Saturday, July 29, 2006

Police spies chosen to lead war protest

COINTELPRO is alive and well, folks.

Two Oakland police officers working undercover at an anti-war protest in May 2003 got themselves elected to leadership positions in an effort to influence the demonstration, documents released Thursday show.

The department assigned the officers to join activists protesting the U.S. war in Iraq and the tactics that police had used at a demonstration a month earlier, a police official said last year in a sworn deposition.

At the first demonstration, police fired nonlethal bullets and bean bags at demonstrators who blocked the Port of Oakland's entrance in a protest against two shipping companies they said were helping the war effort. Dozens of activists and longshoremen on their way to work suffered injuries ranging from welts to broken bones and have won nearly $2 million in legal settlements from the city.

The extent of the officers' involvement in the subsequent march May 12, 2003, led by Direct Action to Stop the War and others, is unclear. But in a deposition related to a lawsuit filed by protesters, Deputy Police Chief Howard Jordan said activists had elected the undercover officers to "plan the route of the march and decide I guess where it would end up and some of the places that it would go."

It was revealed later that the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center, which was established by the state attorney general's office to help local police agencies fight terrorism, had posted an alert about the April protest. Oakland police had also monitored online postings by the longshoremen's union regarding its opposition to the war.

The documents showing that police subsequently tried to influence a demonstration were released Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union, as part of a report criticizing government surveillance of political activists since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The ACLU said the documents came from the lawsuit over the police use of force.

Jordan, in his deposition in April 2005, said under questioning by plaintiffs' attorney Jim Chanin that undercover Officers Nobuko Biechler and Mark Turpin had been elected to be leaders in the May 12 demonstration an hour after meeting protesters that day.

Asked who had ordered the officers to infiltrate the group, Jordan said, "I don't know if there is one particular person, but I think together we probably all decided it would be a good idea to have some undercover officers there."

Several months after the rally, Jordan told a city police review board examining the April 2003 port clash that "our ability to gather intelligence on these groups and this type of operation needs to be improved," according to a transcript provided by the ACLU.

"I don't mean same-day intelligence," Jordan told the civilian review panel. "I'm talking about long-term intelligence gathering."

He noted that "two of our officers were elected leaders within an hour on May 12." The idea was "to gather the information and maybe even direct them to do something that we want them to do," Jordan said.

"I call that being totalitarian," said Jack Heyman, a longshoremen's union member who took part in the May 12 march. He said he was not certain whether he had any contact with the officers that day.

Jordan declined to comment when reached at his office Thursday. In his deposition, he said the Police Department no longer allows such undercover work.

City Attorney John Russo said he was not familiar with the police infiltration of the protest, but said the city had made "significant changes" in its approach toward demonstrations after the port incident. Police enacted a new crowd-control policy limiting the use of nonlethal force in 2004.

The ACLU said the Oakland case was one of several instances in which police agencies had spied on legitimate political activity since 2001.

Mark Schlosberg, who directs the ACLU's police policy work and wrote the report released Thursday, cited previously reported instances of spying on groups in Santa Cruz and Fresno in addition to the Oakland case. He called on state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and local police to ensure that law-abiding activist groups don't come under government investigation.

"It's very important that there be regulation up front to prevent these kinds of abuses from occurring," Schlosberg said at a news conference.

Schlosberg said the state needs an independent inspector looking into complaints and keeping an eye on intelligence gathering at such agencies as the California National Guard and the state Department of Homeland Security.

Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for Lockyer, said the attorney general had not yet read the ACLU report. But he said his boss "won't abide violations of civil liberties. There's no room in this state or anywhere in this country for monitoring the activity of groups merely because they have a political viewpoint."

Following the Oakland port protest and disclosures about the monitoring of activists, Lockyer issued guidelines in 2003 stating that police must suspect that a crime has been committed before collecting intelligence on activist groups.

But Schlosberg said the ACLU had surveyed 94 law enforcement agencies last year and found that just eight were aware of the guidelines. Only six had written policies restricting surveillance activities, he said.

Posted by crimnos @ 12:20 PM :: (0) comments

Friday, July 28, 2006

Republicans energize the base, alienate the rest of the country


With Election Day just a little more than three months away, the Morning Edition polling team was asked to take the pulse of likely voters in the most competitive districts across the country.

Democrat Stan Greenberg and Republican Glenn Bolger found that, while republicans do a little bit better with these voters than they do in a nationwide sample, the numbers still point to trouble for the party in power.

Midterm congressional elections aren't conducted nationally, district by district, so this poll ignores the districts where the incumbent is safe, and looks only at districts where either party might win.

"This one is different than any of our prior polls and is different than any of the national polls you get through the national media," says Democrat pollster Stan Greenberg. "This is a poll only done in the 50 competitive House races where, in fact, control of the House of Representatives will be decided."

Forty of those seats are currently held by republicans; 10 by democrats. And those contests are where both parties will be concentrating their resources come fall, says Republican pollster Glenn Bolger.

"This is where the effort's going to be made," Bolger says. "This is where the money's going to be spent, and this is where the messages are going to be sharpest …This is where the House hangs in the balance."

In 2004, the total vote in these 50 districts went republican by about 12 points. In our current survey, voters in these same districts say they would vote for the Democrat over the Republican by about six points.

We asked the question about a generic Democrat or Republican, then we plugged in the names of actual incumbents and challengers. The numbers didn't change much and the voters seemed pretty firm about their choices.

Only 18 percent of those favoring a Democrat said there was any chance they'd change their minds. Only 16 percent of those favoring a Republican said they might switch.

Tracie Galla is a music teacher who is at home on maternity leave.

She lives in the 4th District of Connecticut and plans to vote for Democrat challenger Diane Farrell over the Republican incumbent Chris Shays.

"I'm afraid that, nationally, there've been a lot of things over the past years that haven't gone in the right direction, in my opinion," Galla says. "So I'm concerned about everything going on in the Middle East, and I just think we need a change. I think that unfortunately the Republicans, you know, for the most part, support what Bush has done, and I just don't agree with it."

But Republicans will be working hard to turn out voters like Julius Brown, who is retired and living in South Carolina's 5th District. Brown favors the Republican challenger Ralph Norman over Democratic incumbent John Spratt.

"Well, first thing, I don't approve of the general abortion stand that … Democrats hold," Brown says. "Second, I believe the tax breaks that Republicans give, even though I didn't benefit much by them, I believe the country did."

Then there are undecided voters like Peggy Beekler, a retired social worker who lives in the 3rd District of Kentucky, represented by Ann Northup.

"Well, I'm rather disappointed in the Republicans," Beekler says. "I think they've made a mess of things, even though I've been a Republican."

Beekler is not happy about the war, but she's also unhappy about the so-called values issues that Republicans have counted on to get their voters to the polls.

"I think to do an amendment on burning the flag would be totally ridiculous," Beekler says. "I also think when Bush vetoed the stem-cell research … I feel like that's ridiculous because they're just going to destroy all those embryos anyway, so even though I am for life, I think that shouldn't have been vetoed. I think that was a really bad thing."

Beekler represents one of our most surprising findings: On the question of which party would do a better job on "values issues," like stem-cell research, flag-burning and gay marriage, Democrats prevailed by their biggest margin in the entire poll: 51 percent to 37 percent.

"And when we list values issues like stem-cell research, flag-burning and gay marriage, these are the issues that Republicans took the initiative, used their control in Congress to get on the air to be voting on, to be talking about," Greenberg says. "What this says: By 13 points, voters say they are more likely to vote Democratic because of hearing about these issues. Which suggests that the strategy of using the Congress to get out the base is one that's driving away a lot of voters."

On other issues like the war in Iraq, or the state of the economy, Democrats have a smaller advantage.

Only on the issue of illegal immigration are the parties tied -- in the view of likely voters in the most competitive districts.

All of which leaves Republican Glenn Bolger hoping that Republicans will be able to rely on what, in the past, has been a superior effort at fundraising and mobilizing voters.

"Again, this is going to come down to: Is it an election where national political environment determines the outcome, or is it an election where what happens on the ground in the individual campaigns is what happens?" Bolger says. "And we won't know that, obviously, until they count the votes."

Posted by crimnos @ 10:31 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Congress to Internet: Stop misusing children's toys

What the fuck is wrong with Congress? You heard it here first, folks, the term "felony" has officially lost all meaning.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that would make it a federal felony for Webmasters to use innocent words like "Barbie" or "Furby" but actually feature sexual content on their sites.

Anyone who includes misleading "words" or "images" intended to confuse a minor into viewing a possibly harmful Web site could be imprisoned for up to 20 years and fined, the bill says.

Because the U.S. Senate already approved the measure in a voice vote last week, it now goes to President Bush for his signature. Bush, who previously endorsed the bill, has scheduled a signing ceremony for Thursday afternoon on the White House grounds.

"America's children will be better protected from every parent's worst nightmare--sexual predators--thanks to passage" of the legislation, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in a statement on Tuesday.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, in a statement issued after the House approved the bill by voice vote, said: "We've all seen the disturbing headlines about sex offenders and crimes against children. These crimes cannot persist. Protecting our children from Internet predators and child exploitation enterprises are just as high a priority as securing our border from terrorists."

The 163-page Child Protection and Safety Act represents the most extensive rewriting of federal laws relating to child pornography, sex offender registration and child exploitation in a decade.

If the bill becomes law, it's not clear which Webmasters would become federal felons. Sites like, which show Barbie and Ken dolls having simulated sex, could be in trouble, depending on how prosecutors and juries interpret the language. (Kontraband offers video clips and photographs, some of which are racy.) representative Dylan Close said in an e-mail message to CNET that he was familiar with the congressional legislation and that the site already rates the pages using a system borrowed from the British Board of Film Classification. For instance, a page showing topless images was marked as not safe for work. Close also said that the site's Barbie and Ken clip was intended for adults and older teenagers, not children.

Also, Close said, "we are increasing the level of awareness and differentiation between our levels of safe and not safe content."

A key phrase in the legislation (click for PDF) promises prison time only if a Webmaster has the "intent to deceive" a casual visitor.

In addition, the Child Protection and Safety Act, or Walsh Act (named for Adam Walsh, who was abducted and murdered in 1981 at 6 years old), would:

• Punish the intentional Internet sale or distribution of "date rape drugs" by making the act a new federal crime with up to 20 years in prison. The list of offending drugs would include gamma hydroxybutyric acid (sometimes called liquid ecstasy), ketamine, and flunitrazepam (better-known under the trade name Rohypnol).

• Force sex offenders to provide a DNA sample, a requirement that many states already have adopted.

• Create a national sex offender registry to be run by the FBI, with "relevant information" on each person. It's supposed to permit geographical lookups based on ZIP code.

• Fund a series of pilot programs, lasting up to three years, to tag sex offenders with tracking devices that would let them be monitored in real time. The devices would include a GPS downlink (to provide exact coordinates), a cellular uplink (to transmit the coordinates to police), and two-way voice communications.

Separately, the Senate is expected to vote this year on a related but broader proposal dealing with Web labeling. That legislation says that Web site operators posting sexually explicit information must slap warning labels on their pages or face prison terms of up to five years.

CNET's Anne Broache contributed to this report.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:23 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Senate Passes Interstate Abortion Bill - New York Times

Here we go it's time to punish kids who are in this situation. It's bad enough that you're pregnant, but now if this passes it will be even harder for kids to get abortions because adults will be afraid of doing anything to help.

Oh and check this out, apparently parents can now decide if children can cross the street:

''No parent wants anyone to take their children across state lines or even across the street without their permission,'' said Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. ''This is a fundamental right, and the Congress is right to uphold it in law.''


Senate Passes Interstate Abortion Bill
7:12 ET

Published: July 25, 2006

Filed at 7:50 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A bill that would make it a crime to take a pregnant girl across state lines for an abortion without her parents' knowledge passed the Senate Tuesday, but vast differences with the House version stood between the measure and President Bush's desk.

The 65-34 vote gave the Senate's approval to the bill, which would make taking a pregnant girl to another state for the purposes of evading parental notification laws punishable by fines and up to a year in jail.

The girl and her parents would be exempt from prosecution, and the bill contains an exception for abortions performed in this manner that posed a threat to the mother's life.

Struggling to defend their majority this election year, Republican sponsors said the bill supports what a majority of the public believes: that a parent's right to know takes precedence over a young woman's right to have an abortion.

''No parent wants anyone to take their children across state lines or even across the street without their permission,'' said Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. ''This is a fundamental right, and the Congress is right to uphold it in law.''

Bush applauded the Senate action and urged the House and Senate to resolve their differences and send him a bill he said he would sign. ''Transporting minors across state lines to bypass parental consent laws regarding abortion undermines state law and jeopardizes the lives of young women,'' he said in a statement.

Bowing to public support for parental notification and the GOP's 55-44-1 majority, Democrats spent the day trying to carve out an exemption for confidants to whom a girl with abusive parents might turn for help. It was rejected in floor negotiations.

Democrats complained that the measure was the latest in a series of bills designed chiefly to energize the GOP's base of conservative voters.

''Congress ought to have higher priorities than turning grandparents into criminals,'' said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Significant differences exist between the Senate bill and a measure passed by the House last year.

Unlike the Senate bill, the House measure sets out a national parental notification law. It would require a physician who knowingly performs or induces an abortion on a minor who is a resident of another state to provide notice of at least 24 hours to a parent of the minor before ending the pregnancy.

Procedural hurdles also stood in the way. Following the vote, Democrats prevented Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., from appointing Senate negotiators to help bridge the differences with the House version. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., objected to the conferees' appointment on the grounds that the bill had not been considered by a committee and that negotiations were premature.

''I hope this is not a sign that they're going to try to obstruct this bill,'' Frist said.

Polls suggest there is widespread public backing for the bill, with almost three-quarters of respondents saying a parent has the right to give consent before a child under 18 has an abortion.

States that do not have parental notification or consent laws are Washington, Oregon, New York, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The District of Columbia also does not have such laws.

No one knows how many girls get abortions in this way, or who helps them. But Democrats say the policy would be dangerous to pregnant teens who have abusive or neglectful parents by discouraging other people from helping them.

''We're going to sacrifice a lot of girls' lives,'' said Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., countered that opponents ''want to strip the overwhelming majority of good parents their rightful role and responsibility because of the misbehavior of a few.'' He pointed out that the judicial bypass provision would help pregnant teens with abusive parents get around the law.

A last-minute deal by Ensign and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would cut off the ability of men who impregnate their daughters from taking them out of state for abortions and from suing those who help get the procedure in other states.

During floor negotiations with Boxer, Ensign rejected a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to protect from prosecution such confidants as grandparents, clergy and others to whom a girl might turn for help.

Another, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., would have encouraged the federal government to provide money for more sex education. That bill failed earlier in the day, 48-51.

''If we do nothing about teen pregnancy yet pass this punitive bill, then it proves that this (bill) is only a political charade and not a serious effort to combat the problem,'' Lautenberg said.

Abstinence is the best way to prevent teenage pregnancy, responded Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

''How many people really think it's in the best interest of young people to be sexually active outside of marriage? Does anything positive ever come from that?'' Coburn asked.

The bills are S. 403 and H.R. 748.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:58 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

And now from Fox New Correspondent, Steven Colbert

Oh Fox News, you bastion of journalism!

Posted by crimnos @ 9:59 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, July 24, 2006

Rice Makes Surprise Visit to Beirut

Hmmm...human shield??

Rice Makes Surprise Visit to Beirut
By Jim Teeple
24 July 2006

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Beirut on Monday, meeting with Lebanese government leaders and pledging aid for Lebanon. Earlier, Secretary Rice said there was an urgent need for a "sustainable cease-fire" in Lebanon.

Traveling by helicopter, under heavy security, Secretary Rice landed in Beirut Monday afternoon, where she held talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and other Lebanese political leaders, but not with any representatives of Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.

Speaking earlier, Secretary Rice said it was important to establish conditions under which a cease-fire can take place calling a cease-fire "urgent," but saying it must be "sustainable."

Rice's comments come as senior Israeli officials say they would welcome an international peacekeeping force in Lebanon. Defense Minister Amir Peretz says Israel's ground operation is a necessary precursor to a cease-fire.

Peretz says Israel wants a diplomatic solution to the crisis and that a peacekeeping force, possibly led by NATO could be the solution.

Israeli forces encountered stiff resistance Monday when they pushed about two kilometers into Lebanon to take control of Bint Jbail, a town Israel says is a Hezbollah stronghold.

Posted by crimnos @ 11:00 AM :: (0) comments