Monday, June 24, 2013

Netroots Nation snapshots: Hanging in for our rapidly vanishing freedom under law

Retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, was the chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo until he resigned in protest after being asked to move cases against prisoners who he believed had been tortured in violation of the Nuremberg principles and the Geneva Conventions.

He pulls no punches:
“After 9/11, we [the people of the United States] became the constrained and the cowardly.”

"Every case that has come out of Guantanamo has been a black eye to the American government.”

Pardiss Kebriaei is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center Constitutional Rights. She has represented several Guantanamo detainees, both some released and some still held, as well as the al-Awlaki family of the father and son, both U.S. citizens never convicted of any crime, who were killed by U.S. drones in Yemen. She faults the President for failing to follow through with closing Guantanamo.
“Obama has failed to rebut false narratives that depict all detainees as terrorists.”
The majority still locked up at Guantanamo have been cleared for release, but the administration has failed to follow through. Many prisoners are on hunger strike, ready to die if, after a decade, they are left to give up hope.

Kebriaei also emphasized that conditions in supermax prisons inside the United States may not be any more humane than those in Guantanamo; significant numbers of prisoners are being held in solitary confinement on 23-hour a day lockdown, apparently for life.

At the panel "Challenging Drones from Pakistan to Oakland," moderator Zahra Billoo, director of CAIR California, asked participants to answer the question "Why should I care about drones?"

Omar Shakir was one of a Stanford Law School team responsible for a joint report with NYU Law students called Living Under Drones. He pointed out that, after experiencing a half a decade of overflights and repeated missile strikes from drones, most Pakistanis are firmly convinced that the United States is their enemy. How would you feel if you had these things flying around overhead all the time -- and sometimes firing? he asked.
"Only 2 percent of drone kills have been high level al Qaeda leaders."
Nadia Kayyali of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee works with local jurisdictions where law enforcement authorities are often salivating over the prospect of getting their own drones. The federal government seems to have money to throw at these purchases, even if for little else. Politicians listen to the well-heeled drone lobby speaking for war contractors. There is even a Drone Caucus in Congress.

She maintains that widespread domestic enthusiasm for police drones reinforces the normalization of
ambient and persistent surveillance in this country.

Linda Lye of the Northern California ACLU listed three reasons to care about drones:
  • low cost: by the standards of high tech spying these are cheap toys. The usual expense disincentive is weak;
  • surreptitiousness: we'll soon see police deploying bird size drones;
  • and context: these days every public and private entity that can is gathering all the data it can sweep up on all of us.
She emphasizes that the legal framework for protecting individual rights has simply failed to keep up with technological progress. Consequently, we're all in danger of losing basic freedoms without debate or consent.


Vagabonde said...

I just found your blog through Time Goes By. I also looked at your other blog – walking around SF. We just came back from San Francisco after we left it in 1969 – and walking up and down hills was not as easy as then – my knees are not as good. I also saw you have a grey cat like ours. She is a 5 month old Korat and jumps on everything. It is a breath of fresh air to read your posts on politics – I live in Georgia, in Cobb County - Newt Gingrich county. We went to a Greek restaurant on Saturday and Fox News was on the TV, the owner said that if he puts CNN on the TV people around here think he is a commie….

Hattie said...

Thanks for this on the spot reporting from Netroots Nation. How I wish I could be there.
Things seem to be heating up in the Bay Area and getting interesting again.