Judge rules closed hearings
By Henry Weinstein
May 30— A federal judge in New Jersey
ruled Wednesday that the government’s policy of closing deportation
hearings for individuals targeted in its massive terrorism probe
The ruling by US District Judge John W. Bissell
is the second by a federal jurist that sides against the government
concerning the thorny issue of closed hearings, but it is more
sweeping because of the large number of detainees still held
in New Jersey jails.
“This is an enormous decision,” said Lee Gelernt,
a senior staff attorney at the Immigrants’ Rights Project of
the American Civil Liberties Union.
The roundup of more than 1,200 immigrants and
the subsequent secret hearings have been a prominent part of
the government’s reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The fate of many
of those taken into custody remains unknown.
Under Bissell’s order, the government no longer
can close those immigration proceedings based on a Sept. 21
directive issued by chief US Immigration Judge Michael Creppy.
If the government wants to close a portion of any such hearing
in the future, it may do so only on a case-by-case basis where
the government has specified concrete evidence demonstrating
a need for closure.
The government is expected to appeal the ruling,
although no Justice Department lawyer was immediately available
for comment Wednesday.
The government already is appealing a similar
ruling made Apr. 3 by a federal judge in Detroit. That case
concerned only one detainee, and the government’s effort to
get an emergency stay in that case has been rejected by the
US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the full case
Judge Bissell said a preliminary injunction was
“an extraordinary remedy,” but he said the plaintiffs -- three
New Jersey newspapers -- had demonstrated a reasonable probability
of success in a full trial concerning the issue.
He said the plaintiffs clearly would be irreparably
harmed -- one of the key standards for obtaining a preliminary
injunction -- if they could not attend the hearings.
Although there are no precise figures because
of government secrecy, there have been reports that the government
detained more than 1,200 people in roundups after the terrorist
attacks and that 327 of the detainees -- the largest concentration
anywhere in the country -- were held in jails in Hudson and
Passaic counties in New Jersey.
Gelernt and other sources said there still are
104 people being held by the government in the post-Sept. 11
probe -- the bulk of them in New Jersey.
Gelernt said hundreds of the detainees have been
deported, without ever having a public hearing.
“We are finding out that many of the detainees
have waived all their rights, including their rights to further
review,” Gelernt said. “Where an individual’s liberty is at
stake and they are unrepresented, there has to be public scrutiny
of the process to ensure that the government is complying with
the Constitution,” said Gelernt, who worked on the case along
with the Center for Constitutional Rights and a New Jersey law
firm -- Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione.
Bissell acknowledged that the government might
have legitimate reasons to close a deportation hearing of a
suspect in the wake of the “dastardly” attacks “and the continuing
threat of their repetition.” However, the judge said that the
blanket policy to close all these hearings, put into effect
by Creppy’s Sept. 21 memo, clearly ran afoul of the Constitution.
The judge cited a long line of US Supreme Court
decisions that court hearings in the US are presumptively open.
He said deportation hearings are no exception. In fact, Bissell
noted, that as long ago as 1903, the Supreme Court had ruled
that there are due process rights when the government seeks
to remove a resident alien.
Source: Los Angeles Times
US students face random drug
By Lawrence Donegan
San Francisco, California, June 2— Twenty-seven
million schoolchildren are facing the prospect of random drug
testing after a landmark court case described by self-styled
religious fundamentalist “drug warriors” in the United States
as their greatest victory. It is a startling example of the
ideological shift in American politics since George W. Bush
moved into the White House.
The Supreme Court is expected within the next
few days to rule against a teenager from the Midwest who was
forced to undergo a drug test when she signed up to sing in
the school choir. Lindsay Earls, a former pupil at Tecumseh
High, Oklahoma, had to urinate into a cup while a teacher listened
outside the bathroom stall. She said the test -- which proved
negative -- was physically degrading and a gross infringement
of her civil rights.
“I thought it was real intrusion into my privacy,”
says Earls, now 19 and a student at a top university. “If I’m
not taking drugs, then I shouldn’t have to prove myself innocent.”
Her case went before the court earlier this year,
where the US Solicitor General’s office, headed by Bush ally
Ted Olsen, startled — and delighted — right-wing anti-drug groups
by arguing there was no constitutional bar to drug testing every
pupil in the state system.
“Five years ago we were going nowhere, now we
have the government on our side. Random testing for all pupils
is a done deal,” said DeForest Rathbone, who has been fighting
a 20-year “drug war” at the head of the National Institute of
Citizen Anti-Drug Policy. “Thanks be to almighty God for coming
on to our side and helping us protect the kids from drugs.”
Despite his low-profile position, Olsen has been
leading the rightward march of the Bush administration, setting
out the government’s ideological position on a range of issues
— from abortion rights to gun laws — where he has quietly supported
causes previously considered beyond the pale even by Republican
Currently, only pupils taking part in athletic
activities can legally be made to undergo random drug testing,
but Tecumseh High was one of several schools that unilaterally
decided to test participants in all extra-curricular activities,
such as chess and debating.
Earls’s legal challenge has been backed by Graham
Boyd, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued
that a random drug-testing program was both an infringement
of constitutional rights and of dubious worth in fighting the
spread of drug use.
“If drug testing becomes rites of passage for
an entire generation of students, then that same generation
is going to enter adulthood with lower expectations of the privacy
they should be entitled to,” Boyd said yesterday. He added that
there was no evidence that random testing in other sectors,
such as the workplace, reduced drug use. Testing in schools
might force teenage drug users to switch from marijuana — which
remains detectable in the body for weeks — to harder drugs like
crack cocaine, which leaves the bloodstream after 24 hours.
Source: The Observer (UK)
Cops who killed unarmed motorists
won’t be charged
By Abdon M. Pallasch
and Fran Spielman
Chicago, Illinois, May 29— It was bad
police work, but it wasn’t criminal conduct, prosecutors said
The police officers who shot and killed unarmed
motorists LaTanya Haggerty and Robert Russ in traffic stops
hours apart three years ago will not be charged, Cook County
State’s Attorney Dick Devine and US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald
“There was no evidence to show criminal intent
on the part of the officers,” Devine said of officer Serena
Daniels’ decision to shoot Haggerty and officer Van Watts’ shooting
of Russ. Watts said Russ had grabbed Watts’ hands and gun.
Cries of protest went up immediately as the Rev.
Paul Jakes and activist Wallace “Gator” Bradley held court outside
“This is a slap in the face to the families,”
According to Devine, Officer Daniels saw a “flash”
in Haggerty’s hand that turned out to be a cell phone. Daniels
thought it was a gun. She shot Haggerty, realized her mistake,
ran to her and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I thought
you had a gun,” Devine said. “Officer Daniels knew she had made
a poor decision.”
Watts had a reasonable belief he was in danger
when Russ began to pull him into his car through a back window,
Devine said. Attorneys for Russ’ family say Russ never pulled
him into his car and Watts invented that story.
“In order to get around the fact that Russ’ fingerprints
are not on the gun, they claim Russ grabbed the officer’s hands,”
attorney Donald Shapiro said. “Then how does a bullet hole go
through Russ’ palm if Russ is holding the officer’s hands? The
reality was that Russ was holding up his hands in a self-defensive
posture. The officer ... smashed the back window with a tire
iron. When Russ turned around in a self-defensive posture, the
officer just freaked and fired.”
Shapiro said Devine and Fitzgerald never asked
him for any evidence he has compiled, including statements from
witnesses contradicting Watts’ account.
City of Chicago attorneys paid Haggerty’s family
$18 million to drop a civil suit against the city.
Devine ruled out charges of “official misconduct,”
saying that is only used as a companion to more serious charges.
Daniels was fired after the incident and now
serves in the U.S military, according to her mother.
“My brother was unarmed and I know my brother
did not grab that gun either, and nobody is paying for it,”
Chris Russ said. “It would have made me feel better to know
we have a system where bad guys are actually prosecuted whether
they are police or not. But this is the real world. I didn’t
expect it anyway.”
Watts received a 15-day suspension for shooting
Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Ban proposed on ‘Patriot Act’
in Cambridge, MA
A coalition of peace, human rights, and women’s groups have
called on the city of Cambridge, MA to protect its residents
from the USA Patriot Act, which gives the government broad access
to private phone and internet lines, as well as medical, financial
and education records -- without a court order.
The resolution, which will come before Cambridge
City Council later this month, proclaims that civil liberties
are “now threatened by the USA Patriot Act,” and promises to
“affirm[the city’s] commitment to embodying democracy, …defending
human rights and civil liberties now under siege.”
If passed, the resolution would effectively ban
Cambridge employees from complying with the act, except when
forced to do so directly from a federal law enforcement agency,
such as the FBI. The distinction is that city officials would
not voluntarily cooperate with the federal government by handing
over voting records, demonstration permits, or library records,
As many as 500 residents have signed a petition
supporting the resolution.
Similar proposals have passed in other Massachusetts
towns such as Amherst, Leverett, and Northampton. (The Boston
Predominantly Latino schools
hit by teacher shortage
Schools with large Hispanic populations are hit hardest by teacher
shortages that researchers predict will require up to 2.7 million
new public school teachers nationwide this decade, says a report
by the Denver-based Quality Education Data, Inc.
The study of elementary schools found that those
with mostly Hispanic students had more unfilled teaching positions,
nearly double that of schools with mostly Black students and
triple predominantly white schools. (USA Today)
May Day medic serving 6 months
Sarah Roberts, a street medic in the Long Beach, CA 2001 May
Day protest, was sentenced to six months in jail and a $1000
fine for “unlawful assembly” and “wearing a mask with the intent
to commit a crime.”
Roberts was one of almost 100 protesters arrested
after being brutalized by the Long Beach police last May. Her
sentence began immediately.
This sentence comes at a time when activists are
pushing a bill that would limit the penalties for non-violent
civil disobedience in the California Senate. (Julie Roberts)
Bush accused of pushing policy
further his brother’s interests
President Bush was accused May 31 of selectively tailoring environmental
policy to help his younger brother Jeb Bush get re-elected as
Gov. of Florida after the President proposed a $235 million
plan to thwart oil and gas exploration programs in the Everglades
and the Gulf of Mexico.
The President visited his brother in Florida on
May 31 to announce the contentious environmental plan, which
will divert $115 million of federal cash to Chevron and two
other giant oil companies in exchange for a clutch of oil and
A further $120 million will be paid to the Collier
family, one of Florida’s biggest land developers, to stop them
drilling in the Big Cypress National Preserve and other environmentally
The President’s decision to support this controversial
policy is just the latest in a long line of attempts to shore
up support for his brother Jeb in the upcoming gubernatorial
election in Florida, which is hotly contested.
The President has visited Florida nine times since
taking office and has participated in a number of fundraisers
for his brother, which garnered millions of dollars for the
younger Bush’s campaign. (The Times, UK)
Lawyers contest prisoners’
at Camp X-Ray
A civil rights lawyer who has fought a record number of police
brutality cases, is taking on the US government on behalf of
the prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay.
In the case that will be heard in Los Angeles
next month, Stephen Yagman will argue that the US government
is violating its own and international laws by continuing to
hold the prisoners without charge.
Yagman has put together a coalition of experienced
civil rights lawyers and academics, including former US Attorney
General Ramsey Clark.
Yagman is best known for the many lawsuits he
has won against the Los Angeles police department in brutality
Yagman is demanding three things from the government:
that they identify the prisoners, make the reasons for their
detention known, and that the prisoners be allowed their day
in a US court.
These demands, said Yagman, are “not very radical.
Is the US government free to violate the law, immune from accountability
in any court? The answer must be no,” Yagman added. (Guardian,
The Judi Bari bombshell
Judi Bari holds a picture of her car after
By A.C. Thompson
May 29 – All the evidence in the Judi
Bari bombing trial has been presented, and still the questions
linger. It is still unknown who planted the homemade, nail-studded
pipe bomb in Bari’s car. And there is still no legally conclusive
proof that law enforcement officials tried to frame Earth First!
activist Bari and her associate Darryl Cherney.
At press time, the jury, which began deliberating
May 17, had yet to reach a verdict, and attorneys for the FBI
and the Oakland Police Department (OPD) were still fighting
to get the case dismissed.
During the six-week trial, some fairly blockbuster
revelations leaked out – and for the most part, the daily papers
have ignored them.
Bari and Cherney were driving through east Oakland,
Ca. in May 1990 when a bomb exploded in their car. The injured
pair were prominent figures in the Earth First! movement, a
loose-knit, nominally leaderless group of shit-disturbing environmentalists.
Oakland cops – working with the FBI– quickly arrested the duo.
Cherney and Bari, the cops claimed, had accidentally blown themselves
up while transporting their own bomb.
“We’re assuming the device was placed in the car
by the occupants,” one Oakland detective told the San Francisco
Examiner at the time.
The Examiner painted Earth First! as a band of
deranged “ecoterrorists.” The New York Times ran a front-page
piece on the incident. Then, a few months later, with Earth
First!’s reputation in tatters, the charges were quietly dropped
for lack of evidence.
The cops never busted the real bomber – a fact
that’s distressed many for the past 12 years.
To Cherney and Bari it smelled like a classic
COINTELPRO-type setup, the kind of thing J. Edgar Hoover did
to the Black Panthers. They figured the feds and local cops
had jumped at the chance to arrest them – and link them to terrorism
in the media – even though the evidence was shaky at best. In
1991 the two Earth First!ers hit back, suing the FBI and the
OPD, charging the agencies with fabricating evidence, giving
false testimony, and collaborating in a smear campaign.
Last month, after more than a decade of legal
tussles – and five years after Bari died of cancer – Cherney
and Darlene Comingore, the executor of Bari’s estate, finally
got the suit in front of a jury.
Testimony in the courtroom of US District Judge
Claudia Wilken lifted the lid on some amazingly suspicious and
possibly criminal behavior on the part of the FBI and the OPD.
First the agencies were forced to admit that information
included in two key search warrants was bogus. The only real
question was which agency had lied. Later testimony revealed
that Oakland cops raided Bari’s house even after she and Cherney
were exonerated by an FBI bomb expert. Then there was the mysterious
disappearance of 57 FBI documents related to the case.
On top of the bungling or subterfuge – it’s tough
to say which – the trial unearthed another fairly stunning fact:
a shadowy OPD unit kept tabs on scores of local dissidents and
shared the information with the feds. The G-men, for their part,
compiled a database of some 600 people Bari and Cherney had
called on the phone.
On May 24, 1990, right about noon, Bari was driving
her car when an improvised explosive – a foot-long, two-inch-diameter
pipe filled with flash powder and covered with nails – detonated,
ripping a gaping hole through the floorboards, buckling the
front doors, and crumpling the roof.
Bari was left permanently disabled and Cherney,
who’d been riding in the passenger seat, was less injured and
treated at the hospital for lacerations and a scratched cornea,
Bari and Cherney had driven down from the rural
North Coast to lay the groundwork for “Redwood Summer,” a campaign
of civil disobedience to slow the breakneck, ecosystem-ravaging
pace of redwood logging in Humboldt County.
Bari, a carpenter by trade, was a hell of an organizer.
And in 1990 she was driving the timber industry in northern
California nuts. Earth First! had brashly burst on the scene
a few years before with “no compromise” tactics, blockading
sawmills and chaining themselves to bulldozers – aggravating
both loggers and law enforcement. Feeling besieged, some lumberjacks
and mill workers went after Bari, one of the most visible Earth
First!ers. She received several written death threats and was
nearly killed in 1989 when a timber truck ran her car off the
Within minutes of the 1990 bombing, both the FBI
and the OPD were combing over the crime scene. Special Agent
Timothy McKinley was the first G-man there, followed by FBI
bomb analyst Frank Doyle and others. There was “a large hole
in the floorboard of the car, underneath the [front] seat and
to the rear,” Mckinley, who’s now retired, told the court.
They quickly decided the bomb had been resting
on the floor behind the driver’s seat when it went off and that
Bari and Cherney must have been aware of the explosive, that
it must have belonged to them.
Hours after the explosion Bari and Cherney were
taken into custody by Oakland cops. A morphine-addled Bari awoke
from surgery to find two officers looming over her hospital
Three weeks later an FBI lab technician would
exonerate Bari and Cherney, saying the bomb had been hidden
beneath Bari’s seat.
From day one, Bari and Cherney argued the bomb’s
location under Bari’s seat would’ve been obvious to anyone.
As Cherney said last week, “How do you blow up the front end
of a car with a bomb that’s placed in the back of the car?”
The FBI and the OPD, they maintained, had ignored the clear
and convincing evidence in a quest to jail them and slander
Digging through the car on the day of the blast,
Doyle uncovered another crucial clue he claimed would link Bari
and Cherney to the bomb.
The explosive had sent a fusillade of nails rocketing
through the car.
Inside the car, Doyle found a bag of unused nails.
Those nails, he claimed, were identical to the nails in the
bomb. Obviously, Doyle concluded, Bari and Cherney had built
the anti-personnel device.
There was just one problem: the nails didn’t match
at all. The “clue” was bogus.
In truth, the nails in the bag – short, fat roofing
nails and thick, long framing nails, which were not unusual
cargo for a person who made her living as a carpenter – didn’t
even remotely resemble the nails used in the bomb.
This phony evidence ended up in a search warrant
used to rifle through Bari’s Redwood Valley residence. In a
sworn affidavit, Oakland police sergeant Robert Chenault laid
out the evidence implicating Bari, which provided the legal
justification for the search. Chenault played up Doyle’s discovery
of the “identical” nails in the May 25 affidavit.
Today, Doyle – now a private antiterrorism consultant
– denies ever claiming to have matched the nails. “I never made
the statement that the nails were identical,” Doyle said on
the stand. “Quite the contrary, those nails were not similar,
and I never said they were.”
Chenault, on the other hand, insists Doyle fed
him fake evidence. “Is it correct to say that Doyle almost dictated
to you what to say [in the affidavit]?” asked Bloom, the plaintiffs’
“Yes,” Chenault answered.
On June 14, three weeks after the crime, FBI lab
technician David R. Williams flew out from Washington to inspect
the mangled auto.He’d already analyzed bomb fragments. Now he
scoped the car. The explosive, Williams told his FBI colleagues
and the OPD detectives, had been hidden under Bari’s seat.
He’d also reached an additional, quite salient,
conclusion about the incident. In trial testimony Williams said
he told Doyle and other case investigators that the improvised
explosive was a time bomb and had “functioned as designed.”
The implication was clear: Bari and Cherney were
victims of an assassination plot, not plotters of an assassination.
Still, the OPD didn’t dismiss the charges for
another month, and FBI records indicate federal agents were
snooping on Bari and Cherney as late as November 1991.
If Williams is telling the truth, it sure looks
like his fellow officers at the FBI and the OPD were bent on
railroading Bari and Cherney – even after he’d discovered forensic
evidence clearing them. But Oakland detective Michael Sitterud
gave the court a very different story.
During the May 25 raid on Bari’s house, Chenault
seized “a partial box of finishing nails” – again, not a surprising
find in the home of a carpenter. The OPD shipped the nails to
Williams for comparison to the bomb nails.
On the stand Sitterud was unequivocal: Williams
met with the OPD and said he’d conclusively connected the nails
taken from Bari’s house to the bomb. In fact, Sitterud included
Williams’s supposed forensic findings in a June 25 search warrant
affidavit used to authorize a second raid on Bari’s house.
But the nails turned out to be another false clue
– and in the end there was no evidence linking the Earth First!ers
to the construction of the bomb.
In court Williams denied ever making a meaningful
link between the two sets of nails. So once again, the FBI and
the OPD couldn’t keep their stories straight.
The OPD had been spying on Earth First! and, it
turns out, a lot of other groups, long before the bomb went
off. In fact, evidence at the trial showed the OPD was operating
a secret intelligence unit that kept tabs on law-abiding people
who happened to be members of certain political groups.
In 1990, Oakland cop Kevin Griswold was one of
two officers assigned to the department’s intelligence unit.
On the stand Griswold admitted to keeping files on 300 activist
groups, including 20 environmental outfits.
Later, while probing the car bombing, the bureau
cast a wide net. The feds used phone records to compile a list
of 634 numbers Cherney and Bari called during the spring of
1990, said Agent Patrick Webb under questioning. “It’s a standard
investigative technique,” he told the jury.
The FBI used the numbers to question dozens of
Bari/Cherney associates, building dossiers on activists and
organizations, including the Center for Constitutional Rights,
a liberal New York legal foundation.
The feds admitted they still have files on those
individuals and groups, although nobody on the list has ever
been charged with any crime related to the bombing.
Other FBI case files, however, seem to have vanished
into the ether. When Cherney and Bari filed suit, they subpoenaed
the entire mountain of paperwork the FBI had compiled on the
bombing. As the material filtered in, it quickly became clear
something was wrong. The 600-odd documents were all meticulously
numbered. From the sequence of numbers, it appeared some 60
documents had just disappeared from the files.
The Earth First! lawyers contacted the FBI. The
bureau coughed up a few more documents. But at trial 57 documents
still couldn’t be accounted for. The FBI described it as a benign
case of accidental misnumbering.
The trial showed that, at the very least, the
FBI and the OPD had so badly bungled the bomb investigation
that nothing the two agencies came up with could be trusted.
The evidence suggested it’s at least possible, if not likely,
that one or both of the police agencies took advantage of the
attack that almost killed Bari to attempt to make Earth First!
look like a dangerous gang of bomb-wielding nuts.
Outside the courtroom last week, Cherney sat on
the polished hallway floor, looking spent, like a boxer trying
to survive round 12. Still, as always, he had a quip at the
“The good news is that all this stuff came out,”
Cherney said. “The bad news is these people are running the
On May 2, the second day of deliberations, jurors
requested copies of the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution,
which the defendents are accused of violating. Federal and Oakland
defense attorneys objected. Judge Wilken overruled and read
the amendments to the jury, but would not give them a written
copy to take back to the deliberation room.
Commenting ont the incident, Cherney quipped,
“their agents obviously haven’t read the Constitution, so why
would they want anyone else looking at it?”
As of 2pm on June 5 the jury, after 13 days of
deliberations, still had not reached a verdict and announced
a schedule that would run through at least the end of the week.
Source: San Francisco Bay Guardian
Additional information: San Francisco Indymedia