September 2008 Newsletter

20 September 2008

Keeping the focus on civil liberties during this election campaign is a challenge because there are so many other issues at stake, as well as media distractions. But we know that whoever wins the presidency and control of Congress, our work must continue. Because of the failure of impeachment efforts (which CCDBR supported), the dangerous expansion of presidential powers curbing our rights has not been effectively opposed by either party. Time after time, Democrats in Congress have joined with Republicans to avert investigative or court challenges to illegal wiretapping, CIA torture, and other shocking abuses.

On the other hand, we cannot “curse with equal fervor”
– candidate McCain who denounced the Supreme Court’s “Boumedienne” decision upholding habeas corpus, and
– candidate Obama who supported that decision.
Likewise, we note that
– Sarah Palin, in her acceptance speech, mocked Obama’s concern that due process be accorded to U.S. captives, in contrast to
– Joe Biden’s strongly expressed condemnation of torture, including the CIA version (which McCain “reversed himself” to allow).
The prospective Supreme Court appointments by former constitutional law professor Obama and anti-choice McCain are in themselves crucial concerns.

At our most recent board meeting, immigration rights and union organizer Jorge Mujica drew our attention to the abandonment of Harold Washington’s policy of not involving Chicago police in harassment of immigrants, especially Latinos – while there is no evidence of concern about, for example, Canadians whose stays are technically illegal.
These practices are an ongoing CCDBR concern for several reasons, including the newly proposed FBI rules which likewise would authorize investigations based on racial profiling.

The board also was taken aback by the telephone briefing we received from Boeing activist Brad Thomson, who vividly described his observation of arbitrary arrests of reporters and protesters and the atmosphere of militarization as he stood outside the police station in St. Paul during the Republican convention. See theSeptember 2008 newsletter of the Defending Dissent Foundation which further describes the scandalous and under-reported curtailment of First Amendment rights at both conventions.

We are delighted to report that our “Acting Free” education program in conjunction with Pegasus Theater has been renewed for this Fall, thanks in part to a grant from the Bill of Rights Foundation. This means that Senn High School students will again take to the boards with skits they have written on civil liberties issues. CCDBR advisory board member Christina Abraham (civil rights director of the Council of American Islamic Relations/Chicago) will continue as civil liberties coach to the students.

We continue to host and play a key role in the Coalition to Ground Boeing torture flights. (Have a look at the blog: CCDBR advisory board member Dick Simpson published a powerful indictment of Boeing’s complicity in torture which the Sun-Times published on the Fourth of July, much to the discomfiture of some readers who see Boeing and the flag as indistinguishable.

CCDBR is joining in the campaign to demand that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan agree to immediate hearings for torture victims who remain in prison as a result of torture by Burge and his men, and to support the bill establishing an independent torture Commission which is before the Illinois Senate. You can help out by writing both Lisa Madigan and your own state senator in support of these measures.

To address the steady growth and meance of the “Surveillance State,” CCDBR is preparing to organize and host an educational forum on the multiple forms of surveillance which are eroding the Fourth Amendment through everything from closed circuit television cameras to “Fusion Centers” in every state – expanded versions of the old Red Squads, this time on steroids: joining corporate, military, FBI, NSA, CIA, state/local police in unsupervised pooling of data bases which cover every facet of our lives.

As always, we thank you for your financial support and welcome any contribution you can make. The CCDBR membership form can also be downloaded.

Bob Clarke
for the CCDBR Board