Edward Snowden

Open Letter To Obama

July 26, 2013 President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution Dear Mr. President: You are acutely aware More »

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U.S. Companies Pay Just One-Third Of The Legal Tax Rate: GAO Study

Huffington Post July 1, 2013 By Mark Gongloff Big, profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of less than 13 percent in 2010, according to a new study — or More »

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Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

NBC San Diego July 1, 2013 By Christina London The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges. A jury returned its More »

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Tag Archives: free speech

Open Letter To Obama

Edward Snowden

July 26, 2013

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution

Dear Mr. President:

You are acutely aware that the history of liberty is a history of civil disobedience to unjust laws or practices. As Edmund Burke sermonized, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Civil disobedience is not the first, but the last option. Henry David Thoreau wrote with profound restraint in Civil Disobedience: “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”

Thoreau’s moral philosophy found expression during the Nuremburg trials in which “following orders” was rejected as a defense. Indeed, military law requires disobedience to clearly illegal orders.

A dark chapter in America’s World War II history would not have been written if the then United States Attorney General had resigned rather than participate in racist concentration camps imprisoning 120,000 Japanese American citizens and resident aliens.

Civil disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act and Jim Crow laws provoked the end of slavery and the modern civil rights revolution.

We submit that Edward J. Snowden’s disclosures of dragnet surveillance of Americans under § 215 of the Patriot Act, § 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments, or otherwise were sanctioned by Thoreau’s time-honored moral philosophy and justifications for civil disobedience. Since 2005, Mr. Snowden had been employed by the intelligence community. He found himself complicit in secret, indiscriminate spying on millions of innocent citizens contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the First and Fourth Amendments and the transparency indispensable to self-government. Members of Congress entrusted with oversight remained silent or Delphic. Mr. Snowden confronted a choice between civic duty and passivity. He may have recalled the injunction of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” Mr. Snowden chose duty. Your administration vindictively responded with a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Espionage Act.

From the commencement of your administration, your secrecy of the National Security Agency’s Orwellian surveillance programs had frustrated a national conversation over their legality, necessity, or morality. That secrecy (combined with congressional nonfeasance) provoked Edward’s disclosures, which sparked a national conversation which you have belatedly and cynically embraced. Legislation has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate to curtail or terminate the NSA’s programs, and the American people are being educated to the public policy choices at hand. A commanding majority now voice concerns over the dragnet surveillance of Americans that Edward exposed and you concealed. It seems mystifying to us that you are prosecuting Edward for accomplishing what you have said urgently needed to be done!

The right to be left alone from government snooping–the most cherished right among civilized people—is the cornerstone of liberty. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson served as Chief Prosecutor at Nuremburg. He came to learn of the dynamics of the Third Reich that crushed a free society, and which have lessons for the United States today.

Writing in Brinegar v. United States, Justice Jackson elaborated:

The Fourth Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

These, I protest, are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indispensable freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. And one need only briefly to have dwelt and worked among a people possessed of many admirable qualities but deprived of these rights to know that the human personality deteriorates and dignity and self-reliance disappear where homes, persons and possessions are subject at any hour to unheralded search and seizure by the police.

We thus find your administration’s zeal to punish Mr. Snowden’s discharge of civic duty to protect democratic processes and to safeguard liberty to be unconscionable and indefensible.

We are also appalled at your administration’s scorn for due process, the rule of law, fairness, and the presumption of innocence as regards Edward.

On June 27, 2013, Mr. Fein wrote a letter to the Attorney General stating that Edward’s father was substantially convinced that he would return to the United States to confront the charges that have been lodged against him if three cornerstones of due process were guaranteed. The letter was not an ultimatum, but an invitation to discuss fair trial imperatives. The Attorney General has sneered at the overture with studied silence.

We thus suspect your administration wishes to avoid a trial because of constitutional doubts about application of the Espionage Act in these circumstances, and obligations to disclose to the public potentially embarrassing classified information under the Classified Information Procedures Act.

Your decision to force down a civilian airliner carrying Bolivian President Eva Morales in hopes of kidnapping Edward also does not inspire confidence that you are committed to providing him a fair trial. Neither does your refusal to remind the American people and prominent Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate like House Speaker John Boehner, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann,and Senator Dianne Feinstein that Edward enjoys a presumption of innocence. He should not be convicted before trial. Yet Speaker Boehner has denounced Edward as a “traitor.”

Ms. Pelosi has pontificated that Edward “did violate the law in terms of releasing those documents.” Ms. Bachmann has pronounced that, “This was not the act of a patriot; this was an act of a traitor.” And Ms. Feinstein has decreed that Edward was guilty of “treason,” which is defined in Article III of the Constitution as “levying war” against the United States, “or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

You have let those quadruple affronts to due process pass unrebuked, while you have disparaged Edward as a “hacker” to cast aspersion on his motivations and talents. Have you forgotten the Supreme Court’s gospel in Berger v. United States that the interests of the government “in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done?”

We also find reprehensible your administration’s Espionage Act prosecution of Edward for disclosures indistinguishable from those which routinely find their way into the public domain via your high level appointees for partisan political advantage. Classified details of your predator drone protocols, for instance, were shared with the New York Times with impunity to bolster your national security credentials. Justice Jackson observed in Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York: “The framers of the Constitution knew, and we should not forget today, that there is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally.”

In light of the circumstances amplified above, we urge you to order the Attorney General to move to dismiss the outstanding criminal complaint against Edward, and to support legislation to remedy the NSA surveillance abuses he revealed. Such presidential directives would mark your finest constitutional and moral hour.

Sincerely,

Bruce Fein

Counsel for Lon Snowden

Lon Snowden

Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

jeff olsen

NBC San Diego
July 1, 2013
By Christina London

The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges.

A jury returned its verdict in the case against Jeff Olson Monday.

The city charged Olson with vandalism after writing anti-Wall Street messages in chalk on public sidewalks and streets in front of a bank.

Olson’s supporters staged a “Chalk-u-py” protest last Saturday. They wrote messages of support in sidewalk chalk outside the Hall of Justice.

Full Article Here – http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Jeff-Olson-Man-Tried-for-Chalk-Drawings-Found-Not-Guilty-213878081.html?_osource=SocialFlowTwt_SDBrand

Anonymous hackers’ Twitter account suspended, reinstated

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NBC News
Dec. 19, 2012
By Suzanne Choney

For the second time in a month, one of the Twitter accounts used by the hacking group known as Anonymous was suspended. But this time the account, @YourAnonNews, with more than three-quarter of a million followers, was reinstated.

“You can’t suspend an idea,” @YourAnonNews tweeted Wednesday.

Indeed, you can’t, but the Twitter account was suspended briefly Wednesday; Twitter told NBC News it doesn’t comment on “individual accounts for privacy and security reasons.” The @YourAnonNews account is one of the hacking collective’s most followed on the short messaging blog.

Shock Video: Cop Protects First Amendment

Airport Security

Infowars
Nov. 27, 2012
By Paul Joseph Watson

A shocking video has emerged of a police officer who abides by the oath he swore to uphold the constitution by defending the free speech rights of activists who were targeted by airport officials during the opt out and film campaign.

The clip shows activists Ashley Jessica and Jason Bermas handing out flyers warning travelers about the dangers of x-ray body scanners at Albany International Airport in New York.

Almost as soon as the activists begin to hand out the flyers, they are confronted by an aggressive airport official later named as Douglas I. Myers, the airport’s Director of Public Affairs.

Turkey has jailed more journalists than Iran, Eritrea or China: watchdog

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Reuters
Oct. 22, 2012
By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL — Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government has waged one of the world’s biggest crackdowns on press freedom in recent years, jailing more journalists than Iran, China or Eritrea, a leading media watchdog said on Monday.

The damning report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) added to a chorus of criticism from the European Union and rights groups of the EU-candidate country’s mass detention of reporters, most of whom are kept in detention while their cases are dealt with.

Around two-thirds were journalists writing about the largely Kurdish southeast, where the government is fighting a separatist rebellion.

The U.S.-based watchdog criticised Erdogan’s public disparagement of journalists, the use of pressure tactics to encourage self-censorship, and the launching of thousands of criminal cases against reporters on charges such as “denigrating Turkishness”.

Pussy Riot band members sent to remote prison camps

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Guardian
Oct. 22, 2012
By

Two members of the anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot have been sent to remote prison camps to serve their sentences, the group has said.

Maria Alyokhina, 24, will serve the rest of her two-year term at a women’s prison camp in Perm, a Siberian region notorious for hosting some of the Soviet Union’s harshest camps. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, has been sent to Mordovia, a region that also hosts a high number of prisons.

“These are the harshest camps of all the possible choices,” the band said via its Twitter account on Monday.

Anonymous vows revenge after WikiLeaks launches ‘filthy’ paywall

paywall1

Raw Story
Oct. 12, 2012
By Stephen C. Webster

Nameless hackers with the online protest movement “Anonymous” have turned on longtime ally WikiLeaks for deploying a paywall on its website that blocks access to the site’s trove of formerly secret files unless users donate or tell their friends about WikiLeaks via social media.

Calling the tactic “filthy and rotten,” a post to the “AnonPaste” website Thursday night said that WikiLeaks has gone too far for the hacker community to abide, so they’re taking matters into their own hands and plotting revenge.

“To this day, not ONE single WikiLeaks staff are charged or incarcerated,” the Anonymous post explains. “However, Anonymous has 14 indicted (facing 15 years) for online protests defending WikiLeaks – and one (Jeremy Hammond) in prison and facing 20 years for allegedly supplying the Stratfor GI Files. Not to mention the heroic Bradley Manning who now rots in Ft. Leavenworth Prison facing life.”

WikiLeaks and Free Speech

assange

New York Times
Aug. 20, 2012
By MICHAEL MOORE and OLIVER STONE

WE have spent our careers as filmmakers making the case that the news media in the United States often fail to inform Americans about the uglier actions of our own government. We therefore have been deeply grateful for the accomplishments of WikiLeaks, and applaud Ecuador’s decision to grant diplomatic asylum to its founder, Julian Assange, who is now living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

Ecuador has acted in accordance with important principles of international human rights. Indeed, nothing could demonstrate the appropriateness of Ecuador’s action more than the British government’s threat to violate a sacrosanct principle of diplomatic relations and invade the embassy to arrest Mr. Assange.

Since WikiLeaks’ founding, it has revealed the “Collateral Murder” footage that shows the seemingly indiscriminate killing of Baghdad civilians by a United States Apache attack helicopter; further fine-grained detail about the true face of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; United States collusion with Yemen’s dictatorship to conceal our responsibility for bombing strikes there; the Obama administration’s pressure on other nations not to prosecute Bush-era officials for torture; and much more.

Russian punk band’s plight galvanizes artists, rights groups, leaders

pussy riot

Los Angeles Times
Aug. 17, 2012
By Carol J. Williams

The prison sentencing Friday of members of the band Pussy Riot by a Russian court has united a diverse list of pop stars, human rights advocates and political leaders from around the world who view the imprisonment of the band as a shocking example of Kremlin repression.

Paul McCartney, Madonna, Sting, Bjork and up-and-coming punksters were joined by the U.S. government, the European Union, Human Rights Watch and a civil society foundation headed by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov in expressing concern for the fate of freedom of speech in Russia.

The two-year prison sentences handed down by a Russian court after a widely denounced trial galvanized the disparate voices and appeals for clemency for the band members, whose February “punk prayer” for Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s downfall was met with what is viewed as a concerted effort to stifle dissent in post-Soviet Russia.