Betreff: Mukasey dodges torture questions, FISA filibuster and more

Von: ACLU Online

Datum: Tue, 6 Nov 2007 13:34:45 -0600 (CST)





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In This Issue
Mukasey Nomination Heads to Senate Floor Without Torture, Spying Assurances

Senate Must Not Let Phone Companies Off the Hook

Government Intervenes in Jeppesen Rendition Case

Real ID Gasps for Air, DHS Still Gunning for National ID

"Creation Science" Earmark Removed from Appropriations Bill

California Man Sues for Conscientious Objector Status

ACLU Efforts Lead to Better Treatment for HIV-Positive Prisoners in Alabama

Planning for the Future Can Make an Impact Today

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California Man Sues for Conscientious Objector Status

The ACLU of Southern California has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a 26-year-old Army specialist being kept in the Army against his Buddhist-Taoist beliefs. The suit seeks to have the man, who enlisted only after being promised that military duties would not conflict with his religious beliefs, discharged as a conscientious objector.

Calvin Lee joined the Army in 2004 after a zealous recruiter approached him at a civilian job fair. Though he had learned English from brief stays in America and at school in Southeast Asia, he was unfamiliar with the tactics of military recruiters. When the recruiter told him his job would be repairing trucks and that he would never have to leave Fort Irwin or go to war, Lee believed him and signed the three year contract.

Lee began to realize he was being trained to kill along with his training as a mechanic. Even the trucks he repaired were helping to kill. He became uneasy but continued to work, turning down promotions in rank and salary as he felt his faith required.

By Nov. 2006, his personal turmoil was so great he applied to live as a monk at the end of his Army service in Sept. 2007. In Dec. 2006, he was told that his term of service in the Army was being extended and his unit would be deployed to Iraq in the summer of 2007. Lee applied for conscientious objector status.

The officers, the chaplain and a mental health specialist who interviewed Lee as part of the Army's evaluation process all recommended that he be released as a conscientious objector, yet the Department of the Army rejected his application without explanation. The ACLU is appealing that decision.

Federal law and Army regulations require discharge from military service of individuals who, after their service begins, show that they have become conscientiously opposed to war in any form, that their opposition is founded on religious training and belief, and that their position is sincere and deeply held.

>> Read more

ACLU Efforts Lead to Better Treatment for HIV-Positive Prisoners in Alabama

After years of advocacy by the American Civil Liberties Union, AIDS Alabama and state legislators, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has agreed to give HIV-positive prisoners greater access to visitation, educational programs, substance abuse treatment programs, and religious services. Until now, HIV-positive prisoners have been denied these programs and services offered to the general population of inmates.

"Alabama's HIV segregation policy has for many years been a shameful remnant of an earlier time, and Commissioner Allen's wise decision to modify this degrading policy will bring about far-reaching benefits for all Alabamans," said Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. "Many more improvements need to be made, but this is an important first step."

Alabama remains the only state in the union to segregate HIV-positive prisoners and exclude them from some prison programs. "For decades, HIV-positive prisoners in Alabama have served longer and harsher sentences solely due to their HIV status; they have been denied the opportunity to improve themselves; they have been locked down and away from everyone else in the prison for 23 or 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; and they have been denied basic human rights. These policies cannot be justified by public health or corrections concerns," said Olivia Turner, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alabama.

Although the ADOC has agreed to integrate HIV-positive inmates into several necessary programs, it continues to deny them access to work release services. The ACLU plans to meet with Commissioner Richard F. Allen of the ADOC this week to urge an end to this and other discriminatory policies.

>> Read more about the ACLU’s efforts and Prison Reform


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November 06, 2007

Mukasey Nomination Heads to Senate Floor Without Torture, Spying Assurances

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send Michael Mukasey’s nomination for attorney general to the full Senate for consideration.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who decided to advance Mukasey’s nomination without getting real answers on the issue of torture -- and the broader issue of executive authority -- missed a real opportunity to make progress on ending torture and reining in a president who believes he is above the law. Now, every senator has a responsibility to act.

The Senate cannot "advise and consent" on the nomination of Michael Mukasey for attorney general until the public knows where he stands on whether acts like waterboarding (simulated drowning) are illegal under existing law. Our position, and the position of practically anyone who has read existing anti-torture laws, is that waterboarding is already illegal under current law and in fact, is criminal. Congress has enacted at least four statutes that ban waterboarding and ratified two treaties that ban the practice.

Mukasey has evaded straight answers on eavesdropping as well. Under his theory, any restrictions on unfettered spying that Congress passes may be meaningless, since Mukasey believes the president has the power to engage in domestic wiretapping without a warrant and outside the law.

Mukasey's answers to these questions reveal a more fundamental and troubling problem in his views on the scope of executive power. If an attorney general, whose mission is to enforce the law, believes the president has the power to disregard the law, our constitutional balance of powers is in peril.

Take Action: Tell Your senators Mukasey must commit to enforcing torture and spying laws.
Read the the ACLU letter to Senate Judiciary leadership.

Senate Must Not Let Phone Companies Off the Hook

As the Senate Judiciary Committee met last week to hear testimony on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act, the ACLU once again voiced its opposition to proposed legislation which allows the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence the power to authorize surveillance on Americans' communications without any real review by Congress or the courts. The Senate's "FISA Amendments Act" also includes a provision that would grant telecommunications companies immunity for their role in the Bush administration's domestic spying program.

"Congress is poised to legalize warrantless surveillance, and let the telecommunications companies off the hook to boot," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

There are increased and vocal objections to any FISA bill that lets lawbreakers off the hook. Last week, the ACLU along with several other organizations delivered over 250,000 petitions to Senate and House offices, opposing FISA reforms that let telecommunications companies off the hook or include basket "warrants." Basket "warrants" aren't really warrants at all, and aren't constitutional.

One outspoken leader, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) has promised to filibuster any bill that grants immunity to telephone companies.

Since Dodd's announcement, a growing coalition of senators has vowed to stand up and block this legislation. Senators who have pledged to stand against immunity for phone companies so far are: Senator Joseph Biden (D-CT), Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL).

"Between lobbying for telecom immunity, minimizing the involvement of the FISA court and invoking the state secrets privilege whenever challenged, the administration will effectively cut out any oversight of its domestic eavesdropping," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. "This program was exposed nearly two years ago and roundly criticized. Now Congress is poised to legalize warrantless surveillance, and let the telecommunications companies off the hook to boot. Americans won't stand for cutting deals for criminals."

>> Take action: Demand that your senators support the FISA filibuster.
Learn more about the ACLU's FISA Flood.


Government Intervenes in Jeppesen Rendition Case

Claiming "state secrets" are at stake, the U.S. government requested the dismissal of a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU against Boeing Company subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. for its participation in the CIA’s unlawful "extraordinary rendition" program.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of five rendition victims who were kidnapped by the CIA and secretly transferred to U.S.-run secret overseas prisons or to the custody of foreign intelligence agencies where they were subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The lawsuit charges that Jeppesen knowingly provided direct logistical support for the flights that the CIA used for the clandestine rendition flights.

With increasing regularity, the Bush Administration has invoked the ‘state secrets’ defense as a means of dismissing entire cases seeking accountability for illegal practices and policies it has implemented in the name of national security.

"Five men have been brutally abused under the 'extraordinary rendition' program with the help of a U.S. corporation," said Steven Watt, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Human Rights Program and an attorney on the case. "These victims deserve their day in court. And Jeppesen must be held accountable for the instrumental role the company played in their suffering."

Read about the ACLU’s lawsuit against Jeppesen as well as its other work in the fight against rendition at:

Real ID Gasps for Air, DHS Still Gunning for National ID

The Department of Homeland Security claims Real ID -- the government’s attempt at a National ID card -- is as strong as ever, but the word in Washington is that the program is on life support.

DHS Assistant Secretary Richard Barth said airline passengers would not be required to show their Real IDs at the gate and the strict national driver’s license standards would be loosened, state officials who participated in calls with the agency told the ACLU. States will also have more time to comply with DHS regulations, which will be delayed again after months of extended deadlines. In addition, the Washington Post has reported that some compliance deadlines will be extended a decade -- until 2018 -- as DHS tries desperately to reduce states’ opposition.

Real ID may be hanging on for its life, but that doesn’t mean DHS has stopped fighting to save the national ID program. Watering down the program doesn’t negate the threat it poses to Americans’ privacy or its exorbitant cost.

Real ID will still store Americans’ most personal information on machine-readable card technology, and that information will be kept in a vast national database available to all levels of law enforcement. Its cost is estimated to be at least $14.6 billion, most of which will be passed along to state governments that are already strapped for cash. Seven states have outright rejected the program, and 10 others have passed resolutions against it.

However, last week New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, suffering from stinging political attacks over his effort to give undocumented immigrants drivers’ licenses, reversed course and endorsed Real ID.

"DHS is engaged in a bait and switch," said Chris Calabrese, counsel for the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program. "They plan on watering down the regulations to encourage states to abandon their resistance. But the fact is that Real ID is very detailed and costly. Eventually its requirements will have to be met. Real ID is a broken law that needs to be repealed."

Learn more at
Take Action: Tell Your members of Congress to support efforts to repeal Real ID.

"Creation Science" Earmark Removed from Appropriations Bill

The ACLU applauded last month when Senator David Vitter (R-LA) withdrew an unconstitutional earmark that would have funded the teaching of creationism in public school science classes.

Senator Vitter had proposed appropriating $100,000 of federal funding for the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) "to develop a plan to promote better science education." The LFF’s stated mission is to "persuasively present biblical principles in centers of influence." United States federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court, have ruled that no variation of creationism can be taught in our public schools, stating that the "preservation and transmission of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere."

"As soon as religion begins to intrude into our government and the publicly funded arena, the ideals and principles of both become compromised," said ACLU Senior Lobbyist Terri Schroeder. "For the federal government to allow such funding to take place would have not only been unconstitutional, but also a waste of tax payer money and a degradation of our school curriculum."

Learn more about the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

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