Tag: 1st Amendment

SCOTUS: Bad Cops Lose

Cross Posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The latest efforts by state authorities to protect the police who abuse their authority has been dealt a blow by the US Supreme Court. From the Chicago Tribune:

The Supreme Court refused on Monday to revive a controversial Illinois law that prohibited audio recordings of police officers acting in public places, a ban that critics said violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Without comment, the court on Monday let stand a May 8 ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that blocked enforcement of the law, which had made it a felony to record audio of conversations unless all parties consented.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 7th Circuit called the law “the broadest of its kind,” and said it likely violated the free speech and free press guarantees in the First Amendment.

MSNBC The Last Word host, Lawrence O’Donnell, commented on the importance of this ruling during his Rewrite” segment:

“After the Rodney King beating, Chicago police decided to use an old anti-eavesdropping law to protect themselves-a law which basically made it a felony to record a conversation unless all parties agree to be recorded,” said O’Donnell, giving part of the back-story. “That, in effect, meant you couldn’t shoot video of Chicago police because, of course, video recording normally includes sound.” [..]

“The good police officers in this country, which is to say most of the police officers in this country, have no problem with the Supreme Court’s decision this week,” said O’Donnell. “Thanks to federal judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, some Chicago cops-the bad ones-have something new to fear, tonight: your video camera.”

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley also commented about the Court’s decision and had some very harsh criticism of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez:

As a native Chicagoan, I remain astonished that citizens have allowed Alvarez to remain in office as she has publicly sought to strip them of their rights and block a tool that has been used repeatedly to show police abuse. For a leading and generally liberal jurisdiction, Chicago has the ignominy and dishonor of leading the effort to fight core civil liberties in this area. [..]

It is otherworldly to see these abuses occurring in two usually progressive jurisdictions of California and Illinois. Alvarez has become the leader of this rogue’s gallery of prosecutors who have strived to jail their own citizens for monitoring police in public. It is, to put it bluntly, a disgrace. While Alvarez failed in her latest bid, she and other prosecutors remain undeterred in their desire to see citizens punished for such videotapes – tapes that have featured prominently in establishing false arrests and police abuse. Before such filming, abuse claims were overwhelmingly rejected with the denials of the officers. Now, there is often undeniable proof – proof that Alvarez and others want barred under the threat of criminal prosecution.

Prof. Turley also points out that the trend to protect bad police is not over:

We have been discussing the continued effort of prosecutors and police to jail citizens who photograph or videotape police in public. For a prior column, click here. Now, in California, another such arrest has been videotaped in California as Daniel J. Saulmon was charged with resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer when the video shows him standing at a distance and not interfering in any way with the arrest.

The officer immediately demanded to know what Saulmon is doing when it is obvious, as Saulmon indicates, that he is filming the scene. Saulmon states that he does not want to speak to the officer when asked for his identification and the officer immediately puts him under arrest. Ironically, the officer then tells him that he doesn’t need any identification since that will be handled at the booking. [..]

Saulmon reportedly spent days in jail. Such jailings serve as a deterrent for abusive police officers since few citizens want to face such incarceration as well as the cost of defending against criminal charges. Even when later thrown out (which often happen to such charges), the message is sent and the officers are rarely disciplined. I have little doubt that this case will be thrown out. The question is whether people in California will demand action to discipline the officer, who swore to charges that are clearly invalid and abusive.

And these cases from Maryland and Massachusetts

In Maryland in July, Anthony Graber got a well-deserved speeding ticket, but his real mistake was posting footage from his motorcycle helmet-cam on YouTube. It showed an irate off-duty, out-of-uniform officer pulling him over with his gun drawn. Prosecutors obtained a grand jury indictment against Graber on felony wiretap charges, which carry a 16-year prison sentence.

In Boston in August, the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unambiguously that the Constitution protects citizen videographers filming in public. In that case, attorney Simon Glik was walking past the Boston Common on Oct. 1, 2007, when he came upon three Boston officers arresting a man. Glik turned on his cellphone camera after hearing a witness say the police were being abusive. An officer told Glik to turn off his camera. When Glik refused, he was arrested for violation of the state wiretap statute, disturbing the peace and, for good measure, aiding in the escape of a prisoner.

The charges were dismissed after a public outcry, but in a later civil rights case, city attorneys fought to deny citizens the right to videotape police. The court rejected Boston’s arguments and found that the police had denied Glik his 1st and 4th Amendment rights.

Score one for the 1st and 4th Amendments.

NSA: Every Step You Take, We’ll be Watching You

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Whistleblower: The NSA is Lying-U.S. Government Has Copies of Most of Your Emails

National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reveals he believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush. He estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion “transactions” – phone calls, emails and other forms of data – from Americans. This likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States. Binney talks about Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and challenges NSA Director Keith Alexander’s assertion that the NSA is not intercepting information about U.S. citizens

This interview is part of a 4-part special. Click here to see segment 1, 2, and 4. [includes rush transcript]


William Binney, served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could “create an Orwellian state.”

Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher who has volunteered with WikiLeaks. He is a developer and advocate for the Tor Project, a network enabling its users to communicate anonymously on the internet.

Laura Poitras, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and producer. She is working on the third part of a trilogy of films about America post-9/11. The first film was My Country, My Country,” and the second was The Oath.

Influential Senator Warned in 1975: “Th[e National Security Agency’s] Capability At Any Time Could Be Turned Around On The American People, And No American Would Have Any Privacy Left …There Would Be No Place To Hide. [If A Dictator Ever Took Over, The N.S.A.] Could Enable It To Impose Total Tyranny, And There Would Be No Way To Fight Back”

by George Washington at naked capitalism

Senator Church’s Prophetic Warning

Senator Frank Church – who chaired the famous “Church Committee” into the unlawful FBI Cointel program, and who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – said in 1975:

   “Th[e National Security Agency’s]  capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.  [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.

Now, the NSA is building a $2 billion dollar facility in Utah which will use the world’s most powerful supercomputer to monitor virtually all phone calls, emails, internet usage, purchases and rentals, break all encryption, and then store everyone’s data permanently.

The former head of the program for the NSA recently held his thumb and forefinger close together, and said:

   We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state

So Senator Church’s warning was prophetic.

George goes on to extensively discuss:

  • how “the government’s illegal spying on Americans actually began before 9/11″;
  • that the NSA heard the 9/11 hijackers’ plans from their own mouths and did nothing to stop them;
  • the spying isn’t being done to keep us safe, but to crush dissent and to help the too big to fail businesses compete against smaller businesses;
  • and it isn’t only the NSA but other agencies and “shady foreign groups“.
  • This started in the 1970’s during the Ford administration when Dick Cheney and Donald Rumseld pushed for wiretaps without approval by a judge. It has expanded under each successive president, including the present occupant of the White House who was elected after lying about “fixing” FISA and the Patriot Act.

    1st Amendment, 5th Estate

    PhotobucketThere is no revolution without winning the hearts and minds of the very people who must fight it for you.

    It not only matters that the information travels, but in how it travels. There are those whose job is in the painstaking research, often resulting in books, if only the footnotes in the same. There are those whose job is in straight, “unbiased” reporting for mainstream publications, local papers or scholastic journals. I think it is important to continue to support 4th estate. Without your subscriptions, how can entities like “The Nation” survive?

    What is just as important to remember? Most of these very institutions have been pressed, in the name of “objectivity” to abdicate their duty to report without actual bias. Facts seem to have a penchant for a “liberal bias” by undermining the propaganda arm of the Right’s agenda.

    Worse yet? Disgusted by the right-wing bloviating as “reporting” by dubious “news” channels like Fox, the Left has become unwilling to OPINE. Edward R Murrow would be spinning in his grave. There was a time, ladies and gentlemen, to do as he did and call McCarthyism what it was, and there is a time, and that time is now, to call Assangism what it is. Both things are an attempt to prevent the dissemination of ideas, cover up wrongs and demonize truth tellers to protect predatory capitalism. There are now constraints in place, constraints created by the very entities that benefit from the status quo that are put upon journalists who wish to make a living writing.

    That is where we ground-level writers must do our duty, and fill the void. We have nothing to lose, and must speak the things the muzzled cannot…. speak them until it becomes impossible for the MSM to not address.

    Jack Summers and Forced Bible Study in School

    Simulposted from the NEW Wild Wild Left!

    Picture my surprise when I opened an email from Care to Causes labeled “Student Refuses to Study Bible as Literature” only to find the actual article titled, “Willful Ignorance: Should Students Be Able to Choose What Not to Study?

    (Care to Causes does decent environmental work and women’s causes, but is far from one of the best sources out there…)

    I took the bait, and clicked through to the essay, only to have my pre-coffee neurons scream in revolt. The author has it wrong on so many levels that I had to respond. I chose the most obvious two, and stated my objections, only to find if I did not allow C2C full access to post to my facebook at will, I could not post on their site. Strike two, baby.

    Newton South High School has a reading requirement for standard sophomore English to read passages from the Bible as an example of comparative literature in class. Jack objected. Those are the facts. John Hilliard of Newton’s newspaper mangled the facts so badly in his report, that Jack’s mother felt compelled to write a Letter to the Editor to refute the misstating of facts: from Jack’s age,(16 not 15) and the type of class,(the reporter claimed it an elective honors class, which it is not) to the slant that he was a slacker trying to get out of work. (Jack turned in an alternative project of his own volition)

    Maybe its just me, but if you have perused the links, by now aren’t you wondering how so many could miss the forest for the trees?

    WHY was this piece of text chosen in the first place?  

    Obama came to town today. Free Speech took a hit.

    President Obama was in my City this afternoon, for a speech on education at Wright Middle School.

    Since the location had been announced too late for the normal permit process, the Madison Peace Action Coalition contacted the Police Department, and were told they’d be allowed to conduct a rally at a reasonable location a block away.

    Come 10:45, the rules changed, and they were booted to a spot a few  blocks farther, all but out of line of sight. According to this Wisconsin State Journal account, pedestrians without signs were still allowed in th area from which the protest had been evicted. This makes clear it was a speech motivated ban, not strictly speaking a legitimate security matter.

    In The Nation, Madisonian John Nichols suggests that Obama should have marked the anniversary of his election with a big noontime rally at the State Capitol, as well as the school speech, but at the Capitol, they wouldn’t have been able to protect him from seeing the “Out of Afghanistan” signs. Can’t have that, Presidents who run “dumb wars” have to live in a bubble. see UPDATE, partial retraction below

    (The State Capitol Police these days have more respect for the 1st Amendment than their City of Madison counterparts. I won a suit v Tommy Thompson in 1987, establishing that, under the State Constitution’s Free Speech clause, anyone has a right to display any placard on the Capitol grounds at any time.)

    On Bannings and Losing Your 1st Amendment rights of speech and assembly

    Recently a good friend here on teh toobz was banned from public discourse in a private setting, a limitation of his personal freedom of speech in a private place. Though he was offered reinstatement, he refused it on principle. He stood by his perinciple. He defended his freedom.

       Personally, I think the whole situation sucks.

    But MUCH BIGGER than that was the Police State RIOT SQUADS brutal response to PROPERTY DAMAGE in Pittsburgh, PA this weekend, when protestors without Government permission to exercisize.

       This is my point.

       If you have to ASK PERMISSION to use your rights, you never really had that right in the first place.

    First Amendment Friday 2 – Gitlow v People

    Happy Friday and welcome to the 2nd in the Dog’s series on the Supreme Court Cases defining the boundaries of our 1st Amendment protections under the Constitution. Each week this series will look at one or two Supreme Court decisions. We will look at the facts of the case, the Majority Opinion and the Dissent Opinion. The Dog is not a lawyer so this is strictly a layman’s point of view, but the Dog believes there is value in looking at these things even if one is not a trained professional. If you find the Dog’s analysis to be wrong or you simply disagree, correct him in the comment. This is a learning exercise and the Dog wants to learn too! If you are interested in last weeks installment you can find it here:

    Abrams v US

    Denver: ATT thanks Blue Dogs Sun. Night. Picket

    The SF Chronicle reports on corporate lobbyists taking advantage of a loophole in rules preventing them from throwing lavish parties to “honor”House lawmakers, which exempts parties for groups of Members.

    Prominent, a Sunday evening bash thrown by ATT for the “Blue Dogs” to thank them for the FISA amnesty.

    Lobbyist parties for lawmakers bend rules

    Congress, pledging to clean up Washington’s culture of corruption, approved a rule last year to end the practice of lobbyists or their clients throwing lavish events honoring lawmakers at the parties’ national conventions.

    But the House ethics committee opened a huge loophole in the rule by issuing guidelines in December saying it was fine for lobbyists or their employers to throw parties for a group of House members – just not for a single lawmaker…

    …AT&T is among the sponsors of a party celebrating the conservative House Blue Dog Democrats on Sunday night.

    Perfect spot for the first appearance of my “STOP GOVERNMENT SPYING” banner.

    St. Paul’s yanked our Permits (RNC)

    On March 5th, dailykos denizen norahc (Ben Plunkett) obtained permits in the name of “Swift Students for Truthiness” from the St. Paul Parks Department for use of Hamm’s Plaza for non-partisan issue oriented expressive activity on Sept. 3d and 4th, 8AM to 8PM. Planned, a Shutdown Guantanamo Stop Torture event the 3d, Stop Government Spying on the 4th, both starting at 4:00. I’m co-ordinating the “spying” event.

    Hamm’s is tiny, not much more than a traffic island, so the limit of 91 in attendance at any time was acceptable.

    Yesterday, Ben received a Certified Mail from the Parks Department, dated August 5th, indicating that the permits had been revoked, offering alternative space at Ecolab Plaza or Mears Park, both much less visible. Hamm’s is 2 blocks from the Convention site at the Excel Center, and faces the St. Paul Hotel, a major delegate hub. I’ve just lined up an attorney, we’ll be seeking a Temporary Restraining Order directing that the Parks Dept. honor the original permit.

    Judge dissolves Wikileaks shutdown order (updated 2x)

    Judge White has had a serious Emily Latella moment.

    From The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:

    The whistleblower site Wikileaks.org may resume its U.S. operation following a hearing in California federal court today, where Judge Jeffrey S. White dissolved a previous order that required the site to be taken offline and indicated he would not approve a second order prohibiting the site’s publication.

    The Feb. 15 orders had required domain name service provider Dynadot to cut off access to the Wikileaks site, disabling the Web address. A Swiss bank had asked the court to require the site to be taken down, arguing it disclosed private banking records.

    Acting as a friend of the court, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and several other media organizations asked the judge earlier this week to take notice of the prior restraint that occurred as a result of those orders. Wikileaks had not appeared in court to defend against charges by the bank that it had improperly posted private information and no First Amendment concerns were raised before the Court.

    White’s order of today dissolved the injunction that had prohibited Dynadot from allowing Wikileaks.org to be accessible. It also “tentatively” denied the bank’s request for an order that would keep Wikileaks from independently publishing itself online.

    “It’s not very often a federal judge does a 180 degree turn in a case and dissolves an order,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “But we’re very pleased the judge recognized the constitutional implications in this prior restraint.”

    White is expected to issue a full opinion on the matter in the near future. The media coalition’s brief in the case can be found at: www.rcfp.org/news/documents/20080229-amicusbrie.pdf

    Shorter Judge White:

    “Never mind!”