[BOSTON, MA] Yesterday members of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and their supporters packed a Boston, MA courtroom, as Senior Staff Attorney Rachel Meeropol demanded the First Circuit Court of Appeals strike down the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as a violation of the First Amendment.
photo | Jo-Anne McArthur | WeAnimals.org
The AETA is a federal criminal statute ushered through Congress in 2006 by powerful lobbyists for the fur, pharmaceutical, and meat industries. It criminalizes a broad swath of free speech activities and has cast a chill over the animal rights community. CCR filed the first civil challenge to AETA, Blum v. Holder, in support of five animal rights activists who have censored themselves and limited their lawful advocacy out of fear that their work could subject them to prosecution as terrorists.
Want to fight the silencing of a movement? Do it directly by listening to and amplifying the voices of these activists. Please watch, share, and tweet (using #AETAspeakout) this new, two-minute video by CCR, featuring the plaintiffs in Blum v. Holder. Also check out Rachel Meeropol’s accompanying blog on the Huffington Post.
[WASHINGTON, DC] Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate Ryan Shapiro filed a lawsuit this morning against the Central Intelligence Agency over the spy agency’s failure to comply with his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records on recently deceased anti-apartheid activist and South African President, Nelson Mandela. Shapiro wants to know why the 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.
President Obama and the first family solemnly reflect during a visit to Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island. Photograph, Pete Souza.
Shapiro, a FOIA specialist, is an historian of the policing of dissent and the political functioning of national security. His pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro also has FOIA requests for records on Mandela in motion with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. Shapiro is represented by FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light.
Two Key Issues Regarding Today’s Filing Against the CIA:
1) The CIA is widely and credibly believed to have been involved in Mandela’s 1962 arrest that led to his decades-long incarceration. Yet, the Agency has never admitted its role in this affair, and little specific public information exists on the matter. Shapiro’s FOIA efforts will begin to fill this massive hole in public knowledge of U.S. intelligence operations.
2) Despite longstanding public knowledge of U.S. intelligence assistance to apartheid South Africa in general, and in Mandela’s arrest in particular, much of the U.S. and world press has paid distressingly little attention to these issues. Even in the wake of Mandela’s death, these issues, including the fact that Mandela remained on the U.S. terror watch list until 2008, have for the most part remained ignored or discounted. Shapiro’s efforts will bring much-needed attention to these vital topics, as well as to the U.S. intelligence community’s continued outrageous aversion to transparency.
[NEW YORK, NY] Today, the legal team for Steven Donziger and the Ecuadorian Defendants in Chevron’s RICO suit filed a motion to strike the testimony of the company’s star witness, Alberto Guerra, on grounds that Chevron’s compensation for his testimony is tantamount to a bribe, not unlike the dozens Guerra admitted on the stand to making and taking during his years as a corrupt lawyer and judge in Ecuador.
The motion details how Chevron’s monetary and non-monetary compensation package clearly runs afoul of the federal Anti-Gratuity statute, as well as the Rules of Professional Conduct of New York, has provided an overwhelming incentive to lie and exaggerate in order to gain a better bargaining position with Chevron, as he testified he did repeatedly in court last week.
[NEW YORK, NY] With the first week of trial in Chevron’s RICO case over, it is becoming clear that the oil giant is facing significant hurdles as it attempts to salvage a verdict that will allow it to block international efforts to enforce the $19 billion Ecuador judgment.
After the first four witnesses, several issues have come into sharp focus. First, Chevron is willing to give up major portions of its RICO claims to avoid compelling evidence of its environmental pollution and corrupt activities in Ecuador from coming out in court.
At the same time, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan is doing everything he can to assist the oil giant’s case. Kaplan has blocked most lines of questioning about environmental contamination, blocked evidence of Chevron’s surveillance of Donziger, granted Chevron a trial preparation room five times the size of that used by Donziger and Ecuadorian defendants Hugo Camacho and Javier Piaguaje, and most notably, has twice taken over the questioning of Chevron witnesses.
“I don’t think there’s a lawyer in the world who would guess that this is a RICO case had they sat through the first week of trial,” said Christopher Gowen, the spokesman for Donziger. “Chevron clearly wants to retry the Ecuador case that it lost in its preferred court”.
[New York, NY] A lawsuit over a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will be back in federal court at 10am on February 6, 2013, awaiting decision on an injunction prohibiting indefinite detention of civilians without charge or trial. A group of academics, journalists, and activists filed suit last year over § 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA alleging that the provision suspended due process rights and threatened first amendment protections.
In a landmark ruling last September the plaintiffs —former New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges, RevolutionTruth founder Jennifer “Tangerine” Bolen, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, linguist and author Noam Chomsky, Icelandic Parliamentarian Brigitta Jonsdottir, US Day of Rage founder Alexa O’Brien, and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla— were awarded a permanent, worldwide injunction against the provision by Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of NY (2nd Circuit). In her ruling Judge Forrest, an Obama appointee, challenged the Justice Department attorneys for refusing to provide assurances that journalists and activists would not be indefinitely detained under the provision for exercising first amendment rights:
“Not once in any of its submissions in this action or at either the March or August hearings has the Government said, ‘First Amendment activities are not covered and could never be encompassed by § 1021(b)(2). This Court rejects the Government’s suggestion that American citizens can be placed in military detention indefinitely, for acts they could not predict might subject them to detention, and have as their sole remedy a habeas petition…That scenario dispenses with a number of guaranteed rights.”
Despite including a signing statement expressing deep reservations over the “indefinite detention provision” and promising not to use such powers against American citizens, President Obama immediately appealed Judge Forrest’s ruling, and sought an emergency stay on the injunction, claiming “irreparable harm” would be incurred by the US if the government lacked the ability to indefinitely detain civilians under section 1021.