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October 08, 2009

Lieberman drafts amendment that would permanently hide photos of Americans torturing people

TAPPED Archive | The American Prospect
. . . an amendment from Sen. Joe Lieberman that would exempt the photos from the FOIA Act has been adopted, which means that the government could legally withhold the pictures if the bill is passed. The same Sen. Lieberman, deeply concerned about the constitutionality of executive branch "czars," has inserted language into a bill allowing the government to conceal evidence of its own abuses. Naturally, the ACLU is pretty upset. They released a statement from Jameel Jaffer, director of their National Security Project: Congress should not give the government the authority to hide evidence of its own misconduct, and if it does grant that authority, the Secretary of Defense should not invoke it. If this shameful provision passes, Secretary Gates should take into account the importance of transparency to the democratic process, the extraordinary importance of these photos to the ongoing debate about the treatment of prisoners, and the likelihood that the suppression of these photos will ultimately be far more damaging to our national security than their disclosure would be. The last administration’s decision to endorse torture undermined the United States’ moral authority and compromised its security. The failure of the current administration to fully confront the abuses of the last administration will only compound these harms. Transparency is for czars and health-care bills. A number of liberals have questioned whether Lieberman deserves to keep his gavel after the "czar" stunt, but it's clear he's still earning points with the White House, even if he isn't winning any from civil libertarians.

October 05, 2009

Police arrest man for using Twitter to coordinate protesters

Arrest of Queens Man Puts Focus on Texting to Rally Protesters - NYTimes.com During the G20 protests, Elliot Madison used Twitter, the internet, and some police scanners to help coordinate peaceful protests. Today he is under arrest and the police have seized his computers.
On Thursday, F.B.I. agents descended on a house in Jackson Heights, Queens, and spent 16 hours searching it. The most likely reason for the raid: a man who lived there had helped coordinate communications among protesters at the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh. The man, Elliot Madison, 41, a social worker who has described himself as an anarchist, had been arrested in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24 and charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of instruments of crime. The Pennsylvania State Police said he was found in a hotel room with computers and police scanners while using the social-networking site Twitter to spread information about police movements. He has denied wrongdoing. American protesters first made widespread use of mass text messages in New York, during the 2004 Republican National Convention, when hundreds of people used a system called TXTmob to share information. Messages, sent as events unfolded, allowed demonstrators and others to react quickly to word of arrests, police mobilizations and roving rallies. Mass texting has since become a valued tool among protesters, particularly at large-scale demonstrations. . . . A criminal complaint in Pennsylvania accuses him of “directing others, specifically protesters of the G-20 summit, in order to avoid apprehension after a lawful order to disperse.” A search warrant executed by the F.B.I. at Mr. Madison’s house authorized agents and officers looking for violations of federal rioting laws to seize computers and phones, black masks and clothes and financial records and address books. Among the items seized, according to a list prepared by the agents, were electronic equipment, newspapers, books and gas masks. The items also included what was described as a picture of Lenin.

October 01, 2009

Philip Pullman is the second most widely banned author in American libraries

Children's writer Philip Pullman ranked second on US banned books list | Books | guardian.co.uk It shocks me that in the 21st century we still ban books. And Philip Pullman's books, while critical of the Catholic Church, still portray a world with angels in it. The number one most banned book is "And Tango Makes Three," the true story of the gay penguins in the NYC zoo who adopted a baby penguin.
Its newly released rankings for 2008 recorded 513 cases where books were targeted for censorship, of which 74 were successfully banned or restricted. Pullman's trilogy was the second most commonly attacked, a result, the ALA believes, of an organised campaign that the anti-defamation group the Catholic League launched against the film version of The Golden Compass. Several schools across America faced requests from parents to remove the book. One challenge at a school in Winchester, Kentucky was made on the grounds that the book's main character drinks wine and eats poppy with her meals. Another school in Oshkosh, Wisconsin pulled the trilogy because of its "anti-Christian message". Reached by the Guardian, Pullman quipped that he was "very glad to be back in the top 10 banned books". But he added: "Of course it's a worry when anybody takes it upon themselves to dictate what people should or should not read. The power of organised religion is very strong in the US, and getting stronger because of the internet." Almost 4,000 attempts to ban books have been recorded over the past eight years, though the ALA believes the figure is a gross understatement. All cases are voluntarily reported, and many more are likely to go unrecorded, sometimes because librarians have been threatened with dismissal if they sound the alarm. Most would-be censors are parents concerned about their children's reading or members of religious groups. The most common complaint is against books with explicit sexual content or offensive language.