Dissent Is Patriotic
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee's e-mail newsletter
October 2008, Vol. 7, No. 9
In this issue:
- Your Vote is Your Voice: Make 2008 Election a Giant Step Toward Restoring Our Constitution
- New Resources: Election Brochure; Accountability Role Plays; Revised, Streamlined & Printable PCC Toolkit; The "War on Terror" and the Constitution booklet in Second Printing & in Independent Bookstores
- Law & Policy: Army Brigade Assigned to U.S. May Violate Posse Comitatus Act; UPDATE: Controversial FBI Guidelines Released; Bush Approves New Surveillance Law, Ignores Privacy Concerns; Menendez-Kennedy Bill to Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Arrest & Detention; Interrogation & Detention Reform Act Introduced
- Grassroots News: Orange County, CA - California Organizations Put Candidates on Record about the Constitution; Portland, ME - Maine CLU Teaches High School Students about The "War on Terror" and the Constitution
Please support BORDC's work to defend the Bill of Rights! Contribute funds or stock online, or mail a check or money order to:
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
8 Bridge St., Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060
Those we elect on November 4 will determine whether or not we reverse seven years of affronts to our Constitution. We urge you to vote, and to make constitutional issues a priority in your choice of candidates. Although few of us are ever fully satisfied with the candidates available to us, not voting at all presents the greatest danger of preserving the status quo.
The major party presidential candidates have said little thus far about the Constitution. However, thanks to many of you, candidates for congressional seats across the country have been questioned repeatedly about their positions on civil liberties and human rights issues (see Grassroots News, below).
It is not too late to question candidates running for House or Senate seats in your area. Now that Congress has recessed until after the election, your chances of meeting incumbents running for reelection are greatly increased. Watch for public events, round up your friends and allies, and work out a strategy for getting your questions answered. For example, if the candidate(s) take questions from the audience, you can boost your chances of posing your questions if you agree on your top two or three questions in advance and sit in different parts of the hall. Raise your hands high! And make use of the resources BORDC provides:
- A list of sample questions for candidates on a variety of constitutional issues.
- Records of how congressional incumbents voted on key legislation.
- Flier on Presidential candidates' positions on torture, rendition, habeas corpus, and domestic wiretapping.
- New Resources listed below.
We must reverse the damage done to our Constitution since 9/11 by restoring our civil liberties and reinstating checks on executive power. It is time to take America back.
For the Election Countdown and Beyond:
- "Defending the Constitution: A 2008 Election Issue" is a compact, easy-to-use, tri-fold brochure pairing concise questions for candidates on six key constitutional issues with brief summaries of BORDC's positions on those issues. Use these questions and our other resources, including a detailed list of questions for candidates and a tool to review incumbents' votes on key civil liberties legislation, to help you put your local candidates for federal elected office on record about these important issues.
- Accountability Role Plays: Politicians are well versed in strategies to respond to difficult questions. They spin their voting records to make it sound like they're on the right side of an issue, and they answer the question they wanted to be asked rather than the one you asked them. Use our Accountability Role Plays to practice strategies for overcoming politicians' common tricks.
- Toolkit for the People's Campaign for the Constitution,
revised and streamlined, is now available on our website in both
form (PDF) and as web
pages with clickable links to resources for each step.
Spread the Word about The "War on Terror" and the Constitution!
We're excited about the early sales of our new booklet, The "War on Terror" and the Constitution. In fact, the booklet has sold so well that it is already in its second printing!
We have been especially excited about orders from educators and independent booksellers. Help us spread the word by bringing our information sheet on the booklet to your local bookstore and sharing it with Social Studies and History teachers at secondary schools or colleges in your area.
Army Brigade Assigned to U.S. May Violate Posse Comitatus Act
The Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878 after the end of Reconstruction, prohibits the deployment of the U.S. military inside the U.S. While exceptions exist for the National Guard and Coast Guard and special circumstances (such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina), presidents have long respected this law. However, the Army Times recently reported that on October 1, the Army 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team began a year-long assignment in the U.S. Their purpose while on duty here at home is "to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities." The unit will also have access to new technology: "crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them." The deployment of this unit inside the homeland, in apparent violation of a 130-year-old statute that places essential limits on executive power, is disturbing and likely illegal. For further analysis, read Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! blog post and Glenn Greenwald's Salon.com column on the issue.
UPDATE: Controversial FBI Guidelines Released
In our July and September newsletters, we told you about proposed new FBI guidelines that would potentially allow racial profiling to be a factor in initiating a terrorism investigation. Information available on those guidelines had been limited because until October 3, the text of the guidelines had not been made public. Upon the guidelines' release, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller issued a joint statement saying that the guidelines, which go into effect December 1, "will assist the FBI in carrying out its critical national security and foreign intelligence missions while also protecting privacy and civil liberties."
However, civil liberties advocates disagree. In the ACLU's press release condemning the guidelines, Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, said that under the new rules, "The standard of suspicion is so low and the predicate for investigations so flimsy that it's inevitable we will all become suspects." Read the Department of Justice's fact sheet on the guidelines for more information.
Bush Approves New Surveillance Law, Ignores Privacy Concerns
On September 30, President Bush signed into law yet another privacy-violating surveillance program. The controversial new program, named the National Applications Office (NAO), "is designed to provide federal, state and local officials with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery." However, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that it "lacks assurance that NAO operations will comply with applicable laws and privacy and civil liberties standards." Specifically, the report indicates that the program does not have sufficient controls in place to ensure that data are not used improperly or that data requests will be properly reviewed for legality. Despite these problems, the Department of Homeland Security says that the program violates no existing laws, and it is beginning the first phase of the program. For more information, read the Wall Street Journal's report on the new spy program.
Menendez-Kennedy Bill to Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Arrest & Detention
A Bill to Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Arrest and Detention, S. 3594, was introduced September 25 by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) in response to the enormous increase in unfocused raids by the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In the past three years, the broad nets ICE has cast have too often caught up U.S. citizen children and legal resident spouses and subjected them to substandard detention conditions that have endangered both health and safety. The Menendez-Kennedy bill would require minimum due process standards for all detainees, protection for any children involved, and access to immigration counsel. Another important provision of the bill makes the connection between immigrants and the employers who recruit and/or hire them and calls for any labor violations discovered by the raids to be reported to the proper agency.
BORDC was among nearly 90 organizations that signed on to a letter to senators in support of this legislation. The ACLU coordinated the letter.
Interrogation & Detention Reform Act Introduced
On September 23, North Carolina Congressman David Price (NC-04) introduced H.R. 7056, the Interrogation and Detention Reform Act, which would repeal the Military Commissions Act, close the Guantánamo Bay Detention Center and establish government-wide interrogation standards outlawing both torture and the use of contractors as jailers or interrogators. Rep. Price emphasized that "deep re-examination of our nation's approach to fighting the war on terrorism must be an urgent priority for the next Administration." This legislation would also create an institution for the training of interrogators and mandate the development of a plan to prevent the radicalization of those held for questioning. "What we've been doing for the last seven years simply hasn't worked," Price said. "We need an approach that combines principled leadership with results, and that's what this bill offers."
This legislation comes at least in part as a result of the indefatigable efforts of grassroots activists in Congressman Price's district, notably members of North Carolina Stop Torture Now. While this bill will not reach a vote in the 110th Congress, it has set the stage for the 111th.
California Organizations Put Candidates on Record about the Constitution
Orange County, CA - California organizations Women For: Orange County and the Orange County chapter of the National Organization for Women sponsored a candidates night September 24. Attendance was near 100 with 24 progressive candidates introducing themselves with three-minute presentations. The candidates spoke for 90 minutes and then took audience questions. Audience members came prepared with BORDC's questions for candidates and used them to put the candidates on record about their views on key constitutional issues. Peggy Goetz of Women For: Orange County had this to say about the candidates' responses:
Bill Hedrick, a Democrat running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, lashed out at the Bush administration's human rights violations at Guantánamo Bay Naval Station. He called the administration's actions at the prison lawless and damaging to Constitutional rights. He supports closing the prison facility at Guantánamo Bay.
Todd Gallinger, a candidate for Irvine City Council, responded to a question about protecting the electronic and computer data carried by travelers. He explained that the Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure do not apply at border crossings. The Department of Homeland Security, under George Bush, expanded the application of this exclusion to include laptop computers. Gallinger called the policy "a gross intrusion on civil rights."
Maine CLU Teaches High School Students about The "War on Terror" and the Constitution
Portland, ME - Since mid-September, the Maine Civil Liberties Union Foundation has distributed several hundred copies of The 'War on Terror' and the Constitution to high school students across Maine at regional Bill of Rights conferences in Belfast and Farmington, Maine. They will do the same in Portland and Presque Isle in the coming weeks. The conferences focus on First Amendment freedom of speech rights, Fourth Amendment freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and Fourteenth Amendment equal protection under the law. Conference participants discuss core principles along with how our protections guaranteed under the Bill of Rights and the Constitution have changed since September 11. Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, said,
The [BORDC] booklet is a straightforward and clear way to educate students on how the laws have changed for the worse and has been well-received by students and teachers alike. The PATRIOT Act, in particular, still draws outrage as students question how it's possible that the government can enter your home and not tell you or get your library records. Young people will be key in our efforts to overturn these egregious new laws and policies. Arming them with copies of the Constitution and copies of the facts is the first step in taking back our Constitution.
Editor: Nancy Talanian, Director
Managing Editor: Barbara Haugen, Administrator
Amy Ferrer, Web and Publications Coordinator
Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union
Peggy Goetz, Women For: Orange County (California)
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
8 Bridge St., Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060