Tag Archives: lawsuit

Oceti Sakowin Tribal Members Sue Trump Administration to Block Dakota Access Pipeline

Oceti Sakowin Tribal Members Sue Trump Administration to Block Dakota Access Pipeline

Washington, DCCivil liberties group RevolutionTruth along with lead counsel Bruce Afran filed an emergency lawsuit motion this evening in US District Court on behalf of nearly a dozen plaintiffs from several Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) tribes. The plaintiffs in Jumping Eagle v. Trump demand an immediate halt to Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction beneath Lake Oahe, which provides them water for drinking, agriculture and sacred ceremonies, as well as drinking water for nearly 20 million people downriver.

“By forcing the US Army Corps to essentially refute its own conclusions and end its review, President Trump effectively ordered it to grant the Lake Oahe easement,” said Bruce Afran, lead counsel on Jumping Eagle v. Trump. “This is direct interference by the President into the authority and mission of an independent expert agency.”

Site where the final phase of the Dakota Access Pipeline will take place with boring equipment routing the pipeline underground and across Lake Oahe. | Photo: Tom Stromme, AP

Running DAPL beneath Lake Oahe ignores the serious risks noted by pipeline-construction experts and places a disproportionate burden on historically marginalized populations. The plaintiffs claim that DAPL construction underneath Lake Oahe threatens their fundamental religious rights and rights of freedom from racial and environmental discrimination.

A water protector holds a branch of cedar during a prayer ceremony on Backwater Bridge during a protest against the Dakota Access pipeline | Photo: Stephanie Keith, Reuters

This suit joins an existing legal action by the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes and claims that President Trump violated Federal Law by denying proper review of environmental and religious rights issues surrounding the controversial pipeline, effectively preventing affected tribal members from submitting expert reports on the environmental and cultural risks associated with the pipeline’s crossing of sacred Sioux Nation lands and beneath Lake Oahe. The lawsuit thus seeks damages from President Trump for illegally blocking the due process rights of tribal members.

Oral arguments for an injunction halting construction and transfer of oil under Lake Oahe are expected to be heard at 11am tomorrow, February 28, 2017, in front of Judge James E. Boasberg in US District Court.

Documents
Read the Motion to Intervene filed in US Court HERE
Read Exhibit A; Proposed Complaint of Intervenors HERE
Read Exhibit B; Declaration of Chani Phillips HERE
Read Exhibit B1; Declaration of Maxine Brings Him Back Janis HERE

Investigative Journalist and MIT PhD Candidate Sue CIA for Records on Illegal Surveillance of Senate Investigation into Torture

Investigative Journalist and MIT PhD Candidate Sue CIA for Records on Illegal Surveillance of Senate Investigation into Torture

WASHINGTON, DC — Investigative journalist Jason Leopold and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate Ryan Shapiro filed a lawsuit this morning against the Central Intelligence Agency. The suit is over the CIA’s failure to comply with Leopold and Shapiro’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records on the CIA’s alleged spying on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s (SSCI) review of the CIA’s notorious rendition, detention and interrogation (RDI) program.

As detailed in an exclusive report by Natasha Lennard for Vice News, through their FOIA request and lawsuit, Leopold and Shapiro seek to shed light on a critical yet little-understood ongoing controversy frequently described as a possible constitutional crisis.

Jason Leopold is an investigative journalist covering counterterrorism and human rights. He has been called a “FOIA Terrorist” by federal employees for his aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act, which includes successfully suing the FBI to force changes to Bureau FOIA practices.

Ryan Shapiro, a FOIA specialist, is an historian of the political functioning of national security and the policing of dissent. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security.

Leopold and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light.

Three key elements of Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA request and lawsuit:

1. The records at issue pertain directly to a possible ongoing constitutional crisis:

As editorialized by a leading newspaper opining on the matter, “Government spying from Washington has become government spying on Washington and may have escalated into a full constitutional crisis.”

Along these lines, SSCI Chairwoman Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) herself flatly accused the CIA of obstructing and surveilling her Senate committee’s review of the CIA’s RDI program. Highlighting the “grave implications of Executive Branch personnel interfering with an official congressional investigation[,]” Senator Feinstein declared the CIA’s actions “may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.” Feinstein continued that the CIA’s actions, “may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.” Feinstein concluded by remarking that the outcome of this affair will determine whether the Senate “can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation’s intelligence activities, or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee.”

In like fashion, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) characterized the CIA’s actions as “Richard Nixon stuff” “dangerous to the democracy” and that “heads should roll, people should go to jail if it’s true.”

2. The public war of words between the Senate and the CIA, as well as the continuing inability of the American people to know the truth about confirmed CIA torture and alleged CIA spying on its Congressional overseers, led Leopold and Shapiro to file a wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act request to the CIA seeking:

a) A copy of all written agreements and correspondence between the SSCI (including Senators on the committee, their staff, and committee staff) and the CIA (or its agents, including contractors) which set forth the terms under which SSCI staffers would be permitted to access CIA documents at the secure CIA facility in Virginia.

b) A copy of all records documenting any CIA investigation into the search of SSCI’s computers at the secure facility in Virginia, including any records generated by the CIA’s Inspector General in the course of any investigation; records referring the incident(s) to the Department of Justice for investigation; and correspondence between the SSCI (including Senators on the committee, their staff, and committee staff) and the CIA (or its agents, including contractors) which discuss the event.

c) A copy of all records documenting any CIA investigation into the removal of the Panetta Review, including any records generated by the CIA’s Inspector General in the course of any investigation; records referring the incident(s) to the Department of Justice for investigation; and correspondence between the SSCI (including Senators on the committee, their staff, and committee staff) and the CIA (or its agents, including contractors) which discuss the event.

d) For any CIA contractor responsible for reviewing records relating to the CIA’s former Detention and Interrogation Program before access was provided to SSCI staff, a copy of the contract, the request for proposal, proposal, bid solicitation, and bid.

e) A copy of any and all talking points (in draft and final form) and any and all guidance issued to the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs about the ongoing dispute between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) over the SSCI’s review of the CIA’s former Detention and Interrogation Program.

3. The CIA has failed to comply with Leopold and Shapiro’s FOIA request and is now in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Consequently, Leopold and Shapiro have filed a lawsuit to compel CIA compliance with their FOIA request for records on this affair.

According to Shapiro:

“The U.S. intelligence community is notorious for its profound hostility to transparency. In the present case, the CIA appears to have spied upon the very Senate intelligence committee tasked with overseeing the CIA’s torture program, while at the same time smearing that Senate committee’s review with unsupported allegations of criminality. Now, the CIA is further flouting transparency by refusing to comply with our FOIA request for records on this troubling affair. The democratic process cannot meaningfully function without an informed citizenry, and such a citizenry is impossible without broad public access to information about the operations of government. It’s time for the CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community to recognize transparency not as a threat, but rather as an essential component of viable democracy.”

A complete copy of the complaint filed in court this morning can be viewed HERE

To arrange an interview with Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro, please email or text Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010. You can follow Jason Leopold on twitter at @JasonLeopold and Ryan Shapiro on twitter at @_rshapiro

First Circuit Court of Appeals Hears Oral Arguments in Lawsuit Challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

First Circuit Court of Appeals Hears Oral Arguments in Lawsuit Challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

[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.

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.

The plaintiffs are animal rights activists from across the country who are chilled from continuing their lawful and important advocacy work based on the broad reach of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act…

sarahjane blum
Sarahjane Blum

lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she runs a small business with her husband. In 2003, Sarahjane co-founded GourmetCruelty.com, a grassroots coalition dedicated to exposing the abuse of ducks and geese raised for foie gras. The following year, the group released a short film, Delicacy of Despair, Behind the Closed Doors of the Foie Gras Industry, documenting their investigation of deplorable conditions on foie gras farms, and featuring the “open rescue” of a number of ducks. Sarahjane would like to continue her anti-foie gras work in Minnesota, which has become a significant foie gras producer, without breaking the law. But she is limited in her ability to do so, as the AETA criminalizes campaigns like hers that could cause a foie gras farm to lose profit, or hire extra security.

ryan shapiro
Ryan Shapiro

lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is completing a PhD at MIT. Ryan’s research focuses on disputes over animals and national security. In particular, his work explores the use of the rhetoric and apparatus of national security to marginalize animal protectionists as threats to American security from the late nineteenth century to the present. A longtime grassroots animal rights activist, Ryan co-founded GourmetCruelty.com with Sarahjane, and has focused much of his activism on factory farming issues. Ryan’s work, along with that of Sarahjane and the rest of the coalition, was instrumental in the 2004 passage of a California State law banning all foie gras production within the State. Ryan holds a degree in film and used these skills to direct Delicacy of Despair. Ryan wishes to further utilize his expertise to document and expose animal exploitation and abuse on factory farms. He is chilled from engaging in this important work, however, because documenting and distributing evidence of animal exploitation and abuse risks prosecution as a terrorist under the AETA. Read Ryan’s recent piece, Is Freeing a Duck Terrorism? on Truthout.

Lana Lehr
Lana Lehr

lives in Bethesda, Maryland. She is a licensed psychotherapist, and has been seeing patients in private practice for over 20 years. After adopting a rescued rabbit, Lana became interested in rabbit care and advocacy issues, eventually co-founding RabbitWise, a public charity devoted to preventing the irresponsible acquisition and care of companion rabbits, improving retention rates of rabbits already living in homes, educating people who live with or treat rabbits to give them the best possible care, and advocating for the broader welfare of rabbits in general. Lana used to supplement her rabbit advocacy by organizing and attending lawful, peaceful anti-fur protests in DC, but she is now afraid to attend such protests out of fear that even a lawful protest, which causes a fur store to lose money, would violate the AETA and risk prosecution as a terrorist.

lauren gazzola
Lauren Gazzola

lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she works in the communications department of a non-profit legal organization. Lauren served almost three and a half years in federal prison after being convicted, along with five others, under a prior version of the AETA – The Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992. Lauren’s arrest and prosecution arose from her leadership role in Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), a grassroots campaign devoted to exposing and ending horrific animal abuse at Huntingdon Life Sciences, a corporation made infamous after undercover investigators disclosed footage of researchers dissecting a conscious monkey, repeatedly punching beagle puppies in the face, and other abuse. Lauren and the other SHAC defendants were not prosecuted for personally damaging Huntingdon property but, rather, for running a website that reported on and endorsed legal and illegal protests that caused the company to lose money. Now that she is out of prison, Lauren would like to engage in lawful animal rights work, but she cannot tell what is protected by the First Amendment and what is not, due to the broad reach and vague language of the AETA.

jay johnson
J Johnson

also lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he is an undergraduate at The New School. J moved to New York recently, from his native Chicago, where he spent close to a decade organizing protests and educating the public as a leader in the Chicago-area SHAC campaign. He left Chicago due in large part to the erosion there of long standing animal rights networks and his resulting inability to effectively organize demonstrations. Upon arriving in New York, he hoped to connect with others involved in sustainable and strategic animal rights campaigns, but has had trouble finding advocates to work with, due to a chill throughout the animal rights community as whole, based on the targeting of that community as would-be terrorists under the AETA.

The AETA criminalizes a broad swath of protected First Amendment activities and is so vague as to fail to give people notice of whether or not their conduct falls under the statute’s prohibitions.

In 2011, CCR filed the first civil challenge to the law. The case was dismissed on standing by the District Court in 2012, and CCR has since filed an appeal to the First Circuit. To learn more about the CCR’s legal challenge to the AETA please visit » http://ccrjustice.org/AETA

MIT PhD Candidate Sues CIA for the Records Surrounding the 1962 Arrest of Nelson Mandela
President Obama & the first family solemnly reflect during a visit to Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island | Photo, Pete Souza  

MIT PhD Candidate Sues CIA for the Records Surrounding the 1962 Arrest of Nelson Mandela

[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.

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.

According to Shapiro:

“Though the U.S. intelligence community is long believed to have been involved in Mandela’s arrest, little specific public information exists regarding this involvement. Similarly, though the U.S. intelligence community is long understood to have routinely provided information to the South African regime regarding the anti-apartheid movement, little specific public information exists about these activities either. Further, despite now being universally hailed as a hero and freedom fighter against gross injustice, Mandela was designated a terrorist by the United States government and remained on the U.S. terror watch list until 2008.

In bringing suit against the CIA to compel compliance with my Freedom of Information Act request, I seek access to records that will begin answering the following questions:

What was the extent and purpose of the U.S. intelligence community’s surveillance of Nelson Mandela prior to his arrest? What role did the U.S. intelligence community play in Mandela’s arrest and prosecution? What role did the U.S. intelligence community play in the broader effort to surveil and subvert the South African anti-apartheid movement? To what extent, and for what objectives, did the U.S. intelligence community surveil Mandela following his release from prison? To what extent, if any, did the U.S. intelligence community continue providing information regarding Mandela to the apartheid regime following Mandela’s release from prison? What information did the U.S. intelligence community provide American policymakers regarding Mandela and the South African anti-apartheid movement? To what extent, and to what ends, did the U.S. intelligence community surveil the anti-apartheid movement in the United States? How did the United States government come to designate Nelson Mandela a terrorist threat to this country? How did this designation remain unchanged until 2008? And what was the role of the U.S. intelligence community in this designation and the maintenance thereof?”

FOIA LawsuitYou can read the full text of today’s court filing against the CIA HERE.

To arrange an interview with Ryan Shapiro please email or text Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010. You can follow Shapiro on twitter at @_rshapiro

Legal Team for Defendants in Chevron’s RICO Suit File Motion to Strike Testimony of Aberto Guerra, Company’s Star Witness

Legal Team for Defendants in Chevron’s RICO Suit File Motion to Strike Testimony of Aberto Guerra, Company’s Star Witness

[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.

The motion notes the view of prominent legal scholar and law professor Erwin Chemerinsky in a sworn declaration for the Defendants 

“if a party or its counsel were permitted to pay a testifying witness for physical evidence, beyond the reasonable value of that evidence, and to pay the witness a salary in exchange for an agreement to testify, there would be little left of the rule against compensating fact witnesses.”

We encourage you to read the motion in its entirety as it also highlights the admitted lies, the contradictions, and the suspect assertions in Guerra’s testimony, as well as the total lack of anything approaching corroborating evidence for his explosive allegations of ghostwriting and bribery.

Click here to read the motion [PDF document] & see below for additional comments.

Comment of Chris Gowen, spokesperson for Steven Donziger, and Professor of Legal Ethics at American University, Washington College of Law »

“The Chevron payments to Guerra constitute outright bribes that violate both criminal laws and the ethical rules governing the legal profession. As a practicing trial attorney, I know that if I ever put a witness like Mr. Guerra on the stand, the state bar would have every right to revoke my license to practice law.”

Comment of Han Shan, spokesperson for the Ecuadorian RICO Defendants »

“Guerra and his obsequious storytelling seem to Chevron a magic bullet to evade accountability for the destruction and suffering it has caused in Ecuador. But it won’t work; the District Court in New York cannot act as an appellate court to the Ecuadorian judiciary, and deny the communities of the Amazon the court victory they fought for and won.”