Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The FBI's anticipatory prosecution of Muslims to criminalize speech

By Glenn Greenwald | The Guardian | March 19, 2013 | [Original Article]
One of the major governmental abuses denounced by the 1976 final report of the Church Committee was the FBI's domestic counter intelligence programs (COINTELPRO). Under that program, the FBI targeted political groups and individuals it deemed subversive and dangerous - including civil rights activists (such as the NAACP and Martin Luther King), black nationalist movements, socialist and communist organizations, anti-war protesters, and various right-wing groups - and infiltrated them with agents who, among other things, attempted to manipulate members into agreeing to commit criminal acts so that the FBI could arrest and prosecute them. This program was exposed only because a left-wing group, the so-called "Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI", broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania, stole the files relating to the program, and sent them to various newspapers...
Like most abusive post-9/11 trends, this tactic is now stronger than ever: "there have been 138 terrorism or national security prosecutions involving informants since 2001, and more than a third of those have occurred in the past three years."

As common as this tactic has become, it's vital to look at particularly egregious cases to see what is really at play. This week, a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 decision, affirmed the 2005 "material support" conviction of US-born Hamid Hayat, and it's one of the worst yet most illustrative cases yet (that's US justice: he was convicted 8 years ago, and his appeal is only now decided). Hayat was convicted for allegedly having attended "a terrorist training camp" when he was 19 years old. In the Sacramento Bee this week, Stanford Law Professor Shirin Sinnar wrote: "Even among anticipatory prosecutions, this case stands out for the fragility of the government's case and the rank taint of prejudice, raising the haunting prospect that a man who had done nothing was convicted for a violent state of mind."
Notably, the dissenting judge was A. Wallace Tashima, the first Japanese-American appointed to the federal bench; he was imprisoned during World War II in an internment camp in Arizona. As Professor Sinnar observed: "Perhaps as a Japanese American who was interned as a child, he remembered well the danger of preventative security measures founded on group-based judgments." In dissent, Judge Tashima wrote: "This case is a stark demonstration of the unsettling and untoward consequences of the government's use of anticipatory prosecution as a weapon in the 'war on terrorism.'" [Read More...]

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

'Anti-Sharia' law is back

By Rochelle Koff | March 6, 2013 | Miami Herald | [Original Article]
A renewed attempt to pass a controversial "foreign law" bill proposed by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yahala, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, after more than an hour of sometimes emotional public testimony.
The bill, SB 58, bans courts or other legal authorities from using religious or foreign law as a part of a legal decision or contract relating to family law. Florida law would supercede foreign law regarding divorce, alimony, the division of marital assets, child support and child custody. The bill is ready to be heard on the House floor but it has more committee stops in the Senate. Last year, the bill passed the House but died in the Senate.
Supporters say the proposal isn’t targeting religious groups, but the bill has been criticized as anti-Sharia, a Koran-based code followed in some Islamic countries, by Islamic groups as well as Jewish organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union.
"It should raise some eyebrows for you, the fact that there’s a rabbi speaking out against the bill who’s from Israel and a Arab Muslim, that’s me, also speaking out against the bill," said Ahmed Bedier, president of the United Voices for America. "We may disagree what is happening in the Middle East, but we agree on this bill — that it discriminates and targets our communities."
Hays said the bill "prevents a potential problem" from occurring in Florida courts and that it’s "not insulting to any religious group."

"If your law violates the constitutional rights of a Floridian, it has no business being in a Florida court," Hays said.

Not-So-Innocent Abroad

Eric Holder says the United States can kill American citizens overseas and he doesn’t think he should explain why.

Eric Holder
Attorney General Eric Holder discussed targeted killings during a speech at Northwestern on March 5

Photograph by John Gress/Getty Images.
In his speech Monday explaining when he thinks the U.S. government can kill American citizens, Attorney General Eric Holder offered bare bones without much meat. We know now that the Obama administration thinks its lawyers don’t have to get a judge’s approval before a top government official makes the call to assassinate someone. As Holder put it, " 'Due process' and 'judicial process' are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security." We know that the internal review process includes some limits. As Adam Serwer explains, “The target has to pose an ‘imminent threat of violent attack’ to the United States and be beyond the ability of American authorities to capture, and the strike can't violate international standards governing the use of force by killing too many civilians or noncombatants.”
But that’s about it. Holder didn’t explain how the administration arrived at the conclusion that due process within the executive branch is enough. He has refused to release the legal memo from the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice that must lay out how the administration got to here from there—the meat that was missing from his speech. And he didn’t say how the government arrived at the conclusion in September that it was OK to kill not just Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American cleric in Yemen whom the government says is linked to underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab, but also Awlaki's son, Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki, who was also an American citizen.
If you want to believe that the government does its grim best to fight terrorists, and you’re inclined to think that their dirty tactics justify some ruthlessness on our part, then maybe a few killings of bad guys in faraway lands doesn’t bother you much. But there are a couple of unsettling implications here that are so obvious that it’s amazing Holder thinks he need not address them. The first is that if the Obama administration claims this kind of extra-judicial power for a few cases, what’s to stop the next president from expanding upon it—and citing this step as precedent for taking others that Obama wouldn’t countenance? And the second is that when the executive branch won’t release the legal memos that underlie its decision-making, we’re blocked from evaluating how strong or weak the arguments are. When the federal government takes a bold and new step like this, testing the boundaries of the Constitution, it’s crucial for Holder and his lawyers to explain how and why. Instead, we’re being asked to take the wisdom of the president and his national security apparatus for granted.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sikh victim of possible hate crime in Port Orange recovering

By Lyda Longa | March 5, 2013 | Daytona Beach News Journal | [Original Article]
 PORT ORANGE — A Sikh man shot as he drove over a bridge with his son and who investigators say was probably targeted in a hate crime because he wears a turban, was released from the hospital this week and is recovering at home.
Kanwaljit Singh was resting at his Port Orange residence Tuesday afternoon, said his wife, Paramjit Kaur.
He was discharged from Halifax Health Medical Center after being in critical condition since he was shot on Feb. 23 just before midnight.
Singh's car was shot at six times as the 46-year-old father of two headed west over the Dunlawton Bridge. He was with his 13-year-old son at the time and the pair had just closed a new convenience store that Singh had opened on the beachside, friends said.
Singh was struck twice, bullets entering his torso and one of his thighs.
Port Orange detectives have released little information, saying they do not want to jeopardize their case. The incident report also has been kept under wraps because it contains several details on the case, said Capt. David Meyer.
Investigators have said the attack was probably not random because Singh — a follower of the Sikh religion — was wearing the head turban traditional for men of that faith, said Navtej Khalsa, regional director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Oviedo. The turban represents a commitment to equality and justice.
Khalsa said that since Sept. 11, many Sikhs have been the focus of hate crimes because uninformed individuals think they are Muslims or Arabs.
Investigators have said the shooter was in a black or dark-colored late 1980s or early 1990s Ford F-150. The pickup has a Ford decal on both sides, police said. [Read more...]