Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Just some recent government and legal happenings via the ACLU

Without any debate or vote, the Senate passed legislation to reauthorize the Patriot Act--a version that was "mindful of the Bill of Rights," according to the ACLU.

WASHINGTON - Following the Senate passage of legislation to reauthorize the Patriot Act -- without floor debate -- the American Civil Liberties Union today called the bill a step in the right direction, but lacking in full protections for the civil liberties and civil rights of all Americans. The measure was adopted by unanimous consent - a procedural move that means no vote was taken, and no debate was held.

The Senate Judiciary Committee previously approved the bill.

[...]Although the ACLU was unable to endorse the final bill, it contains some provisions mindful of the Bill of Rights, and does not include such broad and unnecessary powers like administrative subpoenas.

"It would appear that the voices of millions of Americans were heard by the Senate. Nearly 400 communities around the country have passed resolutions calling for the Patriot Act to be brought in line with the constitution by restoring proper checks and balances. As the House and Senate bills go to conference, we urge lawmakers to use the Senate bill as a guide to heed this call for freedom."
It's nice to know that sometimes even our members of Congress do listen to us, even after we put them in office. I hope that this is the sign of the end of the "if you disagree with 'x' or want to change it in any way, then you're unpatriotic and unAmerican" domineering atmosphere that has saturated 'politics as usual' up on the Hill. Now let us move onto to the Abu Ghraib scandal where the Defense Department is continuing to deny the release of photographs and video of the abuses of prisoners by American military personnels. I wonder what the Defense Department is so afraid of...since they're doing some "redactions" of evidence.

The Defense Department has filed heavily redacted papers in a further attempt to suppress photographs and videos that depict the abuse of prisoners held at Abu Ghraib, the American Civil Liberties Union said today. The move is the government's latest effort to block the release of materials requested by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act.[...]

Last week, on the deadline of a court order requiring the Defense Department to process and redact 87 photographs and four videos taken at Abu Ghraib, government attorneys filed a last-minute memorandum of law and three affidavits arguing against the release of the materials. The government's papers cite a statutory provision that permits the withholding of records "compiled for law enforcement purposes," that "could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual."

However, the government has redacted significant portions of its public brief, including the conclusion. The government also heavily redacted portions of declarations submitted in support of the brief. One of the declarations is that of General Richard Meyers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. ACLU attorneys have been provided with less-redacted court papers pursuant to a protective order that prevents them from disclosing the papers' contents to the public.

"Not only is the government denying the public access to records of critical significance, it is also withholding its reasons for doing so," said Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney. "This exemplifies the government's disregard for democratic constraints on the use of executive power."[...]

The photographs and videos in question were redacted by the Defense Department in response to a June 1, 2005 court order relating to a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel in the case.
Links showing the redacted files can be found at the bottom of this post on the ACLU's site. But how interesting and so unthinkable. Our government withholding vital information from the public concerning a crime, and even altering it for insidious purposes, so as to be absolved of any culpability and prevent themselves from being reprimanded by the will of the people through vehement protests, or calls for certain goverment officials to be fired? Shocking. The "Pentagon Papers" during the Vietnam War, the New York Times v. Nixon case, and the Watergate scandal anyone? Thanks Nixon Administration and Pentagon officials at the time.