the Iraq war and insist that they were misled by Bush.
Russian police have shutdown an art gallery in the latest attack on free speech under President Vladimir Putin. The police declared a painting to be illegal and pornographic because it depicted Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in women’s underwear and another of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church covered in tattoos. The paintings were seized from the Museum of Power. Last year, we saw how a protester was arrested for spitting on the image of Putin during a demonstration. It appears that after years of cultivating a cult of personality with action-hero photo ops and staged acts, Putin is not about to let a bunch of artists mock his well constructed image.
Tulane Law Dean And Former U.S. Attorney Faces Questions Over Confrontation With Filmmaker On CampusPublished 1, August 27, 2013 Academics , Bizarre , Constitutional Law , Criminal law , Free Speech , Media , Politics , Society 82 Comments
There is a controversy brewing at Tulane Law School where I began my academic career. The law school was the scene of a confrontation between controversial conservative filmmaker and activist James O’Keefe and former U.S. Attorney James Letten whose office handled the prosecution of O’Keefe for his entry in the office of Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu under false pretenses. Letten is now an Assistant Dean at the law school. Letten never explained why he recused himself from the case but O’Keefe suggests that he was responsible for leaking confidential information to the media. In the video below posted and edited by O’Keefe, Letten confronted O’Keefe and accuses him of “terrorizing” his wife and violating state and federal law by appearing at the law school. Letten calls O’Keefe and his crew a bunch of “hobbits” and berates the filmmaker. While I am no fan of O’Keefe, I am afraid that I do not see the basis for the alleged crimes by O’Keefe or the basis for his being held by law enforcement outside of the law school. The school has banned O’Keefe from the campus after the confrontation with Letten.
We have previously discussed how students are being punished for out-of-school postings and statements on social media sites, a trend that I have criticized. Now, with the Supreme Court expanding the power of school officials to discipline students and teachers for outside activities, schools are creating their own surveillance and monitoring systems in our society. The Glendale Unified School District has hired a company called Geo Listening to monitor the conversations and postings of all of its students to detect any areas of concern. It is the latest example of how privacy in America is dying by a thousand papercuts.
President Barack Obama appears poised to take the country into yet another military campaign, according to the Washington Post. With critics mocking him over his repeated references to “red lines” in warning Syria, Obama seems to feel compelled to now act even if it could result in an expansion of the war. He is reportedly considering a two-day cruise missile and bomber campaign to hit targets unrelated to the chemical weapons of the country. It will cost hundreds of millions at a minimum, but we appear now to be at perpetual war even as we cancel key environmental, educational, and scientific programs (including program cuts this week).
After leading an assault on civil liberties and privacy in his Administration (as well as blocking efforts to prosecute Bush officials for torture), President Barack Obama may just be the last person who should be giving advice on training lawyers. Yet, Obama told lawyers last Friday that he would like to see law school cut by one-third to reduce time studying legal principles and history. Of course, given the number of constitutional provisions that Obama has effectively negated, it may take less time to study the remaining laws after the Obama years. Before law schools follow his lead to a fast-food version of legal education, we need to ask what we want in our lawyers. The President would reduce legal training to a program slightly longer than current paralegal schools.
Tags: creative sentencing, flogging, punishment, shaming
Submitted by Charlton Stanley, guest blogger
There is no dispute that jails are overcrowded. Many counties spend millions on new and improved jails, only to have them fill to capacity the first day they open. This is nothing new. Some judges have found themselves faced with the dilemma of sentencing a defendant to jail, but there is literally, “No room at the inn.” Some chief judges have been forced to order felony inmates released before their sentences were up, simply to make room for new inmates.
Some judges, especially at the municipal and county levels, have turned to creative sentencing. Some of the sentences seem to fit the crime and make one smile at the same time, such as sentencing young adults with ‘boom-box’ cars ticketed for loud music to spend anywhere from an hour to all day listening to classical music, jazz, bagpipes and oriental music. There was one judge who played saxophone in a jazz band, and he would throw in a few recordings of his own music. I don’t know how good the judge is on the sax, or whether that might come under the heading of cruel and unusual punishment.
There are a number of cases where slumlords were ordered to live in their own slum properties. One of those cases was used as the story line on a TV crime drama program several years ago.
Public shaming has been tried as an alternative sentence. Wearing sandwich board signs in public proclaiming their idiocy to their friends and neighbors, wearing a chicken suit, and whatever else the judge thought appropriate. When the Stolen Valor Act was in effect, one defendant was sentenced to 500 hours of community service working with groundskeepers tending the graves at the nearest National Cemetery. I don’t have a problem with making the sentence fit the offense, but some go too far, and some are far too lenient. Lack of consistency or rules for alternative sentences results in lack of fairness to both victims and defendants. It is the other extreme from mandatory minimum sentences where the judge has no discretion at all.
This weekend, Jonathan Turley, our blog host, debated Professor Peter Moskos on NPR. Mr. Moskos is a former police officer and now teaches law. He has written on the subject of alternative punishment, and the title of his most recent book, In Defense of Flogging, is provocative if nothing else. He also authored a column in the Washington Times entitled, Bring Back the Lash: Why flogging is more humane than prison.
Sorry, Professor Moskos. Fifty years after Dr. King gave his famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I don’t think we want to go there.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
I have to admit that I knew very little about the sovereign citizen movement before I read a New York times article a couple of days ago that opened my eyes to the movement and how some in that movement have attacked government officials and civil service workers. To fully understand how members of the sovereign citizens movement think, one must know a little about their beliefs.
“Sovereign citizens believe that in the 1800s, the federal government was gradually subverted and replaced by an illegitimate government. They create their own driver’s licenses and include their thumbprints on documents to distinguish their flesh and blood person from a “straw man” persona that they say has been created by the false government. When writing their names, they often add punctuation marks like colons or hyphens.” New York Times Continue reading ‘Sovereign Citizens With a Penchant for Filing Liens’
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a photography studio violated the the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA) by refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding. Vanessa Willock was told that Elane Photography had a moral objection to her gay wedding and sued under the act, which “prohibits a public accommodation from refusing to offer its services to a person based on that person’s sexual orientation.” The case is the latest in a growing number of such conflicts between religious beliefs and anti-discrimination laws. Because this is an expressive activity, it raises some difficult questions under the first amendment rights of the owners of Elane Photography, Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin. As one justice noted in concurrence, this is “the price of citizenship.” However, there remains the question of the right of citizens not to be forced to express ideas or values with which they disagree. That concern rests on a distinction between an expressive activity like photography and a cab or a movie theater in public accommodation.
With an economy in shambles, the world community condemning you for a rigged election, widespread corruption and sickness in his country, it is hard to predict what subject Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe would pick for an emphasis in his inaugural address. Mugabe however went with none of the above and instead lashed out at homosexuality, which he described as filthy, filthy disease.”
Elders at Ridgedale Church of Christ appear not to have read John 8:7: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Instead, the elders gathered themselves and their stones this week to ban a mother because she would not renounce her own child. The Tennessee church banned two relatives for good measure after they supported Kat Cooper, a lesbian detective with the Collegedale Police Department. Her mother, Linda Cooper, was given the choice: denounce your daughter or leave the church. It was not much of a Sophie’s Choice: she left the church and with her was any evidence of God’s grace that this church may have had.
Former Somali Colonel Found Liable For Torture While Former Bush Officials Remain Immune From Such LawsuitsPublished 1, August 21, 2013 Bizarre , Constitutional Law , Criminal law , International , Lawyering , Military , Politics 44 Comments
Federal Judge Mark Abel in Ohio has imposed a $15 million damage award on former Somali colonel, Abdi Aden Magan, who tortured human rights advocate Abukar Hassan Ahmed. What was most striking about the decision was the statement that such damages are necessary to guarantee that the United States is not a “safe harbor for those who commit human rights abuses.” Of course, this follows a series of court decisions barring the victims of the U.S. torture program from even getting a trial, let alone damages. Those responsible continue to appear on television from George W. Bush to Dick Cheney to John Yoo. Indeed, rather than punish those who facilitated the torture program, we made one — Jay Bybee (shown right) — a federal appellate judge with lifetime tenure. That particular “safe harbor” is found in the courthouse of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Oklahoma is reeling this week from a senseless killing of an Australian student, Christopher Lane, 22, by three teenagers who allegedly shot him simply because they were bored and wanted to kill someone for the “fun of it.” In Oklahoma for the “fun of it” with first-degree murder.
Obama Administration Asks Supreme Court To Reverse First Circuit To Allow Warrantless Searches Of CellphonesPublished 1, August 20, 2013 Constitutional Law , Criminal law , Politics , Society , Supreme Court 104 Comments
Civil libertarians have long ago lost faith in Barack Obama’s and his continuing expression of support for privacy and individual rights. Just in case anyone is still not convinced, consider the petition this month to the Supreme Court by the Obama Administration. Just last week, Obama waxed poetic about his commitment to privacy. Yesterday however, his Administration took another major swipe at privacy and asked the Supreme Court to reverse the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which held that the police could not conduct warrantless searches of your cellphone when you are arrested. The decision in United States v. Wurie is below.
The Seven Perils: China Communist Party Warns Members To Stomp Out Ideas Of “Western Constitutional Democracy” And “Universal Rights”Published 1, August 20, 2013 Constitutional Law , International , Media , Politics , Society 17 Comments
Communist Party members across China are receiving secret instructions from Beijing to stomp out notions of democracy or rights that are growing among Chinese citizens. It appears that ideas of freedom are creeping into the worker’s paradise and, in a remarkably frank and brutal message, the Party is warning that such ideas (called the “seven perils”) are threatening its hold on China.
Schedule 7: English Police Hold Glenn Greenwald’s Partner For Nine Hours At Airport, Seize His Computer And Other Electronic EquipmentPublished 1, August 19, 2013 Constitutional Law , Criminal law , International , Politics , Society 179 Comments
For civil libertarians in the United States and England, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the practices of our own governments and the countries that we routinely denounce as authoritarian. An example of this confusion can be found in the outrageous arrest of the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian writer who brought the Snowden disclosures to light and a leading voice for civil liberties in the world. David Miranda, who lives with Greenwald, was taken into custody when passing through London’s Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro. He was held for nine hours and had his computer, cell phone and other equipment seized. Such stops can occur at the request of the National Security Agency and other agencies and are carried out under the abusive Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The case could also highlight possible surveillance of journalists in England and the United States.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
With all of the discussion we have had on his blog about the abandonment of the rule of law in this country, I was very interested when I read about a class action lawsuit that was filed in March of this year. The case is Saleh v. Bush, and it was filed in an attempt to hold former President George W. Bush and five members of his administration responsible and liable for the damages incurred when Iraq was attacked by the United States and some of its allies in 2003.
“Saleh is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit targeting six key members of the Bush Administration: George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Paul Wolfowitz. In Saleh v. Bush, she alleges that the Iraq War was not conducted in self-defense, did not have the appropriate authorization by the United Nations, and therefore constituted a “crime of aggression” under international law—a designation first set down in the Nuremberg Trials after World War II. The aim of the suit is simple: to achieve justice for Iraqis, and to show that no one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law.” Yes Magazine Continue reading ‘Single Mom Versus George W. Bush’
Tags: lie detector, Polygraph, Voice Stress Analysis
Submitted by Charlton Stanley, (aka Otteray Scribe) guest blogger
Polygraph tests are 20th-century witchcraft.
-Sen. Sam Ervin (1896-1995)
As the Obama administration and the Department of Justice ramps up the crackdown on security violators and leakers, the whole thing has taken a bizarre turn. There is an ongoing criminal investigation of instructors who claim they can teach job applicants how to pass lie-detector tests. The two men are Doug Williams, who operates Polygraph.com, and Chad Dixon, who had a website called “PolygraphExpert.net” which has been taken down. Chad Dixon has entered a guilty plea, but the charges against him are being kept secret under seal. Dixon faces a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison; however, prosecutors are asking for a two-year sentence. Williams has not been charged with any crime; at least not yet, but is said to be under investigation. His only publiccomment was to say he has done nothing wrong.
The criminal investigation has not been acknowledged publicly. What little news that has come out is the claim it is meant to discourage criminals and spies from infiltrating the U.S. government by using so-called polygraph-beating techniques. Several current or former polygraph examiners are alleged to have been providing training materials and classes on how lie detector devices work and how to “beat” them.
Doug Williams and Chad Dixon’s business records were seized. The records are believed to include the names of as many as 5,000 persons who sought advice from the two men. The government claims about twenty of those people applied for positions with the government or government contractors. About half of that group was hired, including one or more getting jobs with the National Security Agency (NSA).
Federal officials have adopted a unique and controversial legal theory that teaching clients how lie detectors work and how to pass the test is a crime, and not protected under the First Amendment.
I find this more than curious. By way of full disclosure, I own a voice stress analysis machine and several biofeedback devices. I first became interested in the detection of malingering, dissimulation and outright lying when I was still in graduate school, and have maintained that interest ever since. Some people lie to look good, and some lie to look bad. Some lie and don’t even know they are lying. Some lie when the truth would serve them better.
In this piece, we will take a look at exactly what it is the Feds are talking about. And we will puzzle about why they want to make it a crime for anyone to teach people how the machines work. Or more accurately, don’t work.
Everyone is familiar with anxiety. Hands sweat, voice trembles, breathing may become more rapid, and the heart races. Many times trembling is visible to the naked eye. Anxiety is a fear reaction. Both the polygraph and voice stress analysis take advantage of these physiological reactions to fear, and take measurements of them. The theory behind both machines is that an anxious person will react. Practitioners of polygraphy and voice stress analysis operate on the assumption that telling a lie will result in a predictable and measurable physiological reaction.
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
A recent study by Columbia University researchers may present a problem for civil libertarians basking in the defeat of Mayor Bloomberg’s Big Gulp ban. As many of us know, the NYC mayor proposed and then passed a health rule prohibiting restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums and arenas from selling sugary drinks in cups or containers larger than 16 ounces. The New York State appellate division upheld Judge Milton Tingling’s ruling that Bloomberg “eviscerated” the separation of powers doctrine by making an end run around the City Council and presenting the measure to the NYC Board of Health. The city plans to appeal but it is now armed with an important study concerning the effects of sugar on children.
Resident or Inmate? Mayor Bloomberg Proposes Requirement to Fingerprint Those Residing in NYC Public HousingPublished 1, August 17, 2013 Constitutional Law , Justice , Politics , Society 55 Comments
Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
“Five percent of our population lives in NYCHA housing, 20 percent of the crime is in NYCHA housing – numbers like that. And we’ve just got to find some way to keep bringing crime down there. And we have a whole group of police officers assigned to NYCHA housing,” Bloomberg said. “The people that live there, most of them, want more police protection. They want more people. If you have strangers walking in the halls of your apartment building, don’t you want somebody to stop and say, ‘Who are you, why are you here?’”
According to this proposal, keeping crime down would be successfully addressed by requiring all residents to submit to fingerprinting as a condition of residency. Supposedly, the fingerprint or other biometric data would be used for biometric access devices such as live fingerprint scanning devices mated with door locks. Yet, the centuries old method of using a key seems to work almost as well and so could perhaps an electronic RFID or magnetic stripe card device such as those used in many hotels. Is security the real goal or is it more nuanced?
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Although Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) does not believe “there is any particular evidence of polls barring African Americans from voting,” there is plenty of evidence that States are making it more difficult for African Americans to vote. Paul is using a strawman argument to recast the voting issue to one in which African Americans are prohibited from voting. Preventing African Americans from voting is the intended result of Republican efforts in numerous states. Using analysis of voting habits, Republicans have passed laws that intentionally create voting difficulties for groups that traditionally vote Democratic. Jim Crow has been dressed up a little, to become James Crow, Esq., but statistically speaking, the results are the same.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
Whenever the subject of bigotry gets touched upon in this blog we see certain readers who will not only disagree with the premise that bigotry exists, but who will assert that those who claim it does, are the “real bigots.” Last week on the thread following Mike Appleton’s post “Racism Once Removed” http://jonathanturley.org/2013/08/11/racism-once-removed/ and the week before in my guest blog “Call Me Queer” http://jonathanturley.org/2013/08/03/call-me-queer/ , we saw numerous comments that not only denying that their viewpoint was unbiased, but that our assertions of bigotry were themselves bigoted. While Mike Appleton’s post dealt with racism and mine dealt with homosexual rights, the reactions to presenting these different topics were essentially the same. So much so, that what I saw clearly as racial prejudice even got inserted into what was a thread dealing with homosexual rights. My sense as to why these two disparate issues were conflated by the same people is the subject of this piece, as I will attempt to put the concept of prejudice into the context of the American political scene. For many of us, including me, bigotry is viewed as the stuff of irrational hatred, but I’ve begun to sense that this is too narrow a perspective on this phenomenon. In attempting to counter prejudice, we must first be aware of the dynamics involved and stop looking at prejudice as a monolithic structure.
Those who are the object of prejudice and scorn will no doubt find my distinctions to be of little moment as their lives are so hurt by this hatred. My own sense is that the reaction of Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans to this nation’s history of oppression has been relatively mild when compared to the murderous viciousness with which it has been imposed. It says much for these people of color that they have had the intelligence and restraint to understand they were dealing with an implacable enemy and act accordingly. As someone who views their struggles merely from the outside I know what rage boils up in my gut when I see it and hear about it, quite frankly I don’t know how much restraint I would put on myself if I directly experienced the same oppression. With that caveat let me try to explain my thinking about the distinctions that need to be made when we look at the phenomena of prejudice in this country, from my understanding of it that has developed over a long lifetime and the panoply of changes that have occurred during my existence. Continue reading ‘Bigotry Denialism’
While President Obama continues to tell the public that there is no widespread domestic surveillance program and denies the violation of privacy rights, another report again contradicts those statements. According to the Washington Post, the National Security Agency broke privacy rules thousands of times every year under the warrantless surveillance program. Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that civil libertarians view the programs themselves to be violations of Constitution, but the Administration violated even those rules. Moreover, this information did not come from Congress or the White House. It came from Edward Snowden. You remember him. He is the guy Obama said is no patriot and could have taken a different course to address his concerns. The information reviewed by the Post is more than would have been shared with Congress under current rules.
Kansas Prisoner Released After DNA Evidence Clears Him Of Rape . . . Judge Then Fires Clerk Who Told Prisoner How To Seek Such TestingPublished 1, August 16, 2013 Constitutional Law , Courts , Society 64 Comments
There is an interesting case out of Kansas that first aired late July. Kansas Judge David Byrn (left) was the presiding judge in the case of Robert Nelson, 49, who was sentenced to 70 years for a rape that he insisted that he did not commit. Byrn refused repeated requests from Nelson to prove his innocence through DNA testing. Nelson would have stayed in jail for the 70 year sentence if it was not for the fact that Sharon Snyder, 70, directed a family member to an earlier motion where such testing was ordered. Using that information, Nelson won the right to the testing and proved his innocence. When Bryn found out it was the clerk who informed him of the earlier successful motion in another case, he fired her just months before her retirement (though she later found that she could still receive her pension). She had been a clerk for 34 years.
This video was posted by a family who says that they were terrified when Georgia DeKalb Sheriff deputies came to their home around 1:30 am and virtually tore down their door. It turns out that this is all about an unpaid civil fine by the mother, Natania Griffin, who was 15 days late in paying $1,000. What is notable is the deputy repeatedly threatening the man while referring to his videotaping them.
There was a national controversy created recently when a rodeo clown, Tuffy Gessling, put together an act involving a President Barack Obama mask at the Missouri State Fair. The announcer reportedly called out “This bull’s going to get’cha, Obama! He’s gonna get’cha!” The reaction was fierce. Gessling was given a lifetime ban and the announcer, Mark Ficken, resigned. All clowns will now have to go through a “sensitivity training” course after the incident. However, The President of the Missouri Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Mary Radliff is calling for the prosecution of the key players for a hate crime. Radliff’s statements shows how broad this controversial crime has become and how it can now threaten free speech principles.
This week we got another insight into the focus of the security agencies in the United States. Documents revealed that the U.S. Secret Service kept free-information activist Aaron Swartz under close watch until he killed himself following an abusive prosecution by the Administration. At the same time, the CIA reportedly zeroed in on famed MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky despite earlier denials. The prior investigation of Chomsky and the more recent investigation of Swartz shows little has changed in how civil libertarians are viewed by the government.
President Barack Obama was widely ridiculed last week for his latest effort to quiet public unrest over his massive warrantless surveillance programs. As we discussed, Obama made statements on the program and Snowden that were disengenuous at best and viewed by civil libertarians as facially dishonest. His main “reform” was the rather laughable suggestion that his Administration, once again, would review itself and he would create yet another hand-picked committee to monitor his unchecked authority. While some of us said that Obama’s comments showed almost open contempt for the intelligence of the public and the independence of the press, nothing prepared us this week for his announcement on who would head the review: National Intelligence Chief John Clapper. That’s right. Clapper, the man who admitted to lying before Congress on these programs and has been protected by Congress and Attorney General Eric Holder from a perjury charge. The White House announced Clapper’s selection on Monday and Clapper issued a statement announcing his intention to find a way to preserve national security while “maintaing the public trust.” On Tuesday, the outcry over Clapper’s selection led the White House to try to backpedal and explain this insulting appointment. The White House now says that Clapper will not “lead” the panel and that it will remain “independent” even with his looming presence.