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Madison: Guantanamo Prison’s 10th Anniversary Marked by Local Events

9 Jan

Madison groups are marking the tenth anniversary of the opening of the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba next week.  These local events are part of a national campaign to close Guantánamo.

TAKE ACTION TODAY: Join the ACLU in asking President Obama to keep his promise to close the prison camp by charging and trying the prisoners who are there, or sending them home.

Monday, January 9, 12 noon to 1 pm, at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr Blvd and Doty St – Madison Vigil for Peace action to close Guantánamo, including street theater with orange jumpsuits.

  • Tuesday, January 10, at 7 pm in the Predolin Hall auditorium, Edgewood College – “Guantánamo, Military Tribunals and the Rule of Law,” a discussion hosted by the United Nations Association of Dane County and Witness Against Torture – Madison.  The evening begins with a screening ofThe Response,” a courtroom drama based on transcripts of the Guantanamo military tribunals.
  • Wednesday, January 11, at 7 pm at Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse, 1101 Williamson Street – Evening of action to close Guantánamo, including writing letters to policymakers and current detainees. Poetry written by detainees.

For more information, contact the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice at (608) 250-9240 or

The first men arrived at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on January 11, 2002.  Of the 779 people who have been detained there over the years, only six have been convicted of any crime by a military tribunal.  Most of the 171 remaining detainees were captured simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Most could leave tomorrow if the blanket ban on repatriations to Yemen were lifted.

This month also marks the third anniversary of President Obama’s Executive Order mandating the closure of the Guantánamo detention center within one year.  Not only has the President failed to carry out the Order, he has extended some of the worst aspects of the Guantánamo system by continuing indefinite detentions without charge or trial, employing illegitimate military commissions to try some suspects, and blocking accountability for torture by refusing to conduct independent and thorough investigations, and by attempting to prevent the courts from reviewing lawsuits brought by formerly detained men.

As the tenth anniversary of Guantánamo approaches, the number of experts calling for its closure is growing. Five former U.S. Secretaries of State – including Henry Kissinger, Madeline Albright and Colin Powell – concur that closing down the prison camp would be a major step towards repairing the U.S. image abroad. Even George W. Bush has said he would “like Guantánamo to end.”

Read today’s op-ed in the Capitol Times from Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman of Madison’s Congregation Shaarei Shamayim on why Gitmo must be closed.

Lakhdar Boumediene reflected in Sunday’s New York Times on that anniversary and tells the harrowing tale of the seven and a half years he spent imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay. Read more on the ACLU’s Blog of Rights.

We Must Now Reclaim Our Liberties: Ten Years After 9/11

10 Sep

Ten years after the horrific events of September 11, 2001 the American people are right to remember and honor those who died in at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.  The ten-year mark of the 9/11 attacks also importantly provides an opportunity to reflect on the turbulent decade behind us, and to recommit ourselves to values that define our nation, including justice, due process, and the rule of law.

Nearly ten years ago on September 23, 2001, I wrote in the Journal Sentinel, “Americans, in and out of the Congress, will have to evaluate carefully, ‘anti-terrorism’ proposals that may have an impact on the civil liberties that protect our freedom.”   Much of the government’s response to the attacks against us was done without proper deliberation.  Much of the government’s response was initiated without the benefit of the 9/11 Commission’s investigation and report.  It is no wonder that we are still facing challenges, despite a “global war on terrorism” that seems to be an everywhere and forever war.

The records of the Bush and the Obama administrations reveal many actions that have undermined our ability to remain safe and free.  Congress has done no better.  Some in Congress are attempting to undermine the Constitution by giving the president a blank check for a worldwide, endless war.  This would be a clear abdication of Congress’s role in our system of checks and balances – the Constitution clearly gives only Congress the power to declare war.

Targeted killings in the name of our security continue without any way for us to know whether people our government kills are truly a threat to our country. Prisoners who have never had a trial are still held at Guantanamo.  Although evidence of torture and death at U.S.-run detention facilities like Abu Ghraib, Bagram and CIA “black sites” exists, no single victim of torture has had a day in court due to the “states secrets” privilege and immunity doctrines our government invokes to defend itself from being held accountable for these human rights abuses.

And, we need not look overseas to see how American freedoms are threatened in ways that may not make us safer, much less safe.

At the Mitchell Field, you get to choose between full-body scanners that reveal near-naked outlines of our bodies or an offensive pat-down by TSA workers. Phone companies are willing to hand over your call records to the government without warrants or suspicion of criminal activity of individuals. Taking pictures of landmarks is enough to make you the subject of a “suspicious activity report” in a terrorist behavior data base. Surveillance by the government has tracked racial minorities, religious groups, peace protesters, college students and journalists.

Government policies that target groups by race, ethnicity or religion are counterproductive and make us less safe.  Experienced intelligence and law-enforcement officials agree that profiling based on race, religion and ideology is ineffective, inefficient, and counter-productive.

This anniversary is a fitting time to remember and stirs deep emotion and concern among our fellow Americans.   This is entirely legitimate and to be expected ten years into a war. But, despite the passing of a decade and the changing of leadership in the White House and Congress, we continue to allow the fear of terrorism to cloud our political discourse.   We must have the courage to affirm what makes  America great.  What I wrote in 2001 is still valid: “Freedom is more than just a goal; it is the bulwark of our democracy and the spirit that lifts individuals and families in countless ways.  It makes us safer and stronger.”

– Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director, ACLU of Wisconsin

Read the report: A Call to Courage – Reclaiming Our Liberty Ten Years After 9/11 from the national American Civil Liberties Union

This opinion piece was also featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Crossroads on Sunday, September 11, 2011.

Tell Congress to reject the Bush/Mukasey plan to subvert the Constitution

24 Jul

A word from the national ACLU…

Here they go again. On Monday, Bush’s Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, called on Congress to take dramatic steps to subvert the Constitution.

Mukasey is demanding that Congress issue a new declaration of war that would make the entire globe — including the United States itself — a “battlefield” where the president decides who will be locked up forever.

Instead of ending the Bush system of injustice, he wants Congress to make it permanent.

Tell Congress to reject the Bush/Mukasey plan to subvert the Constitution.

Not only has Bush’s Attorney General called on Congress to issue a new declaration of war, but he is also asking Congress to:

1. Gut habeas corpus — the freedom that protects people from being thrown in prison illegally — with no help, no end in sight and no due process.

2. Cover up the Bush administration’s systemic torture and abuse of detainees. Judges would not be allowed to see evidence of torture and abuse and would instead simply have to trust that a president is holding the right people as ”enemy combatants.”

With only five weeks left in the congressional schedule and only six months left in the Bush presidency, Mukasey’s power grab should be laughed out of town. But, given this Congress’ track record, the Mukasey proposal is no laughing matter.

Too many times, we’ve seen Congress cave in to the most outrageous Bush demands for out-of-control powers: The Patriot Act. National Security Letters. The Military Commissions Act. The Protect America Act. And, most recently, the congressional sell-out on FISA.

Four times the Supreme Court has rejected the Bush administration’s efforts to design a war on terror system of injustice that defies the Constitution and mocks the rule of law. In the past, the administration has responded, not by respecting the Constitution, but by counting on Congress to legitimize its indefensible conduct.

There is no way we can let that happen this time. Even as the House Judiciary Committee investigates whether high-level Bush White House officials may have committed crimes of torture and abuse, the Bush administration has the arrogance to ask Congress to give it the power to detain people without trial and hide torture and abuse from the courts.

We can’t take for granted that Congress will reject the Bush/Mukasey plan. We have to meet this outrageous proposal with an immediate wall of protest that says to Congress: “Don’t you dare.”

I urge you to join defenders of freedom all across the country in raising your voice against Attorney General Mukasey’s dangerous proposal.

Thanks for speaking out,
Caroline Fredrickson, Director
ACLU Washington Legislative Office

P.S. You can read a blog post from Christopher Anders, ACLU Seinor Legislative Counsel, on the Bush/Mukasey plan to subvert the Constitution.

US Supreme Court stands by due process: Close Guantanamo

13 Jun

Finally, the Bush administration system of injustice is starting to fall apart.

Sign the petition: Close Guantánamo.

In a stunning blow to the administration’s failed detention policies, the Supreme Court ruled today in Boumediene v. Bush that the U.S. Constitution applies to the government’s detention policies at Guantánamo Bay. The Court made clear that detainees held at Guantánamo have a right to challenge their detention through habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus is the freedom from being thrown in prison illegally, with no help, no end in sight and no due process. As the ACLU has said all along, no president should ever be given the sole power to call someone an enemy, wave his or her hand, and lock that person away indefinitely.

You have helped the ACLU argue for years that America can be — and must be — both safe and free. Now, take heart in these words from today’s remarkable Supreme Court decision, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy:

“The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law.”

The ACLU stands ready to stop any effort by the Bush administration to get around this decision. Right now, we need your help to make sure this decision marks the beginning of the end of the reprehensible practices that have been carried out in the name of the American people at Guantánamo Bay, including the failed Military Commissions system.

Tell America’s leaders that it’s time to close Guantánamo, end indefinite detention without charge, and restore the rule of law. Sign the ACLU’s Close Guantánamo petition right now.

The tide is turning. Be part of history by acting now to build on the Supreme Court’s clear-cut affirmation of habeas corpus. Because, if we do, this can truly be the beginning of the end for all the lawlessness and injustice we’ve worked so hard to expose and stop.

Thank you so much for all the hard work you’ve done and continue to do in the name of freedom. Today is truly a day for everyone who loves liberty to take heart and redouble our efforts to restore the Constitutional principles so eroded over the last eight years.

Together in freedom,
Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director

Close Guantanamo – Call to Action, message from Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director

8 Nov

Don’t Wait for ’08! Stop Spying, Close Guantanamo, End Torture and Restore Habeas Corpus!

ACLU attorney Jamil Dakwar is in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba serving as a human rights observer at the hearing of a Canadian citizen named Omar Ahmed Khadr. Khadr was only 15 years old when he was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. This is his third hearing; the first two resulted in the charges against him being thrown out.

After nearly six years of disarray and uncertainty about how to prosecute the 320 remaining prisoners being held at Guantánamo Bay, the U.S. government has failed to complete a single trial. As the prisoners continue to languish without being charged or tried, one thing remains crystal clear: We cannot arbitrarily detain prisoners, deny them access to lawyers, and hold them indefinitely.

It is also clear that Congress cannot continue to put off taking action, they need to close Guantánamo Bay, restore habeas corpus and repudiate torture once and for all. In the meantime, you and I cannot wait for a change in Congress or the White House to demand that our leaders fix the damage done to the Constitution, our freedoms and our most fundamental American values over the last seven years.

That’s why we’re asking ACLU members to bring the discussion about these vital issues to their friends and family by hosting a screening of the powerful documentary, “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” on or before December 10, International Human Rights Day. Sign up to host a screening.

We know for a fact that when they learn of the abuses being carried out in their name, the American people reject the use of torture and believe that our nation should uphold the rule of law. That is why the ACLU is calling on friends like you to help us educate and mobilize the public.

We won’t wait for ’08 to end torture, restore habeas corpus and close Guantánamo . We must act now. By hosting a screening of “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” you will increase awareness about the issues of torture, habeas corpus and due process. Raising awareness of these issues is essential as we fight to restore our Constitution and our most fundamental values.

All you need to host a viewing is a DVD player, a TV and guests. We’ll provide you with the tools you need to have a meaningful discussion.

To think that it has taken almost six years for Khadr’s hearing to take place underscores the fact that we can’t wait for ’08 to restore the Constitution; we must act now.

I hope you’ll consider hosting a viewing of this important documentary, and help build awareness about these fundamental issues. Thank you for your involvement and for standing up for freedom and the rule of law.

Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director

Working to End Torture
Observing Guantánamo hearings: ACLU attorney, Jamil Dakwar, is at Guantánamo Bay to observe the hearing of Omar Ahmed Khadr. Read his comments and observations about the hearing on the ACLU blog.

Testifying before Congress: ACLU attorney, Amrit Singh, testified today before the House Judiciary Subcommittee looking into “enhanced” interrogation methods used on detainees in U.S. custody. Read more about her testimony.

Getting the facts: As a result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the ACLU, the third secret torture memo from Alberto Gonzales’ DOJ was revealed on Tuesday. Learn more about the documents and what they uncover.