Despite widely clearing both the state’s Senate and Assembly, California Governor Jerry Brown shot down a bill on Sunday that would have imposed restrictions on when law enforcement agencies can use drones for surveillance.
Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement over the weekend that he was vetoing the drone accountability act that, had it been signed into law, would require police agencies to obtain a warrant before using an unmanned vehicle, or drone, for aerial surveillance.
“There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill’s exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the Fourth Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution,” Brown said on Sunday.
One of the bill’s authors, Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, said in a tweet on Sunday that “The era of govt. surveillance continues” after the governor’s veto was announced.
As RT reported previously, the California State Senate voted 25-8 last month in favor of the bill, AB 1327, after it cleared the Assembly in January by a margin of 59-5.
“The potential for abuse of drones is high and we need to be vigilant to ensure our Constitutional rights are protected,” bill co-author and Democratic State Senator Ted Lieu told Reuters earlier this year.
“Drones are going to be extremely important for hot pursuit, which is allowed in this bill, for search and rescue and, when you get a warrant, for continuous surveillance” of a location, Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), another co-author, said similarly.
According to Brown, however, the efforts of the bill’s creators to try and curb potential drone abuses clash with what the California governor believes to be the rights of law enforcement officers.
Had Gov. Brown signed his name to the bill, it would have required a warrant for drone surveillance missions except in instances of environmental emergencies, such as oil or chemical spills, when aerial vehicles could be deployed at the drop of a hat. Additionally, the data recorded by the drones would in most instances have to be destroyed within one year.
“It’s disappointing that the governor decided to side with law enforcement in this case over the privacy interests of California,” Assemblyman Gorell told the Los Angeles Times.
Earlier this month, a group of law professors wrote Gov. Brown’s office urging him to sign the bill into law because, according to the educators, failing to do as much may have great consequences.
“Misuse of drones may chill First Amendment activity and lead to high-tech racial profiling,” the letter said in part. Separately, activists gathered in downtown LA last month to rally against the city’s police department’s plans to begin using drones of their own.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says that 20 states across the US have enacted laws pertaining to the use of drones by law enforcement agencies, and President Barack Obama is reportedly preparing an executive order that will require federal agencies that use unmanned aerial vehicles to disclose more details about how they are used.
Nine Bahraini protestors have been jailed for life and stripped of their nationality for allegedly smuggling arms to be used in “terrorist acts,” the prosecutor general of the country with the second highest prison population rate per 100,000 amongst Arab states in the West Asian and North African region announced on Monday.
A Manama court also found all nine guilty of having contacted an agent of an unnamed foreign country “to carry out acts hostile to Bahrain,” he said in a statement.
The case dates back to February 2013 when authorities in the country announced they had allegedly dismantled a “terrorist cell” with links to Iran.
This is the latest in a series of convictions that the Bahraini regime has imposed against protesters, including prominent rights activists.
Today, the Saudi-backed Manama regime has the distinction of being the country with the second highest prison population rate per 100,000 amongst Arab states in the West Asian and North African region. Authorities continue to detain over 2,000 Bahrainis who dared to challenge the Khalifa monarchy when the uprising erupted in February 2011.
Indeed, Bahraini authorities are rarely transparent about the actual number of prisoners, going as far as denying that any of the prisoners were arrested over their political stances, and claiming that they were apprehended for “conspiring to overthrow the ruling regime and communicating with foreign entities.”
Due to the fact that the Bahraini regime does not publicly share the total number of prisoners it has nor does it provide an accurate breakdown of the detainees’ crimes, most information regarding Bahrain’s prisons usually come from non-governmental sources.
According to Bahraini activists, there are presently at least 2,000-3,000 “political prisoners” who were arrested when the recent Bahraini uprising erupted in 2011.
They are held among 20 prisons dispersed throughout the archipelago nation, all but two are administered by the Ministry of Interior. Out of the 20, there are four main prisons, one of which is solely for women. They are: al-Qurain Prison, Dry Dock Detention Center, Jaw Prison, and the Isa Town Detention Center for women.
While the number of prisoners may seem inconsequential compared to other countries, for Bahrain – with a small population of 1.2 million, 570,000 of which are Bahraini – it is quite significant.
A report in regards to prisons by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights released in July says there are over 200 minors held within these prisons, forced to stay side-by-side with adults, and a few have faced torture and sexual abuses.
Similarly, the July report stated, “Children as young as 13 have been sentenced to prison on charges of terrorism in trials that lacked any evidence and despite the fact that the Bahraini law does not define prison punishment for children below the age of 15 in the event of a criminal conviction.”
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa criticized on Saturday a new U.S. government plan to intervene and weaken Latin American governments.
Correa said that Obama’s intention to create six innovation centers for educating new “leaders” in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, and Asia, was clearly intended to interfere with Latin American countries.
“What they want is to intervene in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, because they say we attack freedom of speech; but go and see for yourselves who are the owners of media in United States,” said Correa.
On Tuesday President Barrack Obama said that his government will support civil society in countries where freedom of speech and association are threatened by the governments.
“We’re creating new innovation centers to empower civil society groups around the world,” said Obama during his speech in a plenary session of the Clinton Open Initiative. “Oppressive governments are sharing worst practices to weaken civil society. We’re going to help you share the best practices to stay strong and vibrant.”
President Correa hit back “This is part of the conservative restoration: the insolent announcement of intervention in other countries.” He added “Let us live in peace and respect the sovereignty of our countries.”
Correa also responded that he will propose the creation of an innovation center in the United States to teach the country “something about human rights,” so they might learn about true democracy and freedom of speech, revoke the death penalty and end the blockade on Cuba.
Correa has accused opposition movements in the country of trying to destabilize his government.
Local police shot and killed two students during a civil disobedience action in protest of their college’s underfunding.
A group of protestors from teacher-training college Normal de Ayotzinapa in Iguala, Guerrero privince, attempted to seize three buses on Friday night in an escalation of their campaign against their college´s poor conditions.
Representative of the Student’s Committee, Pedro David Garcia, said the protesters were unarmed and non-violent.
“We were trying to raise money, we took these measures because the government always ignores us. We spoke to the bus drivers and they agreed to give us the buses, but we did not threaten them, because we are students,” said Garcia.
According to the demonstrators, two of them tried to negotiate with police when officers arrived on the scene, but they were shot dead. The police continued firing at the protesters.
After the shootings, the students ran away. At least 25 of them have not yet been found.
Representatives of the Mexican Human Rights Commission went to Iguala to investigate allegations of police brutality and to support the victims of the attack.
Another shooting occured the same night near Iguala city’s highway. A teenage amateur football player traveling with his team in a bus was killed. The bus driver was badly injured and died some hours later. Another woman traveling in a taxi was also killed.
Members of Mexican federal police have come to Iguala to take charge of the city’s security while the incidents are investigated. The local police force has been detained, while their weapons were seized.
At least 25 students and four other football players were injured during the attacks.
Guerrero is one of the poorest states in Mexico, and violent episodes are frequent due to the presence of drug cartels in the state.
Cameron vows to ‘hunt down’ non-violent conspiracy theorists, demands international coordinated action
Cameron announces joint bombing plan after insisting on restriction of speech in universities. Intellectual enquiry to be banned as “incitement”.
“Lies”, says Cameron, as he launches another war
Britain is again on the verge of war. Every time they say it’s different this time, and it never is. They say the first casualty of war is truth, but it’s not true; the truth is dead before the war even begins. War is the result of lies, and this war is no exception.
A 93-year-old said to me: “I’m getting confused on who’s fighting who”. I replied, “We’re all confused. It’s ludicrous”. Who is ISIS? No-one seems to know. Has a war ever been won by bombing alone? No-one seems to know. “What could be the purpose of posting videos of beheadings?” No-one seems to know. What is the long-term strategy for winning this war? No-one seems to know. It’s as if the political establishment together with mainstream political journalists have gone into premature dementure.
Clearly, the purpose of the public beheadings can only be to enrage public opinion in the West to such an extent that they will allow their governments to send in their armed forces into the areas said to be controlled by ISIS. Who would want to do that? Would Middle-Eastern Islamicists intent on setting up an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq want to provoke and enable the mightiest military force the world has ever known to move in and obliterate them? Of course not.
Many people now think that ISIS is in all probability a creation of the US, or at least of the Neoconservative-Likud-CIA-MI6 alliance that seems to be running the Military Industrial Complex. It is said to be an offshoot of Al Qaeda, which originated as a US database of fighters opposing the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The case for war is being fabricated, and David Cameron is every bit as bad as Tony Blair, when he fabricated the myth of Weapons of Mass Destruction in order to give a pretext to invade Iraq. He is every bit as bad as Tony Blair when he told the House of Commons that he had proof that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11, but that he wasn’t going to tell them what that proof was, but would deposit it in the House of Commons Library; he didn’t. David Cameron is every bit as bad as Adolf Hitler when his men burned down the Reichstag and blamed it on the Communists. Mercifully we haven’t yet had a Kristallnacht in the UK, but I fear that’s where we’re heading.
On 24 September David Cameron made a speech to the UN Security Council, which was posted on the Prime Minister’s website under the title: “Only a coherent, coordinated response can tackle what is a truly global and indiscriminate threat”. It’s a rehash of the Policy Exchange stuff, in which he links Islam with terrorism through constant use of the word “extremism”. What, I wonder, is the “poisonous ideology of extremism” he refers to? Is it not extremist to go to war? Then he spews out the Policy Exchange stuff about non-violent extremism: “But as the evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist of offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by preachers who claim not to encourage violence, but whose world view can be used as a justification for it”. What evidence? After his Munich speech, saying that multiculturalism had failed, I gave a talk to our Keep Talking group in London, tracing his speech to Policy Exchange. I listed all those convicted of terrorist offences. I could see no evidence of these people being influenced by preachers. Look at the wording, “convicted of terrorist offences”. That has to exclude all alleged suicide bombers, the most notorious of which would be the four alleged Muslim terrorists behind 7/7 – the terrorist attacks on the London transport system of 7 July 2005. They were just declared guilty by the coroner before the inquest opened, and because they were guilty they were excluded from the inquest. Were they fanatical Muslim extremists? Well, no. This is pure deception on David Cameron’s part.
But then he accuses the truth movement of telling lies: “And we know what this worldview is–the peddling of lies: that 9/11 was a Jewish plot or the 7/7 London attacks were staged; the idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy; the concept of an inevitable clash of civilisations. We must be clear: to defeat the ideology of extremism we need to deal with all forms of extremism – not just violent extremism. That means banning preachers of hate from coming to our countries. It means proscribing organisations that incite terrorism against people at home and abroad. It means stopping extremists whether violent or non-violent from inciting hatred and intolerance in our schools, in our universities and even sometimes in our prisons. In other words, firm, decisive action – to protect and uphold the values of our free and democratic societies”.
Who is making the allegation that 9/11 was a Jewish plot? Certainly evidence has been appearing that extremist Israeli nationalists were involved, but I have been at pains to point out in my newsletters, that it’s not “the Jews”; most British Jews were against the setting up of a Jewish state in Palestine, and many have been protesting more recently about the genocide in Gaza. David Cameron is putting out a straw man argument, in order to deflect from the blatent lies in the 9/11 cover-up. He is now maliciously using 9/11 in order to justify yet another post-9/11 war.
He accuses us of telling lies about 7/7. How could 7/7 not have been staged? Note the careful use of language here. The plain fact is that the government’s version of events just does not tie up. They even took a year to acknowledge that the train from Luton to London by which MI5 claimed the terrorists had travelled had in fact been cancelled that day. Are MI5 seriously incompetent, or was that blatent deception? How could the government simply dismiss that as a mistake, with no consequences?
Having gone to the UN Security Council to tell them that some of his own citizens are liars, when all they want is to know the truth about 9/11 and 7/7, he is now recalling Parliament on Friday 27 September, in order to get the go-ahead for war – or at least to pacify Parliament, because he doesn’t formally need Parliament’s approval; in the case of 9/11 there was just an adjournment debate, in which there was no substantive motion. Only the Prime Minister and the Queen can decide to take Britain into war. On the Prime Minister’s website there is no motion, but just a statement that the purpose of the recall is “to debate the UK’s response to the request from the Iraqi government for air strikes to support operations against ISIL in Iraq”.
I should have thought that any political journalist in the UK would be able to understand such elementary points. One has to wonder who their paymasters are.
Australia’s senate has endorsed new anti-terror laws that will grant its intelligence agency the right to spy on any citizen with just a warrant, while journalists and whistleblowers “recklessly” exposing special ops can face up to 10 years in jail.
The anti-terror laws, which cleared the Australian Senate on Thursday – and will almost certainly pass the House of Representatives on Tuesday – grants extraordinary powers to the nation’s spying agency, ASIO, to effectively monitor the entire Australian internet.
The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill allows one warrant to give the ASIO access to a limitless number of computers on a computer network when attempting to monitor a target. It also allows for the content of communications to be stored – while ASIO agents will be allowed to copy, delete, or modify the data on any of the computers it has a warrant to spy on.
Critics of the law say it effectively allows the entire internet to be monitored as it is a ‘network of networks’ and the bill doesn’t define a computer network.
Moreover, under the new law, anyone identifying ASIO agents or disclosing the information related to a special intelligence operation faces up to 10 years in jail. To be found guilty one would only need to be proven to be “reckless as to whether the disclosure of the information will endanger the health or safety of any person or prejudice the effective conduct of an SIO.”
In addition, any operation can be declared “special” by an ASIO officer, and a person may never know which investigation he allegedly obstructed and being put on trial for – because it is a secret one.
The Australian Lawyers Alliance said the law could have a freezing effect on national security reporting, although Senator George Brandis and the government’s Attorney General, said the laws didn’t target journalists but instead went after people who leak classified information like the former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The new laws were introduced to target government whistleblowers, and over growing concerns about the Islamic State jihadists who threatened to directly target Westerners including Australians.
“Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement on Monday.
Voting against the measure in the 44-12 vote was Australian Green party Senator Scott Ludlam who added an amendment limiting the number of computers to 20 to be searched at any one time, which failed to gain support.
“What we’ve seen [tonight] is I think a scary, disproportionate and unnecessary expansion of coercive surveillance powers that will not make anybody any safer but that affect freedoms that have been quite hard fought for and hard won over a period of decades,” Senator Ludlam told Fairfax Media.
Recently released surveillance video showing the fatal Walmart shooting of a black man carrying an air gun – which he picked up in the same store – seems to contradict police accounts, after a grand jury decided not to indict the officers.
James Crawford III, 22, was shot and killed by police officers after they received a 911 call on August 5 that a man was carrying a rifle in the BeaverCreek Walmart, Ohio, and allegedly waving it at store customers.
Police said in their report that Crawford ignored their numerous orders to drop the rifle before he was shot. However, the video, obtained by the Xenia Daily Gazette, shows Crawford being fired upon mere seconds after police encounter him.
The video shows Crawford walking to the sporting goods section, apparently talking on his phone, and picking up what looks like an assault rifle. In fact it was an air rifle that had been left unboxed on a shelf. He then continues walking around the store – sometimes carrying the gun over his shoulder, sometimes pointed at the ground – before police arrive and shoot him dead.
The video was released as the grand jury decided not to indict the two officers involved and said “they were justified in their actions.”
The Crawford family said they were “disgusted” by the grand jury decision to not file charges against the two officers involved in the shooting.
The August 5 incident triggered protests from residents and family members demanding the video be released. Crawford is black, and the two officers involved in the fatal shooting are white. Crawford’s family asked for a federal investigation to determine if race was a factor.
The Justice Department said Wednesday it would “conduct an independent review of the facts and circumstances” around Crawford’s death to see if there were any civil rights violations. The review will be conducted by the department’s civil rights division, the US attorney’s office and the FBI.
Octavious Burks has been waiting for 10 months.
He’s locked in a jail in Scott County, Mississippi. He hasn’t been formally charged. He hasn’t been assigned an attorney.
This is a recurring nightmare for Octavious: The same thing happened in 2009 and 2012. In each case, he was held for roughly a year. Each time, he was eventually released without a trial or a conviction. Octavious has spent over three years of his life locked in a cell without ever being formally charged – let alone found guilty – of a crime.
In November of 2013, Octavious was arrested in connection with a robbery. The judge set his bail at $30,000, which Octavious could not afford. Also unable to pay for a lawyer, Octavious applied for a public defender. The court approved his request, but 10 months later Octavious still hasn’t received an attorney – an advocate who could fight to lower his bail, challenge his arrest, or prepare for a trial.
Why not? Because he has never been formally charged with a crime.
That’s how it works in Scott County: No one gets a public defender until they’ve been indicted. In other places, this might not be a big deal. In Colorado, prosecutors have 72 hours after an arrest to formally indict someone. In Kansas, it’s two weeks. But in Scott County and throughout Mississippi, the wait could last forever. That’s because Mississippi doesn’t limit how long a prosecutor has to indict someone, even if that someone is wasting away in jail.
In Scott County, felony indictments are only issued three times a year, after a grand jury convenes to formally charge defendants with their crimes. If you’re lucky, you might wait two months to hear about your charges. If you’re unlucky, you’re put off until the next session. That’s at least another four months in jail. And if you’re like Octavious, you’re left completely in the dark for months on end.
Octavious is not alone in the darkness – dozens of people are locked in the Scott County jail, without attorneys or formal charges. And this problem isn’t confined to one jail in one county. People statewide are losing months and sometimes years of their lives to a glacial justice system. That means years without work. Years without being able to care for their families. Years without knowing when the ordeal will end. All without the state having to prove a thing.
The Constitution protects you from being arbitrarily imprisoned on a mere allegation. When you’re accused of a crime, you have a right to an attorney, even if you can’t afford one. You have a right to a speedy trial. Scott County cannot pretend as if the Constitution doesn’t apply in its courts. That’s why the ACLU yesterday filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Octavious and others trapped in the Scott County jail, demanding that local judges, sheriffs, and district attorneys change the way they do business.
It’s time for Scott County to stop illegally robbing people of their lives.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office shows that the government is going easy on itself when it comes to aviation security screening, and in the process it is stretching the concept of watchlisting to the breaking point. Not only has the Transportation Security Administration expanded its use of blacklists for security screening to identify passengers who may be “unknown threats,” but it also has compiled vast whitelists of individuals—including members of Congress, federal judges, and millions of Department of Defense personnel—who are automatically eligible for expedited screening at airports. These changes have made a broken watchlisting system even more arbitrary, unfair, and discriminatory.
We already know about those at the bottom of this aviation security caste system. We’ve long known that the TSA’s Secure Flight program uses passenger information submitted with airline reservations to screen against watchlists maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, including the No Fly List (which includes individuals who are barred from flying to, from, or over the United States) and the Selectee and Expanded Selectee Lists (which include individuals who are subjected to additional screening every time they fly).
Those watchlists, in turn, are compiled based on criteria that are so overbroad, ambiguous, and riddled with exceptions as to virtually guarantee that innocent individuals will end up blacklisted. Even information of questionable or doubtful reliability can support the “reasonable suspicion” standard that the FBI uses for placing people on the master watchlist. In fact, a single, uncorroborated piece of information—including a Facebook or Twitter post—can be enough to get you on the master watchlist and the Expanded Selectee List.
But the TSA isn’t stopping there. Thanks to the GAO report, we now know that the TSA has modified the Secure Flight program so that it assigns passengers to one of three risk categories: high risk, low risk, or unknown risk. We’ve long been critical of this kind of passenger profiling—which the TSA has proposed in the past—because it inevitably leads to greater intrusion into individuals’ private lives. And of course, it raises the question of what criteria and information the TSA uses to sort people into these categories.
The TSA is keeping those criteria secret, which is part of the problem. However, the GAO report states that the “high-risk” passengers aren’t just those who appear to match a name on the FBI’s No Fly, Selectee, or Expanded Selectee lists (as problematic as those lists may be). Now, the TSA is also using intelligence and law enforcement information, along with “risk-based targeting scenarios and assessments,” to identify passengers who may be “unknown threats.”
In other words, the FBI’s flawed definition of someone who is a suspected threat to aviation security isn’t relaxed enough for the TSA, so the TSA is creating its own blacklists of people who are hypothetical threats. Those people are also subjected to additional screening every time they fly. To make matters worse, another recently published GAO report indicates that the redress process for travelers who have been incorrectly caught up in the watchlisting system does not apply to these new TSA blacklists. So the TSA’s “unknown threats” are truly without recourse.
Moreover, attempting to identify “unknown threats” in the traveling public exacerbates the already unacceptable risk that watchlists will be used for racial and religious profiling—something that leaked documents strongly suggest is already happening.
What about those at the top of this hierarchy? Who gets the privilege of being designated “low risk” and undergoing less onerous screening measures? TSA has established separate lists of entire populations of passengers who, by virtue of their status within the government, get expedited screening, including:
- Members of Congress
- Federal judges
- Department of Defense (DoD) military and civilian personnel (approximately 2.9 million people)
- Employees of national intelligence agencies (approximately 70,000 people)
- Homeland Security Advisory Council members and Homeland Security Advisors
These groups receive “Known Traveler Numbers” that they submit when making travel reservations and are then routed to the TSA Pre-Check line when they arrive at the airport. Others (those who have been neither whitelisted nor blacklisted) can apply for expedited screening through Pre-Check by undergoing a background check and submitting biographic information and fingerprints.
Superficially, it’s easy to see the TSA’s logic in focusing on these individuals for whitelisting. Many are involved in defending the country, and some have undergone background checks as part of their positions within the government. But that logic doesn’t stand up under scrutiny. The problem with the TSA’s approach goes to the heart of watchlisting in general: the government is increasingly relying on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a dangerous act in the future.
Just as the TSA is blacklisting people who it has decided are unknown, hypothetical threats, it is whitelisting people simply by virtue of their status as employees of the government. That status, however, says next to nothing about whether those individuals will engage in violence or pose a threat to security on any given day. Government employees and officers commit crimes, including crimes that affect national security. Because there is no reason to believe that a given DoD employee is less likely to threaten aviation security than, say, a teacher or an accredited journalist, whitelisting the DoD employee is arbitrary.
The more fundamental problem is how the logic applies to the rest of us. Instead of subjecting all travelers to the same procedures designed to detect threats to aviation, the government is essentially telling the American public that if we want the same privileges that the government has awarded itself, we’ll have to convince the government that we won’t commit dangerous acts in the future. That means turning over more and more information about ourselves: about who we are, what we do, and with whom we associate. By default, the TSA’s system treats any reluctance to fork over that information as somehow suspicious, and it reinforces the emerging airline security caste system.
Similarly, insulating lawmakers, judges, and other decision-makers from the burdens and inconveniences of air travel does not serve the interests of democracy and fairness. When the government makes status-based decisions about aviation security, it pits Joe Congressman against Joe Sixpack, and unsurprisingly, the congressman comes out ahead.
Ultimately, when we start rewarding or punishing people because of who they are, as opposed to what they’ve done, we drift farther from the principles at the heart of our Constitution.
Florida sheriff’s deputies, under the guise of checking professional licenses, raided an Orlando-area barbershop using SWAT-like tactics back in 2010 and now a federal appeals court has ruled that the search was illegal.
In a ruling that allows a lawsuit against the department to proceed, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals strongly criticized the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for storming the Strictly Skillz barbershop four years ago. “With some team members dressed in ballistic vests and masks, and with guns drawn, the deputies rushed into their target destinations, handcuffed the stunned occupants—and demanded to see their barbers’ licenses,” the court wrote. The raid was one of several deputies carried out against minority-owned barbershops and salons in 2010.
The justices said the deputies went too far in using a SWAT-like approach just to check whether barbers were licensed. In fact, inspectors from Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) had inspected Strictly Skillz only two days prior to the raid and found everything in order.
Describing the raid as a “scene right out of a Hollywood movie,” the panel of judges wrote: “Unlike previous inspections of Strictly Skillz…the August 21  search was executed with a tremendous and disproportionate show of force, and no evidence exists that such force was justified.” The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel reported that “no illegal or unlicensed activity was found” at the Pine Hills barbershop.
Working with DBPR, the deputy sheriffs claimed they suspected unlawful activity had taken place at the shop, which caters to minority customers, and others like it.
Tuesday’s ruling was a result of two deputies, Keith Vidler and Travis Leslie, petitioning that they should be immune from any civil litigation brought against them for doing their jobs. But the judges rejected their position, noting that they had twice before ruled in other cases that those participating in a warrantless criminal raid were not entitled to immunity. “Today, we repeat that same message once again,” the court wrote. “We hope that the third time will be the charm.”
Both the DBPR and the Sheriff’s Office launched internal investigations following a report by the Orlando Sentinel exposing the raids.
The DBPR terminated several employees and settled out of court with barbers. But the Sheriff’s Office concluded deputies did nothing wrong.
To Learn More:
Excessive Force Used in 2010 Barbershop Raid, Appeal Court Says (by Jeff Weiner, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel)
SWAT-Style Barbershop Raid Nets Harsh Rebuke (by Lorraine Bailey, Courthouse News Service)
Brian Berry v. Travis Leslie (Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals) (pdf)
Uncovering information that should be available to the public has become increasingly difficult under the presidency of Barack Obama, an Associated Press bureau chief says. In some cases, it surpasses the secrecy of the George W. Bush administration.
The White House’s penchant for secrecy does not just apply to the federal government, according to AP’s Washington bureau chief, Sally Buzbee. During a joint meeting of news editors, she stated that the same kind of behavior is starting to appear in state and local governments.
Buzbee pointed out eight ways that the Obama administration is stifling public access to information – including keeping reporters away from witnessing any military action the United States takes as it battles Islamic State extremists in the Middle East.
“The public can’t see any of it,” Buzbee said, referring to the military campaign. “News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off – there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the [US] bombers fly from.”
She also expressed frustration with the government’s handling of the upcoming 9/11 trial, during which journalists are prohibited from looking at even non-classified court filings in real time.
“We don’t know what prosecutors are asking for, or what defense attorneys are arguing,” she said.
Meanwhile, basic information about the prison complex in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is being withheld from the public, despite the fact that the Bush administration freely shared this data. The media is unable to learn how many inmates are on hunger strike in the infamous prison, or how frequently assaults on guards take place.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests have become harder than ever to process, Buzbee added. Government officials often fail to do so unless media outlets bring a lawsuit to bear.
At the same time, federal officials have begun pressuring state and local agencies to keep quiet.
“The FBI has directed local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology the police departments use to sweep up cellphone data,” Buzbee said. “In some cases, federal officials have formally intervened in state open records cases, arguing for secrecy.”
Raúl Castro, President of Cuba, said that he wants to start relations with the U.S., but first the U.S. must provide health insurance to all 46 million people who lack it; stop extrajudicial assassinations in sovereign countries through drone attacks; make higher education affordable for all; reform the prison system which has by far the highest incarceration rate in the entire world, with a drastically disproportionate amount of prisoners being minorities; grant Puerto Rico its sovereignty as required by the U.N. Charter, U.N. Declaration on Decolonization, and the popular referendum in Puerto Rico in 2012; halt the economic blockade, which has been ruled illegal for 22 straight years in the U.N.; close the detention facility and return the land to Cuba; turn over terrorists living freely in Miami who have bombed Cuban civilian airplanes, hotels and fishing boats; and free the three political prisoners who were investigating these groups to prevent further attacks.
Actually, he said: “We don’t demand that the U.S. change its political or social system and we don’t accept negotiations over ours. If we really want to move our bilateral relations forward, we’ll have to learn to respect our differences, if not, we’re ready to take another 55 years in the same situation.”
President Barack Obama has said Cuba: ”Has not yet observed basic human rights … I and the American people will welcome the time when the Cuban people have the freedom to live their lives, choose their leaders, and fully participate in this global economy and international institutions.” But he added: “We haven’t gotten there yet.”
Presumably Obama means when Cuba agrees to relinquish their right to self-determination, as guaranteed in the U.N. Charter, to join the U.S.-imposed neoliberal order. When Cuba agrees to gives up state control over industries like banking and telecommunications and opens them up to foreign investment, so more money can be shipped off the island instead of staying in the local economy and invested in the Cuban people. When Cuba agrees to “free trade” agreements, which would prevent labor and environmental safeguards while forcing local businesses to compete on an uneven playing field with multinational corporations that receive government subsidies, allowing them to undercut the price of local products. In short, when Cuba decides to respect private profit over the social welfare of its population.
U.S. calls for “democracy” and “human rights” in Cuba have an important historical connotation, which in reality has nothing to do with representative government nor human rights. The term is nothing more than a propaganda tool, instantly elevating the accuser to a superior moral status and subjecting the accused to an indefensible position regardless of the real facts, history and context.
The U.S. is not suggesting that Cuba should be judged by established human rights and international humanitarian laws — The Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (which the U.S. has never ratified); and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which the U.S. took more than 20 years to ratify); the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the U.S. has never ratified; and many others. It is suggesting Cuba abide by the criteria the U.S. sets out for them and sees fit to interpret itself.
The reality is that the United States does not get to serve as judge and jury for other countries’ internal affairs, just as they would laugh in the face of anyone who tried to do the same to them. To pretend that your demands are more important than the law that governs the international system is beyond condescending.
Incidentally, there is a United Nations Committee that impartially reviews compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the few treaties which the U.S. has both signed and ratified. The committee, in its most recent annual report, found the U.S. non-compliant in many areas.
To start, they found that the U.S. “has only limited avenues to ensure that state and local governments respect and implement the Covenant, and that its provisions have been declared to be non-self-executing at the time of ratification,” which serves to “limit the legal reach and practical relevance of the Covenant.”
Among the many matters of concern is accountability for “unlawful killings during its international operations, the use of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees in United States custody.”
The committee also noted numerous domestic problems, including “racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” “racial profiling,” “excessive use of force by law enforcement officials,” “criminalization of homelessness,” “National Security Agency surveillance,” and even “voting rights.”
Obama’s sanctimonious remarks about Cuba demonstrate his disregard for the law that applies to both countries equally, and his unwillingness to be held to the same standard that he preaches to others.
Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy, and Latin America. You can follow him on twitter.