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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.

This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

WikiLeaks Secret Records Dump Stays in Legal Clear: Ann Woolner - Bloomberg

WikiLeaks Secret Records Dump Stays in Legal Clear: Ann Woolner - Bloomberg

With his prematurely white hair and his Australia-tinged English, 39-year-old Julian Assange has become the face and voice of what is surely the most massive leak of U.S. classified documents in history.

His online organization, WikiLeaks, devotes itself to government and corporate whistle-blowers and the documents they offer. It stands as a buffer between them and whomever had the secrets being bared, whether documents on Cayman Islands bank accounts, video showing Americans firing on civilians in Baghdad or Sarah Palin’s e-mail.

But none of that came close to this week’s disgorgement of classified military documents. WikiLeaks served as conduit for 92,000 pages of material from a military insider to the New York Times, the Guardian of London and der Spiegel magazine in Germany.

Those three published front page analyses and excerpts, which give on-the-ground accounts of the war in Afghanistan, its failings, its brutality and its corruption.

Assange acts as a document launderer of sorts, an intermediary between the gatherer of the documents, who faces prosecution, and news organizations, which don’t.

What about the man in the middle? His organization? Can they be prosecuted?

Better Safe

Assange has been staying out of the U.S., just in case. But it’s probably unnecessary. The First Amendment’s free-press protection shields those who merely publish classified documents that others take.

The need for that protection should be obvious.

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government,” the Supreme Court said in 1971 in the Pentagon Papers case.

Prosecutors charged the leaker, military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, but had to drop the case because of government misconduct, like breaking into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. And the New York Times was free to publish the 7,000-page internal history of the Vietnam War, revealing that president after president had lied about what the U.S. was doing in the region and the chances for success.

It helped turn the tide of public opinion.

The Obama administration has decried the possibility that the document dump could expose those cooperating with the U.S. to retaliation from the Taliban. WikiLeaks and the news organizations say they scrubbed the material to rid it of that risk.

Field Reports

No big lies have fallen out of the mega-load of field reports WikiLeaks made public this week, although it looks like two administrations have made the war sound more winnable than it probably is.

“This material shines light on the everyday brutality and squalor of war,” Assange told der Spiegel. It “will change public opinion and it will change the opinion of people in positions of political and diplomatic influence.”

As he makes clear, WikiLeaks is more an advocacy group than traditional news organization. Its chief aim is to make governments and corporations more transparent, and it is especially eager to unveil possible abuses of power.

But that doesn’t weaken its First Amendment protection.

“We are a publication,” Daniel Schmitt, a WikiLeaks spokesman said in a telephone interview yesterday from Berlin. However different from a newspaper, “We are a publishing organization.”

U.S. Criminal Law

Unless the group or someone inside it solicited the documents or helped the insider obtain them, they probably have little to fear from U.S. criminal law.

Nor could WikiLeaks be forced to disclose its sources. The group located its headquarters in Sweden because it has one of the world’s strongest shield laws to protect confidential source-journalist relationships.

“We have been legally challenged in various countries,” Assange said in the interview with der Spiegel. “We have won every challenge.”

Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd., based in Basel, Switzerland, sued because WikiLeaks posted accountholder information from its Cayman outpost amid allegations of money laundering and tax evasion. The bank filed suit in San Francisco against California-based Dynadot, WikiLeaks’ domain registrar.

The bank won a short-lived court ruling that attempted to shut WikiLeaks, which had sent no lawyer to argue. Once it did, and once free-speech groups intervened to tell the judge the First Amendment forbids such an order, the judge dissolved his earlier decision and the bank abandoned the case.

WikiLeaks says it doesn’t dig for dirt or urge others to. “We do not solicit any information,” Schmitt says.

Don’t Ask

If they did, they could find themselves in a conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act of 1917. That is the law that bans the release of confidential military and national security information. News organizations are exempt, but only if they don’t solicit.

Still, the organization may begin skating closer to the edge. It’s planning an educational effort for would-be leakers that will say “why leaking is a useful thing” and “how to do it properly,” Schmitt says.

And last year the group compiled a list of the “Most Wanted” documents, based on suggestions from people around the word.

Among the entries: the East German secret police file on Federal Chancellor Angela Dorothea Merkel and a list of all political prisoners in Egypt.

Suspected Source

For now, at least, Assange and WikiLeaks seem to be in the clear. Not so for the 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst, Private First Class Bradley Manning, suspected as a source.

Already in custody and blamed for an earlier submission to WikiLeaks, Manning is a “person of interest” in the recent disgorgement of secret Afghanistan reports, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

Assange, meanwhile, isn’t taking any chances. He recently canceled an appearance in Las Vegas and said at a news conference in London this week he had been told he would be arrested if he came to the U.S.

No doubt authorities would like to invite him in for a chat. But jail him? Not likely.

(Ann Woolner is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Ann Woolner in Atlanta at

White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity

White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the "content" of e-mail or other Internet communication.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

Stewart A. Baker, a former senior Bush administration Homeland Security official, said the proposed change would broaden the bureau's authority. "It'll be faster and easier to get the data," said Baker, who practices national security and surveillance law. "And for some Internet providers, it'll mean giving a lot more information to the FBI in response to an NSL."

Many Internet service providers have resisted the government's demands to turn over electronic records, arguing that surveillance law as written does not allow them to do so, industry lawyers say. One senior administration government official, who would discuss the proposed change only on condition of anonymity, countered that "most" Internet or e-mail providers do turn over such data.

To critics, the move is another example of an administration retreating from campaign pledges to enhance civil liberties in relation to national security. The proposal is "incredibly bold, given the amount of electronic data the government is already getting," said Michelle Richardson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel.

The critics say its effect would be to greatly expand the amount and type of personal data the government can obtain without a court order. "You're bringing a big category of data -- records reflecting who someone is communicating with in the digital world, Web browsing history and potentially location information -- outside of judicial review," said Michael Sussmann, a Justice Department lawyer under President Bill Clinton who now represents Internet and other firms.

Secret Jails Used To Enforce China's 'Hidden Rules' : NPR

Secret Jails Used To Enforce China's 'Hidden Rules' : NPR

If you consider that as recently as a generation ago, China did not have any trial lawyers or a criminal law, the country has come a long way in establishing a legal system.

But there are many instances in which the laws on the books don't have much effect, and society runs according to a completely different set of unwritten rules. Some Chinese call these "hidden rules."

An example of how these hidden rules work can be found just a couple minutes' walk from one of Beijing's busiest downtown intersections.

There sits a small hotel run by the government of South China's Guangxi province. Provincial officials occasionally use the hotel to secretly detain people who come to the capital to complain about local government abuses. They are kept under a sort of house arrest until they can be shipped home.

China has denied the existence of "black jails" to the United Nations' human rights commission, but almost anyone petitioning the government can show you one.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chinese courts told to listen more to public - People's Daily Online

Chinese courts told to listen more to public - People's Daily Online

The Supreme People's Court (SPC) of China on Tuesday urged courts across the country to accept scrutiny by the press and general public.

The courts must constantly listen to the public so they can carry out their work in a better way, Shen Deyong, executive vice president of the SPC, told a national conference on the publicity work of courts.

After hailing achievements of the courts in providing information to the public, Shen said some courts did not pay enough attention to public opinion.

"The public are paying more attention to court work, their expectations are growing. They want to know more, participate more and supervise more," he said.

Shen urged courts to disclose information on major issues in a timely fashion, so as to avoid public suspicion and damage to judicial authority.

The Supreme People's Court will train spokespeople and publicity officials of courts nationwide in the second half of the year.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

U.S. Senate passes 'libel tourism' bill - Blog - Committee to Protect Journalists

U.S. Senate passes 'libel tourism' bill - Blog - Committee to Protect Journalists

This week, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill shielding journalists and publishers from “libel tourism.” The vote on Monday slipped past the Washington press corps largely unnoticed. Maybe it was the title that strove chunkily for a memorable acronym: the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act. Journalists and press freedom defenders outside the United States did, however, pay attention to the legislation, which they hope will spur libel law reform in their countries.

The bill, which is expected to sail through the House of Representatives and become law soon, protects U.S. journalists and writers from libel suits filed by repressive governments or wealthy tycoons in foreign jurisdictions such as England, where the law is heavily skewed in favor of the plaintiff. I wrote about the practice, known as libel tourism, last year.

Ehrenfeld's book sparked a libel tourism action.
The Senate vote comes after a long campaign by Israeli-American author Rachel Ehrenfeld who found herself slapped with a multi-million-dollar defamation suit by a Saudi billionaire she accused of funding terrorist groups. No problem, you’d think, if the suit was filed in a U.S. court, where the Saudi financier would have to prove Ehrenfeld’s material was false. But this action was brought in London, the libel tourism capital of the world, where the court would demand that Ehrenfeld prove her accusations were true.

Under the new U.S. law any such libel tourism judgment will be unenforceable in the United States. “This will make a difference in how other countries, people in other countries will look into suing Americans,” Ehrenfeld told CPJ. “It’s a victory for everybody who writes in America.”

It’s also a weapon for libel reform advocates overseas.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Court Under Roberts Is Most Conservative in Decades -

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 31: (FILE PHOTO) (First R...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

WASHINGTON — When Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and his colleagues on the Supreme Court left for their summer break at the end of June, they marked a milestone: the Roberts court had just completed its fifth term.

In those five years, the court not only moved to the right but also became the most conservative one in living memory, based on an analysis of four sets of political science data.

And for all the public debate about the confirmation of Elena Kagan or the addition last year of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, there is no reason to think they will make a difference in the court’s ideological balance. Indeed, the data show that only one recent replacement altered its direction, that of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006, pulling the court to the right.

There is no similar switch on the horizon. That means that Chief Justice Roberts, 55, is settling in for what is likely to be a very long tenure at the head of a court that seems to be entering a period of stability.

If the Roberts court continues on the course suggested by its first five years, it is likely to allow a greater role for religion in public life, to permit more participation by unions and corporations in elections and to elaborate further on the scope of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Abortion rights are likely to be curtailed, as are affirmative action and protections for people accused of crimes.

The recent shift to the right is modest. And the court’s decisions have hardly been uniformly conservative. The justices have, for instance, limited the use of the death penalty and rejected broad claims of executive power in the government’s efforts to combat terrorism.

But scholars who look at overall trends rather than individual decisions say that widely accepted political science data tell an unmistakable story about a notably conservative court.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lawyers seek injunction to halt military gay rule

Lawyers seek injunction to halt military gay rule

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Lawyers for a Republican gay rights organization say they will ask a federal judge in California to impose an injunction to halt the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy nationwide.

The lawyers for the Log Cabin Republicans are expected to make the request during their closing arguments in a Riverside courtroom.

The case is considered the policy's biggest constitutional test in recent years.

It has put the Obama administration in the awkward position of defending a policy President Obama wants repealed.

Government attorneys have said throughout the two-week trial the matter should be decided by Congress, not a federal judge.

The government presented only the policy's legislative history as its defense.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Committee Approves Kagan’s Nomination to Supreme Court - The Caucus Blog -

Committee Approves Kagan’s Nomination to Supreme Court - The Caucus Blog - "Stephen Crowley/The New York Times Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, left, looked on as Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, spoke with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.
President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, was endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 13-to-6 vote on Tuesday.

Ms. Kagan received one Republican vote, that of Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who said that while she was not someone he would have chosen, “the person who did choose – President Obama – I think chose wisely.’’

In Tuesday’s vote, Mr. Graham broke party ranks to join the committee’s 12 Democrats in voting in her favor.

The nomination now goes to the full Senate, where confirmation is expected in the next few days." More...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Josh Horwitz: Passing the Sword

Josh Horwitz: Passing the Sword

Two summers ago, I blogged with great concern about a statement made by Justice Scalia in the Supreme Court's landmark Second Amendment opinion, District of Columbia v. Heller. Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Scalia found an individual right to keep and bear arms and opined that, "If...the Second Amendment right is no more than the right to keep and use weapons as a member of an organized militia ... If, that is, the organized militia is the sole institutional beneficiary of the Second Amendment's guarantee -- it does not assure the existence of a 'citizens' militia' as a safeguard against tyranny."

Regrettably, since the Heller decision, many gun rights commentators have used Scalia's construct to link the need for unfettered access to firearms with a right to engage in political violence against an administration that has been described as "a secular socialist machine [that] represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did." The past two years have seen several disturbing acts of politically-motivated violence and a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the president and Members of Congress. Equally troubling, gun rights activists have begun to openly carry firearms to political events and presidential speeches in a threatening manner.

The High Court's latest high-profile Second Amendment case, McDonald v. City of Chicago, was decided last week. The same five-justice majority as in Heller incorporated the Second Amendment through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, thereby determining that the holding in Heller applies to the states.

In January, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence's sister organization, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (Ed Fund), filed an amicus brief in the McDonald case calling attention to Justice Scalia's dangerous insurrectionist rhetoric in Heller. "Inherent in the logic of a right to possess firearms for the purpose of resisting a perceived threat of governmental tyranny is that, to some point, individuals are entitled to take the next step and use violence if the government refuses to yield," the brief stated. To express the Ed Fund's concern that "'tyranny' means many different things to many different people," we urged the Court to "correct this misapprehension before incorporating the Second Amendment."

Justice Alito, writing for the majority in McDonald, did not openly refute Scalia's insurrectionist idea. He did, however, avoid the use of this rationale in explaining the Second Amendment, making it clear that the core purpose of the right is individual self-defense -- specifically, to defend "hearth and home" with a handgun.

The two dissents in the case -- written by Justices Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens --showed no reluctance in criticizing Scalia's insurrectionist reading of the Second Amendment. Justice Breyer made it patently clear that "the Civil War Amendments, the electoral process, the courts, and numerous other [democratic] institutions today help to safeguard the States and the people from any serious threat of federal tyranny."

Justice Breyer also wondered why the U.S. Congress would have supported a "substantive right to bear arms free from reasonable state police power regulation" in the wake of a bloody Civil War. "Why would those who wrote the Fourteenth Amendment have wanted to give such a right to southerners who had so recently waged war against the North, and who continued to disarm and oppress recently freed African-American citizens?" he asked. "The many episodes of brutal violence against African Americans that blight our Nation's history do not suggest that every American must be allowed to own whatever type of firearm he or she desires -- just that no group of Americans should by systematically and discriminatorily disarmed and left to the mercy of terrorists." As we noted in our amicus brief, "The defeat of the Confederacy cemented the Union's commitment to quell insurrection and rebellion."

Perhaps most importantly, however, Justice Stevens pointed in his dissent to a remarkable statement made earlier in the Court's Term by Chief Justice John G. Roberts. In the case in question, Robertson v. United States ex rel. Wykenna Watson, the Court decided not to examine the question of whether a private person can bring an action for criminal contempt in a Congressionally-sanctioned court. In his dissent, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, "Allegorical depictions of the law frequently show a figure wielding a sword -- the sword of justice, to be used to smite those who violate the criminal laws ... A basic step in organizing a civilized society is to take that sword out of private hands and turn it over to an organized government, acting on behalf of all the people. Indeed, 'The . . . power a man has in the state of nature is the power to punish the crimes committed against that law. [But this] he gives up when he joins [a] ... political society, and incorporates into [a] commonwealth.'"

Chief Justice Roberts' statement is of course a reference to Max Weber's axiomatic definition of a state. The German political economist proffered in the early 20th century that a political entity is not a state unless it possesses a monopoly of force (i.e., the power to enforce the law). The concept of a monopoly of force is anathema to those who embrace the insurrectionist idea because it forecloses the use of political violence; which rhetorically -- and in some cases in action -- seems to be all the rage on the political right. Nonetheless, Roberts was correct. America's Founding Fathers recognized that a State does not -- and cannot -- exist unless it upholds its claim to the monopoly on force. As the author of the Second Amendment, James Madison, put it at the Virginia Ratifying Convention: "There never was a government without force. What is the meaning of government? An institution to make people do their duty. A government leaving it to a man to do his duty, or not, as he pleases, would be a new species of government, or rather no government at all."

In the interest of domestic tranquility, let us hope that the Chief Justice's words are embraced by Newt Gingrich ("The Second Amendment is in defense of freedom from the State"), the Cato Institute ("Second Amendment protections are not for the state but for each individual against the state"), and others who are viewed as the intellectual leaders of the modern Conservative movement. They have a responsibility to make it clear to their admirers that under no circumstances can firearms be employed as "tools of political dissent."