NYPD Under Fire for Surveillance of Occupy Protesters

Monday 12 March 2012
by: Colin Moynihan , The New York Times News Service | Report

On Nov. 17, Kira Moyer-Sims was near the Manhattan Bridge, buying coffee while three friends waited nearby in a car. More than a dozen blocks away, protesters gathered for an Occupy Wall Street “day of action,” which organizers had described as an attempt to block the streets around the New York Stock Exchange.

Then, Ms. Moyer-Sims said, about 30 police officers surrounded her and the people in the car.

All four were arrested, said Vik Pawar, a lawyer for Ms. Moyer-Sims and two of the others, and taken to a police facility in the East Village. He said officers strip-searched them and ignored their requests for a lawyer. The fourth person could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Moyer-Sims, 20, said members of the Police Department’s intelligence division asked about her personal history, her relationship with other protesters, the nature of Occupy Wall Street and plans for upcoming protests.

“I felt like I had been arrested for a thought crime,” she said.

Mr. Pawar said that the police had charged his three clients, Ms. Moyer-Sims, Angela Richino and Matthew Vrvilo, with obstructing governmental administration, but that the Manhattan district attorney’s office had declined to prosecute them.

Now they are preparing to sue the city, Mr. Pawar said, adding that the arrests had violated their constitutional rights.

“Not only are the police disrupting people’s rights to free expression,” Mr. Pawar said. “They are taking pre-emptive steps by arresting people who might be just thinking about exercising their rights.”

Though Occupy Wall Street has largely faded from the headlines, organizers are planning springtime demonstrations in an effort to revitalize their movement. And they are troubled by what they consider continued monitoring by the police.

In 2003, citing the dangers of terrorism, a federal judge granted expanded surveillance powers to the New York police, who had previously faced restrictions in monitoring political groups. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and others have said the new latitude is essential to keeping the city safe.

But the Police Department’s surveillance efforts have recently gained attention and criticism with reports that officers compiled detailed data on Muslim communities. Now, some Occupy protesters worry that they are being subjected to similar scrutiny.

For the last few months, protest organizers say, police officers or detectives have been posted outside buildings where private meetings were taking place, have visited the homes of organizers and have questioned protesters arrested on minor charges.

“The N.Y.P.D. surveillance does not appear to be limited to unlawful activity,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We count on the police, of course, to be on the lookout for terrorists and terrorism, but to think you could be on that continuum just by going to a peaceful protest is nuts.”

A police spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Waffle House Executive Pushes Georgia Anti-Picketing Law That Would Put Founding Fathers in Jail

by: Zaid Jilani, Republic Report | Report
To many in the South, Waffle House is a family-friendly restaurant that serves up some of the best grits and hashbrowns around. But behind that iconic sunny yellow sign is a corporate agenda aimed at stripping Americans of their rights.

State Senator Don Balfour of Snellville, Georgia — a Waffle House vice president who serves on the board of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce — is pushing a bill in his state’s legislature that would effectively outlaw picketing outside of private homes. Although the bill is aimed at suppressing union protests at the “private residences” of business executives, its scope is actually much further reaching.

The bill is written to make it illegal for picketers to take part in actions that would be “interfering with the resident’s right to quiet enjoyment.” But historically, one group of activists took part in protests aimed at private residences intended exactly to disrupt the peace to make their point: the Founding Fathers.

Prior to the Revolutionary War, Sam Adams and other Founding Fathers formed a group called the Sons of Liberty to protest the Stamp Act and similar oppressive legislation. The Sons of Liberty regularly protested outside of the homes of British colonial officials, including the homes of tax collectors. If Balfour and Georgia’s Big Business titans have their way, these protests would be illegal, and Adams and many of the other Founding Fathers would’ve been arrested.

Think about that next time you dig into those delicious Waffle House waffles.

FBI wouldn’t exclude extrajudicial killings in the US

United States Attorney General Eric Holder recently explained how the president can order the assassination of his own citizens abroad. But did his rationalization justify executions within the US? Apparently, the FBI wouldn’t exclude it.
Responding to a congressional inquiry this week on the rationale of assassinating Americans, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller affirmed that he himself isn’t too clear on the what Holder explained.
The attorney general addressed an audience at Northwestern University in Chicago this week with an explanation for US President Barack Obama’s killing of three American citizens overseas last year. Alleged terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki and two other US-born citizens were executed in a drone strike last year in Yemen, a kill that the White House has been reluctant to discuss in detail until just recently. Speaking from Northwestern this week, Holder insisted, however, that the details the president acted on were “sufficient under the Constitution for the United States to use lethal force against a US citizen abroad.”
Following up on Wednesday, US Congressman Tom Graves, a Republican from Georgia, asked the FBI’s Mueller if Holder’s qualifications for an ordered kill could be applied domestically.
“I have to go back. Uh, I’m not certain whether that was addressed or not,” responded an unsure Mueller.
Rep. Graves from there rephrased his inquiry, asking if, “from a historical perspective,” the federal government has “the ability to kill a US citizen on United States soil or just overseas.” Mueller once again suspended an explanation.
“I’m going to defer that to others in the Department of Justice,” responded the director.
When prompted by Fox News to extrapolate on Mueller’s deferral, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department defaulted to Holder’s earlier address, simply repeating the attorney general’s insistence that US citizens outside of the US are fair-game for an Executive Branch-ordered assassination. Under Holder’s explanation offered at Northwestern, however, it could be inferred that even those on American soil aren’t excluded. Congress wants to know if that is the case and with the feds unsure themselves, it might mean President Obama himself has to put in his two cents so Americans know if they are eligible for one of his personalized assassination orders too.

Congress considers repeal of indefinite detention and torture

Barely two months after President Obama authorized the indefinite detention of Americas, two members of US Congress are asking fellow lawmakers to approve a bill that will repeal a controversial provision of the NDAA.
US President Barack Obama inked the National Defense Authorization Act on New Year’s Eve, essentially allowing the American Armed Forces to indefinitely detain any suspected terrorist, including Americans, without ever bringing them to trial. Though President Obama has spoken out against the act — the very same one he signed — the legislation is currently in effect and allows the US government to grossly strip away rights otherwise guaranteed by the country’s Constitution.
The federal government has already gone to the NDAA to support the continued detention of alleged foreign terrorists, but two members of Congress, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington and Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, are asking other lawmakers in the House and Senate to sign their name on a bill that will make sure anyone — American or not — will be given a fair trial.
“The goal here is to have clarity, first of all, on how these people are handled in the US, and second of all, to reassert the primacy and the importance of our civil justice system,” Smith says of the proposed bill. “It is our contention that our civil justice system absolutely protects us from the threat in this case.”
In addition to holding a position within the US House of Representatives, Congressman Smith is also the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. Both him and Senator Udall proposed their own solutions to the detainment provisions before Congress on Thursday this week.
Although he signed the NDAA into law, President Obama has opposed the own legislation that his administration helped create. Since being authorized last year though, some lawmakers have proposed solutions of their own even before Smith and Udall offered their alternative. Elected officials in the states of Virginia, Washington and Utah have already drafted legislation of their own that reverses the indefinite detention provision, Section 1021 of the NDAA, in their own state. Additionally, Texas congressman and presidential hopeful Ron Paul has offered a bill on his own that would negate the controversial conditions within the act. As none of these laws have yet to be approved, though, Smith and Udall hope that the federal government will give in to increased pressure and pull the plug on their own provision.

Obama signs anti-protest Bill

Only days after clearing Congress, US President Barack Obama signed his name to H.R. 347 on Thursday, officially making it a federal offense to cause a disturbance at certain political events — essentially criminalizing protest in the States.
RT broke the news last month that H.R. 347, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, had overwhelmingly passed the US House of Representatives after only three lawmakers voted against it. On Thursday this week, President Obama inked his name to the legislation and authorized the government to start enforcing a law that has many Americans concerned over how the bill could bury the rights to assemble and protest as guaranteed in the US Constitution.
Under H.R. 347, which has more commonly been labeled the Trespass Bill by Congress, knowingly entering a restricted area that is under the jurisdiction of Secret Service protection can garner an arrest. The law is actually only a slight change to earlier legislation that made it an offense to knowingly and willfully commit such a crime. Under the Trespass Bill’s latest language chance, however, someone could end up in law enforcement custody for entering an area that they don’t realize is Secret Service protected and “engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct” or “impede[s] or disrupt[s] the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.”
The Secret Service serves as the police that protects not just current and former American presidents, but are also dispatched to monitor special events of national significance, a category with a broad cast of qualifiers. In the past, sporting events, state funerals, inaugural addresses and NATO and G-8 Summits have been designated as such by the US Department of Homeland Security, the division that decides when and where the Secret Service are needed outside of their normal coverage.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund tells the International Business Times that the Trespass Bill in its current form “means it’s easier to prosecute under ‘knowingly,’” instead of both knowingly and willfully, “which is an issue because someone could knowingly enter a restricted but not necessarily realize they are committing a crime.” Speaking with IB Times, Verheyden-Hilliard tries to lay to rest claims that the Constitution will be crippled by the Trespass Bill, but acknowledges that it does indeed allow law enforcement to have added incentive to arrest protesters who could be causing a disturbance.
“[HR 347] has been described as a death knell for the First Amendment, but that isn’t supported by the facts,” Verheyden-Hilliard adds. “This has always been a bad law.”

Iranian activist continues hunger strike

A jailed Iranian blogger has entered the 60th day of a hunger strike in protest against his imprisonment for criticising President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the government’s policies, his family and activists have said.

In the latest of several arrests in recent years, blogger and ophthalmologist Medhi Khazali, the son of a prominent cleric, was sentenced on January 9 to 14 years in prison, 10 years in exile, and 90 lashes by a court in Tehran.

His son Mohamed Saleh Khazali told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on February 29 that Khazali had suffered “stomach bleeding” and had been taken to the hospital.

“Last week, when my father’s condition deteriorated, they transferred him to the hospital. When we saw him in the hospital, we couldn’t believe it was him. His weight loss was unbelievable. He was so thin. We are afraid something bad might happen to my father,” he said.

Opposition activists say Khazali, who is a veteran of Iran’s war with Iraq, sent a letter to his wife last month, describing the difficult conditions in the prison.

“Many are incarcerated here only as a payback for disagreements with some high-ranking officials. They are under terrible physical and mental torture to make forced confessions of having connection with foreign intelligence agencies and embezzled money from state bodies,” the letter said.

In February, Amnesty International said Iran had “dramatically” escalated its crackdown on freedom of expression ahead of parliamentary polls on March 2.

In a report entitled “We are ordered to crush you: Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran”, the rights group detailed repressive acts by the Iranian authorities since February 2011, including a recent wave of arrests.

The arrests, Amnesty said, have targeted lawyers, students, journalists, political activists and their relatives, as well as religious and ethnic minorities, film-makers and people with international connections, particularly to the media.

Murkowski: GOP Has Spun Out Of Control On Contraception

Shortly after Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) admitted to her home-state paper that she regrets voting for the GOP’s Blunt amendment, which was aimed at rolling back President Obama’s contraception rule, she explained to TPM why the issue has weighed heavily on her — and why she thinks it’s damaging her party.

“I heard a lot [from my constituents] because it was in the news this weekend,” Murkowski told TPM Tuesday afternoon after attending a weekly GOP policy lunch. “I will tell you, it’s not so much just the discussion about contraception that the Blunt amendment precipitated. There’s just an awful lot that’s been going on. There have been some comments made by some of our presidential candidates. There was the incendiary comments made by Rush Limbaugh.”

Her remarks reflect a more widely shared sense among some conservatives and GOP lawmakers that leadership led the party astray in this fight — and that the appetite for pressing ahead with it is diminishing.

Murkowski, a high-ranked senator and former leadership member herself, worries that the sequence of events since GOP leaders twisted arms for Thursday’s losing vote has left her party on the wrong side of the issue, and that the public is taking note.

“I think [these incidents] are just adding to this sense that women’s health rights are being attacked — that in 2012 we’re having a conversation about whether or not contraception should be allowed,” Murkowski told TPM. “I think most thought that we were done with those discussions decades ago. So it’s been kind of an interesting week for women’s health issues.”

Anonymous to prevail without Sabu: ‘He’s a traitor; LulzSec long-dead; we have no leaders’

“Anonymous is a hydra, cut off one head and we grow two back.”
It was one of thousands of micro-messages sent early Tuesday from Twitter accounts associated with the loose-knit yet internationally scattered and seemingly unstoppable hacking collective Anonymous. Seemingly unstoppable because a reign of high-profile assaults on governments, corporations and other entities with questionable connections has become a calling card of a group that has experienced few losses in a checkered online career that has at the same time spawned successful exploits against the likes of the FBI, CIA, SONY and the Motion Picture Association of America.
Seemingly, however, is a word absolutely worthy of emphasis in this instance.
Authorities announced early Tuesday that a handful of operatives allegedly involved with the Anonymous collective and a now defunct offshoot, LulzSec, had been arrested. What’s more, adds officials, is that an alleged ringleader, a hacker who used the alias Sabu over the Web, had been cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation since June 2011.
In all, the FBI announced they charged five hackers in the US and abroad on Tuesday, with a sixth pleading guilty for related crimes. “We’re chopping off the head of LulzSec,” an FBI official close to the investigation told media outlets early Tuesday. “This is devastating to the organization.”
For Anonymous, however, the end is far from here.
The YourAnonNews Twitter account, an unofficial press liaison of sorts for the group, was quick to tweet to half-a-million followers that Anonymous will only get bigger. At a time when authorities are alleging that they have removed the center stone from the Web’s most feared foe, Anonymous is responding that their war is only beginning. The hydra’s second head was being birthed within mere moments; it’s angry, too.
Anonymous says they aren’t dead. It would even appear already as if they are opening up a second front: this time on one of their own.
Authorities say Sabu, born Hector Xavier Monsegur, plead guilty to charges relating to his involvement in the hacking group back on August 15. The FBI calls him an “influential member of three hacking organizations – Anonymous, Internet Feds and Lulz Security,” and links him to Anon-led attacks on Visa, MasterCard, the US Senate, PayPal and even the governments of Tunisia and Zimbabwe, among others.

Anonymous turncoat Sabu faces 124 years in prison – FBI

Hector Xavier Monsegur, aka Sabu, has plead guilty to several counts of computer hacking conspiracy, access device fraud and other crimes.
Monsegur’s charges and plea were unsealed by the FBI as they arrested 5 top members of hacktivist groups Anonymous and LulzSec. According to the Bureau’s statement, the 28 year old New York-based hacker was busted in August 2011 and convinced to work with the Feds. It is unclear whether his case will go to trial or whether his lengthy cooperation with the agents will see his sentence reduced. At the moment, the FBI indictment says his crimes can get him 124 years and 6 months of prison time.
The father of two pled guilty to three counts of computer hacking conspiracy, five counts of computer hacking, one count of computer hacking in furtherance of fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Allegedly, the hacktivist’s weak spot was his children. “He didn’t go easy,” a law enforcement official involved in flipping Sabu told FoxNews.com. “It was because of his kids. He didn’t want to go away to prison and leave them. That’s how we got him.
In the 6 months that Sabu cooperated with the FBI, the agents apparently got more than enough evidence to arrest and charge 5 top hacktivists. Sabu himself, although described as ‘distant and different’ by many of his fellow hackers, tried to keep up appearances to the very end with tweets like “The federal government is run by a bunch of fucking cowards. Don’t give in to these people. Fight back. Stay strong.”
Whether this was just Monsegur working on not being made for a snitch or a sincere regret for his betrayal and a veiled apology to his fellow hackers, only he knows. But the Anonymous community has certainly made up its mind, telling followers on Twitter that “We are done talking about Sabu. He is a person who is too scared for revolution. We will continue to fight and show that Sabu was no one.” Even more telling is the hashtag most frequently seen in Anonymous-related posts: #fuckSabu.

Mass arrests at Occupy Education protest at California State Capitol

A lengthy standoff between protesters and police in and outside of the California State Capitol Building ended with nearly 70 demonstrators arrested late Monday during an Occupy rally in Sacramento.
A mass protest was waged all day Monday at the headquarters of the California State government, branded under the campaign “Occupy Education.” Demonstrators aligned with the OWS movement, many in particular with the Occupy Sacramento offshoot, were meeting to protest the increasing cost of tuition at state schools.
“We want to show the state government that we care about our education, and we’re not going to leave until they make it a priority,” student Sam Resnick tells the Associated Press in explaining his participation.
For a student finishing the fifth year of schoolwork at a California State University, the cost of tuition today costs nearly double what it was for their first semester. Even for students enrolled in state schools, tuition at Ivy League institutes are often more affordable and classes available on the West Coast are quickly being cut. In the last decade, state tuition for California students has been raised by more than 300 percent.
Crowds of demonstrators including Resnick chanted pleas of “They say cut back, we say fight back” during the hours-long standoff.
The California Highway Patrol reports a total of 68 arrests from Monday, one of the largest tallies spawning from a single protest since winter weather and law enforcement action signaled a plateau in the movement months after demonstrations began in New York’s Zuccotti Park in September 2011; since then, the OWS movement has spread internationally. Students from other California schools, including UC Berkley and Riverside, traveled upwards of hundreds of miles to Sacramento for the protest on Monday.
California Governor Jerry Brown responded to the protests with a written statement, offering sympathy for demonstrators demanding changes in the education system. “The students today are reflecting the frustrations of millions of Californians who have seen their public schools and universities eroded year after year,” wrote Brown, a Democrat. “That’s why it’s imperative that we get more tax revenue this November.”