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Civil Liberties

Supreme Court Refuses To Review Warrantless Wiretapping Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@acluorg; (212) 549-2666
2/19/2008

Ruling Allows Executive Branch To Police Itself, Says ACLU

Photo of graffiti uncle sam wiretappingNEW YORK — The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to review a legal challenge to the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of prominent journalists, scholars, attorneys and national nonprofit organizations who say that the unchecked surveillance program is disrupting their ability to communicate effectively with sources and clients. The court’s decision today lets stand an appeals court’s ruling on narrow grounds that plaintiffs could not show with certainty that they had been wiretapped by the National Security Agency.

The following quote can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project:

“Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act intending to protect the rights of U.S. citizens and residents, and the president systematically broke that law over a period of more than five years. It’s very disturbing that the president’s actions will not be reviewed by the Supreme Court. It shouldn’t be left to executive branch officials alone to determine what limits apply to their own surveillance activities and whether those limits are being honored. Allowing the executive branch to police itself flies in the face of the constitutional system of checks and balances.”

The following quote can be attributed to Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the ACLU:

“Although we are deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s refusal to review this case, it is worth noting that today’s… Continue reading

Let us talk to Sept 11 planner, U.S. lawyers ask

By Jane Sutton Fri Feb 8, 4:43 PM ET

Photo of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Guantánamo BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) – Military lawyers defending Osama bin Laden’s former driver on terrorism charges in the U.S. war court at Guantánamo Bay have offered a compromise in their quest to interview September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

They promised not to ask Mohammed about his treatment in U.S. custody or about the CIA’s admission that it subjected him to a simulated drowning technique known as “waterboarding” during interrogations.

Bin Laden’s former driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001 and faces life in prison if convicted in the Guantánamo court of conspiring with al Qaeda and providing material support for terrorism.

The Yemeni man said he never joined al Qaeda, had no advance knowledge of its attacks and became bin Laden’s driver in Afghanistan because he needed the salary of $200 per month.

Hamdan’s lawyers said Mohammed — the highest-ranking al Qaeda leader held at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — can help their defense by telling them what role, if any, Hamdan had in the  organization.

They likened it to somebody “on trial for organized crime and you’ve got the opportunity to bring in the godfather.”

The request was still pending when a pretrial hearing ended on Thursday but the military judge suggested he might at least let the lawyers question Mohammed via written notes.

The judge is expected to rule in the next couple of… Continue reading

Sibel Edmonds Must be Heard

by Philip Giraldi

Sibel Edmonds is the FBI translator turned whistleblower who decided to go public late in 2002 and has been seeking to tell her story about high level corruption in the United States government involving Turkey and Israel. What makes her story particularly compelling is that the corruption relates to the theft and sale of United States defense secrets, most particularly nuclear technology. Sibel obtained her information while translating Turkish language telephone intercepts directed against several Turkish lobbying groups who had contact with senior officials in the Bush Administration, both at the Pentagon and in the State Department. Many of the officials involved are apparently the same neoconservatives who cooked the books to enable the rush to war against Iraq and who are continuing to urge more wars in the Middle East, most notably against Iran and Syria. Several of them are close allies of leading Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

To stop Sibel from telling her story, then Attorney General John Ashcroft subjected her to a state secrets privilege gag order after her appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes in October 2002 that not only forbade her providing details of her employment with FBI but also made the ban retroactive so that anything relating to her case would be considered a state secret. Edmonds had been discouraged by her experience with CBS as her most important points wound up on the cutting room floor. Then came the gag order, which she has observed while working assiduously to get… Continue reading

Runnin’ Scared: NYPD Seeks an Air Monitor Crackdown for New Yorkers

A city councilman and the cops don’t want you to have that Geiger counter without their permission
by Chris Thompson

Damn you, Osama bin Laden! Here’s another rotten thing you’ve done to us: After 9/11, untold thousands of New Yorkers bought machines that detect traces of biological, chemical, and radiological weapons. But a lot of these machines didn’t work right, and when they registered false alarms, the police had to spend millions of dollars chasing bad leads and throwing the public into a state of raw panic.

OK, none of that has actually happened. But Richard Falkenrath, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, knows that it’s just a matter of time. That’s why he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have asked the City Council to pass a law requiring anyone who wants to own such detectors to get a permit from the police first. And it’s not just devices to detect weaponized anthrax that they want the power to control, but those that detect everything from industrial pollutants to asbestos in shoddy apartments. Want to test for pollution in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of childhood asthma? Gotta ask the cops for permission. Why? So you “will not lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety,” the first draft of the law states.

Last week, Falkenrath made his case for the new law before the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, where Councilman Peter Vallone introduced the bill and chaired the hearing. Dozens of university researchers, public-health professionals, and environmental lawyers sat… Continue reading

Do U.S. pandemic plans threaten rights, ACLU asks

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, yahoo! news
January 14, 2008

U.S. policy in preparing for a potential bird flu pandemic is veering dangerously toward a heavy-handed law-enforcement approach, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Monday.

The group, which advocates for individuals’ legal rights based on the U.S. Constitution, said federal government pandemic plans were confusing and could emphasize a police and military approach to outbreaks of disease, instead of a more sensible public health approach.

“Rather than focusing on well-established measures for protecting the lives and health of Americans, policymakers have recently embraced an approach that views public health policy through the prism of national security and law enforcement,” the ACLU report reads.

But the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) said the group had misunderstood the government’s approach and said current plans already incorporate many of the ACLU’s recommendations.

Infectious disease experts agree that a pandemic of some sort of influenza is inevitable, and most worries focus on H5N1 avian influenza. Although it mainly attacks birds, the virus has infected 349 people since 2003 and killed 216 of them.

A few mutations could turn it into a highly infectious disease for people and could kill millions globally.

Most countries are working to develop plans to deal with the potential consequences. The U.S. plans are available on Web sites such as http://pandemicflu.gov.

The ACLU said it was worried that the plan called for military and police involvement in enforcing a quarantine.

The ACLU experts said they… Continue reading

Naomi Wolf Condemns Torture-Tapes Crimes

What is Probably in the Missing Tapes

By Naomi Wolf, Monday, December 13, 2007*

To judge from firsthand documents obtained by the ACLU through a FOIA lawsuit, we can guess what is probably on the missing CIA interrogation tapes — as well as understand why those implicated are spinning so hard to pretend the tapes do not document a series of evident crimes. According to the little-noticed but extraordinarily important book Administration of Torture: A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond (Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh, Columbia University Press, New York 2007), which presents dozens of original formerly secret documents – FBI emails and memos, letters and interrogator “wish lists,” raw proof of the systemic illegal torture of detainees in various US-held prisons — the typical “harsh interrogation” of a suspect in US custody reads like an account of abuses in archives at Yad Vashem.

More is still being hidden as of this writing — as those in Congress now considering whether a special prosecutor is needed in this case should be urgently aware: “Through the FOIA lawsuit,” write the authors, “we learned of the existence of multiple records relating to prisoner abuse that still have not been released by the administration; credible media reports identify others. As this book goes to print, the Bush administration is still withholding, among many other records, a September 2001 presidential directive authorizing the CIA to set up secret detention centers overseas; an August 2002 Justice Department memorandum advising the CIA about the lawfulness of waterboarding [Italics mine; nota bene, Mr.…

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‘Goodbye to America’ and ‘Hegemony’s Cost’

by Paul Craig Roberts
November 28, 2007

Pat Buchanan is too patriotic to come right out and say it, but the message of his new book, “Day of Reckoning,” is that America as we have known her is finished. Moreover, Naomi Wolf agrees with him. These two writers of different political persuasions arrive at America’s demise from different directions.

Buchanan explains how hubris, ideology and greed have torn America apart. A neoconservative cabal with an alien agenda captured the Bush administration and committed American blood, energy and money to aggression against Muslim countries in the Middle East, while permitting America’s domestic borders to be overrun by immigrants and exporting the jobs that had made the United States an opportunity society. War and offshoring have taken a savage economic toll, while open borders and diversity have created social and political division.

In her new book, “End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot,” Wolf explains America’s demise in terms of the erosion of freedoms. She writes that the 10 classic steps that are used to close open societies are currently being taken in the United States. Martial law is only a declaration away.

The Bush administration responded to Sept. 11 by initiating military aggression in the Middle East and by using fear and the “war on terror” to implement police state measures at home with legislation, presidential directives and executive orders.

Overnight, the United States became a tyranny in which people could be arrested and incarcerated on the basis of unsubstantiated accusation.…

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Did RAND Corporation Pen the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act?

Kurt Nimmo
TruthNews

According to Jessica Lee of Indypendent and Kamau Karl Franklin of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act was penned with plenty of help from the RAND Corporation.

“Rep. Jane Harman, Democrat from California, has had a lengthy relationship with the Rand Corporation,” Lee tells Democracy Now, although she was unable to determine if RAND wrote the bill. On the 12th anniversary of the OKC bombing, Rep. Harman, as chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment, introduced the bill in the House of Representatives.

“The ‘Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007′ seeks to address the roots causes of radicalization, and would establish a grant program to provide funds to States to foster badly needed vertical information sharing from the Intelligence Community to the local level and from local sources to state and federal agencies,” explains Harman’s website. “It also creates a Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Radicalization and Home Grown Terrorism to examine the social, criminal, political, psychological and economic roots of domestic terrorism and to propose solutions, and promotes international collaboration on strategies to combat radicalization.”

Franklin mentions Brian Michael Jenkins, an “expert” on “terrorism, counterinsurgency, and homeland security,” according to RAND. Jenkins is “someone who helped the United States in counterinsurgency measures in Vietnam,” states Franklin. “In addition to that, he wrote a book, and in his own book” Jenkins declared that “in their international campaign, the jihadists will seek common ground… Continue reading

State Terror: H.R. 1955 a Weapon of Mass Destruction of Civil Liberties

Ministry of Mythinformation Blog

Concerning the graduated repression of the Nazi regime, the Reverend Martin Niemoller, in 1945, stated, to the effect:

First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.

Though this quote has taken on many forms and endured several disputes, the ultimate interpretation stands. That silence about liberty infractions equals civil death.

Further, on the notion of leading the public headstrong into oblivion, the Nazis said it best:

“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia , nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany . That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” Hermann Goering, 1946… Continue reading

Irony Alert: White House Tells Musharraf: Never

During today’s [11/5/07] White House press briefing, spokeswoman Dana Perino condemned Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of “emergency rule” in Pakistan. She said that the administration is “deeply disappointed” by the measure, which suspends the country’s constitution, and believes it is never “reasonable” to “restrict constitutional freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism”:

Q: Is it ever reasonable to restrict constitutional freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism?

MS. PERINO: In our opinion, no.

Watch it at http://thinkprogress.org/2007/11/05/musharraf-freedom/.

The Bush administration never suspended the U.S. Constitution; instead, it interpreted the document so broadly as to provide all the powers they desired. A look at some of the ways the White House has overstepped its constitutional powers in the name of national security:

First Amendment: In September, a federal judge ruled that the FBI’s use of secret “national security letters” to obtain citizens’ personal data from private companies for counterterrorism investigations “violate[d] the First Amendment and constitutional provisions on the separation of powers.”

First Amendment, Fourth Amendment: In Aug. 2006, a federal district court in Detroit ruled that the Bush administration’ss NSA warrantless wiretapping program was unconstitutional, violating the “separation of powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution, the FISA and Title III.”

Article I: Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales attempted to justify the administration’s detainee policy by claiming, “There is no express grant… Continue reading

A ‘Paper Coup,’ and Blackwater Eyes Midtown Manhattan

by Naomi Wolf
Huffington Post
November 4, 2007

I have argued that in the closing stages of a ‘fascist shift’, events cascade. I am hearing about them, even across the globe. Here in Australia I hear from the nation’s best-know feminist activist, and former adviser to Paul Keating, Anne Summers, who was also at the time this took place Chair of the Board of Greenpeace International. Summers was detained by armed agents for FIVE HOURS each way in LAX on her way to and from the annual meeting of the board of Greenpeace International in Mexico, and her green card was taken away from her. ‘I want to call a lawyer’, she told TSA agents. ‘Ma’am, you do not have a right to call an attorney,’ they replied. ‘You have not entered the United States.’

Apparently a section of LAX just beyond the security line is asserted to be ‘not in the United States’ — though it is squarely inside the airport — so the laws of the US do not apply. (This assertion, by the way, should alarm any US citizen who is aware of how the White House argued that Guantánamo is not ‘in the United States’ – is a legal no-man’s land — so the laws of the US do not apply.) Toward the end of her second five-hour detention she asked, `Why am I being detained?’ `Lady, this is not detention,’ the TSA agent told her. `Detention is when I take you to the cells out… Continue reading

The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot

 

Naomi Wolf on “The End of America”

It not only can happen here, it is happening here. Mussolini created the blueprint (with inspiration from Lenin), Hitler elaborated on it, Stalin studied Hitler…

Here’s how it works (notice how many Bush & Co. is using now.):

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy 2. Create a gulag 3. Develop a thug caste 4. Set up an internal surveillance system 5. Harass citizens’ groups 6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release 7. Target key individuals 8. Control the press 9. Dissent equals treason 10. Suspend the rule of law

Wolf’s conclusion? Impeachment of Bush and Cheney is not enough. Prosecuting (and jailing) them for crimes committed is the only rational solution.

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Cover image of The End of America The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot is now available. Highly regarded among reviewers, Ms. Wolf’s book is a timely and urgent read for anyone concerned with the future of our Republic.

In a stunning indictment of the Bush administration and Congress, best-selling author Naomi Wolf lays out her case for saving American democracy. In authoritative research and documentation Wolf explains how events of the last six years parallel steps taken in the early years of the 20th century’s worst dictatorships such as Germany, Russia, China, and Chile.

The book cuts across political parties and ideologies and speaks directly to those among us who are concerned about the ever-tightening noose being placed… Continue reading

9/11 Truth, Activism and the Fourth Amendment (Updated with action steps)

The Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Retroactive immunity for telecom companies who engaged in illegal spying at the behest of the NSA is at the heart of a bill currently being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill, even before having been officially introduced, is being hotly debated by bloggers, electronic privacy groups, and civil libertarians, as well as presidential contenders (CT Senator Chris Dodd has actually posted a petition at his election website, encouraging readers to support his threatened “hold” on the bill). We should compare the issues involved here with the retroactive immunity provided CIA interrogators in the September, 2006 Military Commissions Act, who could otherwise have been accused of war crimes.

Below, we direct readers to an important series of programs from PBS’ Frontline to help readers investigate the background of this issue, and a deeper consideration of some of what’s at stake in continually ceding power to a rogue Executive bent on dissolving the few civil liberties which currently remain untouched.

Lest readers be swayed by the Administration’s repeated argument that “9/11 makes this necessary,” the Rocky Mountain News reported (emphasis added) on October 11, 2007 that this spying was underway well before 9/11/01:

“The National Security Agency and other government agencies retaliated against Qwest because the Denver telco refused to go along with a phone spying program, documents released Wednesday suggest.

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Point, Click … Eavesdrop: How the FBI Wiretap Net Operates

By Ryan Singel

The FBI has quietly built a sophisticated, point-and-click surveillance system
that performs instant wiretaps on almost any communications device, according
to nearly a thousand pages of restricted documents newly released under the
Freedom of Information Act.

The surveillance system, called DCSNet, for Digital Collection System Network,
connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by traditional land-line
operators, internet-telephony providers and cellular companies. It is far more
intricately woven into the nation’s telecom infrastructure than observers suspected.

It’s a “comprehensive wiretap system that intercepts wire-line phones,
cellular phones, SMS and push-to-talk systems,” says Steven Bellovin, a
Columbia University computer science professor and longtime surveillance expert.
Slideshow

Snapshots of the FBI Spy Docs

DCSNet is a suite of software that collects, sifts and stores phone numbers,
phone calls and text messages. The system directly connects FBI wiretapping
outposts around the country to a far-reaching private communications network.

Many of the details of the system and its full capabilities were redacted from
the documents acquired by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but they show
that DCSNet includes at least three collection components, each running on Windows-based
computers.

The $10 million DCS-3000 client, also known as Red Hook, handles pen-registers
and trap-and-traces, a type of surveillance that collects signaling information
— primarily the numbers dialed from a telephone — but no communications content.
(Pen registers record outgoing calls; trap-and-traces record incoming calls.)

DCS-6000, known as Digital Storm, captures and collects the content of phone
calls and text messages for full wiretap orders.… Continue reading

Bush Administration Says Warrantless Eavesdropping Cannot Be Questioned

By David Kravets
August 13, 2007

The Bush administration said Monday the constitutionality
of its warrantless electronic eavesdropping program cannot be challenged.

The government is taking that position in seeking the dismissal of federal
court lawsuits against the government and AT&T over its alleged involvement
in the once-secret surveillance program adopted after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The strategy was first recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in a McCarthy-era
lawsuit. It has been increasingly invoked in a bid to shield the government
from legal scrutiny.

Two senior Justice Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity
in a teleconference with reporters, reiterated the administration’s position
that it was invoking the so-called “state secrets privilege” in arguing
that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must dismiss the cases because they
threaten to expose information authorities say is essential to the nation’s
security.

“The case cannot be litigated in light of the national security interest
involved,” one official said.

The officials spoke on the condition that their names would not be published
because, they said, it was the government’s protocol not to comment on pending
litigation.

The Bush administration has invoked the state secrets defense often, from spy
cases and patent disputes to employment discrimination litigation.

Still, two judges have ruled recently that the defense does not apply in two
lawsuits challenging Bush’s surveillance program. President Bush acknowledged
in 2005 that the government was eavesdropping without warrants on communications
in the United States as long as one of the parties to… Continue reading

Methodist Minister Calls Emergency Meeting to Address Constitutional Crisis

A CALL TO ACTION – EMERGENCY MEETING

Summary

“First they came for the terrorists but I wasn’t a terrorist so I stayed silent and went about my business. Then they came for those suspected of terrorism, but I certainly wasn’t a suspect so I stayed silent and went  about my business. Then they came for those who defended those who were suspected of terrorism, but I wasn’t defending such people so I stayed silent and went about my business. Then, one day, they came and  began to “suspect” me, so I stayed very, very silent and went about my business.

And that is how I lost my soul.”

You can feel it in the air: many of us are living in the fear that we are one “bad event” away from this administration seizing power over the people in such a way that we will find ourselves swept up in a nightmare of tyranny such as we’ve never seen before.

Others before us have also lived in such times. Others before us have also witnessed the tyranny of empire, the fear it unleashes, and the trance it imposes on its population. There is a story in the Gospel of Mark (this Sunday I’ll be preaching about it) that has Jesus encountering a man in a graveyard, chained to the tombs and possessed by a powerful demon that has caused the man to become violent, insane, and out of control. The name of the demon is Legion, a military term that… Continue reading

NSA Spying Part of Broader Effort

Intelligence Chief Says Bush Authorized Secret Activities Under One Order

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 1, 2007; A01

The Bush administration’s chief intelligence official said yesterday that President
Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive
order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National
Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president
previously described.

The disclosure by Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, appears
to be the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that
Bush’s order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance
of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005.

In a letter to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), McConnell wrote that the executive
order following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks included “a number of . . .
intelligence activities” and that a name routinely used by the administration
— the Terrorist Surveillance Program — applied only to “one particular
aspect of these activities, and nothing more.”

“This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly,
because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has
been officially acknowledged,” McConnell said.

The program that Bush announced was put under a court’s supervision in January,
but the administration now wants congressional approval to do much of the same
surveillance without a court order.

McConnell’s letter was aimed at defending Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
from allegations by Democrats that he… Continue reading

ACLU Applauds House Armed Services Hearing on Restoring Habeas Corpus Due Process Rights

7/26/2007
ACLU.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union was encouraged today by
the House Armed Services Committee hearing titled Upholding the Principle of
Habeas Corpus for Detainees. The committee discussed Chairman Ike Skelton’s
(D-MO) proposed bipartisan legislation restoring the due process right of habeas
corpus that was taken away by the Military Commissions Act last fall. The ACLU
hopes this hearing will lead to the enactment of Chairman Skelton’s bill.

"Chairman Skelton and the House Armed Services Committee should be commended
for trying to restore our nation’s Constitution and the rule of law. Returning
habeas corpus should be a top priority of this Congress, and Chairman Skelton’s
bill is a good first step," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the
ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "To let a president define who is an
enemy combatant and then order those people held indefinitely and without charge
at places like Guantánamo Bay undermines our core American values. In the November
2006 elections, the American people demanded Congress rein in the Bush administration’s
shredding of the Constitution. Chairman Skelton is acting on that call for reform."

H.R. 2826, sponsored by Chairman Skelton, is a bipartisan bill that would restore
the constitutional due process right of habeas corpus that the Congress and
the president took away with the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), a law
pushed through by President Bush just weeks before the midterm elections.

"Today’s hearing takes us one step closer to restoring our Constitution
and undoing the wrongs of Guantánamo Bay," said Christopher Anders, legislative
counsel for the ACLU.…

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