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California Dems on Jerusalem synagogue attack

California Democrats are condemning the killing of four rabbis in a Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinians wielding a gun, an ax and a meat cleaver. (UPDATE @ 3:10 P.M.: A fifth victim – a police officer – has now died.)

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

“I am horrified by the barbaric murder of innocents in a sacred house of worship. This heinous and brutal act of terror has no place in a civilized world and only sets back the cause of peace and humanity. All my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and I am praying for the recovery of those injured.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“The murder of worshippers at morning prayer is an unconscionable and inhuman act of terror. This attack is beyond the circle of civilized behavior, and Congress and the American people stand united in condemning its brutality.

“Our hearts ache for the family, friends, and loved ones of those killed and wounded in today’s savage attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem. We join the mourning of American-born Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rabbi Kalman Levine, Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, and British-born Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg. Our thoughts and prayers, and the thoughts and prayers of all Americans, are with them and all the citizens of Israel at this time of mourning.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

“Today’s cowardly and brutal killing of three American and one British rabbi in Jerusalem is an affront to every civilized person and nation. Attacks such as these damage the ability for both sides to come to the table and work out a long-term solution to the underlying conflicts in the region.

“President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are right to condemn this attack. I agree with Secretary Kerry that the Palestinian leadership must also condemn this attack in the strongest way possible, and to take concrete steps to prevent such attacks in the future. No nation’s or people’s cause is aided by brutal acts of terrorism against innocent worshippers.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, the injured, the larger Jewish community, and all who stand for peace during this time of grief.”

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Swalwell gathers foes of TSA’s new knife policy

Almost 60 House members so far from both sides of the aisle have signed a letter co-authored by an East Bay lawmaker expressing concern about the new Transportation Security Administration policy allowing knives on planes.

TSA revised their prohibited items policy to allow certain knives and sports equipment in airplane cabins; the new policy is set to take effect on April 25. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. – ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee – are circulating the letter.

At a hearing yesterday, TSA Administrator John Pistole acknowledged his agency hadn’t properly engaged stakeholders like flight attendants before reaching its decision. The letter calls on TSA to withdraw the new policy until it has consulted adequately with flight attendants, pilots and transportation security officers.

“The support for our letter objecting to TSA’s decision by Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle validates the general consensus that this is a foolish policy that could, in a worst-case scenario, seriously harm Americans,” Swalwell, a freshman member of the Homeland Security Transportation Security Subcommittee, said in a news release. “Based on my conversation with Administrator Pistole yesterday at the Homeland Security Committee hearing, I am more convinced that TSA should not implement this policy.”

The letter is supported by the American Federation of Government Employees, the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, the Federal Flight Deck Officer Association and the National Association of Police Organizations. The letter will keep circulating through Tuesday; the only Bay Area member besides Swalwell to have signed it so far is Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa.

Here’s Swalwell questioning Pistole at yesterday’s hearing:

UPDATE @ 4:04 P.M. THURSDAY 3/21: 133 House members ended up signing this letter, including greater Bay Area Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

4

Obama, Romney, Biden & Ryan on 9/11

President Barack Obama, at the Pentagon (excerpt):

“This anniversary allows us to renew our faith that even the darkest night gives way to a brighter dawn. Today, we can come here to the Pentagon, and touch these names and kneel beside a building where a single stone still bears the scars of that fire. We can visit the field of honor in Pennsylvania and remember the heroes who made it sacred. We can see water cascading into the footprints of the Twin Towers, and gaze up at a new tower rising above the New York skyline.

“And even though we may never be able to fully lift the burden carried by those left behind, we know that somewhere, a son is growing up with his father’s eyes, and a daughter has her mother’s laugh — living reminders that those who died are with us still.

“So as painful as this day is and always will be, it leaves us with a lesson that no single event can ever destroy who we are. No act of terrorism can ever change what we stand for. Instead, we recommit ourselves to the values that we believe in, holding firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

“That’s the commitment that we reaffirm today. And that’s why, when the history books are written, the true legacy of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division. It will be a safer world; a stronger nation; and a people more united than ever before.”

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in a statement:

“Eleven years ago, evil descended upon our country, taking thousands of lives in an unspeakable attack against innocents. America will never forget those who perished. America will never stop caring for the loved ones they left behind. And America shall remain ever vigilant against those who would do us harm. Today we again extend our most profound gratitude to our brave troops who have gone into battle, some never to return, so that we may live in peace. On this most somber day, those who would attack us should know that we are united, one nation under God, in our determination to stop them and to stand tall for peace and freedom at home and across the world.”

Vice President Joe Biden, at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. (excerpt):

“My hope for you all is that as every year passes, the depth of your pain recedes and you find comfort, as I have, genuine comfort in recalling his smile, her laugh, their touch. And I hope you’re as certain as I am that she can see what a wonderful man her son has turned out to be, grown up to be; that he knows everything that your daughter has achieved, and that he can hear, and she can hear how her mom still talks about her, the day he scored the winning touchdown, how bright and beautiful she was on that graduation day, and know that he knows what a beautiful child the daughter he never got to see has turned out to be, and how much she reminds you of him. For I know you see your wife every time you see her smile on your child’s face. You remember your daughter every time you hear laughter coming from her brother’s lips. And you remember your husband every time your son just touches your hand.

“I also hope — I also hope it continues to give you some solace knowing that this nation, all these people gathered here today, who are not family members, all your neighbors, that they’ve not forgotten. They’ve not forgotten the heroism of your husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. And that what they did for this country is still etched in the minds of not only you, but millions of Americans, forever. That’s why it’s so important that this memorial be preserved and go on for our children and our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, and our great-great-grandchildren — because it is what makes it so exceptional. And I think they all appreciate, as I do, more than they can tell you, the incredible bravery your family members showed on that day.”

Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., in a statement:

“Eleven years ago today, from Capitol Hill, I could see the smoke rising from the fires burning in the Pentagon. Like all Americans, I will never forget the moment that our homeland came under attack. For me, this is a day to remember those who perished on that day of terror, including the first responders. It is also a day to pay tribute to all those who have worked quietly and tirelessly both on the home front and abroad to prevent a repetition of such terrible events. And it is a day to give honor to those in our military who have sacrificed so much, including their lives, for the same end. Their courage and heroism and willingness to answer the call of duty have kept America safe and strong and free. We are truly the home of the brave.”

See what some Bay Area members of Congress have been tweeting about today’s anniversary, after the jump…
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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.”

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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.”

1

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.”