Archive for August, 2006

For Feedreaders

31 August 2006

For people who read the feed but don’t visit the actual blog, the feed is now at Feedburner, the address is now Although, to the best of my knowledge, the wordpress feed will still exist for as long as the blog does, the Feedburner feed is better, and apparently more compatible with feedreaders. Looking at my stats there are a bunch of people who read the feed but not the blog itself, and if you’re one of them I urge you to move to the Feedburner feed.


Peace Groups Threatening America

31 August 2006

It has recently come to light that the government has been spying on a number of peace groups in Baltimore, according to the ACLU. That this was occurring in Maryland, the “Free State” was seen as especially ironic. Media reports have shown that the NSA tracked members of some anti-war groups while they were preparing for a protest outside Fort Meade.

FOIA requests by the ACLU have shown that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces were used to spy on such threatening groups as environmental and animal rights advocates, labor and fair trade groups, grassroots political groups, peace and social justice groups, human rights groups, civil liberties groups, nuclear disarmament groups, and Native American groups (who are, in fact, the only real Americans).

There is no doubt that the nuclear disarmament organizations are especially dangerous.

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Stupid Security Competition

30 August 2006

Privacy International is announcing its 2006 Stupid Security Competition. People from around the world will submit their stories of security idiocy, and winners in five categories will be chosen. It is an international competition, and previous nominees have included airport officials who allow lighters if they’re not refillable but not refillable lighters of any kind (including empty ones), a prison that requires female visitors have a bra, and a cruise line that issues security cards that must be swiped through a wooden box (which accepts VISA cards as well).

More information can be found at the Privacy International website. Liberty Level is not affiliated with this organization in any way.

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Barney’s Lawyers Harass Web Publisher

29 August 2006

The lawyers of Barney, the Big Purple and Green Dinosaur with Serious Toenail Fungus Issues, will be facing a lawsuit from Dr. Stuart Frankel, Elizabeth Rader, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Dr. Frankel, a website publisher, often makes fun of Barney and the television program, and, because of it, has received numerous cease-and-desist letters, dating back to 2002, from Barney’s lawyers.

Barney’s lawyers, according to the EFF, have a history of sending such letters to all who make fun of their client. The lawsuit asks the court to settle the matter by deciding that Dr. Frankel’s parody does not infringe on Barney’s copyright or trademark rights. As one EFF staff member noted, “It’s time for Barney to call off his lawyer armies and get back to entertaining children.”

The EFF also said in its article that the use, or misuse, of cease-and-desist letters for censorship is a serious issue.

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GOP Website Ignores Civil Liberties

28 August 2006

The Republicans’ disregard for civil liberties has always been, in my view, exceptional. Their commitment to eradicating freedom in its name is admirable. And on their website, they don’t even try to hide it. Under Issues, there is no section for “civil liberties,” or “freedom at home,” or anything similar. Under the Safety and Security section, there is not a single mention of civil liberties civil rights, or freedom in the US. Perhaps most interesting is that their platform declares the most important function of government to be protecting its citizens. I scanned the first section, which describes the “War on Terror,” and found a single sentence about “rights and liberties” in the US, although there was a lot of rhetoric about freedom and a lot about how the GOP is protecting us from terrorists with this bill and that bill, there was little about real protection for civil rights, which is somewhat frightening given Bush doesn’t regard the Bill of Rights as of the utmost importance.

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Racial Profiling at JFK

27 August 2006

The New York Civil Liberties Union said that it will be investigating allegations of racial profiling at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. A number of people have been detained there, possibly entirely due to their ethnicity.

Racial profiling is an inadequate means of fighting terrorism, as most people of Arab descent are not terrorists and many terrorists are not of Arab descent. Racial profiling is, by definition, discrimination on the basis of race and therefore racism. It encourages irrational and unnecessary distrust between people of different races, because profiling on the basis of race is saying that people of certain races are more likely to be terrorists or criminals.

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Students’ Free Speech Supressed

26 August 2006

The ACLU of Southern California submitted a friend of the court brief with the California Court of Appeal in support of free speech for student journalists, according to their website. Andrew D. Smith, a former high school student at Novato High School and current Marine had two articles for the student newspaper, the Buzz, censored due to his views on immigration. The articles had been approved but copies of The Buzz were later confiscated after parents complained, saying it violated school policy.

The articles were related to matters of public concern and therefore deserving of protection, according to the ACLU-SC. The implications of this censorship are not minor, as it could result in future student censorship.

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Right to Hunger Strike

25 August 2006

An article in Harper’s describes the phenomenon of translating foreign policy into medical practice at Guantanamo Bay. Many prisoners there have, at one time or another, attempted hunger strikes, have tried to force their release or die in the process. And, although hunger-striking was unsuccessful, three prisoners did kill themselves through hanging. The implications from that, regarding what life in a US military prison for Arab men facing no charges to deny but soldiers convinced they are terrorists, are obviously of importance.

Also to be noted, though, is the fact that the US approach towards hunger strikes is not only violating prisoners’ right, it is an echo of US foreign policy: the idea of a preemptive strike. In 2000, a US district court judge ruled that a federal prisoner could not be force-fed, and called hunger-striking “a person’s last, ultimate means of protesting government.” But the Bush administration has force-fed a number of prisoners and, moreover, done it before they were actually at risk of dying. They were not in a coma on the brink of death, they had to be strapped to chairs and fed despite resistance. As Luke Mitchell, one of Harper’s senior editors, notes, their lives were being preemptively saved.

One has a right to a hunger strike, as the district judge ruled, and the judge’s ruling didn’t involve an exception for these prisoners.

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Phone Companies Hiding Behind NSA

24 August 2006

The Massachusetts ACLU filed legal papers with the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy, calling for a public hearing regarding a May 2006 complaint against Verizon and AT&T for the role they had in the illegal NSA wiretapping. The MCLU said that the public has a right to know what happens to their phone records and who sees them when there is no warrant or court order.

The phone companies have been hiding behind “state secrets” claims, and saying they were right in what they did.

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Military Challenging Free Speech

23 August 2006

The US military is challenging a soldier’s right to freedom of speech after he spoke out against the war in Iraq and refused to be deployed there, according to an ACLU article. Lt. Ehren Watada said that he would not go to Iraq because it is an illegal war. He has been deployed to both Afghanistan and Korea before.

He is being charged with violating Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (which prohibits use of “contemptuous words” against the President and other top governmental officials) and Article 133 ( which prohibits “conduct unbecoming an officer”).

The ACLU is backing Lt. Watada, saying that although he showed disagreement with the government’s policies, he did not use contemptuous language and his conduct was not unbecoming an officer.

While the military is held to higher standards than the civilian population, soldiers have as much of a right to civil liberties as anyone else. To say they are fighting for freedom and then take freedom from them is ludicrous.

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