Archive for the ‘Loss of Liberties’ Category

Remembering the 3rd Wave  by Leslie Weinfield

Peninsula, September 1991

Although the specter of fascist resurgence seems largely forgotten in the euphoria of German reunification, it may not be far beneath the peaceful veneer of that nation, or any other, for that matter.  Even the most ostensibly free and open societies are not immune to fascism’s lure – including places like Palo Alto.

What came to be known as the “Third Wave” began at  Cubberly High School in Palo Alto as a game without any direct reference to Nazi Germany, says Ron Jones, who had just begun his first teaching job in the 1966-67 academic year.  When a social studies student asked about the German public’s responsibility for the rise of the Third Reich, Jones decided to try and simulate what happened in Germany by having his students “basically follow instructions” for a day.

But one day turned into five, and what happened by the end of the school week spawned several documentaries, studies and related social experiments illuminating a dark side of human nature – and a major weakness in public education.

Before students arrived for class on Monday, Jones vigorously cleaned his classroom and arranged the desks in unusually straight rows.  He dimmed the lights and played Wagnerian music as students drifted in for class.  Then Jones, a popular instructor who normally avoided even such regimentation as taking roll, told his students that he could give them the keys to power and success – “Strength Through Discipline.”

“It was thoroughly out of character for Ron Jones to say “Let’s help the class out with a little more discipline,” recalls a former student Philip Neel, now a television producer in Los Angeles.  But because Jones was an interesting teacher, the class went along.

Classmate Mark Hancock remembers Jones adding a political cast and a set of incentives soon thereafter.  “It was something like, if you’re a good party member and play the game well, you can get an A.  If you have a revolution and fail, you get an F.  For a successful revolution, you get an A,” recounts Hancock, currently a regional development director for a Los Angeles property company.

Jones next commanded the class to assume a new seating posture to strengthen student concentration and will:  feet flat on the floor, hands across the small of the back, spines straight.  And he added speed drills, after which the entire group could move from loitering outside the room to silent, seated attention in less than 30 seconds.

“Even when we started with Strength Through Discipline, it was easy for me to see the benefits of the posture,” remarks Steve Coniglio, who now helps run a Truckee retail store.  “Even on that very first day, I could notice that I was breathing better.  I was more attentive in class.”

Jones closed the first day’s session with a few rules.  Students had to be sitting at attention before the second bell, had to stand up to ask or answer questions and had to do it in three words or less, and were required to preface each remark with “Mr. Jones.”

“At the end of that day, I was grandly happy.  I mean, it seemed to work and everyone seemed to get into it,” Jones still marvels.  Grades were based on participation, and no one accepted the study hall alternative that Jones offered prior to commencing the exercise that day.  But neither did anyone make a connection to the German history lessons they’d just completed.  “Most of us were headed toward college,” says Hancock.  “It wasn’t Nazi German life that mattered, it was Palo Alto grades.”

Jones says he assumed the class would return to its usual format the next day.  “But when I came in, the class was all sitting…” His voice trails off as his body snaps to military attention.

Jones considered calling a halt, but then went to the blackboard and wrote “Strength Through Community” below the previous day’s slogan,  “Strength Through Discipline.”

“I began to lecture on community – something bigger than oneself, something enjoyable.  They really bought that argument,” Jones recalls.

A powerful sense of belonging had sprung up among lowly sophomores at the bottom of the rung of the three-year school, and Jones admits he soon became a part of the exercise as well as its leader.

“It was really a mistake, a terrible thing to do.  My curiosity pulled me in at first, and then I liked it.  They learned fast, didn’t ask questions.  It was easier as a teacher.”

As his Strength Through Community lecture ended, he created a class salute by bringing his right hand toward his right shoulder in an outwardly curled position, resembling a wave.  Jones named it the Third Wave, and – despite its similarity to Third Reich – claims he borrowed the term from beach folklore, which holds that the last wave in every series of three is the largest.

Students acknowledging each other this way in the halls attracted the attention of upper classmen, who clamored to know the salute’s significance, Coniglio says. Cubberley students began skipping their regular classes, asking to be part of the Third Wave.  In three days Jones’ class had expanded to 60 students.

After telling the enlarged class that “strength is fine, now you must act,”  Jones assigned everyone a task to be completed that day.  Some were to memorize the names and addresses of everyone in the group; others were to make Third Wave banners, armbands and membership cards.  And since that day’s theme was “Strength Through Action,” everyone was to proselytize.

By day’s end Coniglio says banners were all over the school, including a 20 footer in the library.  Members brought in some 200 converts from other classes to be “sworn in.”

“It just swept through the school,” recalls Jones, who is still teaching, now at the San Francisco Recreation Center for the Handicapped.  “It was like walking on slippery rock…by the third or fourth day, there was an obvious explosion of emotion that I couldn’t control.”

Several boys were assigned to “protect” Jones as he walked the school’s corridors, wearing Third Wave armbands to signify their responsibility.

“It was a black band.  When I went home, it got my parents worried,” says Steve Benson, now a Palo Alto mechanic. “They thought it was the equivalent of the SS.”  Although his mother called Jones to express her concern, the teacher reassured her it was merely a class exercise.

Everyone involved in the Third Wave received a membership card, three of which Jones randomly marked with an X.  Those holding the marked cards were told to note who transgressed class rules, which now dictated such matters as what campus paths members could walk and with whom they could associate.

“There were three or four stoolies,” Jones explains bluntly.  “I wanted to see how this was being taken outside of class.”

By the end of four days, approximately half the class had approached Jones with detailed information about the transgressions of others, ranging from improper salutes to coup plots against him.

“It was phenomenal.  There was a whole underground of activity.  People were assigning themselves as guards,” Jones says.  “I knew exactly what was going on in class because of this strange snitching that was going on.”

There was betrayal among teens who had been close friends since childhood.  A group of buddies could be sharing a cigarette in the bathroom, discussing a plan to “kidnap” Jones the next day and fulfill the exercise’s requirement for a top grade, but “it wouldn’t happen,” say Coniglio.  “Somebody – one of those two or three – would inform Ron Jones of the plot.”

This is exactly what happened to Hancock, who told several friends he had bought a cap pistol to school to earn an A with  mock assassination.  Jones gave him a stern look in class while reminding the group of the penalties for disloyalty; Hancock dropped the ideas and to this day cannot identify his betrayer.

“Jones was able to stop a lot of lines of communication between people.  That’s how he made his power.  He was keeping us under his thumb very effectively,” say Hancock.

Jones also selected an official but anonymous “secret police” group to help enforce Third Wave rules in and out of school.  These students enjoyed the assistance of a tough, leather-jacketed campus car club known as The Executors, who had been attracted to the Third Wave.  Both groups – along with regular Third Wave members – denounced their classmates for a raft of real and imagined transgressions.

“The paranoia was really strange,” Coniglio says.  “People were finking, and you had to make your own choice that way – whether you would tell.”

In addition to the names supplied by student enforcers, Jones would also pull “indictments” from his shirt pocket – slips of paper from which he would then read names and alleged offenses, Hancock says.

No matter who fingered them, the accused stood immediately.  A few were let off, but many were convicted by a class shouting, “Guilty!” and sent into library exile.  Mistrust blossomed even there.  Hancock recalls an acquaintance later telling him she thought he’d turned her in because she was “caught” a day after they had a brief, innocuous conversation.

Hancock subsequently asked Jones about  the indictments, only to learn the accusations were usually fabricated.  “Not only did he cause us to convict our peers, he’d just pick a name and get ’em convicted,” say Hancock.  “As long as that level of fear was there, the system was working.”

Adding to the ferment was the dawn of antiwar activism.  Third Wave meeting announcements and instructions on daily activity were read over the P.A. system, regularly followed by calls for revolution or radical social change.  The polar extremes only added to the confusion of the teens, from many of whom a Vietnam draft call was looming.

“You were either radical or you weren’t.  You couldn’t be in the middle.  Perhaps we were ready to be molded,” Coniglio shrugs.  “We were caught between extremes that were getting all the attention.”

Something of an underground existed within the Third Wave, but Hancock says it had as much effect as protesting against the Nazi regime in Germany.

One of the underground’s main problems was that Jones kept changing the rules established early in the experiment, and simply ignored several attempts at the revolution whose perpetrators had been promised an A. Hancock says some desperate conspirators even considered a mass “hit” with Mattel machine guns concealed in lunch bags, but Jones got wind of it and rescheduled the student assembly at which the assassination was to have taken place.

By the fifth day, the sheer volume of student migration to Jones’ class was disrupting normal school routines and raised his concern that matters had gotten out of control.

Besides reports about students who failed to salute properly, Jones received word that three of the exercise’s biggest skeptics were about to get beaten up.  All three had told their parents about the Third Wave; one family’s rabbi even called Jones at home with questions, but accepted Jones’ vague answers without delving too deeply.

“I was hoping he would come in with a tremendous amount of rage,” say Jones.  “I kept hoping someone would walk in and ask what was going on, so I could point to them and say, ‘That’s right, look what you’re doing, you’ve become just like fascists’ and end it.  But it didn’t  happen.”

Some parents did warn their children not to attend the class, which only reinforced student desires to participate, says Coniglio.

For his part, Jones easily disposed of the few polite parent inquiries by describing the Third Wave as a class exercise.  Even teachers at the school did not question it while it was going on, he notes.

Jones decided he had to end the experiment immediately, but without losing the point of the lesson.  He had the three skeptics escorted to the library for their own safety, and then told those remaining that the Third Wave was more than an exercise, that it was more than just a game.

In fact, Jones said, they were a local cell of a select youth movement recruiting students nationwide.  More than 1,000 such groups would rise up during a special noon rally that day to support a national presidential candidate, one who would announce a Third Wave Youth Program to bring the country “a new sense of order, community, pride and action.”

By noon, students were crammed into the lecture hall, backs ramrod straight, eyes riveted to a television set in the front of the room.  With the car club toughs guarding the door, Jones led the group in chants and salutes for the benefit of several friends he had posing as reporters and photographers.

Then Jones dimmed the lights, snapped the television set on and left the room.

Students waited with rapt attention for a vision of the future, but the screen stayed blank.

“Everybody’s eyes began to go like this,” Hancock says, darting his eyes frantically from side to side.  After looking around a few minutes, Hancock says he realized in a daze that “there weren’t any bodyguards, there wasn’t any Jones.  We were all just sitting at discipline.”

For Coniglio, the gray faces staring at the gray screen triggered his most potent image of World War II – the gas chambers.

“I thought, ‘My God, we’re all dead.” He yelled, “I’m getting out of here,” and ran for the back doors, which he thought would be locked like in the concentration camp ovens.  But the doors opened, and Coniglio was surprised to encounter a normal spring day at lunch hour.  “Music was coming from the quad, flowers were blooming and a warm breeze was blowing.”

Back inside, Jones returned to shut off the television and take a position at a microphone on stage, while a movie montage of World War II scenes flashed onto a large screen behind him.

“There is no Third Wave movement, no leader,” he told the stunned audience.  “You and I are no better or worse than the citizens of the Third Reich.  We would have worked in the defense plants.  We will watch our neighbors be taken away, and do nothing,” Jones said, referring to the three skeptics exiled to the library for the crime of disbelief.  “We’re just like those Germans.  We would give our freedom up for the chance of being special.”

Neel remembers that “everybody just sat there a long time.  Then everyone went their own way.  No one wanted to talk about it.  I think I remember a couple of people sitting there, not moving.”

Nazi is always a dirty word when you’re growing up, but when you get hit with it, that you’ve become one, it’s a very shocking statement.”

Several students were crying.  Barbara Miller Moore, a Third Wave member who did not attend the rally, recalls seeing several people walking away in shock. “Steve was pale,” she remembers of Coniglio.  “I was worried about him.  He as always exceptionally sensitive.  I didn’t know what would happen to him.”

The salutes ended with the rally; membership cards turned to litter and attention to Vietnam.  But memories of the one-week experiment remain strong 25 years later.

“It hurts so much when I realized I’d been so fooled, but then, that was the lesson,” remarks Coniglio.  Upon subsequent reflection, he says he realized “it was one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever had in my life.  How often are you – as a 16 year old- not only able to learn about history, but to participate in it?”

Although Neel remembers feeling frightened before the rally a the thought of linking up with a national movement, he says peer pressure overcame his doubts, along with his regard for Jones and the climate of the times.

“A big reason I went along with it was my trust for Jones,” Neel says.  Moveover, he “was just  beginning to feel bitter about Vietnam, and part of the experiment seemed like we could change the government responsible for hurting us.  There was a feeling something really remarkable was going to happen, going on throughout the country – that the movement was going to change politics, change the structure of school.  The combination of everything made it happen, and boy, did it happen.”

For student Alyssa Hess Reit, the conclusion of the Third Wave experiment led to some heartfelt compassion and empathy for the Germans.  “It seemed very clear that if a bunch of high school students from Palo Alto who had everything – nothing to lose – could be so easily pulled in, knowing it was just a game, it was clear what it must’ve been like for real people losing jobs and families,” she says.  “That’s not to say there weren’t ways to resist or that they couldn’t, but we didn’t even know how to go about it.”

Reit says she knows of no one who was damaged by the Third Wave.  Jones “helped wake us up, and I’ve always been grateful,” she comments.  “Good experiences aren’t necessarily pleasant.  I’ve often thought about it, and I’m glad I had it.  I would want my kids to have it.”

Many parents also supported Jones and the exercise, regardless of whether they had children involved.  They went to bat for him two years later, when he was denied tenure for reasons ostensibly unrelated to the Third Wave.

“Jones was an outstanding and creative teacher whose principal effort was to teach children to think for themselves,” says Joseph Pickering, an interested parent.  “Jones had excellent character and the highest motives.”

The experiment generated a great deal of debate among Jones’ fellow teachers, however, with several arguing it was not his place to expose students to such emotional wrenching.

“To a certain extent, they were right,” Jones agrees, although he considers any negative impacts to have been temporary and the risks worthwhile.

Bernard Oliver, president of the school board that denied Jones tenure, objected to Jones’ teaching style for different reasons.

“We were upset with his performance largely because the subject matter was not being taught.  If you weren’t concerned about basic values, his teaching was OK.  It’s easy to load up classes with excitement, things kids like.  While this impresses many parents, it can also be one-sided and far removed from traditional values,” Oliver adds.

Jones’ Third Wave also caught the attention of Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo, whose famous prison experiment several years later resulted in college students lapsing into sadism and eventual emotional breakdown after being assigned the role of guard in prison.

“Situations exert much more influence over human behavior than people acknowledge,” explains Zimbardo, who has invited Jones to speak to classes many times.

Although the tendency runs counter to Western ideas of individual responsibility, Zimbardo points to two real-life incidents to prove his point – the U.S. massacre of civilians at My Lai, and postwar tests conducted on concentration camp guards that revealed no subsequent propensity for violence.

“It’s an unpleasant message people don’t like to hear.  But unless you’re aware of the vulnerability, you don’t recognize how easy it is for simulation to become reality, for the uniform to dominate the person.”

Third Wave veterans agree.

“When he started rewarding people, I could see how that goes a long way toward influencing them,” Neel says.  “I could see how people would be susceptible to that kind of behavior and would go along with it.  You want to please your teachers, your peers and you don’t want to fail.”

Although Jones says he would never repeat the Third Wave, he insists it could easily happen today, anywhere in the United States, for a variety of reasons.

“Fascism is always a possibility because it’s so simple and people are frustrated.  They lose their jobs, their dignity, their sense of worth, and someone comes along and says, “I’ve got the answer.”

School systems prepare the ground, Jones says by using only standardized tests for success and failing to recognize alternative paths of learning, as well as a wider variety of individual achievements.

Educational institutions weed out troublemakers and those who are difficult to teach, he contends, rewarding placid students who want to succeed at any cost and will accept authority.

“That’s the sad thing.  Teachers can trigger it by telling students they’re special, they’re part of a community, that they can do special things.  All they have to give is their loyalty,” Jones concludes.  “It happens every day in school, only the paraphernalia isn’t there.  Kids aren’t learning to ask questions.  You create a population where freedom’s just a spelling word.”

This is from the Washington Times – we can’t even bring ourselves to comment on it.

By Jeffrey Denning

Just when you thought you’ve heard it all…

A senior government official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed great interest in a so-called safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device, similar to that of a police Taser®. According to this promotional video found at the Lamperd Less Lethal website, the bracelet would be worn by all airline passengers.

This bracelet would:

• take the place of an airline boarding pass

• contain personal information about the traveler

• be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage

• shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes

The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it’s referred to as, would be worn by every traveler “until they disembark the flight at their destination.”  Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and that it would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if he/she got out of line?

Clearly the Electronic ID Bracelet is an euphuism for the EMD Safety Bracelet, or at least it has a nefarious hidden ability, thus the term ID Bracelet is ambiguous at best. EMD stands for Electro-Musclar Disruption. Again, according to the promotional video the bracelet can completely immobilize the wearer for several minutes.

So is the government really that interested in this bracelet? Yes!

According to a letter from DHS official, Paul S. Ruwaldt of the Science and Technology Directorate, office of Research and Development, to the inventor whom he had previously met with, he wrote, “To make it clear, we [the federal government] are interested in…the immobilizing security bracelet, and look forward to receiving a written proposal.” The letterhead, in case you were wondering, came from the DHS office at the William J. Hughes Technical Center at the Atlantic City International Airport, or the Federal Aviation Administration headquarters.

In another part of the letter, Mr. Ruwaldt confirmed, “It is conceivable to envision a use to improve air security, on passenger planes.”

Would every paying airline passenger flying on a commercial airplane be mandated to wear one of these devices? I cringe at the thought. Not only could it be used as a physical restraining device, but also as a method of interrogation, according to the same aforementioned letter from Mr. Ruwaldt.

Would you let them put one of those on your wrist? Would you allow the airline employees, which would be mandated by the government, to place such a bracelet on any member of your family?

Why are tax dollars being spent on something like this? Is this a police state or is it America?

As we approach July 4th, Independence Day, I can’t help but think of the blessing we have of living in America and being free from hostile government forces. It calls to mind on of my favorite speeches given by an American Founding Forefather, Patrick Henry, who said,

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Washington, DC –  Hidden deep in Senator Christopher Dodd’s 630-page Senate housing legislation is a sweeping provision that affects the privacy and operation of nearly all of America’s small businesses. The provision, which was added by the bill’s managers without debate this week, would require the nation’s payment systems to track, aggregate, and report information on nearly every electronic transaction to the federal government.

Call Congress and Tell Them to Oppose The eBay Reporting Provision in the Housing Bill: 1-866-928-3035

FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey commented: “This is a provision with astonishing reach, and it was slipped into the bill just this week. Not only does it affect nearly every credit card transaction in America, such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express, but the bill specifically targets payment systems like eBay’s PayPal, Amazon, and Google Checkout that are used by many small online businesses. The privacy implications for America’s small businesses are breathtaking.”

“Privacy groups like the Center for Democracy and Technology and small business organizations like the NFIB sharply criticized this idea when it first appeared earlier this year. What is the federal government’s purpose with this kind of detailed data? How will this database be secured, and who will have access? Many small proprietors use their Social Security number as their tax ID. How will their privacy be protected? What compliance costs will this impose on businesses? Why is Sen. Chris Dodd putting this provision in a housing bailout bill? The bill also includes the creation of a new national fingerprint registry for mortgage brokers.

“At a time when concerns about both identity theft and government spying are paramount, Congress wants to create a new honey pot of private data that includes Social Security numbers. This bill reduces privacy across America’s payment processing systems and treats every American small business or eBay power seller like a criminal on parole by requiring an unprecedented level of reporting to the federal government. This outrageous idea is another reason to delay the housing bailout legislation so that Senators and the public at large have time to examine its full implications.”

From the Senate Bill Summary:

Payment Card and Third Party Network Information Reporting. The proposal requires information reporting on payment card and third party network transactions. Payment settlement entities, including merchant acquiring banks and third party settlement organizations, or third party payment facilitators acting on their behalf, will be required to report the annual gross amount of reportable transactions to the IRS and to the participating payee. Reportable transactions include any payment card transaction and any third party network transaction. Participating payees include persons who accept a payment card as payment and third party networks who accept payment from a third party settlement organization in settlement of transactions. A payment card means any card issued pursuant to an agreement or arrangement which provides for standards and mechanisms for settling the transactions. Use of an account number or other indicia associated with a payment card will be treated in the same manner as a payment card. A de minimis exception for transactions of $10,000 or less and 200 transactions or less applies to payments by third party settlement organizations. The proposal applies to returns for calendar years beginning after December 31, 2010. Back-up withholding provisions apply to amounts paid after December 31, 2011. This proposal is estimated to raise $9.802 billion over ten years.

From FreedomWorks.org

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The Constitution of the United States

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder

We’d say to Justice Scalia (to use his own words) – “Get over it!

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Suspected terrorists and foreign fighters held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their detention in federal court, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The decision marks another legal blow to the Bush administration’s war on terrorism policies.

The 5-4 vote reflects the divide over how much legal autonomy the U.S. military should have to prosecute about 270 prisoners, some of whom have been held for more than six years without charges. Fourteen of them are alleged to be top al Qaeda figures.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “the laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system reconciled within the framework of the law.”

Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, was supported by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, generally considered the liberal contingent.

At issue was the rights of detainees to contest their imprisonment and challenge the rules set up to try them.

A congressional law passed in 2006 would limit court jurisdiction to hear so-called habeas corpus challenges to detention. It is a legal question the justices have tackled three times since 2004, including Thursday’s ruling.

Each time, the justices have ruled against the government’s claim that it has the authority to hold people it considers “enemy combatants.”

Preliminary hearings have begun in Guantanamo for some of the accused. A military panel this month arraigned five suspected senior al Qaeda detainees, including the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was transferred to the prison camp in 2006.

The Bush administration has urged the high court not to get involved in the broader appeals, saying the federal judiciary has no authority to hear such matters.

Four justices agreed. In a sharp dissent, read in part from the bench, Justice Antonin Scalia said the majority “warps our Constitution.”

The “nation will live to regret what the court has done today,” Scalia said.

He was supported by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

President Bush, who is traveling in Europe, said he disagreed with the Guantanamo ruling but promised to abide by it.

“Congress and the administration worked very carefully on a piece of legislation that set the appropriate procedures in place as to how to deal with the detainees,” he said. “We’ll study this opinion, and we’ll do so with this in mind to determine whether or not additional legislation might be appropriate so that we can safely say, truly say to the American people, ‘we are doing everything we can to protect you.’ ”

The Pentagon declined to comment, and the Justice Department said it was reviewing the decision and was expected to comment later Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, welcomed the ruling, saying the Supreme Court upheld the Constitution.

“I have long been an advocate of closing Guantanamo, so I would hope this is in furtherance of taking that action,” Pelosi said.

The appeals involve noncitizens. Sixteen lawsuits filed on behalf of about 200 prisoners were put on hold pending a ruling last year by a federal appeals court upholding the government’s right to detain and prosecute suspected terrorists and war criminals.

An attorney for one of the detainees, Salim Ahmed Hamdan — Osama bin Laden’s alleged driver and bodyguard — said he would file an appeal asking that charges be dropped against the Yemeni native.

“The clearest immediate impact of this ruling is to remove the remaining barriers for closing Guantanamo Bay. It means, in legal terms, Guantanamo Bay is no different than Kansas,” attorney Charles Swift said.

Now the ruling has been issued, a flood of similar appeals can be expected.

The lead plaintiffs are Lakhdar Boumediene, a Bosnian, and Fawzi al-Odah of Kuwait. They question the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act, passed by Congress in October 2006. The law addresses how suspected foreign terrorists and fighters can be tried and sentenced under U.S. military law.

Under the system, those facing trial would have a limited right to appeal any conviction, reducing the jurisdiction of federal courts.

The suspects also must prove to a three-person panel of military officers they are not a terror risk. But defendants would have access to evidence normally given to a jury, and CIA agents were given more guidance in how far they can go in interrogating prisoners.

The law was a direct response to a June 2006 Supreme Court ruling striking down the Bush administration’s plan to try detainees before military commissions.

In 2004, the justices also affirmed the right of prisoners to challenge their detention in federal court. Congress and the administration have sought to restrict such access.

The Justice Department wanted the high court to pass on these appeals, at least until the first wave of tribunals had a chance to work. Administration officials also argued the prisoners have plenty of legal safeguards.

The White House has said it is considering whether to close the Guantanamo prison, suggesting some high-level al Qaeda detainees could be transferred to the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, and to a military brig in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Most of the dozens of pending cases have been handled in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, which in February 2007 upheld the Military Commissions Act’s provision stripping courts of jurisdiction to hear “habeas” challenges to the prisoners’ confinement.

But a three-judge panel of the same circuit expressed concern about why the U.S. military continues to limit attorney access to the Guantanamo men.

The detainees’ legal team alleges the government is unfairly restricting access to potentially exculpatory evidence, including documents they may not know exist before pretrial hearings.

Legal and terrorism analysts said the issues presented in these latest sets of appeals are unlike those the justices have delved into previously.

“The difference in this case is that they have a congressional enactment cutting back on habeas corpus that they have to wrestle with,” said Edward Lazarus, a leading appellate attorney and author of a book on the high court, “Closed Chambers: The Rise, Fall, and Future of the Modern Supreme Court.”

“And that, from a constitutional point of view, is really a different question.”

From CNN.com

From a reader –

Please take the time to watch these videos – it’s what’s necessary for all of this to change.

Spread The Word

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
-Noam Chomsky

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    By Bill Quigley
t r u t h o u t | Report

    Wednesday 24 October 2007

    Louis Vitale, 75, a Franciscan priest, and Steve Kelly, 58, a Jesuit priest, were sentenced to five months each in federal prison for attempting to deliver a letter opposing the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Both priests were taken directly into jail from the courtroom after sentencing.

    Fort Huachuca is the headquarters of military intelligence in the US and the place where military and civilian interrogators are taught how to extract information from prisoners. The priests attempted to deliver their letter to Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, commander of Fort Huachuca. Fast was previously the head of all military intelligence in Iraq during the atrocities of Abu Ghraib.

    The priests were arrested while kneeling in prayer halfway up the driveway to Fort Huachuca in November 2006. Both priests were charged with trespassing on a military base and resisting orders of an officer to stop.

    In a pre-trial hearing, the priests attempted to introduce evidence of torture, murder and gross violations of human rights in Afghanistan, at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and at Guantanamo. The priests offered investigative reports from the FBI, the US Army, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Social Responsibility documenting hundreds of incidents of human rights violations. Despite increasing evidence of the use of torture by US forces sanctioned by President Bush and others, the federal court in Tucson refused to allow any evidence of torture, the legality of the invasion of Iraq, or international law to be a part of the trial.

    Outside the courthouse, before the judge ordered them to prison, the priests explained their actions: “The real crime here has always been the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca and the practice of torture around the world. We tried to deliver a letter asking that the teaching of torture be stopped and were arrested. We tried to put the evidence of torture on full and honest display in the courthouse and were denied. We were prepared to put on evidence about the widespread use of torture and human rights abuses committed during interrogations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in Iraq and Afghanistan. This evidence was gathered by the military itself and by governmental and human rights investigations.”

    Fr. Vitale, a longtime justice and peace activist in San Francisco and Nevada, said, “Because the court will not allow the truth of torture to be a part of our trial, we plead no contest. We are uninterested in a court hearing limited to who was walking where and how many steps it was to the gate. History will judge whether silencing the facts of torture is just or not. Far too many people have died because of our national silence about torture. Far too many of our young people in the military have been permanently damaged after following orders to torture and violate the human rights of other humans.”

    Fr. Kelly, who walked to the gates of Guantanamo with the Catholic Worker group in December of 2005, concluded, “We will keep trying to stop the teaching and practice of torture whether we are sent to jail or out. We have done our part for now. Now it is up to every woman and man of conscience to do their part to stop the injustice of torture.”

    The priests were prompted to protest by continuing revelations about the practice of torture by US military and intelligence officers. The priests were also deeply concerned after learning of the suicide in Iraq of a young, devout, female military interrogator, Alyssa Peterson of Arizona, shortly after arriving in Iraq. Peterson was reported to be horrified by the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

    Investigation also revealed Fort Huachuca was the source of infamous “torture manuals” distributed to hundreds of Latin American graduates of the US Army School of Americas at Fort Benning, GA. Demonstrations against the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca have been occurring for the past several years each November and are scheduled again for November 16 and 17 this year.

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    Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He served as counsel for Frs. Vitale and Kelly. You can reach Bill at Quigley@loyno.edu. For more about their trial, see http://tortureontrial.org.

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