Tag Archive: Jonathan Turley

Nov 29 2012

SCOTUS: Bad Cops Lose

The latest efforts by state authorities to protect the police who abuse their authority has been dealt a blow by the US Supreme Court. From the Chicago Tribune:

The Supreme Court refused on Monday to revive a controversial Illinois law that prohibited audio recordings of police officers acting in public places, a ban that critics said violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Without comment, the court on Monday let stand a May 8 ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that blocked enforcement of the law, which had made it a felony to record audio of conversations unless all parties consented.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 7th Circuit called the law “the broadest of its kind,” and said it likely violated the free speech and free press guarantees in the First Amendment.

MSNBC The Last Word host, Lawrence O’Donnell, commented on the importance of this ruling during his Rewrite” segment:

“After the Rodney King beating, Chicago police decided to use an old anti-eavesdropping law to protect themselves-a law which basically made it a felony to record a conversation unless all parties agree to be recorded,” said O’Donnell, giving part of the back-story. “That, in effect, meant you couldn’t shoot video of Chicago police because, of course, video recording normally includes sound.” [..]

“The good police officers in this country, which is to say most of the police officers in this country, have no problem with the Supreme Court’s decision this week,” said O’Donnell. “Thanks to federal judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, some Chicago cops-the bad ones-have something new to fear, tonight: your video camera.”

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley also commented about the Court’s decision and had some very harsh criticism of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez:

As a native Chicagoan, I remain astonished that citizens have allowed Alvarez to remain in office as she has publicly sought to strip them of their rights and block a tool that has been used repeatedly to show police abuse. For a leading and generally liberal jurisdiction, Chicago has the ignominy and dishonor of leading the effort to fight core civil liberties in this area. [..]

It is otherworldly to see these abuses occurring in two usually progressive jurisdictions of California and Illinois. Alvarez has become the leader of this rogue’s gallery of prosecutors who have strived to jail their own citizens for monitoring police in public. It is, to put it bluntly, a disgrace. While Alvarez failed in her latest bid, she and other prosecutors remain undeterred in their desire to see citizens punished for such videotapes – tapes that have featured prominently in establishing false arrests and police abuse. Before such filming, abuse claims were overwhelmingly rejected with the denials of the officers. Now, there is often undeniable proof – proof that Alvarez and others want barred under the threat of criminal prosecution.

Prof. Turley also points out that the trend to protect bad police is not over:

We have been discussing the continued effort of prosecutors and police to jail citizens who photograph or videotape police in public. For a prior column, click here. Now, in California, another such arrest has been videotaped in California as Daniel J. Saulmon was charged with resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer when the video shows him standing at a distance and not interfering in any way with the arrest.

The officer immediately demanded to know what Saulmon is doing when it is obvious, as Saulmon indicates, that he is filming the scene. Saulmon states that he does not want to speak to the officer when asked for his identification and the officer immediately puts him under arrest. Ironically, the officer then tells him that he doesn’t need any identification since that will be handled at the booking. [..]

Saulmon reportedly spent days in jail. Such jailings serve as a deterrent for abusive police officers since few citizens want to face such incarceration as well as the cost of defending against criminal charges. Even when later thrown out (which often happen to such charges), the message is sent and the officers are rarely disciplined. I have little doubt that this case will be thrown out. The question is whether people in California will demand action to discipline the officer, who swore to charges that are clearly invalid and abusive.

And these cases from Maryland and Massachusetts

In Maryland in July, Anthony Graber got a well-deserved speeding ticket, but his real mistake was posting footage from his motorcycle helmet-cam on YouTube. It showed an irate off-duty, out-of-uniform officer pulling him over with his gun drawn. Prosecutors obtained a grand jury indictment against Graber on felony wiretap charges, which carry a 16-year prison sentence.

In Boston in August, the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unambiguously that the Constitution protects citizen videographers filming in public. In that case, attorney Simon Glik was walking past the Boston Common on Oct. 1, 2007, when he came upon three Boston officers arresting a man. Glik turned on his cellphone camera after hearing a witness say the police were being abusive. An officer told Glik to turn off his camera. When Glik refused, he was arrested for violation of the state wiretap statute, disturbing the peace and, for good measure, aiding in the escape of a prisoner.

The charges were dismissed after a public outcry, but in a later civil rights case, city attorneys fought to deny citizens the right to videotape police. The court rejected Boston’s arguments and found that the police had denied Glik his 1st and 4th Amendment rights.

Score one for the 1st and 4th Amendments.

Aug 23 2012

“Bashing Democrats”

On numerous of occasions I have been accused of “bashing Democrats,” “hating Obama,” as well as, some outrageously, vile charges that won’t be repeated here. The accusations have been in response to criticism of President Barack Obama’s policies which have been not just disappointing for a Democratic administration but, in some instances, worse than any neo-con Republican. It’s baffling that the Republican party is bothering to oppose his reelection, he’s done most everything they would have done short of starting another war unless one considers the expansion of the “war on terror” to Yemen and Africa. My guess would be that the Republicans are jealous that Obama isn’t a member of the GOP.

I was asked the other day by my former precinct captain why I don’t criticize Republicans. My answer was that I do. It’s just that today they are called Democrats. On that note, I give you the Black Agenda Report‘s managing editor, Bruce Dixon, who says it quite succinctly:

[..] The fact is that 120% evil Republicans offer the only justification for our support of 100% evil Democrats. And with the dissolution of what used to be the black consensus for equality, civil liberties, full funding for public education, and opposing war spending and corporate privilege, Obama-era Democrats continue to flee rightward toward war, privatization and austerity.

This deformed puzzle is not the political logic of free and responsible people. It’s the cramped and twisted reasoning of someone trapped in a box urgently trying to convince himself that it’s not really a box, that pragmatic acceptance of the box as the whole of the great and free universe is really all that can be hoped, struggled and strived for. It’s not. Only a beaten, cowed and enslaved people can imagine their forbears sacrificed and struggled for them to choose among greater and lesser, but both still monstrous evils.

We at Black Agenda Report spend more time denouncing Democrats because they act like and enable Republicans. We don’t spend as much time denouncing the party of white supremacy because Republicans rarely bother to pretend to be anything else. African Americans haven’t voted Republican in 50 years. But we’re more unemployed than we’ve been in seventy years, and more imprisoned than we’ve ever been.

That’s what choosing “lesser evils” has earned us. It’s time to chuck the fake choice between evil Republicans and slightly less evil Democrats. It’s time not just to think, but to climb outside the two-party, lesser-evil box, to breathe the free air and get ready for something new.

What Bruce said applies to all Americans regardless of race, gender, religion or national origin.

Actor and activist, John Cusack, in his conversation with Constitutional law professor, Jonathan Turley, questions where are the “lines” that the “progressive left” will not cross and what it means in terms of voting for Obama.

Now that the Republican primary circus is over, I started to think about what it would mean to vote for Obama…

Since mostly we hear from the daily hypocrisies of Mitt and friends, I thought we should examine “our guy” on a few issues with a bit more scrutiny than we hear from the “progressive left”, which seems to be little or none at all.

Instead of scrutiny, the usual arguments in favor of another Obama presidency are made: We must stop fanatics;-he’s the last line of defense from the corporate barbarians-and of course the Supreme Court. It all makes a terrible kind of sense and I agree completely with Garry Wills who described the Republican primaries as ” a revolting combination of con men and fanatics…the current primary race has become a demonstration that the Republican party does not deserve serious consideration for public office.”

True enough.

But yet…

… there are certain Rubicon lines, as constitutional law professor Jon Turley calls them, that Obama has crossed.

All political questions are not equal no matter how much you pivot. When people die or lose their physical freedom to feed certain economic sectors or ideologies, it becomes a zero sum game for me.

This is not an exercise in bemoaning regrettable policy choices or cheering favorable ones but to ask fundamentally: Who are we? What are we voting for? And what does it mean? [..]

The entire transcript of the conversation was posted in this article by poligirl. It’s quite long but quite thought provoking assessment of Barack Obama’s presidency and how many of our principles of law and the constitution the “progressive left” has compromised and abandoned supporting him.

The line for me was Obama’s vote, as Senator, to renew FISA with all its unconstitutional provisions, after saying that he would filibuster if it were not fixed. I knew then that the “we’ll fix it later” line was the grand lie to a tired, desperate electorate that was in need of relief from years of war and economic stress.

Along with Bruce Dixon, John Cusack, Jonathan Turley and others, I will continue to criticize Democrats for pushing a right wing agenda. I’m still not ready to make nice.

Aug 21 2012

You’re Doing It Wrong!: Obama’s Constitution by John Cusack

Cross-posted from Voices on the Square…

Welcome to You’re Doing It Wrong, a weekly column taking the Powers That Be (PTB) – whether they be political, media, or business – to task for poor information, poor framing, and poor leadership.

This is an extraordinary piece by John Cusack with Jonathan Turley that needs to be read by everyone, and especially by those of us who consider ourselves progressives and/or liberals. It’s long, but it’s well worth the read. Printed in its entirety with permission from the author, John Cusack.

*****

By John Cusack

Now that the Republican primary circus is over, I started to think about what it would mean to vote for Obama…

Since mostly we hear from the daily hypocrisies of Mitt and friends, I thought we should examine “our guy” on a few issues with a bit more scrutiny than we hear from the “progressive left”, which seems to be little or none at all.

Instead of scrutiny, the usual arguments in favor of another Obama presidency are made: We must stop fanatics;-he’s the last line of defense from the corporate barbarians-and of course the Supreme Court. It all makes a terrible kind of sense and I agree completely with Garry Wills who described the Republican primaries as ” a revolting combination of con men and fanatics…the current primary race has become a demonstration that the Republican party does not deserve serious consideration for public office.”

True enough.

But yet…

Dec 22 2011

Yes, We Can: The Case for Indefinite Detention & Rendition

Twist as the president’s supporters might with the “look over here” tactic, the National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA) does not change any existing law that Barack Obama has interpreted to mean he has the power to throw your sorry butt in prison anywhere in the world for as long as he chooses. Or he can just declare you a terrorist without providing evidence and have you executed without due process. Ignoring the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) that was recently renewed giving the president the authority to send in the military to fight that ubiquitous enemy “terror”, the Obama loyalists, keep pointing to section 1022 of the NDAA, the section that makes military detention presumptive for non-citizens but doesn’t foreclose military detention of US citizens, while completely ignoring section 1021, the section that affirms the President’s authority to indefinitely detain people generally. As Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel points out while the NDAA does not authorize indefinite detention for American citizens, it does not foreclose the possibility either:

The NDAA doesn’t do anything to exempt Americans from indefinite detention. And the reason it doesn’t-at least according to the unrebutted claims of Carl Levin that I reported on over a month ago-is because the Administration asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to take out language that would have specifically exempted Americans from indefinite detention.

   The initial bill reported by the committee included language expressly precluding “the detention of citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.”  The Administration asked that this language be removed from the bill. [my emphasis]

So the effect is that (as Lawfare describes in detail) the bill remains unclear about whether Americans can be detained indefinitely and so we’re left arguing about what the law is until such time as a plaintiff gets beyond the Executive Branch’s state secrets invocations to actually decide the issue in court.

Nor did the amendment from Sen. Diane Feinstein clarify that point either, in fact, she may have codified it. So the only recourse is for some poor fool to have his civil liberties abrogated and try to fight in court without being allowed access to lawyers or courts. Those are some hurdles. Scott Horton, contributing editor at Harper’s magazine and New York attorney known for his work in human rights law and the law of armed conflict, discussed this with Keith Olbermann:

Constitutional expert and George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley, appeared on C-Span with his take on this discussion. He made it very clear that Obama says that he can assassinate American citizens living on U.S. soil:

(starting at 15:50):

President Obama has just stated a policy that he can have any American citizen killed without any charge, without any review, except his own. If he’s satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world including in the United States.

Two of his aides just … reaffirmed they believe that American citizens can be killed on the order of the President anywhere including the United States.

You’ve now got a president who says that he can kill you on his own discretion. He can jail you indefinitely on his own discretion [..]

I don’t think the the Framers ever anticipated that [the American people would be so apathetic]. They assumed that people would hold their liberties close, and that they wouldn’t relax …

h/t Washington’s Blog

How quickly the president’s defenders forget Anwar al-Awlaki. Marcy points to the contortions of the law that Obama used to justify his assassination and then issued a “secret memorandum” which was conveniently “leaked” to New York Times reporter Charles Savage:

And, as Charlie Savage has reported, the legal justification the Administration invented for killing an American citizen in a premeditated drone strike consists of largely the same legal justification at issue in the NDAA detainee provisions.

           

  • The 2001 AUMF, which purportedly defined who our enemies are (though the NDAA more logically includes AQAP in its scope than the 2001 AUMF)
  •            

  • Hamdi, which held the President could hold an American citizen in military detention under the 2001 AUMF
  •            

  • Ex Parte Quirin, which held that an American citizen who had joined the enemy’s forces could be tried in a military commission
  •            

  • Scott v. Harris (and Tennesee v. Garner), which held that authorities could use deadly force in the course of attempting to detain American citizens if that person posed an imminent threat of injury or death to others
  •    In other words, Obama relied on substantially the same legal argument supporters of the NDAA detainee provisions made to argue that indefinite detention of American citizens was legal, with the addition of Scott v. Harris to turn the use of deadly force into an unfortunate side-effect of attempted detention.

    There is no question that the Obama administration, by signing the NDAA, believes that it has the broad power to indefinitely detain and assassinate American citizens and guarantees that the next president will too.

    The late George Carlin said it several years ago, “this country is circling the drain“.  

    Oct 05 2011

    “Are We Even Allowed To Do This?”

    Apparently, “Yes. We Can”

    If you told me at the beginning of the Obama presidency that his clearest legacy would involve not closing Gitmo or green jobs or manufacturing jobs – or any kind of jobs, really – but would in fact be his ability to rain targeted death from the sky … I mean, are we even allowed to do that?

    Now that President Barack Obama supporters, and many of his non-supporters, are righteously praising the the due process free assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki as justified because the Obama said so, why hasn’t the evidence that al-Awlaki was a threat been released? So far the only evidence we have that al-Awlaki was a “Very Bad Terrorist” is his rhetoric which is protected under the 1st Amendment. When confronted by ABC News‘ reporter, Jake Tapper, White House spokesperson Jay Carney declared that the evidence was still classified and not to be seen. Very nice that Tapper pushed back on this, but where was he when this order was revealed over a year ago? Are we now “Alice in the Wonderland” standing before the “Red Queen” demanding sentence first, verdict later>

    Why are so few of us questioning this rational that we so adamantly opposed in the voting booth just a mere 3 years ago? Are those who are cheering this even aware of the precedent and consequences of such a authoritarian action?

    Glenn Greenwald, who has been a vocal critic of the Bush and Obama administrations’ abuse of power and disregard for the rule of law, has this observation:

    That mentality – he’s a Terrorist because my Government said he’s one and I therefore don’t need evidence or trials to subject that evidence to scrutiny – also happens to be the purest definition of an authoritarian mentality, the exact opposite of the dynamic that was supposed to drive how the country functioned (Thomas Jefferson: “In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution”).  I trust My President and don’t need to see evidence or have due process is the slavish mentality against which Jefferson warned; it’s also one of the most pervasive ones in much of the American citizenry, which explains a lot.

    Like the Bush administration’s justification for the use of torture and indefinite detention without due process, the Obama administration claims that they carefully consulted lawyers within the Justice Department who unanimously supported the president’s order.

    “The Justice Department wrote a secret memorandum authorizing the lethal targeting of Anwar al-Aulaqi, the American-born radical cleric who was killed by a U.S. drone strike Friday, according to administration officials,” the newspaper reported. “The document was produced following a review of the legal issues raised by striking a U.S. citizen and involved senior lawyers from across the administration. There was no dissent about the legality of killing Aulaqi, the officials said.”

    But we will never see that memo, it’s classified. So much for that transparency that was promised by Obama. I only hope that Eric Holder has as much success in finding a job after he leaves DOJ as Alberto Gonzales. I digress.

    Greenwald makes some important points that debunk other ignorant claims:

    (1) the most ignorant claim justifying the Awlaki killing is that he committed “treason” and thus gave up citizenship; there’s this document called the “Constitution” that lays out the steps the Government is required to take before punishing a citizen for “treason” (“No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court“); suffice to say, it’s not met by the President secretly declaring someone guilty backed up by leaked, anonymous accusations to the press;

    (2) a new U.S. military study today finds that Awlaki’s killing won’t impede Al Qaeda’s operational capabilities, so for those of you worried that this killing might impede Endless War, don’t worry: like the bin Laden killing, Endless War will march on unimpeded; that’s why it’s called Endless War.

    Some argue that al-Awlaki’s assassination will make us less safe and strengthen Al Qaeda’s resolve:

    Evidence shows that killing terrorist leaders – or “decapitating” terrorist organizations, in military parlance – rarely ends violence on its own and can actually have adverse consequences. Indeed, killing prominent leaders can motivate their followers to retaliate and increase sympathy for the militants’ cause among civilians.

    Simply focusing on the leadership of a terrorist organization rarely brings about the group’s demise. My study of approximately 300 cases of singling out the leadership of 96 terrorist organizations globally – including Al Qaeda and Hamas – between 1945 and 2004, shows that the likelihood of collapse actually declines for groups whose leaders have been arrested or killed.

    George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley, wrote is a column:

    While few people mourn the passing of figures such as al-Awlaki, who was accused of being a leader in al-Qaeda, they should mourn the passing of basic constitutional protections afforded to all citizens. So a president can now kill a citizen without publicly naming him as a target, stating the basis for his killing, or even acknowledging his own responsibility for the killing once it has been carried out. Even if one assumes citizens would be killed only outside the country, it would mean that a mere suspect’s life could become dispensable the minute he steps a foot over one of our borders.

    At the same time, the government has expanded the definition of terrorism and material support for terrorism, which in turn further expands the scope of possible targets. When confronted on the lack of knowledge of who is on this list and the basis for the killing, the Obama administration simply says citizens must trust their president. It is the very definition of authoritarian power – and Americans appear to have developed a taste for it.

    snip

    Notably, in the face of these extrajudicial killings, Democrats who claim to be civil libertarians, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, have cheered the president – creating a record for the next president to expand on these acquiesced powers.

    No republic can long stand if a president retains the unilateral authority to kill citizens whom he deems a danger to the country. What is left is a magnificent edifice of laws and values that, to quote Shakespeare’s Macbeth, is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    Apr 16 2011

    Arizona to the President: Show Us Your Papers

    Constitutional law professor, Jonathan Turley was a guest on Lawrence O’Donnell’s “Last Word” to discuss the constitutionality of the law passed by the Republican controlled Arizona state legislature, HB 2177. The bill would require every Presidential candidate to provide a so-called “long form” birth certificate. In the absence of a “long form” birth certificate that includes at least the date and place of birth, the names of the candidate’s mother and father, including information sufficient to determine the citizenship of both parents, the names of the hospital and the attending physician, if applicable, and signatures of any witnesses in attendance. The state would accept such things as a combination of baptismal or circumcision records, hospital birth files, postpartum medical records or other documents that are evidentiary of someone’s birth in the United States. If there continues to be a dispute, it will be up to the Arizona Secretary of State to make the call.

    In other words, it rejects the “Certificate of Live Birth” issued by Hawaii to all its citizens born there and any other state that issues a COLB which may very well be unconstitutional under a number of clauses, amendments and court rulings. Under Article IV, section one of the US constitution, known as the Full Faith and Credit Clause, states are required to give full faith and credit to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. This includes accepting as genuine records from a sister state that have been officially certified under seal from the appropriate record keeper. The Arizona law is a clear violation of that clause.

    Then there are a couple of Amendments, namely the 12th and 20th which would preempt any state law  on this subject:

    The 12th Amendment states:

    The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following [changed to January 20th by 20th Amendment], then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.

    And the 20th Amendment which says:

    If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

    The implication of this is that the issue of Presidential qualification is one that solely belongs to the Electoral College and Congress. The states play no role at all.

    The US Supreme Court has also put limitations on what the states can make a ballot qualification when it comes to Federal offices. In U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton

    the states cannot impose requirements for federal office holders beyond those set forth in the Constitution. This would include the requirement that a candidate provide proof of his eligibility beyond the affidavit which every state requires a candidate or his representative to sign.

    Despite all the denials that this bill is not about President Obama, it is fairly clear that the bill is precisely aimed at the ridiculous claims made about Obama’s place of birth.