Category Archives: Human Rights

Ga. Supreme Court to hear tuition case for undocumented…

The Georgia Supreme Court agreed this week agreed to hear oral arguments in a case involving in-state tuition at Georgia’s public colleges for immigrant students with legal status.

Source: Ga. Supreme Court to hear tuition case for undocumented…

Kids go where their parents take them. A couple from Columbia who sneaks into this country illegally bringing their six year old kid with them has put their child into a legal situation beyond the child’s control. If that child remains in this country throughout his or her school years then that child needs to be considered a full member of the community and state of residence. It is wrong to deny them any benefit from the state that the child that is born in that state is entitled to.

You can talk all you want about stopping the flow of illegal immigration or denying services to illegal immigrants because we can’t afford it and as long as we are talking adults who consciously broke the law to enter this country you will get at least a sympathetic ear from me.

Once you start talking about punishing kids who know no other home but the U.S. and the state they live in you will get push back from me because you are wrong. No discussion, you are wrong and you should know it.

Why Cops … Stay Quiet About Police Brutality

Ten percent of you were meant to be police officers. You have it in your blood and bones and you will excel in this profession. For 80% of you, this is a job. It’s a job you will do well and honorably for your career with the NYPD. Ten percent of you should never have made it this far. You are too dumb, too damaged, or too criminal to be police officers and you very well will be hurt, killed, or arrested in the years to come.

Source: Why Cops Like Me Stay Quiet About Police Brutality

This story is one everyone should read. I’m fairly fast at bashing bad police behavior but I hope I never lose sight of the fact that these men and women in blue are human and even the best of them can make a wrong choice in the split second they are given to make them. Occasionally one of those wrong choices has horrible, horrible consequences.

We still need to condemn those bad decisions, those bad actions, and hold people accountable but never lose sight of the fact that all lives matter, even the cops.

Thanks, Dan.

Toya Graham: Mom of the Year?

Toya Graham is being hailed as “Mom of the Year” for snatching her son out of the Baltimore riots. I can fully understand why. You see all those misbehaving youth throwing rocks and police and you wonder where their parents are. You saw where Ms. Graham was.

However, not everyone sees Ms. Graham in such a positive light.

6 Baltimore Police Officers Charged in Freddie Gray Death

Charges are being filed against the six officers that were involved in taking Freddie Gray into custody and one of the officers is facing a second degree murder charge. I think that may be fitting however, I’m troubled by the speed at which the prosecution is moving.

The state’s attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn J. Mosby, filed the charges almost as soon as she received a medical examiner’s report that ruled Mr. Gray’s death a homicide, and a day after the police concluded their initial investigation and handed over their findings. Officials had cautioned that it could take considerable time for her office to complete its own investigation and decide whether to prosecute.

Source: 6 Baltimore Police Officers Charged in Freddie Gray Death – NYTimes.com

The timeline for this is a little more than two weeks. I can’t help but believe that there is a rush to put all this to bed regardless of the facts in the case. I don’t think there can be justice when the process moves this fast.

It’s again a felony to record the police in Illinois.

Dan passed this along and I think I need to make it as widespread as possible. Illinois is making it a felony to record law enforcement officers. To be sure, regular citizens are getting the same protection but at a lower sentencing rate.

According to IllinoisPolicy.org, the bill discourages people from recording conversations with police by making unlawfully recording a conversation with police – or an attorney general, assistant attorney general, state’s attorney, assistant state’s attorney or judge – a class 3 felony, which carries a sentence of two to four years in prison. Meanwhile, the bill makes illegal recording of a private citizen a class 4 felony, which carries a lower sentencing range of one to three years in prison.

via Illinois Just Made it a Felony for Its Citizens to Record the Police and the Media is Silent | The Free Thought Project.

Now I’m not sure what constitutes “illegal recording” but I’m guessing it’s illegal to record anyone who doesn’t consent to being recording.

Dropout Jeep Isn’t An SUV That Didn’t Finish School.

I’m sitting here reading an article about “Dropout Jeep” which has me staring at the iPhone laying here on my desk. It seems the NSA has developed a piece of malware that they can install onto any iPhone which will then give them complete control of the phone. This includes reading any iMessage delivered or sent by the phone, transfer any file on the phone, read any e-mail on the phone and turn on the microphone and the camera.

And here’s the thing, they are saying this malware can be installed on any iPhone at any time, any where.

They also claim the ability to always inject these commands and obtain the information with 100% success all the time, every time.

That’s a pretty big brag. I can’t imagine how they could have done this without Apple’s help. I also can’t imagine them being able to do this with an iPhone and not an Android or Windows phone.

UPDATE: Apple says they had nothing to do with this.

Investigative Parallel Construction

When investigators come across evidence that can not be used in a court of law they will sometimes backtrack their investigation to a point where they can recreate the evidence in a way that can legally used to obtain a conviction. The DEA has a whole department set up for doing this with information they have gotten from the NSA. They call this parallel construction.

One former DEA agent describes it like this:

“It’s just like laundering money – you work it backwards to make it clean,” said Finn Selander, a DEA agent from 1991 to 2008 and now a member of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which advocates legalizing and regulating narcotics.

via Exclusive: U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans | Reuters.

And, of course, we all know that money laundering is illegal.

Please read the article. It shows why we can’t trust NSA surveillance of foreign nationals to remain just surveillance of non-US citizens.

Is there any wonder the US has the highest percentage of its citizens in prison of all nations in the world?

Thanks, Dan, for finding this.

I Can’t Call It Treason

Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States defines treason thusly:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

via Article Three of the United States Constitution – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Neither Bradley Manning nor Edward Snowdon levied war against the U.S. nor did they adhere to Enemies of the US, giving Aid and Comfort in what they did. I’m sure they broke the law in doing what they did but I think the U.S. is or will be stronger for their efforts. Are they heroes? I won’t use that strong of a word but they are definitely not traitors to their country.

You commit three felonies a day

So you say, “I have nothing to hide so why should I care if the government listens to my phone calls?” Maybe you have more to hide than you think. Harvey Silvergate, a noted civil liberties attorney, asserts that everyone commits three felonies a day and I tend to believe this is more fact than hype.

The volume of federal crimes in recent decades has increased well beyond the statute books and into the morass of the Code of Federal Regulations, handing federal prosecutors an additional trove of vague and exceedingly complex and technical prohibitions to stick on their hapless targets.

via You commit three felonies a day.

And you wonder why the U.S, has the highest incarceration rate in the world? Our government watches us like a hawk, recording information about every phone call we make and then hires over-zealous prosecutors who have a bloated penal code and tough, mandatory sentencing laws that punish with imprisonment the simplest and most non-violent of crimes to drive them into a feeding frenzy of putting our citizens in jail at a tremendous cost in ruined lives and taxpayer dollars.

Flutterby™! : Government overreach outrage of the moment 2013-06-10 05:59:58.699733-07

Dan has a list of links to news items dealing with the US government’s snooping on it citizens. Rather than repeating them here I’ll just send you over there. He did include a graphic that explains why I view Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning as more heroes than villains. I’m not sure either chose the best approach for making the information public that they did but the information did need to be released.

Kerry’s Secret Gift to Egypt

Ya know, at least with the Iran-Contra scandal there was the hope that we would get some hostages released and there was enough profit from the deal to buy arms for the Contra rebels. The best I can tell there’s no chance for any release of prisoners because of this and not only is there no profit but we are out $1.3 billion. How many kids would that fund in Headstart? via Flutterby

While employees of American NGOs sat in Egyptian prisons, Secretary of State John Kerry quietly waived the law that would prevent the U.S. from sending the Egyptian military $1.3 billion worth of weapons this year.

via Kerry’s Secret Gift to Egypt – The Daily Beast.

It Should Come As No Surprise

I open up Google News this morning and I’m greeted by this headline:

NSA taps in to user data of Facebook, Apple, Google and others, secret files reveal
•Top secret PRISM program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Facebook and Apple
•Companies deny any knowledge of program in operation since 2007

via NSA taps in to user data of Facebook, Apple, Google and others, secret files reveal | World news | The Guardian.

This news actually broke a couple of days ago but it was limited to one cell phone carrier giving up all of its transactional metadata on its customers. Since then we’ve found out that it isn’t just cell phone information but also everything digital in our lives.

It isn’t like we really didn’t know this was happening, how could we not know with the theme of so many of the story lines running through pop culture pointing directly to Big Brother and his surveillence abilities. This can’t be a surprise but it is confirmation of our fears of a reality we didn’t want to admit to.

So where do we go with this knowledge? For one thing we need to acknowledge that there does need to be intelligence gathering efforts by our Department of Defense and some of the details of those efforts do need to remain secret. However, with secrecy comes a limit to the oversight so what remains secret needs to be kept to a minimum. And, see, that’s what I don’t think people in government grasp. For instance, we have this from James Clapper:

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in an unusual late-night statement Thursday, denounced the leaks of highly classified documents that revealed the programs and warned that America’s security will suffer. He called the disclosure of a program that targets foreigners’ Internet use “reprehensible,” and said the leak of another program that lets the government collect Americans’ phone records would affect how America’s enemies behave and make it harder to understand their intentions.

“The unauthorized disclosure of a top secret U.S. court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation,” Clapper said of the phone-tracking program.

via US declassifies phone program details after uproar : News : FOX21News.com.

See, I don’t think he fully understands that one of the threats facing our nation comes from our own government. The more stuff the government does behind our back the more stuff we start imagining them doing behind our back when stories like this come to light. We lose trust in the government when we learn that they have secretly been doing things that might step over the line of what we authorized them to do in our constitution. You don’t subject us to unreasonable seach and siezures without probable cause and this snooping appears to have been an unreasonable search without probable cause.

I am somewhat encouraged, though, that maybe those in charge do have some understanding of my concerns. Mr. Clapper has declassified the two programs that were leaked:

At the same time, he offered new information about both programs, saying he wanted to correct the “misleading impression” created by out-of-context news articles even as he acknowledged that publicly discussing the programs comes with inherent security risks.

“I believe it is important for the American people to understand the limits of this targeted counterterrorism program and the principles that govern its use,” Clapper said.

The problem is that if you keep it secret we are going to imagine the worse when the secret becomes public knowledge, and it will become public knowledge. Someone will leak it. You just need to understand that those leaking the information are probably more hero than villain.

FBI phone snooping tactic ruled unconstitutional

The Patriot Act, that knee-jerk piece of legislation passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, has run into more constitutional problems. One provision of it allowed for the FBI to use a National Security Letter (NSL) to compel a phone company or ISP or other communications vendor to hand over customer’s records and data and then gag the vendor from ever disclosing having even received an NSL. That last part is the part that bothered me. From my understanding, that NSL gag provision is in effect in perpetuity, not just until the investigation is over. That removes oversight and could lead to all sorts of abuse of the letters and to individual’s civil rights.

That may change:

A US judge has ordered the FBI to stop its “pervasive” use of National Security letters to secretly snoop on phone and email records, ruling Friday that the heavily used tactic was unconstitutional.

The order issued by US District Court Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco came as a surprising blow to a measure heavily used by the administration of President Barack Obama in the name of battling terrorism.

via FBI phone snooping tactic ruled unconstitutional.

It seems Judge Illston has the same concern I have. I have no problem with the FBI obtaining records it needs to prosecute dangers to the life and property of Americans. I do have a problem with having to worry about what I say that might be misconstrued by a federal eavesdropper that could put me into legal jeopardy and this is the same problem Judge Illston has with the NSL.

But in her ruling, Illston said evidence indicated that tens of thousands of NSLs are sent out every year, and that 97 percent of them are fettered with the provision that recipients never mention the requests.
“This pervasive use of nondisclosure orders, coupled with the government’s failure to demonstrate that a blanket prohibition on recipients’ ability to disclose the mere fact of receipt of an NSL is necessary to serve the compelling need of national security, creates too large a danger that speech is being unnecessarily restricted,” Illston said in her written decision.

via FBI phone snooping tactic ruled unconstitutional.

If the FBI knows that the recipient of an NSL can, at some point disclose the receipt of the letter then the FBI will be less likely to use these letters to go on fishing expeditions and will only be reading private discussions when there is probable cause to suspect terrorist activities.

The judge did give the FBI 90 days before the “cease and desist” order goes into place so that they will have time to appeal her ruling but now that the courts are listening I can’t see how such prevalent use of  NSLs can be found to be constitutional. I’ll be watching this.

URL: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130315/fbi-phone-snooping-tactic-ruled-unconstitutional

Boy Scout Code

Driving into work this morning there was a promo on the radio for a news story tonight on the proposed change in the Boy Scouts of America policy toward gay scout leaders. One of the teasers in the promo had some red neck worrying about gay scout leaders kissing and snuggling around the camp fire with each other in front of the scouts.

That ignorant and bigoted statement flew all over me. Regardless of sexual orientation there is acceptable and unacceptable behavior and what this redneck stated as a worry is unacceptable behavior by any reasonable person’s judgment. I have to wonder about the person that would even conjure up such images in their head.

I got to work and pulled up Google News to try to see if I could find who would make such a statement. If it is a politician I want to make sure someone runs against him. Instead I found an article that addresses that concern more succinctly than I ever could. Here’s an excerpt:

When it comes to protecting scouts from abuse, a comprehensive code of conduct applies to everything everyone does at all times. The Scouts Youth Protection policies are behavior based. They apply to everyone, scout and adult, gay or straight.

via Boy Scout code protects members: Column.

Like I said before, unacceptable behavior ought to be common sense for any reasonable adult. The BSA has codified this for extra protection. There is no good reason to keep a good man or woman out of scouting. There is no reason to prevent a good boy from being a scout. Sexual orientation just doesn’t play into this.

Some quotes I need to remember.

Some quotes I need to remember

“… today our criminal laws are so expansive that most people of any vigor and spirit can be found to violate them in some way. Basically, under American law, anyone interesting is a felon. The prosecutors, not the law, decide who deserves punishment.”
~ Tim Wu from the New Yorker in “How the Legal System Failed Aaron Swartz—And Us

“There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt.”
~ Dr. Ferris in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

“Only The Law, inexorably devoted to all its most ancient principles and precedents, makes a vice of innovation and a virtue of hoariness. Only The Law resists and resents the notion that it should ever change its antiquated ways to meet the challenge of a changing world.”
~ Fred Rodell, Professor of Law, Yale University, “WOE UNTO YOU,
LAWYERS!” 1939

“Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away
the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves,
and them that were entering in ye hindered.”
~ Luke. XI, 52