[Hillsboro, OR] On January 29th, No New Animal Lab, with representation from the Civil Liberties Defense Center, filed an anti-SLAPP Special Motion to Strike against injunctions filed on behalf of two executives of Skanska USA. Skanska and its key decision makers have been the subject of a year-long protest campaign, organized under the banner of No New Animal Lab, for their $90 million contract to build a large, underground animal research lab for the University of Washington (UW).
Skanska executives at the corporation’s Portland office filed for injunctions against four activists and “No New Animal Lab” in an attempt to stifle the growing national protests. Such lawsuits are known as “SLAPPs” (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) and are often used by corporations against protest movements in an attempt to chill dissent and disrupt campaign organizing. Rather than outright criminalizing protest activity, corporations attempt to exploit the legal system, dragging grassroots activists through frivolous civil court proceedings and draining and redirecting both time and material resources. SLAPPs exist to shrewdly muzzle movements that seek to hold corporations and their executives accountable and are backdoor attempts to legislate unreasonable restrictions upon First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.
[DALLAS, TX] Imprisoned journalist and activist Barrett Brown was sentenced in a Dallas Federal Court this morning to 63 months of incarceration within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Brown, a contributor to Vanity Fair and The Guardian, has already been detained for 28 months on charges stemming from his proximity to sources in the underground hacker collective Anonymous. Prosecutors asked Judge Samuel A. Lindsay to impose a sentence of 8.5 years on Brown while dozens of high-profile journalists, publishers, advocates, technologists and activists submitted letters to the Judge asking for a sentence of time served. Advocates for Brown, as well as journalist supporters have cited great concern that the prosecutorial overreach in USA v. Brown can have a chilling effect on journalism.
After receiving his sentence Barrett Brown released the following statement:
“Good news! — The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex. For the next 35 months, I’ll be provided with free food, clothes, and housing as I seek to expose wrongdoing by Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world’s greatest prison system. I want to thank the Department of Justice for having put so much time and energy into advocating on my behalf; rather than holding a grudge against me for the two years of work I put into in bringing attention to a DOJ-linked campaign to harass and discredit journalists like Glenn Greenwald, the agency instead labored tirelessly to ensure that I received this very prestigious assignment. — Wish me luck!”
[DALLAS, TX] A sentencing hearing is underway in a Dallas Federal Court this morning to determine if journalist Barrett Brown will be released on a sentence of time served or if he will remain in prison for several more years. Brown’s attorneys are asking that the journalist, who has already served over two years in Federal Detention, be granted a sentence of time served. Prosecutors are asking for a sentence of 8.5 years be imposed on Brown, and cite his proximity to sources in the clandestine hacker collective Anonymous as reason for the upward departure.
As part of the hearing Barrett Brown will be provided an opportunity to address the court before a sentence is handed down. The following is Brown’s statement in it’s entirety as prepared by Brown and read into court record today:
“Good afternoon, Your Honor.
“The allocution I give today is going to be a bit different from the sort that usually concludes a sentencing hearing, because this is an unusual case touching upon unusual issues. It is also a very public case, not only in the sense that it has been followed closely by the public, but also in the sense that it has implications for the public, and even in the sense that the public has played a major role, because, of course, the great majority of the funds for my legal defense was donated by the public. And so now I have three duties that I must carry out. I must express my regret, but I must also express my gratitude. And I also have to take this opportunity to ensure that the public understands what has been at stake in this case, and why it has proceeded in the way that it has. Because, of course, the public didn’t simply pay for my defense through its donations, they also paid for my prosecution through its tax dollars. And the public has a right to know what it is paying for. And Your Honor has a need to know what he is ruling on.
[WASHINGTON, DC] This week underground publisher CrimethInc. launched To Change Everything, a multimedia outreach project intended to introduce anarchist ideas to the general public. The project consists of a free, full-color 48-page print publication, a video by Submedia.tv, an interactive website in a many different languages, and a sticker and poster campaign. Participating collectives in 19 countries across three continents have prepared two dozen different versions of the project, each tailored to their local context.
“Anarchism is the idea that everyone is entitled to complete self-determination,” To Change Everything asserts. In place of state and corporate power, anarchists seek to create horizontal, voluntary networks as the basis of all social organization. The 21st century has seen a resurgence of this philosophy, ranging from peer-to-peer networks to globally linked protest movements. Anarchists erupted onto the world stage at the turn of the century, famously participating in the demonstrations against the 1999 summit of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Over the past seven years, anarchists have played a leading role in revolts from Greece to the Arab spring, gaining further prominence in the US through Occupy and #blacklivesmatter. “As successive waves of dispossession and disillusionment sweep new demographics into social movements, interest in anarchist ideas and practices is growing,” explains CrimethInc. spokesperson Cesar Dmitri. “To Change Everything is a harbinger of things to come.”
[Washington, DC] Outgoing Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia is single-handedly attempting to kill a critical governmental transparency bill. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 (S. 2520) is the product of over six months of bipartisan work that would enact desperately needed reforms to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bill enjoys overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle and its passage is almost certain. Or at least it would be if it could only come up for a vote. Despite a very similar bill passing the House 410-0, and also passing unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Rockefeller placed an 11th hour hold on the bill this Thursday.
Sen. Rockefeller refused to comment on his hold for more than 24 hours, and then finally issued a vague and equivocating statement Friday evening after most newsrooms had already closed. If Rockefeller doesn’t lift his ill-considered hold by Monday, the bill dies. Journalists, scholars, open government advocates, and watchdog organizations are decrying Rockefeller’s hold as a threat to the fundamental democratic principle of an informed citizenry.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is the landmark legislation that allows for public access to government records. But since its initial passage in 1966, many governmental agencies have routinely attempted to avoid compliance with FOIA’s provisions. As a result, Congress has repeatedly amended FOIA to better ensure the American people can learn what their government is doing and why. In light of continued systemic agency FOIA abuses, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 is designed to again further safeguard the public’s right to know.
What the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 Will Do:
Critically, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 targets rampant agency abuse of FOIA exemption b(5), commonly derided as the “withhold it because you want to” exemption. As it currently stands, FOIA exemption b(5) is worded so broadly it allows an agency to withhold any “interagency or intra-agency communication,” as well as any document purported by an agency to be a “draft.” This language covers such a wide swath of records that agencies routinely invoke b(5) to prevent the otherwise required release of potentially embarrassing documents.