Imagine being falsely accused of terrorism for nothing more than the books you have read. Well that’s exactly what has happened to a Florida man named Marcus Dwayne Robertson.
The U.S. government composed “snippets of information from various sources, out of context, to weave together a narrative of terrorist ideation,” according to a Florida judge.
That judge just ordered the release of Robertson, also known as “Abu Taubah,” an Orlando, Florida resident and Islamic scholar. Abu Taubah was accused of “supporting terrorism,” but the “evidence” against him amounted to nothing more than the books on his bookshelf.
Robertson, also known as “Abu Taubah,” was incarcerated from 2011. The charges he faced, however, were tax fraud and illegal gun possession. Not exactly “terrorism.”
But following his arrest and conviction stemming from these charges, prosecutors added what they termed “terrorism enhancement” to the sentence.
There seems to be no rationale for this other than ABu Taubah’s religious orientation… that and his book collection.
This sentencing guideline modification would have locked Robertson up for 20 years.
But the judge’s recent rejection of this bizarre, Orwellian sentencing “enhancement”, led to the Islamic scholar being released immediately.
Robertson’s sentence was argued as justifiable by prosecutors who said the contents of his Islamic book collection were sufficient “evidence” that he was connected to terrorism.
Approximately two dozen eBooks that Robertson downloaded were presented as “evidence” of his “terrorist connections.”
Prosecutors highlighted passage after controversial passage, as though this could serve as legitimate evidence that someone is a terrorist. They didn’t seem to understand that the contents of a book someone owns cannot be used as evidence against them.
A memorandum obtained by First Look was issued along with Judge Gregory A. Presnell decision. That memorandum strongly rejected the government’s argument that eBook passages could be used as “evidence” of “terrorism.”
“[T]here was no evidence produced that Robertson ever accessed these particular documents, much less that he took their extremism to heart,” Presnell argued.
He made it clear that even if the Islamic scholar admitted to having read the eBooks in question, this would not and could not be used as evidence of terrorism.
“The government has never disputed Robertson’s claim of being an Islamic scholar,” he added. “It is not at all remarkable for an Islamic scholar to study, among many, many others, the writings of Islamic extremists.”
He said that beyond this, the prosecutors did “not even come close to proving… Robertson’s relatively minor income tax fraud was intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism.”
The judge noted that he received “hundreds of emails” over the last few weeks that urged him to lock up the man for no reason other than because he was a Muslim. These emails amount to little more than racism and bigotry in most cases, and fear-mongering and ignorance in the rest.
“In America, everyone has a right to say and believe what they want, within the bounds of the law,” Presnell said before declaring that Robertson would have to be released immediately.
Robertson’s lawyer Daniel Broderson agreed that “at no point did the government ever have any actual evidence [Robertson] advocated terrorism, so they attempted to use his library of books as a backhanded way of branding him as a terrorist. He spent four years in prison, two years of it in isolation, over a prosecution that was both unfounded and that completely ran afoul of the first amendment.”
Speaking to The Intercept after he was released, Robertson said, “they’re trying to find an indirect way to sentence people with non-terrorism charges as though they’d committed terrorism offenses, without having to provide the preponderance of evidence that is normally required in such cases. You own a few books and some guy tells an informant you said something, and suddenly that is legal basis enough to sentence you to prison for decades.”
He added that he “lost all those years, in jail, in terrible conditions, away from my family. After all that, they couldn’t produce one single statement from me that supported terrorism.”
Protest commemorating one year anniversary of the killing of Mohammad Abu Khdeir met with military violence
Ramallah – On July 2, 2015, in honor of the first anniversary of the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, Palestinian activists with international supporters blocked a settlers-only road leading to the illegal Adam settlement. Demonstrators cited this road as the road that the murderers took in their search for a Palestinian victim. Journalists, Palestinian and international activists, suffered from pepper spray burns and several were hospitalized.
“This is the first in a week of demonstrations for Muhammad Abu Khdeir. One of the murderers, Yosef Haim Ben-David, is from the Adam settlement. This is why the demonstration was held at this settlers-only entrance,” said Abdullah Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Bil’in.
Demonstrators blocked the road to settler traffic in both directions until the Israeli Army and Border Police dispersed the non-violent demonstrators and journalists by pepper-spraying indiscriminately. Three Palestinian activists, four journalists, and two International ISM volunteers were pepper sprayed in the eyes and mouth by a masked Army officer. An ISM co-founder as well as journalists from Roya TV Channel, Reuters, and Palestine TV were severely pepper sprayed in the eyes requiring hospitalization.
The soldiers threw sound percussion grenades at demonstrators and chased people. In addition to the pepper spray, they shoved journalists and Palestinian activists to the ground.
After the soldiers and border police chased the demonstrators off the road and down a hill, they continued to throw percussion grenades even as the demonstrators stood at a distance waiting to find fellow demonstrators.
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 )
Sergey Naryshkin says the refusal to participate in the forthcoming OSCE session was meant as a protest against arbitrariness and violations of main principles of democracy and parliamentary politics.
The State Duma chairman announced the decision to skip the Helsinki session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe soon after the Finnish Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that it had turned down a request to temporarily waive the travel ban and allow Naryshkin and five more State Duma MPs to enter their country. In order to participate in the event that begins on Sunday.
Earlier, Naryshkin submitted a draft resolution to the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE denouncing the very practice of sanctions against parliamentarians. In this document he also stated that obstructing contacts between lawmakers from different nations was against the basic principles of democracy.
On Wednesday Naryshkin said that the whole of the Russian delegation would not participate in the OSCE session “in protest against arbitrariness, against violation of the principles of democracy.” He added that Russia still planned to take part in the next session of the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly that will take place in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
Earlier in the day Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov called Finland’s decision to deny entry to the Duma speaker “outrageous and unacceptable,” especially considering the fact that the visit was within the framework of an international event. Peskov added that he expected the Russian Foreign Ministry to give a qualified appraisal of this step.
In March 2014, the USA and the EU introduced personal sanctions, such as visa bans and asset freezes, on a number of senior Russian officials and leading politicians whom they accused of being “key ideologists and architects” of the policy towards Ukraine. As the relations between the West and Russia continued to deteriorate, more names were added to the blacklists.
Russia replied with its own blacklist of about 200 people known for their anti-Russian positions and actions. The Russian Foreign Ministry did not initially disclose their names, but they were published by Finnish press earlier this year after Russia presented the list to European nations for the convenience of foreign officials who did not want to apply for visas if they were to be refused anyway.
The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed disappointment in this disclosure, calling it a threat to mutual trust.
Having liberally assassinated journalists in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya Pentagon has done the logical next step and openly wrote the practice into its code of conduct
Four weeks into NATO’s 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia American bombs slammed into Belgrade’s main television station massacring 16 employees of Serbia’s state television broadcaster (RTS).
All killed were civilians but these were the 1990s. Sloban Milošević was “Adolph Hitler” and Serbs were “his willing executioners”.* Serbian civilian deaths didn’t matter. Thus BOOM! Program director dead, security guard dead, electrician dead, cameraman dead, sound technician dead, make up lady dead…
Tony Blair and a host of NATO spokespeople appeared before cameras to explain these people deserved to die – they were part of Milošević’s “machinery of hate”. No bombs hit them in turn.
RTS had been covering Serbia’s civilian deaths caused by NATO but this wasn’t the reason it was hit – as said nobody really cared and besides RTS had been taken off satellite by NATO and could no longer broadcast beyond Yugoslavia. However, NATO’s strategy in the war had been to make the life of Serbian civilians so miserable they would beg Milošević to capitulate – and RTS’ mix of airing patriotic music videos and reports of NATO carnage was doing a decent job of propping up Serb morale and resolve.
RTS was interfering with NATO’s strategy – it was giving the Serbian populace a measure of comfort and strength – this made it a top target of those who needed it broken.
Stretchering a victim of RTS bombing, April 23, 1999
Next stop Iraq. April 8th 2003 American tanks finally smashed into downtown Baghdad – Iraq had been conquered. Americans marked the occasion by opening fire on journalists in three separate locations in the city.
Offices of Qatar’s Al-Jazeera were hit by an air strike. Offices of United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi satellite channel likewise. Finally a US tank fired into the Palestine Hotel – Bagdad’s more well-known hotel and a well-known base for foreign journalists. In all Americans’ attacks on journalists that day killed three and wounded four.
This was just the beginning. Iraq became a veritable killing ground for journalists including due to attacks by American occupiers. In the first two years of the occupation alone 13 journalists are known to have been killed by American fire.
Most famously in 2007 a US helicopter crew deliberately gunned down two Iraqi reporters for Reuters along with a dozen other civilians – this was the so called “collateral murder” incident later brought to light and made famous by WikiLeaks.
Throughout the Iraq occupation US bitterly complained about reporting done by Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah. It accused them of inflaming the Arab street against the US and helping to fuel the Sunni resistance in Iraq.
The two were repeatedly banned from reporting from Iraq by the US-installed government in Baghdad. Likewise in 2004 the US launched the Al-Hurra Arab-language satellite channel to try to rival the two.
Finally, during the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya the alliance repeated its performance during the bombing of Yugoslavia and deliberately took out a Libyan TV compound slaying three journalists.
It may be the case that US military has only now produced a “law of war manual” explaining its policy of killing journalists, but it is the case it has been at it for at least 15 years.
The thing to understand is that Pentagon has convinced itself that media has dealt it its greatest defeat in history – the hugely traumatic loss in the Vietnam War. In Pentagon’s retelling of the Vietnam debacle journalists delivered a fatal stab in the back of a war effort that was on the cusp of turning things around.
The problem according to US military wasn’t so much US atrocities and real strategic setbacks, but the fact the knowledge of these was spread by journalists to the people at home.
Vietnam – the high tide of American war reporting
That is to say the main lesson Pentagon drew from the Vietnam War was the need to control information coming out from the war zone. Military thinkers spent the next two decades thinking about the ways to accomplish this and eventually perfected it into an art form.
Thus the highly managed and highly favorable coverage of US military invasion of Iraq – served up by embeded journalists assigned to this or that unit of the US military. But if embedding journalists showed to just what degree they may be tamed it also served to highlight how unfriendly and dangerous (at least in the Pentagon’s imagination) the remaining independent journalists were by comparison.
In Pentagon’s thinking an independent journalist threatens its control of information coming out of the war zone and therefore threatens “the mission” – that above all is what really makes him a “legitimate” target.
The rest, the nonsense about “unprivileged belligerents” and what not – that’s just sophistry and mumbo jumbo to obscure the fact that US military – the armed force of the “land of the free and the home of the brave” believes in murdering civilian non-combatants.
* Serbs had been so thoroughly collectively demonized in the west that the neocon Charles Krauthammer could openly complain from the pages of Washington Post that the bombing wasn’t killing enough Serbian civilians and the liberal interventionist Thomas Friedman could call from the pages of The New York Times for Serbia to be bombed back into the Middle Ages and spark no mainstream outrage whatsoever. Link
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.”
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
Jewish group suggests ‘outing’ of American anti-Israel professors, calls for Israel studies programs
A Jewish institute has proposed “outing” of anti-Israel professors from universities in the United States in order to reduce anti-Israel activity on American college campuses.
The Jewish People Policy Institute said in its 2014-2015 annual assessment that there are over 300 anti-Israel groups at American universities and they are responsible for resolutions passed by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
According to the report published on Sunday, severe anti-Israel activity “is limited to around 20 campuses, mainly in California and in some elite eastern schools.”
“We recommend exposing ‘activist’ faculty members who use their academic lecterns to advance an anti-Israel agenda,” said the report.
It suggested enlisting Jewish donors in efforts “to prevent the misuse of academic freedom in promoting a politicized anti-Israel platform.”
Other suggestions are promoting “additional departments for Israeli studies programs on campuses” and increasing “cooperative endeavors with Israeli universities.”
The group gave the report to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The BDS campaign seeks to increase economic and political pressure on Israel until it ends the occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands and respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
The boycott campaign began in 2005 by 171 Palestinian organizations, calling for “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.”
In 2013, two US academic groups — the American Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies — supported the boycott.
The refusal of the University of Illinois to hire Professor Steven Salaita last year for his tweets about Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip sparked controversy.
Salaita decided to leave his job at Virginia Tech University after he was offered a professor’s job at the University of Illinois in 2013.
He wrote a number of messages in 2014 to condemn Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.
In one message, Salaita said, “Only #Israel can murder around 300 children in the span of a few weeks and insist that it is the victim.”
He was told that he would not get the job after writing the messages.
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.
Pakistani journalist Zaid Hamid (file photo)
Saudi forces have arrested a leading Pakistani journalist opposed to Saudi Arabia’s military aggression against Yemen.
Zaid Hamid, a Pakistani defense analyst and political commentator, was arrested weeks ago by Saudi security forces in the holy city of Mecca during a private visit with his wife to the kingdom, The Express Tribune reported on Friday.
“Our embassy in Riyadh has informed us that Mr Zaid Hamid was arrested about two weeks ago. Since then, the embassy has been working with the local authorities to get consular access,” said Pakistan’s Foreign Office in Islamabad.
Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah added that, through the Pakistani embassy’s diplomatic channels, Hamid’s wife had been able to get permission to talk to him in one session.
Meanwhile, there are speculations that Saudi forces took the outspoken media figure into custody for his vocal anti-Riyadh stance.
Saudi authorities are yet to comment on the report.
Hamid’s articles and speeches reportedly shed light on Saudi atrocities in Yemen, and accused Riyadh of providing financial support to the Takfiri ISIL terrorists and al-Qaeda militants in the region.
Saudi Arabia launched military strikes on Yemen on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in a bid to restore power to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is a Riyadh ally, and to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
Turkish ‘Ulke TV’ Editor-in-Chief Hasan Ozturk (L) and Journalist Halime Kokce (R) from Star Newspaper speak to media as they arrived with the group of Turkish citizens who were deported from Israel, at Ataturk International Airport on June 26, 2015
Israel has deported nine Turkish citizens, including journalists and activists, after holding them for over six hours at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Thursday.Ulke TV Editor-in-Chief Hasan Ozturk, Ozden Ayvaz and Huseyin Gunay from TRT News, Halime Kokce from Star Newspaper, Memur-sen vice chairman Levent Uslu and four activists – Kemal Ozdal, Durdane Ozdal, Fatih Bolcan and Sumeyra Bolcan – were detained at the airport.
“We are under detention for six hours at the Ben Gurion Airport with a group of journalists and activists. They questioned us individually,” Kokce wrote on Twitter.
She said in another tweet that Israeli officials confiscated the group’s cell-phones and quizzed them on their WhatsApp conversations and contacts.
In a final tweet, Kokce said the group had been informed they were being deported, and had been banned from entering Israel for ten years.
“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.