Archive for civil liberties

Personalizing civil liberties abuses

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2012 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon)

By Glenn Greenwald

It’s sometimes easy — too easy — to think, talk or write about the assault on civil liberties in the United States, and related injustices, and conceive of them as abstractions. Two weeks ago, the Editorial Page Editor of The New York Times, Andrew Rosenthal, wrote that ever since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has created “what’s essentially a separate justice system for Muslims.” That should be an extraordinary observation: creating a radically different — and more oppressive — set of rules, laws and punishments for a class of people in the United States based on their religious affiliation is a disgrace of historic proportion. Yet here we have someone occupying one of the most establishment media positions in the country matter-of-factly observing that this is exactly the state of affairs that exists on American soil, and it prompts little notice, let alone protest.

There are many factors accounting for the willingness to tolerate, or even approve of, this systematic persecution, most of which I’ve written about before. But one important reason I want to highlight here is that — as is true of America’s related posture of endless wars — its victims, by design, are so rarely heard from. As is true for most groups of humans who remain hidden, they are therefore easily demonized. This invisibility also means that even those who object in principle to what is being done have difficulty apprehending in a visceral way the devastation that is wreaked in the lives of these human beings who have done nothing wrong. Their absence from our discourse can confine one’s understanding of these issues to the theoretical realm, and thus limit one’s ability to truly care.

I spent the last week traveling to several cities where, without planning to do so, I met dozens of people whose lives have been seriously impeded or fully wrecked by the abuses carried out in the name of the War on Terror. This happens whenever I travel to speak at events, and it’s one of the reasons I do it. Meeting such people isn’t the reason for my travel. These meetings usually are unplanned. But the decade-long abuses carried out in the post-9/11 era are so pervasive, so systematized, that no matter what city I visit, it’s very common for me to end up meeting people — usually though not always Muslims — whose lives have been unjustly and severely harmed by these state actions. And it’s not only the targeted individuals themselves, but entire communities of people, whose lives are substantially damaged. Being able to meet and speak with people directly affected personalizes the issues for me that are most frequently written about here, and so I want to describe several of those encounters I had just in the last week.

* * * * *

On Thursday, I was in Ottawa to speak at St. Paul University on civil liberties, secrecy and militarism as it affects the U.S. and Canada. Ottawa happens to be the long-time home of Maher Arar. Arar is the Canadian-Syrian citizen who was abducted by the U.S. Government (with the help of Canada) in September, 2002, at JFK Airport, when he was about to board a connecting flight back home to Ottawa after a vacation. After being held for two weeks in solitary confinement and denied access to a lawyer by the U.S., they “rendered” him not back to his home in Canada, but to Syria (where he hadn’t lived for 15 years). He was imprisoned in Syria for the next year, ten months of which was in extreme solitary confinement. As the U.S. knew would happen, he was continuously interrogated, beaten and tortured. Because (as everyone now admits) Arar had no involvement of any kind with Terrorism, he had nothing to tell his Syrian captors, which caused them to beat him ever more harshly. Once even the Syrians concluded that he was innocent, they released him back to Canada.

While the Canadian government publicly accounted for its role in this travesty, apologized to Arar, and paid him a substantial monetary sum for what was done to him, all of Arar’s efforts to obtain justice from the U.S. Government in American courts have been denied. The Bush and the Obama DOJ both insisted that allowing Arar’s claims to be heard in a U.S. court would risk disclosure of vital “state secrets,” and American federal judges — as they almost always do in cases involving Muslim defendants — meekly complied with the government’s directives. Arar continues to be banned from entering the U.S., thus ensuring he cannot travel to this country to speak about what was done to him.

When I met with him, Arar explained to me the lingering effects of being snatched away from your own life for no reason and being shipped halfway across the world to be brutalized and tortured without any charges of any kind and without any end in sight. At the time that happened, Arar was working as an engineer — he has a Masters degree in engineering from the University of Quebec — and he lived with his wife, a Ph.D in Finance who works as a college professor, along with their two small children. His wife, Monia Mazigh, wrote an incredibly moving book about the devastation this “rendition” wreaked on their lives and her battle to free him.

Since then, the stigma of what happened to him follows him wherever he goes. He found it difficult to resume his engineering career. He was reluctant to speak in any detailed way, but was clear that this horrific experience, even nine years later, affects him emotionally and psychologically in all sorts of profound ways. He spends most of his time working on an excellent online political journal he founded in 2010, Prism Magazine, where he and a group of writers report and comment on civil liberties and foreign policy.

He’s extremely smart, knowledgeable, articulate, passionate and engaged. He attempts to direct the anger over what was done to him into constructive causes: in particular, using his platform to highlight the dangers of untrammeled government power and the ongoing erosion of core liberties in the name of Terrorism. But it’s not hard to see that the severe abuse he suffered at the cooperative hands of the U.S., Canadian and Syrian governments — the complete loss of one’s sense of security from being arbitrarily snatched out of one’s life by unaccountable forces which, in the case of the U.S., continue to view him as some sort of threat — will be a central part of his identity and internal life probably forever.

* * * * *

On Saturday, I was at the University of Chicago for an event to discuss humanitarian intervention and empire. One of my fellow speakers was Tariq Ramadan, the highly regarded Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford. He’s one of the world’s most accomplished scholars in his field. For almost six years — from 2004 until 2010 — Ramadan was banned from entering the U.S. In 2004, he had accepted a tenured position at Notre Dame University, but was forced to resign it when, nine days before he was to move with his family to Indiana, his visa was suddenly revoked by the State Department pursuant to the “ideological exclusion” provision of the PATRIOT Act. Ramadan had been an outspoken critic of violence carried out by Muslims against civilians in the name of the Koran, as well a vigorous opponent of violence carried out by the U.S. Government in the Muslim world; for the latter act, he was accused by the U.S. Government, with no charges or trial, of being a Terrorist sympathizer and a threat to national security. Only once the ACLU sued for years on his behalf and the State Department was ordered by a federal court to more fully justify the exclusion in 2010 was he granted a visa. After years of living with the cloud of “Terrorist sympathizer” over his head, he is now finally able to enter the U.S. again to speak and attend academic conferences.

One of the sponsors of that University of Chicago event was the school’s Muslim Students Association, and one of the undergraduate student leaders of that group is Ali Al-Arian. Ali is the son of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian whose ongoing persecution by the U.S. Government is one of the most repellent and unjust of any in the post-9/11 era. I can’t begin to convey all or even most of the extreme injustices that have been imposed on him.

In 2003, while working as an engineering professor at the University of South Florida, he was indicted by the Ashcroft DOJ on multiple counts of “material support for Terrorism.” Al-Arian was an outspoken advocate for Palestinians and a steadfast opponent of the Israeli occupation. The U.S. government had been monitoring all of his telephone communications for more than a full decade, yet obtained no evidence that he was involved in any way in plotting any sort of violence. The indictment was all based on his alleged support for Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian group that has nothing to do with the U.S. or Americans, but is instead focused exclusively on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. While awaiting his trial, he was held for almost three years in extreme solitary confinement.

When his trial finally took place in 2006, the government’s evidence against him consisted almost entirely of his speeches, the list of books he read, the websites he visited, the magazines he edited, the rallies he attended: in sum, the U.S. Government — as it so often does with Muslims — tried to prosecute him as a Terrorist by virtue of his political views and activities. Even with a judge extremely hostile to his defense, the Central Florida jury acquitted him on half of the counts, and deadlocked on the other half (10 out of 12 jurors wanted to acquit him on all charges). This was one of the very, very few times a Muslim in the U.S. has been acquitted when accused of Terrorism. Rather than be subjected to a new trial that could send him to prison for life, he pled guilty to a single count of “contributing services” for the benefit of a designated Terrorist group (far, far less than what is being provided right this moment by a glittering bipartisan cast of Washington officials to the MEK, also a designated Terrorist group). In an extremely unusual move, the federal judge presiding over the case disregarded the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendations and sentenced him to a longer prison term than what the plea agreement called for: the maximum permitted by law.

That prison sentence was to end in 2007, after which he would be deported. Yet al-Arian was never released from prison. He continues, nine years later, to be denied his liberty by the U.S. Government, with no end in sight. Shortly before he was to be released and deported, he was subpoenaed to testify in a separate criminal case — one involving an Islamic think tank in Northern Virginia — by Gordon Kromberg, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Virginia who is notorious for his bigoted anti-Islamic zealotry. Fearful that any testimony he gave would be seized on by Kromberg to prosecute him again, al-Arian refused to testify, and was then imprisoned on civil contempt charges for the maximum 18-month period permitted by law. Once that 18-month period ended, Kromberg, in 2008, indicted him on criminal contempt charges.

In response to this new criminal indictment, al-Arian’s lawyers, in 2009, asked the federal district judge to dismiss the criminal indictment. While the motion was pending, the judge ordered him confined to house arrest. That was 3 years ago. But the judge has simply never decided the motion. It just sits there, for years now, undecided. And al-Arian thus continues to be confined to house arrest, not permitted to leave without express permission of the court, which is rarely granted (he has left his small apartment only twice in the last 3 years, to attend the weddings of his two daughters). In the meantime, the criminal case for which he was subpoeaned to testify has been dismissed. But no matter. Al-Arian is in a frozen zone: denied his most basic liberties but without any ability to contest the charges against him. He’s now been imprisoned in one form or another since 2003, all stemming from extremely dubious charges that the U.S. Government, less than two years after the 9/11 attack, could not even get a Central Florida jury — with a very hostile judge — to convict him on. In reality, al-Arian has been persecuted for one reason only: because he’s a Palestinian activist highly critical of the four-decade brutal Israeli occupation.

It was al-Arian’s son, Ali, who drove me back to my hotel after the University of Chicago event was concluded. He recounted the harrowing details of his father’s plight, much of which I knew, but also explained, in stoic though very affecting tones, the ways in which the lives not only of his father but also his own and his brothers and sisters have been torn asunder by the ongoing persecution taking place. Dr. al-Arian’s five college-age children, all highly accomplished and educated in their own right, have worked steadfastly on the injustices to which their father is still being subjected, but there’s little they can do: each time it appears that his plight will finally be over, the U.S. Government concocts a new process to ensure that he remains a prisoner.

* * * * *

Last night, I spoke in Washington at the annual event for the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, a group formed in late 2010 to work against these Terrorism-justified travesties that are now embedded in the American judicial system. Seated at my table was James Yee, the Muslim chaplin at Guantanamo who complained in 2003 about the treatment of detainees, and shortly thereafter was arrested, charged with sedition and espionage, and held in intense solitary confinement: in other words, subjected to the very same treatment as the Guantanano detainees to whom he had been ministering. Ultimately, the U.S. military decided to suddenly drop all charges against him, though to date has never apologized for what was done to him. He described the ongoing psychological harm from this ordeal, and the battery of medication needed to treat it. Adorning the wall of the event was an exhibit showing the names of dozens of people — mostly, though not all, Muslims — who have been prosecuted overwhelmingly due to their political views, not because of any violent acts they undertook. For the entire three-hour event, a Muslim male dressed in an orange jump suit sat alone in a tiny makeshift cell at the front of the room as a reminder of the hundreds of prisoners, held in indescribably oppressive conditions, who have been prosecuted “pre-emptively” in the post-9/11 era: due to their political beliefs.

On the afternoon before the event, I met with Gulet Mohamed’s brother, Liban. Gulet is the Somali-American who last year, at the age of 19, was detained in Kuwait at the behest of the U.S. Government, beaten and tortured while interrogated, and then blocked from returning home to the U.S. I still vividly recall, as though it were yesterday, calling Gulet on his illicitly obtained cell phone while he was in Kuwaiti detention and hearing the extreme levels of fear and confusion in his voice over why this was happening to him. His brother described to me the numerous ways that Gulet continues to be affected by that experience: all ones you would expect if you put yourself in the position of being 19 years old and having that happen to you. I then had the pleasure to meet Gulet himself at the event that evening, and he appears to be a normal now-20-year-old — except that he was detained without charges and beaten and tortured at the behest of his own government.

In both Chicago and Washington, I also spoke with several people, all American Muslims, who have been placed by the U.S. Government on its no-fly list. That means they are barred from boarding an airplane. None has been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime. They were never notified that they were being placed on the list. They learned of it when they tried to fly and were denied boarding at the airport. They are unable to obtain any explanation for why they have been so barred. They have no idea who made the decision to place them on this list, what the basis was for that decision, or when they might be removed. For many of them, it means they cannot visit family members in other countries. They have simply been decreed as Security Threats by their own government with no explanation or transparency of any kind, and have no recourse to challenge the designation.

Those I spoke with were unwilling, at least for now, to speak out publicly by name out of fear that the U.S. Government will retaliate against them if they do. This fear is well-grounded given how many Muslims who have protested the government’s treatment of them have ended up being accused of unrelated crimes, or have had close family members similarly targeted. Just this week, a Pittsburgh resident, Kalifah Al-Akili, was scheduled to hold a press conference to complain that the FBI had introduced a dangerous and unstable person into his life in order to entrap him into joining an FBI-created Terrorist plot; once al-Akili refused, and sought to complain publicly, the FBI — on the day before he was to hold his Press Conference — arrested him on a completely unrelated and old firearm violation, thus ensuring his silence.

Then there’s the systematic infiltration of American Muslim communities, mosques and other groups by the U.S. Government. Just today, the Associated Press won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for exposing the pernicious surveillance program of the NYPD aimed at Muslims suspected of no wrongdoing whatsoever (except for being Muslim). Also today, The Washington Post has a very good article detailing the FBI’s chronic use of informants to target young Muslims and use every conceivable inducement — money, psychological manipulation, peer pressure — to cajole them into joining the FBI’s manufactured Terrorist plots. This is all done so that the FBI can swoop in at the last minute, praise themselves for stopping a Terror attack, keep fear levels among the American population high, and then send the targeted Muslim to prison for decades (and not just any prison, but usually to the uber-repressive wing at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana — “GITMO North” — a living, inhumane hell). The federal judge who presided over the most recent of these FBI-concocted cases — the tough-on-crime, former federal prosecutor Colleen McMahon — said in open court: “I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except the government instigated it, planned it and brought it to fruition.”

This constant government surveillance, infiltration, and use of informants — many who are paid large sums of money by the FBI and who themselves have a history of violent behavior and lying — predictably create extreme levels of fear and suspicion in American Muslim communities. They are instantly suspicious of any new person they meet. Because so many of these prosecutions have relied on the political statements and views of the accused Terrorist supporters, they are petrified to express their views about American foreign policy, let alone to engage in meaningful activism around those views. They fear speaking out when they are targeted or otherwise victimized by state injustices.

* * * * *

In sum, these are American citizens whom the rest of us have allowed to be subject to such an intense, limitless climate of fear and intimidation that any Constitutional guarantees are purely illusory for them. And they know it: they know that if the U.S. Government acts unjustly against them — if government agents even utter the word Terrorist in their direction — huge numbers of their fellow citizens will automatically assume that there must be some justification for the accusations. As Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum recently explained, he simply assumes that when the Obama administration accuses someone of involvement in Terrorism that there must be some solid basis for the accusation — even if they don’t reveal what that basis is — because President Obama is too good of a person to be involved in the baseless, bad faith punishment of someone on Terrorism allegations.

Many of the Muslims with whom I spoke know that many of their fellow citizens — the ones who are never subjected to these abuses — “reason” in a similar manner. Most are wallowing in the authoritarian assumption that the U.S. Government, while not infallible, is well-motivated and honest. Many Muslims thus know that they will stand almost entirely vulnerable if they are so targeted; few others will object or even care. That the Obama administration — in concert with Peter King — has been repeatedly insistingthat the primary threat is now “homegrown Terrorism,” and has thus been importing War on Terror framework onto U.S. soil, means that citizenship is no longer any shield from even the most egregious abuses. So they are afraid, and are tempted to avoid doing anything, including exercising their most basic rights of free speech and assembly, to avoid attracting attention.

As is always the case, the government abuses justified in the name of Terrorism have expanded far beyond the Muslim community to which they were first applied. Domestic peace activists have been targeted by abusive applications of the Patriot Act; American advocates of WikiLeaks have been legally harassed in all sorts of ways; and just last week I detailed the persecution of filmmaker Laura Poitras for the crime of producing documentaries that reflect poorly on U.S. policy.

But American Muslims have borne the brunt of these assaults for a full decade now, and — more than a full decade after 9/11 — continue to bear them in increasingly oppressive ways. And it’s worthwhile, really necessary, to be reminded of the very personal ways that these actions harm the lives of innocent human beings. Blame undoubtedly lies first and foremost with the U.S. Government for perpetrating these attacks. But it lies as well with the American citizenry that — convinced that they will not be affected — permits and even cheers them.

Omid Safi: Confessions of a Would be Muslim Reformer (sort of)

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on April 1, 2012 by loonwatch

A real witty article:

Confessions of a Would be Muslim Reformer (sort of)

by Omid Safi (Religion News Service)

I have been doing a lot of soul-searching, and I have reached a few important conclusions.    Speaking as a moderate Muslim, I realize that my community is primitive, backwards, mired in tradition, and in need of massive help from KONY 2012 people to reform this tradition to catch up with the luminosity of secular West.

I know that there is a trouble with Islam today, and everyday.  I also want to have gay-friendly mosques where people can just go have a beer after the optional prayer services, ‘cause that is what it means to be a progressive Muslim.

Because all the secret jihadists (and the FBI people who have infiltrated them) just want to impose this Shari’a thing on us, and for some reason all that beer drinking and hooking up seems to be frowned upon in that Shari’a thing.

With that, and in the name of She who is the source of All-Mercy, here are the fruits of my search.    If anyone wants to put me in touch with Fox News or MEMRI, please do so, I’ll recite all these on camera—just contact my agent, and he can tell you my appearance fee.   I know that we are in need of a Muslim Reformation, and I am working on my “Martin Luther of Islam” speech.    I can’t quite make it up to ML’s 95 theses, but I have got a good head start below.   With that, “I give you permission to think freely”:

First, speaking as a Muslim, I am so disappointed in my Muslim brother Barack Hussein Obama.   He eats pork, drinks alcohol, regularly attends church service, had his daughters baptized, has yet to set foot in a mosque since becoming president, kisses AIPAC’s behind, authorizes indefinite detentions, and has seen many Muslims killed by his drone attacks and ongoing wars.   Really, a pathetic Muslim if ever there was one.   I mean, if I wanted a Muslim ruler that would do all the above, I would move back to the Muslim countries where most of the rulers do that kind of stuff anyway, and the food is a little better than here.

Second, I have been so so wrong about Israel. It is a peaceful, peace-loving, just, democratic state, and all criticism of it is just motivated by anti-Semitism.  Israel today is perfect, kind of like America before all the civil rights stuff in the 1960’s came along.   As to those so-called Palestinians who do not want to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, they should just go back where they came from.    (I’m not sure where that is, but I am told it used to be a “land without a people.”)

Third, the Wahhabis are unjustly criticized. We Muslim have messed up Islam, and they are just trying to restore it to its original model of purity.   And I just love the changes they are making to Mecca and Medina, making it so much more traveler friendly.

Fourth, I have been way too defensive in my criticism of the erosion of civil rights and liberties in America. Fact of the matter is that we Muslims should just be honored to be allowed in this country, to consumer here, and even if we live here as second (or third) class citizen, it’s better to be here than whatever country my parents came from.

Fifth, I recognize that the Islamophobes are right, and there is something inherently vile and violent about Islam.

When the Prophet Muhammad was doing the prophet thing in the 7th century, he was so sneaky smart that he immediately set about opposing the whole notion of modernity that would emerge in the 17th century.  How clever he must have been… It’s like he was a thousand years ahead of his time.    We backwards Muslims have to catch up with the times, because all 1.5 billion Muslims are really in a time warp, living in the 7th century.   It’s like Islam is a breach in the time-space continuum.    It makes perfect sense to me to have people who hate a religion be the ones to help guide us as to how to reform Islam.   So I’ll be sure to tune into Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Daniel Pipes, Franklin Graham, and others.

Sixth, I testify that Sufism is just a perversion of the true Islam of the Pious Forefathers (al-salaf al-salih), and I pledge my allegiance to the driest, most boring, most hierarchical reading of Islam there is.   All this talk of love and beauty and being a child of Muhammad’s soul and coming to see God face-to-face, love and service to humanity, blah blah, people are just trying to make us think that there is something beautiful and mystical about Islam.   Don’t’ fall for it.  Remember:  Order, Discipline, Fitna (strife), Bid’a (heretical innovation), Haram (forbidden)…

Seventh, I pledge myself to making sure that Muslims, Hispanics, Gays/Lesbians, women, the Poor, immigrants, the Radical Left, everybody on the coasts, and everybody who doesn’t look like me, talk like me, worship in my church, can leave this country so us proper Americans can have it all to ourselves.  And it would be a much less crowded country.   Love it or leave it baby!

And one last one:  We civilized people have to protect Muslim women from Muslim men.  And from themselves.  Because Muslim women cannot and should not be trusted to make choices for their own lives, their own bodies.   So it’s up to us enlightened people to tell them what to wear, how to dress, and what not to wear.   Make sure that we don’t make the mistake of having them tell us what their attire means to them, because they have all been brainwashed.

Ok…. April’s Fools!!!     :-)

Take a deep breath.   All the above is a little April Fool’s satire about a very serious subject.

It would be all funny, except that as absurd as—I truly pray—all the above sounds, this is actually much of what we hear in today’s public discourse about Islam, from both wannabe Muslim reformers such as Zuhdi Jasser and Irshad Manji (who all too often have no grounding in Islam) to ex-Muslims (Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali), to Islamophobes (Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes) who repeatedly tell Muslims about the true meanings of their tradition.   I hope that satire can be a way to recognize the absurdity of the whole situation.

We need to do better than this.   May we all be participants in the redemption of our traditions, our communities, our nations.   That redemption can only come about through love and participation in a tradition and a community, not by standing outside and voicing one’s shame.    Love transforms us towards the better and more beautiful.    May our faith traditions, our nations, be redeemed through this love and service to humanity.

Bloomberg Fail: NY Mayor Defends Racial Profiling of and Spying on American Muslims

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2012 by loonwatch

It has now been unearthed that the NYPD has been using racial profiling to illegally target the American Muslim community, spying on Muslim students without reason or warrant.  Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, was questioned yesterday about this unethical practice; he defended it using the typical, disgusting, and morally repugnant justifications that have become so commonplace in our national discourse thanks to the War on of Terror. (Here is an article documenting Mayor Bloomberg’s response.)

Bloomberg ominously warned journalists: ”You are not going to survive. You will not be able to be a journalist and write what you want to say if the people who want to take away your freedoms are allowed to succeed.”

This cowardly fear-mongering has long been used by authorities to strip citizens of their rights: They are going to get you, unless you surrender your basic civil rights!

Actually, I should clarify that statement; it should read: They are going to get you, unless you surrender the basic civil rights of those dark-skinned, foreign-looking Moozlums!

Sadly, most Americans succumb to this alarmist rhetoric, readily surrendering what is not theirs to give away to begin with: the Constitutional rights of our nation’s most vulnerable minority.

Bloomberg continued:

We have to keep this country safe. This is a dangerous place. Make no mistake about it. It’s very cute to go and to blame everybody and say we should stay away from…[policies like] intelligence gathering. The job of our law enforcement is to make sure that they prevent things and you only do that by being proactive.

A dangerous place?  In fact, those big bad Islamic terrorists have killed zero civilians in the United States since 9/11, which was over a decade ago.  A similar situation exists in Europe, with Europol’s annual terrorism reports showing zero civilian deaths from Islamic terrorism in the last half decade (which is as far back as the annual terrorism reports go).  Quite simply, as an American I have a higher chance of being struck by and killed by lightning–or of being killed by peanuts–than of being killed by Islamic terrorists.  No amount of fear-mongering, alarmist propaganda, and Islamophobic rhetoric can overcome this simple fact, which is why it bears repetition:

In the past decade, zero civilians have been killed in this country by Islamic terrorists.  

Therefore, it is a boldfaced lie to claim that the threat of terrorism is so grave and ominous that we must resort to such illegal and unethical tactics to Keep Us Safe.

Bloomberg regurgitates the standard nationalistic myth, saying:

Remind yourself when you turn off the light tonight, you have your job because there are young men and women who have been giving their lives overseas for the last 200 plus years so that we would have freedom of the press. And we go after the terrorists. We are going to continue to do that and the same thing is true for the people that work on the streets of our cities.

This “argument” is often used to quell debate and stifle criticism: “[our] young men and women have been giving their lives overseas for the last 200 plus years so that we would have freedom of the press.”  This argument, steeped in uber-patriotism and drenched in nationalistic propaganda, is intended to fly over rational debate (what does the “giving [of] lives overseas for the last 200 plus years” have anything to do with “freedom of the press”?), and tap into our basest emotions: anyone who dares reject this argument by pointing out that it is not just a non-sequitur but patently false runs the risk of being accused of lack of patriotism and of being “un-American”.

This is so, as I wrote earlier, because the military is our country’s most sacred institution:

The military is our national religion, its soldiers are our holy warriors, the Navy Seals are our highest religious order, those soldiers who died in war are our martyrs, 9/11 was our Karbala, Patriot Day is our annual holy day, the flag is our holy book and symbol, Osama bin Laden is Lucifer, Terrorism is the greatest Evil, supporting the troops is our greatest religious obligation, and failure to do so is the greatest blasphemy and the highest of sins.

It is true that our military has been waging wars (of aggression) “overseas for the last 200 plus years”, as I documented in another article of mine: “We’re at War!” — And We Have Been Since 1776: 214 Years of American War-Making.  But, this is hardly something to be proud of…and these wars had nothing to do with “freedom of the press”–most of them had everything to do with spreading American hegemony and usurping the resources of other peoples (and in doing so, stripping them of their most basic civil liberties).

In fact, the greatest insults to the freedom of the press have historically been during times of war.  The First Amendment Center notes in The First Amendment: A Wartime Casualty?:

Sanford Levinson, a law professor at the University of Texas, writes: “It is difficult to read our constitutional history … without believing that the Constitution is often reduced at best to a whisper during times of war.”

The First Amendment is no exception. Attorney Michael Linfield, author of Freedom Under Fire: U.S. Civil Liberties in Times of War, writes: “Rather than being an exception, war-era violations of civil liberties in the United States are the accepted norm for our government.”

The article goes on to mention numerous instances in American history when civil liberties (including freedom of the press) were stripped by the government during wartime.  The War on of Terror is certainly no exception.

I hesitate closing this article with the standard meme of “it is un-American to curtail civil liberties”, but after second thought, I will save my readers from this trite, mythical, and nationalistic mantra.  As our military history will attest to, it is actually very, very American to do so, at least when it comes to minorities: racism has beset our nation during most of her many wars, whether it was against American Indians, Hispanics, or Asians.  Today’s wars against Arabs/Muslims overseas–and the concomitant stripping away of their human rights both at home and abroad–simply mean staying true to a long-held American tradition.

Mayor Bloomberg affirms the fundamental myth of the War on of Terror, the idea that we need to wage foreign wars (and in the process curtail civil liberties) in order to stop terrorism.  This is a strongly held belief, even though nothing exacerbates the problem of terrorism more than these wars.  In fact, our military interventions in the Muslim world are the root cause of terrorism.  Targeting the American Muslim community is the wrong solution: the only way to stop terrorism is to end our many wars in the Muslim world.  That Americans today failed to realize this simple fact will be looked upon by future generations with amazement.

Update I:

A reader, Christian-friend, commented:

I don’t see him justifying racial profiling, be more accurate!

From the ACLU’s website:

Racial Profiling: Definition (2005 resource): “Racial Profiling” refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.

Whenever in doubt, substitute “Jewish” for “Muslim” and see if it sounds right, i.e. it would be racial profiling if police targeted Jewish citizens.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

On the Outlandish Claim That “There is No Islamophobia”

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2012 by loonwatch

The FBI released hate crime statistics for the year of 2010, which showed that anti-Semitic crimes topped the list of religiously motivated hate crimes.  Islamophobes have latched on to this fact to claim that “there is no Islamophobia.”  For example, Robert Spencer of JihadWatch asked: ”What do you have to say about the fact that FBI statistics show that there is no ‘Islamophobia’?”

The American Muslim’s Sheila Musaji published a response to this argument, pointing out that it’s a non-sequitur: it does not follow that “there is no Islamophobia” just because there were more anti-Semitic hate crimes reported than anti-Muslim ones.  This would be like arguing that “there is no anti-Semitism” because there were more anti-black hate crimes reported than anti-Semitic ones.

In fact, Musaji points out that there was a 50% increase in the number of reported anti-Muslim hate crimes.  Any reasonable person would think this trend to be concerning and ask: what is causing this steep rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes?

There is another issue here: it’s a well-known fact that ethnic minorities are less likely to report hate crimes.  One of the common reasons cited for this is that such minority groups tend to distrust police and authorities–which is certainly the case for Arabs and Muslims, who have every reason to feel this way.

Islamophobia penetrates law enforcement and government on all levels, starting from the police: the Washington Monthly had a very eyeopening article on the subject: How We Train Our Cops to Fear Islam.

The FBI, the governmental institution responsible for monitoring hate crimes, is itself brimming with Islamophobia (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).  Many Muslims in America don’t trust the FBI, and wouldn’t report hate crimes to them, for fear of being accused of something themselves.

This is exactly what happened to a female Muslim student at the University of Bridgeport who reported to authorities that a man was sexually harassing her; not only was the man not investigated, but the female Muslim student herself ended up being investigated by the FBI after the accused molester called her a terrorist.  That’s how vulnerable Muslims are in this country: accuse them of being a terrorist and the FBI will come knocking at their door.

The chain of anti-Muslim bigotry goes even higher to the Department of Homeland Security.  The House Committee on Homeland Security is led by the fervently anti-Muslim Congressman Peter King.  It is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other religion, who are subjected to such hearings.  If King had suggested holding anti-Jewish hearings, the comparisons to Nazi Germany would be quickly invoked (rightfully so) and the Congressman’s career would come to a swift end (again, rightfully so).  Yet, when this bigotry is leveled against Muslims, the reaction is far more mild.

This brings me to my second (and main) point: it is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other faith, who are the number one victims of institutionalized bigotry in America.  This is something more pernicious than lone-wolf hate crimes, because the effects of it are more far-reaching.

It is Muslims, not people of any other religious faith, that were (and continue to be) detained by the hundreds–without trial or charge–and holed away in the hell-hole known as Guantanamo Bay detention camp.  This, even though it was known by the government that “the vast majority of detainees at Guantanamo were innocent.”  Most Americans fail to realize the gravity of this injustice, and continue to believe–like mindless sheep–that the Gitmo prisoners are “the worst of the worst” and are evil Magneto-style villains.  People of the future will be horrified that any sane person would think that this is necessary:

Who but the sickest and most deranged person could think this is OK?

Can you imagine the outcry had it been a Jewish person who had been imprisoned like so by our government?  Even the idea is considered ludicrous.

Gitmo is just the tip of the iceberg.  Thousands of Muslims have been imprisoned in Bagram (“the Other Guantanamo”) and there are probably tens of thousands Muslims that have been detained by the United States, without trial or charge, around the world.  They are subjected to typical American forms of torture:  solitary confinement (considered by human rights experts to be one of the worst forms of torture) and sexual harassment (including sodomy, rape, and having their testicles electrocuted).  Mentally deranged guards routinely used dogs to torture the inmates.

Yes, it is Muslims who are the victims of these horrific crimes.

These abuses are carried out because the institution that is supposed to protect American citizens (including American Muslims)–the U.S. Armed Forces–has instead been, in the words of the hawkish Jeffrey Goldberg, ”waging a three-decade war for domination of the Middle East.”  Quite predictably, the U.S. Armed Forces as an institution is rife with Islamophobia.

It is Muslim civilians who are being incinerated by our bombs, missiles, and drones.  Over the course of the last two decades, the United States has directly or indirectly caused the deaths of over a million Muslims.  America is dropping bombs on multiple Muslim countries (the list just keeps getting longer and longer); Americans feel comfortable dropping bombs on countries they can’t even locate on a map.  These are Islamophobic wars that kill way more people than hate crimes do.

It is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other religion, who are the victims of civil liberty assaults and Endless War.  Glenn Greenwald writes:

[W]ho are the prime victims of America’s posture of Endless War? Overwhelmingly, the victims are racial, ethnic and religious minorities: specifically, Muslims (both American Muslims and foreign nationals).  And that is a major factor in why these abuses flourish: because those who dominate American political debates perceive, more or less accurately, that they are not directly endangered (at least for now) by this assault on core freedoms and Endless War…

To see how central a role this sort of selfish provincialism plays in shaping political priorities, just compare (a) the general indifference to Endless War and the massive civil liberties assaults… (ones largely confined to Muslims) to (b) the intense outrage and media orgy generated when a much milder form of invasiveness — TSA searches — affected Americans of all backgrounds. The success of Endless War and civil liberties attacks depends on ensuring that the prime victims, at least in the first instance, are marginalized and easily demonizable minorities.

It is Muslims who are the victims of such governmental abuses:

Assassination of U.S. citizens; Indefinite detention; Arbitrary justice; Warrantless searches; Secret evidence; War crimes; Secret court; Immunity from judicial review; Continual monitoring of citizens; and Extraordinary renditions.

It is absolutely crass to argue that there is more anti-Semitism in America than Islamophobia. There would be nothing less acceptable in our country than anti-Jewish Congressional hearings.  One could simply not imagine imprisoning hundreds of Jews–without trial or charge–in Guantanamo Bay.  If the United States caused the death of over a million Jews, people would be calling this the next Holocaust.  Such things are simply unthinkable, except when Muslims are the intended victims.

Certainly, lone-wolf hate crimes are worrisome, and Jews are one of the most targeted groups in this regard.  This is a serious concern that needs to be addressed–as does the fact that there has been such a steep rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes.  But, we shouldn’t ignore institutionalized bigotry in America, which is even more worrisome.  Muslims are the most vulnerable minority in this regard: they are the absolute lowest on the totem pole and get the dubious distinction of being the number one victims in this regard.

Lastly, it is very morbid the way the anti-Muslim cyber-world is pitting the Jewish community against the Muslim one.  This is not a competition or game.  Hate crimes are not points or goals.  Jews, Muslims, and people of all faiths (or no faith at all) should unite together to fight bigotry and intolerance.  After all, Jews are well aware of the tactics that were once primarily used against them but are now used against Muslims: it may be a different minority, but it’s the same message.

*  *  *  *  *

I encourage everyone to read Sheila Musaji’s take on the subject.  It was her article that prompted me to weigh in on this issue.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Muslim-Americans Banished by Government, Banned from Air Travel and Told They Can Swim Back

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2011 by loonwatch

Much has been said (not enough though) about how the imperial government in the White House can assassinate U.S. citizens without trial (see Glenn Greenwald’s discussion here).  For now, the main targets of this presidential assassination program are Muslim-Americans living abroad.

But there is another far more common way that the U.S. government infringes on the rights of Muslim-Americans who travel abroad: the modern-day equivalent of banishment.  The way it works is this: you’re a Muslim-American who decides one day to travel abroad to (let’s say) visit family.  After a few weeks, you decide it’s time to head back home, the United States of America.  But as you try to board the plane at the airport, you’re informed that your flight has been canceled and that you need to talk to the American embassy.  After a few days of being left in mystery, you might be told that you were put on a no-fly list.  But you’ll never be given any explanation for why you were put on this list or how to get off of it.

It’s difficult to say how many Muslim-Americans have faced this fate.  The ACLU says it has been contacted “by a dozen people” in a similar situation with “half of them” stranded abroad:

The American Civil Liberties Union says it has been contacted by a dozen people who say they have been improperly placed on the no-fly list since December, half of them Americans abroad.

“For many of these Americans, placement on the no-fly list effectively amounts to banishment from their country,” said Ben Wizner, a senior staff attorney with the A.C.L.U. He called such treatment “both unfair and unconstitutional.”

The actual numbers are almost certainly much higher:

Exactly how many people are on the government’s lists is unclear. Some of the most recent estimates, from late 2009, state that about 400,000 individuals are on the “watchlist,” which requires a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is known or suspected to be engaged in terrorist activities. A much smaller number — about 14,000 — is on the “selectee list,” meaning they will likely have to undergo rigorous screening to travel. And officials estimated that 3,400 individuals, including roughly 170 U.S. residents, are on the no-fly list.

We won’t ever actually know how many (unless Wikileaks informs us) since the Most Transparent Administration Ever™ won’t ever tell us, much like how we won’t ever know how many civilians our drones kill.

All of this prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim-American civil rights group, to issue a “travel advisory” to Muslim-Americans warning of the threat of “forced exile.”  So, if you Fly While Muslim (FWM) and travel abroad, you risk assassination and forced exile.

Can you imagine how absolutely, positively angry we’d be if Iran gave these two options to Jewish-Iranians traveling abroad?

*  *  *  *  *

The latest case of forced exile seems especially egregious since it may involve the government targeting a Muslim father’s children.  Here’s a report from MSNBC:

Muslims often put on no-fly list without explanation

Landing on the U.S. government’s watchlist can be a legal, bureaucratic nightmare

McLEAN, Va. — The calls have reached a point of repetitive regularity for civil rights lawyer Gadeir Abbas: A young Muslim American, somewhere in the world, is barred from boarding an airplane.

The exact reasons are never fully articulated, but the reality is clear. The traveler has been placed on the government’s terror watchlist — or the more serious no-fly list — and clearing one’s name becomes a legal and bureaucratic nightmare.

On Monday Abbas sent letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and FBI Director Robert Mueller requesting assistance for his two most recent clients. One is a resident of Portland, Ore. who is trying to fly to Italy to live with his mother. The other, a teenager and U.S. citizen living in Jordan, has been unable to travel to Connecticut to lead prayers at a mosque.

“All American citizens have the unqualified right to reside in the United States,” Abbas wrote Monday in a letter to secretary of State Hillary Clinton seeking a change in status for the client in Jordan.

Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, tries to piece together the reason why a client has been placed on the list. Perhaps a person has a similar name to a known terrorist. Maybe their travels to Yemen or some other Middle East hot spot have garnered suspicion. Maybe they told the FBI to take a hike when they requested an interview.

Ultimately, though, the reasons are almost irrelevant. From Abbas’ perspective, the placement on the no-fly list amounts to a denial of a traveler’s basic rights: U.S. citizens can’t return home from overseas vacations, children are separated from parents, and those under suspicion are denied the basic due process rights that would allow them to clear their name…

“The amount of people who experience tragic, life-altering travel delays is significant,” said Abbas, who estimates he gets a call at least once a month from a Muslim American in dire straits because their travel has been restricted.

Government officials, of course, see it differently. They say they have a Traveler Redress Inquiry Program that lets people wrongly placed on the no-fly list, or the much broader terrorist watchlist, fix their circumstances.

More broadly, the government has argued in court that placing somebody on the no-fly list does not deprive them of any constitutional rights. Just because a person can’t fly doesn’t mean they can’t travel, the government lawyers argue. They can always take a boat, for example.

Or perhaps they can swim across.  Or maybe they can build a bridge across the ocean out of Lego pieces.  Or why not drill an underground hole from China?

They can always take a boat!?  Are you effing kidding me!?

The article goes on:

“Neither Plaintiff nor any other American citizen has either a right to international travel or a right to travel by airplane,” government lawyers wrote…

Exactly how many people are on the government’s lists is unclear. Some of the most recent estimates, from late 2009, state that about 400,000 individuals are on the “watchlist,” which requires a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is known or suspected to be engaged in terrorist activities. A much smaller number — about 14,000 — is on the “selectee list,” meaning they will likely have to undergo rigorous screening to travel. And officials estimated that 3,400 individuals, including roughly 170 U.S. residents, are on the no-fly list.

Calls and emails to the Department of Homeland Security and State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs were not returned.

Of course not.  State Secrets and all.

And near the end of the article:

In another case, an 18 year-old U.S. citizen living in Jordan with his parents was bounced from an EgyptAir flight to New York. Amr Abulrub had planned to lead Ramadan prayers at a Connecticut mosque.

After a few days of confusion, Abulrub learned from airline officials that the U.S. government had instructed EgyptAir to cancel his ticket. U.S. embassy officials in Amman have subsequently told Abulrub he can travel under certain restrictions, including a requirement that his flight to the U.S. be booked on an American airline. But Abulrub is leery of traveling at all for fear that he won’t be allowed to go back to Jordan.

Abulrub’s father, Jalal Abulrub, suspects his son has come to the attention of U.S. authorities because of his own writings. Jalal is a Salafist scholar who has sometimes written provocative articles and antagonized Christian evangelists he believed were disrespectful to Muslims. While Jalal says his family is Salafist — generally considered a fundamentalist sect of Islam — he is quick to point out that he has a long history of writing in opposition to the ideology espoused by Osama bin laden and al-Qaida.

“I am not going to let this go,” Jalal said, referring to his son’s inability to travel. “We don’t allow anyone to oppress us.”

Amr Abulrub is the latest victim of the modern day banishment system enacted by the United States.  And he might have been placed on that list due to the writings of his father, Jalal Abulrub, a conservative Muslim preacher.  Jalal Abulrub is known for debating Evangelical Christians, and even though some of his articles might seem abrasive, they are no more so than those Christians he debates with.  More specifically, Jalal Abulrub has consistently denounced Al-Qaeda, terrorism, and the targeting and killing of civilians (unlike the majority of American Christians who accept the idea).

Is the government targeting a man’s children?  I don’t know.  Jalal Abulrub certainly thinks so, and it certainly deserves investigation.  But we’ll never know, since everything is a state secret.

*  *  *  *  *

Here is the bottom line, enunciated by CAIR:

“If the F.B.I. wishes to question American citizens, they should be allowed to return to the United States, where they will be able to maintain their constitutional rights free of threats or intimidation,” Mr. Awad wrote.

If the government wants to arrest and try them in court, that’s fine too.  But leaving them in limbo makes no sense, and runs completely contrary to everything this country was founded upon.  And that’s the rub of this Abulrub situation: the government is telling these same Muslim-Americans that they can travel back to the U.S. on a boat.  If they really were terrorists or involved in anything terrorism-related, then why would the government still allow them back if they take a different mode of transportation?  This proves that the government really has nothing on them, and that this entire thing is just one big farce.

*  *  *  *  *

Check out this disgusting anti-Muslim website (BareNakedIslam) which boasts the title:

“MUSLIM ‘NO FLY’ list has unintended (but welcome) consequences — ‘Forced Exile’

Hatred makes people take great delight in the sickest of things.

Terrorism Act: ‘They asked me to keep an eye on the Muslim community’

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2011 by loonwatch

From The Guardian:

People from ethnic minorities are up to 42 times more likely than white people to be the target of a counter-terrorism power which allows the stopping and searching of the innocent yet grants them fewer rights than suspected criminals, official figures seen by the Guardian show.

The power is contained in schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows policeto stop people at ports and airports for up to nine hours without the need for reasonable suspicion that they are involved in any crime.

But the rabbit hole goes deeper: MI5 officers are randomly stopping brown people “without the need for reasonable suspicion that they are involved in any crime”, then threatening to charge them with “crazy allegations” that they are terrorists unless they agree to become informants and spies.  If these allegations were true, why doesn’t the MI5 ever charge these people with a crime and give them a fair trial, or at least a farcical military tribunal?

Here is the article, again from The Guardian:

Terrorism Act: ‘They asked me to keep an eye on the Muslim community’

Asians tell of being targeted and cajoled by officers from MI5 and special branch

Asif Ahmed, 28, describes how he was detained and asked to spy:

Watch the video here

Just after landing at Edinburgh airport on 11 April 2010 Asif Ahmed was met by plainclothes officers and taken away from his wife. He was about to turn from model citizen into a terror suspect, one of 85,000 people who met a similar fate that year.

Officers met the couple just after they got off the flight from Stansted and told them Ahmed needed to come with them for a “normal check”.

The couple were returning from a weekend break and Ahmed saw no reason why he might be suspected of anything. Indeed, after London was attacked by terrorists in July 2005, Ahmed worked for the mayor of London and in Scotland to improve relations between Muslims and the rest of the population.

He was taken to a room by two officers who told him they were from special branch, a police department that deals in intelligence and security matters. Ahmed, 28, was told he was being questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

When he asked why, an officer replied: “No reason, it is just a random stop.” Ahmed told them they had stopped the only two people on the flight who looked like Muslims.

They said they did not know he was Muslim, which he did not believe.

The officers Ahmed remembers were detectives – a sergeant and a constable. They did not give their names but did give their identification numbers.

Ahmed says he felt compelled to answer their questions: “I had no choice, I was told I had no right to refuse.” He says the officers told him that if he exercised the right to remain silent, he could be detained further and eventually face jail.

Ahmed says he was questioned about his job, where he prayed, the Muslim groups he was active in. He was asked for a definition of extremism and what he would do if he found out someone was going to carry out an act of terrorism. He got the answer to that correct: he would tell the police.

In another room his wife was questioned. She was upset about being asked details about her sister, who was seriously ill at the time. Ahmed says the policemen interviewing him kept saying that he and his wife, studying for a PhD in political science, were “interesting people”. Then one of the officers asked if he would become a spy: “They asked if I would like to work with special branch, to keep an eye on the Muslim community in Edinburgh … They asked me three times. They said do it covertly.” He refused.

A similar scene played out at Stansted on 31 December 2007. Abdullah, a youth worker from east London, had returned from a Haj tour in Saudi Arabia with a tour group. “I was told that there was a problem with my passport and two white men in dark suits approached me and said that they needed to talk to me.”

They were police officers and he was taken to a room: “I was told that I had been stopped under terrorism-related legislation … I was given a sheet of paper that basically said that they were allowed by law to do this to me and I needed to comply with questioning.”

He was asked about his family, how his trip had been paid for, which mosque he prayed at and if he had “any additional training or skills”.

His mobile phones were taken away and searched. Then his questioning was disrupted by the arrival of another man, who said he was called Matthew, and a woman. “They were casually dressed and took over from the previous two men. They introduced themselves as MI5. I was concerned why MI5 would want to speak to me and listened attentively.”

In a written statement Abdullah says the officers quizzed him and said his “name had come up in circles discussing terrorist activity and it was up to me to prove where I stood. They wanted my help in tackling potential terrorists and related activity”.

He added: “They showed me some photos of a number individuals. I knew most of them well as they were friends and local associates. Some I didn’t recognise and one I wasn’t too sure about.

“This was the one they pressed me on. They also wanted details about the individuals that I knew, which I provided. I tried to be as co-operative as possible and in the end they took my number and left me theirs.

“Strangely, Matthew insisted that I save it discreetly under work or taxi. I was then escorted out and was free to leave.”

Abdullah believes MI5 wanted to turn him into a spy. “Matthew called me several times to arrange a follow-up meeting. He said he wanted me to help him in the work MI5 does. We had a phone discussion and I said that I thought that what they were trying to do was noble but I had reservations about the way in which they operate on an ethical level and was uncomfortable with that. He insisted that I meet him and said that ‘it was in my long-term interest’ to do so.”

A meeting was arranged for 22 January 2008 outside a tube station.

“I was told to meet Matthew outside Farringdon station but was directed by phone from there to a nearby location and Matthew walked with me to a hotel.”

He said he was asked about “my personal and work details – past and present. I mentioned here that I had visited Egypt in the summer of 2004 for six months to study Arabic.

“I was asked about my future plans – I mentioned that I planned to return to Egypt shortly to continue with my Arabic and Islamic studies.

“He mentioned that he really wanted me to help him with the photos. I said that I had already told him what I knew.

“In the end Matthew said that he wanted to meet me again but I wasn’t so sure any more as I could see that something was wrong.”

Despite telling MI5 he was not interested, the barrage of calls and texts pleading for a meeting just kept coming.

After that “Matthew called me a few times to arrange a further meeting. He gave me a mobile number (07522 055 947) but I decided that I didn’t want to have any more contact.”

By mid-February Abdullah was fed up. “I texted Matthew to explicitly say I wasn’t interested in any further contact and for him not to contact me anymore,” he said. “I also mentioned that if I did have any information about any threat, terrorist or otherwise, that I would naturally report it to the police. I then called my phone provider and changed my number.”

In May 2008, Matthew obtained the new number and called again. He wanted information, which Abdullah said he did not have.

But the MI5 officer, Abdullah alleges, made a threat. “He said I needed to see him before I travelled to Egypt, for my own good. Otherwise I would find it difficult over there because they had ‘international partners’.”

Abdullah said: “He was threatening me – if I go to Egypt, I might be arrested and ill treated. I took it as a threat. They could have me arrested, and tortured there. It was quite clear.”

There is no independent evidence to support the claims that police and MI5 are abusing schedule 7 stop and search powers by trying to turn innocent people into informers.

But there is a consistency of testimony from those who have been stopped and pressured to inform.

Solicitor Alastair Lyon, who has advised dozens affected by schedule 7, said: “This is a power which has sowed fear in the most vulnerable of our communities. The security services and special branch are operating in an unregulated and unchecked way without legal observers, to put pressure on people. This is a legal black hole allowing them to question thousands of people about very personal details without any of the usual human rights safeguards.” He added: “It has created a legal black hole where personal and sensitive information is, on pain of imprisonment, forced from individuals who are told that in effect they have no rights. It is a complete abuse of authority.”

For youth worker Mohammed, the link between his being stopped under schedule 7 and other approaches is clear. For a year security service officers tried to recruit him, approaching him at home, in the street, even as he ate at a tandoori restaurant. One of them, called Jeff, showed him pictures of various people.

Then on 5 November 2008, he was stopped at Stansted airport while returning from Spain and taken to a room. Mohammed said: “Then Tim came in. [He] showed me a badge and said he’s from MI5. He spoke about Jeff. ‘He’s been trying to meet me but you haven’t responded,’ said Tim.

“He reminded me that he is working for my best interest: he doesn’t want this to come out, doesn’t want for my workplace to become dirtied, my reputation – as if I’ve got something to hide and I’ve done something wrong in the first place.”

He added: “We know that you went to a terror camp, transited in Dubai and changed passports. We know you went to Dubai in 2006 and met AQ figures.”

Mohammed said: “I told him these were crazy allegations and how would they have this info anyway.”

Tim said: “We don’t need to go there ourselves, we have info from locals.”

Mohammed was let go with the promise that Tim would be in touch. He did indeed call several days later, but Mohammed did not reply.

Does this “Gestapo crap” remind anyone of this:

Glenn Greenwald: Terrorism and Civil Liberties Speech (Video)

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2010 by loonwatch
Glenn Greenwald

Another excellent piece from Glenn Greenwald, candidate for anti-Loon of the year.

Terrorism and civil liberties speech

by Glenn Greenwald (Salon.com)

I’m traveling today and therefore likely unable to post, but last night I spoke at the University of Wisconsin on “Civil Liberties and Terrorism in the Age of Obama.” An article on the event from the Badger Herald is here. The speech — which focused on the meaning (or lack thereof) of the terms “civil liberties” and “terrorism” — was roughly 50 minutes long and can be seen in the video below. There was also an hour-long question-and-answer session that followed which was quite good, and although the video of the Q-and-A portion appears to be not yet available, it will be posted here once it is. Note that I will also be on MSNBC with Dylan Ratigan at roughly 4:00 p.m. today, and on Morning Joe tomorrow morning:
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=16494687&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=0b349c&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

UPDATE:  I neglected to mention that tomorrow from 11:oo am-12:15 p.m., I’ll be at NYU Law School for this event on Terrorism and the First Amendment.  The all-day event is free, open to the public, and features some excellent speakers and panels.

As for last night’s speech at the University of Wisconsin, the 50-minute Q-and-A session that followed my speech is below, and was driven by uniformly excellent questions (and some dissents):
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=16505647&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=0b349c&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0