The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has continued to stonewall requests by the Department of Justice’s inspector general for records pertaining to multiple investigations by the internal watchdog.
The FBI has contended since 2010 that the IG’s office lacks the legal authority to see documents related to certain matters, including grand juries, Title III electronic surveillances and Fair Credit Reporting Act information.
FBI officials also claim they don’t have to share documents related to two investigations of alleged whistleblower retaliation, or those pertaining to an IG review of the FBI’s use of telephonic metadata collected under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, according to the Project on Government Oversight.
The IG said in a report “delaying or denying access to agency documents imperils an IG’s independence and impedes our ability to provide the effective and independent oversight that saves taxpayers money and improves the operations of the federal government.”
“Actions that limit, condition, or delay access have profoundly negative consequences for our work: they make us less effective, encourage other agencies to take similar actions in the future, and erode the morale of the dedicated professionals that make up our staffs,” the report stated.
And it might become even more difficult for the inspector general to get information from the FBI. The 2016 Justice Department budget proposal does not include the section that now forces the Bureau to cooperate with requests from the IG.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz said such a move “could lead the FBI to believe that its conduct has been sanctioned and could cause other department components to conclude that it is acceptable to ignore the Appropriations Act and clear requirements of the IG Act and raise legal objections to the OIG’s access to certain records necessary to perform our important oversight function.”
To Learn More:
Watchdog Barks for Access to FBI Records (by Michael Smallberg, Project on Government Oversight)
Justice Watchdog Continues to Clash with FBI Over Access to Documents (by Charles Clark, Government Executive )
180 Day Report to Congress on the Impact of Section 218 of the Department of Justice Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (Department of Justice Inspector General) (pdf)
Justice Dept. Report Details Clashes between FBI and Organized Crime Drug Task Force (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov )
After nearly a month on the run after breaking out of a maximum-security prison in Upstate New York, convicted murderer David Sweat was shot on Sunday by a New York State trooper and apprehended. Two days earlier fellow convicted murderer and escapee Richard Matt was shot dead by a federal agent nearby. While Governor Andrew Cuomo was quick to label Sergeant Jay Cook, who shot and captured Sweat, a “hero” – a claim that was repeated by CNN, the Daily News, Time and many other outlets – there was no serious analysis about whether Cook’s use of lethal force was legally justified.
The Associated Press published “Trooper had law on his side when he shot unarmed escapee” (6/29/15), which was widely reprinted nationally and internationally. The article makes the case appear definitively open and shut.
“A state trooper had the law on his side when he shot unarmed prison escapee David Sweat, apparently in the back, as the convicted killer ran toward a forest near the Canadian border,” the AP wrote.
Their source: one legal expert. Maria Haberfeld, head of the law and police science department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the AP : “You cannot shoot a fleeing felon, but certainly you can shoot the one who poses a real threat. There was no reason to believe this person who had killed a police officer before was not posing a real threat.”
The AP cites the 1986 Supreme Court decision Tennessee v. Garner defining the condition that deadly force may only be used if “the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.” The AP also notes a New York State law permits the use of deadly force against a dangerous convict escaping from a detention facility.
While the AP says that “experts” differentiated the shooting from the case of Walter Scott, who was gunned down in South Carolina after a traffic stop, only the head of the National Association of Police Organizations is quoted to make this point. He said “these prisoners … they’re not presumed to be an innocent citizen walking down the street.”
The only opinions the AP mentions countering arguments for the legality of shooting Sweat are “some people online” who “questioned the decision to fire.”
It wouldn’t have been hard to at least find sources questioning the legal basis for shooting an unarmed man clearly not posing a immediate threat to the officer or anyone else.
Ten days earlier, Amnesty International released a report titled “Deadly Force: Police Use of Lethal Force in the United States,” which found that neither U.S. Constitutional law nor a single state law meets international standards concerning the use of force by police officers.
“Amnesty International reviewed US state laws – where they exist – governing the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials and found that they all fail to comply with international law and standards. Many of them do not even meet the less stringent standard set by US constitutional law,” the report says.
So even if it were true that the shooting of David Sweat was legal according to state and/or Constitutional law, it could still be the case that it does not meet the legal justifications of international treaties to which the United States is a party.
According to Principle 9 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials: “Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.”
This is clearly a much more stringent standard than that established in the Garner case. Not only is an officer required to act in self-defense (or defense of a third person), but there must be an “imminent threat of death or serious injury” and the shooting must be “strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.”
The sequence of events leading to the shooting of Sweat, according to the New York Times, was that after being asked by Sergeant Cook to approach him, “instead Mr. Sweat turned and fled across a field toward the tree line.” Cook “patrolling by himself, gave chase and finally opened fire, striking Mr. Sweat twice in the torso, because he realized the fugitive was going to make it to the woods and possibly disappear.”
While Sweat had been convicted of the murder of a police officer, which would have established the justification to use lethal force against him under New York law, it would be much harder to argue he presented an “imminent threat” as he was unarmed and there was no one else nearby. He had been on the lam for more than three weeks without harming anyone. If he were to have escaped to the woods without being detained, would that have constituted an imminent threat?
There was no mention in the Associated Press article of any investigation into the shooting. As Amnesty noted: “All cases of police use of lethal force must be subject to an independent, impartial and transparent investigation and if the evidence indicates that the killing was unlawful, the police officer responsible should be criminally prosecuted.”
There are enough questions surrounding the shooting of an unarmed man to warrant an investigation, regardless of whether Sweat was a convicted murderer. Instead the officer is quickly called a hero and the media follow suit in their hero worship.
Sweat is reportedly in serious condition at Albany Medical Center. The media seems willing to ignore his rights because of the horrific crimes he was convicted of. But despite his crimes, he is legally still entitled to the right to life that every person – even the most hardened criminal – enjoys.
With the shooting of Sweat coming so soon after the Amnesty report, media organizations could have drawn attention to the higher standard for the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers under international law that the report documents, which quite likely were not met. They could have at least mentioned that relevant international law exists and is something American law enforcement are obligated to follow.
The US has a history of making inaccurate statements to international bodies in order to advance its global agenda. One need only look at the statements made on the international stage prior to the invasion of Iraq to realize that the intention to invade Iraq was not going to be hindered by a realistic assessment of its “weapons of mass destruction” program.
In recent UN convenings, we are now seeing false statements put on the record by high-ranking US officials concerning the US’s domestic agenda. As the UN has no dominion over the domestic issues within the United States, one can only view these coordinated efforts by the US officials as a studied effort at propaganda.
This past May, the UN reviewed the human rights record of the United States. Known as the UPR (Universal Periodic Review), this session in May marked the second such review, the first having taken place in 2010. Civil society was invited to submit reports and over ninety NGOs and grassroots organizations did so. In addition, over 110 UN member nations also voiced their concerns as to the US’s human rights record.
Criticisms and concerns were entered on many different issues. The failed campaign promise of President Obama to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay was mentioned repeatedly. So were the failures of the United States to ratify many human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Convention on the Rights of the Child, The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, The Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as well as other international treaties.
Racial profiling and police killings of US citizens, many if not most being African Americans, were raised as consistent concerns. In addition, recommendations were made that the US halt its application of the death penalty and also establish a national human rights agency.
The tone of the US response was quite a bit different from the tack taken in 2010. Gone were the promises, empty as they were. Instead, the US adopted a regimented and in some cases a somewhat belligerent defense of what might be considered indefensible activities. And where belligerence might have failed to impress, outright lies were employed.
Muted belligerence was clearly in evidence in the statements made by Brigadier General Richard Gross, legal counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who addressed concerns about Guantanamo Bay and the detainees. “The detainees are detained lawfully,” he declared. According to Gross, there were 242 detainees at the beginning of the Obama administration and 116 have been transferred out since then. He stated that 122 remain. As these figures omit four individuals, it is assumed that they have died.
Alarmingly, Gross made the following revelations: Of the remaining 122, he told us, 57 are designated for transfer. Out of the 65 others, 10 are currently facing charges or have been convicted. The remaining 55, he stated, will be reviewed by the periodic review board. In other words, 55 individuals have been detained for years without being charged. This is hardly in accordance with US law, which guarantees a speedy trial, among other legal considerations.
And it is US law which pertains to the detainees. Supreme Court decisions have granted the detainees protections under US law, including the right of habeas corpus. Over 200 writs of habeas corpus have been filed by Guantanamo Bay detainees. Not one has been granted.
Police abuse is of grave concern to many different sectors. The US attempted to assuage these concerns with outright lies. Indeed, the US continued on with its hooey about the non-existent “hundreds of federal prosecutions” for police abuse that it tried to front a few months back at the Convention Against Torture meeting in Geneva. As discussed in this article, the actual numbers of federal prosecutions for police abuse could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Rather than correct the previous misstatements, the US officials amplified the bogus figures, and cited a total of 400 such prosecutions. The Big Lie is always the best, and for those who gagged on the overblown figure of 330 such prosecutions stated at the CAT by Assistant Attorney General David Bitkower a few months back, the new figure of 400 such prosecutions provides an even bigger loogey to swallow.
For students of effective propaganda, it might be of interest to note that the US did not use David Bitkower, a white man, as the mouthpiece for this lie on the occasion of the UPR. As previously noted, most of the police killings involve a black victim, and accordingly, the US used one of its black DOJ officials, James Cadogan, to deliver this line of horse puckey. Cadogan is Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General.
Well, using the facade of race to convince the naïve population that it was getting something other than more of the same worked in the 2008 election, did it not?
It looks like the US, seemingly on a roll of grandiose pronouncements as to its diligent protection of human rights, did not stop with this false figure. Other declarations were made at the UPR which were similarly suspect. For example, according to Kevin Washburn, with the Department of the Interior, the US has restored about a million acres to Indian tribes under this administration. Well, that sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it?
The problem arises in verifying Washburn’s “million acre” pronouncement. As it turns out, Washburn also testified before a Congressional subcommittee just a scant three days after he made the “million acre” declaration to the UN. In his testimony in front of the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs, US House of Representatives on May 14, Washburn testified that the Obama administration had restored “approximately 300,000 acres to tribes.”
That constitutes a rather serious difference in figures. In accordance with the Uncle Tomism seen in using African American Cadogan to speak on police abuse, Washburn, who is the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, also claims to be a member of the Chickasaw Nation, an Oklahoma tribe.
At the 2010 UPR, the US promised to ratify the Convention On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In fact, Congress voted against ratification in 2012. In the US report to the UPR for the 2015 review, the US stated that “The United States has robust protections to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities and has actively enforced these protections since our last report.” In fact, multiple ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) complaints have been filed with the Department of Justice, stating profound violations of rights affecting the elderly and disabled by state courts. According to recent statements made by an ADA employee to this reporter, not one of these complaints has been pursued by the DOJ.
Another red flag appeared in the US’s statements about the number of federal hate crimes prosecutions. The US claimed that over 200 individuals had been convicted under federal hate crime laws, including the Shepard/Byrd Act, in the past five years.
This reporter contacted the DOJ press office as well as the FBI and was refused details on hate crime convictions. A dedicated internet search, including DOJ and FBI websites as well as newspaper reports, turned up a total of 72 convictions for federal hate crimes since 2009. Sixteen of these convictions—for the infamous Amish beard cutting defendants– were subsequently reversed in 2014, leaving a grand total of 56.
Parenthetically, as the press office at the US DOJ refused to supply factual documentation (such as case numbers and names), this reporter filed a Freedom of Information Request for this information. It is possible that the fulfillment of this request will provide a different perspective. For the edification of the readers, the last FOIA request by this reporter was filed in 2009. I am still awaiting the response.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on the lack of transparency in the Obama administration and cited multiple problems with FOIA. According to the article, “Most Administrations play games with FOIA, but the Obama White House has turned stonewalling into an art form.”
The WSJ article goes on to discuss the following ploys being utilized to evade replies to FOIA requests– imposing sky high fees, failing to process requests within the legal time limit, destroying information and excessively redacting information.
Access to accurate information is a fundamental part of a democracy. If the citizenry is kept in the dark about the nature of its governance, it will not be able to make appropriate decisions. Those in power who play a shell game with the facts of their activities do so in accordance with the dedicated purpose of any liar–fear of exposure and avoidance of accountability.
Janet C. Phelan, investigative journalist and human rights defender that has traveled pretty extensively over the Asian region, an author of a tell-all book EXILE.
Salt Lake City – The Utah Fraternal Order of Police hosted an event for more than 70 law enforcement agencies. The local media dutifully touted it as a way to reduce violence and some form of community outreach, apparently they didn’t examine the message very closely. The propaganda effort is, unsurprisingly, being conducted in a state where cops kill more people than drug dealers or gang bangers. It’s being conducted in a city that had a DA elected after promises of holding police to account for their actions. There has not been a single conviction.
The premise behind the program is as Stalinesque as they come. The advertising for the program paints it as something that helps officers and the community step into each other’s shoes. However, rather than address the fact that officers consistently use excessive force, it’s designed as a mobile reeducation center to convince people to “play the yes sir, no sir game” when dealing with officers. In other words, comply or die. For officers, the training revolves around attempting to alter the community’s perception of excessive force, rather than actually stopping it. During the class in Utah, officers were advised to go to neighbors after they bust down a door to execute a search warrant to explain why it was done. Nothing says “safe community” like terrorizing one family with a no-knock raid and then going and knocking on all the doors in the neighborhood to confront those families and scare them as well. More importantly, what are the officers going to say? It’s doubtful they will act with a presumption of innocence and therefore open the department up to a lawsuit.
The speaker at the event said, “Who is going to re-educate people who have been educated in a negative way? You!” Yes, it really is designed as a reeducation program.
The name of the organization is “Why’d You Stop Me.” There’s a 17-minute commercial available on YouTube that showcases some of the advice they are giving to kids who endure the reeducation program. Even in the video designed to make the organization look as if it is something other than a propaganda effort, the one-sided message provided by the organization that incorporates “the thin blue line” into its logo is apparent.
The video starts by displaying a badge wrapped with the “thin blue line,” which has become synonymous with police cover-ups, brutality, and misconduct. It then shows a series of clips of officers being beaten or shot. Then after endorsements from a bunch of members of the thin blue line, it displays: “121 Police Officers died in 2014 while protecting the communities they serve.”
With all of the images of violence, the message is clear: 121 cops were killed by criminals last year alone. Of course, that isn’t anywhere near the truth. According to the ODMP (the cited source in the video), the actual number of line of duty deaths was 134. However, they weren’t all beat to death or gunned down by merciless criminals. 2 were killed by other cops, 19 had heart attacks, 7 died from a “9/11 related illness,” 41 were killed in car accidents of some sort, and so on. Less than half of that number were actually killed by the actions of criminals. There’s no telling how many were killed during excessive force scenarios they provoked or by conducting no-knock raids against people that would have otherwise been nonviolent. It makes no mention of the number of unarmed civilians killed by cops during the same year. It makes no mention of the number of people killed by cops at all. That number is 1104. Seems like it would be worth mentioning that cops are killing civilians at a ratio of 20:1.
At 8:21 in the video the speaker states: “If you guys act respectfully, you get through that contact alive.” Seems to me that simply being unarmed should be enough to get through the contact alive. Just like World War II propaganda films, it shows successful conversions of people that didn’t respect police officers, who now say they do. They must be very proud to be able to trick a child from an underfunded inner-city school by feeding them lies and half-truths, but what is going to happen when that child sees a cop beat someone to death because they weren’t acting respectfully?
The primary speaker is obviously some form of social worker, anthropologist, or psychologist, right? Nope. He’s a cop. He works for Long Beach Police Department. He’s a member of the thin blue line. Why should we have expected anything else?
Why does Utah need some form of propaganda effort to reeducate the population? It probably has something to do with the fact that becoming a homicide victim at the hands of police is the most likely way of becoming a homicide victim in the state except for domestic violence, but we don’t have the numbers to determine how many domestic violence victims were killed by partners who are law enforcement. A cursory search found at least 4.
One Utah incident that has made headlines recently because the cop taunted the family of the unarmed man he killed is the case of Joey Tucker. Tucker was in some form of medical or emotional distress when an officer shot him three times. Even though the video clearly shows the officer’s statements to be false, and the new DA, Sim Gill, campaigned on holding police accountable and once wrote a paper lamenting the law enforcement community’s practice of not properly investigating crimes, no charges have been filed. Two videos of Tucker’s execution and screenshots of the Facebook conversation in which the cop says the son’s life was only worth $100,000 are available here.
Welcome to a society that will allow the population to be reeducated to accept brutality and violence, rather than ending it. We are headed to a hellish future where the security services of the United States are permitted to behave as judge, jury, and executioner while the public is expected to cheer at their own executions.
This case gives a new and an even more despicable meaning to the term, “Broken Windows Policing”
St. Louis, MO — Leon Walker and his family were settling down for dinner last week when they were violently interrupted as flashbang grenades came flying into their house and began exploding.
The front door was kicked down, and armed assailants rushed in with AR-15 rifles drawn and pointed Walker and his family. These armed and incredibly incompetent and dangerous assailants were members of the St. Louis Police Department’s SWAT team.
The SWAT team was looking for an evil man who allegedly committed the ‘crime’ of selling a substance to willing customers. This man’s name was Darron Ford, and he lived two doors down from the Walker family.
The fact that the man they were looking for lived two doors down was of no consequence to these thugs in uniform as they went along with the raid, in full. For two hours, police, who knew they were at the wrong address, tore the home of Leon Walker apart in search of a non-existent reason to justify their idiocy.
Never let a botched SWAT raid go to waste.
Had Walker tried to defend his home against the armed invaders, he would have been killed, and the world would have never known about it. The blurb on the nightly news would have been that police kill an armed man who fired on them.
“Obviously they think they’re being invaded,” family attorney Bevis Schock said. “The hope is that they won’t fight back but that they’ll cower in fear – the flight response rather than the fight response.”
Schock says that police should have stopped their madness once they realized they were at the wrong home. However, they were on an apparent mission to destroy and intimidate.
After the life-threatening home invasion and subsequent destruction of their home, the St. Louis Police Department sent out a building inspector. In turn, the inspector issued the Walker family a citation for a window the SWAT team broke during the raid!
“In this case the insult was to have the building inspector cite them for the window that had been broken by the police an hour earlier as part of the entry, and that’s outrageous,” Schock said.
The Walker family could have been killed by these barbarians as they followed their controller’s orders to seek out illicit substances. Instead of an apology for threatening all their lives and ransacking their home, the Walkers were extorted!
The Walker family has since filed a lawsuit against the city of St. Louis. The taxpayers will now foot the bill for the belligerent idiocy of the St. Louis SWAT team.
The Walker’s situation is hardly an isolated one either. Also this month, and in the same town, another family was wrongfully raided by St. Louis SWAT. Angela Zorich and family were subject to a massive military-style raid during which their house was destroyed, their beloved dog killed, and their mother kidnapped. The reason for this war-like assault on a family — Zorich was on hard times and was temporarily unable to pay her gas bill.
Sadly, many Americans are still unable to see the horrors of the massive and brutally negligent police state that has exploded in this country. The apologists sit back and tell people that if they don’t do anything wrong, they don’t have anything to worry about.
Trade unionists are demanding a full inquiry into ‘very troubling allegations’ of police spying on activists and blacklisted workers.
Home Secretary Theresa May has already set up an inquiry headed by Lord Justice Pitchford into allegations of police surveillance operations against activists, but its full remit is not yet known.
The inquiry has come about in response to allegations by police whistleblower Peter Francis, formerly of the Special Demonstration Squad, that during his four years working as an infiltrator of political groups he spied on member of five unions, including the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
“Trade unions are the largest democratic, mass-membership organizations in the UK,” FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack told the Guardian.
“Trade unionists have legitimate concerns about police operations that may have undermined our decisions, interfered with industrial relations and led to the victimization of our elected officials.”
Wrack said an inquiry into allegations of police spying on causes such as environmentalism, the Stephen Lawrence murder case and trade unionism was “long overdue.”
Another group affected are those blacklisted by employers. Blacklist Support Group (BSG) secretary Dave Smith made an official submission to Pitchford last week regarding allegations of “collusion” between police and businesses.
“Trade unions are a perfectly legal part of civil society,” he told the Guardian.
“Why are we being infiltrated by undercover police units and why is the state sharing intelligence with big business?
“It is only because we were prepared to kick up a stink that the evidence about police collusion has slowly come to light.”
In March it was reported police spying had also been extended to Labour MPs. Francis revealed 10 Labour MPs were tailed and spied upon by British police. Those affected demanded the release of secret files kept on them.
The surveillance was carried out as recently as the 1990s when the politicians had been democratically elected to parliament.
Among the MPs targeted were prominent left-wingers and serving ministers Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Dennis Skinner. The late Tony Benn, a lifelong socialist and anti-war campaigner, was also tailed by British police.
The highest-ranking MP to have been surveilled was Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman. Speaking to Penning, she said: “I would like you to assure me that you, the government, will let me see a full copy of my file.
“I was campaigning for the rights of women, for the rights of workers and the right to demonstrate — none of that was against the law, none of that was undermining our democracy.”
Reprieve | June 30, 2015
Egypt’s President, General Abdel-Fattah al Sisi, has said he wants to change the law to allow for quicker executions in the country.
In remarks at the funeral of Egypt’s Attorney-General Hisham Barakat, who died after a car bomb attack on Monday, Sisi is reported to have said: “The arm of justice is chained by the law. We’re not going to wait for this. We’re going to amend the law to allow us to implement justice as soon as possible”. He added: “If there is a death sentence, a death sentence shall be enforced.”
The decision to expedite executions for those sentenced to death raises fears for scores of people arrested in the military’s 2013 breakup of protests. Many face possible death sentences in mass trials that fail to meet international standards; including juveniles such as Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa, who is being tried as an adult alongside 493 other people. Ibrahim, a student from Dublin, was 17 and visiting family in Cairo when he was arrested in August 2013. Now 19, he has reported torture and mistreatment throughout his two years of pre-trial detention.
Commenting, Maya Foa, the head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “In Egypt we’ve already seen scores of innocent people – including juveniles such as Ibrahim Halawa – arrested for the mere ‘crime’ of being at or near a protest. Thousands still face torture, ‘mass trials’, and the threat of hanging. It is sickening that President Sisi now wants to dismantle what little checks remain to prevent wrongful executions. This wave of repression has done nothing to restore law and order in Egypt – Sisi must urgently change course, before any more lives are lost.”
The families of detained journalist Mohamed Saber al-Battawy and photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, started a sit-in on Sunday at the Journalists Syndicate until the release of their relatives.
Battawy’s wife, Rofaida al-Safty, told Mada Masr, “We don’t know why my husband has been detained, we and his lawyers haven’t seen him yet, despite the fact that he has been prosecuted and received a 15-day detention order pending investigation.”
Safty explained that on June 17 at dawn, “a masked force broke into the house and confiscated personal documents, books and Battawy’s hard drive.” Safty wasn’t home when this happened, but Battawy’s father was with him and recounted the details to her.
When Battawy’s father asked about where his son would be taken, he was told “Toukh Police Station,” but Safty didn’t find him there or at any other station within Qalyubiya Governorate, and his arrest was denied by those she asked.
“We called around, notified the syndicate, as well as state-owned Akhbar al-Youm media oulet, and filed a complaint with the general prosecutor and interior minister. We even called the human rights division within the ministry, who asked us to call again, but when we did, their phone was off, Safty recounted.
The Journalists Syndicate filed a complaint with the prosecutor on Monday last week, demanding the disclosure of Battawy’s place of detention and the charges brought against him. The syndicate added in a statement released on the same day that it had communicated with the interior ministry, but received no adequate answer.
On Tuesday, the state-owned Middle East News Agency published an article quoting security sources saying Battawy is in Tora prison and has been accused of “being a member of an illegal group.” Battawy’s defense team headed to the prosecution to verify this information, but no accusations were listed.
Safty reportedly awaits her husband’s transfer to the prosecution again next Wednesday.
As for Shawkan’s family, his mother said he was arrested in August 2013 while covering the Rabea sit-in, along with two foreign photographers who were later released. Shawkan was taken to Cairo Stadium and then transferred to the prosecution, who charged him with murder, attempted murder, being part of an armed group, assaulting security forces, and the possession of a firearm, she added.
Shawkan hasn’t been released or transferred to court and has been detained for 22 months.
Ahmed Abdel Naby, Shawkan’s lawyers, previously told Mada Masr, “There is no evidence against Shawkan and upon arrest he was only carrying a camera. We have submitted all the necessary documents, stating that the photojournalist was working when he was arrested, in addition to the testimony of both his foreign colleagues before their release, but obviously all this is insufficient for his acquittal.”
Abdel Naby said Shawkan was beaten at Cairo Stadium and was then taken to Abu Zaabal Prison, then finally to Tora Prison. Shawkan’s health condition has deteriorated in detention as he has Hepatitis C.
A letter from Shawkan to Yehia al-Qalash, head of the Journalists Syndicate, was published a couple of days ago saying, “All that matters now is the release of all journalists, so that they don’t die a slow death like me. I am afraid that my colleagues will end up like me … thin, pale, with dark circles under the eyes, a heart with an irregular pace and a featureless face that has lost all hope that one day I will be free and will be able to hug my mother again.”
Shawkan added, “I have explained how I die each day, so that you know the suffering of my colleagues in detention. Therefore, I do not ask for my release, but theirs, and I hope that one day they will be free, whether I am alive inside prison or dead.”
Qalash met with Shawkan’s family upon their arrival at the syndicate on Sunday and told reporters he is communicating with the presidency concerning Shawkan’s case.
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) issued a report on Saturday on the violations of freedom of the press during the first half of 2015. According to the report, 18 journalists were arrested, 14 others were illegally detained, 34 were physically assaulted, eight were verbally abused, and 85 were prohibited from future coverage. AFTE reported one case in which a media institution was raided. AFTE added that five journalists were detained for more than 500 days and five others for more than 100 days.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement on June 25 saying that Egyptian authorities jailed 18 journalists in 2015 — the highest number of detentions since 1990.
CPJ sent a “delegation to Egypt in February, where it met with the general prosecutor and the minister of transitional justice, who said that no journalists have been detained because of their work. However, the committee stated that Sisi’s government used national security as a way to control human rights and freedom of the press.”
The report added, “The Egyptian government is randomly accusing journalists and activists of being members of a banned group. The majority of detained journalists have been accused of being Muslim Brotherhood affiliated.
* Translated by Mada Masr
The rookie NYPD cop who shot and killed Akai Gurley in a stairwell last year waited almost 20 minutes to report the shooting, refusing to call for or provide medical assistance, as he bickered back and forth with his partner about who should be the one to call their sergeant.
Meanwhile, Gurley lay bleeding on a stairwell with a bullet wound to his chest, still breathing, while his girlfriend ran to a neighbor for help, according to a new document presented this week in the manslaughter trial of New York City police officer Peter Liang.
The statement of facts, presented by the district attorney in rebuttal to a motion from Liang’s defense attorney that the case be dismissed– offers the most detailed account of the shooting to date, describing the rookie officer being more concerned about keeping his job than keeping Gurley alive.
In the minutes after the shooting, Melissa Butler, never having been trained in CPR before, kneeled over her boyfriend, applying pressure to the wound and administrating CPR as her neighbor remained on the phone with the 911 operator relaying instructions.
The cops, despite being trained in CPR and required as police officers to administer it when needed, stepped around them as they made their way down the stairs, still arguing about who should call the sergeant.
“Hurry up and call,” NYPD police officer Shawn Landau told Liang.
“What’s the address?” Liang asked his partner.
Liang finally reported the shooting at 11:19 p.m., almost 20 minutes after the shooting, estimated to have taken place a little after 11 p.m.
And five minutes after the neighbor had already called 911.
During that time, Liang also texted his union representative in a desperate attempt to save his job.
It all started on November 20, 2014 when Gurley, who was unarmed and not breaking any law, was visiting his girlfriend at the Brooklyn housing project she lived in.
NYPD officers Liang and Landau were on-duty patrolling the housing projects when they entered a darkened stairwell from the eighth floor to make their way downstairs.
Liang pulled out his gun before entering, even though he was not being threatened.
Meanwhile, Gurley and his girlfriend entered from the seventh floor after having waited for an elevator that never arrived.
Seconds later, Liang fired his gun, striking Gurley in the chest. Investigators said the bullet ricocheted off a wall before striking Gurley.
Fearing for their safety, Gurley and Butler ran down two flights of stairs but Gurley collapsed on the fifth-floor stairwell. Butler then ran down to the fourth floor where she knocked on the neighbor’s door for help.
“What the fuck happened,” Landau asked his partner.
“It went off by accident,” Liang responded, who then began repeatedly saying he would be fired.
The document states that Liang reported the shooting at exactly 11:19 and 46 seconds, followed by a series of follow-up reports to dispatch of an “accidental discharge.”
But New York City Police Lieutenant Vitaly Zelekov had already received a report at 11:15 p.m. that a man had been shot in the building, thanks to the neighbor’s call.
Minutes later, Zelekov arrived at the building as numerous other cops were arriving. He reached the fourth-floor landing and spotted Liang, asking him what had happened.
“I shot him accidentally,” Liang told him.
Zelekov took Liang’s gun, secured it in his waistband and made his way up to the fifth floor where he saw Butler attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Gurley.
Zelekov ordered another officer to relieve Butler, then radioed to dispatch to “rush the bus,” meaning to send an ambulance as soon as possible – the first time that night anybody had requested an ambulance.
That request was logged at 11:21 p.m. and seven seconds. Gurley was pronounced dead at a local hospital at 11:55 p.m.
Liang’s lawyer Stephen Worth told the New York Times that Liang was hyperventilating in the moments following the shooting, and was “too distraught” to help Butler attempt to save Gurley’s life, so therefore, charges should be dismissed.
But Justice Danny K. Chun rejected the motion to drop the charges against Liang, who is facing manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide, assault in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree, as well as two counts of official misconduct.
Officer Landau has not been charged for his role in Gurley’s death.
A Cairo-based rights group has revealed that as many as 269 people have lost their lives in Egyptian custody since the 2013 ouster of Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected president.
The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) disclosed the data in a report issued on Friday to mark the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
The group said 130 of the fatalities, which comprised 68 political detainees and 62 criminal defendants, had occurred under Egypt’s military-appointed interim President Adly Mansour, who was trusted with the country’s leadership after Morsi’s overthrow from July 3, 2013, to early June 2014.
The report also noted that among the deaths, 143 had occurred due to systematic medical negligence and 32 others as a result of torture practices.
The ECRF also documented 139 deaths in Egyptian prisons and detention facilities since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi ascended to power last year.
Morsi, affiliated with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, was elected as the country’s president in 2012 but was ousted only a year later in a military coup led by the then army chief, Sisi.
Sisi, who had also served as military chief under former dictator Hosni Mubarak, later campaigned for and won the country’s presidency in controversial elections in June 2014.
The Sisi administration has been cracking down on any opposition since Morsi was ousted, banning the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Thousands of the supporters of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood movement have also been jailed, with many of them, including Morsi, receiving death penalties in mass trials.
Derry, Northern Ireland.
“Cameron went completely off script at that point and he said ‘Look, the last administration couldn’t deliver an inquiry in your husband’s case and neither can we.’” Asked why by Jane Winter of British Irish Rights Watch, Mr.David Cameron, according to Ms. Winter, replied: “Because there are people all around this place who won’t let it happen.” She recalled him twirling his hand in the air at “people all around this place.” “This place” was 10, Downing Street. The occasion was a meeting in October 2011 between the prime minister and members of the family of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, murdered by the Loyalist paramilitary outfit the UDA in 1989, with, as a series of media probes has established and the British government no longer denies – the active involvement of a secret British army unit and of the “security service”, MI5.
Winter had accompanied the family to London. They had travelled at the invitation of the Northern Ireland Office, believing/hoping that Cameron was to tell them face-to-face that he had given the go-ahead for the public inquiry into the killing promised by Tony Blair a decade previously. SDLP MP Mark Durkan says that Blair gave him “an unambiguous commitment” to a public inquiry during talks at Weston Park in July 2001. The question which immediately arises is: who around Downing Street would have had the clout to forbid a prime minister from following a particular course? Senior civil servants? Hardly. Sir Humphrey doesn’t deliver instructions but rather offers advice. But MI5 fits the bill. It is difficult to think of any other group which does. If this be the truth of it, Cameron was telling Ms. Finucane that an organisation which both were aware had played a key role in the murder of her husband was refusing to contemplate a public inquiry into the crime and that he had no choice but to comply. (John Ware’s 2002 BBC investigation had exposed MI5’s role in facilitating certainly scores and possibly as many as 200 sectarian murders of Catholics.)
MI5’s ability to dictate the terms on which its activities might be examined had been on open display at the Bloody Sunday inquiry in May 2003. At one point MI5 officer “Julian” – he gave evidence anonymously, by video-link from an unidentified location – referred to a device called an “Alvis.” Barry McDonald QC, for a number of the families, asked: “What is an Alvis?” Inquiry counsel Alan Roxburgh intervened: “Before the witness answers that question… I understand that (MI5’s) position may be that they are content that it should be indicated that Alvis was a means of communication, but not to provide further details… I will be corrected if I am wrong by Mr Sales.” Philip Sales QC, for MI5: “That is correct, sir.” Inquiry chairman Lord Saville: “What Mr Roxburgh says is right?” Sales: “What Mr Roxburgh says is right, yes.” Saville: “I think you will have to leave that there, Mr McDonald. I am sorry.” And there it was left. Sales was to intervene on around a dozen occasions to indicate what questions MI5 would like disallowed. Each time, the agency’s requirement was met, without discussion.
One MI5 witness told the inquiry that he had been advised in advance by one of Saville’s own lawyers what questions he might reasonably refuse to answer when giving evidence. Although lawyers for the families expressed astonishment, the matter was not pursued.
Astonishment might have been the appropriate response, too, to the bizarre (or so it would seem in any other context) government intervention in 2010 in the case of Binyam Mohammed. He had alleged MI5 involvement in severe ill-treatment which he had suffered while held in a CIA “black site”. In a draft judgment, the third most senior judge in England and Wales, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger, was sharply critical of MI5’s actions both in relation to Mohammed’s treatment and then in the course of the court proceedings. Gordon Brown’s government responded by writing privately to Neuberger telling him that the judgment as it stood would be “exceptionally damaging” to MI5 and suggesting that he change it. The notion of judicial independence had been discarded.
We can but guess who it was who advised Brown to butt in on a judge between the end of the court proceeding and delivery of the judgment. In any other circumstances, the concept of contempt of court might have come into play. Since 2005, MI5 has had “primacy” in policing in the North on issues of “national security.” Determination of what issues or incidents touch on national security is exclusively reserved to MI5. In his reports to the policing board, the chief constable of the PSNI is permitted to refer to matters of national security only with specific prior permission from MI5.
An entirely unaccountable organisation which has been shown to have consorted with terrorists and to have indulged in perjury and politically-motivated murder has apparently unchallengeable control of the most sensitive aspect of policing in the North. It is puzzling that this isn’t a matter of constant controversy.
Eamonn McCann is an Irish journalist and political activist. He can be reached at Eamonderry@aol.com
“I am the least popular guy in Washington.” Thus spoke Rand Paul at a stopover rally in Massachusetts on his way to New Hampshire on June 7. Who can doubt that claim after the events of the last few weeks.
When you have Barack Obama, John McCain, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell all arrayed against you, you are bound to get the award for least popular guy in Empire’s capital city. An accolade of this magnitude also means that you must be doing something right. And that something right was Paul’s filibuster against the PATRIOT Act in the Senate in defiance of his own Party, an act that killed the Section 215 and the other ugly provisions of the PATRIOT Act dead.
Now here is the strange thing about Senator Paul’s acts of courage and defiance. Those who wish to see respect for privacy and the Bill of Rights withhold their praise from Paul! Is that not strange on the face of it? It is great to have sympathizers who are also critical when the occasion demands it — and Paul has these in abundance. But when a political figure like Rand Paul does something right, he also deserves praise. To withhold such praise will in the end weaken an ally and perhaps lead to his political demise.
So let’s get to the overdue praise right now. One loud full-throated cheer for Rand Paul – for his courageous stance opposing the PATRIOT Act and also for opposing Obama’s fake reform USA FREEDOM Act which has replaced it.1 Virtually all the Democratic Senators who stood against PATRIOT embraced the USA FREEDOM Act. Paul opposed both.
At the Massachusetts rally Paul launched into an impressive and detailed defense of the Bill of Rights, a theme this writer heard him pursue last Fall, at the Liberty Political Action Conference (LPAC) in Virginia. And this time, as then, there was emphasis on the toll that violations of the Bill of Rights took on Blacks, Latinos and other minorities. He put it this way, that violations of the Bill would most affect the “least among us,” those discriminated against based on the color of their skin or other minority status. Of course that is a phrase echoing Matthew 29:40 which would be convincing to the many Christians in the audience. And Paul reminded the audience that one could take on minority status based on what one thinks or believes, another strong appeal to contrarians and libertarians among the listeners. Paul went on to appeal to the audience to turn the Republican Party into one that represents and recruits Blacks, Latinos and other minorities, adding that this was not only an ethical imperative but also a winning strategy. It is easy to imagine the appeal of the Rand Paul libertarians in those communities that are subjected to the New Jim Crow, victimized in the “war” on drugs, hunted and often killed by brutal, militarized police. Rand Paul has stood against all these things openly and vigorously
It is a pity that only the rare progressive will hear such a speech by Paul. For in these matters he is their ally. Unfortunately, most progressives do not feel a need to do this since, as they will tell you, they “already know” what Rand Paul stands for.
So let a second thunderous cheer go up for Rand Paul’s opposition to the war on drugs with its mandatory minimums, to police militarization and brutality and to other manifestations of the New Jim Crow.
While we are at it, let us look at a stance of Paul’s that has attracted less attention but may be one of the most important. He has called attention to the disaster unfolding as a result of the War on Libya, and quite correctly called it Hillary’s War since she was the driving force for it. It has destroyed Libya, which before the war had the highest rating in all of African on the UN’s Human Development Index. It has launched a wave of immigrants to Europe, many of them perishing at sea along the way. And to get approval for the Western intervention, the US lied to the UN Security council, claiming that there would be no bombing but only a no-fly zone for “humanitarian” reasons. Instead the West became the air force for the opposition to Gaddafi, bombing Libya mercilessly. That lie has had grave consequences for world peace, with Vladimir Putin stating that lie was the last straw in terms of believing or trusting the U.S.
So let us add a third and final rousing cheer for Paul in bringing the War on Libya to the forefront where its ugly significance can be seen by one and all. This conflict was no inheritance from Bush but the Obama administration’s very own war from day one.
To return to the issue of mass surveillance, the cause of the first cheer, and those who regret that Rand Paul was unable to stop the USA FREEDOM Act as he did the PATRIOT Act, they should recognize he did what he could. With a bigger base and some more cheers, there is little doubt that much more could be done to stop the Spy State and the other atrocities Paul has opposed.
- If you have any doubts that the USA FREEDOM Act is a sham reform, the PATRIOT Act in disguise, here is what the ACLU’s director Jameel Jaffer had to say about the “USA FREEDOM Act”:
This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision—the material-support provision—would represent a significant step backwards. The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform.
For more detail and a hint of how bad the USA FREEDOM Act really is, read what Jaffer said to Glenn Greenwald here.
If that does not convince you, think about this. Obama has been making love to the PATRIOT Act since he has been in office, advocating and winning its extension in 2011. But after Snowden’s revelations burst on the scene in 2013, the widespread anger made it impossible for PATRIOT’s ugly provisions like Section 215 to survive. So Obama offered a “reform.” It would have been very surprising, given Obama’s record, if that reform were anything other than the fig leaf it turned out to be. And a pathetic fig leaf it is, woefully inadequate at providing cover for our clothes-less, spying Emperor.