Hobby Lobby

The decision, written by Justice Alito, is beyond disturbing. It essentially grants for-profit corporations a free pass not to follow laws by invoking their “religious rights” under RFRA. While Alito and his buddies said their ruling was narrow, nothing could … Continue reading

The decision, written by Justice Alito, is beyond disturbing. It essentially grants for-profit corporations a free pass not to follow laws by invoking their “religious rights” under RFRA.

While Alito and his buddies said their ruling was narrow, nothing could be further from the truth. The door is now wide open for corporations to run to court saying they can discriminate in a variety of ways.

Some key points about Hobby Lobby:

As Justice Ginsberg noted in her dissent, “‘Closely held’ is not synonymous with ‘small.’” America’s five largest “closely held” corporations alone employ more than 436,000 people — one of those companies being the $115 billion, 60,000-employee Koch Industries. And the Washington Post reported that, according to a 2000 study, “closely held” is a term that covers as much as 90 percent (or more) of all businesses, and studies from Columbia University and New York University showed that closely held corporations employed 52 percent of the American workforce.
The duplicitousness of pretending that limiting the ruling to “closely held” corporations really limits it substantially in scope goes beyond just the size and number of “closely held” corporations. In providing no actual reasoning as to why only “closely held” corporations would be afforded religious rights under RFRA, Justice Alito’s Hobby Lobby decision certainly could pave the way for all corporations — even publicly traded ones — to claim these rights.
Many on the Religious Right are already asserting employers’ right to discriminate against LGBT people. While Hobby Lobby states that employers cannot claim religious objections in order to discriminate based on race, it says nothing about sex or sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court ponders the contraceptive mandate

ON March 25th the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare”, was back before the Supreme Court. Two years ago the justices upheld most of the law. This week they heard oral arguments in Sebelius v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v Sebelius. These two consolidated cases concern Obamacare’s “contraceptive mandate”—the requirement that businesses offering their employees health insurance must provide plans that cover all federally-approved contraception methods at no extra cost to their employees.

The legal merits of these cases revolve around the concept of  Corporate personhood


Corporations are NOT people. While it is true that what guides them is the human activity of their executives, boards of directors, managers and employees, all the human emotional factors of the people in the corporation pass through a “filter” created by the two basic rules:

  1. Maximize profit
  2. Do whatever is necessary to continue the business.

(Rule number 1 should be modified when it conflicts with rule 2)

It is a slippery road to give personal rights to corporations. The corporation is an amoral entity, i.e., not governed by human moral values. It lacks guilt for what it does, or empathy for those it harms. What’s worse, this “sociopathic” entity is given the rights of a human being, but not similar responsibilities. A corporation is particularly dangerous because of its great concentration of money, power, and political influence–which it uses freely to reach its goals.

To give a concrete example of the dangers of giving too much power to corporations to allow corporations to participate directly on political campaigns is a very serious threat to democracy.

Campaign finance law in the United States changed drastically in the wake of two 2010 judicial opinions: the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in SpeechNow.org v. FEC.[42] According to a 2011 Congressional Research Service report, these two decisions constitute “the most fundamental changes to campaign finance law in decades.” [43]

Citizens United struck down, on free speech grounds, the limits on the ability of organizations that accepted corporate or union money from running electioneering communications. The Court reasoned that the restrictions permitted by Buckley were justified based on avoiding corruption or the appearance of corruption, and that this rationale did not apply to corporate donations to independent organizations. Citizens United overruled the 1990 case Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, in which the Supreme Court upheld the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, which prohibited corporations from using treasury money to support or oppose candidates in elections.

Two months later, a unanimous nine-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decided SpeechNow, which relied on Citizens United to hold that Congress could not limit donations to organizations that only made independent expenditures, that is, expenditures that were “uncoordinated” with a candidate’s campaign. These decisions led to the rise of “independent-expenditure only” PACs, commonly known as “Super PACs.” Super PACs, under Citizens United and SpeechNow, can raise unlimited funds from individual and corporate donors and use those funds for electioneering advertisements, provided that the Super PAC does not coordinate with a candidate.

One should not confuse the individuals working within a corporation with the corporation proper. To elaborate and clarify the point of freedom of speech and corporations let’s consider the case of Media corporations, those whose actual activity revolves around disseminating information and opinion. While journalist, writers, news anchors, and the like have 1st amendment rights, the corporations that they work for do not. This might be a subtle point but it is crucial. When corporations do have positions on some issues, and they always have an agenda, this is NOT freedom of speech, it is censorship. This censorship is exercised trough the firing or ostracizing of staff or source that go astray of the corporate line. Thus, to give corporations freedom of speech rights is actually antithetical of the spirit of the first amendment.

Corporations as such do not have national loyalties. Just as an example, Standard Oil supplied the German government during WW II as Coca Cola did.

The Standard Oil group of companies, in which the Rockefeller family owned a one-quarter (and controlling) interest,1 was of critical assistance in helping Nazi Germany prepare for World War II. This assistance in military preparation came about because Germany’s relatively insignificant supplies of crude petroleum were quite insufficient for modern mechanized warfare; in 1934 for instance about 85 percent of German finished petroleum products were imported. The solution adopted by Nazi Germany was to manufacture synthetic gasoline from its plentiful domestic coal supplies. It was the hydrogenation process of producing synthetic gasoline and iso-octane properties in gasoline that enabled Germany to go to war in 1940 — and this hydrogenation process was developed and financed by the Standard Oil laboratories in the United States in partnership with I.G. Farben.

Evidence presented to the Truman, Bone, and Kilgore Committees after World War II confirmed that Standard Oil had at the same time “seriously imperiled the war preparations of the United States.”2Documentary evidence was presented to all three Congressional committees that before World War II Standard Oil had agreed with I.G. Farben, in the so-called Jasco agreement, that synthetic rubber was within Farben’s sphere of influence, while Standard Oil was to have an absolute monopoly in the U.S. only if and when Farben allowed development of synthetic rubber to take place in the U.S.

Fanta is a global brand of fruit-flavored carbonated soft drinks created by The Coca-Cola Company. There are over 100 flavors worldwide. The drink originated in Germany in 1941.

Fanta originated as a result of difficulties importing Coca-Cola syrup into Nazi Germany during World War II due to a trade embargo.[2] To circumvent this, Max Keith, the head of Coca-Cola Deutschland (Coca-Cola GmbH) during the Second World War, decided to create a new product for the German market, using only ingredients available in Germany at the time, including whey and pomace – the “leftovers of leftovers”, as Keith later recalled.[2][3] The name was the result of a brief brainstorming session, which started with Keith exhorting his team to “use their imagination” (“Fantasie” in German), to which one of his salesmen, Joe Knipp, immediately retorted “Fanta!”[3]

While the plant was effectively cut off from Coca Cola headquarters during the war, plant management did not join the Nazi Party. After the war, the Coca Cola corporation regained control of the plant, formula and the trademarks to the new Fanta product — as well as the plant profits made during the war

The U.S. Federal tax system also helps corporations operate in this amoral way by allowing them to deduct from their profits, with some limitations, the cost of public relations campaigns to cover for the damage they cause, the compensation to victims, the cleanup operations, the cost of legal defense, legal damage awards, and the cost of lobbying to change the laws in their favor or gain exemptions from the law. In other words, if they are caught, corporations pay the costs of their destructive, illegal activities with tax-free money. (Tax free for one corporation = somebody else pays more taxes.)

In their current form, corporations are the most dangerous things on earth–because they threaten the survival of humankind and the entire planetary ecosystem.

Birth control does not mean abortion I am not in favor of abortion but I am against using this kind of complicated issues for political ends. How do one balance in black and white gun ownership and the statement that murder is wrong? In the same way that gun advocates justify killing a human being outside the womb (to themselves) by redefining murder according to the circumstances, others justify killing a human being inside the womb (to themselves) by redefining abortion according to the circumstances.

Tea Party types do believe that killing is proper under some conditions and are against governments interfering with the freedoms of people, so why be in favor of government regulations of any kind? Criminalizing behaviors is not a solution for social problems.

Republican Jodie Laubenberg, who co-authored Texas strict anti-abortion laws in 2013, (because she says she believes that “life begins at conception”) also opposed healthcare for newly developing fetuses. Laubenberg testified that the unborn should not be entitled to health care, because “they aren’t born yet.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) the single most important factor for a healthy pregnancy is a healthy mother. This means that every woman who is of child-bearing age should have regular health screenings, as well as access to services and medications which can help diagnose, prevent, treat or cure chronic or temporary health conditions.

According to the CDC (the only agency in the United States that has the ability to monitor and track abortion rates) in 2009 there were 15.1 abortions for every 1,000 live births. Of those abortion 91.7 percent were performed earlier than 13th week of pregnancy, and of those the majority, almost 70 percent, were performed prior to the 8th week of pregnancy. Additionally, statistics show that many of the abortions that occur later in pregnancy are performed for medical reasons.

In this highly informative article published on Patheos.com, the author explains the many reasons she lost faith in the right wing’s pro-life movement.

“Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. For example, the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America—regions in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. The rate is 12 per 1,000 in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds.”

There’s a circus of political shows with no other end that entertain and distract. Like for example that speech of a democrat meant to be an attack on Republican policies when Reagan had just passed an immigration amnesty, and now it is used for opposite purposes. Life is not as simple as good conservatives on the shadow of God against evil liberal lefties doing the devil’s work.


John Locke

John Locke FRS (pron.: /ˈlɒk/; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704), widely known as the Father of Classical Liberalism,[2][3][4] was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work had a great impact upon the development […]

John Locke FRS (pron.: /?l?k/; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704), widely known as the Father of Classical Liberalism,[2][3][4] was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work had a great impact upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.[5]

Locke’s theory of mind is often cited as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self, figuring prominently in the work of later philosophers such as HumeRousseau and Kant. Locke was the first to define the self through a continuity of consciousness. He postulated that the mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa. Contrary to pre-existing Cartesian philosophy, he maintained that we are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge is instead determined only by experience derived from sense perception.[6]

Locke exercised a profound influence on political philosophy, in particular on modern liberalism. Michael Zuckert has argued that Locke launched liberalism by tempering Hobbesian absolutism and clearly separating the realms of Church and State. He had a strong influence on Voltaire who called him “le sage Locke”. His arguments concerning liberty and the social contract later influenced the written works of Alexander HamiltonJames MadisonThomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers of the United States. In fact, one passage from the Second Treatise is reproduced verbatim in the Declaration of Independence, the reference to a “long train of abuses.” Such was Locke’s influence that Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Bacon, Locke and Newton … I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences”.[11][12][13] Today, most contemporary libertarians claim Locke as an influence.

But Locke’s influence may have been even more profound in the realm of epistemology. Locke redefined subjectivity, or self, and intellectual historians such as Charles Taylor and Jerrold Seigel argue that Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) marks the beginning of the modern Western conception of the self.

Locke, writing his Letters Concerning Toleration (1689–92) in the aftermath of the European wars of religion, formulated a classic reasoning for religious tolerance. Three arguments are central: (1) Earthly judges, the state in particular, and human beings generally, cannot dependably evaluate the truth-claims of competing religious standpoints; (2) Even if they could, enforcing a single “true religion” would not have the desired effect, because belief cannot be compelled by violence; (3) Coercing religious uniformity would lead to more social disorder than allowing diversity.[15]

Appraisals of Locke have often been tied to appraisals of liberalism in general, and also to appraisals of the United States. Detractors note that (in 1671) he was a major investor in the English slave-trade through the Royal African Company, as well as through his participation in drafting the Fundamental Constitution of the Carolinas while Shaftesbury‘s secretary, which established a feudal aristocracy and gave a master absolute power over his slaves. For example, Martin Cohen notes that as a secretary to the Council of Trade and Plantations (1673–4) and a member of the Board of Trade (1696–1700) Locke was, in fact, “one of just half a dozen men who created and supervised both the colonies and their iniquitous systems of servitude”.[16] Some see his statements on unenclosed property as having been intended to justify the displacement of the Native Americans.[17][18] Because of his opposition to aristocracy and slavery in his major writings, he is accused of hypocrisy and racism, or of caring only for the liberty of English capitalists.[19]

Locke uses the word property in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right and it is derived from labour.

In Chapter V of his Second Treatise, Locke argues that the individual ownership of goods and property is justified by the labour exerted to produce those goods or utilise property to produce goods beneficial to human society.[20]

Locke stated his belief, in his Second Treatise, that nature on its own provides little of value to society; he provides the implication that the labour expended in the creation of goods gives them their value. This is used as supporting evidence for the interpretation of Locke’s labour theory of property as a labour theory of value, in his implication that goods produced by nature are of little value, unless combined with labour in their production and that labour is what gives goods their value.[20]

Locke believed that ownership of property is created by the application of labour. In addition, he believed property precedes government and government cannot “dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily.” Karl Marx later critiqued Locke’s theory of property in his own social theory.

Locke’s political theory was founded on social contract theory. Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterised by reason and tolerance. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature allowed men to be selfish. This is apparent with the introduction of currency. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Possessions”.[21] Most scholars trace the phrase, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” in the American Declaration of Independence to Locke’s theory of rights,[22] though other origins have been suggested.[23]

Like Hobbes, Locke assumed that the sole right to defend in the state of nature was not enough, so people established a civil society to resolve conflicts in a civil way with help from government in a state of society. However, Locke never refers to Hobbes by name and may instead have been responding to other writers of the day.[24] Locke also advocated governmental separation of powersand believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances. These ideas would come to have profound influence on the Declaration of Independence and theConstitution of the United States.

Along with Rousseau’s Emile (1762), Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education was one of the foundational eighteenth-century texts on educational theory. In Britain, it was considered the standard treatment of the topic for over a century. For this reason, some critics have maintained that Some Thoughts Concerning Education vies with the Essay Concerning Human Understanding for the title of Locke’s most influential work. Some of Locke’s contemporaries, such as seventeenth-century German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz, believed this as well; Leibniz argued that Some Thoughts superseded even the Essay in its impact on European society.[54]

Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education was a runaway bestseller. During the eighteenth century alone, Some Thoughts was published in at least 53 editions: 25 English, 16 French, six Italian, three German, two Dutch, and one Swedish.[55] It was also excerpted in novels such as Samuel Richardson‘s Pamela (1740–1), and it formed the theoretical basis of much children’s literature, particularly that of the first successful children’s publisher,John Newbery. According to James Secord, an eighteenth-century scholar, Newbery included Locke’s educational advice to legitimize the new genre of children’s literature. Locke’s imprimatur would ensure the genre’s success.[56]

By the end of the eighteenth century, Locke’s influence on educational thought was widely acknowledged. In 1772 James Whitchurch wrote in his Essay Upon Education that Locke was “an Author, to whom the Learned must ever acknowledge themselves highly indebted, and whose Name can never be mentioned without a secret Veneration, and Respect; his Assertions being the result of intense Thought, strict Enquiry, a clear and penetrating Judgment.”[57] Writers as politically dissimilar as Sarah Trimmer, in her periodical The Guardian of Education (1802–6),[58] and Maria Edgeworth, in the educational treatise she penned with her father, Practical Education (1798), invoked Locke’s ideas. Even Rousseau, while disputing Locke’s central claim that parents should treat their children as rational beings, acknowledged his debt to Locke.[59]

John Cleverley and D. C. Phillips place Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education at the beginning of a tradition of educational theory which they label “environmentalism.” In the years following the publication of Locke’s work, Etienne Bonnot de Condillac and Claude Adrien Helvétius eagerly adopted the idea that people’s minds were shaped through their experiences and thus through their education. Systems of teaching children through their senses proliferated throughout Europe. In Switzerland, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, relying on Locke’s theories, developed the concept of the “object lesson.” These lessons focused pupils’ attention on a particular thing and encouraged them to use all of their senses to explore it and urged them to use precise words to describe it. Used throughout Europe and America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, these object lessons, according to one of their practitioners “if well-managed, cultivate Sense-Perception, or Observation, accustom children to express their thoughts in words, increase their available stock of words and of ideas, and by thus storing material for thinking, also prepare the way for more difficult and advanced study.”[60]

Such techniques were also integral to Maria Montessori’s methods in the twentieth century. According to Cleverley and Phillips, the television show Sesame Street is also “based on Lockean assumptions—its aim has been to give underprivileged children, especially in the inner cities, the simple ideas and basic experiences that their environment normally does not provide.”[61] In many ways, despite Locke’s continuing influence, as these authors point out, the twentieth century has been dominated by the “nature vs. nurture” debate in a way that Locke’s century was not. Locke’s optimistic “environmentalism,” though qualified in his text, is now no longer just a moral issue – it is also a scientific issue.[62]

Limits to accumulation

Labour creates property, but it also does contain limits to its accumulation: man’s capacity to produce and man’s capacity to consume. According to Locke, unused property is waste and an offence against nature.[25] However, with the introduction of “durable” goods, men could exchange their excessive perishable goods for goods that would last longer and thus not offend the natural law. The introduction of money marks the culmination of this process. Money makes possible the unlimited accumulation of property without causing waste through spoilage.[26] He also includes gold or silver as money because they may be “hoarded up without injury to anyone,”[27] since they do not spoil or decay in the hands of the possessor. The introduction of money eliminates the limits of accumulation. Locke stresses that inequality has come about by tacit agreement on the use of money, not by the social contract establishing civil society or the law of land regulating property. Locke is aware of a problem posed by unlimited accumulation but does not consider it his task. He just implies that government would function to moderate the conflict between the unlimited accumulation of property and a more nearly equal distribution of wealth and does not say which principles that government should apply to solve this problem. However, not all elements of his thought form a consistent whole. For example, labour theory of value of the Two Treatises of Government stands side by side with the demand-and-supply theory developed in a letter he wrote titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money. Moreover, Locke anchors property in labour but in the end upholds the unlimited accumulation of wealth.[28]

When Locke began writing the letters that would eventually become Some Thoughts on Education, he was addressing an aristocrat, but the final text appeals to a much wider audience.[40] For example, Locke writes: “I place Vertue [sic] as the first and most necessary of those Endowments, that belong to a Man or a Gentleman.”[41] James Axtell, who edited the most comprehensive edition of Locke’s educational writings, has explained that although “he was writing for this small class, this does not preclude the possibility that many of the things he said about education, especially its main principles, were equally applicable to all children” (Axtell’s emphasis).[42] This was a contemporary view as well; Pierre Coste, in his introduction in the first French edition in 1695, wrote, “it is certain that this Work was particularly designed for the education of Gentlemen: but this does not prevent its serving also for the education of all sorts of Children, of whatever class they are.”[43]

While it is possible to apply Locke’s general principles of education to all children, and contemporaries such as Coste certainly did so, Locke himself, despite statements that may imply the contrary, believed that Some Thoughts applied only to the wealthy and the middle-class (or as they would have been referred to at the time, the “middling sorts”). As Peter Gay writes, “[i]t never occurred to him that every child should be educated or that all those to be educated should be educated alike. Locke believed that until the school system was reformed, a gentleman ought to have his son trained at home by a tutor. As for the poor, they do not appear in Locke’s little book at all.”[44]

In his “Essay on the Poor Law,” Locke turns to the education of the poor; he laments that “the children of labouring people are an ordinary burden to the parish, and are usually maintained in idleness, so that their labour also is generally lost to the public till they are 12 or 14 years old.”[45] He suggests, therefore, that “working schools” be set up in each parish in England for poor children so that they will be “from infancy [three years old] inured to work.”[46] He goes on to outline the economics of these schools, arguing not only that they will be profitable for the parish, but also that they will instill a good work ethic in the children.

On price theory

Locke’s general theory of value and price is a supply and demand theory, which was set out in a letter to a Member of Parliament in 1691, titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money.[29] Supply is quantity and demand is rent. “The price of any commodity rises or falls by the proportion of the number of buyer and sellers.” and “that which regulates the price… [of goods] is nothing else but their quantity in proportion to their rent.” The quantity theory of money forms a special case of this general theory. His idea is based on “money answers all things” (Ecclesiastes) or “rent of money is always sufficient, or more than enough,” and “varies very little…” Regardless of whether the demand for money is unlimited or constant, Locke concludes that as far as money is concerned, the demand is exclusively regulated by its quantity. He also investigates the determinants of demand and supply. For supply, goods in general are considered valuable because they can be exchanged, consumed and they must be scarce. For demand, goods are in demand because they yield a flow of income. Locke develops an early theory of capitalisation, such as land, which has value because “by its constant production of saleable commodities it brings in a certain yearly income.” Demand for money is almost the same as demand for goods or land; it depends on whether money is wanted as medium of exchange or as loanable funds. For medium of exchange “money is capable by exchange to procure us the necessaries or conveniences of life.” For loanable funds, “it comes to be of the same nature with land by yielding a certain yearly income … or interest.”

Monetary thoughts

Locke distinguishes two functions of money, as a “counter” to measure value, and as a “pledge” to lay claim to goods. He believes that silver and gold, as opposed to paper money, are the appropriate currency for international transactions. Silver and gold, he says, are treated to have equal value by all of humanity and can thus be treated as a pledge by anyone, while the value of paper money is only valid under the government which issues it.

Locke argues that a country should seek a favourable balance of trade, lest it fall behind other countries and suffer a loss in its trade. Since the world money stock grows constantly, a country must constantly seek to enlarge its own stock. Locke develops his theory of foreign exchanges, in addition to commodity movements, there are also movements in country stock of money, and movements of capital determine exchange rates. The latter is less significant and less volatile than commodity movements. As for a country’s money stock, if it is large relative to that of other countries, it will cause the country’s exchange to rise above par, as an export balance would do.

He also prepares estimates of the cash requirements for different economic groups (landholders, labourers and brokers). In each group the cash requirements are closely related to the length of the pay period. He argues the brokers – middlemen – whose activities enlarge the monetary circuit and whose profits eat into the earnings of labourers and landholders, had a negative influence on both one’s personal and the public economy that they supposedly contributed to.

The self

Locke defines the self as “that conscious thinking thing, (whatever substance, made up of whether spiritual, or material, simple, or compounded, it matters not) which is sensible, or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends”.[30] He does not, however, ignore “substance”, writing that “the body too goes to the making the man.”[31] The Lockean self is therefore a self-aware and self-reflective consciousness that is fixed in a body.

In his Essay, Locke explains the gradual unfolding of this conscious mind. Arguing against both the Augustinian view of man as originally sinful and the Cartesian position, which holds that man innately knows basic logical propositions, Locke posits an “empty” mind, a tabula rasa, which is shaped by experience; sensations and reflections being the two sources of all our ideas.[32]

Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education is an outline on how to educate this mind: he expresses the belief that education maketh the man, or, more fundamentally, that the mind is an “empty cabinet”, with the statement, “I think I may say that of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education.”[33]

Locke also wrote that “the little and almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies have very important and lasting consequences.”[34] He argued that the “associations of ideas” that one makes when young are more important than those made later because they are the foundation of the self: they are, put differently, what first mark the tabula rasa. In his Essay, in which is introduced both of these concepts, Locke warns against, for example, letting “a foolish maid” convince a child that “goblins and sprites” are associated with the night for “darkness shall ever afterwards bring with it those frightful ideas, and they shall be so joined, that he can no more bear the one than the other.”[35]

“Associationism”, as this theory would come to be called, exerted a powerful influence over eighteenth-century thought, particularly educational theory, as nearly every educational writer warned parents not to allow their children to develop negative associations. It also led to the development of psychology and other new disciplines with David Hartley‘s attempt to discover a biological mechanism for associationism in his Observations on Man (1749).

Religious beliefs

Some scholars have seen Locke’s political convictions as deriving from his religious beliefs.[36][37][38] Locke’s religious trajectory began in Calvinist trinitarianism, but by the time of the Reflections(1695) Locke was advocating not just Socinian views on tolerance but also Socinian Christology; with veiled denial of the pre-existence of Christ.[39] However Wainwright (Oxford, 1987) notes that in the posthumously published Paraphrase (1707) Locke’s interpretation of one verse, Ephesians 1:10, is markedly different from that of Socinians like Biddle, and may indicate that near the end of his life Locke returned nearer to an Arian position.[40]


the Disposition Matrix

July 11, 2014

Just a few weeks ago, during a commencement address to West Point’s graduating cadets, President Obama spoke to the importance of greater transparency “about both the basis of our counter-terrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.”
President Obama also made similar comments about drone transparency last year, but the Obama administration hasn’t yet matched the president’s words with action by publicly disclosing meaningful information about its targeted operations and its use of drone strikes.
The U.S. secret drone war is damaging our reputation abroad and arguably inspiring new terrorists instead of thwarting them. Human rights and civil rights groups have uncovered evidence of hundreds of civilian deaths unreported by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.1,2 Our government must be transparent about whom it is targeting with drones, and why, in order to shed light on whether or not the U.S. government is violating international law.
Even CIA Director John Brennan has said, the United States “need[s] to acknowledge publicly” any mistaken killings and should “make public the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes targeting al-Qa’ida.”
With the Obama administration currently considering the use of drone strikes in Iraq, which would undoubtedly lead to civilian casualties, now is the perfect time to demand transparency on the civilians killed by previous U.S. drone strikes abroad.
The public has an inalienable right to know whom their government is targeting and at what collateral cost. Now is the time to have a national conversation about the U.S. drone strike program and to demand far greater transparency from the Obama administration.
Thank you for your support.
Rick Rosenthal, CREDO Activist
Add your name:
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  1. «Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes,» ProPublica, February 5, 2013
  2. «The Toll Of 5 Years Of Drone Strikes: 2,400 Dead,» Huffington Post, January 23, 2014


Oct 27 2013, 9:55 AM ET

(The Atlantic) -Two new reports issued this week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detailed dozens of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Classified documents obtained by the Washington Post suggest that CIA officials who carry out the strikes make little effort to track civilian deaths.
“There is a lot more pressure building” on President Barack Obama, Sarah Holewinski, head of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a group pushing for greater transparency in drone strikes, told me this week. “He’s going to have to look at these legal questions.”


There is a serious terrorist threat to the United States. The administration is under enormous pressure to prevent attacks. But there are ways to safeguard the United States without sparking such a serious backlash abroad and at home.
Holewinski called on the Obama administration to implement its promise to move command of drone operations from the CIA to the American military. She said the shift, which Obama announced this spring, is going “very, very slowly.”
Military control is one step toward a key goal: greater transparency in countries where drone strikes are enormously unpopular. Keeping the drone strikes as a covert CIA-run program makes accountability and determining the true number of civilian deaths impossible, she said.
If strikes are commanded by the military and disclosed publicly, reports of civilian casualties could be investigated under military law and compensation paid to victims — as now happens in Afghanistan.
Holewinski also urged the administration to disclose targeting rules that it has refused to make public. How are civilians defined? And how are civilian casualties assessed? What is the legal definition of an individual who can be targeted?
She credited the administration for a decrease in drone strikes since Obama promised one in May. But, she insisted, the targeting process needs to be far more transparent.


The secrecy veiling Obama’s drone war

By Daphne Eviatar
January 4, 2013

It’s rare for a judge to express regret over her own ruling.  But that’s what happened Wednesday, when Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reluctantly ruled that the Obama administration does not need to provide public justification for its deadly drone war.

The memos requested by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, McMahon wrote, “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.” Still, the Freedom of Information Act allows the executive branch to keep many things secret.
In this case, McMahon ruled, the administration’s justifications for the killing of select individuals — including American citizens — without so much as a hearing, constitute an internal “deliberative process” by the government that need not be disclosed.
McMahon did not hide her disappointment. “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” she wrote, “but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules – a veritable Catch-22.” She explained, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
The judge’s lament may have, in part, been induced by the striking discord between the looking-glass world in which she found herself, and the hopes that President Barack Obama had first generated for a newly transparent government.
That continued once he was in office. In a Dec. 29, 2009 executive order, Obama said: “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government.” He insisted “our nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information both within the government and to the American people.”
He sent an accompanying memo to the heads of all executive branch agencies:

“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the federal government is a national asset.”

That was before Obama embarked on a secret, exponential expansion of the deadly drone war. Or at least, before most Americans were aware of it.
Since 2009, there have been more than 300 bombings by remote-controlled U.S. drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. During the entire Bush administration, there were just 51.
Thousands of people have reportedly been killed by the “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Though U.S. officials claim the number of civilian deaths has been minimal, independent studies show otherwise. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know how many people have been killed, or who they were, because the government doesn’t release that information.
This all stands in stark contrast to the heady early days of the Obama presidency.
Back in 2009, overruling the objections of six former CIA directors, Obama released the legal memos created by the Bush administration to justify the use of torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists.
Today, he insists on hiding memos that justify the secret killing of suspected terrorists – and, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the killing of their children.
The government has made a point of saying that these killings were all lawful and justified, trotting out senior administration officials to make those claims in a series of speeches over the last two years.
As McMahon noted, “it is not surprising that the government feels somewhat defensive.” After all, “some Americans question the power of the executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country. Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of government.”
The ACLU has already vowed to appeal McMahon’s decision. But its success is far from certain.  It’s also unclear whether any court will ever require the government to release the memos documenting its legal rationale for these secret extrajudicial killings. McMahon’s decision, however, highlights why Obama should release them nonetheless.
Demands for the memos have been mounting ever since The New York Times first revealed that administration lawyers had documented their justification for the Awlaki killing in 2010.
Both U.S. citizens and foreign allies, whom the U.S. government strongly relies on in fighting its “war on terror,” have been skeptical of the program’s legality for years.  This has stymied intelligence-sharing with foreign governments, such as Germany, and infuriated local populations in Pakistan and Yemen, whose support is critical to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
It has also undermined Obama’s reputation — making it easier for critics to say he’s no better than his predecessor. It could even tarnish his legacy as a president, for he took office promising shiny reforms after a particularly dark chapter in U.S. history.
McMahon herself noted that there is no reason to believe at this point that releasing the memos would endanger national security, because any “intelligence sources and methods” could be redacted. On the contrary, explaining under what circumstances Washington believes targeted killing would be lawful could both quell critics’ claims of U.S. lawlessness and delineate the rules the United States wants other countries to follow.
To the extent that the memos reflect internal deliberations rather than the administration’s final decisions, the Justice Department can make that clear. Obama can also explain where U.S. policy stands now.
It would be a brave and principled move on Obama’s part. It would also go a long way toward developing global confidence that, despite past mistakes, Washington is waging its fight against terrorism in accordance with the rule of law.
If Obama instead continues to take refuge in the courts, he may be able to claim a minor legal victory. But the president will have lost a far more important battle.


In April of 2012, Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim who now lives in Qatar, purchased a ticket on KLM Airlines to travel to Oklahoma, the state where he grew up. Long, a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, had learned that the congestive heart failure from which his mother suffers had worsened, and she was eager to see her son. He had last seen his mother and siblings more than a decade ago, when he returned to the US in 2001, and spent months saving the money to purchase the ticket and arranging to be away from work.

The day before he was to travel, a KLM representative called Long and informed him that the airlines could not allow him to board the flight. That, she explained, was because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed Long on its «no-fly list», which bars him from flying into his own country.

Long has now spent the last six months trying to find out why he was placed on this list and what he can do to get off of it. He has had no success, unable to obtain even the most basic information about what caused his own government to deprive him of this right to travel.

He has no idea when he was put on this list, who decided to put him on it, or the reasons for his inclusion. He has never been convicted of any crime, never been indicted or charged with a crime, and until he was less than 24 hours away from boarding that KLM flight back to his childhood home, had received no notice that his own government prohibited him from flying.

As his mother’s health declines, he remains effectively barred from returning to see her. «My mother is much too sick to come visit me, as she has difficulty now even walking very short distances,» Long told me in an interview Sunday in Doha, the sleek, booming capital city of America’s close Gulf ally, where the former Senior Airman and Staff Sergeant has lived for several years.

«I don’t understand how the government can take away my right to travel without even telling me,» he said. What is most mystifying to him is that he has spent the last decade living and working, usually teaching English, in three countries that have been very close and compliant US allies: Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and now Qatar. «If the US government wanted me to question or arrest or prosecute me, they could have had me in a minute. But there are no charges, no accusations, nothing.»

As compelling as Long’s story is, it is extremely common. Last year in Washington, I met a 19-year-old Somali-American Muslim, born and raised in the US, who saved money from a summer job to purchase a ticket to travel for the first time to Somalia to visit family members he had never met. When he went to the ticket counter to check-in, he was informed that he was barred from flying and suffered the humiliation of having to return home with his luggage and then trying to explain to his employer, family and friends why he did not travel.

Like Long, that American teenager was never convicted or even charged with any crime, and was mystified and angry that his own government secretly placed him on this list, though he remains too afraid to speak out without anonymity. «I’m scared that if I do, it’ll only get worse,» he told me.

Like so many post-9/11 civil liberties abridgments aimed primarily at Muslims, this no-fly-list abuse has worsened considerably during the Obama presidency. In February, Associated Press learned that «the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans.»

Worse, the Obama administration «lowered the bar for being added to the list». As a result, reported AP, «now a person doesn’t have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list» but can be included if they «are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security», a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.

But the worst cases are those like Long’s: when the person is suddenly barred from flying when they are outside of the US, often on the other side of the world. As a practical matter, that government act effectively exiles them from their own country. «Obviously, I can’t get to Oklahoma from Qatar if I can’t fly,» said Long. «Trying to take a boat would take weeks away from work just for the travel alone, and it’s not affordable. If I can’t fly, then I can’t go back home.»

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) now working on Long’s case, told me:

«What is happening to Saadiq happens to American Muslims with alarming regularity. Every few weeks I hear of another Muslim citizen who cannot return to the country of which he is a citizen.

«It is as if the US has created a system of secret law whereby certain behaviors – being Muslim seems to be one of them – trigger one’s placement on government watch lists that separate people from their families, end careers, and poison personal relationships. All of this done without any due process.»

The ACLU has spent years challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list in court. Representing 15 US citizens and permanent residents who have been placed on the list, , including four military veterans, the civil liberties group scored a possibly significant victory this June when the 9th Circuit of Appeals reinstated their lawsuit, which a lower court judge had dismissed, and allowed the case to proceed. ACLU lawyer Nusrat Choudhury, who argued the case, told me:

«The No Fly List bars thousands of people from commercial air travel without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion on the list. The result is a vast and growing list of individuals who, on the basis of error or innuendo, have been deemed too dangerous to fly but who are too harmless to arrest. Some have been stranded abroad when they suddenly found themselves unable to board planes.

«None of these Americans have ever been told why they are on the No Fly List or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. But, the Constitution requires the government to provide our clients a fair chance to clear their names.»

Long’s case is both typical yet particularly compelling. Strictly on humanitarian grounds, it is outright cruel to deny a person who has been convicted of no crime the ability to see his ailing mother.

Beyond the constitutional and humanitarian questions, Long was confounded by what seems to be the utterly irrational reasoning on which the no-fly list is based. As it bars him only from flying, he remains technically free to board a cruise ship to the US, one that would be filled with American civilians. Every US citizen has the constitutional right to enter the country, so he is technically free to visit the US or return there to live if he is able to get back, to visit crowded streets and shopping malls, to board trains, in essence to do anything but fly.

«It makes no sense, so it’s obvious this is meant as some kind of punishment, but for what?», he asked. «If they are so afraid of me, they can just put a law enforcement agent on the plane to escort me back home.»

After learning he had been barred from flying, Long sought assistance from the US Embassy in Doha. «After many follow-up calls to the embassy,» he recounted, «they finally gave me ‘assistance’ in the form of the website to DHS and instructions to file a complaint.» On 15 May, he filed a formal complaint with DHS and received a so-called «redress control number» with a promise to review his case within 7-10 business days. Almost six months later, he is still in Doha waiting for an answer, still harboring hope that he will receive clearance to return home to visit his sick mother.

Abbas, the CAIR lawyer, told me: «It makes my stomach churn what the US does to American Muslims while they travel.» Unfortunately, he said, the political reality of this issue tracks the familiar pattern of Muslims being denied the most basic rights: «there is zero political will to alter the use of endless secret watchlists that terrorize the Muslim community and make none of us any safer.»

Abbas worked last year on the truly wrenching case of Gulet Mohamed, the then-18-year-old Somali-American who, while visiting Kuwait, was detained at the behest of the Obama administration, and beaten and tortured by Kuwaiti authorities while he was interrogated for two weeks. Once the Kuwaitis were done with him and wanted to release him, Mohamed – who, to date, has never been charged with any crime – faced a horrible dilemma: at some point when he was traveling, the US government placed him on a no-fly list, meaning that he could no longer stay in Kuwait, but also could not return to the US, stuck in lawless limbo.

When he was in Kuwaiti detention, Gulet was able to use a cell phone illicitly obtained by a fellow detainee, and his family arranged for him to call me and the New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti to recount his story. I spent an hour on the phone with him, and still vividly recall the terror and visceral fear of the American teeanger as he tried to understand why his own government first arranged for his detention and beating, and then barred him from returning to the country where he was born and had lived his whole life, even when the Kuwaitis were eager to release him. That is the tyranny of the no-fly list.

«Our litigation in Gulet Mohamed’s case seeks to establish what I think is the very modest proposition that the US cannot actively obstruct a citizen’s movement into the US from abroad,» said Abbas. As modest – and self-evident – a proposition as that is, it is one the US courts have not recognized in the context of no-fly lists.

Saddiq Long has now purchased another ticket to travel to the US on 8 November, less than a week from now, in the hope that the US government will allow him to fly. «If he isn’t allowed to fly home on the 8th,» said Abbas, «we will plan on mobilizing people to contact the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Oklahoma City. The FBI controls these lists and his intervention could end Saadiq’s predicament.»

For now, Long can do nothing other than wait and hope that his own country, which he served for a decade in the armed forces, will deign to allow him to return. Secret deprivation of core rights, no recourse, no due process, no right even to learn what has been done to you despite zero evidence of wrongdoing: that is the life of many American Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Most significantly, it gets progressively worse, not better, as the temporal distance from 9/11 grows.


Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.
Based on interviews with «current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies», Miller reports that as «the United States‘ conventional wars are winding down», the Obama administration «expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years» (the «capture» part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the «kill» part). Specifically, «among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.» As Miller puts it: «That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.»
In pursuit of this goal, «White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.» All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates «the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.»
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that «CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones», which «reflects the agency’s transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence.» The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:

«JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command’s targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a ‘national capital region’ task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists.»

The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: «disposition matrix». Writes Miller:

«Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix’.
«The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.»

The «disposition matrix» has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is «to augment» the «separate but overlapping kill lists» maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch’s «matrix». As Miller describes it, it is «a single, continually evolving database» which includes «biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations» as well as «strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols». This analytical system that determines people’s «disposition» will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was «looking forward to the government’s arguments explaining why it won’t release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA».
This was all motivated by Obama’s refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes «a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix» as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: «We had a disposition problem.»
The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed – «It is the keeper of the criteria,» says one official to the Post – is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC – despite its nominal focus on terrorism – is the «massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States».
In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes «records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records» – «literally anything the government collects would be fair game». In other words, the NCTC – now vested with the power to determine the proper «disposition» of terrorist suspects – is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.
Worse still, as the ACLU’s legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days – a limit which «meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans» – it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC «to collect and ‘continually assess’ information on innocent Americans for up to five years».
And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:

«All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI’s office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board aren’t notified even of ‘significant’ failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped. For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.
«All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11.»

It doesn’t require any conspiracy theorizing to see what’s happening here. Indeed, it takes extreme naiveté, or wilful blindness, not to see it.
What has been created here – permanently institutionalized – is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a «matrix» that determines the «disposition» of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be «disposed» of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The Post’s Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: «The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic.» As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:

Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.

To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: «The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis.»
The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, «officials said no clear end is in sight» when it comes to the war against «terrorists» because, said one official, «we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us» but trying is «a necessary part of what we do». Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who «want to harm us». That’s the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: «No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.» You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a «disposition matrix» to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).
In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: «If you have a ‘kill list’, but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?» The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue – the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4:

«It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.»

In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. So to answer Hayes’ question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.

Detention policies

Assuming the Post’s estimates are correct – that «among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade» – this means that the war on terror will last for more than 20 years, far longer than any other American war. This is what has always made the rationale for indefinite detention – that it is permissible to detain people without due process until the «end of hostilities» – so warped in this context. Those who are advocating that are endorsing nothing less than life imprisonment – permanent incarceration – without any charges or opportunities to contest the accusations.
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations – something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life – and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic «war on terror» proponents in both political parties have become.

UPDATE

As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, «missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people – including one woman» and added: «the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children.» Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he «should have a far more responsible father».
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out «that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause.» Ample evidence supports his observation.
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror.

UPDATE II

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports:

«Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: ‘It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'»

That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military’s term for drone victims is «bug splat». This – this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset – is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president.

UPDATE III

At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled «President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List». Here is his concluding paragraph:

«Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that’s his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama’s predecessors in the Bush administration ‘were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings’, because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don’t meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix.»

It’s worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.

July 11, 2014

Just a few weeks ago, during a commencement address to West Point's graduating cadets, President Obama spoke to the importance of greater transparency “about both the basis of our counter-terrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.”
President Obama also made similar comments about drone transparency last year, but the Obama administration hasn't yet matched the president's words with action by publicly disclosing meaningful information about its targeted operations and its use of drone strikes.
The U.S. secret drone war is damaging our reputation abroad and arguably inspiring new terrorists instead of thwarting them. Human rights and civil rights groups have uncovered evidence of hundreds of civilian deaths unreported by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.1,2 Our government must be transparent about whom it is targeting with drones, and why, in order to shed light on whether or not the U.S. government is violating international law.
Even CIA Director John Brennan has said, the United States “need[s] to acknowledge publicly” any mistaken killings and should “make public the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes targeting al-Qa’ida.”
With the Obama administration currently considering the use of drone strikes in Iraq, which would undoubtedly lead to civilian casualties, now is the perfect time to demand transparency on the civilians killed by previous U.S. drone strikes abroad.
The public has an inalienable right to know whom their government is targeting and at what collateral cost. Now is the time to have a national conversation about the U.S. drone strike program and to demand far greater transparency from the Obama administration.
Thank you for your support.
Rick Rosenthal, CREDO Activist
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  1. "Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes," ProPublica, February 5, 2013
  2. "The Toll Of 5 Years Of Drone Strikes: 2,400 Dead," Huffington Post, January 23, 2014




(The Atlantic) -Two new reports issued this week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detailed dozens of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Classified documents obtained by the Washington Post suggest that CIA officials who carry out the strikes make little effort to track civilian deaths.
“There is a lot more pressure building” on President Barack Obama, Sarah Holewinski, head of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a group pushing for greater transparency in drone strikes, told me this week. “He’s going to have to look at these legal questions.”


There is a serious terrorist threat to the United States. The administration is under enormous pressure to prevent attacks. But there are ways to safeguard the United States without sparking such a serious backlash abroad and at home.
Holewinski called on the Obama administration to implement its promise to move command of drone operations from the CIA to the American military. She said the shift, which Obama announced this spring, is going “very, very slowly.”
Military control is one step toward a key goal: greater transparency in countries where drone strikes are enormously unpopular. Keeping the drone strikes as a covert CIA-run program makes accountability and determining the true number of civilian deaths impossible, she said.
If strikes are commanded by the military and disclosed publicly, reports of civilian casualties could be investigated under military law and compensation paid to victims — as now happens in Afghanistan.
Holewinski also urged the administration to disclose targeting rules that it has refused to make public. How are civilians defined? And how are civilian casualties assessed? What is the legal definition of an individual who can be targeted?
She credited the administration for a decrease in drone strikes since Obama promised one in May. But, she insisted, the targeting process needs to be far more transparent.



The secrecy veiling Obama’s drone war


By Daphne Eviatar
January 4, 2013


It’s rare for a judge to express regret over her own ruling.  But that’s what happened Wednesday, when Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reluctantly ruled that the Obama administration does not need to provide public justification for its deadly drone war.


The memos requested by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, McMahon wrote, “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.” Still, the Freedom of Information Act allows the executive branch to keep many things secret.
In this case, McMahon ruled, the administration’s justifications for the killing of select individuals — including American citizens — without so much as a hearing, constitute an internal “deliberative process” by the government that need not be disclosed.
McMahon did not hide her disappointment. “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” she wrote, “but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules – a veritable Catch-22.” She explained, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
The judge’s lament may have, in part, been induced by the striking discord between the looking-glass world in which she found herself, and the hopes that President Barack Obama had first generated for a newly transparent government.
That continued once he was in office. In a Dec. 29, 2009 executive order, Obama said: “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government.” He insisted “our nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information both within the government and to the American people.”
He sent an accompanying memo to the heads of all executive branch agencies:
“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the federal government is a national asset.”
That was before Obama embarked on a secret, exponential expansion of the deadly drone war. Or at least, before most Americans were aware of it.
Since 2009, there have been more than 300 bombings by remote-controlled U.S. drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. During the entire Bush administration, there were just 51.
Thousands of people have reportedly been killed by the “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Though U.S. officials claim the number of civilian deaths has been minimal, independent studies show otherwise. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know how many people have been killed, or who they were, because the government doesn’t release that information.
This all stands in stark contrast to the heady early days of the Obama presidency.
Back in 2009, overruling the objections of six former CIA directors, Obama released the legal memos created by the Bush administration to justify the use of torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists.
Today, he insists on hiding memos that justify the secret killing of suspected terrorists – and, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the killing of their children.
The government has made a point of saying that these killings were all lawful and justified, trotting out senior administration officials to make those claims in a series of speeches over the last two years.
As McMahon noted, “it is not surprising that the government feels somewhat defensive.” After all, “some Americans question the power of the executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country. Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of government.”
The ACLU has already vowed to appeal McMahon’s decision. But its success is far from certain.  It’s also unclear whether any court will ever require the government to release the memos documenting its legal rationale for these secret extrajudicial killings. McMahon’s decision, however, highlights why Obama should release them nonetheless.
Demands for the memos have been mounting ever since The New York Times first revealed that administration lawyers had documented their justification for the Awlaki killing in 2010.
Both U.S. citizens and foreign allies, whom the U.S. government strongly relies on in fighting its “war on terror,” have been skeptical of the program’s legality for years.  This has stymied intelligence-sharing with foreign governments, such as Germany, and infuriated local populations in Pakistan and Yemen, whose support is critical to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
It has also undermined Obama’s reputation — making it easier for critics to say he’s no better than his predecessor. It could even tarnish his legacy as a president, for he took office promising shiny reforms after a particularly dark chapter in U.S. history.
McMahon herself noted that there is no reason to believe at this point that releasing the memos would endanger national security, because any “intelligence sources and methods” could be redacted. On the contrary, explaining under what circumstances Washington believes targeted killing would be lawful could both quell critics’ claims of U.S. lawlessness and delineate the rules the United States wants other countries to follow.
To the extent that the memos reflect internal deliberations rather than the administration’s final decisions, the Justice Department can make that clear. Obama can also explain where U.S. policy stands now.
It would be a brave and principled move on Obama’s part. It would also go a long way toward developing global confidence that, despite past mistakes, Washington is waging its fight against terrorism in accordance with the rule of law.
If Obama instead continues to take refuge in the courts, he may be able to claim a minor legal victory. But the president will have lost a far more important battle.




In April of 2012, Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim who now lives in Qatar, purchased a ticket on KLM Airlines to travel to Oklahoma, the state where he grew up. Long, a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, had learned that the congestive heart failure from which his mother suffers had worsened, and she was eager to see her son. He had last seen his mother and siblings more than a decade ago, when he returned to the US in 2001, and spent months saving the money to purchase the ticket and arranging to be away from work.

The day before he was to travel, a KLM representative called Long and informed him that the airlines could not allow him to board the flight. That, she explained, was because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed Long on its "no-fly list", which bars him from flying into his own country.

Long has now spent the last six months trying to find out why he was placed on this list and what he can do to get off of it. He has had no success, unable to obtain even the most basic information about what caused his own government to deprive him of this right to travel.

He has no idea when he was put on this list, who decided to put him on it, or the reasons for his inclusion. He has never been convicted of any crime, never been indicted or charged with a crime, and until he was less than 24 hours away from boarding that KLM flight back to his childhood home, had received no notice that his own government prohibited him from flying.

As his mother's health declines, he remains effectively barred from returning to see her. "My mother is much too sick to come visit me, as she has difficulty now even walking very short distances," Long told me in an interview Sunday in Doha, the sleek, booming capital city of America's close Gulf ally, where the former Senior Airman and Staff Sergeant has lived for several years.

"I don't understand how the government can take away my right to travel without even telling me," he said. What is most mystifying to him is that he has spent the last decade living and working, usually teaching English, in three countries that have been very close and compliant US allies: Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and now Qatar. "If the US government wanted me to question or arrest or prosecute me, they could have had me in a minute. But there are no charges, no accusations, nothing."

As compelling as Long's story is, it is extremely common. Last year in Washington, I met a 19-year-old Somali-American Muslim, born and raised in the US, who saved money from a summer job to purchase a ticket to travel for the first time to Somalia to visit family members he had never met. When he went to the ticket counter to check-in, he was informed that he was barred from flying and suffered the humiliation of having to return home with his luggage and then trying to explain to his employer, family and friends why he did not travel.

Like Long, that American teenager was never convicted or even charged with any crime, and was mystified and angry that his own government secretly placed him on this list, though he remains too afraid to speak out without anonymity. "I'm scared that if I do, it'll only get worse," he told me.

Like so many post-9/11 civil liberties abridgments aimed primarily at Muslims, this no-fly-list abuse has worsened considerably during the Obama presidency. In February, Associated Press learned that "the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans."

Worse, the Obama administration "lowered the bar for being added to the list". As a result, reported AP, "now a person doesn't have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list" but can be included if they "are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security", a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.

But the worst cases are those like Long's: when the person is suddenly barred from flying when they are outside of the US, often on the other side of the world. As a practical matter, that government act effectively exiles them from their own country. "Obviously, I can't get to Oklahoma from Qatar if I can't fly," said Long. "Trying to take a boat would take weeks away from work just for the travel alone, and it's not affordable. If I can't fly, then I can't go back home."

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) now working on Long's case, told me:

"What is happening to Saadiq happens to American Muslims with alarming regularity. Every few weeks I hear of another Muslim citizen who cannot return to the country of which he is a citizen.

"It is as if the US has created a system of secret law whereby certain behaviors - being Muslim seems to be one of them - trigger one's placement on government watch lists that separate people from their families, end careers, and poison personal relationships. All of this done without any due process."

The ACLU has spent years challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list in court. Representing 15 US citizens and permanent residents who have been placed on the list, , including four military veterans, the civil liberties group scored a possibly significant victory this June when the 9th Circuit of Appeals reinstated their lawsuit, which a lower court judge had dismissed, and allowed the case to proceed. ACLU lawyer Nusrat Choudhury, who argued the case, told me:

"The No Fly List bars thousands of people from commercial air travel without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion on the list. The result is a vast and growing list of individuals who, on the basis of error or innuendo, have been deemed too dangerous to fly but who are too harmless to arrest. Some have been stranded abroad when they suddenly found themselves unable to board planes.

"None of these Americans have ever been told why they are on the No Fly List or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. But, the Constitution requires the government to provide our clients a fair chance to clear their names."

Long's case is both typical yet particularly compelling. Strictly on humanitarian grounds, it is outright cruel to deny a person who has been convicted of no crime the ability to see his ailing mother.

Beyond the constitutional and humanitarian questions, Long was confounded by what seems to be the utterly irrational reasoning on which the no-fly list is based. As it bars him only from flying, he remains technically free to board a cruise ship to the US, one that would be filled with American civilians. Every US citizen has the constitutional right to enter the country, so he is technically free to visit the US or return there to live if he is able to get back, to visit crowded streets and shopping malls, to board trains, in essence to do anything but fly.

"It makes no sense, so it's obvious this is meant as some kind of punishment, but for what?", he asked. "If they are so afraid of me, they can just put a law enforcement agent on the plane to escort me back home."

After learning he had been barred from flying, Long sought assistance from the US Embassy in Doha. "After many follow-up calls to the embassy," he recounted, "they finally gave me 'assistance' in the form of the website to DHS and instructions to file a complaint." On 15 May, he filed a formal complaint with DHS and received a so-called "redress control number" with a promise to review his case within 7-10 business days. Almost six months later, he is still in Doha waiting for an answer, still harboring hope that he will receive clearance to return home to visit his sick mother.

Abbas, the CAIR lawyer, told me: "It makes my stomach churn what the US does to American Muslims while they travel." Unfortunately, he said, the political reality of this issue tracks the familiar pattern of Muslims being denied the most basic rights: "there is zero political will to alter the use of endless secret watchlists that terrorize the Muslim community and make none of us any safer."

Abbas worked last year on the truly wrenching case of Gulet Mohamed, the then-18-year-old Somali-American who, while visiting Kuwait, was detained at the behest of the Obama administration, and beaten and tortured by Kuwaiti authorities while he was interrogated for two weeks. Once the Kuwaitis were done with him and wanted to release him, Mohamed - who, to date, has never been charged with any crime - faced a horrible dilemma: at some point when he was traveling, the US government placed him on a no-fly list, meaning that he could no longer stay in Kuwait, but also could not return to the US, stuck in lawless limbo.

When he was in Kuwaiti detention, Gulet was able to use a cell phone illicitly obtained by a fellow detainee, and his family arranged for him to call me and the New York Times' Mark Mazzetti to recount his story. I spent an hour on the phone with him, and still vividly recall the terror and visceral fear of the American teeanger as he tried to understand why his own government first arranged for his detention and beating, and then barred him from returning to the country where he was born and had lived his whole life, even when the Kuwaitis were eager to release him. That is the tyranny of the no-fly list.

"Our litigation in Gulet Mohamed's case seeks to establish what I think is the very modest proposition that the US cannot actively obstruct a citizen's movement into the US from abroad," said Abbas. As modest - and self-evident - a proposition as that is, it is one the US courts have not recognized in the context of no-fly lists.

Saddiq Long has now purchased another ticket to travel to the US on 8 November, less than a week from now, in the hope that the US government will allow him to fly. "If he isn't allowed to fly home on the 8th," said Abbas, "we will plan on mobilizing people to contact the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Oklahoma City. The FBI controls these lists and his intervention could end Saadiq's predicament."

For now, Long can do nothing other than wait and hope that his own country, which he served for a decade in the armed forces, will deign to allow him to return. Secret deprivation of core rights, no recourse, no due process, no right even to learn what has been done to you despite zero evidence of wrongdoing: that is the life of many American Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Most significantly, it gets progressively worse, not better, as the temporal distance from 9/11 grows.



Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty



The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.
Based on interviews with "current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies", Miller reports that as "the United States' conventional wars are winding down", the Obama administration "expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years" (the "capture" part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the "kill" part). Specifically, "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade." As Miller puts it: "That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."
In pursuit of this goal, "White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration's approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced." All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates "the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war."
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that "CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency's fleet of armed drones", which "reflects the agency's transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence." The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:
"JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command's targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a 'national capital region' task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists."
The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: "disposition matrix". Writes Miller:
"Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the 'disposition matrix'.
"The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the 'disposition' of suspects beyond the reach of American drones."
The "disposition matrix" has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is "to augment" the "separate but overlapping kill lists" maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch's "matrix". As Miller describes it, it is "a single, continually evolving database" which includes "biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations" as well as "strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols". This analytical system that determines people's "disposition" will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was "looking forward to the government's arguments explaining why it won't release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA".
This was all motivated by Obama's refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes "a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix" as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: "We had a disposition problem."
The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed – "It is the keeper of the criteria," says one official to the Post – is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC – despite its nominal focus on terrorism - is the "massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States".
In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes "records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records" – "literally anything the government collects would be fair game". In other words, the NCTC - now vested with the power to determine the proper "disposition" of terrorist suspects - is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.
Worse still, as the ACLU's legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days – a limit which "meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans" – it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC "to collect and 'continually assess' information on innocent Americans for up to five years".
And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:
"All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI's office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President's Intelligence Oversight Board aren't notified even of 'significant' failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped. For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.
"All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11."
It doesn't require any conspiracy theorizing to see what's happening here. Indeed, it takes extreme naiveté, or wilful blindness, not to see it.
What has been created here - permanently institutionalized - is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a "matrix" that determines the "disposition" of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be "disposed" of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The Post's Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: "The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic." As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:
Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.
To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: "The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis."
The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, "officials said no clear end is in sight" when it comes to the war against "terrorists" because, said one official, "we can't possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us" but trying is "a necessary part of what we do". Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who "want to harm us". That's the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: "No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a "disposition matrix" to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).
In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: "If you have a 'kill list', but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?" The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue - the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4:
"It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people."
In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. So to answer Hayes' question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.

Detention policies

Assuming the Post's estimates are correct – that "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade" – this means that the war on terror will last for more than 20 years, far longer than any other American war. This is what has always made the rationale for indefinite detention – that it is permissible to detain people without due process until the "end of hostilities" – so warped in this context. Those who are advocating that are endorsing nothing less than life imprisonment - permanent incarceration – without any charges or opportunities to contest the accusations.
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations – something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life – and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic "war on terror" proponents in both political parties have become.

UPDATE

As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, "missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people - including one woman" and added: "the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children." Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he "should have a far more responsible father".
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out "that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause." Ample evidence supports his observation.
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror.

UPDATE II

The Council on Foreign Relations' Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports:
"Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: 'It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'"
That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military's term for drone victims is "bug splat". This - this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset - is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president.

UPDATE III

At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled "President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List". Here is his concluding paragraph:
"Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that's his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama's predecessors in the Bush administration 'were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings', because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don't meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix."
It's worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.

pro-gun laws; where can’t we carry them?

By CAMERON MCWHIRTER and KARISHMA MEHROTRA
June 29, 2014 9:11 p.m. ET

ATLANTA—Bars, houses of worship, and other public establishments are wrestling with what to do about a new law in Georgia that starting on Tuesday dramatically will expand gun-permit holders’ right to carry weapons where people congregate.

The law allows licensed gun owners to bring weapons to bars and houses of worship, unless forbidden by proprietors. Legally-owned guns also are allowed in unrestricted areas of airports and government buildings, and may be carried at schools and in colleges if permitted by officials.

Several other states allow guns in bars or churches, but Georgia’s «Safe Carry Protection Act,» which passed the state legislature overwhelmingly earlier this year, is unusual in that it expanded gun rights in multiple places with one omnibus law.


This is horrifying: According to multiple news outlets, a Target employee found a loaded handgun in the toy aisle of a store in South Carolina.

When you’re shopping at Target, you shouldn’t have to worry about someone parading around with a semiautomatic rifle, or whether your kid is going to find a loaded handgun while looking at toys.

More than 115,000 people have already signed the petition to Target asking for gun sense policies to protect customers and employees from gun violence — and over the next two days volunteers are going to be delivering these petitions all across the country.

Gun extremists armed with semiautomatic rifles have walked into Target locations around the country, weapons out and loaded, making sure customers saw their guns.
It’s often legal to do this, because many states have weak laws that allow people to openly carry around loaded weapons without any permits, training, or background checks. That means it’s up to companies themselves to protect their customers when the law won’t. Yet according to the Wall Street Journal, Target doesn’t have any policies to stop people from carrying weapons in its stores:

Target, which boasts on its website that between 80% and 90% of its customers are women, has no restrictions on customers carrying guns in its stores.

Chipotle, Starbucks, Chili’s, Sonic Drive-In, and Jack in the Box have already responded to petitions from moms and other gun sense supporters asking the stores not to allow guns. Now it’s up to Target to protect families who shop in its stores..

Sign the petition


Concealed weapon law tossed by fed appeals court

Published February 13, 2014Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – A divided federal appeals court on Thursday struck down California’s concealed weapons rules, saying they violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said California was wrong to require applicants to show good cause to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

«The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense,» Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the majority.


September 24, 2013

It has been 577 days since George Zimmerman shot and killed our son Travyon. And it’s been 74 days since a jury set George Zimmerman free, in part because of broken «Stand Your Ground» laws that protect killers like Zimmerman — killers who first instigate conflicts and then claim self-defense.
In July, we started a petition on Change.org calling for «Stand Your Ground» laws to be reviewed and amended nationwide, but we need to turn up the pressure in order to change the same law in Texas.
Can you start your own petition calling on Governor Perry and the Texas legislature to review and amend Texas’ «Stand Your Ground» law so that people like George Zimmerman can’t kill with impunity?
Reviewing and amending separate laws in 22 different states isn’t going to be easy — we can’t do it on our own. That’s why we’re asking for your help in Texas, because we know that Governor Perry and your state legislature will be most heavily influenced by the voices of constituents like you.
We already know that there’s a major groundswell of people who want to see these laws amended, because more than 400,000 people have signed our petition. Now it’s time to take that energy and harness it, state by state, to make sure no one can stalk, chase, and kill an unarmed child and get away with it.
Not in Texas. Not in Florida. Not anywhere in America.
Our grief is overwhelming, but we are fortified by our fight to honor Trayvon’s memory by fixing these broken laws. Starting a petition only takes a few minutes. Yours could be the voice that makes sure no child in Texas ever has to experience what happened to our son.
Click here to start your own petition calling on Governor Perry and the Texas legislature to review and amend Texas’ «Stand Your Ground» laws.
Thank you for standing with us, and with Trayvon.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton


Friend —

My son, Daniel, was a smart, quiet kid.

He’d just become a straight-A student, and he was overcoming his shyness as a new member of the debate team.

On April 20th, 1999, my beautiful and bright 15-year-old son was killed by two teenagers with guns in the library of Columbine High School — one of 12 innocent kids who lost their lives for no reason at all.

It’s been 14 years since that horrible day — 14 years of fighting so no family has to grieve like ours did.

These tragedies keep happening, and so far, Congress has failed to take common-sense action to stop them — even though nine in 10 Americans have agreed that it’s time to act by expanding background checks to close the loopholes that put guns in the hands of dangerous people.

This Wednesday, OFA and allied organizations are standing up for a national Day of Action to ask members of Congress: What will it take to finally act to prevent gun violence?

I hope you’ll join in — say you’ll do one thing this week to show Congress you want action to prevent gun violence.

The last questions you ever want to hear as a parent are: «What was your child wearing, and do you have any dental records?»

That’s what the police asked me the evening of the shooting at Columbine High, as they tried to establish who had been killed.

It was the most hopeless I’d ever felt.

Since Daniel’s death, I’ve found a way to honor him: by trying to prevent other families from feeling this pain. I’ve advocated locally and nationally for smarter gun laws — even helping achieve a statewide ballot victory here in Colorado.

In December, when I heard about the shooting in Newtown, I sat in my office and broke down. I was watching another community torn apart by guns — more parents grieving, more kids who would never see graduation, or a wedding, or a family of their own.

And in the wake of another tragedy, nine in 10 Americans agreed that it was time to act — expand background checks to close the loopholes that put guns in the hands of dangerous people.

But Congress disappointed us, putting politics above the safety of our kids.

That’s why this week, we’re asking: How many parents will have to go through what I did before we say «enough»?

You should be a part of this, too. Tell Congress you’re going to keep asking until they act:

http://my.barackobama.com/Do-One-Thing-for-Gun-Violence-Prevention

Thank you,

Tom

Tom Mauser
Littleton, Colorado


January 17, 2013

On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the sweeping gun measure, the nation’s toughest. It includes a ban on the possession of high-capacity magazines.

The
 statute currently written does NOT exempt law enforcement officers. The NYPD, the State Police and virtually every law enforcement agency in the state carry 9-millimeter guns, which have a 15-round capacity.

Unless an exemption is added by the time the law takes effect in March, police would technically be in violation of the new gun measure. A spokesman for the Governor’s office called us to say, «We are still working out some details of the law and the exemption will be included.»


Published: 31 December, 2012, 18:57

There’s no country in the world where you can’t smoke a cigar in a bar, but you may sip bourbon with your Colt Python – only in America!

While the Pentagon assiduously burns billions of dollars to export the cult of violence abroad, in the meantime, back at the domestic front, the Connecticut carnage has resurrected the moribund discussion about the perennial issue: the national suicidal pastime which annually devours 30,000 people, including 2,800 kids.

Even US casualties in Afghanistan – 309 KIA in 2012 – is no match to 414 murders in New York City the same year, celebrated as the record-lowest level in over four decades, down from the apex of 2,000 annual homicides, which accidentally coincides with the overall Operation Enduring Freedom body-count since the beginning of the invasion.

I ain’t no gun-shy latte-lapping liberal or trigger-happy loony. As a veteran and responsible gun owner with a concealed carry permit, I have to admit that the sheer enormity of violence in the US doesn’t jibe well with black & white, left & right polarized partisanship.

In essence, the debate is divided & dominated by one question – what is the main culprit of the homeland heinous crimes, a deadly gun or an evil mind?

In Utopia, nobody would pack heat and everybody would live in harmony, in Dystopia, everybody would be armed to the teeth and dangerously paranoiac.

Given a choice between disarmament & arms race, the USA today is on a fast track to destination D – distraction or despair, you name it.
Spiking the guns

There’s no doubt that all too often, firearms figure prominently as killing multipliers in endemic shooting sprees. Nevertheless, to single them out as the one & only reason that gnaws at the heart of America would be:

– Morally & intellectually dishonest, absolving society at large, the local community and individuals in particular from any duty & responsibility and shifting the blame from the perpetrators & collaborators to the material evidence to the crime.

– Disingenuous – if guns were intrinsically sinful, the US president, Congress and the Supreme Court wouldn’t kowtow to NRA. Stand united, and they’d show the true colors and call for abolition of the 2nd Amendment and comprehensive weapons ban.

– Cynical – drugs, fast food & soft drink legally and profitably hurt more kids than illegal access to alcohol, tobacco & firearms. Who would dare to infringe on ‘freedom of choice’ and prohibit all sweet & slow killers?

The point is it takes a wicked mind to convert a gun into a murderous accomplice, not the other way around.
Multiple delivery vehicles

The gun manufacturing industry is just a little bro of the omnipotent military industrial complex, but it wields tremendous clout over its customer base in the most politicized business in the US.

Some of its ethically-free members shamelessly exploit & condone the cult of violence, propagated by entertainment industry, as freebie product placement in toys, movies, TV and video training games, including the nefarious “Kindergarten Killer.”
Target audience

So what drives the restless minds to ubiquitous guns, making Americans pony up $12 billion for arms & ammo a year, come hell or high water? Here’s a cursory profiling, but some characters could be tempted by multiple motives:

Frontier spirit: The true believers in the sacrosanct right for any individual to bear arms under the aegis of the 2nd Amendment. They flatly refuse to consider a “states’ rights” view that the purpose of the clause is only to protect the states in their authority to maintain formal, organized militia units which are currently substituted and overrepresented by the Pentagon and the National Guard.

Whether they need a gun or not, it doesn’t matter: for ‘the freedom fighters’, the ‘right’ to cling to firearms is article of faith in preordained exceptionalism, the ultimate totem of Americana, which, even if imported, is more symbolic than Stetson hats and Lucchese boots made in the USA.

‘The freedom fighters’ are the posse comitatus and the stormtroopers of the NRA who are ready to fight tooth & nail against Indians, Brits, aliens, commies, feds and legislators to protect their rights to bear arms any time anywhere, no matter what and the hell with individual responsibility and public safety.

Collecting spirit: This is a rarified breed of aloof connoisseurs which are mostly intelligence & military types, active duty and otherwise. They keep a low profile and enjoy the pleasure of quietly building up their exquisite caches to the envy of their pals at local SWAT teams. They keep their powder dry, but they’re the champs at burning their greenbacks on amassing the formidable arsenals of trophies.

Shooting spirit: They love it, they know it and they do it skillfully, safely & responsibly. As hunters and sports enthusiasts, ‘the weekend warriors’ wastemore ammo than all other categories combined, being the most active fun-loving crowd among gun owners. They don’t bullshit about guns & rights. For them, it’s all about shooting the bull’s eye.

Shopping spirit: Impulsive & skittish customers – prodded by the fear factor, peer pressure and propaganda of violence, these armchair commandos and wannabe Rambos ogle a gun as an adult pacifier with ‘cool’ bragging rights, a tangible insurance against intangible threats, however remote & imaginary.

This nervous Nellie types are suckers for bigger, ‘badder’ guns, which they honestly believe could compensate their total lack of situational awareness and friend or foe selective accuracy under the adrenalin rush of the enemy fire.

They are the driving force of consumerism and the firepower fetishism, oblivious to mundane murder depredations, only to be jolted into panic hoarding after media coverage of another shooting rampage or gun limitations rumor mill.
Possessed & obsessed

The extreme sides of the antisocial personality disorder are lopsidedly represented by the traditional ‘sane’ majority and deinstitutionalized & marginalized ‘insane’ minority:

Long-time active serial killers: career criminals who don’t have suicidal ideations or qualms of conscience. As outlaws and the main customers of the firearms black market, they illegally & easily get anything they want and couldn’t care less about regulations & restrictions for legit gun owners.

The committed killers, isolated & organized, are responsible for the overwhelming majority of homicides – with and without firearms – but haven’t gotten the public attention they deserve. The true heroes of the violence cult who made America exceptional by the notorious homicide rate (which exceeds Japan’s by 1,000 times), they represent & reproduce its core value, the freedom to kill & be killed.

One-time dormant multiple murderers: the miserable misfits aka psychos, while not necessarily ‘born to kill’, have their worst basic instinct awakened & conditioned by omnipresent propaganda of violence & vengeance.

They are the ultimate customers of the cult, who are capable to decode its subliminal message – death shall make thou free – into clarion call to action as the ‘ultimate solution’ to settle the scores with the hostile society.

The liberals have ‘liberated’ maniacs from involuntary commitment, exposing them to the ‘values’ of violence, while the NRA has lobbied to protect their rights to legally obtain & keep firearms, thus channeling their macabre fantasies into the outer world.

These ‘accidental’ murderers, neglected or abused by their families & communities, perpetrate less than 1 per cent of overall homicides, but attract 99 per cent of media attention, prompting publicity vultures of their kind to step out from the dark and copycat their horrific crimes.
Mind Control

To paraphrase the old adage, guns don’t regulate themselves, people do. No doubt, it’s a commendable idea to tighten up gun legislature: eliminate restrictions on tracing info sharing (Tiahrt amendments), close the gaping loopholes in state laws, ban assault rifles & high capacity clips and establish comprehensive national FBI & ATF data clearing house to encompass prospective buyers, owners & guns.

Alas, in the Disunited States of America, it is a daydream that will scarcely ever come true: a state of anarchy in firearms regulation has been created & guarded by a cabal of special interests, led by the NRA, which controls pusillanimous politicians, represents armed extremists & psychos and discredits responsible gun manufacturers & owners.

If Biden & Bloomberg have the mojo to win the undeclared war by Americans against Americans for Americans, they should set the priorities straight: liberate the USA from the bloody NRA!

Are you ready for the American Spring?

Godspeed and Happy New Year!


«The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,»

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA

In Washington on Friday, influential National Rifle Association (NRA) broke a week-long silence with a robust defence of its pro-gun position.

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA, criticised politicians who had «exploited» the tragedy in Newtown for «political gain» and took aim at laws designating schools as gun-free zones.

«They tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk,» he said.

Mr LaPierre called for a national database of the mentally ill and blamed violent video games and films for portraying murder as a «way of life».

He spoke out against the media for demonizing lawful gun owners, and for suggesting a ban on certain types of weapon would be effective.

Congress should authorise funding for armed security in every school in the country, he said, adding that an «extraordinary corps» of trained professionals could be drawn from active and retired police officers, security professionals and firefighters around the country.

Mr LaPierre was interrupted twice by anti-gun protesters carrying banners and declaring that the NRA had «blood on its hands».

The guns used in the shooting had been legally bought by the gunman’s mother, Nancy Lanza.

The shooting has seen some pro-gun congressmen say the mass shooting has prompted them to change their views on whether guns should be regulated more strictly in the US.

Meanwhile California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has been an advocate for tighter gun laws, said she would introduce new legislation when Congress meets for the first time in the new year.

But there is no bipartisan consensus on the issue, with others backing the NRA line that teachers in schools should be armed in order to better defend students if a shooting occurs.

In recent years, the N.R.A. has aggressively lobbied federal and state governments to dilute or eliminate numerous regulations on gun ownership. And the clearest beneficiary has been the gun industry — sales of firearms and ammunition have grown 5.7 percent a year since 2007, to nearly $12 billion this year, according to IBISWorld, a market research firm. Despite the recession, arms sales have been growing so fast that domestic manufacturers haven’t been able to keep up. Imports of arms have grown 3.6 percent a year in the last five years.
The industry has, in turn, been a big supporter of the N.R.A. It has contributed between $14.7 million and $38.9 million to an N.R.A.-corporate-giving campaign since 2005, according to a report published last year by the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit group that advocates greater gun control. The estimate is based on a study of the N.R.A.’s “Ring of Freedom” program and very likely understates the industry’s total financial support for the association, which does not publicly disclose a comprehensive list of its donors and how much they have given.
Officials from the N.R.A. have repeatedly said their main goal is to protect the Second Amendment rights of rank-and-file members who like to hunt or want guns for protection. But that claim is at odds with surveys that show a majority of N.R.A. members and a majority of American gun owners often support restrictions on gun sales and ownership that the N.R.A. has bitterly fought.
For instance, a 2009 poll commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 69 percent of N.R.A. members would support requiring all sellers at gun shows to conduct background checks of prospective buyers, which they do not have to do now and which the N.R.A. has steadfastly argued against. If lawful gun owners are willing to subject themselves to background checks, why is the association resisting? Its position appears only to serve the interest of gun makers and dealers who want to increase sales even if it means having dangerous weapons fall into the hands of criminals and violent individuals.
Businesses and special-interest groups often cloak their profit motives in the garb of constitutional rights — think Big Tobacco and its opposition to restrictions on smoking in public places and bold warnings on cigarette packages. The Supreme Court has made clear that the right to bear arms is not absolute and is subject to regulations and controls. Yet the N.R.A. clings to its groundless arguments that tough regulations violate the Second Amendment. Many of those arguments serve no purpose other than to increase the sales of guns and bullets.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Should veterans deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their own financial affairs be prevented from buying a gun?

The issue, for a time last week, threatened to become the biggest sticking point in a $631 billion defense bill for reshaping a military that is disengaging from a decade of warfare.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sought to amend the bill to stop the Veterans Affairs Department from putting the names of veterans deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their finances into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which prohibits them from buying or owning firearms.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., objected, saying the measure would make it easier for veterans with mental illness to own a gun, endangering themselves and others.

«I love our veterans, I vote for them all the time. They defend us,» Schumer said. «If you are a veteran or not and you have been judged to be mentally infirm, you should not have a gun.»

Currently, the VA appoints fiduciaries, often family members, to manage the pensions and disability benefits of veterans who are declared incompetent. When that happens, the department automatically enters the veteran’s name in the Criminal Background Check System.

A core group of lawmakers led by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has for several years wanted to prohibit the VA from submitting those names to the gun-check registry unless a judge or magistrate deems the veteran to be a danger. This year’s version of the bill has 21 co-sponsors. It passed the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee by voice vote, a tactic generally reserved for noncontroversial legislation. Coburn’s amendment to the defense bill contained comparable language.

«All I am saying is, let them at least have their day in court if you are going to take away a fundamental right given under the Constitution,» Coburn said in the Senate debate last Thursday night.

Congressional aides said Coburn will likely drop his effort to amend the defense bill with his proposal, but that he intends to try again on other bills coming to the Senate floor.

The number of veterans directly affected by the VA’s policy doesn’t appear to very large. Only 185 out of some 127,000 veterans added to the gun-check registry since 1998 have sought to have their names taken off, according to data that the VA shared with lawmakers during a hearing last June.

Still, the legislation over the years has attracted strong support from the National Rifle Association and various advocacy groups for veterans.

«We consider it an abject tragedy that so many of our veterans return home, after risking life and limb to defend our freedom, only to be stripped of their Second Amendment rights because they need help managing their compensation,» Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, wrote last year in an editorial.

The NRA did not respond to queries from the AP about Coburn’s latest effort.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said gun control advocates consider the VA’s current policy reasonable.

«We’re talking about people who have some form of disability to the extent that they’re unable to manage their own affairs,» Gross said. «If you’re deemed unable to handle your own affairs, that’s likely to constitute a high percentage of people who are dangerously mentally ill.»

Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said veterans with a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder but who pose no threat to others are possibly being barred from gun ownership. The current restrictions might even be a disincentive for veterans to seek needed treatment, he said.

«We want to remove these stigmas for mental health treatment. It’s a combat injury,» Tarantino said. «They wouldn’t be doing this if you were missing your right hand, so they shouldn’t be doing it if you’re seeking treatment for post-traumatic-stress-disorder or traumatic brain injury.»

VA officials have told lawmakers they believe veterans deemed incompetent already have adequate protections.

For example, they said, veterans can appeal the finding of incompetency based on new evidence. And even if the VA maintains a veteran is incompetent, he can petition the agency to have his firearm rights restored on the basis of not posing a threat to public safety.


Jul 3, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Last week, a federal judge permanently blocked Florida from enforcing a law that banned doctors from discussing gun ownership with their patients. The law, the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, signed last year by Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), prohibited “inquiries regarding firearm ownership or possession…by licensed health care practitioners” and “discrimination…based solely on upon a patient’s firearm ownership or possession.”

Because the law’s exceptions, which allow inquiries about guns if a doctor believes in “good faith” that it is relevant to a patient’s care or safety, fail to provide standards for physicians to follow, the law violates the First Amendment rights of doctors:

In her ruling, Cooke clearly sided with the physicians, saying evidence showed that physicians began “self-censoring” because of the “chilling” effect of the legislation.

“What is curious about this law — and what makes it different from so many other laws involving practitioners’ speech — is that it aims to restrict a practitioner’s ability to provide truthful, non-misleading information to a patient, whether relevant or not at the time of the consult with the patient,” Cooke wrote, citing the benefit of such “preventive medicine.” […]

Cooke, the judge, said the legislation was based on anecdotal information and unfounded conjecture. Her decision was praised by the groups of plaintiffs, which included the Florida Pediatric Society and Florida Academy of Family Physicians.

Not only did the NRA-backed Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act violate doctors’ First Amendment rights, it interfered with routine, meaningful discussion between a doctor and a patient. Questions concerning safety and the home environment are a key part of preventative medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that guns constitute a public health issue and that doctors have a duty to ask about ownership.

Out of the 65 children shot in the U.S. every day, eight are killed. And of the one-third of homes with children that have firearms in them, 40 percent store them unlocked. Guns unquestionably affect the health of American children, just as “the presence of open containers of bleach, swimming pools, balloons, and toilet locks” do.

–Alex Brown

  Gold Star Open Carry State
  Open Carry Friendly State
  Licensed Open Carry State
  Non Permissive Open Carry State
  Rural Open Carry State

In the United States, open carry is shorthand terminology for «openly carrying a firearm in public«, as distinguished from concealed carry, where firearms cannot be seen by the casual observer.

The practice of open carry, where gun owners openly carry firearms while they go about their daily business, has seen an increase in the U.S. in recent years.[1][2] This has been marked by a number of organized events intended to increase the visibility of open carry and public awareness about the practice.[3]

Proponents of open carry point to history and statistics, noting that criminals usually conceal their weapons: The 2006 FBI study «Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers» by Anthony Pinizzotto revealed that criminals carefully conceal their firearms, and they eschew the use of holsters.[4] Encouraged by groups like OpenCarry.org, GeorgiaCarry.org and some participants of the Free State Project, open carry has seen a revival in recent years,[5][6][7] but it is not yet clear if this represents just a short-term trend.[8][9]

The gun rights community has been mixed in its response. Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA have been cautious in expressing support,[10] while special-interest groups such as the aforementioned OpenCarry.org and GeorgiaCarry.org, state-level groups such as the Texas State Rifle Association (TSRA), and certain national groups such as the Gun Owners of America (GOA) have been more outspoken in favor of the practice.

Open carry is strongly opposed by gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

In the United States, the laws concerning open carry vary by state and sometimes by municipality.

Definitions

Open carry
The act of publicly carrying a loaded firearm on one’s person in plain sight.
Plain sight
Broadly defined as not being hidden from common observation; varies somewhat from state to state.
Preemption
In the context of open carry: the act of a state legislature passing laws which limit or eliminate the ability of local governments to regulate the possession or carrying of firearms.
Prohibited persons
People prohibited by law from carrying a firearm. Typical examples are felons, those convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence, those found to be addicted to alcohol or drugs, and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

Today in the United States, the laws vary from state to state regarding open carry of firearms. The categories are defined as follows:

Permissive open carry states
A state has passed full preemption of all firearms laws. They permit open carry to all non-prohibited citizens without permit or license. Open carry is lawful on foot and in a motor vehicle. Shown on the map to the right as «Gold Star» states; the term carries a pro-gun bias, as gun-control advocacy groups like the Brady Center generally give these states very low «scores» on their own ratings systems.
Licensed open carry states
A state has passed full preemption of all firearms laws. They permit open carry of a handgun to all non-prohibited citizens once they have been issued a permit or license. Open carry of a handgun is lawful on foot and in a motor vehicle.
Anomalous open carry states
In these states, open carry of a handgun is generally lawful, but the state may lack preemption or there may be other significant restrictions. Shown in the map legend as «Open Carry Friendly» states; the term is questionable as the limitations and/or lack of pre-emption means that certain areas of these states are, in their judicial system and law enforcement societies, not very «friendly» towards the practice.
Non-permissive open carry states
In these states, open carry of a handgun is not lawful, or is only lawful under such a limited set of circumstances that public carry is prohibited. Such limited circumstances may include when hunting, or while traveling to/from hunting locations, while on property controlled by the person carrying, or for lawful self-defense.

Open carry has never been ruled out as a right under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by any court. In the majority opinion in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), Justice Antonin Scalia wrote concerning the entirety of the elements of the Second Amendment; «We find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.» However, Scalia continued, «Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.»[14]

Forty-three states’ constitutions recognize and secure the right to keep and bear arms in some form, and none of those prohibit the open carrying of firearms. Five state constitutions provide that the state legislature may regulate the manner of carrying or bearing arms, and advocates argue that none rule out open carry specifically. Nine states’ constitutions indicate that the concealed carrying of firearms may be regulated and/or prohibited by the state legislature. Open carry advocates argue that, by exclusion, open carrying of arms may not be legislatively controlled in these states. But this is not settled law.[citation needed]

Section 1.7 [15] of Kentucky’s state constitution only empowers the state to enact laws prohibiting «concealed carry».

Concealed carry, or CCW (carrying a concealed weapon), refers to the practice of carrying a handgun or other weapon in public in a concealed manner, either on one’s person or in proximity.

While there is no federal law specifically addressing the issuance of concealed carry permits, 49 states have passed laws allowing citizens to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit from local government and/or law enforcement.[1] Illinois is the only state without such a provision. The states give different terms for licenses or permits to carry a concealed firearm, such as a Concealed Handgun License/Permit (CHL/CHP), Concealed (Defensive/Deadly) Weapon Permit/License (CDWL/CWP/CWL), Concealed Carry Permit/License (CCP/CCL), License To Carry (Firearms) (LTC/LTCF), Carry of Concealed Deadly Weapon license (CCDW), Concealed Pistol License (CPL), etc. Thirteen states use a single permit to regulate the practices of both concealed and open carry of a handgun.
Some states publish statistics indicating how many residents hold permits to carry concealed weapons, and their demographics. For example, Florida has issued 2,031,106 licenses since adopting its law in 1987, and had 843,463 licensed permit holders as of July 31, 2011.[2] Reported permit holders are predominantly male.[3] Some states have reported the number of permit holders increasing over time.[4]

The number of permit revocations is typically small.


by Joshua Vogel on September 10, 2011

I’m a liberal (or progressive, if you prefer the term). I’ve always had mixed feelings about gun ownership. As a child, I enjoyed playing with cap guns, and a macho, caveman corner of my personality has always liked the idea of wielding a weapon. But, the rational pragmatist in me has never been able to actually justify owning a gun.

Every so often I’ll get the urge to buy a gun for defense purposes. But when I start to reflect on it, I realize that I can’t really envision a situation where I’d need to use it. I mean, sure- I can picture a home break-in, where I’d run to the closet and open my gun safe and pull out a hand gun… but such scenarios feel like the boyhood daydreams of fighting a terrorist (and/or ninja) takeover of my high school. Even if it were to happen, it seems like something that would always play out better in my head than it would in real life.

I’m not a paranoid person. I enjoy reading the masturbatory rants of the folks who contribute to forums about the upcoming collapse of society, or post survivalist or “prepper” videos on youtube, or fret about “Peak Oil”. But I take all these things with more than a grain of salt. For the most part they are unsupported (or poorly supported) fears mixed with outright delusions.

But a couple things happened this week that did finally tip me over the edge and seriously consider a gun purchase: I watched the Republican Presidential Debates, and I heard Obama’s Address to Congress.

As someone who was recently unemployed for well over a year, and who saw his father get laid off during the tail end of that period, I now know firsthand the deep despair that fills someone who can’t get a foothold in this economy. If I hadn’t had the support of my family and friends, I may well have ended up homeless (and that’s within months of receiving a law degree).

Multiply that anxiety by the 14 million unemployed folks in this country, and the countless underemployed, and it’s not hard to see that there are a lot of scared and angry people out there.

Other countries– large, stable countries– have begun to see riots. Without an immediate reversal in course, it is only a matter of time before we see riots in the U.S. –which brings me back to the debates, and the President’s speech.

All of the front-running Republicans have decided that the path to economic recovery is a return to the laissez faire system of government– the same philosophy that was in place when America’s working class was at its weakest, poorest, and most abused. This isn’t a big surprise. As other, well respected, authors have noted, almost all modern Republican policies can be traced back to a singular goal: the creation of cheap labor. That’s all well and good, unless you are the labor. And, in case you didn’t know: 99% of us are the labor.

The President’s speech the next day didn’t make me feel any better. Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a terrific speech- or at least it would have been if he had given it two years ago when it might have done some good. But it’s too late in the game for half-measures. Even if the President got everything that he asked for (he won’t), it still wouldn’t make a significant dent in the unemployment crisis.

So I spent the next few days thinking about the state of nation, and imaging what America is going to look like in a few years. If Obama stays in power without a liberal Congress, things will be much the same for years to come: political gridlock and slowly worsening conditions for the middle class.

If the Republicans take back the executive branch, then political gridlock is the best we can hope for. If they’re able to get traction with their radical fiscal policies, they’ll keep feeding our money to corporations, banks and the ultra-wealthy. The middle class will shrink. More of us will fall into poverty, and with fewer people buying any products, even the large corporations will start to buckle and fail.

With more unemployment, more disparity between the haves and have-nots, and no clear path to prosperity in sight, I can no longer pretend that the U.S. is the stable and secure place I always knew it to be.

It is no longer unreasonable to think that things may go from bad to much, much worse. I’m not saying that an economic collapse will happen, or even that it it is likely to happen. Nor can I begin to predict the severity or duration of any crash that might occur. But in the current political climate it feels foolhardy to ignore the possibility that something very bad is on the horizon.

If you’re skeptically minded, you may be thinking that I’m being alarmist or that my anxiety is premature. You’re right of course. But there’s logic behind my madness. History is rife with examples giant social upheavals that happen with very little notice. Most recently, Egypt taught us that lesson anew. That country went from protests to revolution in a span of days.

I’m not saying that the U.S. is poised for such a revolution, of course- but I am saying that things could turn ugly here, very quickly. With the proper trigger, massive protests could form. If handled poorly, those protests could easily turn to riots. If it can happen in the U.K., it can certainly happen here. And how big could those riots be? And how long might they last? And by the time we’ve figured out the answers to those questions, will it be too late to prepare?

And so, for the first time in my life, I found myself in a gun shop, talking to the proprietor about a good beginner’s firearm for someone who is interested in home defense.

If you’ve never been to a large gun shop (and I’m sure many progressives have not), I strongly recommend that you step inside. For my part, I found the place unsettling. For the first time in my life I held a working firearm, but I didn’t feel any safer– quite the contrary, as a matter of fact.

The thing about being a liberal in a gun shop is that you are privy to a lot of conversations that you wouldn’t otherwise hear. It was rather like walking into a Tea Party convention.

The shop I went to was near my home in North Carolina. When the gruff man behind the counter found out that I was from Massachusetts, he openly mocked it for being a “socialist” state. Moments later, I overheard a woman loudly ranting about how Obama’s job plan was “destroying the country” with more spending. She was interested in buying some gold coins for when the economy collapsed.

To be fair, most folks were just there to talk about guns, and play with guns, and buy new gadgets to affix to their guns. Their comfort and knowledge of firearms made me feel nervous. I was in store full of 50+ people who didn’t feel at all shy about expressing their distain for liberals and “socialists”. All of them, I’m convinced, would have had no trouble gunning me down in an honest firefight.

I went into that store to buy a gun to protect my family in the event of a riot. I walked out feeling very nervous that if their actually was major social upheaval in the United States, a lot of angry conservatives would have no problem forming an organized militia, and they wouldn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the scores of unarmed “socialist” progressives out there.

Now I find myself wishing that liberals would flock to gun shops en masse so that they can see the world I caught a glimpse of, and so that they could interact with the same folks I did, and maybe engage in some lively political discussion. These gun shops are factories for unchecked Tea-Party-style nonsense. It means that a lot of angry and armed folks are spending their days amplifying each other’s misunderstanding and distrust of the rest of us.

And also- (and I realize that this part is just pure paranoia)– I’d like to know that if things ever really degrade, there would be a whole lot of armed liberals out there to keep the armed conservatives in check. Or at the very least, I’d like enough of them to lay down sufficient cover fire for me while I run from Whole Foods back to my Prius.


Why Americans now carry handguns in so many public places, from parks to college campuses. Is it making the country safer or more dangerous?

By Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer / March 11, 2012

Garner, N.C.

Leaning against a scrub pine as preschoolers scurry about at his feet, Shane Gazda, father of 3-year-old twins, recalls a conundrum he faced earlier that morning: whether to take his Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun to a Groundhog Day celebration in this town’s White Deer Park.

After all, what was once against the law in North Carolina – carrying a concealed gun in a town park, square, or greenway – is now, as of Dec. 1, 2011, very much allowed. To Mr. Gazda, who likes to shoot targets in his backyard, an event as innocent as paying homage to a rodent could turn dangerous if the wrong person shows up.

«Part of it is being ready for cataclysm every day,» says Gazda, a hospital maintenance engineer. «And to be honest, I started carrying precisely to protect not just myself, but my family, and anyone around me who needs help.»

Gun laws: How much do you know?

In the end, Gazda left the gun at home. But his internal debate is emblematic of one a growing number of Americans are having almost daily. Thirty years after a powerful gun-control movement swept the country, Americans are embracing the idea of owning and carrying firearms with a zeal rarely seen since the days of muskets and militias.

A combination of favorable court rulings, grass-roots activism, traditional fears of crime, and modern anxieties about government has led to what may be a tipping point on an issue that just a few years ago was one of America’s most contentious. Gun rights have now expanded to the point where the fundamental question seems not to be «should we be able to carry guns,» but instead is «where can’t we carry them?«

The answer: not very many places.

The new North Carolina statute, in fact, is one of hundreds of new gun-friendly laws enacted by states and localities in the past few years alone. Mississippi lawmakers, for instance, recently voted to allow gun owners who take an extra safety class to carry hidden weapons on college campuses and in courthouses. Ohio has granted people with permits the right to bring concealed weapons into restaurants, bars, and sports arenas. A 2010 Indiana law stipulates that private business owners let employees keep guns in their cars when parked on company property. And New Hampshire, along with several other states, has removed restrictions on bearing arms in the ultimate politically symbolic place – the State House.

In 2009, three times as many pro-gun laws were passed in the United States as antigun measures – a trend that experts say has only accelerated since then. Fully 40 states now mandate that anyone who asks for a concealed-carry permit and meets the qualifications must be issued one. One result: The number of concealed-weapon license holders in the US has gone from a few hundred thousand 10 years ago to more than 6 million today. In some parts of Tennessee, 1 out of every 11 people on the street is either carrying a weapon or has a license to do so.

«It’s a huge sea change, and one lesson to take out of all of this is that it’s amazing how fast attitudes on constitutional issues can change,» says Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and the author of «An Army of Davids.» «The thinking has turned in a way that many thought to be impossible only 15 years ago.»

By CAMERON MCWHIRTER and KARISHMA MEHROTRA
June 29, 2014 9:11 p.m. ET

ATLANTA—Bars, houses of worship, and other public establishments are wrestling with what to do about a new law in Georgia that starting on Tuesday dramatically will expand gun-permit holders' right to carry weapons where people congregate.

The law allows licensed gun owners to bring weapons to bars and houses of worship, unless forbidden by proprietors. Legally-owned guns also are allowed in unrestricted areas of airports and government buildings, and may be carried at schools and in colleges if permitted by officials.

Several other states allow guns in bars or churches, but Georgia's "Safe Carry Protection Act," which passed the state legislature overwhelmingly earlier this year, is unusual in that it expanded gun rights in multiple places with one omnibus law.



This is horrifying: According to multiple news outlets, a Target employee found a loaded handgun in the toy aisle of a store in South Carolina.

When you're shopping at Target, you shouldn't have to worry about someone parading around with a semiautomatic rifle, or whether your kid is going to find a loaded handgun while looking at toys.

More than 115,000 people have already signed the petition to Target asking for gun sense policies to protect customers and employees from gun violence -- and over the next two days volunteers are going to be delivering these petitions all across the country.

Gun extremists armed with semiautomatic rifles have walked into Target locations around the country, weapons out and loaded, making sure customers saw their guns.
It’s often legal to do this, because many states have weak laws that allow people to openly carry around loaded weapons without any permits, training, or background checks. That means it’s up to companies themselves to protect their customers when the law won’t. Yet according to the Wall Street Journal, Target doesn’t have any policies to stop people from carrying weapons in its stores:
Target, which boasts on its website that between 80% and 90% of its customers are women, has no restrictions on customers carrying guns in its stores.
Chipotle, Starbucks, Chili’s, Sonic Drive-In, and Jack in the Box have already responded to petitions from moms and other gun sense supporters asking the stores not to allow guns. Now it’s up to Target to protect families who shop in its stores..

Sign the petition




Concealed weapon law tossed by fed appeals court

Published February 13, 2014Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – A divided federal appeals court on Thursday struck down California's concealed weapons rules, saying they violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said California was wrong to require applicants to show good cause to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

"The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense," Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote for the majority.








September 24, 2013

It has been 577 days since George Zimmerman shot and killed our son Travyon. And it's been 74 days since a jury set George Zimmerman free, in part because of broken "Stand Your Ground" laws that protect killers like Zimmerman -- killers who first instigate conflicts and then claim self-defense.
In July, we started a petition on Change.org calling for "Stand Your Ground" laws to be reviewed and amended nationwide, but we need to turn up the pressure in order to change the same law in Texas.
Can you start your own petition calling on Governor Perry and the Texas legislature to review and amend Texas' "Stand Your Ground" law so that people like George Zimmerman can't kill with impunity?
Reviewing and amending separate laws in 22 different states isn't going to be easy -- we can't do it on our own. That's why we're asking for your help in Texas, because we know that Governor Perry and your state legislature will be most heavily influenced by the voices of constituents like you.
We already know that there's a major groundswell of people who want to see these laws amended, because more than 400,000 people have signed our petition. Now it's time to take that energy and harness it, state by state, to make sure no one can stalk, chase, and kill an unarmed child and get away with it.
Not in Texas. Not in Florida. Not anywhere in America.
Our grief is overwhelming, but we are fortified by our fight to honor Trayvon's memory by fixing these broken laws. Starting a petition only takes a few minutes. Yours could be the voice that makes sure no child in Texas ever has to experience what happened to our son.
Click here to start your own petition calling on Governor Perry and the Texas legislature to review and amend Texas' "Stand Your Ground" laws.
Thank you for standing with us, and with Trayvon.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton




Friend --

My son, Daniel, was a smart, quiet kid.

He'd just become a straight-A student, and he was overcoming his shyness as a new member of the debate team.

On April 20th, 1999, my beautiful and bright 15-year-old son was killed by two teenagers with guns in the library of Columbine High School -- one of 12 innocent kids who lost their lives for no reason at all.

It's been 14 years since that horrible day -- 14 years of fighting so no family has to grieve like ours did.

These tragedies keep happening, and so far, Congress has failed to take common-sense action to stop them -- even though nine in 10 Americans have agreed that it's time to act by expanding background checks to close the loopholes that put guns in the hands of dangerous people.

This Wednesday, OFA and allied organizations are standing up for a national Day of Action to ask members of Congress: What will it take to finally act to prevent gun violence?

I hope you'll join in -- say you'll do one thing this week to show Congress you want action to prevent gun violence.

The last questions you ever want to hear as a parent are: "What was your child wearing, and do you have any dental records?"

That's what the police asked me the evening of the shooting at Columbine High, as they tried to establish who had been killed.

It was the most hopeless I'd ever felt.

Since Daniel's death, I've found a way to honor him: by trying to prevent other families from feeling this pain. I've advocated locally and nationally for smarter gun laws -- even helping achieve a statewide ballot victory here in Colorado.

In December, when I heard about the shooting in Newtown, I sat in my office and broke down. I was watching another community torn apart by guns -- more parents grieving, more kids who would never see graduation, or a wedding, or a family of their own.

And in the wake of another tragedy, nine in 10 Americans agreed that it was time to act -- expand background checks to close the loopholes that put guns in the hands of dangerous people.

But Congress disappointed us, putting politics above the safety of our kids.

That's why this week, we're asking: How many parents will have to go through what I did before we say "enough"?

You should be a part of this, too. Tell Congress you're going to keep asking until they act:

http://my.barackobama.com/Do-One-Thing-for-Gun-Violence-Prevention

Thank you,

Tom

Tom Mauser
Littleton, Colorado







January 17, 2013

On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the sweeping gun measure, the nation's toughest. It includes a ban on the possession of high-capacity magazines.

The
 statute currently written does NOT exempt law enforcement officers. The NYPD, the State Police and virtually every law enforcement agency in the state carry 9-millimeter guns, which have a 15-round capacity.

Unless an exemption is added by the time the law takes effect in March, police would technically be in violation of the new gun measure. A spokesman for the Governor's office called us to say, "We are still working out some details of the law and the exemption will be included."





Published: 31 December, 2012, 18:57

There’s no country in the world where you can’t smoke a cigar in a bar, but you may sip bourbon with your Colt Python – only in America!

While the Pentagon assiduously burns billions of dollars to export the cult of violence abroad, in the meantime, back at the domestic front, the Connecticut carnage has resurrected the moribund discussion about the perennial issue: the national suicidal pastime which annually devours 30,000 people, including 2,800 kids.

Even US casualties in Afghanistan – 309 KIA in 2012 – is no match to 414 murders in New York City the same year, celebrated as the record-lowest level in over four decades, down from the apex of 2,000 annual homicides, which accidentally coincides with the overall Operation Enduring Freedom body-count since the beginning of the invasion.

I ain’t no gun-shy latte-lapping liberal or trigger-happy loony. As a veteran and responsible gun owner with a concealed carry permit, I have to admit that the sheer enormity of violence in the US doesn’t jibe well with black & white, left & right polarized partisanship.



In essence, the debate is divided & dominated by one question – what is the main culprit of the homeland heinous crimes, a deadly gun or an evil mind?

In Utopia, nobody would pack heat and everybody would live in harmony, in Dystopia, everybody would be armed to the teeth and dangerously paranoiac.

Given a choice between disarmament & arms race, the USA today is on a fast track to destination D – distraction or despair, you name it.
Spiking the guns

There’s no doubt that all too often, firearms figure prominently as killing multipliers in endemic shooting sprees. Nevertheless, to single them out as the one & only reason that gnaws at the heart of America would be:

– Morally & intellectually dishonest, absolving society at large, the local community and individuals in particular from any duty & responsibility and shifting the blame from the perpetrators & collaborators to the material evidence to the crime.

– Disingenuous – if guns were intrinsically sinful, the US president, Congress and the Supreme Court wouldn’t kowtow to NRA. Stand united, and they’d show the true colors and call for abolition of the 2nd Amendment and comprehensive weapons ban.

– Cynical – drugs, fast food & soft drink legally and profitably hurt more kids than illegal access to alcohol, tobacco & firearms. Who would dare to infringe on ‘freedom of choice’ and prohibit all sweet & slow killers?

The point is it takes a wicked mind to convert a gun into a murderous accomplice, not the other way around.
Multiple delivery vehicles

The gun manufacturing industry is just a little bro of the omnipotent military industrial complex, but it wields tremendous clout over its customer base in the most politicized business in the US.

Some of its ethically-free members shamelessly exploit & condone the cult of violence, propagated by entertainment industry, as freebie product placement in toys, movies, TV and video training games, including the nefarious “Kindergarten Killer.”
Target audience

So what drives the restless minds to ubiquitous guns, making Americans pony up $12 billion for arms & ammo a year, come hell or high water? Here’s a cursory profiling, but some characters could be tempted by multiple motives:

Frontier spirit: The true believers in the sacrosanct right for any individual to bear arms under the aegis of the 2nd Amendment. They flatly refuse to consider a “states’ rights” view that the purpose of the clause is only to protect the states in their authority to maintain formal, organized militia units which are currently substituted and overrepresented by the Pentagon and the National Guard.

Whether they need a gun or not, it doesn’t matter: for ‘the freedom fighters’, the ‘right’ to cling to firearms is article of faith in preordained exceptionalism, the ultimate totem of Americana, which, even if imported, is more symbolic than Stetson hats and Lucchese boots made in the USA.

‘The freedom fighters’ are the posse comitatus and the stormtroopers of the NRA who are ready to fight tooth & nail against Indians, Brits, aliens, commies, feds and legislators to protect their rights to bear arms any time anywhere, no matter what and the hell with individual responsibility and public safety.

Collecting spirit: This is a rarified breed of aloof connoisseurs which are mostly intelligence & military types, active duty and otherwise. They keep a low profile and enjoy the pleasure of quietly building up their exquisite caches to the envy of their pals at local SWAT teams. They keep their powder dry, but they’re the champs at burning their greenbacks on amassing the formidable arsenals of trophies.

Shooting spirit: They love it, they know it and they do it skillfully, safely & responsibly. As hunters and sports enthusiasts, ‘the weekend warriors’ wastemore ammo than all other categories combined, being the most active fun-loving crowd among gun owners. They don’t bullshit about guns & rights. For them, it’s all about shooting the bull’s eye.

Shopping spirit: Impulsive & skittish customers – prodded by the fear factor, peer pressure and propaganda of violence, these armchair commandos and wannabe Rambos ogle a gun as an adult pacifier with ‘cool’ bragging rights, a tangible insurance against intangible threats, however remote & imaginary.

This nervous Nellie types are suckers for bigger, ‘badder’ guns, which they honestly believe could compensate their total lack of situational awareness and friend or foe selective accuracy under the adrenalin rush of the enemy fire.

They are the driving force of consumerism and the firepower fetishism, oblivious to mundane murder depredations, only to be jolted into panic hoarding after media coverage of another shooting rampage or gun limitations rumor mill.
Possessed & obsessed

The extreme sides of the antisocial personality disorder are lopsidedly represented by the traditional ‘sane’ majority and deinstitutionalized & marginalized ‘insane’ minority:

Long-time active serial killers: career criminals who don’t have suicidal ideations or qualms of conscience. As outlaws and the main customers of the firearms black market, they illegally & easily get anything they want and couldn’t care less about regulations & restrictions for legit gun owners.

The committed killers, isolated & organized, are responsible for the overwhelming majority of homicides – with and without firearms – but haven’t gotten the public attention they deserve. The true heroes of the violence cult who made America exceptional by the notorious homicide rate (which exceeds Japan’s by 1,000 times), they represent & reproduce its core value, the freedom to kill & be killed.

One-time dormant multiple murderers: the miserable misfits aka psychos, while not necessarily ‘born to kill’, have their worst basic instinct awakened & conditioned by omnipresent propaganda of violence & vengeance.

They are the ultimate customers of the cult, who are capable to decode its subliminal message – death shall make thou free – into clarion call to action as the ‘ultimate solution’ to settle the scores with the hostile society.

The liberals have ‘liberated’ maniacs from involuntary commitment, exposing them to the ‘values’ of violence, while the NRA has lobbied to protect their rights to legally obtain & keep firearms, thus channeling their macabre fantasies into the outer world.

These ‘accidental’ murderers, neglected or abused by their families & communities, perpetrate less than 1 per cent of overall homicides, but attract 99 per cent of media attention, prompting publicity vultures of their kind to step out from the dark and copycat their horrific crimes.
Mind Control

To paraphrase the old adage, guns don’t regulate themselves, people do. No doubt, it’s a commendable idea to tighten up gun legislature: eliminate restrictions on tracing info sharing (Tiahrt amendments), close the gaping loopholes in state laws, ban assault rifles & high capacity clips and establish comprehensive national FBI & ATF data clearing house to encompass prospective buyers, owners & guns.

Alas, in the Disunited States of America, it is a daydream that will scarcely ever come true: a state of anarchy in firearms regulation has been created & guarded by a cabal of special interests, led by the NRA, which controls pusillanimous politicians, represents armed extremists & psychos and discredits responsible gun manufacturers & owners.

If Biden & Bloomberg have the mojo to win the undeclared war by Americans against Americans for Americans, they should set the priorities straight: liberate the USA from the bloody NRA!

Are you ready for the American Spring?

Godspeed and Happy New Year!




"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,"

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA
In Washington on Friday, influential National Rifle Association (NRA) broke a week-long silence with a robust defence of its pro-gun position.

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA, criticised politicians who had "exploited" the tragedy in Newtown for "political gain" and took aim at laws designating schools as gun-free zones.

"They tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk," he said.

Mr LaPierre called for a national database of the mentally ill and blamed violent video games and films for portraying murder as a "way of life".

He spoke out against the media for demonizing lawful gun owners, and for suggesting a ban on certain types of weapon would be effective.

Congress should authorise funding for armed security in every school in the country, he said, adding that an "extraordinary corps" of trained professionals could be drawn from active and retired police officers, security professionals and firefighters around the country.



Mr LaPierre was interrupted twice by anti-gun protesters carrying banners and declaring that the NRA had "blood on its hands".

The guns used in the shooting had been legally bought by the gunman's mother, Nancy Lanza.

The shooting has seen some pro-gun congressmen say the mass shooting has prompted them to change their views on whether guns should be regulated more strictly in the US.

Meanwhile California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has been an advocate for tighter gun laws, said she would introduce new legislation when Congress meets for the first time in the new year.

But there is no bipartisan consensus on the issue, with others backing the NRA line that teachers in schools should be armed in order to better defend students if a shooting occurs.

In recent years, the N.R.A. has aggressively lobbied federal and state governments to dilute or eliminate numerous regulations on gun ownership. And the clearest beneficiary has been the gun industry — sales of firearms and ammunition have grown 5.7 percent a year since 2007, to nearly $12 billion this year, according to IBISWorld, a market research firm. Despite the recession, arms sales have been growing so fast that domestic manufacturers haven’t been able to keep up. Imports of arms have grown 3.6 percent a year in the last five years.
The industry has, in turn, been a big supporter of the N.R.A. It has contributed between $14.7 million and $38.9 million to an N.R.A.-corporate-giving campaign since 2005, according to a report published last year by the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit group that advocates greater gun control. The estimate is based on a study of the N.R.A.’s “Ring of Freedom” program and very likely understates the industry’s total financial support for the association, which does not publicly disclose a comprehensive list of its donors and how much they have given.
Officials from the N.R.A. have repeatedly said their main goal is to protect the Second Amendment rights of rank-and-file members who like to hunt or want guns for protection. But that claim is at odds with surveys that show a majority of N.R.A. members and a majority of American gun owners often support restrictions on gun sales and ownership that the N.R.A. has bitterly fought.
For instance, a 2009 poll commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 69 percent of N.R.A. members would support requiring all sellers at gun shows to conduct background checks of prospective buyers, which they do not have to do now and which the N.R.A. has steadfastly argued against. If lawful gun owners are willing to subject themselves to background checks, why is the association resisting? Its position appears only to serve the interest of gun makers and dealers who want to increase sales even if it means having dangerous weapons fall into the hands of criminals and violent individuals.
Businesses and special-interest groups often cloak their profit motives in the garb of constitutional rights — think Big Tobacco and its opposition to restrictions on smoking in public places and bold warnings on cigarette packages. The Supreme Court has made clear that the right to bear arms is not absolute and is subject to regulations and controls. Yet the N.R.A. clings to its groundless arguments that tough regulations violate the Second Amendment. Many of those arguments serve no purpose other than to increase the sales of guns and bullets.





WASHINGTON (AP) — Should veterans deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their own financial affairs be prevented from buying a gun?

The issue, for a time last week, threatened to become the biggest sticking point in a $631 billion defense bill for reshaping a military that is disengaging from a decade of warfare.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sought to amend the bill to stop the Veterans Affairs Department from putting the names of veterans deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their finances into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which prohibits them from buying or owning firearms.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., objected, saying the measure would make it easier for veterans with mental illness to own a gun, endangering themselves and others.

"I love our veterans, I vote for them all the time. They defend us," Schumer said. "If you are a veteran or not and you have been judged to be mentally infirm, you should not have a gun."

Currently, the VA appoints fiduciaries, often family members, to manage the pensions and disability benefits of veterans who are declared incompetent. When that happens, the department automatically enters the veteran's name in the Criminal Background Check System.



A core group of lawmakers led by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has for several years wanted to prohibit the VA from submitting those names to the gun-check registry unless a judge or magistrate deems the veteran to be a danger. This year's version of the bill has 21 co-sponsors. It passed the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee by voice vote, a tactic generally reserved for noncontroversial legislation. Coburn's amendment to the defense bill contained comparable language.

"All I am saying is, let them at least have their day in court if you are going to take away a fundamental right given under the Constitution," Coburn said in the Senate debate last Thursday night.

Congressional aides said Coburn will likely drop his effort to amend the defense bill with his proposal, but that he intends to try again on other bills coming to the Senate floor.

The number of veterans directly affected by the VA's policy doesn't appear to very large. Only 185 out of some 127,000 veterans added to the gun-check registry since 1998 have sought to have their names taken off, according to data that the VA shared with lawmakers during a hearing last June.

Still, the legislation over the years has attracted strong support from the National Rifle Association and various advocacy groups for veterans.

"We consider it an abject tragedy that so many of our veterans return home, after risking life and limb to defend our freedom, only to be stripped of their Second Amendment rights because they need help managing their compensation," Chris Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist, wrote last year in an editorial.

The NRA did not respond to queries from the AP about Coburn's latest effort.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said gun control advocates consider the VA's current policy reasonable.

"We're talking about people who have some form of disability to the extent that they're unable to manage their own affairs," Gross said. "If you're deemed unable to handle your own affairs, that's likely to constitute a high percentage of people who are dangerously mentally ill."

Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said veterans with a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder but who pose no threat to others are possibly being barred from gun ownership. The current restrictions might even be a disincentive for veterans to seek needed treatment, he said.

"We want to remove these stigmas for mental health treatment. It's a combat injury," Tarantino said. "They wouldn't be doing this if you were missing your right hand, so they shouldn't be doing it if you're seeking treatment for post-traumatic-stress-disorder or traumatic brain injury."

VA officials have told lawmakers they believe veterans deemed incompetent already have adequate protections.

For example, they said, veterans can appeal the finding of incompetency based on new evidence. And even if the VA maintains a veteran is incompetent, he can petition the agency to have his firearm rights restored on the basis of not posing a threat to public safety.



Jul 3, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Last week, a federal judge permanently blocked Florida from enforcing a law that banned doctors from discussing gun ownership with their patients. The law, the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, signed last year by Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), prohibited “inquiries regarding firearm ownership or possession…by licensed health care practitioners” and “discrimination…based solely on upon a patient’s firearm ownership or possession.”

Because the law’s exceptions, which allow inquiries about guns if a doctor believes in “good faith” that it is relevant to a patient’s care or safety, fail to provide standards for physicians to follow, the law violates the First Amendment rights of doctors:



In her ruling, Cooke clearly sided with the physicians, saying evidence showed that physicians began “self-censoring” because of the “chilling” effect of the legislation.

“What is curious about this law — and what makes it different from so many other laws involving practitioners’ speech — is that it aims to restrict a practitioner’s ability to provide truthful, non-misleading information to a patient, whether relevant or not at the time of the consult with the patient,” Cooke wrote, citing the benefit of such “preventive medicine.” [...]

Cooke, the judge, said the legislation was based on anecdotal information and unfounded conjecture. Her decision was praised by the groups of plaintiffs, which included the Florida Pediatric Society and Florida Academy of Family Physicians.

Not only did the NRA-backed Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act violate doctors’ First Amendment rights, it interfered with routine, meaningful discussion between a doctor and a patient. Questions concerning safety and the home environment are a key part of preventative medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that guns constitute a public health issue and that doctors have a duty to ask about ownership.

Out of the 65 children shot in the U.S. every day, eight are killed. And of the one-third of homes with children that have firearms in them, 40 percent store them unlocked. Guns unquestionably affect the health of American children, just as “the presence of open containers of bleach, swimming pools, balloons, and toilet locks” do.

–Alex Brown





  Gold Star Open Carry State
  Open Carry Friendly State
  Licensed Open Carry State
  Non Permissive Open Carry State
  Rural Open Carry State

In the United States, open carry is shorthand terminology for "openly carrying a firearm in public", as distinguished from concealed carry, where firearms cannot be seen by the casual observer.



The practice of open carry, where gun owners openly carry firearms while they go about their daily business, has seen an increase in the U.S. in recent years.[1][2] This has been marked by a number of organized events intended to increase the visibility of open carry and public awareness about the practice.[3]

Proponents of open carry point to history and statistics, noting that criminals usually conceal their weapons: The 2006 FBI study "Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation's Law Enforcement Officers" by Anthony Pinizzotto revealed that criminals carefully conceal their firearms, and they eschew the use of holsters.[4] Encouraged by groups like OpenCarry.org, GeorgiaCarry.org and some participants of the Free State Project, open carry has seen a revival in recent years,[5][6][7] but it is not yet clear if this represents just a short-term trend.[8][9]

The gun rights community has been mixed in its response. Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA have been cautious in expressing support,[10] while special-interest groups such as the aforementioned OpenCarry.org and GeorgiaCarry.org, state-level groups such as the Texas State Rifle Association (TSRA), and certain national groups such as the Gun Owners of America (GOA) have been more outspoken in favor of the practice.

Open carry is strongly opposed by gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

In the United States, the laws concerning open carry vary by state and sometimes by municipality.

Definitions

Open carry
The act of publicly carrying a loaded firearm on one's person in plain sight.
Plain sight
Broadly defined as not being hidden from common observation; varies somewhat from state to state.
Preemption
In the context of open carry: the act of a state legislature passing laws which limit or eliminate the ability of local governments to regulate the possession or carrying of firearms.
Prohibited persons
People prohibited by law from carrying a firearm. Typical examples are felons, those convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence, those found to be addicted to alcohol or drugs, and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
Today in the United States, the laws vary from state to state regarding open carry of firearms. The categories are defined as follows:
Permissive open carry states
A state has passed full preemption of all firearms laws. They permit open carry to all non-prohibited citizens without permit or license. Open carry is lawful on foot and in a motor vehicle. Shown on the map to the right as "Gold Star" states; the term carries a pro-gun bias, as gun-control advocacy groups like the Brady Center generally give these states very low "scores" on their own ratings systems.
Licensed open carry states
A state has passed full preemption of all firearms laws. They permit open carry of a handgun to all non-prohibited citizens once they have been issued a permit or license. Open carry of a handgun is lawful on foot and in a motor vehicle.
Anomalous open carry states
In these states, open carry of a handgun is generally lawful, but the state may lack preemption or there may be other significant restrictions. Shown in the map legend as "Open Carry Friendly" states; the term is questionable as the limitations and/or lack of pre-emption means that certain areas of these states are, in their judicial system and law enforcement societies, not very "friendly" towards the practice.
Non-permissive open carry states
In these states, open carry of a handgun is not lawful, or is only lawful under such a limited set of circumstances that public carry is prohibited. Such limited circumstances may include when hunting, or while traveling to/from hunting locations, while on property controlled by the person carrying, or for lawful self-defense.
Open carry has never been ruled out as a right under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by any court. In the majority opinion in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), Justice Antonin Scalia wrote concerning the entirety of the elements of the Second Amendment; "We find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation." However, Scalia continued, "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."[14]

Forty-three states' constitutions recognize and secure the right to keep and bear arms in some form, and none of those prohibit the open carrying of firearms. Five state constitutions provide that the state legislature may regulate the manner of carrying or bearing arms, and advocates argue that none rule out open carry specifically. Nine states' constitutions indicate that the concealed carrying of firearms may be regulated and/or prohibited by the state legislature. Open carry advocates argue that, by exclusion, open carrying of arms may not be legislatively controlled in these states. But this is not settled law.[citation needed]

Section 1.7 [15] of Kentucky's state constitution only empowers the state to enact laws prohibiting "concealed carry".


Concealed carry, or CCW (carrying a concealed weapon), refers to the practice of carrying a handgun or other weapon in public in a concealed manner, either on one's person or in proximity.

While there is no federal law specifically addressing the issuance of concealed carry permits, 49 states have passed laws allowing citizens to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit from local government and/or law enforcement.[1] Illinois is the only state without such a provision. The states give different terms for licenses or permits to carry a concealed firearm, such as a Concealed Handgun License/Permit (CHL/CHP), Concealed (Defensive/Deadly) Weapon Permit/License (CDWL/CWP/CWL), Concealed Carry Permit/License (CCP/CCL), License To Carry (Firearms) (LTC/LTCF), Carry of Concealed Deadly Weapon license (CCDW), Concealed Pistol License (CPL), etc. Thirteen states use a single permit to regulate the practices of both concealed and open carry of a handgun.
Some states publish statistics indicating how many residents hold permits to carry concealed weapons, and their demographics. For example, Florida has issued 2,031,106 licenses since adopting its law in 1987, and had 843,463 licensed permit holders as of July 31, 2011.[2] Reported permit holders are predominantly male.[3] Some states have reported the number of permit holders increasing over time.[4]

The number of permit revocations is typically small.







by Joshua Vogel on September 10, 2011

I’m a liberal (or progressive, if you prefer the term). I’ve always had mixed feelings about gun ownership. As a child, I enjoyed playing with cap guns, and a macho, caveman corner of my personality has always liked the idea of wielding a weapon. But, the rational pragmatist in me has never been able to actually justify owning a gun.

Every so often I’ll get the urge to buy a gun for defense purposes. But when I start to reflect on it, I realize that I can’t really envision a situation where I’d need to use it. I mean, sure- I can picture a home break-in, where I’d run to the closet and open my gun safe and pull out a hand gun… but such scenarios feel like the boyhood daydreams of fighting a terrorist (and/or ninja) takeover of my high school. Even if it were to happen, it seems like something that would always play out better in my head than it would in real life.

I’m not a paranoid person. I enjoy reading the masturbatory rants of the folks who contribute to forums about the upcoming collapse of society, or post survivalist or “prepper” videos on youtube, or fret about “Peak Oil”. But I take all these things with more than a grain of salt. For the most part they are unsupported (or poorly supported) fears mixed with outright delusions.

But a couple things happened this week that did finally tip me over the edge and seriously consider a gun purchase: I watched the Republican Presidential Debates, and I heard Obama’s Address to Congress.

As someone who was recently unemployed for well over a year, and who saw his father get laid off during the tail end of that period, I now know firsthand the deep despair that fills someone who can’t get a foothold in this economy. If I hadn’t had the support of my family and friends, I may well have ended up homeless (and that’s within months of receiving a law degree).

Multiply that anxiety by the 14 million unemployed folks in this country, and the countless underemployed, and it’s not hard to see that there are a lot of scared and angry people out there.

Other countries– large, stable countries– have begun to see riots. Without an immediate reversal in course, it is only a matter of time before we see riots in the U.S. –which brings me back to the debates, and the President’s speech.

All of the front-running Republicans have decided that the path to economic recovery is a return to the laissez faire system of government– the same philosophy that was in place when America’s working class was at its weakest, poorest, and most abused. This isn’t a big surprise. As other, well respected, authors have noted, almost all modern Republican policies can be traced back to a singular goal: the creation of cheap labor. That’s all well and good, unless you are the labor. And, in case you didn’t know: 99% of us are the labor.

The President’s speech the next day didn’t make me feel any better. Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a terrific speech- or at least it would have been if he had given it two years ago when it might have done some good. But it’s too late in the game for half-measures. Even if the President got everything that he asked for (he won’t), it still wouldn’t make a significant dent in the unemployment crisis.

So I spent the next few days thinking about the state of nation, and imaging what America is going to look like in a few years. If Obama stays in power without a liberal Congress, things will be much the same for years to come: political gridlock and slowly worsening conditions for the middle class.

If the Republicans take back the executive branch, then political gridlock is the best we can hope for. If they’re able to get traction with their radical fiscal policies, they’ll keep feeding our money to corporations, banks and the ultra-wealthy. The middle class will shrink. More of us will fall into poverty, and with fewer people buying any products, even the large corporations will start to buckle and fail.

With more unemployment, more disparity between the haves and have-nots, and no clear path to prosperity in sight, I can no longer pretend that the U.S. is the stable and secure place I always knew it to be.

It is no longer unreasonable to think that things may go from bad to much, much worse. I’m not saying that an economic collapse will happen, or even that it it is likely to happen. Nor can I begin to predict the severity or duration of any crash that might occur. But in the current political climate it feels foolhardy to ignore the possibility that something very bad is on the horizon.

If you’re skeptically minded, you may be thinking that I’m being alarmist or that my anxiety is premature. You’re right of course. But there’s logic behind my madness. History is rife with examples giant social upheavals that happen with very little notice. Most recently, Egypt taught us that lesson anew. That country went from protests to revolution in a span of days.

I’m not saying that the U.S. is poised for such a revolution, of course- but I am saying that things could turn ugly here, very quickly. With the proper trigger, massive protests could form. If handled poorly, those protests could easily turn to riots. If it can happen in the U.K., it can certainly happen here. And how big could those riots be? And how long might they last? And by the time we’ve figured out the answers to those questions, will it be too late to prepare?

And so, for the first time in my life, I found myself in a gun shop, talking to the proprietor about a good beginner’s firearm for someone who is interested in home defense.

If you’ve never been to a large gun shop (and I’m sure many progressives have not), I strongly recommend that you step inside. For my part, I found the place unsettling. For the first time in my life I held a working firearm, but I didn’t feel any safer– quite the contrary, as a matter of fact.

The thing about being a liberal in a gun shop is that you are privy to a lot of conversations that you wouldn’t otherwise hear. It was rather like walking into a Tea Party convention.

The shop I went to was near my home in North Carolina. When the gruff man behind the counter found out that I was from Massachusetts, he openly mocked it for being a “socialist” state. Moments later, I overheard a woman loudly ranting about how Obama’s job plan was “destroying the country” with more spending. She was interested in buying some gold coins for when the economy collapsed.

To be fair, most folks were just there to talk about guns, and play with guns, and buy new gadgets to affix to their guns. Their comfort and knowledge of firearms made me feel nervous. I was in store full of 50+ people who didn’t feel at all shy about expressing their distain for liberals and “socialists”. All of them, I’m convinced, would have had no trouble gunning me down in an honest firefight.

I went into that store to buy a gun to protect my family in the event of a riot. I walked out feeling very nervous that if their actually was major social upheaval in the United States, a lot of angry conservatives would have no problem forming an organized militia, and they wouldn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the scores of unarmed “socialist” progressives out there.

Now I find myself wishing that liberals would flock to gun shops en masse so that they can see the world I caught a glimpse of, and so that they could interact with the same folks I did, and maybe engage in some lively political discussion. These gun shops are factories for unchecked Tea-Party-style nonsense. It means that a lot of angry and armed folks are spending their days amplifying each other’s misunderstanding and distrust of the rest of us.

And also- (and I realize that this part is just pure paranoia)– I’d like to know that if things ever really degrade, there would be a whole lot of armed liberals out there to keep the armed conservatives in check. Or at the very least, I’d like enough of them to lay down sufficient cover fire for me while I run from Whole Foods back to my Prius.





Why Americans now carry handguns in so many public places, from parks to college campuses. Is it making the country safer or more dangerous?

By Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer / March 11, 2012


Garner, N.C.


Leaning against a scrub pine as preschoolers scurry about at his feet, Shane Gazda, father of 3-year-old twins, recalls a conundrum he faced earlier that morning: whether to take his Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun to a Groundhog Day celebration in this town's White Deer Park.

After all, what was once against the law in North Carolina – carrying a concealed gun in a town park, square, or greenway – is now, as of Dec. 1, 2011, very much allowed. To Mr. Gazda, who likes to shoot targets in his backyard, an event as innocent as paying homage to a rodent could turn dangerous if the wrong person shows up.

"Part of it is being ready for cataclysm every day," says Gazda, a hospital maintenance engineer. "And to be honest, I started carrying precisely to protect not just myself, but my family, and anyone around me who needs help."

Gun laws: How much do you know?

In the end, Gazda left the gun at home. But his internal debate is emblematic of one a growing number of Americans are having almost daily. Thirty years after a powerful gun-control movement swept the country, Americans are embracing the idea of owning and carrying firearms with a zeal rarely seen since the days of muskets and militias.

A combination of favorable court rulings, grass-roots activism, traditional fears of crime, and modern anxieties about government has led to what may be a tipping point on an issue that just a few years ago was one of America's most contentious. Gun rights have now expanded to the point where the fundamental question seems not to be "should we be able to carry guns," but instead is "where can't we carry them?"

The answer: not very many places.

The new North Carolina statute, in fact, is one of hundreds of new gun-friendly laws enacted by states and localities in the past few years alone. Mississippi lawmakers, for instance, recently voted to allow gun owners who take an extra safety class to carry hidden weapons on college campuses and in courthouses. Ohio has granted people with permits the right to bring concealed weapons into restaurants, bars, and sports arenas. A 2010 Indiana law stipulates that private business owners let employees keep guns in their cars when parked on company property. And New Hampshire, along with several other states, has removed restrictions on bearing arms in the ultimate politically symbolic place – the State House.

In 2009, three times as many pro-gun laws were passed in the United States as antigun measures – a trend that experts say has only accelerated since then. Fully 40 states now mandate that anyone who asks for a concealed-carry permit and meets the qualifications must be issued one. One result: The number of concealed-weapon license holders in the US has gone from a few hundred thousand 10 years ago to more than 6 million today. In some parts of Tennessee, 1 out of every 11 people on the street is either carrying a weapon or has a license to do so.

"It's a huge sea change, and one lesson to take out of all of this is that it's amazing how fast attitudes on constitutional issues can change," says Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and the author of "An Army of Davids." "The thinking has turned in a way that many thought to be impossible only 15 years ago."

Corporate personhood

Corporations had been viewed as artificial persons for millennia, the debate over whether they should be afforded the same rights as humans had been raging long before the United States created, or the14th Amendment was adopted. The degree of permissible government interference … Continue reading

Corporations had been viewed as artificial persons for millennia, the debate over whether they should be afforded the same rights as humans had been raging long before the United States created, or the14th Amendment was adopted. The degree of permissible government interference in corporate affairs was controversial from the earliest days of the nation.

With the Industrial Revolution, the favored form for large businesses became the corporation as a mechanism to raise the large amounts of investment capital. The Civil War accelerated the growth of manufacturing and the power of the men who owned the large corporations. Businessmen such as Mark Hanna, sugar trust magnate Henry O. Havemeyer, banker J. P. Morgan, steel makers Charles M. Schwab and Andrew Carnegie, and railroad owners Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jay Gould created corporations which influenced legislation at the local, state, and federal levels as they built businesses that spanned multiple states and communities. After the adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868, there was some question as to whether the Amendment applied to other than freed slaves, and whether its protections could be invoked by corporations and other organizations of persons.

Corporations as legal entities have always been able to perform commercial activities, similar to a person acting as a sole proprietor, such as entering into a contract or owning property. Therefore corporations have always had a ‘legal personality’ for the purposes of conducting business while shielding individual shareholders from personal liability (i.e., protecting personal assets which were not invested in the corporation).

Corporate personhood is the legal concept that a corporation may be recognized as an individual in the eyes of the law. This doctrine forms the basis for legal recognition that corporations, as groups of people, may hold and exercise certain rights under the common law and the U.S. Constitution. The doctrine does not grant to corporations all of the rights of citizens. In Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania - 125 U.S. 181 (1888), the Court clearly affirmed the doctrine, holding, “Under the designation of ‘person’ there is no doubt that a private corporation is included [in the Fourteenth Amendment]. Such corporations are merely associations of individuals united for a special purpose and permitted to do business under a particular name and have a succession of members without dissolution.”[2] This doctrine has been reaffirmed by the Court many times since.

As a matter of interpretation of the word “person” in the Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. courts have extended certain constitutional protections to corporations. Opponents of corporate personhood seek to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit these rights to those provided by state law and state constitutions.

The basis for allowing corporations to assert protection under the U.S. Constitution is that they are organizations of people, and the people should not be deprived of their constitutional rights when they act collectively.[5] In this view, treating corporations as “persons” is a convenient legal fiction which allows corporations to sue and to be sued, provides a single entity for easier taxation and regulation, simplifies complex transactions which would otherwise involve, in the case of large corporations, thousands of people, and protects the individual rights of the shareholders as well as the right of association.

Generally, corporations are not able to claim constitutional protections which would not otherwise be available to persons acting as a group. For example, the Supreme Court has not recognized a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination for a corporation, since the right can be exercised only on an individual basis.

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, upholding the rights of corporations to make political expenditures under the First Amendment, there have been several calls for a U.S. Constitutional amendment to abolish Corporate Personhood, Ralph NaderPhil Radford and others have argued that a strict originalist philosophy should reject the doctrine of corporate personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment.

A central point of debate has been what role corporate money plays and should play in democratic politics. This is part of the larger debate on campaign finance reform and the role which money may play in politics.

The corporate personhood aspect of the campaign finance debate turns on Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010): Buckley ruled that political spending is protected by the First Amendment right to free speech, while Citizens United ruled that corporate political spending is protected, holding that corporations have a First Amendment right to free speech. Opponents of these decisions have argued that if all corporate rights under the Constitution were abolished, it would clear the way for greater regulation of campaign spending and contributions. It should be noted, however, that neither decision relied on the concept of corporate personhood, and the Buckley decision in particular deals with the rights of individuals and political committees, not corporations.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. ___ (2010), (Docket No. 08-205), is a US constitutional law case, in which the United States Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations,associations, or labor unions. The conservative lobbying group Citizens United wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as the McCain–Feingold Act or “BCRA”).[2] In a 5–4 decision, the Court held that portions of BCRA §203 violated the First Amendment.

The decision reached the Supreme Court on appeal from a July 2008 decision by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Section 203 of BCRA defined an “electioneering communication” as a broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that mentioned a candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary, and prohibited such expenditures by corporations and unions. The lower court held that §203 of BCRA applied and prohibited Citizens United from advertising the film Hillary: The Movie in broadcasts or paying to have it shown on television within 30 days of the 2008 Democratic primaries.[1][3] The Supreme Court reversed, striking down those provisions of BCRA that prohibited corporations (including nonprofit corporations) and unions from making independent expenditures and “electioneering communications”.

In Citizens United the Court confidently declared, “We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” And for skeptics who thought otherwise, the Court provided this additional assurance: “The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.”

In 2012 the Justices overturned a century-old Montana law that prohibited corporate spending in Montana state’s elections.

On march 2014 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Sebelius v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v Sebelius. These two consolidated cases concern Obamacare’s “contraceptive mandate”—the requirement that businesses offering their employees health insurance must provide plans that cover all federally-approved contraception methods at no extra cost to their employees.

Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties are both owned by Christians who believe that some of those contraceptive methods are tantamount to abortion, because they can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. The owners seek an exemption to the contraceptive mandate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute that Congress passed almost unanimously in 1993. This says that “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability”, unless the law is the least restrictive way to further a compelling state interest.

To summarize, the US judiciary thinks that corporations should have speech rights because they are basically associations of people. This view overlooks the fact that corporations are instruments with a very specific purpose, to make money.  In fact, many social ills created by corporations stem directly from corporate law. The law actually inhibits executives and corporations from being socially responsible. A provision in corporate law says the purpose of the corporation is simply to make money for shareholders. Every jurisdiction where corporations operate has its own law of corporate governance. But remarkably, the corporate design contained in hundreds of corporate laws throughout the world is nearly identical. That design creates a governing body to manage the corporation, usually a board of directors, and dictates the duties of those directors. In short, the law creates corporate purpose. That purpose is to operate in the interests of shareholders.

Of course there are people behind corporations, however, one of the main purposes of corporations is to shield people from responsibility of what the corporation do. While it is true that what guide corporations  is the human activity of their executives, boards of directors, managers and employees, all the human emotional factors of the people in the corporation pass through a “filter” created by the basic rule of maximizing profit. A corporation is a complex machine, and as it grows, its actions get more detached from the values of the founders. Wal-Mart a clear example of this. When Sam Walton was alive there probably was some truth on the saying that the Wal-Mart Way was the American Way; Nowadays is the cheap slave  labor Chinese way.

Corporations are big machines that should not go amok, the same way a train engine needs tracks. Free market is not restrain enough, specially when there is such an concentration of wealth and power and a few oligopolies control everything. In practice, corporations are powerful enough that they control government, not the other way, and is a moot point to discuss government regulations. Nonetheless one should be at least aware of the manipulations of public opinion and values.

Small family business might show some correlation between their behavior and the values of the shareholders. But the modern large corporation, the one that we, the people, the flesh and blood people, should consider, is an amoral entity, i.e., not governed by human moral values. It lacks guilt for what it does, or empathy for those it harms.  A corporation  can function beyond the natural limits that govern humans. A corporation doesn’t die with its originator. Corporations can’t feel pain. A corporation cannot be  imprisoned. One might give corporations the rights of a human being, but not similar responsibilities.

Like Frankenstein´s monster, corporations do have a life of their own, beyond the wishes, expectations or actions of their founders. Corporations are at their most nefarious as a living entity, bound on survive and thrive at all cost. The modern corporation is particularly dangerous because of its great concentration of money, power, and political influence–which it uses freely to reach its goals.

Even more, if it is granted that corporations reflect the interest and values of their owners, and there are a few extremely wealthy and powerful, that gives this few undue advantage to impose their interests on the majority.

It is a fact of life that the winner of elections for public office, specially the presidency, can be predicted on the bases of the amount spends on the campaigns.  The news media coverage in the United States is of very low quality, heavily biased towards the interests of the plutocracy. Extending the rights and prerogatives of big corporations is in practice the end of democracy.

 

In 2010, after the Supreme Court declared that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to funding political campaigns, Murray Hill took what it considers the next logical step: declaring for office.

“Until now, corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence-peddling to achieve their goals in Washington,” the candidate, who was unavailable for an interview, said in a statement. “But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves.”

William Klein, a “hired gun” who has been enlisted as Murray Hill’s campaign manager, said the firm appears to be the first “corporate person” to run for office and is promising a spirited campaign that “puts people second, or even third.”

A stunt, but how far should the corporate personhood metaphor go?


caught in the middle

Corporations are NOT people. While it is true that what guides them is the human activity of their executives, boards of directors, managers and employees, all the human emotional factors of the people in the corporation pass through a “filter” created by the two basic rules:

  1. Maximize profit
  2. Do whatever is necessary to continue the business.

(Rule number 1 should be modified when it conflicts with rule 2)

It is a slippery road to give personal rights to corporations. The corporation is an amoral entity, i.e., not governed by human moral values. It lacks guilt for what it does, or empathy for those it harms. What’s worse, this «sociopathic» entity is given the rights of a human being, but not similar responsibilities. A corporation is particularly dangerous because of its great concentration of money, power, and political influence–which it uses freely to reach its goals. To give a concrete example of the dangers of giving corporations personal rights to allow corporations to participate directly on political campaigns is a very serious threat to democracy.

To elaborate and clarify the point of freedom of speech and corporations let’s consider the case of Media corporations, those whose actual activity revolves around disseminating information and opinion. While journalist, writers, news anchors, and the like have 1st amendment rights, the corporations that they work for do not. This might be a subtle point but it is crucial. When corporations do have positions on some issues, and they always have an agenda, this is NOT freedom of speech, it is censorship. This censorship is exercised trough the firing or ostracizing of staff or source that go astray of the corporate line. Thus, to give corporations freedom of speech rights is actually antithetical of the spirit of the first amendment.

One should not confuse the individuals working within a corporation with the corporation proper. Corporations as such do not have national loyalties. Standard Oil supplied the German government during WW II as Coca Cola did. 

The U.S. Federal tax system also helps corporations operate in this amoral way by allowing them to deduct from their profits, with some limitations, the cost of public relations campaigns to cover for the damage they cause, the compensation to victims, the cleanup operations, the cost of legal defense, legal damage awards, and the cost of lobbying to change the laws in their favor or gain exemptions from the law. In other words, if they are caught, corporations pay the costs of their destructive, illegal activities with tax-free money. (Tax free for one corporation = somebody else pays more taxes.)

In their current form, corporations are the most dangerous things on earth–because they threaten the survival of humankind and the entire planetary ecosystem.

Birth control does not mean abortion I am not in favor of abortion but I am against using this kind of complicated issues for political ends. How do one balance in black and white gun ownership and the statement that murder is wrong? In the same way that gun advocates justify killing a human being outside the womb (to themselves) by redefining murder according to the circumstances, others justify killing a human being inside the womb (to themselves) by redefining abortion according to the circumstances.

Tea party types do believe that killing is proper under some conditions and are against governments interfering with the freedoms of people, so why be in favor of government regulations of any kind? Criminalizing behaviors is not a solution for social problems.

According to the CDC (the only agency in the United States that has the ability to monitor and track abortion rates) in 2009 there were 15.1 abortions for every 1,000 live births. Of those abortion 91.7 percent were performed earlier than 13th week of pregnancy, and of those the majority, almost 70 percent, were performed prior to the 8th week of pregnancy. Additionally, statistics show that many of the abortions that occur later in pregnancy are performed for medical reasons.
In this highly informative article published on Patheos.com, the author explains the many reasons she lost faith in the right wing’s pro-life movement.
“Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. For example, the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America—regions in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. The rate is 12 per 1,000 in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds.”

There’s a circus of political shows with no other end that entertain and distract. Like for example that speech of a democrat meant to be an attack on Republican policies when Reagan had just passed an immigration amnesty, and now it is used for opposite purposes. Life is not as simple as good conservatives on the shadow of God against evil liberal lefties doing the devil’s work.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lowe’s Home Improvement has found itself facing a backlash after the retail giant pulled ads from a reality show about American Muslims.

The retail giant stopped advertising on TLC’s «All-American Muslim» after a conservative group known as the Florida Family Association complained, saying the program was «propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.»

The show premiered last month and chronicles the lives of five families from Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb with a large Muslim and Arab-American population.

A state senator from Southern California said Sunday he was considering calling for a boycott.

Calling the Lowe’s decision «un-American» and «naked religious bigotry,» Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, told The Associated Press he would also consider legislative action if Lowe’s doesn’t apologize to Muslims and reinstate its ads. The senator sent a letter outlining his complaints to Lowe’s Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Niblock.

«The show is about what it’s like to be a Muslim in America, and it touches on the discrimination they sometimes face. And that kind of discrimination is exactly what’s happening here with Lowe’s,» Lieu said.

Petition

The Florida Family Association, a Florida hate group, has been aggressively targeting TLC’s new reality TV show, «All-American Muslim,»  calling it «propaganda» that «hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.»

Worse, hardware giant Lowe’s caved to pressure from the group and pulled its advertising. A Lowe’s spokesperson called the show a «lightning rod,» even though the show merely shows ordinary Muslim Americans leading normal lives!

Maha Hilal and Darakshan Raha, two Muslim-American women from Washington D.C., sprung into action and started a petition on Change.org to get the company to reverse course. Will you sign Maha and Darakshan’s petition calling on Lowe’s to reverse its decision to pull advertising on TLC’s «All-American Muslim» and apologize for its misguided action?

Florida Family Association’s biggest problem with «All-American Muslim» is that «the show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.»

Lowe’s is a business that makes decisions just like any other: based on its public image and its bottom line. If thousands of us sign Maha and Darakshan’s petition, we’ll show Lowe’s that customers and all Americans want companies that stand for tolerance and respect, not hate and fear.

Please sign Maha and Darakshan’s petition and tell Lowe’s to apologize and reverse its decision:

http://www.change.org/petitions/lowes-home-improvement-apologize-and-reinstate-advertisements-on-tlcs-all-american-muslim

People are using Change.org every day to win incredible changes in communities all over the world. Please stand with Maha and Darakshan now to help them win.

Thanks,

– Weldon and the Change.org team

P.S. Thousands of petitions are started on Change.org every month. Here are some that need your support now:
Nilton Deza has seen whole communities destroyed by toxic waste, displacement and abusive labor practices gold mining. Join his campaign asking Macy’s to join the «No Dirty Gold» campaign this holiday season.
Maria Eyles is a disabled widow in Southern California. She’s fighting Wells Fargo to get a loan modification so she can afford to stay in her home.
D.C. college student Katie Breslin is petitioning to get Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) kits and trained staff in every D.C. hospital so no sexual assault survivor is turned away without treatment.
95% of puppies sold by Petland USA come from mills where dogs are bred again and again, creating a lifetime of health problems. Join the campaign to get Petland USA to commit to not selling puppies from puppy mills — just like Petland Canada already has.

Corporations are NOT people. While it is true that what guides them is the human activity of their executives, boards of directors, managers and employees, all the human emotional factors of the people in the corporation pass through a “filter” created by the two basic rules:
  1. Maximize profit
  2. Do whatever is necessary to continue the business.
(Rule number 1 should be modified when it conflicts with rule 2)

It is a slippery road to give personal rights to corporations. The corporation is an amoral entity, i.e., not governed by human moral values. It lacks guilt for what it does, or empathy for those it harms. What's worse, this "sociopathic" entity is given the rights of a human being, but not similar responsibilities. A corporation is particularly dangerous because of its great concentration of money, power, and political influence--which it uses freely to reach its goals. To give a concrete example of the dangers of giving corporations personal rights to allow corporations to participate directly on political campaigns is a very serious threat to democracy.

To elaborate and clarify the point of freedom of speech and corporations let’s consider the case of Media corporations, those whose actual activity revolves around disseminating information and opinion. While journalist, writers, news anchors, and the like have 1st amendment rights, the corporations that they work for do not. This might be a subtle point but it is crucial. When corporations do have positions on some issues, and they always have an agenda, this is NOT freedom of speech, it is censorship. This censorship is exercised trough the firing or ostracizing of staff or source that go astray of the corporate line. Thus, to give corporations freedom of speech rights is actually antithetical of the spirit of the first amendment.

One should not confuse the individuals working within a corporation with the corporation proper. Corporations as such do not have national loyalties. Standard Oil supplied the German government during WW II as Coca Cola did. 

The U.S. Federal tax system also helps corporations operate in this amoral way by allowing them to deduct from their profits, with some limitations, the cost of public relations campaigns to cover for the damage they cause, the compensation to victims, the cleanup operations, the cost of legal defense, legal damage awards, and the cost of lobbying to change the laws in their favor or gain exemptions from the law. In other words, if they are caught, corporations pay the costs of their destructive, illegal activities with tax-free money. (Tax free for one corporation = somebody else pays more taxes.)

In their current form, corporations are the most dangerous things on earth--because they threaten the survival of humankind and the entire planetary ecosystem.


Birth control does not mean abortion I am not in favor of abortion but I am against using this kind of complicated issues for political ends. How do one balance in black and white gun ownership and the statement that murder is wrong? In the same way that gun advocates justify killing a human being outside the womb (to themselves) by redefining murder according to the circumstances, others justify killing a human being inside the womb (to themselves) by redefining abortion according to the circumstances.

Tea party types do believe that killing is proper under some conditions and are against governments interfering with the freedoms of people, so why be in favor of government regulations of any kind? Criminalizing behaviors is not a solution for social problems.

According to the CDC (the only agency in the United States that has the ability to monitor and track abortion rates) in 2009 there were 15.1 abortions for every 1,000 live births. Of those abortion 91.7 percent were performed earlier than 13th week of pregnancy, and of those the majority, almost 70 percent, were performed prior to the 8th week of pregnancy. Additionally, statistics show that many of the abortions that occur later in pregnancy are performed for medical reasons.
In this highly informative article published on Patheos.com, the author explains the many reasons she lost faith in the right wing’s pro-life movement.
“Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. For example, the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America—regions in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. The rate is 12 per 1,000 in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds.”


There’s a circus of political shows with no other end that entertain and distract. Like for example that speech of a democrat meant to be an attack on Republican policies when Reagan had just passed an immigration amnesty, and now it is used for opposite purposes. Life is not as simple as good conservatives on the shadow of God against evil liberal lefties doing the devil’s work.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lowe's Home Improvement has found itself facing a backlash after the retail giant pulled ads from a reality show about American Muslims.

The retail giant stopped advertising on TLC's "All-American Muslim" after a conservative group known as the Florida Family Association complained, saying the program was "propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values."

The show premiered last month and chronicles the lives of five families from Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb with a large Muslim and Arab-American population.

A state senator from Southern California said Sunday he was considering calling for a boycott.

Calling the Lowe's decision "un-American" and "naked religious bigotry," Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, told The Associated Press he would also consider legislative action if Lowe's doesn't apologize to Muslims and reinstate its ads. The senator sent a letter outlining his complaints to Lowe's Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Niblock.

"The show is about what it's like to be a Muslim in America, and it touches on the discrimination they sometimes face. And that kind of discrimination is exactly what's happening here with Lowe's," Lieu said.



Petition



The Florida Family Association, a Florida hate group, has been aggressively targeting TLC's new reality TV show, "All-American Muslim,"  calling it "propaganda" that "hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values."

Worse, hardware giant Lowe’s caved to pressure from the group and pulled its advertising. A Lowe’s spokesperson called the show a "lightning rod," even though the show merely shows ordinary Muslim Americans leading normal lives!

Maha Hilal and Darakshan Raha, two Muslim-American women from Washington D.C., sprung into action and started a petition on Change.org to get the company to reverse course. Will you sign Maha and Darakshan's petition calling on Lowe's to reverse its decision to pull advertising on TLC's "All-American Muslim" and apologize for its misguided action?

Florida Family Association's biggest problem with "All-American Muslim" is that "the show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish."

Lowe’s is a business that makes decisions just like any other: based on its public image and its bottom line. If thousands of us sign Maha and Darakshan’s petition, we’ll show Lowe’s that customers and all Americans want companies that stand for tolerance and respect, not hate and fear.

Please sign Maha and Darakshan's petition and tell Lowe's to apologize and reverse its decision:

http://www.change.org/petitions/lowes-home-improvement-apologize-and-reinstate-advertisements-on-tlcs-all-american-muslim

People are using Change.org every day to win incredible changes in communities all over the world. Please stand with Maha and Darakshan now to help them win.

Thanks,

- Weldon and the Change.org team



P.S. Thousands of petitions are started on Change.org every month. Here are some that need your support now:
Nilton Deza has seen whole communities destroyed by toxic waste, displacement and abusive labor practices gold mining. Join his campaign asking Macy's to join the "No Dirty Gold" campaign this holiday season.
Maria Eyles is a disabled widow in Southern California. She's fighting Wells Fargo to get a loan modification so she can afford to stay in her home.
D.C. college student Katie Breslin is petitioning to get Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) kits and trained staff in every D.C. hospital so no sexual assault survivor is turned away without treatment.
95% of puppies sold by Petland USA come from mills where dogs are bred again and again, creating a lifetime of health problems. Join the campaign to get Petland USA to commit to not selling puppies from puppy mills -- just like Petland Canada already has.

Barry O’Bomber

Posted by Lesley Clark on October 11, 2013

«I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees,» she said in the statement. «I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.»

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani girl who was shot in the head on her school bus by Taliban gunmen for criticizing their rule, including banning education for girls.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/10/11/205176/obama-and-first-lady-meet-with.html


The ‘war on terror’ – by design – can never end

In October, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported that the administration was instituting a «disposition matrix» to determine how terrorism suspects will be disposed of, all based on this fact: «among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.» As Miller puts it: «That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.»

The polices adopted by the Obama administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been relentlessly strengthened over the last decade. In the name of the War on Terror, the current president has diluted decades-old Miranda warnings; codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on US soil; plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois; increased secrecy, repression and release-restrictions at the camp; minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens; renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five years, as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely held detainees.
Does that sound to you like a government anticipating the end of the War on Terror any time soon? Or does it sound like one working feverishly to make their terrorism-justified powers of detention, surveillance, killing and secrecy permanent? About all of this, the ACLU’s Executive Director, Anthony Romero, provided the answer on Thursday: «President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day. His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended.»
There’s a good reason US officials are assuming the «War on Terror» will persist indefinitely: namely, their actions ensure that this occurs. The New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg this morning examines what the US government seems to regard as the strange phenomenon of Afghan soldiers attacking US troops with increasing frequency, and in doing so, discovers a shocking reality: people end up disliking those who occupy and bomb their country:


By Jack Goldsmith
Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:18 PM

President Obama, today, on the possibility of leaks from the White House:

The notion that the White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive, it’s wrong, and people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office . . . . We are dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people — our families or our military or our allies — and so we don’t play with that.

This is not a credible statement.

With regard to drones and the Bin Laden attack: It has been obvious for years that senior national security officials, including White House officials, regularly and opportunistically leak details to the press (or urge subordinate agencies to do so). Dan Klaidman’s new book confirms this. In connection with the CIA killing of Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009, Klaidman reports, in direct contradiction of the President:

Though the program was covert, [White House Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel pushed the CIA to publicize its covert successes. When Mehsud was killed, agency public affairs officers anonymously trumpeted their triumph, leaking colorful tidbits to trusted reporters on the intelligence beat. (emphasis added)

With regard to “Olympic Games,” the cyber-operation against Iran, the Sanger NYT story is based on “officials involved in the program.” And Sanger’s book from which the story is drawn was based on interviews with “senior administration officials,” including White House officials. The book has quotations from many Obama-era briefings about Olympic Games with the president (including quotations attributed to the president himself). And it contains many intimate details about the program – details that Sanger says “were known only by an extremely tight group of top intelligence, military, and White House officials.” (Some of the early details of Olympic Games appear to be drawn from Bush-era officials.)

It is of course possible, consistent with these points, that the White House did not (as the President guardedly said) “purposely release” classified information about Olympic Games. Journalists have many tricks for building up insider accounts of White House conversations without the participants in those conversations being the original or main or purposeful source. Many elements of the leaks to Sanger (and to Klaidman, and to Becker and Shane) no doubt came from civil servants and political appointees around the government who spoke to reporters, without White House authorization, in order to spin an operation in their favor, to settle a bureaucratic score, or to appear important. The White House may have been involved, if at all, only in correcting inaccuracies or seeking to suppress facts in the Sanger story.

With regard to Olympic Games, in short, I am prepared to believe that President Obama and his White House advisors are genuinely angry about the leak. It is nonetheless remarkable that President’s Obama takes “offense” at the charge that his White House might have leaked Olympic Games. It is perfectly natural, in light of the massive White House (or White House-induced) national security leaks of the last few years, especially on drones, to attribute leaks about Olympic Games to someone in the White House. The President says that the public “need[s] to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office,” presumably with regard to classified information. But he has only his administration to blame for the understandable public sense that the White House leaks national security secrets. His failure to understand this is an indication of a White House bubble on the issue.


By Glenn Garvin
ggarvin@MiamiHerald.com

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering words of a constitutional law professor who promised us he was going to put an end to the callous disregard for the law of that bring-‘em-dead-or-alive cowboy George W. Bush.

“We’re going to close Guantánamo!” shouted Barack Obama to the San Antonio crowd that day in 2007. “And we’re going to restore habeas corpus. . . . We’re going to lead by example, by not just word but by deed.”

The deed, as it has turned out, included not very much habeas but a lot of corpus. Obama’s alternative to sending suspected terrorists to the federal prison at Guantánamo Bay has been to kill them, by the hundreds and perhaps thousands.

The death toll in Pakistan alone, by the count of the New America Foundation, last week stood somewhere between 1,456 and 2,372 since Obama took office.

The vast majority of those killings were done by aptly named Predator drones, which — piloted by remote control from CIA and Pentagon command rooms back in the United States — slowly cruise the skies of the Middle East looking for targets to attack with their even more aptly named Hellfire missiles. (Though former CIA attorney John Rizzo helpfully explained in an interview last week that the Obama White House sometimes likes to keep things old school: “The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.)

Obama has launched over 250 drone attacks during his three years in office, more than six times as many as the lawless yahoo Bush ordered during his entire presidency. And to say Obama launched them is not merely a figure of speech; a lengthy New York Times story last week detailed how the president personally approves the target of every attack at cozy little White House meetings known as Terror Tuesdays.

The president shuffles a stack of biographies and photos that some participants in the meeting compare to baseball trading cards, bringing to bear not only his mighty intellect but his refined moral sensibilities (“a student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,” the awed New York Times reporters wrote) before deciding who goes onto what’s known, with chilling lack of euphemism, as the “kill list.”

There are actually two separate kill lists, one compiled by the Pentagon and another by the CIA, using different legal criteria, which conveniently allows administration officials to shop around for the best forum in which to get their targets approved. And what are those differing criteria? In fact, just where in the U.S. Constitution or legal code is the authority that allows the president to appoint himself judge, jury and executioner?

Well, nobody knows. The Obama administration has classified all its legal memos and opinions used to justify the killings and has successfully beaten back every attempt to force their disclosure. Curiously, Obama had a very different perspective on the Bush administration’s legal opinions on interrogation techniques that looked a lot like torture: He quickly declassified them, even though six former CIA directors begged him not to.

After two decades as a foreign correspondent, much of it spent covering nations that bore the United States ill will, I’m no utopian when it comes to American self-defense or compliance with international law. There are people out there who mean to do us harm, operating from countries that cannot or will not do anything about them. I didn’t get too weepy about the death of Osama bin Laden, and I’m sure a lot of the people to whom Obama has sent Hellfire greeting cards richly deserved them.

But is this really the world we want, one where murderous drones orbit the skies over a big chunk of the earth, periodically blowing somebody’s head off? Of course we wanted to kill Osama and a few of his top lieutenants. But were there really 2,372 of them?

The answer is unequivocally no. Already the president has moved beyond “targeted strikes” — that is, attacks on specific individuals against whom we have some evidence of terrorist activities — to “signature strikes,” in which we obliterate people who look like they might be terrorists, with heavy emphasis on the might.

The White House policy “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent,” reported The New York Times. And no, it didn’t mention any posthumous CIA techniques for bringing the innocent back to life. I guess Augustine and Thomas Aquinas didn’t cover that.


By: Kevin Gosztola Saturday June 2, 2012 5:24 pm

This morning, Chris Hayes did a segment on his show on MSNBC called “Up with Chris” that examined President Barack Obama’s reported “kill list,” whether the number of civilians being killed by drones is being hidden from the American public and whether the program is, in fact, legal as the Obama administration claims. The segment aired just days after a major story by the New York Times on the “kill list” catapulted US drone policy into the national conversation. It also was one of the few segments that MSNBC aired on the Obama administration’s drone program all week.

Colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst, Hina Shamsi from the ACLU’s National Security Project, Jeremy Scahill of The Nation magazine and Josh Treviño of the Texas Public Policy Foundation appeared on the program for the discussion.

Hayes set up the segment by mentioning that a policy of kill or capture of terror suspects has largely transformed into a policy of just killing the suspects. The issue had been “bubbling a bit” but just this week, Hayes said, it “felt like it really kind of entered the national conversation assertively for the first time this week.”

“Up with Chris” is a progressive show. Many of the viewers carry an expectation—albeit an unreasonable one—that Hayes will not wholly criticize Obama because there is a Republican presidential candidate named Mitt Romney out there trying to defeat Obama in the presidential election. There also are Republicans running to defeat Democrats, voters are being suppressed in states to help Republicans win and discussion of Obama and drones is destructive to the progressive cause. And that is why the segment got under the skin of many liberals and also why it was so critical that Hayes did this segment on his show.

Shamsi made a key point:

We have had a program that was begun under the Bush administration but vastly expanded under the Obama administration and this is a program in which the Executive Branch – the president claims the authority to unilaterally declare people enemies of the state including US citizens and order their killing based on secret legal criteria, secret process and secret evidence. There is no national security policy that poses a graver threat to human rights law and civil liberties than this policy today.

Scahill explained how Obama has been “out-Cheneying Cheney” by “running an assassination program where in a two week span in Yemen he killed three US citizens, none of whom had been charged or indicted or charged with any crime.” Two of the victims, Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, were clearly innocent. The FBI told Khan’s family that his speech—the propaganda he was writing and his work as editor of the magazine of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Inspire, was protected First Amendment speech and he had broken no US laws. In the case of Awlaki, a 16-year-old US citizen “whose only crime appears to be that his last name was Awlaki, he was “murdered in a US strike.” No explanation, Scahill said, has been given as to why he was killed.

“There is no indication that any suspected militants were killed. There is no indication that any known al Qaeda figures were killed. That family deserves an explanation. The American people deserve an explanation.” Scahill continued: “”People talked about Cheney running an executive assassination ring. What’s President Obama’s policy? This would have sparked outrage among liberals and they are deafeningly silent on this issue.”

Then, Hayes had Scahill address what really upset liberals the most: the fact that Scahill would say with a straight face Obama was a murderer for killing innocent people with drone strikes.

Scahill stated “the most dangerous thing” the US is doing “besides murdering innocent people in many cases is giving people in Yemen or Somalia or Pakistan a non-ideological reason to hate the United States, to want to fight the United States.” Hayes told Scahill calling it murder is a “provocative” way of describing what is happening and he wanted Scahill to defend using the word murder.

HAYES: Jeremy, you used the word “murder” before when you talked about the people who have killed by these strikes who are not combatants we can establish? And obviously that’s al oaded word because it carries certain legal and moral ramifications. Why do you use that word?

SCAHILL: If someone goes into a shopping mall in pursuit of one of their enemies and opens fire on a crowd of people and guns down a bunch of innocent people in a shopping mall, they’ve murdered those people. When the Obama administration sets a policy where patterns of life are enough of a green light to drop missiles on people or to use to send in AC-130s to spray them down —

JACOBS: That isn’t the case here (cross-talk)

SCAHILL: If you go to the village of al Majala in Yemen where I was and you see the unexploded cluster bombs and you have the list and photographic evidence as I do of the women and children that represented the vast majority of the deaths in this first strike that Obama authorized on Yemen, those people were murdered by President Obama on his orders because there was believed to be someone from al Qaeda in that area. There’s only one person that’s been identified that had any connection to al Qaeda there and twenty-one women and fourteen children were killed in that strike and the US tried to cover it up and say it was a Yemeni strike and we know from the WikiLeaks that David Petraeus conspired with the president of Yemen to lie to the world about who did that bombing. It’s murder. It’s mass murder when you say we are going to bomb this area because we believe a terrorist there and you know women and children are in the area. The United States has an obligation to not bomb that area if they believe women and children are there.

Trevino responded to Scahill by raising a historical example of US armed forces killing French civilians during World War II. He argued that America knew there were innocent people where they were bombing and then essentially asked if the people who carried out those attacks were murderers. Scahill said yes, which led Trevino to suggest that people should be arguing Dwight D. Eisenhower should have been prosecuted. It was a poor strawman that Trevino tried to construct to get Scahill to back down from arguing that the US government has killed people it has known to be innocent and this should not have happened.

From this point, Scahill and Trevino went back and forth with each other throughout the rest of the segment. Trevino contended there was a long history of dealing with Americans who have decided to make war on the United States and that it was not reasonable to expect Lincoln to have handled the Confederacy in the way that people are suggesting Obama should handle US-born terror suspects. Trevino said Obama is “part of a continuum.” That was not something of which Scahill disagreed.

“We have a dictatorship of the Executive Branch of government when it comes to foreign policy,” said Scahill.

Later in the show, Trevino attempted to shut down a lot of what had been said by Shamsi on the legal issues posed by the drone program and what Scahill had said about Obama murdering people. He argued, “Part of the reason there isn’t an outcry over this is that the American people really are getting the policy that they want. It’s not that controversial.”

Scahill rightfully replied in agreement, “Obama has normalized assassination for a lot of liberals who would have been outraged if it was President McCain.” The nation has developed a “bloodthirst.” Citizens now “treat targeted killings like sporting events and dance in the streets” (e.g. what happened when Osama bin Laden was assassinated).


From statements made in February by the families of victims and survivors of a March 17, 2011, drone attack in the village of Datta Khel in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. The statements were collected by the British human rights group Reprieve and were included in their lawsuit challenging the legal right of the British government to aid the United States in its drone campaign. More than half of all deaths from U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have occurred in North Waziristan. Translated from the Pashto.

I am approximately forty-six years old, though I do not know the exact date of my birth. I am a malice of my tribe, meaning that I am a man of responsibility among my people. One of my brother’s sons, Din Mohammed, whom I was very fond of, was killed by a drone missile on March 17, 2011. He was one of about forty people who died in this strike. Din Mohammed was twenty-five years old when he died. These men were gathered together for a jirga, a gathering of tribal elders to solve disputes. This particular jirga was to solve a disagreement over chromite, a mineral mined in Waziristan. My nephew was attending the jirga because he was involved in the transport and sale of this mineral. My brother, Din Mohammed’s father, arrived at the scene of the strike shortly following the attack. He saw death all around him, and then he found his own son. My brother had to bring his son back home in pieces. That was all that remained of Din Mohammed.

I saw my father about three hours before the drone strike killed him. News of the strike didn’t reach me until later, and I arrived at the location in the evening. When I got off the bus near the bazaar, I immediately saw flames in and around the station. The fires burned for two days straight. I went to where the jirga had been held. There were still people lying around injured. The tribal elders who had been killed could not be identified because there were body parts strewn about. The smell was awful. I just collected the pieces of flesh that I believed belonged to my father and placed them in a small coffin.

The sudden loss of so many elders and leaders in my community has had a tremendous impact. Everyone is now afraid to gather together to hold jirgas and solve our problems. Even if we want to come together to protest the illegal drone strikes, we fear that meeting to discuss how to peacefully protest will put us at risk of being killed by drones.

The first time I saw a drone in the sky was about eight years ago, when I was thirteen. I have counted six or seven drone strikes in my village since the beginning of 2012. There were sixty or seventy primary schools in and around my village, but only a few remain today. Few children attend school because they fear for their lives walking to and from their homes. I am mostly illiterate. I stopped going to school because we were all very afraid that we would be killed. I am twenty-one years old. My time has passed. I cannot learn how to read or write so that I can better my life. But I very much wish my children to grow up without these killer drones hovering above, so that they may get the education and life I was denied.

The men who died in this strike were our leaders; the ones we turned to for all forms of support. We always knew that drone strikes were wrong, that they encroached on Pakistan’s sovereign territory. We knew that innocent civilians had been killed. However, we did not realize how callous and cruel it could be. The community is now plagued with fear. The tribal elders are afraid to gather together in jirgas, as had been our custom for more than a century. The mothers and wives plead with the men not to congregate together. They do not want to lose any more of their husbands, sons, brothers, and nephews. People in the same family now sleep apart because they do not want their togetherness to be viewed suspiciously through the eye of the drone. They do not want to become the next target.


By Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK | Op-Ed 

On May 29, The New York Times published an extraordinarily in-depth look at the intimate role President Obama has played in authorizing US drone attacks overseas, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is chilling to read the cold, macabre ease with which the President and his staff decide who will live or die. The fate of people living thousands of miles away is decided by a group of Americans, elected and unelected, who don’t speak their language, don’t know their culture, don’t understand their motives or values. While purporting to represent the world’s greatest democracy, US leaders are putting people on a hit list who are as young as 17, people who are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law.

Who is furnishing the President and his aides with this list of terrorist suspects to choose from, like baseball cards? The kind of intelligence used to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the «worst of the worst,» only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

Why should the public believe what the Obama administration says about the people being assassinated by drones? Especially since, as we learn in the New York Times, the administration came up with a semantic solution to keep the civilian death toll to a minimum: simply count all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants. The rationale, reminiscent of George Zimmerman’s justification for shooting Trayvon Martin, is that «people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.» Talk about profiling! At least when George Bush threw suspected militants into Guantanamo their lives were spared.

Referring to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the article reveals that for Obama, even ordering an American citizen to be assassinated by drone was «easy.» Not so easy was twisting the Constitution to assert that while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantees American citizens due process, this can simply consist of «internal deliberations in the executive branch.» No need for the irksome interference of checks and balances.

Al-Awlaki might have been guilty of defecting to the enemy, but the Constitution requires that even traitors be convicted on the «testimony of two witnesses» or a «confession in open court,» not the say-so of the executive branch.

In addition to hit lists, Obama has granted the CIA the authority to kill with even greater ease using «signature strikes,» i.e. strikes based solely on suspicious behavior. The article reports State Department officials complained that the CIA’s criteria for identifying a terrorist «signature» were too lax. «The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks,’ the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued.»

Obama’s top legal adviser Harold Koh insists that this killing spree is legal under international law because the US has the inherent right to self-defense. It’s true that all nations possess the right to defend themselves, but the defense must be against an imminent attack that is overwhelming and leaves no moment of deliberation. When a nation is not in an armed conflict, the rules are even stricter. The killing must be necessary to protect life and there must be no other means, such as capture or nonlethal incapacitation, to prevent that threat to life. Outside of an active war zone, then, it is illegal to use weaponized drones, which are weapons of war incapable of taking a suspect alive.

Just think of the precedent the US is setting with its kill-don’t-capture doctrine. Were the US rationale to be applied by other countries, China might declare an ethnic Uighur activist living in New York City as an «enemy combatant» and send a missile into Manhattan; Russia could assert that it was legal to launch a drone attack against someone living in London whom they claim is linked to Chechen militants. Or consider the case of Luis Posada Carrilles, a Cuban-American living in Miami who is a known terrorist convicted of masterminding a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Given the failure of the US legal system to bring Posada to justice, the Cuban government could claim that it has the right to send a drone into downtown Miami to kill an admitted terrorist and sworn enemy.

Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence, called the drone strike campaign «dangerously seductive» because it was low cost, entailed no casualties and gives the appearance of toughness. «It plays well domestically,» he said, «and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.»

But an article in the Washington Post the following day, May 30, entitled «Drone strikes spur backlash in Yemen,» shows that the damage is not just long term but immediate. After interviewing more than 20 tribal leaders, victims’ relatives, human rights activists and officials from southern Yemen, journalist Sudarsan Raghavan concluded that the escalating U.S. strikes are radicalizing the local population and stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants. «The drones are killing al-Qaeda leaders,» said legal coordinator of a local human rights group Mohammed al-Ahmadi, «but they are also turning them into heroes.»

Even the New York Times article acknowledges that Pakistan and Yemen are less stable and more hostile to the United States since Mr. Obama became president, that drones have become a provocative symbol of American power running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents.

One frightening aspect of the Times piece is what it says about the American public. After all, this is an election-time piece about Obama’s leadership style, told from the point of view of mostly Obama insiders bragging about how the president is no shrinking violent when it comes to killing. Implicit is the notion that Americans like tough leaders who don’t agonize over civilian deaths—over there, of course.

Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer suing the CIA on behalf of drone victims, thinks its time for the American people to speak out. «Can you trust a program that has existed for eight years, picks its targets in secret, faces zero accountability and has killed almost 3,000 people in Pakistan alone whose identities are not known to their killers?,» he asks. «When women and children in Waziristan are killed with Hellfire missiles, Pakistanis believe this is what the American people want. I would like to ask Americans, ‘Do you?'»


Obama At Large: Where Are The Lawyers?

By Ralph Nader

The rule of law is rapidly breaking down at the top levels of our government. As officers of the court, we have sworn to “support the Constitution,” which clearly implies an affirmative commitment on our part.

Take the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The conservative American Bar Association sent three white papers to President Bush describing his continual unconstitutional policies. Then and now civil liberties groups and a few law professors, such as the stalwart David Cole of Georgetown University and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, have distinguished themselves in calling out both presidents for such violations and the necessity for enforcing the rule of law.

Sadly, the bulk of our profession, as individuals and through their bar associations, has remained quietly on the sidelines. They have turned away from their role as “first-responders” to protect the Constitution from its official violators.

As a youngster in Hawaii, basketball player Barack Obama was nicknamed by his schoolboy chums as “Barry O’Bomber,” according to the Washington Post. Tuesday’s (May 29) New York Times published a massive page-one feature article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, that demonstrated just how inadvertently prescient was this moniker. This was not an adversarial, leaked newspaper scoop. The article had all the signs of cooperation by the three dozen, interviewed current and former advisers to President Obama and his administration. The reporters wrote that a weekly role of the president is to personally select and order a “kill list” of suspected terrorists or militants via drone strikes or other means. The reporters wrote that this personal role of Obama’s is “without precedent in presidential history.” Adversaries are pulling him into more and more countries – Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other territories.

The drones have killed civilians, families with small children, and even allied soldiers in this undeclared war based on secret “facts” and grudges (getting even). These attacks are justified by secret legal memos claiming that the president, without any Congressional authorization, can without any limitations other that his say-so, target far and wide assassinations of any “suspected terrorist,” including American citizens.

The bombings by Mr. Obama, as secret prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, trample proper constitutional authority, separation of powers, and checks and balances and constitute repeated impeachable offenses. That is, if a pathetic Congress ever decided to uphold its constitutional responsibility, including and beyond Article I, section 8’s war-declaring powers.

As if lawyers needed any reminding, the Constitution is the foundation of our legal system and is based on declared, open boundaries of permissible government actions. That is what a government of law, not of men, means. Further our system is clearly demarked by independent review of executive branch decisions – by our courts and Congress.

What happens if Congress becomes, in constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein’s words, “an ink blot,” and the courts beg off with their wholesale dismissals of Constitutional matters based on claims and issue involves a “political question” or that parties have “no-standing-to-sue.” What happens is what is happening. The situation worsens every year, deepening dictatorial secretive decisions by the White House, and not just regarding foreign and military policies.

The value of The New York Times article is that it added ascribed commentary on what was reported. Here is a sample:

– The U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, quoted by a colleague as complaining about the CIA’s strikes driving American policy commenting that he: “didn’t realize his main job was to kill people.” Imagine what the sidelined Foreign Service is thinking about greater longer-range risks to our national security.

– Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence, calls the strike campaign “dangerously seductive.” He said that Obama’s obsession with targeted killings is “the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no US casualties, gives the appearance of toughness. It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.” Blair, a retired admiral, has often noted that intense focus on strikes sidelines any long-term strategy against al-Qaeda which spreads wider with each drone that vaporizes civilians.

– Former CIA director Michael Hayden decries the secrecy: “This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president and that’s not sustainable,” he told the Times. “Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. [Department of Justice] safe.”

Consider this: an allegedly liberal former constitutional law lecturer is being cautioned about blowback, the erosion of democracy and the national security by former heads of super-secret spy agencies!

Secrecy-driven violence in government breeds fear and surrender of conscience. When Mr. Obama was campaigning for president in 2007, he was reviled by Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden Jr. and Mitt Romney – then presidential candidates – for declaring that even if Pakistan leaders objected, he would go after terrorist bases in Pakistan. Romney said he had “become Dr. Strangelove,” according to the Times. Today all three of candidate Obama’s critics have decided to go along with egregious violations of our Constitution.

The Times made the telling point that Obama’s orders now “can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know.” Such is the drift to one-man rule, consuming so much of his time in this way at the expense of addressing hundreds of thousands of preventable fatalities yearly here in the U.S. from occupational disease, environmental pollution, hospital infections and other documented dangerous conditions.

Based on deep reporting, Becker and Shane allowed that “both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Obama became president.”

In a world of lawlessness, force will beget force, which is what the CIA means by “blowback.” Our country has the most to lose when we abandon the rule of law and embrace lawless violence that is banking future revenge throughout the world.

The people in the countries we target know what we must remember. We are their occupiers, their invaders, the powerful supporters for decades of their own brutal tyrants. We’re in their backyard, which more than any other impetus spawned al-Qaeda in the first place.

So lawyers of America, apart from a few stalwarts among you, what is your breaking point? When will you uphold your oath of office and work to restore constitutional authorities and boundaries?

Someday, people will ask – where were the lawyers?


Posted by Lesley Clark on October 11, 2013

"I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," she said in the statement. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani girl who was shot in the head on her school bus by Taliban gunmen for criticizing their rule, including banning education for girls.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/10/11/205176/obama-and-first-lady-meet-with.html





The 'war on terror' - by design - can never end


In October, the Washington Post's Greg Miller reported that the administration was instituting a "disposition matrix" to determine how terrorism suspects will be disposed of, all based on this fact: "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade." As Miller puts it: "That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."


The polices adopted by the Obama administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been relentlessly strengthened over the last decade. In the name of the War on Terror, the current president has diluted decades-old Miranda warnings; codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on US soil; plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois; increased secrecy, repression and release-restrictions at the camp; minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens; renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five years, as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely held detainees.
Does that sound to you like a government anticipating the end of the War on Terror any time soon? Or does it sound like one working feverishly to make their terrorism-justified powers of detention, surveillance, killing and secrecy permanent? About all of this, the ACLU's Executive Director, Anthony Romero, provided the answer on Thursday: "President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day. His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended."
There's a good reason US officials are assuming the "War on Terror" will persist indefinitely: namely, their actions ensure that this occurs. The New York Times' Matthew Rosenberg this morning examines what the US government seems to regard as the strange phenomenon of Afghan soldiers attacking US troops with increasing frequency, and in doing so, discovers a shocking reality: people end up disliking those who occupy and bomb their country:



By Jack Goldsmith
Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:18 PM

President Obama, today, on the possibility of leaks from the White House:

The notion that the White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive, it’s wrong, and people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office . . . . We are dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people — our families or our military or our allies — and so we don’t play with that.

This is not a credible statement.

With regard to drones and the Bin Laden attack: It has been obvious for years that senior national security officials, including White House officials, regularly and opportunistically leak details to the press (or urge subordinate agencies to do so). Dan Klaidman’s new book confirms this. In connection with the CIA killing of Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009, Klaidman reports, in direct contradiction of the President:

Though the program was covert, [White House Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel pushed the CIA to publicize its covert successes. When Mehsud was killed, agency public affairs officers anonymously trumpeted their triumph, leaking colorful tidbits to trusted reporters on the intelligence beat. (emphasis added)

With regard to “Olympic Games,” the cyber-operation against Iran, the Sanger NYT story is based on “officials involved in the program.” And Sanger’s book from which the story is drawn was based on interviews with “senior administration officials,” including White House officials. The book has quotations from many Obama-era briefings about Olympic Games with the president (including quotations attributed to the president himself). And it contains many intimate details about the program – details that Sanger says “were known only by an extremely tight group of top intelligence, military, and White House officials.” (Some of the early details of Olympic Games appear to be drawn from Bush-era officials.)

It is of course possible, consistent with these points, that the White House did not (as the President guardedly said) “purposely release” classified information about Olympic Games. Journalists have many tricks for building up insider accounts of White House conversations without the participants in those conversations being the original or main or purposeful source. Many elements of the leaks to Sanger (and to Klaidman, and to Becker and Shane) no doubt came from civil servants and political appointees around the government who spoke to reporters, without White House authorization, in order to spin an operation in their favor, to settle a bureaucratic score, or to appear important. The White House may have been involved, if at all, only in correcting inaccuracies or seeking to suppress facts in the Sanger story.

With regard to Olympic Games, in short, I am prepared to believe that President Obama and his White House advisors are genuinely angry about the leak. It is nonetheless remarkable that President’s Obama takes “offense” at the charge that his White House might have leaked Olympic Games. It is perfectly natural, in light of the massive White House (or White House-induced) national security leaks of the last few years, especially on drones, to attribute leaks about Olympic Games to someone in the White House. The President says that the public “need[s] to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office,” presumably with regard to classified information. But he has only his administration to blame for the understandable public sense that the White House leaks national security secrets. His failure to understand this is an indication of a White House bubble on the issue.



By Glenn Garvin
ggarvin@MiamiHerald.com

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering words of a constitutional law professor who promised us he was going to put an end to the callous disregard for the law of that bring-‘em-dead-or-alive cowboy George W. Bush.

“We’re going to close Guantánamo!” shouted Barack Obama to the San Antonio crowd that day in 2007. “And we’re going to restore habeas corpus. .?.?. We’re going to lead by example, by not just word but by deed.”

The deed, as it has turned out, included not very much habeas but a lot of corpus. Obama’s alternative to sending suspected terrorists to the federal prison at Guantánamo Bay has been to kill them, by the hundreds and perhaps thousands.

The death toll in Pakistan alone, by the count of the New America Foundation, last week stood somewhere between 1,456 and 2,372 since Obama took office.

The vast majority of those killings were done by aptly named Predator drones, which — piloted by remote control from CIA and Pentagon command rooms back in the United States — slowly cruise the skies of the Middle East looking for targets to attack with their even more aptly named Hellfire missiles. (Though former CIA attorney John Rizzo helpfully explained in an interview last week that the Obama White House sometimes likes to keep things old school: “The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.)

Obama has launched over 250 drone attacks during his three years in office, more than six times as many as the lawless yahoo Bush ordered during his entire presidency. And to say Obama launched them is not merely a figure of speech; a lengthy New York Times story last week detailed how the president personally approves the target of every attack at cozy little White House meetings known as Terror Tuesdays.

The president shuffles a stack of biographies and photos that some participants in the meeting compare to baseball trading cards, bringing to bear not only his mighty intellect but his refined moral sensibilities (“a student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,” the awed New York Times reporters wrote) before deciding who goes onto what’s known, with chilling lack of euphemism, as the “kill list.”

There are actually two separate kill lists, one compiled by the Pentagon and another by the CIA, using different legal criteria, which conveniently allows administration officials to shop around for the best forum in which to get their targets approved. And what are those differing criteria? In fact, just where in the U.S. Constitution or legal code is the authority that allows the president to appoint himself judge, jury and executioner?

Well, nobody knows. The Obama administration has classified all its legal memos and opinions used to justify the killings and has successfully beaten back every attempt to force their disclosure. Curiously, Obama had a very different perspective on the Bush administration’s legal opinions on interrogation techniques that looked a lot like torture: He quickly declassified them, even though six former CIA directors begged him not to.

After two decades as a foreign correspondent, much of it spent covering nations that bore the United States ill will, I’m no utopian when it comes to American self-defense or compliance with international law. There are people out there who mean to do us harm, operating from countries that cannot or will not do anything about them. I didn’t get too weepy about the death of Osama bin Laden, and I’m sure a lot of the people to whom Obama has sent Hellfire greeting cards richly deserved them.

But is this really the world we want, one where murderous drones orbit the skies over a big chunk of the earth, periodically blowing somebody’s head off? Of course we wanted to kill Osama and a few of his top lieutenants. But were there really 2,372 of them?

The answer is unequivocally no. Already the president has moved beyond “targeted strikes” — that is, attacks on specific individuals against whom we have some evidence of terrorist activities — to “signature strikes,” in which we obliterate people who look like they might be terrorists, with heavy emphasis on the might.

The White House policy “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent,” reported The New York Times. And no, it didn’t mention any posthumous CIA techniques for bringing the innocent back to life. I guess Augustine and Thomas Aquinas didn’t cover that.



By: Kevin Gosztola Saturday June 2, 2012 5:24 pm


This morning, Chris Hayes did a segment on his show on MSNBC called “Up with Chris” that examined President Barack Obama’s reported “kill list,” whether the number of civilians being killed by drones is being hidden from the American public and whether the program is, in fact, legal as the Obama administration claims. The segment aired just days after a major story by the New York Times on the “kill list” catapulted US drone policy into the national conversation. It also was one of the few segments that MSNBC aired on the Obama administration’s drone program all week.

Colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst, Hina Shamsi from the ACLU’s National Security Project, Jeremy Scahill of The Nation magazine and Josh Treviño of the Texas Public Policy Foundation appeared on the program for the discussion.

Hayes set up the segment by mentioning that a policy of kill or capture of terror suspects has largely transformed into a policy of just killing the suspects. The issue had been “bubbling a bit” but just this week, Hayes said, it “felt like it really kind of entered the national conversation assertively for the first time this week.”

“Up with Chris” is a progressive show. Many of the viewers carry an expectation—albeit an unreasonable one—that Hayes will not wholly criticize Obama because there is a Republican presidential candidate named Mitt Romney out there trying to defeat Obama in the presidential election. There also are Republicans running to defeat Democrats, voters are being suppressed in states to help Republicans win and discussion of Obama and drones is destructive to the progressive cause. And that is why the segment got under the skin of many liberals and also why it was so critical that Hayes did this segment on his show.

Shamsi made a key point:

We have had a program that was begun under the Bush administration but vastly expanded under the Obama administration and this is a program in which the Executive Branch – the president claims the authority to unilaterally declare people enemies of the state including US citizens and order their killing based on secret legal criteria, secret process and secret evidence. There is no national security policy that poses a graver threat to human rights law and civil liberties than this policy today.

Scahill explained how Obama has been “out-Cheneying Cheney” by “running an assassination program where in a two week span in Yemen he killed three US citizens, none of whom had been charged or indicted or charged with any crime.” Two of the victims, Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, were clearly innocent. The FBI told Khan’s family that his speech—the propaganda he was writing and his work as editor of the magazine of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Inspire, was protected First Amendment speech and he had broken no US laws. In the case of Awlaki, a 16-year-old US citizen “whose only crime appears to be that his last name was Awlaki, he was “murdered in a US strike.” No explanation, Scahill said, has been given as to why he was killed.

“There is no indication that any suspected militants were killed. There is no indication that any known al Qaeda figures were killed. That family deserves an explanation. The American people deserve an explanation.” Scahill continued: “”People talked about Cheney running an executive assassination ring. What’s President Obama’s policy? This would have sparked outrage among liberals and they are deafeningly silent on this issue.”

Then, Hayes had Scahill address what really upset liberals the most: the fact that Scahill would say with a straight face Obama was a murderer for killing innocent people with drone strikes.

Scahill stated “the most dangerous thing” the US is doing “besides murdering innocent people in many cases is giving people in Yemen or Somalia or Pakistan a non-ideological reason to hate the United States, to want to fight the United States.” Hayes told Scahill calling it murder is a “provocative” way of describing what is happening and he wanted Scahill to defend using the word murder.

HAYES: Jeremy, you used the word “murder” before when you talked about the people who have killed by these strikes who are not combatants we can establish? And obviously that’s al oaded word because it carries certain legal and moral ramifications. Why do you use that word?

SCAHILL: If someone goes into a shopping mall in pursuit of one of their enemies and opens fire on a crowd of people and guns down a bunch of innocent people in a shopping mall, they’ve murdered those people. When the Obama administration sets a policy where patterns of life are enough of a green light to drop missiles on people or to use to send in AC-130s to spray them down —

JACOBS: That isn’t the case here (cross-talk)

SCAHILL: If you go to the village of al Majala in Yemen where I was and you see the unexploded cluster bombs and you have the list and photographic evidence as I do of the women and children that represented the vast majority of the deaths in this first strike that Obama authorized on Yemen, those people were murdered by President Obama on his orders because there was believed to be someone from al Qaeda in that area. There’s only one person that’s been identified that had any connection to al Qaeda there and twenty-one women and fourteen children were killed in that strike and the US tried to cover it up and say it was a Yemeni strike and we know from the WikiLeaks that David Petraeus conspired with the president of Yemen to lie to the world about who did that bombing. It’s murder. It’s mass murder when you say we are going to bomb this area because we believe a terrorist there and you know women and children are in the area. The United States has an obligation to not bomb that area if they believe women and children are there.

Trevino responded to Scahill by raising a historical example of US armed forces killing French civilians during World War II. He argued that America knew there were innocent people where they were bombing and then essentially asked if the people who carried out those attacks were murderers. Scahill said yes, which led Trevino to suggest that people should be arguing Dwight D. Eisenhower should have been prosecuted. It was a poor strawman that Trevino tried to construct to get Scahill to back down from arguing that the US government has killed people it has known to be innocent and this should not have happened.

From this point, Scahill and Trevino went back and forth with each other throughout the rest of the segment. Trevino contended there was a long history of dealing with Americans who have decided to make war on the United States and that it was not reasonable to expect Lincoln to have handled the Confederacy in the way that people are suggesting Obama should handle US-born terror suspects. Trevino said Obama is “part of a continuum.” That was not something of which Scahill disagreed.

“We have a dictatorship of the Executive Branch of government when it comes to foreign policy,” said Scahill.

Later in the show, Trevino attempted to shut down a lot of what had been said by Shamsi on the legal issues posed by the drone program and what Scahill had said about Obama murdering people. He argued, “Part of the reason there isn’t an outcry over this is that the American people really are getting the policy that they want. It’s not that controversial.”

Scahill rightfully replied in agreement, “Obama has normalized assassination for a lot of liberals who would have been outraged if it was President McCain.” The nation has developed a “bloodthirst.” Citizens now “treat targeted killings like sporting events and dance in the streets” (e.g. what happened when Osama bin Laden was assassinated).

From statements made in February by the families of victims and survivors of a March 17, 2011, drone attack in the village of Datta Khel in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. The statements were collected by the British human rights group Reprieve and were included in their lawsuit challenging the legal right of the British government to aid the United States in its drone campaign. More than half of all deaths from U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have occurred in North Waziristan. Translated from the Pashto.

I am approximately forty-six years old, though I do not know the exact date of my birth. I am a malice of my tribe, meaning that I am a man of responsibility among my people. One of my brother’s sons, Din Mohammed, whom I was very fond of, was killed by a drone missile on March 17, 2011. He was one of about forty people who died in this strike. Din Mohammed was twenty-five years old when he died. These men were gathered together for a jirga, a gathering of tribal elders to solve disputes. This particular jirga was to solve a disagreement over chromite, a mineral mined in Waziristan. My nephew was attending the jirga because he was involved in the transport and sale of this mineral. My brother, Din Mohammed’s father, arrived at the scene of the strike shortly following the attack. He saw death all around him, and then he found his own son. My brother had to bring his son back home in pieces. That was all that remained of Din Mohammed.

I saw my father about three hours before the drone strike killed him. News of the strike didn’t reach me until later, and I arrived at the location in the evening. When I got off the bus near the bazaar, I immediately saw flames in and around the station. The fires burned for two days straight. I went to where the jirga had been held. There were still people lying around injured. The tribal elders who had been killed could not be identified because there were body parts strewn about. The smell was awful. I just collected the pieces of flesh that I believed belonged to my father and placed them in a small coffin.

The sudden loss of so many elders and leaders in my community has had a tremendous impact. Everyone is now afraid to gather together to hold jirgas and solve our problems. Even if we want to come together to protest the illegal drone strikes, we fear that meeting to discuss how to peacefully protest will put us at risk of being killed by drones.

The first time I saw a drone in the sky was about eight years ago, when I was thirteen. I have counted six or seven drone strikes in my village since the beginning of 2012. There were sixty or seventy primary schools in and around my village, but only a few remain today. Few children attend school because they fear for their lives walking to and from their homes. I am mostly illiterate. I stopped going to school because we were all very afraid that we would be killed. I am twenty-one years old. My time has passed. I cannot learn how to read or write so that I can better my life. But I very much wish my children to grow up without these killer drones hovering above, so that they may get the education and life I was denied.

The men who died in this strike were our leaders; the ones we turned to for all forms of support. We always knew that drone strikes were wrong, that they encroached on Pakistan’s sovereign territory. We knew that innocent civilians had been killed. However, we did not realize how callous and cruel it could be. The community is now plagued with fear. The tribal elders are afraid to gather together in jirgas, as had been our custom for more than a century. The mothers and wives plead with the men not to congregate together. They do not want to lose any more of their husbands, sons, brothers, and nephews. People in the same family now sleep apart because they do not want their togetherness to be viewed suspiciously through the eye of the drone. They do not want to become the next target.



By Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK | Op-Ed 

On May 29, The New York Times published an extraordinarily in-depth look at the intimate role President Obama has played in authorizing US drone attacks overseas, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is chilling to read the cold, macabre ease with which the President and his staff decide who will live or die. The fate of people living thousands of miles away is decided by a group of Americans, elected and unelected, who don't speak their language, don't know their culture, don't understand their motives or values. While purporting to represent the world's greatest democracy, US leaders are putting people on a hit list who are as young as 17, people who are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law.

Who is furnishing the President and his aides with this list of terrorist suspects to choose from, like baseball cards? The kind of intelligence used to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the "worst of the worst," only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

Why should the public believe what the Obama administration says about the people being assassinated by drones? Especially since, as we learn in the New York Times, the administration came up with a semantic solution to keep the civilian death toll to a minimum: simply count all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants. The rationale, reminiscent of George Zimmerman's justification for shooting Trayvon Martin, is that "people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good." Talk about profiling! At least when George Bush threw suspected militants into Guantanamo their lives were spared.

Referring to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the article reveals that for Obama, even ordering an American citizen to be assassinated by drone was "easy." Not so easy was twisting the Constitution to assert that while the Fifth Amendment's guarantees American citizens due process, this can simply consist of "internal deliberations in the executive branch." No need for the irksome interference of checks and balances.

Al-Awlaki might have been guilty of defecting to the enemy, but the Constitution requires that even traitors be convicted on the "testimony of two witnesses" or a "confession in open court," not the say-so of the executive branch.

In addition to hit lists, Obama has granted the CIA the authority to kill with even greater ease using "signature strikes," i.e. strikes based solely on suspicious behavior. The article reports State Department officials complained that the CIA's criteria for identifying a terrorist "signature" were too lax. "The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees 'three guys doing jumping jacks,' the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued."

Obama's top legal adviser Harold Koh insists that this killing spree is legal under international law because the US has the inherent right to self-defense. It's true that all nations possess the right to defend themselves, but the defense must be against an imminent attack that is overwhelming and leaves no moment of deliberation. When a nation is not in an armed conflict, the rules are even stricter. The killing must be necessary to protect life and there must be no other means, such as capture or nonlethal incapacitation, to prevent that threat to life. Outside of an active war zone, then, it is illegal to use weaponized drones, which are weapons of war incapable of taking a suspect alive.

Just think of the precedent the US is setting with its kill-don't-capture doctrine. Were the US rationale to be applied by other countries, China might declare an ethnic Uighur activist living in New York City as an "enemy combatant" and send a missile into Manhattan; Russia could assert that it was legal to launch a drone attack against someone living in London whom they claim is linked to Chechen militants. Or consider the case of Luis Posada Carrilles, a Cuban-American living in Miami who is a known terrorist convicted of masterminding a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Given the failure of the US legal system to bring Posada to justice, the Cuban government could claim that it has the right to send a drone into downtown Miami to kill an admitted terrorist and sworn enemy.

Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence, called the drone strike campaign "dangerously seductive" because it was low cost, entailed no casualties and gives the appearance of toughness. "It plays well domestically," he said, "and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term."

But an article in the Washington Post the following day, May 30, entitled "Drone strikes spur backlash in Yemen," shows that the damage is not just long term but immediate. After interviewing more than 20 tribal leaders, victims' relatives, human rights activists and officials from southern Yemen, journalist Sudarsan Raghavan concluded that the escalating U.S. strikes are radicalizing the local population and stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants. "The drones are killing al-Qaeda leaders," said legal coordinator of a local human rights group Mohammed al-Ahmadi, "but they are also turning them into heroes."

Even the New York Times article acknowledges that Pakistan and Yemen are less stable and more hostile to the United States since Mr. Obama became president, that drones have become a provocative symbol of American power running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents.

One frightening aspect of the Times piece is what it says about the American public. After all, this is an election-time piece about Obama's leadership style, told from the point of view of mostly Obama insiders bragging about how the president is no shrinking violent when it comes to killing. Implicit is the notion that Americans like tough leaders who don't agonize over civilian deaths—over there, of course.

Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer suing the CIA on behalf of drone victims, thinks its time for the American people to speak out. "Can you trust a program that has existed for eight years, picks its targets in secret, faces zero accountability and has killed almost 3,000 people in Pakistan alone whose identities are not known to their killers?," he asks. "When women and children in Waziristan are killed with Hellfire missiles, Pakistanis believe this is what the American people want. I would like to ask Americans, 'Do you?'"





Obama At Large: Where Are The Lawyers?

By Ralph Nader


The rule of law is rapidly breaking down at the top levels of our government. As officers of the court, we have sworn to “support the Constitution,” which clearly implies an affirmative commitment on our part.

Take the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The conservative American Bar Association sent three white papers to President Bush describing his continual unconstitutional policies. Then and now civil liberties groups and a few law professors, such as the stalwart David Cole of Georgetown University and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, have distinguished themselves in calling out both presidents for such violations and the necessity for enforcing the rule of law.

Sadly, the bulk of our profession, as individuals and through their bar associations, has remained quietly on the sidelines. They have turned away from their role as “first-responders” to protect the Constitution from its official violators.

As a youngster in Hawaii, basketball player Barack Obama was nicknamed by his schoolboy chums as “Barry O’Bomber,” according to the Washington Post. Tuesday’s (May 29) New York Times published a massive page-one feature article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, that demonstrated just how inadvertently prescient was this moniker. This was not an adversarial, leaked newspaper scoop. The article had all the signs of cooperation by the three dozen, interviewed current and former advisers to President Obama and his administration. The reporters wrote that a weekly role of the president is to personally select and order a “kill list” of suspected terrorists or militants via drone strikes or other means. The reporters wrote that this personal role of Obama’s is “without precedent in presidential history.” Adversaries are pulling him into more and more countries – Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other territories.

The drones have killed civilians, families with small children, and even allied soldiers in this undeclared war based on secret “facts” and grudges (getting even). These attacks are justified by secret legal memos claiming that the president, without any Congressional authorization, can without any limitations other that his say-so, target far and wide assassinations of any “suspected terrorist,” including American citizens.

The bombings by Mr. Obama, as secret prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, trample proper constitutional authority, separation of powers, and checks and balances and constitute repeated impeachable offenses. That is, if a pathetic Congress ever decided to uphold its constitutional responsibility, including and beyond Article I, section 8’s war-declaring powers.

As if lawyers needed any reminding, the Constitution is the foundation of our legal system and is based on declared, open boundaries of permissible government actions. That is what a government of law, not of men, means. Further our system is clearly demarked by independent review of executive branch decisions – by our courts and Congress.

What happens if Congress becomes, in constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein’s words, “an ink blot,” and the courts beg off with their wholesale dismissals of Constitutional matters based on claims and issue involves a “political question” or that parties have “no-standing-to-sue.” What happens is what is happening. The situation worsens every year, deepening dictatorial secretive decisions by the White House, and not just regarding foreign and military policies.

The value of The New York Times article is that it added ascribed commentary on what was reported. Here is a sample:

- The U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, quoted by a colleague as complaining about the CIA’s strikes driving American policy commenting that he: “didn’t realize his main job was to kill people.” Imagine what the sidelined Foreign Service is thinking about greater longer-range risks to our national security.

- Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence, calls the strike campaign “dangerously seductive.” He said that Obama’s obsession with targeted killings is “the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no US casualties, gives the appearance of toughness. It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.” Blair, a retired admiral, has often noted that intense focus on strikes sidelines any long-term strategy against al-Qaeda which spreads wider with each drone that vaporizes civilians.

- Former CIA director Michael Hayden decries the secrecy: “This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president and that’s not sustainable,” he told the Times. “Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. [Department of Justice] safe.”

Consider this: an allegedly liberal former constitutional law lecturer is being cautioned about blowback, the erosion of democracy and the national security by former heads of super-secret spy agencies!

Secrecy-driven violence in government breeds fear and surrender of conscience. When Mr. Obama was campaigning for president in 2007, he was reviled by Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden Jr. and Mitt Romney – then presidential candidates – for declaring that even if Pakistan leaders objected, he would go after terrorist bases in Pakistan. Romney said he had “become Dr. Strangelove,” according to the Times. Today all three of candidate Obama’s critics have decided to go along with egregious violations of our Constitution.

The Times made the telling point that Obama’s orders now “can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know.” Such is the drift to one-man rule, consuming so much of his time in this way at the expense of addressing hundreds of thousands of preventable fatalities yearly here in the U.S. from occupational disease, environmental pollution, hospital infections and other documented dangerous conditions.

Based on deep reporting, Becker and Shane allowed that “both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Obama became president.”

In a world of lawlessness, force will beget force, which is what the CIA means by “blowback.” Our country has the most to lose when we abandon the rule of law and embrace lawless violence that is banking future revenge throughout the world.

The people in the countries we target know what we must remember. We are their occupiers, their invaders, the powerful supporters for decades of their own brutal tyrants. We’re in their backyard, which more than any other impetus spawned al-Qaeda in the first place.

So lawyers of America, apart from a few stalwarts among you, what is your breaking point? When will you uphold your oath of office and work to restore constitutional authorities and boundaries?

Someday, people will ask – where were the lawyers?

Stand Your Ground

Michigan shooting: Reasonable self-defense or second-degree murder?

By Staff writer / November 15, 2013 

In a case that is drawing comparisons to George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin in a gated Florida community, a white homeowner in suburban Detroit was charged Friday with second-degree murder in the shooting death of an unarmed young black woman who came to his front door in the middle of the night two weeks ago.


The homeowner, Theodore Wafer of Dearborn Heights, Mich., was also charged with manslaughter and the possession of a firearm in the shooting death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride. Wayne County prosecutors allege Mr. Wafer shot Ms. McBride through the locked screen door of his home after 4 a.m. on Nov. 2.
If convicted Wafer, who was released on bond after his arraignment Friday afternoon, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Key to the case will be assessing how threatened Wafer felt when he came to his door, and whether those feelings were reasonable. Police say Wafer told them he thought someone was breaking into his house and that he accidentally fired his 12-gauge shotgun.

It is uncertain why McBride ended up on Wafer’s front porch; three hours earlier, she crashed her car into a parked vehicle about a mile from the house and walked off in a bloodied condition, according to police.
Prosecutors say Wafer violated Michigan law on self-defense that says the shooter “must honestly and reasonably believe that he is in imminent danger of either losing his life or suffering great bodily harm,” says Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.


Racial bias

By Staff writer / August 6, 2013

During the closing arguments of the George Zimmerman trial, defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked the courtroom to be quiet for four long minutes. When he at last broke the silence, he said those four minutes were the amount of time that Trayvon Martin had had to go home.

Mr. O’Mara left no doubts: It was Trayvon’s decision not to go home, but instead to «plan» an attack on Mr. Zimmerman, punching and beating him, that caused Zimmerman to fatally shoot him. Because he did not go home, O’Mara said, «Trayvon Martin caused his own death.»

The implication in O’Mara’s argument was that Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, who was armed, and who ignored a 911 dispatcher’s instructions not to follow Trayvon, had more of a right to stand his ground than did 17-year-old Trayvon, who was black. And the verdict suggests the jurors agreed.
Data from other states with stand-your-ground laws indicate that the Zimmerman jury was not alone in being sympathetic to such a claim. Whites are significantly more successful claiming self-defense when their attacker is black than blacks are when fighting back against an attacker who is white, according to one study.

Stand-your-ground laws have begun to change the calculus of self-defense in the United States. The idea behind them is to «expand the legal justification for the use of lethal force in self-defense, thereby lowering the expected cost of using lethal force and increasing the expected cost of committing violent crime,» say researchers Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra in a Texas A&M study.
Statistics included in the study bore that out, showing that justifiable homicides rose by 8 percent in stand-your-ground states, amounting to some 600 additional killings.

The laws have spread quickly. Since Florida passed the first stand-your-ground law in 2005, at least 30 other states have followed suit, either though legislative action or court decisions.


September 12, 2013

«Stand Your Ground» and other Shoot First laws lead to tragedy, as we witnessed in the case of Trayvon Martin.
Now Congress is investigating the devastating impact of these laws. On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary will be holding a hearing to consider how these laws have spread and what effect they’ve had on civil rights and public safety.1
Senator Dick Durbin, the chair of the committee, is seeking testimony about these laws for committee members to consider. This is an important opportunity to show support for repeal of these deadly laws.
Submit your testimony telling the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to stand up to the NRA and stop the spread of Stand Your Ground laws. Click here for sample text.
The NRA, backed by gun manufacturers and politicians associated with the shadowy right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), helped shepherd Shoot First laws through dozens of states.2 These laws dangerously offer a legal stamp of approval to a «shoot first, ask questions later» mentality.
Throw in the eye-popping number of concealed-carry permits (which now stands at 8 million nationally) and lax gun laws generally, and you have a dangerous recipe for unnecessarily violent, often fatal conflict.3
In Florida, for example, the rate of «justifiable» homicides has tripled since the state passed its Shoot First law, in 2005.4 Now it’s time for the public to push back against these dangerous laws.
Submit your testimony telling the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to stand up to the NRA and stop the spread of Stand Your Ground laws. Click the link below for sample text:
http://act.credoaction.com/go/1862?t=4&akid=8889.5084505.5Pnv5G
Thank you for standing up to the NRA.
Jordan Krueger, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Take action now ►
1. «‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force.» Senate Judiciary Committee.
2. Adam Weinstein, «How the NRA and Its Allies Helped Spread a Radical Gun Law Nationwide.» Mother Jones, June 7, 2012.
3. «Shoot First Laws Policy Summary.» Law center to Prevent Gun violence, July 18, 2013.
4. Alex Seitz-Wald, «Stand Your Ground Laws Coincide With Jump In ‘Justifiable Homicides’.» ThinkProgress, April 9, 2012.


Last year, our son Trayvon Martin was stalked, chased down and killed by George Zimmerman, and Zimmerman received no punishment whatsoever. That’s in large part because Florida is one of at least 21 states with some form of ‘Stand Your Ground’ law which enables people like George Zimmerman to claim self-defense.
‘Stand Your Ground’ was never meant to give aggressors the opportunity to get away with murder, but that is what happened when our son Trayvon was killed. After Trayvon’s death, law enforcement used the law as an excuse to refuse to arrest George Zimmerman. Even worse, the jury in the case was instructed to think of what Zimmerman did as self-defense, even though Zimmerman ignored instructions from the police and instigated conflict with our son, who was just trying to get home to his father.
We are shocked and heartbroken by the jury’s decision to allow our son’s killer to go free. Despite our despair, we must honor Trayvon’s legacy by doing all that we can to protect other young people from being targeted, pursued, and senselessly murdered.
We started a petition on Change.org calling on 21 governors whose states have some form of ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws to review those laws and amend them so that people who instigate conflicts — people like George Zimmerman — won’t be able to use these laws to get away with murder.
We are not the only ones calling for ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws to be reviewed. President Obama spoke out on the need for review, and prominent Republicans like Senator John McCain have joined him. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s not ‘black’ or ‘white’ issue, it’s a wrong and right issue.
This is a matter of making sure that no other family will ever have to go through what we have been through. No parents should ever have to know what it feels like to watch your child’s killer walk free.
Our hearts broke on the night of February 26, 2012 when George Zimmerman killed our son — and we were stunned and devastated when the police refused to arrest Zimmerman. We petitioned for Zimmerman’s arrest on Change.org, and after more than 2 million people joined our call, Zimmerman was charged with our son’s murder. We felt so much closer to justice for Trayvon, and so grateful for the support of those who signed our petition.
But on July 13, 2013, our hearts broke again when the jury set Zimmerman free. Our hearts broke because it is so hard to accept that we can’t protect Trayvon anymore. But we can fight to make sure that this never happens again. 
Please sign our petition calling for a thorough review of all ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws to prevent killers like George Zimmerman from going free.
We want to say thank you to all of you who have stood up for our son. Because of all your efforts, Trayvon’s life is celebrated all over the world. Please continue to stand with us as we fight to ensure that his legacy is to leave behind a safer and more peaceful world for all our sons and daughters.
Thank you,
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton


The Joe Horn shooting controversy refers to the events of November 14, 2007, in Pasadena, Texas, United States, when local resident Joe Horn shot and killed two men burglarizing his neighbor’s home. Publicized recordings of Horn’s exchange with emergency dispatch indicate that he was asked repeatedly not to interfere with the burglary because the police would soon be on hand.[1] The shootings have resulted in debate regarding self-defense, Castle Doctrine laws, and Texas laws relating to use of deadly force to prevent or stop property crimes. The illegal alien status of the burglars has been highlighted because of the U.S. border controversy.[2] On June 30, 2008, Joe Horn was cleared by a grand jury in the Pasadena shootings.

Joe Horn, 61, spotted two burglars breaking into his next-door neighbor’s home in Pasadena, Texas. He called 9-1-1 to summon police to the scene. While on the phone with emergency dispatch, Horn stated that he had the right to use deadly force to defend property, referring to a law (Texas Penal Code §§ 9.41, 9.42, and 9.43) which justified the use of deadly force to protect Horn’s home. Horn exited his home with his shotgun, while the 9-1-1 operator tried to dissuade him from that action. On the 9-1-1 tape, he is heard confronting the suspects, saying, «Move, and you’re dead»,[3] immediately followed by the sound of a shotgun blast, followed by two more.[4] Following the shootings Mr. Horn told the 9-1-1 operator, «They came in the front yard with me, man, I had no choice!» [5]

Police initially identified the dead men in Horn’s yard as 38-year-old Miguel Antonio DeJesus and Diego Ortiz, 30, both currently resident in Houston and of Afro Latino descent. However, DeJesus was actually an alias of an individual named Hernando Riascos Torres.[3] Torres and Ortiz were carrying a sack with cash and jewelry taken from the home next door to Joe Horn. Both were criminals from Colombia who had been convicted on drug trafficking charges.[1] Police found a Puerto Rican identification card on Ortiz. Torres had three identification cards from Colombia, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, and had been previously sent to prison for dealing cocaine. Torres had been deported in 1999.[6]

A plain clothes police detective responding to the 9-1-1 call arrived at the scene before the shooting, and witnessed the escalation and shootings while remaining in his car.[3] His report on the incident indicated that the men who were killed «received gunfire from the rear».[1] Police Capt. A.H. Corbett stated the two men ignored Mr. Horn’s order to freeze and that one of the suspects ran towards Joe Horn before angling away from Horn toward the street when the suspect was shot in the back. The medical examiner’s report could not specify whether they were shot in the back due to the ballistics of the shotgun wound.[7] Pasadena police confirmed that the two men were shot after they ventured into Horn’s front yard. The detective did not arrest Horn.

The incident touched off protests, led by Quanell X, leader of the Houston chapter of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) that were met by counter-protests from Horn’s neighbors and other supporters, with the NBPP protesters rapidly leaving.


Former President Bill Clinton said the “tragedy” of the killing of Trayvon Martin should cause a re-thinking of the “Stand Your Ground” law.

“There are different stories being told,” the former president said, “so the first thing I have to say is that it’s important to find out the facts.”

Clinton continued “but to me, beyond the incredible personal tragedy- this young man was not armed, he clearly presented no threat to anybody’s life — is, the most important thing I’ve read was from the former police chief in Florida in the community, he was one of many law enforcement officers testifying against that Stand Your Ground law. And he said, you know this is going to create all kinds of problems. And it’s going to be almost impossible to prove what was in someone’s mind when a certain thing happened.”

Clinton said “people have always had a right to have a handgun in their home- to protect their homes- then we’ve seen this breathtaking expansion of the concealed weapons laws in America moving from the late 90′s into this decade, far — if you will — to the extreme that America had ever been on these.

“And now the Stand Your Ground law,” he continued. “I think the law is going to create real problems because anyone can — anyone who doesn’t have a criminal background, anyone not prohibited by the Brady Bill and caught by the checks — can basically be a part of a neighborhood watch where they have a concealed weapon whether they had proper law enforcement training or not. And whether they’ve had any experience in conflict situations with people or not.

“So I hope this will lead to a reappraisal of the Stand Your Ground laws,” President Clinton said, “and I hope that the truth will come out and that the tragedy of this young man’s loss will not be in vain- it’s just terrible. Whatever the facts were — all these people trying to jump on him and talking about some mistake he made in his life- that’s irrelevant because unarmed person who was killed on the street by a gun. And so I hope justice will be done in this case but I hope that the larger justice that would somehow redeem a portion of this terrible loss.”

He said: “the American people should re-examine their position on that and ask: Is this really worth it? Are we really all that much safer taking the chance that this kind of thing could happen over and over and over again?”

The president made his comments in an exclusive interview with ABC News focused on his work with Clinton Global Initiative University.

See more from the interview here.
-Jake Tapper


Trayvon Martin’s alleged attacker not covered under law I wrote

Published March 21, 2012
| FoxNews.com

The tragic story of Trayvon Martin’s death in Sanford, Florida has ignited a great deal of passion and concern regarding the circumstances of his death and the defense applied by the attacker, George Zimmerman. The fact that Trayvon Martin unnecessarily lost his life is troubling and an investigation into the surrounding circumstances is certainly warranted.
First of all I’d like to extend my condolences to the Martin family. 
I have been in the funeral services profession for over 40 years; I’ve walked with families through many tragic circumstances and I know how difficult it is.
I would like to emphasize that the approach that is currently developing in this situation, to convene a grand jury, is the proper one in which to discern the facts of this case. I certainly agree with everyone that justice must be served.
During the debate concerning this incident, some have brought into question the «Stand Your Ground» law, more commonly referred to as the «castle doctrine,» which has been used by the attacker to pardon his actions. 
As the prime sponsor of this legislation in the Florida House, I’d like to clarify that this law does not seem to be applicable to the tragedy that happened in Sanford. There is nothing in the castle doctrine as found in Florida statutes that authenticates or provides for the opportunity to pursue and confront individuals, it simply protects those who would be potential victims by allowing for force to be used in self-defense.
When the «stand your ground» or «castle doctrine» legislation passed in 2005, the catalytic event that brought the issue to the attention of the Florida Legislature was the looting of property in the aftermath of hurricanes. 
Specifically, there was a situation in the panhandle of Florida where a citizen moved an RV onto his property, to protect the remains of his home from being looted. One evening, a perpetrator broke into the RV and attacked the property owner. The property owner, acting in self-defense in his home, shot and killed the perpetrator. 
It was months before the property owner knew if he would be charged with a crime because of the lack of concrete definition in the statutes regarding self-defense and a perceived duty to retreat by the potential victim.
Until 2005, the castle doctrine had never been canonized into Florida law, but had been used with differing definition and application to the concept of self-defense. The focus of the law was to provide clear definition to acts of self-defense. 
The facets of the castle doctrine deal with using force to meet force as an act of self-defense when in your home, in your car, on your property, or anywhere you are legally able to be. The law also protects property owners and their homeowner’s insurance from being wrongfully sued by perpetrators who claim to be harmed while committing a crime.
The castle doctrine as passed, clarified that individuals are lawfully able to defend themselves when attacked and there is no duty to retreat when an individual is attacked on their property. Since the passage of this law in Florida, 26 other states have implemented similar statues. 
Additionally, the American Legislative Exchange Council used the Florida version of the castle doctrine as model legislation for other states. 
Quite simply the castle doctrine is a good law which now protects individuals in a majority of states. However, the castle doctrine does not provide protection to individuals who seek to pursue and confront others, as is allegedly the case in the Trayvon Martin tragedy in Sanford.
The information that has been publicly reported concerning Trayvon Martin’s death indicates that the castle doctrine may not be applicable to justify the actions of the attacker, Mr. Zimmerman. 
Media stories sharing the transcripts of the 911 tapes from the evening of the incident clearly show that Mr. Zimmerman was instructed by authorities to remain in his vehicle and to cease pursuit of Mr. Martin. George Zimmerman seems to have ignored the direction of the authorities and continued his pursuit of Mr. Martin. 
Mr. Zimmerman’s unnecessary pursuit and confrontation of Trayvon Martin elevated the prospect of a violent episode and does not seem to be an act of self-defense as defined by the castle doctrine. There is no protection in the «Stand Your Ground» law for anyone who pursues and confronts people.
I have great sympathy for the family of Trayvon Martin and am grateful that things are finally moving in the right direction to further explore what actually happened on that night in Sanford, Florida. Awaiting the convening of the grand jury, I trust that justice will be served and healing will begin for all of those affected.
Republican Dennis Baxley represents the 24th district in Florida’s House of Representatives. He was the prime sponsor of the «Stand Your Ground» law in 2005. He is the principal owner and vice president of Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services.

Castle Doctrine (also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law) is an American legal doctrine that designates a person’s abode (or, in some states, any place legally occupied, such as a car or place of work) as a place in which the person has certain protections and immunities and may in certain circumstances attack an intruder without becoming liable to prosecution.[1] Typically deadly force is considered justified, and a defense of justifiable homicide applicable, in cases «when the actor reasonably fears imminent peril of death or serious bodily harm to himself or another».[1] The doctrine is not a defined law that can be invoked, but a set of principles which is incorporated in some form in the law of most states.
The term derives from the historic English common law dictum that «an Englishman’s home is his castle». This concept was established as English law by 17th century jurist Sir Edward Coke, in his The Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628.[2] This was carried by colonists to the New World, who later removed «Englishman» from the phrase, thereby becoming simply the Castle Doctrine.[2] The term has been used to imply a person’s absolute right in England to exclude anyone from their home, although this has always had restrictions, and since the late twentieth century bailiffs have also had increasing powers of entry.[3]
The term «Make My Day Law» arose at the time of the 1985 Colorado statute that protects people from any criminal charge or civil suit if they use force – including deadly force – against an invader of the home.[4] The law’s nickname is a reference to the line «Go ahead, make my day» uttered by actor Clint Eastwood’s character Harry Callahan in the 1983 film Sudden Impact, inviting a suspect to make himself liable to deadly retaliation by attacking Eastwood’s character.

Intruder stopped for snack before fatal shooting


Can you imagine that he was in the couple’s place, making a meal in the kitchen, opening the fridge, and they only woke up when he came upstairs to wake up the couple? Someone needs a guard dog.

Good for the husband that he 86’d him with only 1 round to the chest.


The incident was mentioned Thursday morning in the Utah Legislature where the Utah Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that clarifies a person is justified in defending their home and family against criminal activity and may not be held civilly liable for damage or injury to perpetrators.


Wow – what an arrogant burglar. Props to the homeowner. I can remember more than one ‘drive me to an ATM’ story where the perp later killed the abducted victim.

I agree with the may not be held liable for civil damages also. Some people don’t understand that when you kill an intruder in your home you may not be criminally liable, but the person’s family/heirs often sue you, and win.


Sounds like Darwin’s natural selection was at work again. As for civil lawsuits, these are getting less common because juries aren’t buying that b.s. anymore


Don’t we criticize urban youth who shoot and kill each other over a pair of sneakers that cost a hundred bucks? But it’s OK for adults to shoot and kill each other over what? A guy wanted a sandwich and was asking for a couple hundred bucks? A human life was worth less to this homeowner than a small amount of money. And now everyone is praising him over it. Jesus would have fed a hungry man.


I specifically created an account so I could respond to your RIDICULOUS comment. Did you not read the part where there were THREE children under the age of 5 in the house? Or that the intruder BROKE INTO THEIR HOME and said he had a gun? I would have pulled the trigger too. No one is welcome to threaten my family that way. There are other ways to get a couple hundred bucks – breaking into a home with small children and stating that you have a weapon is not one of them.


This is why I own a gun. And don’t reply with all your statistics about how somebody is more likely to die in my family then an intruder.


SPRINGVILLE, Utah (ABC 4 News) – Police say a man who broke into a Springville home was killed after he was shot by a resident.

The Springville Police Department told ABC 4 News that officers responded to the area of 800 South 475 East at around 3:00 a.m. on reports of a home invasion robbery.

When police arrived, officers say they found the alleged robber deceased from an apparent gunshot wound.

Police say the crime scene was being investigated but preliminary reports suggest that the home invasion victim reportedly shot the suspect who entered the residence through an unlocked back door.

The suspect’s name was not immediately released, although investigators identified him and were trying to contact his next-of-kin.

Police say that it appears the suspect had rummaged throughout the neighborhood in an effort to find unlocked homes and vehicles.

Police say that tracks left in the snow around other homes an vehicles in the neighborhood matches those found at the home where the break-in happened.

Police say the suspect broke a latch and entered the home, where he changed out of his wet clothes and into some of the resident’s clothing, and then made a ham sandwich tortilla wrap.

According to police, after the suspect helped himself to the food and clothes, he entered the master bedroom where a man and his wife were sleeping, woke them up, told the victims that he had a gun he’d recently stolen, and demanded that he be taken to an ATM.

Police say that’s when the resident went to his closet to retrieve some clothes, but instead reached for a hand gun and shot the suspect in the chest, killing him.

Springville Police say that the home invasion victims were safe and uninjured, including three children who were also sleeping in the home at the time of the break in.

Springville police responded to a call of a home invasion robbery at 2:48 a.m. in the area of 800 South and 475 East. When officers arrived they found Martinez had been fatally shot in the bedroom.

Lt. Dave Caron with the Springville Police Department said Martinez entered the home through a back sliding glass door. The door was locked with a child lock, but Martinez apparently disabled it by pulling hard on the door.

Once inside, Martinez took off clothes that had become wet while traipsing through the snow and change into some of the resident’s clothes, which were folded on the couch in the living room. Caron said Martinez then went to the kitchen, made a tortilla and ham wrap, ate some of it and returned the uneaten portion to the refrigerator before going upstairs.

Martinez then entered the master bedroom, told the homeowner and his wife that he had a gun, and ordered them to get keys to drive him to an ATM. Under the guise of getting ready to leave, the homeowner walked into a closet, got his .9-mm gun and shot Martinez , striking him once in the chest, Caron said.

Investigators say it appears that prior to entering this home, Martinez had walked through the neighborhood, checking at least 20 homes and several cars for unlocked doors. There are no reports of anything missing or any other homes or cars being broken into. Police are currently trying to document the route before the tracks melt.

Caron said Martinez matches the general description of a man wanted in connection with a similar incident last week.

«In that case he went into the home, stole a gun and apparently a cellphone,» Caron said. «He told these homeowners tonight that he had stolen a gun before, so we’re pretty sure it’s the same guy.»

Caron said neither the gun nor cellphone from the previous robbery was recovered at the scene of Thursday’s shooting. In fact, while the suspect claimed to have had a gun Thursday morning, none was found.

Investigators are treating the incident as a case of self-defense, but Caron said police are conducting a full investigation that will be treated just like any other. Still, the incident appears straightforward.

«I don’t see any reason to think it’s anything but (self-defense),» Caron said. «They don’t know this guy. This guy came into the house, threatened them, claimed he had a gun and, to protect his family, (the homeowner) took that action.»

There were three children — 3-year-old twin boys and an infant girl — in the home at the time. None of the family was injured, and police said the family is handling the situation well.

«It’s a pretty traumatic experience to have someone break into your home and then threaten you,» Caron said. «Then, to actually take the man’s life in your bedroom is pretty upsetting. All things considered, they were hanging in there pretty well.»

Neighbor Bridger Frampton said he spoke to the homeowner and said he sounded rattled and was still in shock. He was one of a number of neighbors who said they would have done the same thing if they had found themselves in a similar situation.

The incident was mentioned Thursday morning in the Utah Legislature where the Utah Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that clarifies a person is justified in defending their home and family against criminal activity and may not be held civilly liable for damage or injury to perpetrators.


THE GAZETTE

An El Paso County jury on Friday awarded nearly $300,000 to the daughter of a burglar who was fatally shot in 2009 while breaking into an auto lot.

Parents of the victim, Robert Johnson Fox, embraced their attorneys after a judge announced the jury’s verdict, capping a two-week-long civil trial in which business owner Jovan Milanovic and two relatives were painted as vigilantes who plotted a deadly ambush rather than let authorities deal with a string of recent burglaries.

Phillip and Sue Fox, who filed suit for wrongful death in 2010 on behalf of Fox’s 3-year-old daughter, called the jury’s award a victory in their fight to seek accountability for the death of their son, who they say never posed a threat to the heavily armed men.

“Rob was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing, but the punishment didn’t fit the crime,” Sue Fox said afterward. “I can’t excuse his actions, but he didn’t deserve to be executed.”

The exact amount of the award was $269,500, for factors such as loss of companionship and loss of future earnings. The family will also be awarded some of the costs associated with the more than yearlong legal battle.

The jury of three men and three women deliberated for 2½ days over closely contested testimony about the predawn shooting on April 19, 2009.

Fox, 20, was shot after he and a friend scaled a fence to get inside Southwest Auto Sales at 2444 Platte Place in the city’s Knob Hill neighborhood. According to the accomplice, Brian Corbin, they had smoked methamphetamine and were looking to steal anything to buy more drugs.

Corbin testified he saw two armed men charge out of a building and run in their direction, one of them shouting “we’re gonna get you” in an obscenity-laced threat. Corbin, who escaped by climbing over a car and jumping a fence, said he felt a bullet pass by him as someone fired four gunshots.

Fox was standing inside a small shed when a .45-caliber rifle bullet passed through the shed’s door and pierced his heart.

Police said in a 145-page investigative report that the intruder had knives in his pockets and one strapped to his ankle, but never posed a threat to Milanovic or the other men, his father Ljuban Milanovic and brother-in-law Srdjan Novak.

The men are refugees who came to the United States from the former Yugoslavia in 1998.

Jurors found that Fox’s death was the result of “willful and deliberate” conduct by Jovan Milanovic, who was accused of firing the rifle, and Novak, who supplied the semiautomatic Heckler & Koch that Milanovic used in the killing.

Only Ljuban Milanovic emerged without a judgment against him.

The jurors declined to comment after the trial.

«It’s been a long two weeks,» one said before getting on an elevator.

The three men were accused of keeping an armed vigil over the auto lot and firing on the first burglars they saw. The men were angry over a series of thefts that began when someone broke in a week earlier and stole keys to customers’ automobiles as well as keys to buildings on the property.

Car stereos were taken in the days that followed, according to testimony.

Under Colorado’s self-defense laws, the use of deadly force is justified only under the “reasonable belief” that it’s necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or death. The jury found that none of the men had a legitimate claim of self-defense.

Property rights are not a lawful defense for using deadly force in Colorado, and the state’s so-called Make My Day law, which sets lower standard for using force, applies to households, not businesses.

For the plaintiff’s attorneys, Terry Rector and Jennifer Stock, Friday’s verdict ended an emotionally draining fight for the girl, Sidney Richardson, who has been cared for by the elder Foxes for the past year.

Rector, of Colorado Springs, had represented Fox on traffic matters, and said his death came as a blow.

«I can see him sitting in my office today,» an emotional Rector said as participants filed out of the courthouse.

«This is a victory for Sidney Richardson. It’s the only measure of justice we have – we cannot bring her father back.»

Said Stock: «This jury didn’t let sympathy and bias influence them. That’s why we got the correct verdict that follows the law.»

Milanovic and his father told police a week before the shooting they would shoot any intruders who returned. Police say the men concealed the rifle in the trunk of a car so well that a police detective initially missed it during a search.

The 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges in the shooting, and instead sent the case to a grand jury, which decided against returning an indictment, effectively clearing the trio of criminal wrongdoing.

The civil award has no criminal implications for the Milanovics or Novak.

Defense attorneys John P. Craver and Chelsey Burns declined to comment.

Read more:Burglar’s family awarded $300,000 in wrongful death suit

Read more: http://www.gazette.com/articles/jury-123946-burglar-lot.html#ixzz1ojiIqC5U

http://www.koaa.com/news/suspected-burglar-shot-by-homeowner/

Michigan shooting: Reasonable self-defense or second-degree murder?


By Staff writer / November 15, 2013 

In a case that is drawing comparisons to George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin in a gated Florida community, a white homeowner in suburban Detroit was charged Friday with second-degree murder in the shooting death of an unarmed young black woman who came to his front door in the middle of the night two weeks ago.


The homeowner, Theodore Wafer of Dearborn Heights, Mich., was also charged with manslaughter and the possession of a firearm in the shooting death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride. Wayne County prosecutors allege Mr. Wafer shot Ms. McBride through the locked screen door of his home after 4 a.m. on Nov. 2.
If convicted Wafer, who was released on bond after his arraignment Friday afternoon, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Key to the case will be assessing how threatened Wafer felt when he came to his door, and whether those feelings were reasonable. Police say Wafer told them he thought someone was breaking into his house and that he accidentally fired his 12-gauge shotgun.

It is uncertain why McBride ended up on Wafer’s front porch; three hours earlier, she crashed her car into a parked vehicle about a mile from the house and walked off in a bloodied condition, according to police.
Prosecutors say Wafer violated Michigan law on self-defense that says the shooter “must honestly and reasonably believe that he is in imminent danger of either losing his life or suffering great bodily harm,” says Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.





Racial bias


By Staff writer / August 6, 2013

During the closing arguments of the George Zimmerman trial, defense attorney Mark O'Mara asked the courtroom to be quiet for four long minutes. When he at last broke the silence, he said those four minutes were the amount of time that Trayvon Martin had had to go home.

Mr. O'Mara left no doubts: It was Trayvon's decision not to go home, but instead to "plan" an attack on Mr. Zimmerman, punching and beating him, that caused Zimmerman to fatally shoot him. Because he did not go home, O'Mara said, "Trayvon Martin caused his own death."

The implication in O'Mara's argument was that Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, who was armed, and who ignored a 911 dispatcher's instructions not to follow Trayvon, had more of a right to stand his ground than did 17-year-old Trayvon, who was black. And the verdict suggests the jurors agreed.
Data from other states with stand-your-ground laws indicate that the Zimmerman jury was not alone in being sympathetic to such a claim. Whites are significantly more successful claiming self-defense when their attacker is black than blacks are when fighting back against an attacker who is white, according to one study.

Stand-your-ground laws have begun to change the calculus of self-defense in the United States. The idea behind them is to "expand the legal justification for the use of lethal force in self-defense, thereby lowering the expected cost of using lethal force and increasing the expected cost of committing violent crime," say researchers Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra in a Texas A&M study.
Statistics included in the study bore that out, showing that justifiable homicides rose by 8 percent in stand-your-ground states, amounting to some 600 additional killings.

The laws have spread quickly. Since Florida passed the first stand-your-ground law in 2005, at least 30 other states have followed suit, either though legislative action or court decisions.




September 12, 2013

"Stand Your Ground" and other Shoot First laws lead to tragedy, as we witnessed in the case of Trayvon Martin.
Now Congress is investigating the devastating impact of these laws. On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary will be holding a hearing to consider how these laws have spread and what effect they've had on civil rights and public safety.1
Senator Dick Durbin, the chair of the committee, is seeking testimony about these laws for committee members to consider. This is an important opportunity to show support for repeal of these deadly laws.
Submit your testimony telling the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to stand up to the NRA and stop the spread of Stand Your Ground laws. Click here for sample text.
The NRA, backed by gun manufacturers and politicians associated with the shadowy right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), helped shepherd Shoot First laws through dozens of states.2 These laws dangerously offer a legal stamp of approval to a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality.
Throw in the eye-popping number of concealed-carry permits (which now stands at 8 million nationally) and lax gun laws generally, and you have a dangerous recipe for unnecessarily violent, often fatal conflict.3
In Florida, for example, the rate of "justifiable" homicides has tripled since the state passed its Shoot First law, in 2005.4 Now it's time for the public to push back against these dangerous laws.
Submit your testimony telling the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to stand up to the NRA and stop the spread of Stand Your Ground laws. Click the link below for sample text:
http://act.credoaction.com/go/1862?t=4&akid=8889.5084505.5Pnv5G
Thank you for standing up to the NRA.
Jordan Krueger, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Take action now ?
1. "'Stand Your Ground' Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force." Senate Judiciary Committee.
2. Adam Weinstein, "How the NRA and Its Allies Helped Spread a Radical Gun Law Nationwide." Mother Jones, June 7, 2012.
3. "Shoot First Laws Policy Summary." Law center to Prevent Gun violence, July 18, 2013.
4. Alex Seitz-Wald, "Stand Your Ground Laws Coincide With Jump In ‘Justifiable Homicides’." ThinkProgress, April 9, 2012.





Last year, our son Trayvon Martin was stalked, chased down and killed by George Zimmerman, and Zimmerman received no punishment whatsoever. That's in large part because Florida is one of at least 21 states with some form of 'Stand Your Ground' law which enables people like George Zimmerman to claim self-defense.
'Stand Your Ground' was never meant to give aggressors the opportunity to get away with murder, but that is what happened when our son Trayvon was killed. After Trayvon's death, law enforcement used the law as an excuse to refuse to arrest George Zimmerman. Even worse, the jury in the case was instructed to think of what Zimmerman did as self-defense, even though Zimmerman ignored instructions from the police and instigated conflict with our son, who was just trying to get home to his father.
We are shocked and heartbroken by the jury’s decision to allow our son’s killer to go free. Despite our despair, we must honor Trayvon’s legacy by doing all that we can to protect other young people from being targeted, pursued, and senselessly murdered.
We started a petition on Change.org calling on 21 governors whose states have some form of 'Stand Your Ground' laws to review those laws and amend them so that people who instigate conflicts -- people like George Zimmerman -- won't be able to use these laws to get away with murder.
We are not the only ones calling for 'Stand Your Ground' laws to be reviewed. President Obama spoke out on the need for review, and prominent Republicans like Senator John McCain have joined him. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s not ‘black’ or ‘white’ issue, it’s a wrong and right issue.
This is a matter of making sure that no other family will ever have to go through what we have been through. No parents should ever have to know what it feels like to watch your child's killer walk free.
Our hearts broke on the night of February 26, 2012 when George Zimmerman killed our son -- and we were stunned and devastated when the police refused to arrest Zimmerman. We petitioned for Zimmerman's arrest on Change.org, and after more than 2 million people joined our call, Zimmerman was charged with our son's murder. We felt so much closer to justice for Trayvon, and so grateful for the support of those who signed our petition.
But on July 13, 2013, our hearts broke again when the jury set Zimmerman free. Our hearts broke because it is so hard to accept that we can't protect Trayvon anymore. But we can fight to make sure that this never happens again. 
Please sign our petition calling for a thorough review of all 'Stand Your Ground' laws to prevent killers like George Zimmerman from going free.
We want to say thank you to all of you who have stood up for our son. Because of all your efforts, Trayvon’s life is celebrated all over the world. Please continue to stand with us as we fight to ensure that his legacy is to leave behind a safer and more peaceful world for all our sons and daughters.
Thank you,
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton





The Joe Horn shooting controversy refers to the events of November 14, 2007, in Pasadena, Texas, United States, when local resident Joe Horn shot and killed two men burglarizing his neighbor's home. Publicized recordings of Horn's exchange with emergency dispatch indicate that he was asked repeatedly not to interfere with the burglary because the police would soon be on hand.[1] The shootings have resulted in debate regarding self-defense, Castle Doctrine laws, and Texas laws relating to use of deadly force to prevent or stop property crimes. The illegal alien status of the burglars has been highlighted because of the U.S. border controversy.[2] On June 30, 2008, Joe Horn was cleared by a grand jury in the Pasadena shootings.

Joe Horn, 61, spotted two burglars breaking into his next-door neighbor's home in Pasadena, Texas. He called 9-1-1 to summon police to the scene. While on the phone with emergency dispatch, Horn stated that he had the right to use deadly force to defend property, referring to a law (Texas Penal Code §§ 9.41, 9.42, and 9.43) which justified the use of deadly force to protect Horn's home. Horn exited his home with his shotgun, while the 9-1-1 operator tried to dissuade him from that action. On the 9-1-1 tape, he is heard confronting the suspects, saying, "Move, and you're dead",[3] immediately followed by the sound of a shotgun blast, followed by two more.[4] Following the shootings Mr. Horn told the 9-1-1 operator, "They came in the front yard with me, man, I had no choice!" [5]

Police initially identified the dead men in Horn's yard as 38-year-old Miguel Antonio DeJesus and Diego Ortiz, 30, both currently resident in Houston and of Afro Latino descent. However, DeJesus was actually an alias of an individual named Hernando Riascos Torres.[3] Torres and Ortiz were carrying a sack with cash and jewelry taken from the home next door to Joe Horn. Both were criminals from Colombia who had been convicted on drug trafficking charges.[1] Police found a Puerto Rican identification card on Ortiz. Torres had three identification cards from Colombia, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, and had been previously sent to prison for dealing cocaine. Torres had been deported in 1999.[6]

A plain clothes police detective responding to the 9-1-1 call arrived at the scene before the shooting, and witnessed the escalation and shootings while remaining in his car.[3] His report on the incident indicated that the men who were killed "received gunfire from the rear".[1] Police Capt. A.H. Corbett stated the two men ignored Mr. Horn's order to freeze and that one of the suspects ran towards Joe Horn before angling away from Horn toward the street when the suspect was shot in the back. The medical examiner's report could not specify whether they were shot in the back due to the ballistics of the shotgun wound.[7] Pasadena police confirmed that the two men were shot after they ventured into Horn's front yard. The detective did not arrest Horn.

The incident touched off protests, led by Quanell X, leader of the Houston chapter of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) that were met by counter-protests from Horn's neighbors and other supporters, with the NBPP protesters rapidly leaving.





Former President Bill Clinton said the “tragedy” of the killing of Trayvon Martin should cause a re-thinking of the “Stand Your Ground” law.

“There are different stories being told,” the former president said, “so the first thing I have to say is that it’s important to find out the facts.”

Clinton continued “but to me, beyond the incredible personal tragedy- this young man was not armed, he clearly presented no threat to anybody’s life — is, the most important thing I’ve read was from the former police chief in Florida in the community, he was one of many law enforcement officers testifying against that Stand Your Ground law. And he said, you know this is going to create all kinds of problems. And it’s going to be almost impossible to prove what was in someone’s mind when a certain thing happened.”

Clinton said “people have always had a right to have a handgun in their home- to protect their homes- then we’ve seen this breathtaking expansion of the concealed weapons laws in America moving from the late 90?s into this decade, far — if you will — to the extreme that America had ever been on these.

“And now the Stand Your Ground law,” he continued. “I think the law is going to create real problems because anyone can — anyone who doesn’t have a criminal background, anyone not prohibited by the Brady Bill and caught by the checks — can basically be a part of a neighborhood watch where they have a concealed weapon whether they had proper law enforcement training or not. And whether they’ve had any experience in conflict situations with people or not.

“So I hope this will lead to a reappraisal of the Stand Your Ground laws,” President Clinton said, “and I hope that the truth will come out and that the tragedy of this young man’s loss will not be in vain- it’s just terrible. Whatever the facts were — all these people trying to jump on him and talking about some mistake he made in his life- that’s irrelevant because unarmed person who was killed on the street by a gun. And so I hope justice will be done in this case but I hope that the larger justice that would somehow redeem a portion of this terrible loss.”

He said: “the American people should re-examine their position on that and ask: Is this really worth it? Are we really all that much safer taking the chance that this kind of thing could happen over and over and over again?”

The president made his comments in an exclusive interview with ABC News focused on his work with Clinton Global Initiative University.

See more from the interview here.
-Jake Tapper




Trayvon Martin's alleged attacker not covered under law I wrote

Published March 21, 2012
| FoxNews.com



The tragic story of Trayvon Martin's death in Sanford, Florida has ignited a great deal of passion and concern regarding the circumstances of his death and the defense applied by the attacker, George Zimmerman. The fact that Trayvon Martin unnecessarily lost his life is troubling and an investigation into the surrounding circumstances is certainly warranted.
First of all I'd like to extend my condolences to the Martin family. 
I have been in the funeral services profession for over 40 years; I've walked with families through many tragic circumstances and I know how difficult it is.
I would like to emphasize that the approach that is currently developing in this situation, to convene a grand jury, is the proper one in which to discern the facts of this case. I certainly agree with everyone that justice must be served.
During the debate concerning this incident, some have brought into question the "Stand Your Ground" law, more commonly referred to as the "castle doctrine," which has been used by the attacker to pardon his actions. 
As the prime sponsor of this legislation in the Florida House, I'd like to clarify that this law does not seem to be applicable to the tragedy that happened in Sanford. There is nothing in the castle doctrine as found in Florida statutes that authenticates or provides for the opportunity to pursue and confront individuals, it simply protects those who would be potential victims by allowing for force to be used in self-defense.
When the "stand your ground" or "castle doctrine" legislation passed in 2005, the catalytic event that brought the issue to the attention of the Florida Legislature was the looting of property in the aftermath of hurricanes. 
Specifically, there was a situation in the panhandle of Florida where a citizen moved an RV onto his property, to protect the remains of his home from being looted. One evening, a perpetrator broke into the RV and attacked the property owner. The property owner, acting in self-defense in his home, shot and killed the perpetrator. 
It was months before the property owner knew if he would be charged with a crime because of the lack of concrete definition in the statutes regarding self-defense and a perceived duty to retreat by the potential victim.
Until 2005, the castle doctrine had never been canonized into Florida law, but had been used with differing definition and application to the concept of self-defense. The focus of the law was to provide clear definition to acts of self-defense. 
The facets of the castle doctrine deal with using force to meet force as an act of self-defense when in your home, in your car, on your property, or anywhere you are legally able to be. The law also protects property owners and their homeowner's insurance from being wrongfully sued by perpetrators who claim to be harmed while committing a crime.
The castle doctrine as passed, clarified that individuals are lawfully able to defend themselves when attacked and there is no duty to retreat when an individual is attacked on their property. Since the passage of this law in Florida, 26 other states have implemented similar statues. 
Additionally, the American Legislative Exchange Council used the Florida version of the castle doctrine as model legislation for other states. 
Quite simply the castle doctrine is a good law which now protects individuals in a majority of states. However, the castle doctrine does not provide protection to individuals who seek to pursue and confront others, as is allegedly the case in the Trayvon Martin tragedy in Sanford.
The information that has been publicly reported concerning Trayvon Martin's death indicates that the castle doctrine may not be applicable to justify the actions of the attacker, Mr. Zimmerman. 
Media stories sharing the transcripts of the 911 tapes from the evening of the incident clearly show that Mr. Zimmerman was instructed by authorities to remain in his vehicle and to cease pursuit of Mr. Martin. George Zimmerman seems to have ignored the direction of the authorities and continued his pursuit of Mr. Martin. 
Mr. Zimmerman's unnecessary pursuit and confrontation of Trayvon Martin elevated the prospect of a violent episode and does not seem to be an act of self-defense as defined by the castle doctrine. There is no protection in the "Stand Your Ground" law for anyone who pursues and confronts people.
I have great sympathy for the family of Trayvon Martin and am grateful that things are finally moving in the right direction to further explore what actually happened on that night in Sanford, Florida. Awaiting the convening of the grand jury, I trust that justice will be served and healing will begin for all of those affected.
Republican Dennis Baxley represents the 24th district in Florida's House of Representatives. He was the prime sponsor of the "Stand Your Ground" law in 2005. He is the principal owner and vice president of Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services.




Castle Doctrine (also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law) is an American legal doctrine that designates a person's abode (or, in some states, any place legally occupied, such as a car or place of work) as a place in which the person has certain protections and immunities and may in certain circumstances attack an intruder without becoming liable to prosecution.[1] Typically deadly force is considered justified, and a defense of justifiable homicide applicable, in cases "when the actor reasonably fears imminent peril of death or serious bodily harm to himself or another".[1] The doctrine is not a defined law that can be invoked, but a set of principles which is incorporated in some form in the law of most states.

The term derives from the historic English common law dictum that "an Englishman's home is his castle". This concept was established as English law by 17th century jurist Sir Edward Coke, in his The Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628.[2] This was carried by colonists to the New World, who later removed "Englishman" from the phrase, thereby becoming simply the Castle Doctrine.[2] The term has been used to imply a person's absolute right in England to exclude anyone from their home, although this has always had restrictions, and since the late twentieth century bailiffs have also had increasing powers of entry.[3]

The term "Make My Day Law" arose at the time of the 1985 Colorado statute that protects people from any criminal charge or civil suit if they use force – including deadly force – against an invader of the home.[4] The law's nickname is a reference to the line "Go ahead, make my day" uttered by actor Clint Eastwood's character Harry Callahan in the 1983 film Sudden Impact, inviting a suspect to make himself liable to deadly retaliation by attacking Eastwood's character.




Intruder stopped for snack before fatal shooting



Can you imagine that he was in the couple's place, making a meal in the kitchen, opening the fridge, and they only woke up when he came upstairs to wake up the couple? Someone needs a guard dog.

Good for the husband that he 86'd him with only 1 round to the chest.


The incident was mentioned Thursday morning in the Utah Legislature where the Utah Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that clarifies a person is justified in defending their home and family against criminal activity and may not be held civilly liable for damage or injury to perpetrators.



Wow - what an arrogant burglar. Props to the homeowner. I can remember more than one 'drive me to an ATM' story where the perp later killed the abducted victim.

I agree with the may not be held liable for civil damages also. Some people don't understand that when you kill an intruder in your home you may not be criminally liable, but the person's family/heirs often sue you, and win.



Sounds like Darwin's natural selection was at work again. As for civil lawsuits, these are getting less common because juries aren't buying that b.s. anymore



Don't we criticize urban youth who shoot and kill each other over a pair of sneakers that cost a hundred bucks? But it's OK for adults to shoot and kill each other over what? A guy wanted a sandwich and was asking for a couple hundred bucks? A human life was worth less to this homeowner than a small amount of money. And now everyone is praising him over it. Jesus would have fed a hungry man.


I specifically created an account so I could respond to your RIDICULOUS comment. Did you not read the part where there were THREE children under the age of 5 in the house? Or that the intruder BROKE INTO THEIR HOME and said he had a gun? I would have pulled the trigger too. No one is welcome to threaten my family that way. There are other ways to get a couple hundred bucks - breaking into a home with small children and stating that you have a weapon is not one of them.



This is why I own a gun. And don't reply with all your statistics about how somebody is more likely to die in my family then an intruder.





SPRINGVILLE, Utah (ABC 4 News) – Police say a man who broke into a Springville home was killed after he was shot by a resident.

The Springville Police Department told ABC 4 News that officers responded to the area of 800 South 475 East at around 3:00 a.m. on reports of a home invasion robbery.

When police arrived, officers say they found the alleged robber deceased from an apparent gunshot wound.

Police say the crime scene was being investigated but preliminary reports suggest that the home invasion victim reportedly shot the suspect who entered the residence through an unlocked back door.

The suspect's name was not immediately released, although investigators identified him and were trying to contact his next-of-kin.

Police say that it appears the suspect had rummaged throughout the neighborhood in an effort to find unlocked homes and vehicles.

Police say that tracks left in the snow around other homes an vehicles in the neighborhood matches those found at the home where the break-in happened.

Police say the suspect broke a latch and entered the home, where he changed out of his wet clothes and into some of the resident's clothing, and then made a ham sandwich tortilla wrap.

According to police, after the suspect helped himself to the food and clothes, he entered the master bedroom where a man and his wife were sleeping, woke them up, told the victims that he had a gun he'd recently stolen, and demanded that he be taken to an ATM.

Police say that's when the resident went to his closet to retrieve some clothes, but instead reached for a hand gun and shot the suspect in the chest, killing him.

Springville Police say that the home invasion victims were safe and uninjured, including three children who were also sleeping in the home at the time of the break in.

Springville police responded to a call of a home invasion robbery at 2:48 a.m. in the area of 800 South and 475 East. When officers arrived they found Martinez had been fatally shot in the bedroom.

Lt. Dave Caron with the Springville Police Department said Martinez entered the home through a back sliding glass door. The door was locked with a child lock, but Martinez apparently disabled it by pulling hard on the door.

Once inside, Martinez took off clothes that had become wet while traipsing through the snow and change into some of the resident's clothes, which were folded on the couch in the living room. Caron said Martinez then went to the kitchen, made a tortilla and ham wrap, ate some of it and returned the uneaten portion to the refrigerator before going upstairs.

Martinez then entered the master bedroom, told the homeowner and his wife that he had a gun, and ordered them to get keys to drive him to an ATM. Under the guise of getting ready to leave, the homeowner walked into a closet, got his .9-mm gun and shot Martinez , striking him once in the chest, Caron said.

Investigators say it appears that prior to entering this home, Martinez had walked through the neighborhood, checking at least 20 homes and several cars for unlocked doors. There are no reports of anything missing or any other homes or cars being broken into. Police are currently trying to document the route before the tracks melt.

Caron said Martinez matches the general description of a man wanted in connection with a similar incident last week.

"In that case he went into the home, stole a gun and apparently a cellphone," Caron said. "He told these homeowners tonight that he had stolen a gun before, so we're pretty sure it's the same guy."

Caron said neither the gun nor cellphone from the previous robbery was recovered at the scene of Thursday's shooting. In fact, while the suspect claimed to have had a gun Thursday morning, none was found.

Investigators are treating the incident as a case of self-defense, but Caron said police are conducting a full investigation that will be treated just like any other. Still, the incident appears straightforward.

"I don't see any reason to think it's anything but (self-defense)," Caron said. "They don't know this guy. This guy came into the house, threatened them, claimed he had a gun and, to protect his family, (the homeowner) took that action."

There were three children — 3-year-old twin boys and an infant girl — in the home at the time. None of the family was injured, and police said the family is handling the situation well.

"It's a pretty traumatic experience to have someone break into your home and then threaten you," Caron said. "Then, to actually take the man's life in your bedroom is pretty upsetting. All things considered, they were hanging in there pretty well."

Neighbor Bridger Frampton said he spoke to the homeowner and said he sounded rattled and was still in shock. He was one of a number of neighbors who said they would have done the same thing if they had found themselves in a similar situation.

The incident was mentioned Thursday morning in the Utah Legislature where the Utah Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that clarifies a person is justified in defending their home and family against criminal activity and may not be held civilly liable for damage or injury to perpetrators.



THE GAZETTE

An El Paso County jury on Friday awarded nearly $300,000 to the daughter of a burglar who was fatally shot in 2009 while breaking into an auto lot.

Parents of the victim, Robert Johnson Fox, embraced their attorneys after a judge announced the jury’s verdict, capping a two-week-long civil trial in which business owner Jovan Milanovic and two relatives were painted as vigilantes who plotted a deadly ambush rather than let authorities deal with a string of recent burglaries.

Phillip and Sue Fox, who filed suit for wrongful death in 2010 on behalf of Fox’s 3-year-old daughter, called the jury’s award a victory in their fight to seek accountability for the death of their son, who they say never posed a threat to the heavily armed men.

“Rob was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing, but the punishment didn’t fit the crime,” Sue Fox said afterward. “I can’t excuse his actions, but he didn’t deserve to be executed.”

The exact amount of the award was $269,500, for factors such as loss of companionship and loss of future earnings. The family will also be awarded some of the costs associated with the more than yearlong legal battle.

The jury of three men and three women deliberated for 2½ days over closely contested testimony about the predawn shooting on April 19, 2009.

Fox, 20, was shot after he and a friend scaled a fence to get inside Southwest Auto Sales at 2444 Platte Place in the city’s Knob Hill neighborhood. According to the accomplice, Brian Corbin, they had smoked methamphetamine and were looking to steal anything to buy more drugs.

Corbin testified he saw two armed men charge out of a building and run in their direction, one of them shouting “we’re gonna get you” in an obscenity-laced threat. Corbin, who escaped by climbing over a car and jumping a fence, said he felt a bullet pass by him as someone fired four gunshots.

Fox was standing inside a small shed when a .45-caliber rifle bullet passed through the shed’s door and pierced his heart.

Police said in a 145-page investigative report that the intruder had knives in his pockets and one strapped to his ankle, but never posed a threat to Milanovic or the other men, his father Ljuban Milanovic and brother-in-law Srdjan Novak.

The men are refugees who came to the United States from the former Yugoslavia in 1998.

Jurors found that Fox’s death was the result of “willful and deliberate” conduct by Jovan Milanovic, who was accused of firing the rifle, and Novak, who supplied the semiautomatic Heckler & Koch that Milanovic used in the killing.

Only Ljuban Milanovic emerged without a judgment against him.

The jurors declined to comment after the trial.

"It's been a long two weeks," one said before getting on an elevator.

The three men were accused of keeping an armed vigil over the auto lot and firing on the first burglars they saw. The men were angry over a series of thefts that began when someone broke in a week earlier and stole keys to customers’ automobiles as well as keys to buildings on the property.

Car stereos were taken in the days that followed, according to testimony.

Under Colorado’s self-defense laws, the use of deadly force is justified only under the “reasonable belief” that it’s necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or death. The jury found that none of the men had a legitimate claim of self-defense.

Property rights are not a lawful defense for using deadly force in Colorado, and the state’s so-called Make My Day law, which sets lower standard for using force, applies to households, not businesses.

For the plaintiff's attorneys, Terry Rector and Jennifer Stock, Friday's verdict ended an emotionally draining fight for the girl, Sidney Richardson, who has been cared for by the elder Foxes for the past year.

Rector, of Colorado Springs, had represented Fox on traffic matters, and said his death came as a blow.

"I can see him sitting in my office today," an emotional Rector said as participants filed out of the courthouse.

"This is a victory for Sidney Richardson. It's the only measure of justice we have - we cannot bring her father back."

Said Stock: "This jury didn't let sympathy and bias influence them. That's why we got the correct verdict that follows the law."

Milanovic and his father told police a week before the shooting they would shoot any intruders who returned. Police say the men concealed the rifle in the trunk of a car so well that a police detective initially missed it during a search.

The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office declined to file charges in the shooting, and instead sent the case to a grand jury, which decided against returning an indictment, effectively clearing the trio of criminal wrongdoing.

The civil award has no criminal implications for the Milanovics or Novak.

Defense attorneys John P. Craver and Chelsey Burns declined to comment.



Read more:Burglar's family awarded $300,000 in wrongful death suit

Read more: http://www.gazette.com/articles/jury-123946-burglar-lot.html#ixzz1ojiIqC5U


http://www.koaa.com/news/suspected-burglar-shot-by-homeowner/

THE SECOND AMENDMENT

SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW THE SECOND AMENDMENT? Posted by Jeffrey Toobin Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/12/jeffrey-toobin-second-amendment.html#ixzz2FTHQ31LB Does the Second Amendment prevent Congress from passing gun-control laws? The question, which is suddenly pressing, in light of the reaction to the school massacre in Newtown, … Continue reading

SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW THE SECOND AMENDMENT?

Posted by 

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/12/jeffrey-toobin-second-amendment.html#ixzz2FTHQ31LB

Does the Second Amendment prevent Congress from passing gun-control laws? The question, which is suddenly pressing, in light of the reaction to the school massacre in Newtown, is rooted in politics as much as law.

For more than a hundred years, the answer was clear, even if the words of the amendment itself were not. The text of the amendment is divided into two clauses and is, as a whole, ungrammatical: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The courts had found that the first part, the “militia clause,” trumped the second part, the “bear arms” clause. In other words, according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon.

Enter the modern National Rifle Association. Before the nineteen-seventies, the N.R.A. had been devoted mostly to non-political issues, like gun safety. But a coup d’état at the group’s annual convention in 1977 brought a group of committed political conservatives to power—as part of the leading edge of the new, more rightward-leaning Republican Party. (Jill Lepore recounted this history in a recent piece for The New Yorker.) The new group pushed for a novel interpretation of the Second Amendment, one that gave individuals, not just militias, the right to bear arms. It was an uphill struggle. At first, their views were widely scorned. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who was no liberal, mocked the individual-rights theory of the amendment as “a fraud.”

But the N.R.A. kept pushing—and there’s a lesson here. Conservatives often embrace “originalism,” the idea that the meaning of the Constitution was fixed when it was ratified, in 1787. They mock the so-called liberal idea of a “living” constitution, whose meaning changes with the values of the country at large. But there is no better example of the living Constitution than the conservative re-casting of the Second Amendment in the last few decades of the twentieth century. (Reva Siegel, of Yale Law School, elaborates on this point in a brilliant article.)

The re-interpretation of the Second Amendment was an elaborate and brilliantly executed political operation, inside and outside of government. Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 brought a gun-rights enthusiast to the White House. At the same time, Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican, became chairman of an important subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he commissioned a report that claimed to find “clear—and long lost—proof that the second amendment to our Constitution was intended as an individual right of the American citizen to keep and carry arms in a peaceful manner, for protection of himself, his family, and his freedoms.” The N.R.A. began commissioning academic studies aimed at proving the same conclusion. An outré constitutional theory, rejected even by the establishment of the Republican Party, evolved, through brute political force, into the conservative conventional wisdom.

And so, eventually, this theory became the law of the land. In District of Columbia v. Heller, decided in 2008, the Supreme Court embraced the individual-rights view of the Second Amendment. It was a triumph above all for Justice Antonin Scalia, the author of the opinion, but it required him to craft a thoroughly political compromise. In the eighteenth century, militias were proto-military operations, and their members had to obtain the best military hardware of the day. But Scalia could not create, in the twenty-first century, an individual right to contemporary military weapons—like tanks and Stinger missiles. In light of this, Scalia conjured a rule that said D.C. could not ban handguns because “handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.”

So the government cannot ban handguns, but it can ban other weapons—like, say, an assault rifle—or so it appears. The full meaning of the court’s Heller opinion is still up for grabs. But it is clear that the scope of the Second Amendment will be determined as much by politics as by the law. The courts will respond to public pressure—as they did by moving to the right on gun control in the last thirty years. And if legislators, responding to their constituents, sense a mandate for new restrictions on guns, the courts will find a way to uphold them. The battle over gun control is not just one of individual votes in Congress, but of a continuing clash of ideas, backed by political power. In other words, the law of the Second Amendment is not settled; no law, not even the Constitution, ever is.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/12/jeffrey-toobin-second-amendment.html#ixzz2FTHFcv5L


A Strong Government

Lon Tomohisa Horiuchi (born 9 June 1954) is a U.S. FBI HRT sniper who was involved in controversial deployments during the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff and 1993 Waco Siege. In 1997, Horiuchi was charged with manslaughter for the death of Vicki Weaver at Ru…

Lon Tomohisa Horiuchi (born 9 June 1954) is a U.S. FBI HRT sniper who was involved in controversial deployments during the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff and 1993 Waco Siege. In 1997, Horiuchi was charged with manslaughter for the death of Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge; the case was dismissed.


In 1992, while working at sniper position Sierra 4 for the FBI Hostage Rescue Team at Ruby Ridge, Horiuchi shot and killed Vicki Weaver, while also wounding her husband Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris.[2]
After his first shot hit and wounded Randy Weaver, Horiuchi fired a second shot at Kevin Harris, who was armed, some 20 seconds later as Harris was running into the Weaver home. The bullet struck and killed Vicki Weaver while she was holding her 10 month old child behind the door through which Harris was entering the home;[2][3] the round also struck and wounded Harris.[4]

Following the conclusion of the trial of Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris in 1993, the Department of Justice (DOJ) created a "Ruby Ridge Task Force" to investigate allegations made by Weaver's defense attorney Gerry Spence. On 10 June 1994, the Task Force delivered its 542-page report to the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility. The Report stated: "With regard to the two shots fired on August 22, we concluded that the first shot met the standard of "objective reasonableness" the Constitution requires for the legal use of deadly force but that the second shot did not satisfy that standard."[5]

The surviving members of the Weaver family received $3.1M in 1995 to settle their civil suit brought against the U.S. government for wrongful deaths of Sammy and Vicki Weaver. In the out-of-court settlement, the government did not admit any wrong-doing. Harris received $380,000 in 2000.[6]


On 13 September 1993, Charles Riley, a fellow FBI sniper deployed during the Waco Siege claimed that he had heard Horiuchi shooting from Sierra 1, an F.B.I.-held house in front of the compound holding eight snipers, including Horiuchi and Christopher Curran on 19 April 1993. Riley later retracted his statement, saying that he had been misquoted, and that he had only heard snipers at Sierra 1 announce that shots had been fired by Branch Davidians.[7]

Three of the twelve expended .308 Winchester shell casings that the Texas Rangers reported finding in the house were at Horiuchi's position. However, officials maintain that they could have been left behind from the earlier use of the house by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives snipers on February 28, 1993, and that it would be "nearly impossible" to match them to Horiuchi's rifle, as it had probably been rebarreled since that time.[8]

For the five months following the Waco inferno, Timothy McVeigh worked at gun shows and handed out free cards printed up with Horiuchi's name and address, "in the hope that somebody in the Patriot movement would assassinate the sharpshooter". He wrote hate mail to the sniper, suggesting that "what goes around, comes around". McVeigh considered targeting Horiuchi, or a member of his family, before settling on a bombing attack on a federal building- choosing to target the Murrah Building.

In 1997, Boundary County, Idaho Prosecutor Denise Woodbury, with the help of special prosecutor Stephen Yagman, charged Horiuchi in state court with involuntary manslaughter over his killing of Vicki Weaver. The U.S. Attorney filed a notice of removal of the case to federal court, which automatically took effect under the statute for removal jurisdiction[10] where the case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge on May 14, 1998, who cited the supremacy clause of the Constitution which grants immunity to federal officers acting in the scope of their employment.[2]

The decision to dismiss the charges was reversed by an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit, which held that enough uncertainty about the facts of the case existed for Horiuchi to stand trial on state manslaughter charges.[2] Ultimately, the then-sitting Boundary County Prosecutor, Brett Benson, who had defeated Woodbury in the 2000 election, decided to drop the charges because he felt it was unlikely the state could prove the case and too much time had passed. Yagman, the special prosecutor, responded that he "could not disagree more with this decision than I do."[11]

The Ninth Circuit granted Boundary County's motion to dismiss the case against Horiuchi on September 14, 2001



The FBI's sniper under fire
A controversial agent is at the center of the Waco investigation
US News and World Report, November 8, 1999
By Mike Tharp

The Sierra 4 sniper position was some 200 yards from white separatist Randy Weaver's cabin, deep in the northern Idaho mountains. The man in camouflage nestled in the thick brush there had a clear field of fire on the wooden structure across the furrowed ridges. On Aug. 22, 1992, the morning was cool, cloudy and rainy.

Eight months later outside Waco, Texas, on April 19, the noonday sun was warm with heavy winds out of the north. The Sierra 1 sniper position was in a boxy concrete outbuilding less than 100 yards from the Branch Davidian compound. The agent stationed there could see the front door and several windows of his target over the gentle grassy rise. Whether shots were fired from this site is one of the hottest controversies in the continuing Waco saga, now the focus of a civil lawsuit and a high-profile congressional investigation.

The man in the Sierra 1 sniper post at Waco and the Sierra 4 post at Ruby Ridge was FBI marksman Lon Tomohisa Horiuchi. Over the past seven years, he has become the most controversial law enforcement officer in America. For most of that time, the 45-year-old West Point graduate and former infantry officer has been in courtrooms or preparing his defense. At Ruby Ridge, Horiuchi shot and killed Weaver's wife, Vicki, 43, as she held their 10-month-old daughter behind the door of their cabin. He also shot and wounded Weaver, 44, and his friend, Kevin Harris. At Waco, some 80 members of the Branch Davidian religious sect perished after the FBI and other law enforcement agencies moved to end the 51-day siege.

Being there. Now it's Horiuchi who is in the crosshairs. He is the only individual defendant still left in the wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by Branch Davidians and their survivors against the federal government. His attorneys say he is innocent, that he "didn't take any shots whatsoever at Waco." But Houston lawyer Michael Caddell, who represents some of the Davidians, says the group has "specific evidence" showing that Horiuchi did fire his weapon. Earlier this year, a federal judge in Waco ruled that the Davidians had uncovered "at least some evidence to support their claim" that
Horiuchi fired into the burning building.

How did this 15-year FBI veteran, the son of another U.S. Army officer, wind up in such a legal quagmire? What caused this husband and father, a politically conservative Catholic who homeschools some of his six children, to become such a figure of hatred? Horiuchi's actions at Waco and Ruby Ridge have been documented in great detail. Perhaps it is the significance militia groups have attached to both events, rather than the events themselves, that has intensified the focus on him. For now at least, Horiuchi is not saying. His attorneys have counseled silence, and that seems to be Horiuchi's preferred response in any case. "He's a very private person, very protective of his family," says Adam Hoffinger, one of the lawyers for Horiuchi, a third-generation Japanese-American who grew up in Hawaii. "We're determined to let him get on with his life."

To his defenders, Horiuchi-who has testified he could hit a quarter at 200 yards-is a consummate pro, honed as a military officer, burnished as a leader of an FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) sniper crew. "He was dedicated, hard working, aggressive. He was trying to do the right thing, trying to serve his country in a stressful environment," David W. Johnson, head of the HRT from 1985 to 1989 and once Horiuchi's supervisor, told the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union in 1995. FBI Director Louis Freeh has also stood by his agent, stressing that his job entailed making "split-second decisions."

To his critics, Horiuchi is a "paid FBI assassin" carrying out the wishes of an increasingly hostile and unresponsive police establish- ment. "After a year-long review, the U.S. Justice Department decides . . . not to charge sniper Lon Horiuchi with any crime. Like the Germans at Nuremberg, [Justice Department officials] declare he was 'just following orders,' " snapped a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial after the government closed an investigation of Horiuchi's actions without filing charges.

Repeat defendant. By the time he became a defendant in the current Waco case, Horiuchi had already been in an Idaho federal court on involuntary-manslaughter charges in connection with Vicki Weaver's death. A federal judge dismissed the case last year, ruling that "Mr. Horiuchi, rightly or wrongly, was clearly acting under orders authorized by the U.S. government to go shoot and kill an armed male adult because the threat to human lives had already been determined by his supervisors based on the facts then known to them." The decision is being appealed by the state of Idaho.

Horiuchi and 10 other HRT snipers were flown to the Idaho siege after U.S. Marshal William Degan and Randy Weaver's 14-year-old son, Sam, were killed. They were positioned around the cabin when Randy Weaver, his daughter Sara, and their friend Kevin Harris attempted to go to a shed where Sam's body lay. As the trio neared the shed, Horiuchi fired once with his .308-caliber Remington rifle, equipped with a powerful scope, hitting Randy Weaver in the arm. He fired again as the group ran back to the cabin. This round smashed through the door, striking Vicki in the jaw and killing her almost instantly. The same bullet also seriously wounded Harris. Horiuchi later testified he did not see Vicki behind the door and that he believed Randy Weaver and Harris, who was carrying a rifle, posed a threat to an FBI helicopter hovering overhead. (According to Jess Walter, author of Every Knee Shall Bow, a book about the showdown at Ruby Ridge: "There were 11 snipers on the hill, and they all heard the same helicopter. He was the only one who fired.")

Less than a year later, Horiuchi was again at a sniper post, this time outside the Davidian complex, and his actions there are emblematic of why questions about Waco won't go away. New evidence has spawned charges of a government coverup, which the feds deny and former Sen. John Danforth is now investigating (box). The FBI denies its officers fired any shots. But Branch Davidian attorneys insist that the FBI's own infrared videotape, taken from a small aircraft circling above during the last day of the Waco standoff, reveals "characteristic repetitive flashes" associated with gunfire coming from federal agents and from inside the house. They say there are also photos of shell casings on the undercover building where Horiuchi and other snipers were stationed. But firearms experts say it would be nearly impossible to match them with Horiuchi's weapon. "They re-barrel those [sniper] weapons no less than every two years," says one weapons analyst. In the wake of Ruby Ridge and Waco, the FBI has tempered its tactics, emphasizing negotiation over force. To wit: The bureau used third-party mediators instead of force to peacefully end the 81-day Montana Freeman standoff in 1996. "Lon Horiuchi changed the history of how the government deals with so-called right-wing groups," says Kirk Lyons, chief trial counsel of the Southern Legal Resource Center, who represents several of the Davidian plantiffs. "Before Lon Horiuchi, they were considered extremist, but he made [their] criticism of the government legitimate and mainstream." If true, it is an ironic legacy for a man who has dedicated his life to defending that government.



The FBI's favorite hitman
Published: 09/14/1999 at 1:00 AM

Was the FBI really at Waco to contain a siege or were trigger-happy agents purposely brought to the Davidian church to finish off the job the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms botched?

Yesterday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that FBI agent Charles Riley said all the way back in June 1993 that he heard shots fired from a sniper post occupied by agent Lon Horiuchi, according to court documents filed by Branch Davidians and relatives as part of a wrongful-death suit scheduled to go to trial next month.

If this fact is true, and if the sniper fire occurred, as Davidians charge, on the final day of the siege, this is a very interesting development, indeed.

Why?

Think about it. The final Waco conflagration occurred April 19, 1993. But this was hardly the first time Lon Horiuchi had found himself in a position to shoot innocent civilians.

You see, Horiuchi was the paid assassin the FBI used Aug. 22, 1992 — eight months earlier — to plug a fatal hole in the head of Vickie Weaver, an unarmed mother clutching her 10-month-old baby during a similar siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. It seems Lon Horiuchi is something of a specialist — the FBI’s go-to guy when it’s open season on women and children.

Imagine that. Eight months earlier, Horiuchi had blown Vickie Weaver’s head off while she stood in a doorway in an isolated rural area. She was no threat to anyone, not wanted on any charges and, of course, unarmed — unless the FBI now considers infants dangerous weapons.

Horiuchi was indicted for manslaughter by Idaho authorities for the shooting, but the charges were thrown out. The federal government only made excuses for him. And now we have reason to believe that eight months after the incident at Ruby Ridge, one that ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers $3.1 million in a civil settlement with Randy Weaver, Horiuchi was assigned to another volatile siege with civilians — including women and children.

Did he show any restraint? Did he learn a lesson from his earlier shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later approach at Ruby Ridge? Apparently not, if we are to believe one of his colleagues.

Horiuchi was firing away from a sniper’s perch again at Waco.

The FBI spent two years investigating Horiuchi’s actions at Ruby Ridge, ultimately giving him a clean bill of health.

But, in light of the latest Waco revelations, let’s review those actions. On Aug. 21, the government killed Weaver’s son, Sammy. The next day, overcome with grief, Weaver, his 16-year-old daughter, Sara, and a friend, Kevin Harris, ventured out of their cabin to see Sammy and bury him.

As Weaver reached the shed where his son’s body rested, Lon Horiuchi opened fire on him. One round struck Weaver’s underam.

“I’m hit,” Weaver hollered.

Daughter Sara tried desperately to push her father back to the safety of the cabin. Harris ran, his back to the snipers.

“I’m hit, Momma,” Randy had cried to Vicki as he ran toward the door that Vicki had been holding open for them. “I’m hit.”

“Get in here!” Vicki shouted.

Those were her last words. Horiuchi’s bullet smashed into her head and blew off the side of her face. And after she fell, her husband pried the baby from her arms. Weaver and his daughter dragged Vickie’s body through the kitchen, her blood flooding the floor.

Horiuchi told investigators he had been trying to kill Harris when he hit Vickie. But Horiuchi is a professional sharpshooter. Are we to believe he is an incompetent — a lousy shot? Why does the FBI keep sending him out on these assignments if he can’t distinguish between an armed man and an unarmed woman? And even if his story is true, why was he trying to shoot a man in the back?

Nevetheless, despite all the obvious questions, there was Horiuchi again, eight months later — on the firing line, in the sniper’s post — when the FBI’s targets included women and kids in a church compound in Texas. Once again, the FBI’s favorite hitman had an itchy trigger finger. One of his own colleagues reports he heard rounds firing from his perch on the last tragic day of the Waco siege.

This story is getting stranger all the time. Just when you thought you had heard the worst about your government, it surprises you with new lows of murderous contempt for human decency.

But, remember, Horiuchi is only a trigger man. Like he told investigators in a plea reminiscent of the Nazi war criminals: ‘I was only following orders.’ Indeed, he was.

Let’s not allow Horiuchi to be the scapegoat for Waco. It’s time to pursue those who issued the orders that led to the staging of the Waco holocaust — those who framed the ‘rules of engagement.’



Director Statement regarding Agent Horiuchi

Washington, D.C. June 04, 2001
  • FBI National Press Office (202) 324-3691
"We are very disappointed that the court concluded that further fact finding is necessary, especially given the prior court decisions in favor of Agent Horiuchi.
"We have the utmost respect for the process, however, and will continue to support Agent Horiuchi and his family as this litigation continues.
"As so often happens in law enforcement, split-second life and death decisions must be made by those sworn to enforce the law. We continue to believe strongly Agent Horiuchi met the legal standard that protects law enforcement officers when they carry out their sworn duties, even when the consequence in hindsight is regrettable."



Ex-FBI **LON HORIUCHI** Hired by H.S Precision, Inc. of South Dakota (rifle stocks)

Posted on Tuesday, June 01, 2010 2:38:16 AM by TokuMei

H.S. Precision, Inc.

Lon Horiuchi was one of several snipers in a hide located at the back the Branch Davidian complex at Mount Carmel, Waco, Texas. Mr. Horiuchi was also in service at Ruby Ridge, where he shot Randy Weaver's wife in the head, killing her, as she held her baby.

Lon Horiuchi retired from the FBI in October of 2006 and was hired as "FBI Program Manager & COTR" at H.S. Precision, Inc., of Rapid City, South Dakota. This company makes high-quality fiberglass stocks, barrels, finished rifles, gunsmithing tools, and hunting apparel.

Their website is http://www.hsprecision.com and their telephone number in Rapid City, South Dakota is (605) 341-3006.






Many people believe that David Koresh (or the Branch Davidians) were responsible for the deaths of the 74 men, women and children who died in the inferno at Waco on April 19, 1993. This is the story that the FBI put out. It is a lie. The guns they had were legal. The local sheriff investigated and found no basis for complaints against them. These were law-abiding American citizens, even if they thought differently to most other folks. They trusted the U.S. Constitution to ensure their political rights, but they were murdered by agents acting under the authority of the U.S. government.

Waco occurred under the presidency of Bill Clinton, with Janet Reno and Wesley Clark in supporting roles. Already back in 1993 the US government demonstrated its contempt for the American people by carrying out a massacre in order to "demonstrate" (on prime time TV) its supposed "authority" (a tactic favored by fascist governments).



Fires and tanks make great television, and on April 19, 1993, Americans sat stunned in front of their sets as they watched a war-like scene with US Army tanks smashing into the Waco compound. The tanks injected tear gas--more precisely, CS gas, a fine powder which on contact with human tissue burns the skin and inflames all mucus membranes. Though CS is supposed to be used outdoors to disperse mobs, the FBI's plan was to keep injecting it until the Branch Davidians were driven out of their compound. Instead, the 51-day stand-off at Waco ended in a fireball. News cameras were kept at a sanitized distance and observers could barely see any sign of human life. More than twenty young children, most too young to be protected by gas masks, were subjected to six hours of CS gas and died in the fire. But neither their innocent faces nor their ghastly corpses were ever viewed by the American public who, as the news media discovered, rapidly lost interest in the tragedy and showed little sympathy for the unseen victims. As standard "journalistic" practice, television stations now poll their viewers to give them the kind of news they want. Within weeks, Waco had dropped to the bottom of those polls, even in Texas. The American public had seen and heard enough, and their verdict was the "Waco Wackos" had brought it on themselves.

The public's lack of interest came as a great relief to the Clinton administration. Though the ATF plan to raid the Davidian compound was put together during the Bush administration, the go-ahead was given by Clinton's new appointees. The ATF's February 28, 1993 raid, which led to the 51-day standoff, was a nightmare of incompetence; four agents and six Branch Davidians were killed. Secretary of Treasury Lloyd Bentsen, newly responsible for the ATF, escaped without criticism. He may not even have been told about the raid before it happened. Janet Reno, the first woman Attorney General, was to take the hits for the Clinton administration on Waco. She had reluctantly given her consent to the FBI's gas attack, which was supposed to end the standoff.

In the congressional hearings held immediately after the disaster, Michigan Democrat John Conyers blasted Reno for her role in the tragedy. Conyers was vociferous about the many children who lost their lives. Only days into her job, Reno looked the Congressman straight in the eye and, choking with emotion, promised she would remember the children every day of her life. She took full responsibility but acknowledged no mistakes. Perhaps because government officials so rarely have the courage to take responsibility for any negative result, Reno became the most recognizable and well-liked member of the Clinton cabinet. Indeed, every time the Attorney General has since been challenged about Waco, her stock with the American people has gone up and their conviction that the Branch Davidians brought it on themselves has been reinforced. Surely Janet Reno is not the person to blame for the decisions made at Waco: indeed, her first impulse was to say no to the plan. The lead official at Justice who was most involved in Waco decision-making was then-Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell. He talked directly to the agents on the ground at Waco, and became convinced that the gas plan was necessary. FBI agent Larry Potts, who played a central role in the FBI's stand-off with Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, had a similar function in Waco. Janet Reno may have been in charge, but these men were calling the shots in the Washington command room. Still, if even a fraction of this documentary's claims are true, Reno helped circle the wagons and bury the truth after the fact.

One infuriated segment of the American public refused to forget Waco or to forgive Janet Reno: Clinton haters, the National Rifle Association, right-wing militia fanatics, conservative talkmeisters and their audiences. Across America there was a steady stream of talk show callers who kept insisting that Waco, just like Ruby Ridge, was an example of federal law enforcement at war with the American people. Wild claims about conspiracies and about tanks using flame throwers to set the compound on fire accompanied sensible claims about the ATF's and FBI's reckless and incompetent military tactics. But the rest of America was not listening. Reno had ordered the Justice Department to investigate itself and the FBI. The supposedly independent investigator, Edward Dennis, an assistant attorney general during the Reagan administration, based his report on that less than searching self-examination. The result was a total whitewash: Dennis proclaimed the operation a success even though all the patients died. He determined that the Branch Davidians had started the fire themselves in a mass suicide and that the FBI had never fired a single shot into the compound. Dennis concluded: "Under the circumstances, the FBI exhibited extraordinary restraint and handled this crisis with great professionalism."

Only by comparison was there a more aggressive investigation of the ATF, which had planned the original, military-style "dynamic entry" into the compound. The ATF's independent investigators, unlike the Justice Department's, laid out the evidence so that a fair-minded person could reach an independent judgment. But the report is written as if to protect the agency. The authors demonize the Branch Davidians and give the agents the benefit of every doubt. Most troubling to me was the report's uninformed and unwarranted portrayal of the Branch Davidians as cold-blooded killers: "On February 28, Koresh and his followers knew ATF agents were coming and decided to kill them"; they "prepare[d] a deadly ambush." Despite these distortions, the report singled out for sanctions the two agents who were in charge of the dynamic entry, and they were forced out of the ATF. The Branch Davidians insisted throughout the stand-off that these men should go to prison and the report certainly did not exonerate them. Still, they were able to appeal the sanctions, and were later restored to their previous standing.

On the Branch Davidians' side, in addition to the six killed in the ATF raid and the more than eighty dead in the fire, several of the survivors were convicted of federal offenses involving firearms and sentenced to long prison terms. The authorities bulldozed the ruins of the Waco compound and quite literally covered it up; there could be no further possibility of physical evidence turning up that would raise new questions about the alleged wrongdoings of federal agents at Waco. Case closed.

Then, exactly two years later, came the enormity of Oklahoma City, home-grown American terrorism--Timothy McVeigh's Turner Diaries revenge, memorializing the anniversary of Waco with a new and even greater horror. The tragedy forced America to look back at Waco just as McVeigh intended. The moment was perfect for Gazecki's documentary; unfortunately, he was still filming. By the time he was finished, the soul-searching was over, the McVeigh trial had begun, and the Waco justification was now rubbing salt in the wounds of Oklahoma City. If Gazecki thought the McVeigh trial would help his documentary, he seriously misjudged the mood of Americans.

Stephen Jones, McVeigh's lawyer, seems to have similarly miscalculated. He thought an American jury contemplating the death penalty would sympathize with McVeigh if they knew his motive was retaliation for Waco. Like Gazecki, Jones also called to enlist my support. He had read my report and wanted me to testify about Waco at the capital sentencing phase of the McVeigh trial. His words were, "you owe it to your country." The argument was dramatic but unconvincing. Unlike Waco conspiracy theorists, I believe the tragedy at Waco was the result of incompetence and over-reaching: bad judgment and bad decisions, not intentional wrongdoing and a plot against the people. Nor do I believe there was a government conspiracy to cover up these failings. Instead, law enforcement agents closed ranks out of self-interest and group solidarity, and the subsequent investigations turned into bureaucratic damage control. On no moral calculus does the government's incompetence at Waco justify or mitigate the intentional slaughter of 168 innocent victims in Oklahoma City.

If Gazecki is right, however, Waco was much more than a case of government incompetence. According to his film, federal agents acting under color of law behaved like outlaws, rogue agents murdered Branch Davidians, and the responsible authorities covered up.

The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building produced a spate of media attention and a new round of congressional hearings--sponsored, it is said, by the National Rifle Association's lobby. Members of the NRA could empathize with the Branch Davidians, whose large private armory was the original target of the ATF. Politics "makes strange bed-fellows," we are told, and after Waco, as I can personally attest, sleeping arrangements could not have been more perverse.

Left-wingers, liberal democrats, and minorities have traditionally been the critics of federal law enforcement agencies that overstep their authority, and conservative Republicans have traditionally been the defenders of law and order who support law enforcement even when it over-reaches. Waco produced a role reversal. The Gingrich Republicans were now in control of Congress and they decided to reopen Waco.

Congressman Conyers, now on the minority side of the aisle, was again in the spotlight during the second round of partisan congressional hearings, though this time as a defender of Janet Reno and federal law enforcement. A frequent critic of police brutality, as in the Rodney King case, he burst out laughing as he incredulously read a statement prepared for him by his own staff which extolled the virtues of the Los Angeles Police Department's SWAT team, whose former chief was testifying on behalf of the FBI. But the Democrats had a better strategy than praising law enforcement.

During the stand-off at Waco, President Clinton had charged David Koresh with sexual abuse of the Branch Davidians' children. Reno made similar claims about child abuse to justify her own decisions to approve the gas-attack. These allegations profoundly influenced public opinion against Koresh and the Branch Davidians. On that basis alone, many Americans were convinced that Koresh was evil and that was enough to close their minds about possible over-reaching and wrongdoings by federal authorities.

In the second round of congressional hearings, the Democrats deployed the same strategy. At the outset of the hearings a young adolescent girl, under New York Congressman Charles Schumer's gentle questioning, testified in an entirely believable manner about David Koresh forcing her to submit to sexual intercourse. It was Oprah-style television and the most genuinely gripping moment during the long, tedious, and unproductive hearings that followed. The Democrats put a human face on Waco and the battle for public opinion was lost: before the Republicans got started, they found themselves defending a child-molester. Because these allegations have played such an important part in the American public's moral judgments about the Branch Davidians and the events at Waco, one might have expected a documentary to clarify this matter, or at least face up to it with candor. Instead the issue is fudged. Here and in other places Gazecki's long documentary is not long enough to encompass the complex background of the Waco tragedy. As the title advertises, his documentary is primarily about the misdeeds of federal agents and their violations of the "rules of engagement."

Before considering those misdeeds it is worth confronting the allegations of sexual and child abuse lodged against Koresh. The film deals with them briefly and gingerly. Gazecki includes some footage of the young teenage girl testifying before Congress; one of Koresh's lawyers then undermines her testimony by referring to similar claims the girl made in a custody dispute. Gazecki leaves us with the impression that she might be lying. This portrayal is irresponsible and misleading. Koresh had convinced his followers that he was the Lamb of God prophesied in the Bible. He possessed the good seed and his offspring would occupy a special place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Koresh apparently had memorized many passages in the Bible and could quote relevant scripture to support his claim. You may think this is madness, but Koresh's followers, many of them well-educated and deeply religious, had faith in his special powers. Husbands practiced abstinence while they allowed Koresh to cohabit with their wives. Parents permitted Koresh to have sex with their pubescent daughters. Many of the children who died in the compound were Koresh's biological offspring. Though the children were subject to strict physical discipline, lengthy religious instruction, and a diet free of artificial ingredients, caffeine, and candy, there was never any evidence of child abuse in the sense of neglect or battering that concerned Janet Reno. Nor is there evidence that Koresh molested prepubescent girls. Instead, girls who had reached menarche were induced to have intercourse with Koresh in expectation that his "brides" would have the privilege of bearing his special children. Koresh and the Branch Davidians certainly knew that outsiders would disapprove of these sexual practices and downplayed them in public. Still, the secular state apparently had sufficient evidence to charge Koresh with statutory rape. But despite complaints by outsider parents who were not believers, Koresh was never prosecuted.

The only "apologists" for Koresh's behavior seem to be academic religionists whose studies show that such practices are common in the early stages of new religious sects. They also defend the Branch Davidians--a branch of an earlier apocalyptic branch of the Seventh Day Adventists--as a religious sect, not a mind-controlling cult. To understand what happened at Waco, you must appreciate that his diverse followers, who came from as far away as Australia, Great Britain, and Israel, believed that Koresh was the Lamb of God who would reveal the secrets of the Seven Seals. They called their compound "Mount Carmel," and like other millennial believers expected the world was coming to an end. Everyone who has carefully studied the Branch Davidians, and that should include Gazecki, agrees that Koresh, justifying his behavior by scripture, had sexual intercourse with legally underage females.

A documentary of this kind, which aims to set the record straight, has a truth-telling obligation. And since Gazecki's film is essentially an indictment of federal law enforcement agencies, his cause might have been better served by eliminating this issue from the film rather than undermining his own bona fides by equivocating. Statutory rape is a crime, and so is the possession of illegal weapons, but neither of these offenses justifies the ATF's initial life-threatening, commando-style raid on a compound full of women and children.

Gazecki constructs his film through a series of juxtapositions that powerfully carry his argument about official misconduct and distortion. We see liberal Democratic congressman Tom Lantos of California belligerently asserting that David Koresh was a madman with fanatic followers and that anyone who thinks differently must also be mad. Then we are shown scenes of a calm and sensible Koresh explaining scripture and talking reasonably to his followers, who look like ordinary church-goers. As a result, the usually clear-thinking Lantos looks like the madman. In this fashion virtually all of the government officials from Attorney General Reno on down are made to look like fools or hypocrites. Trying to explain how it came about that the FBI was using tanks, Reno maladroitly compares the arrangement to renting a car: this, after we have watched the "rented" tanks demolishing the compound's walls. ATF and FBI spokesmen appear constantly in these juxtapositions to be dissembling, deceiving, or misleading in their communications to the media, Congress, and the American people.

Gazecki also uses juxtaposition to support critics of the government's handling of Waco. In my report, I had suggested that the FBI's psychological warfare strategy had nothing to do with the psychology of Koresh or the Branch Davidians, that it was instead a function of the FBI's own group psychology--that agents were determined to show Koresh that they were in control. The film shows me reiterating this interpretation, and then cuts to an FBI spokesman in a press conference who is explaining the FBI's new aggressive tactics during the stand-off. The agent, obviously hot under the collar and fed up, is shown walking off the podium and stating: "We are going to show them that we control the compound and they are impotent." I had never seen that footage before, but could not have invented a more perfect illustration of what I had written.

Gazecki's editorial juxtapositions suggest a pervasive pattern of misinformation by the Justice Department, FBI, and ATF to mislead the American people, cover up misdeeds, and demonize the Branch Davidians. Interviewed after Oklahoma City, President Clinton unfairly dismissed the Branch Davidians as common criminals. The film should correct that unfortunate verdict, which is apparently shared by most Americans. The Branch Davidians may have been misguided religious extremists, but they were also decent human beings seeking a place in heaven and they believed Koresh could show them the way.

Indeed, during the long stand-off the Branch Davidians realized they were being smeared, and made a video to show their human faces to the American people. Men, women, and teenagers (many of them persons of color) explain why they came to Waco and why they are remaining in the compound. They believed God was on their side and--seen from their perspective--one begins to recognize that the Branch Davidians were subjected to great injustices. The ATF investigation concedes that after the raid, in an effort to cover up mistakes, the ATF hierarchy provided the public with "misleading or wrong" information. The Branch Davidians express their indignation about all this in their video. But the FBI prevented the release of that video for months after the tragedy. Parts of it are presented in the documentary, and they will come as a startling revelation. If Americans had seen the video, the Waco tragedy would have left us all with a guilty conscience; perhaps the final tragedy would not even have happened. Ironically, the Justice Department's Dennis Report specifically notes the FBI's concern "that if the tape were released to the media Koresh would gain much sympathy." The FBI waged a misguided public relations campaign to keep Americans from sympathizing with the Branch Davidians. The American media bought it and pressured the FBI to take more aggressive measures against the "Waco Wackos."

If Waco: The Rules of Engagement had done no more than show Americans that we had once more fallen into the trap of dehumanizing and demonizing our victims it would have served a useful purpose. But Gazecki goes further: he seems almost determined to dehumanize and demonize the ATF and FBI. Some of the documentary's allegations about federal agents seem reasonable, and correspond to what I learned from my own efforts to understand what happened at Waco. Other allegations push the envelope of credibility and some strain credulity to the breaking point. There is, however, enough in the documentary to shake up anyone's preconceived notions. As someone deeply critical of law enforcement's behavior at Waco, the film made me worry that I had not been critical enough. Even if the documentary does not provide definitive answers, it raises serious questions both about the ATF's February 28 raid and the FBI's conduct on April 19.

Gazecki's film argues that ATF agents fired the first shots, and that they directed automatic gunfire from their helicopters into the compound. These assertions directly contradict the official ATF investigation. If they are accurate, the ATF violated the "rules of engagement," successfully covered up this violation, and then lied under oath before Congress. More startling, Gazecki assembles evidence to argue that federal agents (presumably the FBI) on the final day of the conflagration were firing automatic weapons into the side of the compound hidden from the TV cameras, and that those tanks we saw on television were not just injecting gas but intentionally smashing sections of the compound and crushing the inhabitants. Footage in the film shows one of these tanks becoming disabled because something red is caught in its tracks. The narrator suggests that this may be part of the body of a Branch Davidian and his red coat. To support allegations about automatic weapon fire, Gazecki shows heat-sensitive film made by the government's own surveillance aircraft, and his assertions are supported in the film by knowledgeable experts. All this is in direct contradiction of the FBI's repeated claims, backed up by the Justice Department's investigation and the Dennis Report, that their purpose on April 19 was to get the Branch Davidians out safely, that the tanks were not attacking, and that they never fired a shot.

What is one to make of these allegations? Let us begin with the ATF raid. The ATF had been gathering intelligence for months and knew that there were many women and children in the compound whose lives would be at risk in a fire-fight. They believed that the Branch Davidians had powerful weapons, thought the end of the world was at hand, and might resist an armed assault by the ATF--the modern day soldiers of Assyria, according to Koresh.

Nonetheless, the ATF planned the largest armed raid in the bureau's history. The bureau received military training from the US Army at Fort Hood to prepare agents who had never before participated in such an effort. The ATF clearly misled Texas's then-Governor Ann Richards by falsely claiming that illegal drugs were involved. (The Branch Davidians, like the Seventh Day Adventists, reject all such drugs as a matter of religious tenet.) The illegal drug story was required under federal statute for the ATF to obtain the use of the Texas National Guard's military helicopters. Those helicopters were supposed to arrive first at the compound to create the diversion and surprise necessary for a "dynamic entry": diversion and surprise would allow ATF agents to put up ladders and invade the compound through the second floor window--beyond which, according to their faulty intelligence, lay the locked armory to which only David Koresh had the key. The ATF plan was to get there before Koresh could unlock it. If the timing failed, the plan put at risk the lives of 80 federal agents and more than 100 Branch Davidians. Given the alleged offense--violations of an illegal-firearms statute--the entire project seems ill-conceived. Indeed, many commentators later suggested that a single agent could have peacefully served a warrant. Even at the time, the acting Assistant Treasury Secretary in charge of law enforcement thought the plan was unwise and unnecessary when it was laid out to him just hours before the operation started. His first response, like Janet Reno's, was to say no. But he was misled by the agents in charge who convinced him that the Branch Davidians posed a real threat of violence to their neighbors. The official investigatory report concedes that the plan was inept if not irrational. But it maintains that the Branch Davidians were violent and ignores the possibility that the ATF raid was a dangerous provocation.

As is now well known, the ATF had an agent, Robert Rodriguez, inside the compound on the day of the raid. Rodriguez was pretending to be interested in the Branch Davidians' faith in order to gather intelligence. David Koresh knew all along that Rodriguez was an ATF agent; in fact, many days earlier Koresh had learned from his neighbors that the ATF had the compound under surveillance. Still, Koresh tried to proselytize Rodriguez. On the morning of the raid, when Koresh learned that the ATF was coming, he told Rodriguez that the Branch Davidians knew he was an agent and that they had been informed of the impending raid. Permitted to beat a hasty retreat (by these supposed killers), the agent informed his superiors that they had lost the essential element of surprise. Everyone in the ATF had agreed that if the element of surprise was lost they would call the operation off: because the main objective was to seize the locked armory before Koresh could distribute weapons to his followers, any other decision was completely irrational. Yet the ATF pushed ahead.

As Gazecki demonstrates, Koresh's warning resulted in part from the ATF's own inept attempts to get media attention. We see an agent lamely explaining that she called the local television stations only to make sure she had their weekend telephone numbers so she could contact them after the raid. In another remarkable failure of security, uniformed ATF agents were seen in Waco hotels, restaurants, and cocktail lounges the night before the raid. As a result of these gaffes, local TV stations had crews out looking for the compound long before the raid; when they explained what they were doing and asked a Branch Davidian for directions, he was able to warn Koresh.

Gazecki's documentary shows ATF agent Rodriguez weeping as he testifies before Congress about how he told his superiors, how they ignored his warning, and how those superiors had been lying to Congress. Gazecki has him nicely juxtaposed with one of the superiors who in bureaucratic "double speak" is explaining to Congress why a warning is not a warning. The ATF leaders must have learned something from Rodriguez as they hurriedly decided to advance the time of their assault. But because of the ATF's almost-unbelievable incompetence in failing to coordinate radio wave bands, the helicopters did not learn of the changes, kept to the original plan, arrived late, and failed to serve their diversionary function. With neither diversion nor surprise, tragedy was inevitable.

Why on earth did the ATF go ahead? The most realistic answer I have heard is that the ATF was worried about its own morale and standing. The ATF has had many critics over the years and been the object of scorn and ridicule by other law enforcement agencies. (Competition and bad blood among federal law enforcement agencies is well-known inside the Beltway.) It has frequently been suggested that the ATF be dismantled and its functions assigned to the FBI. The ATF wanted to pull off a bold military-style coup that would be widely publicized on television and allow it to display a huge collection of illegal weapons confiscated by its competent and courageous agents. Such a coup, it was thought, would strengthen and protect the ATF, impress Congress, enhance the agency's prestige, perhaps even increase its budget allocation.

The idea that the ATF acted out of bureaucratic self-interest and was looking for a public relations coup may seem ridiculous, but it is the only credible explanation of its conduct. Several years earlier the ATF had laid siege to a right-wing stronghold. The stand-off was resolved by the FBI and third-party negotiators, but the illegal weapons were all dismantled before the surrender and the ATF lost all the evidence it was hoping to obtain. The ATF had invested an extraordinary amount of time, energy, and resources in the Waco plan, as agents, many of them without previous SWAT-team or incident-response experience, prepared for their commando mission. Gazecki's film captures the "children-playing-soldier" mood of the ATF in video footage the agents made of themselves as they prepared for their escapade. Indeed, the momentum was so great it obviously overwhelmed the rational judgment of leaders who discounted their own agent's warning.

Though the agency's conduct does not constitute a government conspiracy, it is equally preposterous to describe what transpired at the compound as an "ambush," as the ATF report does. Having been warned, and expecting to be attacked, the Branch Davidians had more than enough time to open their armory and distribute weapons. Whether illegal automatics or legal semiautomatics, their weapons had enormous killing power. Military experts who have examined Waco agree that if the Branch Davidians had decided to kill the agents, as the ATF report claims, they could easily have slaughtered them. They had time to station themselves in strategic positions, including a tower that rose above the compound. Armed with automatic weapons, two or three of them could have fired on the cattle cars in which the agents arrived at the compound (the ATF's idea of Texas camouflage)--had there been a real ambush, most of the agents would have been killed before they even dismounted from the cattle cars, and many more as they jumped down. Even after the ATF took cover, the Branch Davidians' strategic firing positions in the tower made the agents visible targets.

The four agents who were killed were among those who went ahead with the planned dynamic entry from the roof of the compound, whose whole purpose was to get to the locked second-floor armory. But as the element of surprise had been lost, the armory had already been opened and the weapons disbursed. As soon as gunfire was exchanged--whoever started it--the ATF had to realize that no purpose could be served by mounting the roof. What we witnessed on television, then, was a tragic exercise in futility. The ATF leaders had put their own agents in a situation where there was nothing to be gained and where lives could be and were lost. Viewers of Gazecki's film will see again those desperate moments on the compound roof, as one of the agents goes through the window. But the narrator says nothing about the insanity of what is taking place before our eyes. Federal agents killing and being killed for no reason!

Both Gazecki's documentary and the ATF's official investigation are misleading about all this. The ATF investigation constructed a narrative in which federal agents were caught in a killing ambush and fired in self-defense. Gazecki's film, by focusing particularly on the helicopters, makes the ATF out to be the killers. But ATF agents are not killers, and neither were the Branch Davidians. The agents were desperately trying to follow the ill-conceived and futile plan conceived by their superiors. The Branch Davidians were defending their holy ground in the face of violent provocation. Both sides had weapons and were firing them. Indeed, the extraordinary thing, missed by both narratives, is how few lives were lost in this huge display of firepower.

If not a result of conspiracy or ambush, why were the first shots fired? The answer may be painfully banal. The complex ATF plan (of which there was never a written copy) called for the first agents who dismounted to use fire extinguishers to fend off the Branch Davidians' watch-dogs. As this began, Koresh, who said he had stationed his people to defend the compound, came to the door unarmed to confront the ATF. The ATF report incredibly has the Branch Davidians greeting the cattle cars with a hail of bullets and grenades while Koresh comes to the open door unarmed. It is impossible to believe that these events happened simultaneously as described. Koresh consistently maintained that he could not believe that ATF agents in full battle gear would assault the compound if they knew there were women and children inside. He came to the door to try to explain the situation to them. The first gun shots were then fired by agents at the dogs when their fire extinguishers failed to control them. One of Koresh's bodyguards, on his own initiative, then fired at those agents; agents responded by opening fire on the compound. The agent closest to Koresh, who was still at the open door, dropped to the ground and shot the unarmed Koresh through the pelvis and wrist. The door closed and gunfire broke out on all sides leading to the battle already described.

In short, the ATF did not go to the compound intending to shoot first and serve warrants later, as Gazecki suggests. Nor did the Branch Davidians intend an ambush to maximize their kill of federal agents, as the ATF's official report insists. Indeed, when the firing began, Wayne Martin, a Branch Davidian and an African-American graduate of Harvard Law School, called 911. Portions of the tapes can be heard in Gazecki's documentary. Martin's spontaneous reactions do not suggest a man participating in an ambush. A trained lawyer and minister, Martin was obviously shocked that armed troops were firing on women and children.

As to Gazecki's charges that the ATF's borrowed helicopters fired on the compound, he has presented convincing circumstantial evidence. Three helicopters arrived late on the scene as the fire-fight began. The occupants of the helicopters could not communicate with the leaders on the ground because of the radio-band problem. The agents in the helicopters with automatic weapons had no idea what was happening, and may well have joined in the fire-fight. Gazecki has compelling audiotape of the exchange between ATF agent Cavanaugh and the Branch Davidians during those exact moments. Early in the raid, the two sides had no way to communicate; Martin had reached the local police on their 911 line but they could not contact the ATF. On the tape, telephone communication has been established and we hear a Branch Davidian desperately telling Cavanaugh that the helicopters are shooting automatic weapons into the compound. Cavanaugh denies this. Koresh, though he had already been wounded, comes on and tells the agent they are not going to talk any longer if Cavanaugh refuses to acknowledge the reality that the compound is taking automatic weapon fire from the helicopters. Koresh had no reason to invent this complaint at that time, and Cavanaugh had no way of knowing what was going on in the helicopters. Cavanaugh ingeniously resolves this dispute over the phone by saying he intended only to deny that the helicopters had mounted automatic weapons. Subsequently, the ATF denied that agents ever fired from helicopters. Before Congress, Cavanaugh wept and swore that it was impossible for anyone to think that ATF agents would fire from helicopters. If he believed that they had, he claimed, he would throw away his badge. Gazecki's film contains a convincing refutation of Cavanaugh's testimony about the helicopters. Regrettably, Congress never heard it, as no member of Congress confronted or cross-examined him.

Gazecki is less than objective in failing to emphasize that the Branch Davidians fired on the helicopters. This is yet another example of the adversarial style on both sides. In the film, one actually seems to hear the Branch Davidians taking automatic weapon fire from the demonic ATF. In the ATF report we are shown the unarmed helicopters and the bullet holes caused by demonic Branch Davidians.

The ATF raid left dead and dying on both sides and led to a cease-fire agreement. Even the ATF official report acknowledges "chaos at the command post" after the shoot-out. A complex negotiation between the ATF and the FBI followed, resulting in the FBI's own 51-day siege.

When the FBI replaced the ATF at Waco, their initial strategy of negotiating with the Brach Davidians soon shifted to a declaration of all-out psychological warfare. Most behavioral scientists who have studied the events have questioned the FBI's decision. Because of the Branch Davidians' religious beliefs, end-of-the-world expectations, and acceptance of Koresh as the Lamb of God, such tactics might have driven members to mass suicide. When I and the other panelists appointed by the Justice Department met with representatives of the FBI's behavioral science group for briefings on July 1, 1993, we were told in no uncertain terms that they had decided Koresh was a sociopath who had conned his followers. Their spokesman opined that, when push comes to shove, common criminals such as Koresh, who have antisocial personality disorders, act in their own self-interest. This was presented to us as the behavioral science input into FBI decision-making. These views suggested to the panelists an astonishing ignorance of religious beliefs and of individual and group psychology. But as it turned out this initial part of our briefing was misleading.

The arrangements of the Justice Department for its investigation of Waco in my opinion were not designed to produce a searching inquiry. The panelists were briefed by law enforcement officials who had not been directly involved in Waco, and we were asked to prepare individual reports suggesting improvements in federal law enforcement for the future without a detailed understanding of what happened at Waco. Career Justice Department lawyers were to conduct the separate factual investigation; the so-called independent investigator, Edward Dennis, was to prepare his report based on the Justice Department's self-examination, and we were instructed not to ask questions about this ongoing investigation. My objection to these arrangements was considered an aberration, indicative of some personal psychopathology. And my subsequent criticism of the process and its findings was taken as a further proof of my bad judgment and "paranoia." At one point, it seemed as though the Justice Department had removed me from the panel. Eventually it was agreed that I would delay my own report until I had studied the factual report and could pursue any unanswered questions with Justice Department lawyers or the FBI. During this subsequent process I discovered that Peter Smerik, the agent who actually provided behavioral science input at Waco, had submitted two remarkably contradictory memoranda to his superiors. In the first, with impressive psychological insight and prescience, he had noted that Koresh was a religious fanatic, not a con-man sociopath, and that his followers were true religious adherents. He warned his superiors that psychological warfare might drive the Branch Davidians to collective suicide. Twenty-four hours later, he sent a memo advising the FBI to press ahead with psychological warfare. According to the Dennis Report, this psychological warfare memo was the last submitted at Waco by the behavioral science group. Neither the Justice Department's investigators nor the Dennis Report delved into these strange circumstances.

In the fall of 1993, I asked Smerik about his 180? turnabout. His response, clear and unmistakable, was: "my superior told me I was tying his hands." He had caved into the pressure and had provided his superiors the advice they wanted to hear. During the congressional hearings in 1995, I sat behind him and heard him testify under oath that no one had actually said those words to him, that no one had pressured him. He testified that it was all in his own head: he had pressured himself. None of the members of Congress present seemed to recognize that Smerik was recanting and had closed ranks with his fellow agents. Smerik's original story had been the linch-pin of my understanding about what went wrong in the FBI's management of the stand-off at Waco, and it had been confirmed by several other FBI sources.

There were two warring psychological camps inside the FBI at Waco. The first was the tactical forces, consisting of hostage rescue team members, SWAT-team trained marksmen, and other Green Beret types whose imperative is immediate action. The second camp consisted of negotiators and behavioral scientists, who were prepared to talk the thing through indefinitely to avoid loss of life. Friction between the two camps increased as the stand-off dragged on. The tactical forces pressed for more aggressive and harassing measures, at times even acting independently and undercutting ongoing FBI negotiations. Smerik's turnabout was only one symptom of this pathology of divided camps. Eventually, the tactical forces were calling all the shots and acting on their plan to tighten a noose of tanks around the compound and then inject the CS gas to drive the Davidians out. As one of my informants told me, by the time the plan was presented to Janet Reno, there were three options: gas, gas, or gas. The FBI's choice of strategy was not based on insufficient appreciation of apocalyptic religious beliefs or inadequate behavioral science. It was based on the action imperative of tactical law enforcement.

Gazecki compellingly substantiates this conflict inside the FBI. He presents excerpts culled from the reels of negotiation tape in which the negotiator apologizes for behavior by the tactical forces that violated promises made to the Branch Davidians. These tapes indicate that federal agents at times behaved not like professionals but like hooligans--for example, pulling down their pants and mooning the people in the compound. The film also substantiates my opinion, shared by many commentators, that third-party negotiation should have been utilized. On the tapes we hear the Branch Davidians insisting that negotiation with the FBI has reached a dead end and asking for third-party negotiators.

Though it supports all the criticisms contained in my report, and which I reiterate as a talking head on-screen, the documentary suggests that my ultimate conclusion about the Branch Davidians being inadvertently driven to mass suicide is entirely mistaken. Gazecki claims to show us something far more despicable. He believes that on the day of the gas attack some of the FBI's tactical forces began shooting their automatic weapons into the compound and crushing Branch Davidians under the tanks. According to the autopsy reports at least 20 corpses had bullet holes in them and some of the bodies were maimed. The Justice Department's explanation of the bullet holes was that fanatic leaders had shot church members; it gave no explanation of the maimed bodies. Until I saw Gazecki's film I had accepted this explanation, with the proviso that these shootings may have been suicides or mercy killings of people who were dying in agony. Koresh's own corpse had been shot between the eyes, and I do not believe any Branch Davidian still in the compound would have done that to the "Lamb of God" in malice. Gazecki forces us to ask whether some of those bullet holes were made by federal agents and whether some of the strangely mutilated corpses were the result of tank treads.

When the panelists were assembled on the first day at the Justice Department we were told that we would be given information about the final conflagration that had been gathered through top-secret technology. We were informed that all such information would be redacted from the published investigation under a federal statute--it was--and we were sworn to secrecy. Though the London Times shortly thereafter published photographs of the listening devices used at Waco and described how they had been deployed, I honored the secrecy request until I testified before Congress two years later and was told to reveal what the panel had been told. Gazecki's documentary has been profoundly disturbing to me on this very matter.

The panel was told that the FBI's top-secret listening devices picked up all sorts of extraneous noise and conversation, making it impossible to decipher meaningful information as it was recorded. We were also told that well after the fire FBI experts had deciphered a conversation in which the Branch Davidians' inner circle reported that on the night of the final day Koresh had decided it would end with them "stepping out onto the surface of the sun." Obviously, we were told, if the FBI had heard that information in real time, they would have taken a different course the next morning. But here was the convincing but secret evidence that the Branch Davidians had committed mass suicide. The FBI never played that tape for the panel nor were we ever given a transcript. Nonetheless, I accepted this oral information as the basic factual premise of my report and concluded that the FBI had inadvertently driven the Branch Davidians to this extremity. To my knowledge this "secret" information convinced the other panelists as well that Waco had ended in mass suicide.

Gazecki's film argues that I got it wrong, as has everyone else who believed the Justice Department's investigation and the Dennis Report. The film presents three kinds of evidence about that final day. First, there is a still photograph, apparently taken by authorities after the tragedy, of a ferret round of CS gas that was fired into the compound. A Branch Davidian survivor has testified that many such rounds were fired and that they sounded like mortar fire. This information is confirmed by the Dennis Report, which describes the ferret rounds as "non-burning." Gazecki's film, however, claims that they are pyrotechnic devices that explode to deliver the gas, and further argues that these devices, not the Branch Davidians, set fire to the compound. Ferret rounds are either pyrotechnic or not: that question can easily be resolved. However, as the CS gas is in fact a powder that must be dispersed, it is not inconceivable that the canister includes some mechanism for that purpose. The Dennis Report's description of these rounds as "non-burning" seems evasive rather than definitive. And as the compound was filled with highly volatile fumes, pyrotechnic devices could have sparked the fire.

The documentary's second kind of evidence consists of films, presented at the congressional hearings, that show a tank ramming back and forth repeatedly through a section of the compound until it collapses. The panelists were never told that this was part of the FBI's "not an assault" plan. Yet Gazecki also has tape of an FBI spokesman saying that they knew in advance that the women and children might be placed in a bunker near the kitchen, and so intentionally rammed the tank through the wall to deposit gas in the bunker area. The Justice Department has consistently argued that tanks were used only to inject gas or to create exits so that the Branch Davidians could escape. But the Dennis Report reveals that one of the tanks was ordered to clear a path through the compound to the main tower so that another tank could insert CS gas in that area; that during that "endeavor" a portion of the roof collapsed; and that "an apparent deviation from the approved plan began that involved . . . dismantl[ing] the building."

These uses of the tanks could not have occurred without risk of injury to the occupants. Did Attorney General Reno know the tanks would be used in this risky destructive fashion when she approved the plan? On the day of the tank assault Reno was scheduled to give a talk in Baltimore. She testified that the FBI advised her to go ahead with the talk so as not to create unwarranted concern. She was therefore not in the Washington situation room when the tanks began demolishing the walls of the compound. The documentary argues that the maimed bodies described at autopsy were in fact mangled by the tanks. We see film of the disabled tank being towed away and a Congressman at the hearing complains that after two years there has still been no report of what caused the tread to come off. Gazecki leaves viewers with the impression that a Branch Davidian's body may have been caught in the tread and that the truth has been covered up.

Because I was very concerned about the lethal risks to small children of prolonged exposure to CS gas, I asked many questions about the tank plan. Not until Gazecki's film, however, did I learn that the FBI intended to deposit the noxious substance directly on the bunker where they believed the children would be. Nor was I informed that tanks would push down walls to reach that location. The FBI plan in fact imposed much greater risk of loss of life than I was told or had imagined. Gazecki may therefore be correct in believing that some Branch Davidians were crushed by tanks. I had never before considered that possibility.

The documentary's third kind of evidence is based entirely on heat-sensitive film and an expert's interpretation of it. The expert repeatedly points to flashing lights on the film which he claims are bursts of heat that do not occur in nature and can only be made by automatic weapons. He asserts that those weapons are firing into the compound on the side away from the television cameras. There has already been enough discussion of this heat-sensitive evidence in the media to suggest that Gazecki's expert has given a plausible but not irrefutable opinion. If it is true, then many FBI agents knew about it and there was a massive cover-up.

Gazecki seems to want us to believe that FBI agents intentionally crushed Branch Davidians with their tanks and slaughtered them with their automatic weapons. Again, this is a mirror image account of the FBI's description of the Branch Davidians killing their own people rather than letting them escape the mass suicide. Surely the human truth lies somewhere between these extremes. There is no doubt in my mind that the FBI's plan for the last day went awry, just as the ATF's did on the first day. Some of the FBI agents obviously did not follow the established plan. Even the Dennis Report acknowledges this much. The FBI may have circled their wagons after the fact, honoring the law enforcement code of silence. They would not be the first or last law enforcement group to do so. But the Justice Department's job was to dig out the truth; that was what the Attorney General promised the American people.

One might naively think that the highest priority after a tragedy like Waco would be for everyone involved to consider what went wrong and what they would now do differently. The ATF conceded errors but never acknowledged that the raid was tragically unnecessary. Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department conceded any errors. The government's self-investigation glossed over the evidence of conflict within the FBI at Waco; it denied the lethal risk of CS gas to infants; it never explained the "apparent deviation" in the tank plan; it never described how decisions were made at Justice or who made them; it never offered convincing reasons for its failure to use third-party negotiations; and it never questioned the wisdom or the practical consequences of demonizing the Branch Davidians. The film documents each of these failings, and Gazecki builds the viewers' sense of moral outrage by his method of juxtaposition. Because much of what he shows us does seem to be true, his further allegations of extreme wrongdoing become more believable.

Gazecki stops short of suggesting that Waco was a government conspiracy, but he gives conspiracy theorists all the ammunition they will need. Unfortunately, the responsible officials did such an inadequate job of investigating Waco that most viewers will have almost no realistic basis against which to measure Gazecki's film. Waco: The Rules of Engagement will be another reason for people to distrust their government.

Also see: Alan Stone's original report to the Justice Department.