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ACLU Report Finds Paul Ryan Light Years Away from Civil Liberties – news from ACLULibertyWatch.org

17 Aug

The following blog post was taken from an August 11 post on  ACLU Liberty Watch, a website of the ACLU Liberty Watch 2012 campaign being run by the American Civil Liberties Union. Visit aclulibertywatch.org to learn more about the ACLU’s civil libertarian take on all of the news surrounding the Presidential election campaigns. 

In response to Mitt Romney’s announcement of his vice presidential pick of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the American Civil Liberties Union Liberty Watch 2012 campaign released a brief report that reveals an appalling civil liberties record for Ryan.

The report finds that Ryan, the congressman representing Wisconsin’s 1st District, holds almost uniformly harmful views on five key civil liberties issues including a humane immigration policy, LGBT equality, reproductive rights, torture and indefinite detention and fair voting access. The report is based on the white paper released by ACLU Liberty Watch 2012, which can be viewed here.

The report was also cited in a recent opinion piece in The Nation where writer Ben Adler called Rep. Ryan out for not really following Ayn Rand’s philosophies on freedom when it came to his staunchly social conservative agenda.

“Paul Ryan may end up a heartbeat away from the presidency but he’ll be light years from civil liberties,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “Paired with Romney’s already-abysmal record on civil liberties, Ryan’s positions only take this ticket further from the vision of our founding fathers.”  Romero also issued a statement about how Vice Presidential hopeful Ryan would have a plan to unravel civil liberties.

The report found that Ryan held anti-civil liberties positions across all five issue areas.  Below are some highlights from the report.

On immigration, Ryan voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act, a bill that authorized the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. On LGBT equality, he voted against repealing the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. In 2011, Ryan voted to reinstate the D.C. abortion ban and the Global Gag Rule, defund Planned Parenthood, and eliminate funding for Title X family planning programs. In addition, he believes discriminatory voter ID laws are important and improve integrity in elections.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s positions:  These positions were taken from the candidate’s public statements, published positions and actions taken as an elected official, including his most recent voting records, where applicable.
On Immigration:
  • Believes efforts should be focused on border security and that pursuing the DREAM Act at this time would be a “serious mistake” (2012).
  • Voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act, a bill that authorized the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border (2006).
On LGBT Equality:
  • Voted against repealing the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy (2011).
  • Supports the 2006 amendment to the Wisconsin constitution banning marriage equality (2006).
  • Voted in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment (2004, 2006).
On Reproductive Freedom:
  • Voted to reinstate the D.C. abortion ban and the Global Gag Rule, defund Planned Parenthood, and eliminate funding for Title X family planning programs (2011). 
  • Cosponsored a bill that exempted any employer from providing contraceptive coverage as part of their employees’ health care and opposed the Obama administration’s compromise to require insurance companies to cover contraception (2011).  
  • Cosponsored and voted to pass the Protect Life Act (2011). 
  • Cosponsored and voted to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (May 2011). 
  • Voted to prohibit federal funding for abortion care training in health care centers. (May 2011) 
On Torture and Indefinite Detention Policy:
  • Voted against defense legislation that authorizes the president to send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial (2011).
On Voting Rights:
  • Believes discriminatory voter ID laws are important and improve integrity in elections (2012).

ACLU Liberty Watch 2012 is the voice for the Constitution in the this year’s presidential election. Follow Liberty Watch on Twitter: @ACLULW, or ‘Like’ the Facebook page: Facebook.com/ACLULibertyWatch.

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 diane@wnpj.org.

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.

Closing Guantánamo: A Deadline Missed

22 Jan

Today an important deadline was missed. One of the most shameful chapters of American history was to have been brought to a close with the shuttering of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. President Obama’s executive order to close the prison within a year (PDF), made on his second full day in office, was a bold act that signaled a strong commitment to breaking away from the unlawful policies of the Bush administration.

Sadly, the prison is still open. President Obama has recently reaffirmed his commitment to closing the facility, and that is encouraging. Yet, at the same time, it is worrisome that when Guantánamo finally does close, it appears that some of its most shameful policies will continue on U.S. soil, potentially reducing the closure to a symbolic gesture.

The administration has admittedly run into significant obstacles to closing the prison. Congress, awash in fear-mongering and claims of “Not in my backyard,” helped turn Guantánamo into a political football by blocking transfers of detainees cleared for release to the U.S. and launching a failed attempt to block the Justice Department from prosecuting detainees in federal court. But the administration is also to blame, as it has essentially discouraged other countries from accepting detainees by refusing to accept any into the U.S., fought the release of cleared detainees even up to the Supreme Court, and declared recently that it won’t release detainees to Yemen. The notion that Americans are made safer by continuing to detain prisoners who have been deemed appropriate for release simply because they come from certain countries will only serve to inflame those who believe that the U.S. has lost respect for the rule of law.

It is vital that the failure to meet the closure deadline does not give in to a sense of inertia or inevitability that the prison will be open for a long time to come. But it is also just as important that when Guantánamo is finally closed, it is closed right. That means that along with closing the facility, we must also put an end to its illegal policies like indefinite detention. Unfortunately, the latest indications from Washington don’t bode well.

Last month, the Obama administration announced its intention to purchase the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois for the purpose of holding some of the detainees currently remaining at Guantánamo. However, all indications are that some of the detainees who would be sent to the Thomson prison would be held under a policy, unchanged from the Bush administration, of indefinite detention without charge or trial. The Obama administration may have inherited the problems of Guantánamo from the Bush years, but by continuing the prison’s lawless policies on U.S. soil, it would take undisputed ownership of them.

In deciding how to handle detainees, the administration should conduct a thorough review of each case. Detainees against whom there is no credible evidence should be repatriated back to their home countries or resettled elsewhere where they won’t be tortured. Detainees against whom there is evidence of terrorist activity should be tried in federal courts. The American criminal justice system is more than capable of trying terrorism suspects while protecting both sensitive security evidence and fundamental rights. The federal courts have successfully prosecuted more than over 200 terrorism cases, including those of “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel-Rahman for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussoui for conspiring in the 9/11 attacks.

No one disputes that the government has the right, under the laws of war, to detain prisoners captured on the battlefield until the end of hostilities. But the Bush and Obama administrations have defined their powers to do so far too broadly. They have used such authority to pick up and detain prisoners from around the globe who they deem engaged in the “war on terror,” essentially defining the “war zone” as the entire globe. Moreover, the “war on terror” will never come to a public, decisive end, so the duration of the war is essentially forever, opening up the possibility that America would detain individuals for the rest of their lives without giving them their due process rights. But even for those detainees at Guantánamo for whom the laws of war would ordinarily apply, the unique situation demands that they be charged or released after so many years of imprisonment without the protections of domestic and international law.

Guantánamo must close, and when it finally does, celebration will be in order. But the illegal policies embodied by the prison must disappear along with it. This moment in time presents a crucial opportunity to turn the page on the tragic policies of the past and firmly reclaim our moral authority. Continuing the failed policies of Guantánamo, on U.S. soil or elsewhere, would be an error of historic proportions.

Cross-posted from the ACLU’s Blog of Rights to Daily Kos and Huffington Post.

Please join the ACLU today and help us continue the fight for accountability in government and an end to abuses of power.

Madisonians Fast for Witness Against Torture – Will Obama Really Close Gitmo?

12 Jan

Yesterday, some Madison peace activists gathered to recognize the anniversary of the start of detentions of alleged terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Some of these activists are fasting to bring attention to the lack of progress President Obama and Congress have made in closing Gitmo. Even if you aren’t fasting, you can take action on this issue today.

For why she is choosing to fast, Janet Parker explains:

I am taking part in the Witness Against Torture fast this week to focus attention on our government’s policies of illegal detention, torture, outsourcing of torture, and drone killings in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to call for a change in these policies. Our fast to resist the crimes and abuses of the “War on Terror” began yesterday, January 11, the date eight years ago that Guantánamo was first used to detain prisoners illegally and indefinitely.

The fast will continue until January 22, the day in 2009 when President Obama announced that he would close Guantánamo within a year. That year is almost over, and there are still more than 200 men being held at Guantánamo, many of whom have been cleared of any crime. By international law, these men should never have been held without charge, nor should they have been tortured. We call on the president to make good on his promise of last January to close Guantánamo, to release those men that have already been cleared, and to process other prisoners through fair trials and sentencing under US and international law.

The disgraces of the U.S.’s “War on Terror” include outsourcing torture by sending prisoners to “black sites” around the world where they can be held and tortured out of the public eye. This attempt to sweep torture under the rug by moving it to other nations does not reduce our government’s culpability, nor does it correct or undo the travesties that have unfolded on US-controlled soil at Guantánamo. And citizens who know that torture is wrong should not be silenced by this tactic of outsourcing. We need to continue to be vigilant in defense of prisoners and others harmed by the wars our government is waging in our names and with our tax money.

My fasting this week is one way that I choose to speak out against my government’s illegal and tremendously damaging violent actions, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guantánamo, Iraq, and here within our country. If readers would like to join the fast, please read more at www.witnesstorture.org and contact us locally at Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, www.wnpj.org 608- 250-9240. You can also read my fellow faster Bonnie Block’s perspective that she shared with the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice blog.

Janet Parker
Madison, Wisconsin

You can read Janet’s full statement on the Capitol Times website.


For a good summary of where we are after eight years, check out Truthout‘s fair criticism of Obama’s stalling and “guilt by nationality.” The ACLU posted their “eight years and counting” blog yesterday which includes this video “Justice Denied: Voices From Guantanamo” in which former detainees tell their stories of being captured and sent to Gitmo without trial.

Tell President Obama during this Gitmo anniversary week that action needs to be taken to close Guantanamo and end indefinite detention now.

Madison Group to Begin 11-Day “Fast for Justice” on Behalf of Guantánamo Detainees

11 Jan

Madison Group to Begin 11-Day “Fast for Justice”
on Behalf of Guantánamo Detainees
Candlelight Vigil and Capitol Procession Will Be Part of National Protest

To speak out against the continued imprisonment of detainees at the U.S. facilities in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, protestors in Madison, WI, will gather at 4 pm, January 11 at First United Methodist Church to participate in a candlelight vigil and procession around the Capitol.

The protestors, organized by Madison Pledge of Resistance, will join groups holding similar events around the country that day in response to a call to action by New York-based Witness Against Torture (www.witnesstorture.org). Witness Against Torture is organizing an 11-day fast in Washington, DC, with a nonviolent action of civil resistance planned for January 21.

January 11 will mark eight years of detention for the men in Guantanamo. On January 22, one year will have passed since President Obama signed an executive order mandating the close of the detention facility by January 22, 2010. The President has conceded that the deadline will not be met.

Regarding her own motivation to participate, Bonnie Block, a leader of Madison Pledge of Resistance, said:

I am participating in the Fast for Justice as a witness to, and a renewal of, my commitment to work for an end to all forms of torture. I do so because the Guantánamo prison has not closed and torture is being outsourced to other repressive governments. I do so because this nation continues its military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, is sending killing drones over Pakistan, and financing the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Gaza. I believe these policies are akin to torture because they too result in the destruction of human life. I think that is unconscionable and unacceptable so I feel compelled to protest.

While some members of the Madison group plan to fast for 11 days, participants are invited to join the candlelight procession and vigil whether or not they are able to fast ― or to fast at a level and for length of time that is comfortable for them. Organizers are also asking protestors to write letters to President Obama and their legislators calling on them to “shut down Guantanamo, try the men we have evidence against, and release those who should be released.”

Details of the planned Madison Fast for Justice events are as follows:
Monday, January 11, 4:00 p.m. – Gathering at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Ave., followed by a procession around the Capitol and candlelight vigil

Saturday, January 16, 4:00 p.m. – Protestors reconvene for fellowship and reflection at the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice office at 122 State St., Room 405

Friday, January 22 – Final gathering at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 322 East Washington for participants to break their fast together.

ACLU Online News – national issues update

31 Aug

August 28, 2009 – ACLU Online News

Attorney General Holder Announces Appointment of Special Prosecutor to Investigate Torture

On Monday, the ACLU obtained the detailed official record of the CIA’s torture program.

>>Take action and learn more.

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder made the long-awaited announcement of the appointment of a special prosecutor to conduct a preliminary investigation into whether federal laws were violated during the interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody.

Attorney General Holder said his decision to appoint a special prosecutor was in part influenced by the contents of a CIA inspector general report made public the same day as part of an ACLU lawsuit. The IG report documents in disturbing detail the level of the torture committed and the extent to which laws were broken.

As anyone who has seen the details of this appalling report can tell you, this investigation is necessary and long overdue, and Attorney General Holder should be commended for taking this important first step. However, the very limited scope of the investigation he launched is nowhere near as thorough and broad as the torture investigation America really needs.

According to early reports, prosecutor John Durham’s mandate will be limited to roughly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated U.S. torture laws and other statutes. Moreover, Durham will conduct a ‘preliminary’ investigation meant to determine whether a full investigation is appropriate.

In addition to the long-awaited IG report, the ACLU also received more than 60 documents, dating from 2002 through 2007, in response to two ACLU Freedom of Information Act lawsuits for documents related to the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody overseas. Included are memos, letters, and documents between the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and the CIA about the torture and interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody.

Collectively, the OLC documents, along with the CIA Inspector General report, further underscore the need for a full investigation into the torture of prisoners and those who authorized it.

>>Take Action: Urge Attorney General Holder to conduct a thorough investigation of the Bush torture program.

>>Learn more about the documents released on Monday.

Rendition Program to Continue Under Obama’s Watch

On Monday, the Obama administration made the disappointing announcement that it would continue the Bush administration practice rendition — the practice of kidnapping individuals suspected of terrorism and rendering them to other countries to be detained or interrogated — but that it will monitor all cases to ensure that suspects are not mistreated.

As a party to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, the U.S. is under an absolute obligation not to commit torture or to facilitate its occurrence. By instituting a rendition program that relies on flimsy “diplomatic assurances,” the Obama administration is turning its back on U.S. obligations under the U.N. Convention.

The administration’s announcement forms part of the Justice Department’s new recommendations on the interrogation and transfer of individuals. The newly revamped rendition program would rely “on assurances from the receiving country” to prevent torture. These so-called “diplomatic assurances” — written guarantees from the receiving state that a person would not be subject to torture — are not a new concept. They were also employed by the Bush administration in the universally condemned “extraordinary rendition” program and proved singularly ineffective in preventing individuals from being tortured after transfer.

A rendition program with “diplomatic assurances” as its centerpiece will be ineffective at preventing torture. We urge the administration to uphold its absolute obligation to prevent torture. Any transfer it engages in must fully comply with domestic and international human rights law. Anything less will mark a return to the unlawful “extraordinary rendition” program.

>>Learn more about the ACLU’s work to end extraordinary rendition.

>>Learn more about the ACLU’s work to defend human rights.

ACLU Mourns Senator Edward Kennedy

The ACLU this week mourns the passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy, a stalwart champion and defender of civil liberties with a record of public service marked by unending compassion and progress.

Sen. Kennedy often worked with the ACLU to defend the values and ideals inherent in the United States Constitution, fighting to ensure free speech, equality and justice for all people, particularly the disadvantaged. He consistently was the voice for the marginalized and fought in the Senate for those struggling to live free from discrimination throughout the country. Senator Kennedy’s leadership, courage, and compassion will echo throughout the halls of Congress for generations to come.

>> Learn more about Sen. Kennedy’s numerous legislative accomplishments.

Guantánamo Detainee Mohammed Jawad Returned Home To Afghanistan

ACLU client Mohammed Jawad was released from Guantánamo and returned to Afghanistan over the weekend, ending nearly seven years of illegal detention by the U.S. government.

In July, U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle granted Jawad’s habeas corpus petition and ordered the Justice Department to release him, finding there was no credible evidence to continue holding him. Judge Huvelle had previously issued a ruling throwing out Jawad’s supposed “confession” because it was the product of torture.

Two facts stood out with Jawad’s case. First, his age: he was a teenager, possibly as young as 12, when he was captured. And second, Jawad’s former lead military prosecutor, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, left the military commission in September 2008 because he did not believe he could ethically proceed with the case given Jawad’s mistreatment and the lack of credible evidence against him.

“While Mr. Jawad’s release is a long-awaited victory for the rule of law, there are many other detainees who are still being held illegally,” said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project and one of Jawad’s lawyers in his habeas corpus case. “We are hopeful that the government will act swiftly to close Guantánamo and handle all of the remaining detainees in a manner consistent with America’s Constitution and its values. Any detainee suspected of a crime must be charged and tried in the federal courts, which are fully capable of handling terrorism cases. After so many years, the government should have reliable, untainted evidence against any suspect it believes is guilty. If not, it has no justification to continue imprisoning him.”

>>Learn more about Jawad’s case.

Surrendering Your Fourth Amendment Rights at the Border

On Thursday, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) demanding records about the CBP’s policy of searching travelers’ laptops without suspicion of wrongdoing.

The lawsuit was filed to enforce a Freedom of Information Act request filed in June requesting the criteria used for selecting passengers for suspicionless searches, the number of people who have been subject to the searches, the number of devices and documents retained and the reasons for their retention.

In the policy, the CBP asserts the right to read the information on travelers’ laptops “absent individualized suspicion,” which means searching all files saved on laptops, including personal financial information, family photographs and lists of Web sites travelers have visited, without having any reason to believe a traveler has broken the law.

And after they’re done searching your laptop, they also reserve the right to search “documents, books, pamphlets and other printed material, as well as computers, disks, hard drives and other electronic or digital storage devices.”

This policy includes everyone crossing the border, whether they’re U.S. citizens or not.

Stay tuned for developments in this effort. In the meantime, if your laptop or electronic device has been searched at the border, let us know about it by emailing legalintake@aclu.org.

Tortured logic: video on why torture memo authors need accountability

6 Aug

This week, the ACLU debuted a video featuring actors reading from the Bush administration’s torture memos. Watch Oliver Stone, Philip Glass, Rosie Perez and others read the chilling torture memos written by Bush’s lawyers, and demand a full investigation into the Bush torture program.

View the video here.


Buttons on the video page will allow you to send it to friends via Facebook and Twitter.

You can also send the video to US Attorney General Eric Holder and ask him to have an independent prosecutor appointed to investigate and hold Bush administration officials accountable for torture policies.

Action alert: don’t let Defense bill undermine effort to close Guantanamo, end torture and detention

20 Jul

This week, the mammoth Defense Department Authorization bill is on the Senate floor.

This must-pass legislation could easily become a vehicle for amendments to stop the closing of Guantánamo Bay, undermine efforts to hold accountable those responsible for the Bush torture program, and — most troubling of all — promote a new system of indefinite detention without charge or trial. In fact, the bill already has language that would allow the Guantánamo military commissions to continue to convict people based on coerced confessions.

Email your senators and tell them not to let the Defense Department Authorization bill become a vehicle for undermining civil liberties.

Your voice and that of hundreds of thousands of other ACLU activists are being heard in Washington. After months and months of pressure and newer, more disturbing revelations, Attorney General Holder is close to appointing a special prosecutor to investigate torture. And we have allies in the White House and in Congress who are committed to cleaning up the mess left by the Bush administration.

There are also some dangerous proposals being considered — including indefinite detention without charge or trial. That is why it is so critical for you to contact to your senators today and ask them to:

– Support the President’s commitment to shutdown Guantánamo by January 2010.

– End Guantánamo military commissions, and charge and try any alleged terrorists in federal criminal courts.

– Totally reject indefinite detention without charge and without trial. Nothing could be more un-American than giving the federal government the power to imprison people indefinitely without charge or trial.

Please help the ACLU create a drumbeat letting Congress and the White House know that Americans want them to move forward. Congress should not codify and expand Bush Administration policies.

Email your senators and tell them not to let the Defense Department Authorization bill become a vehicle for undermining civil liberties.

With critical civil liberties issues about to hit the Senate floor, we have to be as vocal as possible. Please take a moment right now to contact your senators. And please stay alert to fast-moving events in the days ahead.

Sincerely,
Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director
American Civil Liberties Union

P.S. The news last weekend that Attorney General Eric Holder is actively considering launching a torture investigation is encouraging. It is because of the hard work of ACLU attorneys and advocates and the voices of activists like you that we are at this point. We’ll be counting on you to make sure he follows through — and to insist that an investigation is as thorough and far-reaching as it needs to be. Please donate or become a member today.

Demand that America Holds Those Who Authorized Torture Accountable

30 Jun

Call Congress Today! It’s time to remind our elected officials that we need them to close Guantanamo, end military commissions, reject indefinite detention and demand accountability for torture policies.

There are lots of details on Obama’s consideration of renewing policies of indefinite detention in this ProPublica/Washington Post article.

They especially need a reminder that we have not forgotten about why military commissions compromise fairness in our justice system. President Obama should not fail his intentions to restore America by allowing for “due process light.”

Increasingly press reports indicate the Obama administration is not only planning to revive the failed military commissions system to try detainees, but will also continue the Bush administration’s policies of holding detainees indefinitely without charge. These disappointing actions on the part of the Obama administration serve as a reminder that no matter which party controls the White House or Congress we must remain ever-vigilant and engaged in our fight to protect freedom and justice.

This is why the ACLU and scores of coalition partners are mobilizing activists to demand that America returns to the rule of law and holds those who authorized torture accountable.

You can do this today by calling your member of Congress and letting your legislators know that it’s time…

…to close Guantanamo
…end the military commissions permanently
…reject indefinite detention
…demand accountability

Our Call Alert allows you to look up and call your members of Congress and helps us to track the outcome of the call. It also allows you to tell you friends about the alert to help generate even more calls. To participate, visit our action website today. Tell your legislators to:

# Close Guantanamo. The president has announced his intention to close the prison by January 2010. Congress should work with the President to ensure the prison is closed and the individuals held there are charged and prosecuted or repatriated.

# End military commissions permanently. These kangaroo courts didn’t work under the Bush administration and cosmetic changes in the Obama administration won’t work either. The system is fatally flawed. Federal courts can provide a true measure of justice, while respecting the rule of law and upholding American values.

# Reject indefinite detention. As Americans, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Our Constitution and core values demand that we prosecute crime where evidence exists and release individuals where evidence of wrongdoing is lacking or non-existent mere suspicion is not enough to deny anyone due process. We must hold true to our values and reject any attempt to give any president the ability to detain people indefinitely without charge.

# Support the appointment of an independent prosecutor. As more and more evidence comes to light about the treatment and interrogation of detainees, the evidence demands a thorough investigation of the abuse, the architects of that abuse and prosecution of any crimes that were committed. Just as important, the American people deserve a full and fair accounting of what took place to ensure torture never happens in our name again.

For more information on how the ACLU is working to keep America Safe and Free, visit our national website.

Why photos? ACLU of Wisconsin Director answers questions on WPR

20 May

Did anyone catch ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ahmuty Joy Cardin’s Wisconsin Public Radio show on Monday morning? You can still listen through their archives.

Ahmuty answered questions about why the ACLU is demanding that torture photos be released. Listen to the show to find out:

Why is the ACLU demanding photos? It’s not that we want to see photos: we want to see justice and an end to torture. Photos and memos and orders are all evidence of illegal behavior on behalf of the Bush administration. Gathering evidence is the only way to get transparency and ultimately accountability. Attorney General Holder should appoint a special prosecutor to gather evidence and make the case. You can email Holder and tell him yourself.

Why is the ACLU defending detainees? How we treat enemy combatants, how we treat even the “worst of the worst” in our criminal justice system, reflects on our entire justice system. The justice system in our country and internationally has rules. The rules are needed for credibility. We can’t break the rules by not recognizing the same rights for everyone. You can learn more about the John Adams Project on the ACLU website.

A memo to the President about accountability and transparency

14 May

The ACLU issued an action alert yesterday evening to ask Americans to demand that President Obama honor the Freedom of Information Act request to release photographic documentation of prisoner abuse and torture. Obama had promised to release those photos, but has now changed his position and sent the issue back to the courts.

Accountability cannot be achieved without transparency. Please email the President and ask to move this issue forward.

Here is what I would want my President to hear:

President Obama:
“Voters do not forget the promises you made on the campaign trail. On the first day in office, you signed an executive order that demanded a greater accountability and transparency in government. It echoed what former Attorney General Janet Reno said about why FOIA requests were important: “In the face of doubt, openness prevails.”

“The release of the torture memos was an important first step in living up to the commitment to transparency. Everyone knew about the Bush administration’s violation of human rights via the memos’ legal justifications for the CIA’s torture program.

“The Freedom of Information Act requests to release these photos are essential to ensuring that these atrocities are not repeated. Furthermore, saying that the photos will bring our troops overseas into harm’s way is not what the public wants to hear. We know our troops are already in harm’s way. A photograph isn’t the problem. Torture is the problem. Not holding those who wrote the torture policies or who issued the commands for torture accountable is the problem. Americans voted you into office to stop torture and end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“President Obama: release the photos, bring the troops home and hold decision makers in the Bush administration accountable for their human rights violations and abuses of power.” – Stacy Harbaugh, Madison WI