Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'War on Terror' Category

Leland Yee’s ‘Reader Privacy Act’ advances

Even as Congress prepares to re-consider some controversial sections of the Patriot Act, the California State Senate unanimously approved a bill today that would preclude state law enforcement from using one of the investigative tools now at issue.

Many Patriot Act provisions have been made permanent after being passed in October 2001 to extend law enforcement’s reach following the 9/11 attacks. At issue now are provisions that authorize roving wiretaps on surveillance targets; provisions that let the government access “any tangible items,” such as library and bookstore records, as a part of surveillance; and a “lone wolf” provision that allows surveillance of those in the United States without citizenship, a green card or political asylum who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.

But SB 602, by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would require government agencies to seek a warrant in order to access consumers’ reading records from bookstores and online retailers, bringing those protections in line with those already afforded by state law to library records. Today’s Senate vote sends the bill to the Assembly for consideration.

“I am very pleased that both Democrats and Republicans agree that current law is completely inadequate when it comes to protecting one’s privacy for book purchases, especially for online shopping and electronic books,” Yee – who also is a San Francisco mayoral candidate – said in a news release today. “Individuals should be free to buy books without fear of government intrusion and witch hunts. If law enforcement has reason to suspect wrongdoing, they can obtain a warrant for such information.”

Yee spokesman Adam Keigwin acknowledged that the bill “states all government agencies, but obviously federal law could supersede and allow federal agencies access if so approved.” Among those supporting the bill are the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google, Consumer Federation of California, and Californians Aware.

Many bookstores already collect information about readers and their purchases, and digital book services can collect even more detailed information including which books are browsed, how long each page is viewed, and even digital notes made in the margins. Supporters say it’s vital that state law be adapted to the digital age, considering that electronic or digital books now outsell paperbacks on Amazon.com and more than 18 million e-readers are expected to be sold in 2012.

“California should be a leader in ensuring that upgraded technology does not mean downgraded privacy,” said Valerie Small Navarro, a legislative advocate with the ACLU’s California affiliates. “We should be able to read about anything from politics, to religion to health without worrying that the government might be looking over our shoulder.”

Posted on Monday, May 9th, 2011
Under: California State Senate, Civil liberties, Leland Yee, War on Terror | 9 Comments »

More politicos react to Osama bin Laden’s demise

I’ve just filed a story based on conversations I had today with several Bay Area members of Congress regarding the slaying of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, but other politicos have a lot to say on the matter, too…

From U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano:

“The death of Osama bin Laden is an important success not only for the United States, but the entire world. Our efforts to combat terrorism, however, do not fixate on one individual, and we remain completely focused on protecting our nation against violent extremism of all kinds.

“We remain at a heightened state of vigilance, but the Department of Homeland Security does not intend to issue an NTAS alert at this time. I have been clear since announcing NTAS in January that we will only issue alerts when we have specific or credible information to convey to the American public. However, our security posture, which always includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to respond appropriately to protect the American people from an evolving threat picture both in the coming days and beyond.

“I commend the President and offer my gratitude to the men and women who defend and protect our nation at home and abroad, whether they wear a military or law enforcement uniform or serve as one of thousands of unsung heroes in the intelligence and homeland security community. It is true that we are stronger and safer than we were on 9/11 – not only because Osama bin Laden is dead, but because of the unflagging dedication and hard work of so many people throughout the world committed to freedom and security.”

From former Congressman and possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich:

“The killing of Osama bin Laden is a significant victory in the long struggle between radical Islamists and modern civilization.

“This victory is a tribute to the patient endurance of American justice. I commend both President George W. Bush who led the campaign against our enemies through seven long years and President Obama who continued and intensified the campaign in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We should remember to thank those who made this possible. Without the courage and professionalism of our men and women in uniform and in the intelligence services, this victory would not have been achieved.

“This victory is only a milestone in a long war. We must also recognize the long struggle ahead. Radical Islamism did not start with bin Laden and it will not end with his death. This is the 32nd year since the Iranian dictatorship seized our diplomats illegally and held them hostage for 444 days. It has been 28 years since Iranian-supported terrorists killed 241 servicemen in Beirut in 1983.

“As long as there are schools teaching children to hate; as long as there are state-supported terrorist systems; as long as several countries actively recruit children to be suicide bombers; this war will continue.

“The world is a better place without Osama bin Laden, but his just demise cannot erase the loss and suffering of the families and friends of those who died on September 11 or died fighting in the war since September 11. So while we are celebrating this victory, we should take time to remember all who suffered and sacrificed and pray for them.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Tonight, Americans can be grateful that President Obama brought bin Laden to justice. Our friends as well as our adversaries throughout the world can be assured of America’s resolve in combating terrorism and protecting the values of democracy and freedom.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“On this night of remarkable accomplishment, Californians and Americans everywhere honor our Commander-in-Chief and our brave men and women wearing our nation’s uniform and serving our country around the world. We will never forget the despicable legacy of terror that ended today nor the thousands of innocent lives it destroyed. But, now, thanks to the heroism of U.S. intelligence and military personnel, our national family has a true measure of justice and the world is surely a safer place.”

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber:

“The death of Osama bin Laden is testimony to the relentless pursuit of justice by the United States since 9/11 through both the Bush and Obama administrations. Our United States military have again demonstrated their professionalism and excellence. Terrorists from bin Laden to the lowest operative know there are consequences for their heinous deeds.

“This, of course, does not diminish the sorrow of all who have lost loved ones in those cowardly attacks on our homeland. Hopefully, the death of this terrorist will bring some finality and sense of justice to them. We must not now let up, but rather redouble our resolve to seek and find others who would continue to do us harm. The War on Terror must continue.”

Posted on Monday, May 2nd, 2011
Under: Assembly, Gavin Newsom, Homeland security, Jerry Brown, War on Terror | 12 Comments »

Rights groups say local cops should shun FBI

Civil rights watchdog groups say police in Oakland, San Francisco and other cities should stop working with the FBI on terrorism investigations so long as doing so means they can violate local privacy policies.

“Under the state constitution and local policies, Californians are protected against government intelligence gathering unless there is a factual basis to suspect them of wrongdoing,” Alan Schlosser, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California’s legal director, said in a news release today. “It is now clear that the FBI has been authorized to conduct thousands of investigations that are just fishing expeditions and run contrary to California law. It is an outrage that San Francisco and Oakland police officials are not being forthcoming about whether their JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) officers are complying with state and local law.”

The ACLU’s complaint comes as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., holds a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing today on civil rights violations against American Muslims, coming soon after a New York Times report that the FBI is using intelligence gathering powers expanded significantly during the Bush Administration to investigate thousands of people and groups without any factual evidence that they have done anything wrong. The FBI admits having compiled 70,000 such files on Americans without any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing.

Local police departments including those in Oakland and San Francisco assign officers to a Joint Terrorism Task Force, in which they cooperate with FBI investigations. They do so under “memorandums of understanding” with the FBI, which in the past included assurances that officers must follow state law and department guidelines.

But when civil rights groups used the Freedom of Information Act to get a look at the standard MOU used in the Bay Area, they found it lets police assigned to the JTTF violate local privacy policies like those in place for years in Oakland and San Francisco, reflecting state constitutional standards.

Neither San Francisco nor Oakland police department has yet to make available its current, specific MOU with the FBI, the ACLU said; in Oakland, police officials say they didn’t keep a copy and the FBI has refused to provide a copy to the department.

So today the ACLU, the Asian Law Caucus and the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on these police agencies to sever those ties with the FBI at least until they make their MOUs public and reassure the public that officers are adhering to the standards of state and local law.

“Unless and until those agreements are made public and assurances are given that local police cannot investigate people without criminal suspicion, San Francisco and Oakland police departments must withdraw from the JTTF,” Asian Law Caucus staff attorney Veena Dubal said.

“Community trust is the most important tool of law enforcement,” said CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo. “By infiltrating organizations and interviewing people who they do not suspect of any wrongdoing, the FBI is obfuscating their ability to counter domestic crime. We do not want our local law enforcement in the same predicament.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
Under: Civil liberties, War on Terror | 3 Comments »

Local Dems weigh in domestic terror hearing

Bay Area members of Congress are speaking out against what they see as bias in today’s House Homeland Community Committee hearing on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.”

Reps. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and John Dingell, D-Mich., led 55 of their colleagues in sending a letter to committee chairman Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., to refocus the upcoming hearings on Muslim Americans and homegrown terrorism in order to examine all forms of violence motivated by any sort of extremism.

Congress and the government do have a duty to protect America from foreign or domestic terrorism, they agreed, but they’re concerned that King’s hearing’s “narrow scope and underlying premises” will unfairly stigmatize and alienate Muslim Americans.

“We believe that the tone and focus of these hearings runs contrary to our nation’s values,” the lawmakers wrote. “Muslim Americans contribute to our nation’s wellbeing in many professions including as doctors, engineers, lawyers, firefighters, business entrepreneurs, teachers, police officers and Members of Congress. Their hard work helps to make our country exceptional.”

“Furthermore, casting a negative light on an entire community— rather than focusing on actual dangerous fringes will only strain community relationships and trust that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have worked hard to develop,” they continued. “Muslim Americans are an integral part of our larger American society and should be treated as such, not viewed with suspicion.”

“The choice between our values of inclusiveness and pluralism and our security is a false one.”

Among those signing the letter were Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, posted a similar sentiment to her Facebook page this morning.

“Today’s Homeland Security Committee hearing, which will profile and demonize an entire community of people based on their faith, undermines the values we stand for as Americans,” Speier wrote. “Radicalization and homegrown terrorism are serious and legitimate concerns that deserve thoughtful examination, not an ideologically motivated charade.”

Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Homeland security, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, War on Terror, Zoe Lofgren | 18 Comments »

Showdown looms over Berkeley’s Gitmo invitation

Berkeley City Council’s consideration this coming Tuesday, Feb. 15, of a resolution offering the city as a site to re-settle some already-cleared Guantanamo Bay terrorism detainees is making waves.

The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission voted Dec. 6 to recommend that the City Council pass such a resolution, which would ask Congress to remove any legislative barriers to resettling cleared detainees. No city funds would be used to support the men; rather, they would be sponsored by community volunteers and organizations that help torture victims victims of torture and refugees. If the resolution passes, Berkeley will be the third U.S. city and the first in California to do adopt such a measure.

The Berkeley City Manager’s office has recommended that the council not act on the resolution:

Currently, federal law explicitly prohibits the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to the United States (most recently, in H.R. 6523, the Defense Authorization Act, signed into law on January 7, 2011). In addition to prohibiting the transfer of detainees with Department of Defense funds, the bill also requires the President to submit detailed plans for the “disposition” of any detainee released in the United States. This requirement has not been met at this point in time.

“I’m sure Berkeley citizens will come forward to offer support for them. I’m going to offer a room in my house to one of the men,” said Cynthia Papermaster, an activist with the Berkeley No More Guantanamos group, who brought the resolution to the Peace and Justice Commission.

“Berkeley is a compassionate and caring community. Like Amherst and Leverett, Massachusetts, which passed similar resolutions in 2009 and 2010, Berkeley wants to extend the hand of friendship and support to help these men resume their lives in peace and safety, and to heal from the ordeal of capture, torture and detention at the hands of our government,” she said. “These men are not and never were terrorists.”

But conservative groups are having none of it.

“If the Berkeley City Council wants to hang out with GITMO detainees, why do they have to do it at taxpayer expense and the public safety risk to the community?” Move America Forward executive director Shawn Callahan asked in a news release. “We can do them one better, if the Council wants to go live in GITMO where they can hang out with hundreds of terrorists, let them do that instead, we’ll even pay for their flights.”

MAF spokesman Danny Gonzalez said Berkeley City Council’s approval of the resolution would be “absolutely irresponsible.”

“The people of the City of Berkeley should not be saddled with the burden of having to pay for the housing, feeding and training of two former terrorists,” he said. “If you bring them here, you also have a responsibility to maintain safety. That means keeping Berkeley safe from the former detainee, and keeping the detainee safe from others who may want to hurt him. The average citizen of Berkeley just wants to go about their lives and pay to feed their families, they don’t need this extra burden.”

Posted on Thursday, February 10th, 2011
Under: Berkeley, War on Terror | 1 Comment »

Toilet-paper prank targets Cal’s John Yoo

One of the many activists protesting University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department lawyer helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many now consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – has found a, well, creative new way to voice displeasure with him.

Students using the restrooms at Cal’s Boalt Hall Law School today reportedly found “Yoo Toilet Paper,” printed with text from the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Los Angeles-based activist/artist Matt Cornell said the prank was meant to remind law students that “Yoo helped turned human rights laws into toilet paper.” At the bottom of each roll is a reminder that “this toilet paper was made by possible by John Yoo, Professor of Law.” He also said his toilet paper is both softer and better than that provided by the budget-crunched university, and that it contains “valuable reading material” for students.

(I’ll assume that the “Josh Wolf” listed in the video’s production credits is the very same UC journalism student who keeps getting in trouble with various authorities as he blurs the line between journalism and activism.)

Posted on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
Under: Berkeley, War on Terror | 8 Comments »

John Yoo to tout book at SF appearance

John YooIf those activists who’ve dogged Cal law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department lawyer helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many now consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – still can’t find where he’s teaching his current class, at least they’ll know where he is for a few hours next week.

Yoo will speak to the Commonwealth Club of California about his new book, “Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush,” at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, Jan. 27 at the club’s offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. Tickets are available online and cost $12 for club members, $18 for nonmembers and $7 for students with valid ID; I predict the tickets will sell out and – no, really, I’m a little bit psychic – that the club’s security will be expecting protestors to try to disrupt the event.

Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
Under: Civil liberties, War on Terror | 3 Comments »

Protestors can’t find Yoo, but Jon Stewart did

Protestors’ targeting of Cal law professor and former Bush administration lawyer and torture-memo author John Yoo has taken an almost comical turn into cat-and-mouse territory: They want to keep disrupting his classes, but they can’t find him.

Yoo is teaching a Tuesday-evening class this semester on “Constitutional Design and the California Constitution,” but Boalt Hall’s schedule lists the class’ location as “to be announced.” Activists from World Can’t Wait and FireJohnYoo.org say their calls to the Cal Registrar’s office and the law school seeking the class’ location have been rebuffed – gee, I wonder why?

“We continue to call for Yoo to be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes, along with his entire cohort from the Bush-Cheney Torture Team,” World Can’t Wait organizer Stephanie Tang said in a news release. “Torture is a war crime. Thousands have been tortured thanks to John Yoo’s work for the White House, long after Yoo himself returned to teaching. The faculty and students right here at UC – and all people of conscience everywhere — need to denounce these crimes, not turn away in silent complicity.”

They’ll hold a news conference outside the office of Boalt Hall Dean Christopher Edley Jr. at 3 p.m. today to demand information about Yoo’s class. If I were them, I wouldn’t hold my breath for an answer. They certainly have a right to protest Yoo, but expecting the university to provide them the information they need to disrupt his classes seems foolhardy.

Meanwhile, Yoo was on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” last night. See the complete, unedited interview in three parts, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
Under: Berkeley, Civil liberties, War on Terror | 2 Comments »

Activists again urge disbarment for Yoo, Haynes

Two Bay Area lawyers who played roles in the Bush Administration’s legal justifications for torture should be disbarred, according to papers filed Friday in Washington, D.C.

John YooDisbar Torture Lawyers, a group of non-governmental organizations with more than a million members, filed complaints with the District of Columbia Bar’s Board on Professional Responsibility against John Yoo, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law School, and William Haynes, now chief corporate counsel at San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. The group also filed a complaint against former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The group filed the complaints in Washington because that’s where the targets were practicing at the time of their alleged violations. Yoo served in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; Haynes served as the Defense Department’s general counsel. Both helped provide a legal framework for fear- and pain-inducing techniques for interrogating suspected terrorist detainees.

“The evidence is overwhelming that Yoo, Haynes, and Gonzales violated their oath by advocating and allowing torture against U.S. detainees,” attorney and group spokesman Kevin Zeese said in a news release. “Just as a lawyer cannot ethically advise a police officer to torture a criminal defendant, a government lawyer cannot ethically advise a government employee to torture a detainee. In both cases, the lawyers would be in violation of the law, and would be subject to disbarment. We strongly urge the Department of Justice to release its own OPR investigation into the conduct of these and other attorneys who provided cover for the wholesale use of torture by our government. We are hopeful that the investigation supports our call for disbarment.”

William Haynes The group filed similar petitions against Yoo and Haynes with the state bars of Pennsylvania and California, respectively, earlier this year.

Also, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild in March filed a complaint against Haynes with the State Bar of California; after the State Bar closed that case, the NLG said it would pursue the case to the state Supreme Court, but the court rejected the petition in October.

Meanwhile, protestors yet again will urge Cal to fire Yoo today, staging protests at noon on Sproul Plaza and at 3 p.m. – just before one of Yoo’s scheduled classes – at the law school.

UPDATE @ 1:30 P.M. TUESDAY: A Chevron spokesman has just fronted me a letter that William T. Coleman Jr., a prominent Washington, D.C. attorney, wrote to the National Lawyers Guild in March – an impassioned defense of Haynes. “I know first-hand that Jim Haynes is a superb lawyer of the highest integrity, and believe that he discharged his responsibilities while General Counsel of the Defense Department in accordance with his oath of his office and the highest ethical standards,” wrote Coleman, who served as Secretary of Transportation under President Gerald Ford. “We should all be grateful that we had such courageous, committed, knowledgeable and superior people including Jim Haynes, not only willing to serve in these times of peril, but having the love of just laws would always act within the law, even though their mission was to prevent many more attacking terrorist actions on American citizens in the United States and elsewhere in the world.”

Posted on Monday, November 30th, 2009
Under: Civil liberties, President Bush, War on Terror | 2 Comments »

Alameda County GOP infights over foreign policy

Expect fireworks at tonight’s Alameda County Republican Central Committee meeting, as there’s a debate and vote on a proposed resolution endorsing a non-interventionist foreign policy – which in the short term means pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The resolution was introduced by committeemen Jerry Salcido, Walter Stanley III and David LaTour – the county GOP’s chairman, vice chairman and assistant treasurer, respectively. All three are “Constitutional Republicans” aligned with the Republican Liberty Caucus, a libertarian-leaning group often associated with former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. The county GOP’s executive committee last week voted 4-1, with one absention, to approve the resolution and send it to the full committee’s monthly meeting for a 2/3 vote.

The Alameda County GOP has been torn by strife for well over a year now, with a lawsuit still pending over these and other Ron Paul supporters’ election to the committee.

The California Court of Appeal in September reinstated the case, in which committeeman Paul Cummings Jr. of Oakland claims Stanley, of Livermore, and several other Constitutional Republicans were ineligible for election to the committee in June 2008 because they hadn’t been affiliated with the Republican Party for at least three months before their candidacy filing dates, and/or because they’d belonged to other parties within a year before filing, in violation of the state Elections Code.

This resolution is likely to deepen the rift. Among its many “whereases” are that our foreign policy of the past century is deeply flawed and hasn’t served our national security interests; that “the terrorist threat is a predictable consequence of our meddling in the affairs of others and has nothing to do with us being free and prosperous;” and that “torture, even if referred to as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ is self-destructive and produces no useful information and that contracting it out to a third world country or a corporation is just as evil.”

Incidentally, that’s not unlike the verbiage in a resolution approved last month by Berkeley City Council calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and contractors for Afghanistan (or, for that matter, several other resolutions that council has approved in recent years).

Compare the county GOP’s proposed resolution also to an Afghanistan-withdrawal resolution approved Sunday by the California Democratic Party’s executive board.

And that’s not sitting well with GOP committee members other than the Constitutional Republicans.

“I’m certainly in knots about it,” Cummings said today. “I’m a retired Navy officer, and I’m shocked that while we have troops in the field, we would put together a document that is so disparaging of our policy in the war on terror. Some of the comments in it are beyond the pale.”

Read the full text of the resolution, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Alameda County, General, Iraq, Republican Party, Republican politics, War on Terror | 3 Comments »