Archive | April, 2008

Indiana ID at polls OK by SCOTUS, border searches of electronics OK, Day of Silence under fire and more

28 Apr

Homelessness
Madison’s discussion on homelessness registers in the Chicago Trib radar screen. The article describes other civil liberties concerns such as the “banned from State Street” list enforced by local police and describes how cities nationwide have cracked down on visible homelessness via law enforcement measures.

Immigration
Another citizen and Wisconsinite gets snagged in the flawed immigration/Homeland Security system.

At the border, agents can search laptops and electronics without cause. An appeals court ruling agreed that electronics weren’t too personal to search. However it was left unclear how individuals would be required to help agents with their search by providing passwords to protected devices. How do I set a passcode lock on my iPhone again?

A vet group is making a fuss over a Spanish class recital of the flag pledge in espanol. Didn’t Jon Secada sing the Star Spangled Banner in spanish at the white house for the inaugural back in 2001?

LGBT rights
Gay-Straight Alliance sponsored Day of Silence promotion is attacked at a Janesville school district board meeting. Anyone else fatigued by people who pit religion against gays and lesbians? U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s office issues a statement in support of the Day of silence and how it recognizes LGBT rights, especially as anti-gay violence and school harassment is a lingering problem.

Privacy
Some of the more conspiracy-minded might think that citizens should be leary of giving the government their private indentity data because of the risk of its misuse. Actually the biggest threat these days is simply a lack of oversight of keeping that data secure and private. After some data bungles earler this year, the Governor set out to increase data security. Here is some of the new news about a report that assessed the state’s privacy regs, Doyle’s reaction and the ACLU of Wisconsin’s response.

The story didn’t end in January though. Here is another story about gaps in security for database info on Wisconsin seniors.

Taped fight at Toki makes it to YouTube, but admins say that security cameras may be next. Example may introduce the need for communities to discuss how to handle new technologies and privacy protections.

Voting rights
There is bad news on the voting rights front. The US Supreme Court upheld the Indiana voter ID legislation. While this will be heralded as a victory for “election integrity,” it should be pointed out that Indiana had no cases of fraud via in-person voter misrepresentation. Indiana also does have free IDs, however the dissenting justices’ opinions clearly laid out reasons why obtaining an ID is a barrier to voting. The ACLU got involved in the case on behalf of Indiana voters.

The ACLU of Wisconsin will continue to fight efforts to require photo IDs at our polling places. This is especially important because currently WI state DMVs charge money for state-issued ID cards ($28 for an ID; $34 for a renewal – up ten dollars to pay for the Real ID program that hasn’t been implemented yet).

Read the full opinions from the Supreme Court.

Reproductive rights
The pharmacist who denied patient birth control will seek a State Supreme Court review. While forum posts on on-line articles tend toward the bizarre if not psychotic, trends in reader feedback tend to reflect an understanding of the importance of not allowing religious beliefs to impede a woman’s access to birth control.

Heard of cybersquatting? A fake family planning site makes cybersquatting hit close to home (namely, Wausau).

Women’s rights
What explains the difference in our paychecks? Wisconsin Women still make only 78 cents on a man’s dollar.

Other news
Hey look! It’s our board president! Guenther gets interviewed about his involvement in a project to teach Afghan lawyers about civil liberties and the rule of law.

Watch for ACLU Legal Observers at the May Day march. The rally starts at 11:30am at Brittingham Park on Thursday, May 1. For more information about how legal observers serve as volunteer witnesses at public protests, or to find out how to become a legal observer for the ACLU of Wisconsin, contact the Community Advocate, Stacy Harbaugh.

National news – ACLU in the movies, more action on CIA torture, death penalty news and more.

28 Apr

April 26, 2008

ACLU Demands Immediate Release of Inspector General Report on FBI’s Role in Illegal Interrogations

On the heels of President Bush directly admitting that the White House was deeply and intimately involved in decisions about the CIA’s use of torture, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request this week with the Departments of Justice and Defense for the release of a report on a long-running investigation of the FBI’s role in the unlawful interrogations of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) launched the investigation after internal government documents – uncovered by an ACLU lawsuit – revealed that FBI agents stationed at Guantánamo Bay expressed concern after witnessing military interrogators’ use of brutal interrogation techniques.

According to recent media reports, the OIG investigation has been completed for months. The Defense Department, however, has blocked the OIG from releasing it, claiming that the report still needs to be reviewed and redacted by the Pentagon.

The OIG investigation was initiated in 2005 after the ACLU obtained documents in which FBI agents described interrogations that they had witnessed at Guantánamo Bay.

While the documents were most notable for their description of illegal interrogation methods used by military interrogators, they also raised serious questions about the FBI’s participation in abusive interrogations, the actions of FBI personnel who witnessed abusive interrogations, and the response of FBI officials to reports of abuse.

The OIG report and all documents related to this investigation is part of a broader ACLU effort to uncover information about the Bush administration’s torture policies. To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit enforcing the request – including the Bush administration’s 2003 “torture memo” written by John Yoo when he was a deputy at the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel.

>> Read the documents received in the ACLU’s FOIA litigation.

Documents Obtained By ACLU Describe Charges of Murder and Torture of Prisoners in Afghanistan

>> Say ‘no’ to torture. Take Action.

Recently released documents from the Department of Defense confirm the military’s use of unlawful interrogation methods on detainees held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. The documents from the military’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), obtained as a result of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, include the first on-the-ground reports of torture in Gardez, Afghanistan to be publicly released.

“These documents make it clear that the military was using unlawful interrogation techniques in Afghanistan,” said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU. “They raise serious questions about the adequacy of the military’s investigations into prisoner abuse.”

The documents reveal charges that Special Forces beat, burned, and doused eight prisoners with cold water before sending them into freezing weather conditions. One of the eight prisoners, Jamal Naseer, died in U.S. custody in March 2003.

In late 2004, the military opened a criminal investigation into charges of torture at Gardez. Despite numerous witness statements describing the evidence of torture, the military’s investigation concluded that the charges were unsupported. It also concluded that Naseer’s death was the result of a “stomach ailment,” even though no autopsy had been conducted in his case. Documents uncovered today also refer to sodomy committed by prison guards; the victims’ identities are redacted.

>> Learn more and read the documents online.

Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection in Kentucky

The ACLU is profoundly disappointed with last week’s 7-2 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the controversial three drug lethal injection method of capital punishment used in Kentucky and other states. The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Baze v. Rees, an appeal by two men on Kentucky’s death row.

The Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment has long prohibited the imposition of gratuitous pain. The most commonly used method of lethal injection violates that prohibition by using a sequence of drugs that creates an unnecessary risk of excruciating pain, and, for that reason, is prohibited by most veterinary guidelines. In its amicus brief, the ACLU points out that this unconstitutional practice has been facilitated by the secrecy surrounding the development and implementation of lethal injection protocols in most states.

“The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in no way addresses the most fundamental question surrounding the death penalty: should we retain a punishment that is fraught with error and infected with racial, class and geographic discrimination, and which is irrevocable, cost-prohibitive and extremely harmful to the survivors of homicide victims?” said John Holdridge, Director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project. “The answer remains no.”

>> Learn more on the work of the Capital Punishment Project.

Take Action: Ensure Due Process for the Incarcerated

This week marks the 12th anniversary of a law very few have ever heard of, but one that has left a powerful impact on the lives of one of the United States’ most marginalized and vulnerable populations: the 2.3 million individuals serving time in prison.

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) was originally enacted to stem the tide of “frivolous” prisoner lawsuits that advocates of the legislation felt were needlessly flooding our federal courts. In reality, the PLRA has effectively closed the courthouse doors on prisoners seeking a fair hearing on violations of their religious, due process, free speech, and other fundamental constitutional rights, as well as cases of serious physical and sexual abuse.

The need for Congress to remedy the unintended consequences of PLRA is especially critical as our nation’s prison system reaches a state of crisis. Just this week, the New York Times reported that although the United States has less than 5% of the world’s population, we have almost a quarter of its prisoners.In fact, 1 in every 100 American adults are behind bars and, as state budgets continue to shrink, conditions of confinement get worse every day. In California’s prisons, for example, a prisoner dies every 6 or 7 days as a result of inadequate medical care.

As time goes on and serious rights abuses mount and go unheard, the need to fix the PLRA becomes even more urgent. Congress held a hearing this week on the Prison Abuse Remedies Act (H.R. 4109). This important bill would bring some much needed and long overdue reform to the PLRA.

>> Take Action: Please email your members of Congress today and urge them to restore the rule of law to our nation’s prisons.

The ACLU at the Movies

In The Visitor, an American college professor and a young immigrant couple grapple with the treatment of immigrants and the legal process post-9/11.

Participant Media, one of the companies behind the film, has organized a social action campaign focusing on the film’s underlying themes of illegal detention, treatment of immigrants and the legal challenges immigrants face. The ACLU has supported the campaign by leading discussions at special screenings across the country.

>> Learn more about the movie.
>> Learn more about the ACLU’s work on immigrant rights.

The ACLU has also allied with Participant Media in their social action campaign around Standard Operating Procedure, a new documentary from award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris. The film is based on the notorious Abu Ghraib photographs and how they exposed rampant abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American guards. The film opens on Friday, April 25th in NY and will expand to more cities in the coming weeks.

>> Listen to ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer’s discussion with Errol Morris.
>> Learn more about the ACLU’s work to stop torture.

Harold and Kumar ACLU Shout-Out!

24 Apr

Planning on seeing the new film, Harold and Kumar 2: Escape from Guantanamo Bay? The movie has a comedic take on an issue that the ACLU is very concerned about. There is even a shout-out to the ACLU’s work on racial profiling:

The ACLU has been working hard to raise awareness about post-9/11 abuses of power, including how the Bush administration has gutted Habeas Corpus, sponsored torture and detained hundreds of people at Guantanamo Bay without trial. Find out more about these issues at the ACLU Close Guantanamo website.

The Village Voice also ran a good article about recent films that feature Iraq War themes, including the H&K teen raunch romp.

The ACLU recognizes that when civil liberties are addressed on screen, so too, are they addressed over dinner, at school, or on the phone with friends. We believe that democracy is best served when individuals engage each other in dialogue and debate. While “Harold & Kumar” seeks primarily to entertain the public, the ACLU aims to educate the public. If the film facilitates discussions amongst young audiences about racial profiling, torture and detention, then we view it as an asset to our work and to the greater public discourse about some of our most fundamental freedoms.

Take action to close Guantanamo today!

National news – Bush Approved CIA’s Torture, Military Oversteps Spying Powers, and More

15 Apr

April 15, 2008

Standing Up for Justice In the Military Commissions Proceedings
No doubt we’ve been at a critical juncture since September 11. How we respond to the atrocities thrust upon us after that terrible day says everything about who we are as Americans what values we defend, how the world sees us, and how history will remember us.

The manner in which we seek justice against those accused of harming us will determine whether the United States will be seen at home and abroad as a nation of laws. We must decide whether we live the values of justice that make us proud to be Americans, or whether we will forsake those values and continue down a path of arbitrary rules and procedures more befitting those who are our enemies. Because we are a great nation, true to our founders’ vision, we must uphold our core values even in the toughest of times. The right to a speedy trial in a court of law before an objective arbiter; the right to due process; the right to rebut the evidence against you; the right not to be tortured or waterboarded, or convicted on the basis of hearsay evidence are what truly define America and our commitment to the rule of law and our founders’ aspirations.

The military commissions set up by the Bush administration for the men imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay including those it suspects were involved in the September 11 attacks are not true American justice. These trials should represent who we are, what America stands for, and our commitment to due process. America does not stand for trials that rely on torture to gain confessions, or on secret evidence that a defendant cannot rebut, or on hearsay evidence.

For these reasons, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have taken on the task of assembling defense teams to be available to assist in the representation of those Guantánamo detainees who have been charged under the Military Commissions Act, subject to the detainees’ consent.

>>Read Anthony’s full statement.

>>Learn more about the project.

>>Read the press release.

Bush Admits to Top-Down Torture
In a stunning admission to ABC news Friday night, President Bush declared that he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details of the CIA’s use of torture. Bush reportedly told ABC, “I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.” Bush also defended the use of waterboarding.

The ACLU is calling on Congress to demand an independent prosecutor to investigate possible violations by the Bush administration of laws including the War Crimes Act, the federal Anti-Torture Act, and federal assault laws.

>>Take Action: Demand that your members of Congress reject torture by holding to account those responsible for approving and implementing these un-American policies.

>>Read more about Bush’s admission.

ACLU FOIA Lawsuit Brings Yoo Torture Memo to Light
A secret memo, declassified recently as the result of an ACLU Freedom of Information Act request, asserts President Bush has unlimited power to order brutal interrogations of detainees and also refers to a radical interpretation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

The memo, authored by John Yoo of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in March 2003, cites a still-secret DOJ memo from 2001 that found that the “Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.”

The October 2001 memo was almost certainly meant to provide a legal basis for the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, which President Bush launched the same month the memo was issued. As a component of the Department of Defense, the NSA is a military agency.

“The recent disclosures underscore the Bush administration’s extraordinarily sweeping conception of executive power,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The administration’s lawyers believe the president should be permitted to violate statutory law, to violate international treaties, and even to violate the Fourth Amendment inside the U.S. They believe that the president should be above the law.”

The Bush administration has never argued publicly that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to military operations within the nation’s borders. The released memo publicizes this argument for the first time.

The 2003 memo cites the October 2001 memo but takes its argument even further. Relying on the earlier memo, the March 2003 memo argues that the president has authority as Commander-in-Chief to bypass not only the Fourth Amendment but the central due process guarantee of the Fifth Amendment as well.

>>Learn more about the released memo.

Unredacted Documents Confirm Lack of Oversight of Military’s Domestic Surveillance Powers
Newly unredacted documents, released as a result of an ACLU lawsuit, reveal that the Department of Defense (DoD) is using the FBI to circumvent legal limits on its own National Security Letter (NSL) power and may have overstepped its authority to obtain private and sensitive records of people within the United States without court approval.

>>Read the memo.

NSLs are secretly issued by the government to obtain access to personal customer records from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions, and credit reporting agencies. In almost all cases, recipients of the NSLs are forbidden, or “gagged,” from disclosing that they have received the letters. While the FBI has broad NSL powers and compliance with FBI-issued NSLs is mandatory, the Defense Department’s NSL power is more limited in scope, and, in most cases, compliance with Defense Department demands is not mandatory.

“If the Defense Department is asking the FBI to get information it is not allowed to access on its own, there is a serious problem within both agencies,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.

A newly unredacted copy of the results and recommendations of an internal program review shows that the Navy’s use of NSLs to demand domestic records has increased significantly since September 11; and contrary to prior claims by the military, its NSL use is not limited to investigating only DoD employees.

Since last year, DoD has turned over more than 1,000 pages of documents to the ACLU, including nearly 500 NSLs which show that the military may have overstepped its legal authority to obtain financial and credit records, provided misleading information to Congress, and silenced NSL recipients from speaking out about the records requests.

>>Learn more about the NSL abuses.

Don’t Let Employers Get Away With Pay Discrimination
Last May, the Supreme Court ruled in Ledbetter v. Goodyear that employees who have suffered years of pay discrimination cannot have their day in court if they don’t discover the discrimination within 180 days of their employer’s initial discriminatory pay decision.

The Ledbetter decision not only reversed years of employment law, it also ignored the realities of a workplace. Often employees don’t know what their co-workers are paid. Further, expecting that they learn that information within the first 180 days of a pay decision is unreasonable. Unless Congress intervenes, companies will be able to discriminate for years and unjustly profit from paying women, minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities, as long as it keeps the discrimination secret for a few months.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to correct this problem, and to ensure employers do not profit from years of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability, simply because their employees were unaware of the discrimination for 180 days. The bill clarified this wage discrimination is not a one-time occurrence, but rather, that each discriminatory paycheck an employer issues represents an ongoing violation of the law.

A similar bill, the Fair Pay Restoration Act (S.1843), is now before the U.S. Senate. The time has come for the Senate to correct this wrong and let American workers keep their hard-earned dollars.

>>Take Action: Urge your Senators to support the Fair Pay Restoration Act.

Stand Up for Freedom: June 8 — 10 in Washington, D.C.
Everyday, the headlines confirm that the government’s abuses of power ignore fundamental Constitutional principles and undermine our vital system of checks and balances, weakening the hallmarks of American democracy. You cannot afford to miss this important opportunity to protect the civil liberties of all Americans.

Stand Up for Freedom and help us stop the abuse of power at the ACLU 2008 Membership Conference, June 8-10 in Washington, D.C.!

At the ACLU Membership Conference you’ll have the opportunity to hear from a variety of experts, from a wide range of backgrounds, each with an exciting and unique perspective on civil liberties. Confirmed speakers for the conference include: Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post and nationally syndicated columnist; Judy Gold, an Emmy Award winning actress and comedian; and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter will pay tribute to the ACLU’s president, during a celebratory luncheon entitled, Our Lady Liberty: Celebrating Nadine Strossen.

>>Register or learn more about the conference.

More on homelessness, anti-torture action alert

14 Apr

Homelessness
The Cap Times describes how the debate on homelessness has taken a hostile turn. This hostility has been significantly seen (electronically) through debates among mostly anonymous forum postings on area on-line newspapers as well as debates between high-profile blogs (like Blaska’s blog which suggests that Madison’s leadership coddles the homeless in general and ignores criminal behavior by downtown “transients” in particular, and Alder Brenda Konkel’s blog which points out the civil liberties concerns with profilling the homeless in unsolved murder cases.)

This Channel 3000 report also described the hostility in its report on the press conference called by anti-homelessness advocates which identified the “economic profilling” of the homeless by police. This report however noted comments by police spokesperson De Spain that the rounding up of the homeless in the investigation was just to ask them questions about what they might have seen in the neighborhood. Questions about whether or not they all had to submit DNA tests or if they had legal representation during the questioning is still unclear. Despite the 200 or so tips received by the police regarding the Bassett-area murder, police aren’t reporting any substantial leads and remain focused on area panhandlers.

Action alert from the national ACLU:
On Friday night, in a national television interview, President Bush directly admitted what we have suspected all along: The White House was deeply and intimately involved in decisions about the CIA’s use of torture.

For the first time, George W. Bush acknowledged that he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details of the CIA’s use of torture. “I’m aware that our national security team met on this issue and I approved,” he said. He also defended the use of waterboarding — simulated drowning where the victim feels like they are about to die.

Congress should long ago have gotten to the bottom of which top officials approved, condoned and authorized U.S. involvement in torture. But, now that the President has admitted to a policy of top-down torture, the ACLU is calling on Congress to demand an independent prosecutor to investigate possible violations of the War Crimes Act, the federal Anti-Torture Act and federal assault laws.

Tell your members of Congress: Don’t look the other way on torture.

These latest revelations confirm our worst fears about subversion of the Constitution and betrayals of the rule of law by top government officials. Recent reports indicate that members of the Bush administration including Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and George Tenet met regularly and approved the CIA’s use of “combined” “enhanced” interrogation techniques, even pushing the limits of the now infamous 2002 Justice Department “Yoo torture memo.”

That long-secret memorandum became public recently as a direct result of ACLU lawsuits aimed at getting out the truth. And the truth is, the indefensible legal opinions put forward in the torture memo tried to give the President a virtual blank check to ignore the rule of law and to violate human rights standards.

Don’t tolerate torture. Demand accountability for torture now!

We have to do everything possible to reject the Bush administration’s top-down torture policies. That’s why the ACLU is stepping up pressure on Congress to use its constitutional powers to prevent illegal conduct.

It’s also why the ACLU has taken the extraordinary step of offering our assistance to Guantanamo detainees being prosecuted under the unconstitutional military commissions process. It is more important than ever that the U.S. government, when seeking justice against those it suspects of harming us, adhere to due process and the rule of law.

Take action: Tell Congress to demand answers!

If President Bush’s admission finally gets Congress to challenge the Bush administration’s torture policies head-on, we can begin restoring the values and due process that the Bush administration has severely undermined in the name of national security.

But, it won’t happen without an unyielding public outcry. Please do your part. Demand that your members of Congress reject torture by holding to account those responsible for approving and implementing these un-American policies.

Sincerely,
Caroline Fredrickson, Director
ACLU Washington Legislative Office

Homeless round-up, failed anti-immigration laws, turkey tasering and more

11 Apr

Homelessness
Anti-poverty activists and clergy held a press conference today to articulate their concerns with what Community Action Coalition Executive Director Greta Hansen described as “economic profiling” of homeless people downtown. In the wake of two unsolved murders, it was reported that police rounded up around two dozen homeless men, those with probation violations or who committed (alleged) minor crimes, for DNA testing. None of the men have been identified as a murder suspect.

Community response to homelessness has been evolving since a spike in downtown crime and complaints from residents near the Brittingham Park neighborhood last summer. Since then, Madison leaders, residents, service providers and law enforcement have been discussing ways to remedy complaints. Some of the suggestions include putting surveillance cameras at Brittingham Park. However this Channel 3000 interview documents some folks, including law enforcement, who think that surveillance cameras recently installed on State Street aren’t working. Madison residents must ask, is it worth another $10,000 to pursue a surveillance strategy that might not be effective?

Alternatives have been suggested however. Area conservative blogger David Blaska recently proposed that the homeless be required to be identified by photo and social security number before being allowed to stay in a shelter or be tagged (like livestock) or identified by DNA. He also suggested that a defense fund be set aside for the “inevitable nuisance lawsuit filed by the ACLU.” Anyone who disagrees with Blaska’s comments and who feel that Constitutional rights are for everybody are welcome to make tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin litigation program.

Blaska went on to criticize the ACLU of Wisconsin for suggesting that students assert their rights to have their parents or an advocate present when being accused of a crime at school. But a recent video from the New York ACLU shows youth’s first-hand reports on a real-life, yet worst case scenario school-to-prison pipeline in which the NYC schools are being overpoliced. Perhaps Blaska would prefer to live in a police state than get panhandled on the street?

Immigration
An article on failed immigration crackdown laws across the country details both the frustration state legislators have with the failure of the federal government to come up with a workable solution as well as the radical measures legislators have proposed, some of which would possibly be unconstitutional if implemented. Here is Wisconsin, a proposal to prohibit local governments to declare themselves sanctuary cities didn’t see light in the Senate. The 2008 elections may end the stalemate for better or worse.

News of the weird?
Turkey Tasering
Mating season comes with aggressive male turkeys. After complaints of turkey attacks, including problems with impeding postal carriers on their mail routes, it has been suggested that police taser the foul fowl. I wonder what Ben Franklin would say about cruel and unusual punishment of what could have been our national bird?

Customs ID Catastrophe
A case of mistaken identity leads to the detention of a Milwaukee woman at the Mitchell International Airport. Even though she insisted that she wasn’t the woman who was wanted for bounced checks, their shared name was flagged in a US Customs database. Proving again that databases and human error remain concerns in our increasingly electronic society.

Cross-dressing Kids
In more Milwaukee news, a Milwaukee-based radio network called Voice of Christian Youth America criticized an elementary school “wacky” dress-up day, accusing the district of promoting alternative lifestyles. The news prompted angry calls from across Wisconsin to the school and the Reedsburg School District suggesting, no doubt, that the spirit week is a part of the gay agenda.

Community Events:
Saturday, April 19 – Knowing Our Rights workshop on rights in the immigrant community, sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, Latino Law Students Association and the Grassroots Leadership College with a theater presentation by Dignidad sin Fronteras (Dignity without Borders). Topics include rights at home, at work, on the street, in protest, in detention and more. At Grace Episcopal Church, 116 W. Washington Ave. (near the capitol) from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For more information contact Megan at (608) 446-3313. Another workshop will also be held on Saturday, April 19 in the Bayview Community Center 601 Bayview at 11:00 a.m. organized by the UTI. For more information, call 1-866-4760-UTI (884).

Why the ACLU is getting involved at Guantanamo…

4 Apr

An important story broke today in the Wall Street Journal about the ACLU’s role in the Guantánamo Bay military commissions.

Below is a statement from the national ACLU director on why the ACLU’s involvement underscores our committment to the rule of law and to a credible judicial system that is central to American values.

Statement From Anthony D. Romero
ACLU Executive Director

There are times in this country when we find ourselves at a crossroads — where the path we choose has the potential to define us as a nation for generations to come.

No doubt we’ve been at a critical juncture since September 11. How we respond to the atrocities thrust upon us after that terrible day says everything about who we are as Americans — what values we defend, how the world sees us, and how history will remember us.

The manner in which we seek justice against those accused of harming us will determine whether the United States will be seen at home and abroad as a nation of laws. We must decide whether we live the values of justice that make us proud to be Americans, or whether we will forsake those values and continue down a path of arbitrary rules and procedures more befitting those who are our enemies. Because we are a great nation, true to our founders’ vision, we must uphold our core values even in the toughest of times. The right to a speedy trial in a court of law before an objective arbiter; the right to due process; the right to rebut the evidence against you; the right not to be tortured or waterboarded, or convicted on the basis of hearsay evidence are what truly define America and our commitment to the rule of law and our founders’ aspirations.

The military commissions set up by the Bush administration for the men imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay — including those it suspects were involved in the September 11 attacks — are not true American justice. These trials should represent who we are, what America stands for, and our commitment to due process. They are not about how civilized the accused are, but how civilized we are. America does not stand for trials that rely on torture to gain confessions, or on secret evidence that a defendant cannot rebut, or on hearsay evidence.

For these reasons, the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have taken on the task of assembling defense teams to be available to assist in the representation of those Guantánamo detainees who have been charged under the Military Commissions Act, subject to the detainees’ consent.

We take this step because we simply cannot stand by and allow the Bush administration’s military commissions to make a mockery of our Constitution and our values. We believe in the American justice system — despite its imperfections and distortions by pundits, politicians and ideologues — and we believe we can make the system stronger by engaging it and fighting for what is right, fighting for fair trials and for America’s reputation.

It is when the stakes are the highest and when tempers run the hottest that we must work doubly hard to keep a check on our government and prevent it from trading in our values for visceral and political motives — no matter what the motivation. It is during the most challenging situations that our country’s values are most intensely tested, and along with them, the ACLU’s commitment to its core principles. We are determined, as we have always been, to meet this challenge.

For more information on how the ACLU is challenging the Military Commissions Act, please visit the John Adams Project page of the national ACLU website.