April 2008 Newsletter

15 April 2008

Please excuse the delay since last newsletter: We have been swamped with political work, including of course our CCDBR Boeing and theater projects. And, as we have now grown accustomed to expect, there has been a further multiplication of threats to civil liberties from the regime in Washington.

We can be pleased that the House of Representatives has, at least for the moment, stood up to Bush on the issue of “telecom immunity,” thus preserving the possibility that lawsuits might proceed against AT & T and other communications giants who broke the law by accomodating government eavesdropping. If the Senate joins the House and stands up to Bush – for once – there could be revelation of evidence showing the extent of government/telecom participation in the wholesale violation of our constitutionally protected expectations of privacy in telephone and internet communication.

We have recently learned more about the extent of FBI abuse of “national security letters;” and Congress as usual has basically given the agency no more than a slap on the wrist, expressing a hope that they will be more circumspect in forcing banks, doctors, realtors and the like to hand over our personal information, under penalty of jail if they tell us about it! The FBI itself admits improperly issuing tens of thousands of these frighteningly intrusive orders with no judicial warrants.
Both the telecom and FBI issues mentioned illustrate the wider problem of the emerging Surveillance State, a topic which CCDBR hopes to spotlight in an educational program this coming Fall.

Mayor Daley wants to put Chicago at the level of London as a city where integrated police and private video cameras are never at rest in tracking your every movement; and of course at the national level there is an unending stream of devices and policies to collect, sift and sort mountains of information covering every communication and transaction – all in the name of the “war on terror” or “disaster response.” The prospect of abuse of this surveillance becomes especially frightening when we imagine the application of powers Congress has given to the President to declare martial law for any “condition” he or she thinks warrants such a sweeping abrogation of all normal rights.

Just when we thought there could be no more disclosures about officially sanctioned torture with no pretense of due process, we get further evidence that methods of torture were specifically authorized from the topmost levels of the U.S. government, buttressed by “legal memos,” and now, by Bush’s own admission, with his knowledge and consent. Remember when we were told it was just “a few bad apples” at Abu Ghraib?

Of course the disgraceful passage by Congress of the Military Commissions Act attempted a pre-emptive exoneration of the CIA and others from any prosecution for ordering and carrying out acts of torture in clear violation of U.S. and international law.

What can CCDBR do about such abuses?

CCDBR is spearheading a growing coalition, now including eight organizations, to call Boeing Company to account for its provision of flight services – through subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan – for CIA extraordinary rendition” torture flights. The ACLU suit in behalf of several torture victims has been dismissed in federal court on grounds of “government secrecy,” but it is under appeal; meanwhile our new Coalition to Ground Boeing Torture Flights is the only game in town on this issue.
Meetings are being held regulary at CCDBR’s office. We plan a public protest at the Field Museum 9:30 AM, Monday 28 April 2008, while Boeing is holding its annual shareholders’ meeting in the museum. While members of our coalition are demonstrating outside, others will be offering a shareholder human rights resolution inside.
(If you have questions, call me directly at 773.281-5164, leave message if necessary.  …more information about Boeing/Jeppesen)

By coincidence, our “Acting Free” program for high-school students will bear its first fruit the evening of the same day, 28 April, 6 P.M. at Pegasus Theater. Over twenty students from the class we sponsored at Senn High School will perform a staged reading of scenes they have written depicting civil liberties issue. Afterward, we will participate in a reception honoring them.
PLEASE JOIN US AT THE THEATER THAT EVENING to show your support and encouragement to these young students. With sufficient momentum, this program of education on the Bill of Rights can grow and expand to other schools.

CCDBR is also working in coalition with other organizations on the issues of police accountability, police torture (the Burge cases and similar, more recent, abuses), the death penalty, and the human right to health care.

We need and are grateful for any financial contribution you make to CCDBR or the the tax-exempt Bill of Rights Foundation (BORF).

Bob Clarke
for the CCDBR Board