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Laura Poitras & Edward Snowden Awarded 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling

[WASHINGTON, DC]  Today, The Ridenhour Prizes announced that Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras will be jointly awarded the 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling for exposing the US government’s vast warrantless surveillance operation. The revelations sparked a debate on the constitutionality of mass surveillance, and how technology has transformed the parameters of individual privacy.

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In reflecting upon its decision, the awards committee said, “We have selected Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras for their work in exposing the NSA’s illegal and unconstitutional bulk collection of the communications of millions of people living in the United States. Their act of courage was undertaken at great personal risk and has sparked a critical and transformative debate about mass surveillance in a country where privacy is considered a constitutional right. We particularly wanted to salute the role that Poitras has played in this story, as we feel that her contribution has not been adequately recognized by the American media.

Trial Resumes Monday for Occupy Activist Cecily McMillan: Faces 7yrs in Prison After Beating by NYPD Left Her Unconscious

[NEW YORK, NY]  After two years of delays, trial will begin for Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan.  Set for this Monday, April 7th at 9:30am at 100 Centre St Room 1116 Part 41, Cecily’s case marks the last ongoing Occupy trial.  On March 17th, 2012 Cecily was sexually assaulted by a plainclothes NYPD officer and then beaten unconscious by police when she attempted to leave a gathering marking the 6 month anniversary of the inception of Occupy Wall Street.  In the wake of this attack she endured, Cecily faces a charge of 2nd degree assault on a police officer.

cecily mcmillanCecily McMillan  |  Illustration by Molly Crabapple

The heavy-hand of Cecily’s prosecuting attorney has led some activists to speculate that her political organizing within Occupy Wall Street plays a role in the prosecutor’s unwavering position. Others attribute the city’s stance to an unwillingness to admit guilt in the grotesque display of police misconduct on the night of Cecily’s arrest. Cecily’s firm commitment to nonviolence makes these charges even more absurd.

NSA Invokes “National Defense” and the Espionage Act to Stonewall MIT Student’s FOIA Request on Nelson Mandela

[WASHINGTON, DC] Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate Ryan Shapiro filed a lawsuit this morning against the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Defense Intelligence Agency over the spy agencies’ failure to comply with his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for records on anti-apartheid activist and South African President, Nelson Mandela. Shapiro’s requests seek, among other records, documents pertaining to the U.S intelligence community’s role in Mandela’s 1962 arrest and Mandela’s placement on the U.S. terror watch list until 2008. Shapiro is already suing the Central Intelligence Agency over this same failure. Shapiro wants to know why the NSA, FBI, DIA, and CIA viewed Mandela as a threat to American security, and what actions the Agency took to thwart Mandela’s efforts to secure racial justice and democracy in South Africa.

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Notably, in addition to invoking the Espionage Act (Title 18 U.S. Code 798), the NSA’s denial of Shapiro’s FOIA request (see embedded document) invokes “national defense” to support the agency’s refusal to even acknowledge the existence of records about Mandela. Asserts the NSA, “the fact of the existence or non-existence of the materials you request is a currently and properly classified matter [….] to be kept secret in the interest of national defense[.]”

A .PDF of Shapiro’s Lawsuit Filed This Morning is Available HERE

My Sister Died Protesting for Peace: Sister of Slain Kent State Student Testifies in Front of United Nations Human Rights Committee

[GENEVA, SWITZERLAND]  At 10am EST, Laurel Krause, whose sister Allison was among those killed at Kent State, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) as part of its 4th Periodic Review on Human Rights in America. Laurel asked the UNHRC to press the US to initiate a new and independent investigation into what occurred at Kent State, with a particular focus on forensic evidence that emerged in 2010. Attached below is Laurel’s full statement as read to the committee at 3pm Geneva Time, a livestream of the session is available HERE.

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“My sister Allison Krause was one of four students shot to death by American military personnel in the parking lot of her university campus at Kent State, Ohio on May 4, 1970 as she protested the Vietnam War. I was fifteen years old when this happened. I have come here today to ask that the United States be held accountable for failing to fully investigate this incident and its own complicity in the crimes that took place and to deliver justice to the victims and their families. Allison stood for peace and died for peace on May 4th.

“My mother Doris Krause, now 88 years old, is not able to travel due to her failing health. Even though Mom’s not here, she helped write these words and believes in them. Our sentiments are shared by family members and by many others present at Kent State at the time of the shootings, as well as concerned citizens who have also longed for accountability for the historic, and tragic, series of events at Kent State.

Former Church Committee Chief Counsel Fredrick A.O. Schwarz, Jr. Calls for a Committee to Investigate Mass Surveillance

Today, The Nation Institute announced that Frederick A.O. “Fritz” Schwarz, Jr., Chief Counsel of the Brennan Center and former Chief Counsel of the Church Committee, will receive the Ridenhour Courage Prize. The Nation magazine will also publish his editorial, “Why We Need a New Church Committee to Fix Our Broken Intelligence System,” calling for a modern-day Church Committee to investigate the legality of mass surveillance activities carried out by federal agencies.

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In reflecting upon its decision to award Fritz Schwarz the Ridenhour Courage Prize, the awards committee said, “Spanning more than four decades, Fritz Schwarz’s remarkable career exemplifies the true spirit of the prize. In the mid-1970s as the Chief Counsel of the Church Committee, Fritz engaged in the most wide-ranging, effective and famous investigation of the intelligence community that our nation has ever seen. Those hearings were instrumental in placing checks upon the power of the intelligence community. In light of the challenges from today’s surveillance state, and in recognition of his life-long commitment to strengthening democracy and rule of law, we can think of no one more deserving of the 2014 Ridenhour Courage Award than Fritz Schwarz.”

Read Mr. Schwarz’s piece in full HERE.