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Despite Changes, US Government Still Unwilling to Provide Meaningful Information to Americans Put on No Fly List

By: Wednesday April 15, 2015 10:00 am

The United States government will now inform US citizens placed on the No Fly List whether they have, in fact, been put on the No Fly List and possibly some details related to the basis for the listing. But an attorney for an American challenging the government’s No Fly List authority has suggested that the changes are “meaningless.”

The new procedure comes after a federal court in Oregon ruled in June of last year that US citizens placed on the No Fly List had their rights to “procedural due process” violated and instructed the government to provide a “new process” that satisfied the “constitutional requirements for due process.”

In a case involving Gulet Mohamed, a US citizen who claims his constitutional rights were violated when he was placed on the No Fly List, the government informed the judge that this new procedure was now available to Mohamed and that the government would no longer refuse to confirm or deny whether Mohamed was listed [PDF].

“Under the newly revised procedures, a US person who purchases a ticket, is denied boarding at the airport, subsequently applies for redress through [the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHSTRIP)] about the denial of boarding, and is on the No Fly List after a redress review, will now receive a letter providing his or her status on the No Fly List and the option to receive and/or submit additional information.”

Should that person decide to receive and/or submit additional information, a second letter will be provided identifying the “specific criterion under which the individual was placed on the No Fly List.” It will have an “unclassified summary of information supporting the individual’s No Fly List status, “to the extent feasible, consistent with the national security and law enforcement interests at stake.”

The process may still be excessively secretive. The government indicated, “The amount and type of information provided will vary on a case-by-case basis, depending on the facts and circumstances. In some circumstances, an unclassified summary may not be able to be provided when the national security and law enforcement interests at stake are taken into account.”

The TSA administrator will review the submissions and the information that the government is relying upon to place that person on the No Fly List. A final determination will be issued by the TSA with the basis for the outcome “to the extent feasible in light of national security and law enforcement interests at stake.” The person will also be informed that they may seek “further judicial review.”

Gadeir Abbas, who represents Mohamed, reacted, “What revisions have been made are essentially meaningless. While it’s an extremely minuscule step forward that the government is now willing to confirm whether or not someone is on the No Fly List, the fact remains that people on the No Fly List don’t need the government to tell them whether or not they are on that list because they find out for themselves when they try to fly.”

This does not “improve the constitutionality of the No Fly List,” according to Abbas. Furthermore, the government is only willing to identify the criteria under which a person has been listed. That criteria is “so broad as to actually communicate no meaningful information to allow a person to rebut the designation.”

Abbas does not think the government has resolved any of the outstanding issues in Mohamed’s case by making these changes and maintains the government should be providing notice to individuals before they are placed on the No Fly List.

Up until now, the government has sought to thwart judicial review by invoking the state secrets privilege to have cases involving the No Fly List dismissed. That is what the government has done in Mohamed’s case, despite the fact that Mohamed alleges FBI agents were complicit or involved in torture he experienced in Kuwait and that they used his listing to pressure him into becoming an informant.

The government consistently lost in court in 2014 when faced with challenges to the No Fly List. A judge found the government had denied a Malaysian, Dr. Rahinah Ibrahim, due process when she was a student studying in the United States. This led to the revelation that the government had been invoking state secrets to protect the fact that Ibrahim had been listed in “error” from becoming public.

That court decision helped ensure that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the thirteen US citizens it represented would prevail in Oregon in June. And, before the year was over, the government had to notify seven Americans that they were no longer on the No Fly List.

While the new procedure will finally make it possible for an American to know whether he or she is actually on the No Fly List, these changes do not help American Muslims, who allege they were put on the list because they refused to become FBI informants. The government will be able to hide information from American Muslims if it, in fact, is the case that they were listed to pressure and intimidate them.

Back in January, the FBI suddenly had Gulet’s brother placed on the agency’s list of “Most Wanted Terrorists” the day before a major hearing on the government’s motion for summary judgment.

Government attorneys were able to use the designation against Gulet’s brother to stigmatize Gulet’s pursuit of redress for alleged rights violations.

It is telling that the government did not notify the court that the government could provide redress to Mohamed if he wanted much sooner in this case—like back in October when the ACLU’s clients were notified in letters addressed to them.

Hina Shamsi of the ACLU, who represented the thirteen Americans who challenged the No Fly List and won in June, indicated to the Washington Post that these changes fall “far short of constitutional requirements.” They deny “meaningful notice, evidence, and a hearing,” and the ACLU will continue to challenge the government’s No Fly List authority in court in Portland.

Faced with continued challenges to its authority, the government is scrambling to find an equilibrium that allows the government to block judicial review of the No Fly List and also convince judges they are providing due process to Americans on the list. But the government has not provided due process and agreed to notify individuals in a procedure that respects their rights so it will continue to struggle in these cases.

Note: The post and headline were revised to reflect and incorporate a quote from Mohamed’s attorney, Gadeir Abbas.

Victory for Movement: Chicago Agrees to Reparations for Police Torture Survivors

By: Tuesday April 14, 2015 5:22 pm

Darrell Cannon, police torture survivor, speaking to press after delivering testimony

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his administration and lawyers and police torture survivors announced at a city council finance committee hearing that they had agreed upon a package for reparations. The package includes $5.5 million for survivors, public acknowledgment of torture and other non-financial benefits that will help families of survivors heal.

From 1972 to 1991, hundreds of people in Chicago, primarily people of color, were tortured by police under the command of Commander Jon Burge. No police officer was held accountable for torture because city officials failed to act before the statute of limitations expired. Survivors have received zero compensation for the brutality they endured. And, for years, a movement by civil rights attorneys, grassroots activists and human rights leaders have pushed the city to pass reparations for survivors.

At a scheduled hearing of the finance committee, which planned to discuss a reparations ordinance, Joey Mogul of the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project and the People’s Law Office, declared, “We are proud to announce that we have reached an agreement on a historic reparations package with Mayor Emanuel, corporation counsel Steve Patton and the administration.”

“We are gratified that, after years of denial and coverup by the prior administration, Mayor Emanuel and his corporation counsel have acknowledged the harm inflicted by the torture and recognized the needs of the Burge torture survivors and families,” Mogul added.

A reparations ordinance with the agreed upon terms will be introduced in the city council and in the coming weeks the ordinance will be brought to a vote.

Mogul indicated that the package is “rooted in a restorative justice framework.” It acknowledges that torture was committed by Burge and “begins to make amends by providing meaningful redress for the torture survivors and family members.”

Individuals who were tortured by Burge or officers under his command between 1972 and 1991 at Area 2 and Area 3 in Chicago on the south side will be eligible to make claims. Each survivor will be eligible for an award of up to $100,000, but in order to be granted the award survivors will have to waive any claims of wrongdoing against the city.

The People’s Law Office has identified at least 118 individuals who are survivors. It is believed that anywhere from 50-80 people may be eligible for financial benefits.

There are survivors who have already won settlements. Individuals who were given a small settlement under $100,000 will have an opportunity to pursue further compensation up to the agreed upon cap.

The package also includes non-financial benefits that will make it possible for survivors and immediate family to be granted free tuition to pursue degrees at city colleges in Chicago. There will, however, be a cap of fifty “eligible free tuitions per year,” according to Patton.

Psychological counseling is one of the most critical parts of the reparations. A center will be setup on the south side in the general area where police torture took place.

Patton mentioned the Marjorie Kovler Center on the north side of Chicago provides services to torture victims, who come to Chicago and have been tortured by brutal regimes. “We’re going to draw on that expertise and apply it.”

Re-entry and social support services as well as senior care will be made available because “most of these victims are now senior citizens.” Patton also noted that health services and small business assistance will be made available.

Importantly, the package that the City Council passes will also include “public recognition” of torture. Emanuel already put forward an apology last year, but, according to Patton, a resolution consisting of a formal citywide apology supported by city council members will be enacted.

Chicago public schools will teach students in 8th and 10th grade history classes, beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, about the Burge cases of torture.

As Patton said, students will “analyze primary source documents to gain better understanding of the Burge case[s], review current cases of police brutality, explore different viewpoints on best ways to provide police oversight and accountability and assess the strengths and limitations of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights when it comes to protecting citizens from abuse.”

The city plans to construct a memorial to recognize the abuse and torture by Burge as well.

Hillary Clinton’s Announcement Paves Way for Progressives to Abandon Principles Very Early in 2016 Election

By: Monday April 13, 2015 12:21 pm

Joe Conason on “Democracy Now!” scolds Robert Scheer as he raises concerns about her candidacy

Hillary Clinton’s long-anticipated announcement that she will run for president in the 2016 election paves the way for progressives to abandon their principles and values much earlier than previous elections.

A number of progressives are not likely to wait this time for the Democratic Party’s primary to unfold because they contend it is inevitable Clinton will be ordained as the party’s nominee. Since her nomination is inevitable to them, such progressives will begin their quadrennial ritual now of rationalizing their vote, lowering their expectations and engaging in anti-democratic, intellectually dishonest arguments about America’s political system.

Michelle Goldberg, a contributor for The Nation, explained during a debate on “Democracy Now!” on April 13:

…At a certain point, it doesn’t really matter. She’s almost certainly going to be the nominee. And she’s going to be leagues better than whoever she’s running against on the Republican Party. And, as I said, she’s a kind of chameleon-like candidate, who is for better or worse a person who often bows to political pressure. This is the worst thing about her, but it also opens a potential opportunity for progressives who can try to—I think if they get organized—try to work within the system as opposed to working as spoilers, exert pressure on her from the other direction…

After Socialist Seattle city council member, Kshama Sawant, described the importance of a left alternative to the Democratic Party establishment, Joe Conason, a columnist with a history of ardently defending the Clintons, argued, “You have to start with where you are and the choices you really have. That’s my view.”

“It’s fine to have these discussions and fantasize about whatever you’d like to see happen. And I share a lot of the aspirations that anybody would have about a more progressive government in the United States.” Then, Conason added that the election would probably come down to a candidate like Rand Paul and a candidate like Hillary Clinton.

Typically, these kind of statements from progressives would not come until after a politician had secured the Democratic Party’s nomination. This round, however, it seems there are many progressives, who would like to forego the primary process entirely and fall in line behind Clinton. Undoubtedly, there are autocratic leaders in countries (which have potentially donated money to the Clinton Foundation), who wish they could manifest this attitude so easily among the people they rule.

In FBI Terrorism Sting Against Mentally Ill Kansas Man, Informants Built Bomb & Provided List of Materials

By: Friday April 10, 2015 5:16 pm

In a terrorism sting operation, the FBI arrested a twenty year-old man from Topeka, Kansas, who United States government officials claim attempted to “detonate a vehicle bomb at Fort Riley military base near Manhattan, Kansas.” He also apparently suffers from mental illness. John T. Booker Jr., who also goes by the name Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, [...]

Chicago Police Officer Dante Servin, Who Killed Rekia Boyd While Off-Duty, Finally Goes on Trial

By: Thursday April 9, 2015 8:31 pm

In a rare example of prosecutors seeking to hold a Chicago police officer accountable for a fatal shooting, Dante Servin went on trial for involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct. On March 21, 2012, Servin, who was off-duty at the time, responded to a 911 call complaining about noise in Douglas [...]

Human Rights Watch Sues US Government Over DEA’s Massive Surveillance Program That Chills Their Work

By: Wednesday April 8, 2015 12:05 pm

Human Rights Watch has sued the United States government over a massive surveillance program that intercepted billions of Americans’ international phone call records and was operated by the Drug Enforcement Agency for more than two decades. The lawsuit names one hundred unidentified officials or employees involved in operating the program as defendants. It also names [...]

DEA Surveillance Program Harvested Americans’ Call Records—And It Took Snowden’s Disclosures to End It

By: Tuesday April 7, 2015 7:02 pm

The United States government harvested the records of billions of Americans’ international phone calls for over two decades. It was ended by the Justice Department in September 2013 after disclosures by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden brought widespread attention to massive government surveillance. The surveillance program was made public by the Justice Department in January. The [...]

Pakistan Judge Orders Police Chief to Register Murder Case Against CIA Officials for Drone Strike

By: Tuesday April 7, 2015 2:50 pm

An Islamabad High Court judge in Pakistan has directed the police to register a murder and terrorism case against two former CIA officials for their alleged involvement in a drone strike that killed Pakistanis. Kareem Khan’s teenage son, Zahinullah, and his brother, Asif Iqbal, were killed on December 31, 2009, in a CIA drone strike [...]

Anthony Ray Hinton & His Attorney Discuss Hinton’s Exoneration After 30 Years on Alabama Death Row

By: Monday April 6, 2015 3:57 pm

Anthony Ray Hinton, a 59-year-old black man, was wrongfully convicted in Alabama of murdering two fast food restaurant managers in 1985. The US Supreme Court vacated his conviction last year and, after 30 years on death row, Hinton was freed from jail. His exoneration made Hinton the 152nd person to be exonerated from death row [...]

New Book: Antimalarial Drugs Part of Secret Program to Torture Detainees at Guantanamo

By: Sunday April 5, 2015 9:52 pm

An important new book reveals how the antimalaria drug mefloquine was used at Guantanamo as part of a secret interrogation program that resulted, among other things, in the deaths of three detainees at the Cuban-based US prison camp. Further research shows mefloquine was implicated in possibly two detainee deaths, and that other drugs were also used to debilitate prisoners.

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