Tag CMU

Beyond Guantanamo: Draconian Federal Prison Programs Make Front Page of New York Times

“The new Guantanamo” is what New York Times – Washington Bureau Chief, Scott Shane, calls “an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads.”  From the ADX Florence, CO, to the “Communication Management Units,” facilities in Marion, IL, and Terre Haute, ID, to the “ADMAX Unit” at FMC Carswell, TX, (although the FBOP denies is a female CMU), all are political prison programs with glaring racial and ethnic disparity, and have an un-ignorable demographic of inmates who have politically charged cases.

The United States prides itself as a country that has no political prisoners.  Perhaps the inception of camp X-Ray at Guantanamo was an attempt to semantically side-step that argument.  The US, however, can no longer avoid that argument since it instituted the CMU programs within the US federal prison system.  In an effort to “manage communications” of men and women perceived as “terrorists” the CMUs and the ADMAX Unit at FMC Carswell, TX effectively strip its wards of their voices, by denying them access to the press, by vetting their correspondence, by denying or severely limiting access to phone calls, and by putting an end to contact visitation with their families.    Each case designated to these programs deserves a voice, deserves renewed access to due process, and privileged communications with their legal counsel.  Sparrow will continue to press for transparency and to hold those who have bypassed dude process rights accountable.

To read Scott Shane’s entire feature in The New York Times, click → HERE

My Father Will Not be Forgotten: Noor Elashi on The Holy Land Five Appeal Ruling

What has happened to Noor’s father and the other defendants in the Holy Land Foundation case is a threat to our constitutional freedoms, a glaring example of prosecutorial bias towards Muslim communities, and an example of the judicial over-reach that has come to define the decade following 9/11.  Below is Noor’s comment about the superior court ruling to uphold the conviction of the Holy Land defendants.

Exactly three days following the tenth anniversary of the Bush administration shutting down the largest Muslim charity in the United States, the Fifth Circuit Court dismissed the appeal for the Holy Land Foundation case, affirming the conviction of my father, the co-founder of the HLF who’s serving a 65-year sentence for his humanitarian work.

On Wednesday, Dec. 7, the three-judge panel, based in New Orleans, filed their opinion, concluding that “the district court did not clearly err.”

Upon hearing this news, it initially all rushed back to me at once, nostalgia on overdrive. I saw the relentless accusations by pro-Israeli lobby groups, the pressure by pro-Israeli politicians and the defamatory news reports in the 1990’s. I saw the raid on the HLF in 2001, the pre-sunrise arrests and “material support” charges in 2004, the first trial and hung jury in 2007, the second trial and guilty verdicts in 2008, the sentencing in 2009. I saw the plethora of prison phone calls and visitations. And finally, I saw my father being transferred in 2010 to the Southern Illinois city of Marion’s Communications Management Unit—what The Nation has called “Gitmo in the Heartland”—and where my father’s significantly diminished phone calls and visitations are scheduled in advance and live-monitored from Washington D.C.

The case of the Holy Land Five comes down to this: American foreign policy has long been openly favorable towards Israel, and therefore, an American charity established primarily for easing the plight of the Palestinians became an ultimate target. As my father said during our 15-minute phone call on Thursday, “The politics of this country are not on our side. If we had been anywhere else, we would’ve been honored for our work.”

This month could have marked a milestone. The leaders of our country could have learned from our past. The day the towers fell could have been a time to stop fear from dominating reason instead of a basis to prosecute. The HLF would have continued to triumph, providing relief to Palestinians and other populations worldwide in the form of food, clothing, wheelchairs, ambulances, furniture for destroyed homes, back-to-school projects and orphan sponsorship programs. And more notably, my father would not have been incarcerated. My family and I would have been able to call him freely and embrace him without a plexiglass wall.

Yet my father was charged under the ambiguous Material Support Statute with sending humanitarian aid to Palestinian distribution centers known as zakat committees that prosecutors claimed were fronts for Hamas. He was prosecuted despite the fact that USAID—an American government agency—and many other NGO’s were providing charity to the very same zakat committees. Instead of the Fifth Circuit Court taking this fact into account and transcending the politics of our time, the language used in the opinion, drafted by Judge Carolyn King, echoed that of the prosecutors:

“The social wing is crucial to Hamas’s success because, through its operation of schools, hospitals, and sporting facilities, it helps Hamas win the ‘hearts and minds’ of Palestinians while promoting its anti-Israel agenda and indoctrinating the populace in its ideology.”

Even more disappointing is the Fifth Circuit Court’s opinion regarding one of the main issues in the appeal: The testimony of the prosecution’s expert witness, an Israeli intelligence officer who, for the first time in U.S. history, was permitted to testify under a pseudonym. The opinion states:

“When the national security and safety concerns are balanced against the defendants’ ability to conduct meaningful cross-examination, the scale tips in favor of maintaining the secrecy of the witnesses’ names.”

I refuse to let this language bring me down, especially knowing that the battle for justice continues. In the next few weeks, defense attorneys plan to ask the entire panel of appellate judges to re-hear the case, and if that petition is denied, they will take it to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, my father waits in prison. This Thursday, when I spoke to him, it had been the first time in several weeks since he received a phone call ban for writing his name on a yoga mat, which prison officials saw as “destruction of government property.” I told him that during the tenth anniversary of the HLF shutting down, the name of the charity is still alive and that he will not be forgotten. My father is my pillar, whose high spirits transcend all barbed-wire-topped fences, whose time in prison did not stifle his passion for human rights. In fact, when I asked him about the first thing he’ll do when he’s released, my father said, “I would walk all the way to Richardson, Texas carrying a sign that says, ‘End the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.’ ”

» “My Father Will Not be Forgotten”, was first published on Counterpunch

New York Magazine Investigates CMU Program & Deceptive Sting Used to Entrap Yassin Aref

This week New York Magazines Christopher S. Stewart published a hard-hitting and deeply personal investigation into the secretive federal prison programs known as Communication Management Units.

The units have been given nicknames like “Little Gitmo” and “Guantanamo North” because of the glaring ethnic and racial disparity of inmates designated to these units.  62% of inmates designated to the CMUs are Muslim men — a fact that both the ACLU & The Center For Constitutional Rights (CCR) highlight in their pending lawsuits against the prisons.  Labeled by the CCR  as an “experiment in social isolation” these institutions specifically isolate and silence inmates whose cases involve abundant press attention or possible prosecutorial misconduct, like that of the case against the Albany, NY Imam, Yassin Aref.

Stewart highlights the case against Aref in his feature, providing intimate details that the public has never seen before and that the federal government has made efforts to bury.  The sting employed to entrap Aref was a layered mess of corrupt government informants, uninformed innocent merchants, and high tech spying.   The three year operation to entrap Aref started with a hunch provided by military intel that was later redacted because it was grossly incorrect.  However once the ball started rolling it did not stop, and Aref now sits in federal prison serving a 15 year sentence for allegedly providing material support for a terror organization he knew nothing of…

Click HERE to to read Christopher Stewart’s article in New York Magazine

Be sure to share this important article & leave comments thanking New York Magazine for their continued commitment to important issues like this one.

 

Adham the Father of Sayaaf

Please Check Out Andy Stepanian’s Article this week on Huffington Post, Share It With Your Friends, & Leave Comments on the Huffington Post Blog So That They Will Continue to Pay Attention To This Important Story!


“Before Abu-Sayyaf was an inmate in a secretive US political prison called a ‘Communications Management Unit’ Abu-Sayyaf was a computer programmer for a software company in Florida. Abu-Sayyaf was an immigrant, he attained rights as a US citizen, he gave back to his community, to his co-workers, he generously donated to UNICEF, and he gave much of what he had to people outside of this country, specifically to children in Bosnia…”
(to read the full story click here)


Please Submit Comments to The Bureau of Prisons
& Please Share This Article With Your Friends. You can submit your comments online or through the mail.  If you submit comments via regular mail, please send them to the following address and include the following docket number in your correspondence:

BOP DOCKET #1148-P COMMUNICATION MANAGEMENT UNITS
Rules Unit, Office of General Counsel Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW. Washington, DC 20534

Please consider submitting your comments by June 2, 2010* and sending The Center for Constitutional Rights a copy of your comments as we’re hoping to collect these pieces to illustrate the depth of collective public outcry over the creation of the CMUs.

*The official deadline for comments is June 7, 2010.
**Please send copies via email to: nzamani@ccrjustice.org

or via regular mail to:
Nahal Zaman //  Center for Constitutional Rights
666 Broadway, 7th floor, New York, NY 10012.
To download a sample letter click here.