Tag Archives: John Conyers

Update On The Fight To Impeach Jay Bybee And Restore Accountability

Yesterday I kicked off an action item, asking people to call and write the members of the House Judiciary Committee or their California members of Congress, informing them that the largest state Democratic Party in the country has voted to support a Congressional inquiry into Jay Bybee and other lawyers for their actions justifying torture, and that they ought to carry this through.  Many people have already contacted their members of Congress and you should do the same.  One thing that would help is to get them on the record.  If you receive any constituent correspondence from your Congressperson about this issue, please forward it to me at david-dot-dayen-at-gmail-dot-com.  We need to build a list of who supports accountability and who does not, of who in the California delegation agrees with their own party and who does not.  We’re starting to get some on-the-record statements, like this nonsense from Illinois Republican Donald Manzullo, who admits that waterboarding doesn’t work, who calls it “more torture than not,” as if there’s a torture continuum of some sort (the fact that CIA interrogators had to add a tracheotomy kit to the proceedings should tell you what they were up to with waterboarding), but who then says that “no laws were broken” (which is patently false), and that, even if there were, nobody should be prosecuted because the whole thing would get “messy.”

MANZULLO: Because then you are going to have to go back and you’re going to have to go through every single interrogation and every single memo and the whole purpose of this is to relive again the fact that somebody made the decision to allow this.

We need on-the-record statements like this for every California Democrat, preferably in writing or on tape.

In other news, John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler announced their support to Attorney General Eric Holder for a special counsel to investigate and prosecute anyone involved in the decision-making process in the Bush Administration that led to illegal torture of detainees.  That letter is here.

Finally, I will be on Angie Coiro’s show on Green960 AM in San Francisco in the 7:00 hour tonight to talk about the CDP resolution, the need for an inquiry and impeachment of Jay Bybee, and the fight to restore the rule of law with respect to torture.  Tune in if you can.

21st Century Bull Connor Closer To Feeling Fire Hose Turned On Him

Just over a week ago, I told you about the latest affront to human dignity carried out by the 21st century’s answer to Bull Connor.  At the beginning of February, a month in which we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio decided to bring back a staple of the Jim Crow South – the chain gang – to the Southwestern desert. He marched 200 undocumented prisoners from the County Jail to a tent city a couple of miles away. He put them in chains and paraded them through the city streets of Phoenix to the open air jail, surrounded by an electric fence.  

Well, that little stunt earned him, besides the full-throated outrage of human rights activists, immigrant rights groups, and organizations that care about the rights of communities of color, working families, and effective policing, the scrutiny of powerful members of the United States Congress. And we want you to help add your voice to this scrutiny.  

As a result of street actions by Arizona ACORN members and other pro-New American organizations, the voices that many of you raised through petition efforts like the one ACORN launched on February 5th, and meetings between ACORN leaders in DC for our annual Legislative and Political Conference and the staff of House Judiciary Chair John Conyers, Chairman Conyers issued a request today that puts Arpaio’s actions squarely in the cross-hairs.

Joining Chairman Conyers, a lion of America’s Civil Rights Movement, were Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who all called on Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to investigate Arapio’s long-running reign of terror and error.  

The Congressional leaders are also asking for an investigation of the agreements between Maricopa County and the United States Government under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. I am asking you to join with us and add your voice to those calling for an investigation of actions such as these:

A taste of the Jim Crow South in the heart of Phoenix.  

Arresting activists at public hearings for applauding calls for investigations into his actions.

Forcibly separating parents from citizen children as the result of his police-state approach to America’s immigration challenge.  

Frankly, it is about time. The people of Maricopa County deserve better, New American communities and communities of color deserve better, and all Americans deserve a better model for the challenges of immigration facing this country. The Arpaio spectacle shows that a police-state solution does not work.

With your help, Attorney General Holder and Secretary Napolitano will listen to the request from Conyers and his subcommittee Chairs and take a second step towards bringing real justice back to Maricopa County and ensuring that law enforcement isn’t simply about “just us”.

Stand with us in helping make that happen.  

Sheriff Arpaio – The Bull Connor of the 21st Century

Friends, there are some things that cannot go unchallenged. They are affronts to human dignity and to what it means to live in America.

Yesterday one of those things happened in Maricopa County, Arizona, the mega-county that contains Phoenix. In a move that smacks of the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and that harks back to the days of the chain gang in the South, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, is clustering 200 undocumented inmates of the County Jail in their own special tent city. The tent city is surrounded by an electric fence, further bringing home the treatment of human being as chattel. The Phoenix New Times has a compelling story detailing yesterdays outrage.

We cannot let this stand. We are circulating a petition that asks Congressman John Conyers, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to hold hearings into this latest outrage and the long history of abuse carried out by Sheriff Arpaio.

What makes this move especially troubling is the Sheriff’s determination to expand his tent city to accommodate up to 2500 prisoners, an indication of the scope of his determination to continue his devastating policies of racial profiling, retaliatory arrests aimed at silencing critics, and forced family separation.

These actions are an affront to anyone who cares about human rights and are the logical outcome of a police state mentality that sees the only solution to our immigration challenge coming at the end of a gun.

Therefore, we at ACORN, through our Arizona ACORN members, are taking a stand against this action and the on-going immigration enforcement policies of the Sheriff that have resulted not just in this indefensible move, but in widespread human rights abuses of American citizens and our immigrant cousins.

We are following the lead of community leaders like AZ ACORN Board Member Alicia Russell who said, “This march is an extremely callous and inhumane move, aimed directly at degrading undocumented immigrants. In claiming to justify this action as a way to improve”budget savings”, Arpaio is degrading these immigrants, violating their civil rights, and overreaching his jurisdiction”, the entire Maricopa County town of Guadalupe, and Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability (MCSA) who recently staged a “Death of Democracy” funeral procession protesting the Sheriff’s actions.

We are answering the call of local leaders like Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon who has demanded a federal probe into Arpaio’s recent crime sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods using tactics that are tantamount to racial-profiling and reflect poorly on all Arizonans, regardless of their ethnic heritage. We are answering the call of Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who said, “We treat people equally in America. I think it’s wrong.”

Even the conservative Goldwater Institute calls Apraio’s policies “ineffective” in a report released in December. “[He] has diverted resources away from basic law-enforcement functions to highly publicized immigration sweeps, which are ineffective in policing illegal immigration and in reducing crime generally[.]”

Help us take a stand by asking Rep. Conyers to lead an investigation into these tactics. America needs to stand for justice under the law, not the law of “just us”.

House Judiciary Warns DoJ on Perata Leaks

I’ve been mulling this around in my head for a few days.  Three powerful members of the House Judiciary committee have have sent a letter to the Justice Department calling for an investigation into leaks surrounding the inquiry into State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata.

No article since November 2004 has explicitly said that any information came from a federal government source. But in a letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey obtained by The Times on Monday, U.S. Reps. John Conyers Jr., Linda Sanchez and Zoe Lofgren wrote, “We are disturbed and concerned that news story after news story . . . has cited federal law enforcement sources as the basis of information.”

The only article specifically mentioned in the July 31 letter was a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. The article cited “sources familiar with the probe,” a broad term that could encompass federal agents, defense attorneys and people who have been questioned […]

On Friday, the day after the congressional letter was sent, a Wall Street Journal article said the investigation into Perata “gained momentum over the past year.” The article’s details were attributed to anonymous people “close to the defense,” who said Perata’s longtime political consultant, Sandi Polka, was granted immunity to compel her to answer questions.

(Here’s that SF Chron article mentioned in the letter.)

The Perata investigation certainly has dragged on for years, leading to him needing more and more funds to raise in his defense.  In particular, the dumping of $250,000 from the California Democratic Party into his legal defense fund raised a lot of eyebrows around these parts.  After the initial explanation of “We’re the CDP and we can do what we want,” a secondary explanation was that the investigation had been politicized and that this was part of the DoJ’s efforts to prosecute and delegitimize Democrats.  A couple weeks later, out comes this letter, signed by two members of the California delegation.  But it’s Conyers’ participation that makes me believe that this is a real concern.  I trust Conyers enough to think that he wouldn’t simply badger the DoJ to help out a political problem in California.

Of course, let’s look at what the letter is actually alleging.  It’s not suggesting that the investigation itself is unnecessarily political, but that someone inside the investigation is using the media to disparage Perata.  That may well be true, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the whole investigation is a farce.

Let’s now look at what this does NOT suggest:

• It in no way excuses the CDP for paying off Perata with $250,000 in the middle of an election year, whether that money was simply laundered through them and earmarked for Perata or not.  Based on this SacBee report, it appears Perata is perfectly capable of raising money for himself:

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata has solicited at least $200,000 this year from political interest groups for a nonprofit foundation that promotes and rallies support for one of his bills.

The arrangement, apparently legal, allows the Senate leader to solicit unlimited funds for his own political agenda without having to detail how the money is spent.

“He may have found a loophole in the Political Reform Act that needs to be closed,” said attorney Bob Stern, a co-author of the state’s Political Reform Act who now runs the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles.

Which leads me to point 2:

• There is no way that Perata should still be Senate President Pro Tem at this point.  While he has done a good job of hammering Republicans for their intransigence on the budget, this image hit, as well as the constant distraction of having to find new ways to raise money for his legal bills, are not what we need at this sensitive time, ESPECIALLY when Darrell Steinberg is waiting in the wings and perfectly capable of performing the same duties without the black cloud of indictment hanging over the head of the Democratic leadership.  They haven’t even taken a caucus vote on this yet, to my knowledge – it’s currently scheduled for August 21, but during these budget negotiations that’s doubtful to come off.

It is perfectly consistent to be skeptical of the Justice Department’s case against Perata and to ALSO demand that he step down from his leadership position, and to excoriate the CDP for their conduct in either shoveling Perata money or acting as a conduit for that fund transfer.

An Inconvenient Impeachment

There he goes again, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, reading into the Congressional record just 35 of the reasons why this Congress should be impeaching this sitting president and his VP. With diminutive stature but steely resolve, Kucinich forcefully takes his place alongside the earlier patriots who stood up to executive abuse, the “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and spoke out for accountability.

And who was listening? Certainly not the US media, and by extension, no one else. The C-Span viewer was one of the few in the country who could witness this historic event. Or, check youtube: http://youtube.com/watch?v=JLf… Gore Vidal  rightfully points out that anyone truly interested in knowing what’s going on in our country must be reading foreign coverage–all still available online–since other countries ARE interested in what happens in the U.S. http://www.truthdig.com/report…

The impeachment resolution, HR 1258, was introduced June 9th as a “privileged motion” to get around Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who personally opposes impeachment and has reportedly said she “likes” President Bush.  

Two days later, the House voted that this motion be referred to John Conyers’ Judiciary Committee. Kucinich, as well as co-sponsors, Robert Wexler (D-FL) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), voted FOR this referral. For rollcall see: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/200…  Most pundits are saying that the motion will die in Judiciary. If so, then why would these three have voted for it to go there? Is there hope that Conyers will actually step forward and support impeachment hearings as he did BEFORE he took over as chair after the 2006 election?

Yes, let’s roll back to that time when those who vote came out and said ENOUGH!!! Give control back to the Democrats so that they will stop this war and put brakes on this renegade band in the White House! Yet, immediately after this 2006 election when DEMOCRATS were handed the majority in both houses (well, sort of, if anyone really still considers Lieberman one), Nancy Pelosi, as the new Speaker, took it upon herself to dismiss the constitutional requirements to hold the executive branch in check through the mandated procedures of impeachment.

“Impeachment is off the table,” said she. And one by one, the little sheep in the Democratic flock, have gone along with her pronouncement. They seem to think that they will somehow be rewarded and handed the presidency in ’08 as a result of their cowardice. It may not be convenient that we are in a presidential election year, but should this be used as a reason to NOT INVESTIGATE these serious charges? I think not. A far greater threat is to allow them to pass onto the dung heap of dead motions and, thus, take a stand that ALLOWS the destruction of our constitution. Is that really what Democrats stand for in this presidential election year?

My own Congressman, Henry Waxman, went to great pains to explain to a group of activists from his district last year that there “wasn’t enough time.” He was not ready to support impeachment regardless of those within his district who wanted his many hearings into the corruption of the Bush administration to END with a SERIOUS RESULT — IMPEACHMENT. West Hollywood, a city within his CD, had voted to support impeachment. The Pacific Palisades Democratic Club, one of the oldest and largest in his CD, declined to endorse this incumbent’s candidacy (in spite of no one running against him). David Swanson just posted his take on Waxman’s inaction: http://afterdowningstreet.org/…  (what his constituents have said for a long while).

Are our incumbent Democrats so entrenched and bought out by corporate lobbyists that they will not respond to their electorate? And the dwindling electorate increasingly opts out and won’t vote because “it makes no difference.” And fewer and fewer people make it to the polls, especially for those so-called “little elections” where state officials are selected and gain entree onto the political runway. And incumbents with no opposition funnel their lobbyist funds to their anointed choices who win elections with a tiny fraction of those eligible to vote. And the cycle perpetuates itself.

And the democracy that we’ve been taught we had, is no more, taken over by the corporate and religious interests who dictate both domestic and foreign policy and continue to loot the treasury and spin this nation into the unending pit of trillions of dollars of debt…and the country’s mainstream media fiddles on, themselves complicit.

So, WHY ARE the members of Congress so afraid of this president and his henchmen? Have there been blackmail threats? Are there internal dossiers of their own many transgressions? Do they have sexual proclivities that will be revealed if they dare show any backbone? Have their families been threatened? And, what about Blackwater? Is it being used for private enforcement and surveillance?

I recall the days when Senator Wayne Morse stood up to oppose another war and another administration. He was a true patriot.  And earlier in this current war, when our most elder statesman, Senator Robert Byrd, stood up and tried to stop his colleagues’ “rush to war.” Thank you Dennis Kucinich, for standing up once again in the midst of your fellows who are busy doctoring and reframing the meaning of patriotism.

Democratic leadership may think this is an inconvenient time to remind them of their constitutional responsibilities. If you disagree, start calling your electeds and jam the lines. 202-224-3121 is the main number for the House. Or, better yet, go to www.house.gov, tap in your zip code, and get the direct line to your congressional representative. And, call often. Even daily. Remember, there’s a local AND a Washington DC number. Call both.


Yoo’s Law: And Why We Cannot Be Silent

As I wrote earlier today, the revelation that top-level officials in the White House actually debated what interrogation techniques to use on high-value targets, including torture, just sickens the stomach.  In this context, it’s clear that torture lawyer John Yoo was writing a document that was already written – a justification for the most heinous of crimes.  That the Administration had to dip all the way down into the mid-level of the Justice Department, bypassing even the Attorney General, shows how difficult it was to find a cad willing to cover up their misdeeds, someone willing to disgrace the office and disgrace himself.  

Yoo was a pawn bit none of this absolves him from blame.  House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers would like a word with him.  Attorneys for Ali al-Marri, a so-called “enemy combatant” at Guantanamo, are using the memo to make the legal argument that his detention was actually illegal, since the memo was eventually withdrawn after al-Marri was captured and detained based on its legal theories.  The “footnote” contained in the memo, that a previous memo waived the Fourth Amendment with respect to “domestic military operations,” is causing Administration officials all sorts of grief on Capitol Hill.  (That worm Mukasey, by the way, wouldn’t say whether or not the Fourth Amendment waiver memo has been withdrawn.)

And now the National Lawyers Guild has called on Yoo to be disbarred and removed from the Boalt Hall School of Law, and for the Congress to repeal that part of the Military Commissions Act which gives him essentially legal immunity for his crimes.

In a memorandum written the same month George W. Bush invaded Iraq, Boalt Hall law professor John Yoo said the Department of Justice would construe US criminal laws not to apply to the President’s detention and interrogation of enemy combatants. According to Yoo, the federal statutes against torture, assault, maiming and stalking do not apply to the military in the conduct of the war.

“John Yoo’s complicity in establishing the policy that led to the torture of prisoners constitutes a war crime under the US War Crimes Act,” said National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn.

Congress should repeal the provision of the Military Commissions Act that would give Yoo immunity from prosecution for torture committed from September 11, 2001 to December 30, 2005. John Yoo should be disbarred and he should not be retained as a professor of law at one of the country’s premier law schools. John Yoo should be dismissed from Boalt Hall and tried as a war criminal.

For those who want a “variety of views” to be expressed in the academic sphere, I think the National Lawyers Guild has a broader perspective about the First Amendment and freedom of expression.

There are things we can do at home as well.  First, Mark Ridley-Thomas’ resolution on torture must be passed, and used as a means to discover more about how medical professionals served this lawbreaking and who was involved all the way to the top of the chain of command.

As we recently commemorated the non-violent life and legacy of Dr. King, we cannot ignore the immorality of war that, he said, ravages our economy and “mutilates our conscience.”

Nowhere is that “mutilated conscience” more evident than in the alarming issue of health professionals involved in torture in the Iraq War […]

Reports from the International Red Cross, The New England Journal of Medicine, the British Medical Journal, military records, and first-person accounts, provide overwhelming evidence that military physicians and psychologists have directly participated in the development and cover-up of torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody.

Medical professionals are reported to have advised interrogators as to whether particular prisoners were fit enough to survive physical maltreatment, informed interrogators about prisoners’ phobias and other psychological vulnerabilities that could be exploited during questioning, failed to report incidents of alleged torture, force-fed prisoners who were on hunger strikes, and altered the death certificates of prisoners who died […]

As professional licensure and codes of ethics are regulated by states, California has the obligation to notify members of laws concerning torture that may result in their prosecution.

This week, I will put to a vote Senate Joint Resolution 19 on the floor of the Senate that states that the U.S. Department of Defense has “failed to oversee the ethical conduct of California-licensed health professionals related to torture.” […]

Torture is much more than a political issue. It is an ethical, moral and spiritual issue that has not only become a shame, but it is an evil in our midst.

Dr. King would not remain silent on an issue of such moral importance. Nor will I. Dr. King repeatedly warned us that, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.”

And perhaps most important, on April 14 at the Bancroft Hotel, Yoo will make a public appearance in an event with Georgetown Law Professor David Cole and others.  Perhaps citizens who stand against the torture and murder of human beings in service to a failed theory of extreme executive power ought to stop by and let him know how you feel.  

April 14, Bancroft Hotel.  Be there.

UPDATE: The American Freedom Campaign has also called for the dismissal of John Yoo.

Dying For Coverage

Advocacy group Families USA has put out a shocking report (PDF), “Dying For Coverage,” detailing how Californians are impacted by a lack of health insurance.  The number “47 million” that designates Americans without health insurance is too abstract and detached from meaning.  Californians are dying because of their inability to afford or acquire insurance.

• Families USA estimates that more than eight working-age Californians die each day

due to lack of health insurance (approximately 3,100 people in 2006).

• Between 2000 and 2006, the estimated number of adults between the ages of 25

and 64 in California who died because they did not have health insurance was

nearly 19,900.

•Across the United States, in 2006, twice as many people died from lack of health

insurance as died from homicide.

The factors that lead to death include: 1) a lack of preventive care and screening, 2) unnecessary delays for medical care because of affordability concerns, 3) no access to care outside an emergency room, and more.

Some of our Democratic members of Congress have commented on the report.

“This new Families USA study highlights a sad statistic that more people in our country died from lack of health insurance than from homicide between 2000-2006,” U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) said today. “In California alone, nearly 20,000 people in that time frame died because of being uninsured.”

“Our nation has more people in jail than anywhere else in the world in its effort to combat crime,” Stark said. “Yet, we allow 47 million people to go without health insurance-which translates into going without needed medical care-each year. It’s time to take action and combat the real killer in our country-the lack of universal health care.”

“It is appalling and irresponsible that more than eight working-age Californians die due to lack of health insurance each day,” U.S. Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) said today. “In California , 60 percent of the uninsured are Latinos, which means that nearly five Latinos die each day because we cannot ensure access to quality, affordable health care.”

“I am fighting in Congress to improve the health of communities of color and strongly support improving access to health care for all populations,” Solis said.

When Republicans talk about “cost control” in medical care, they want a world very much like this.  They believe that the problem with health insurance is that people have too much of it.  They would rather it be limited and used only when necessary, and they would rather Americans hold out and comparison shop when they are ill or infirm.  In other words, the conservative vision of health care aligns with the for-profit insurance company vision which directly leads to 8 dead Californians every single day.

As we pick up the pieces from the failure of health care reform from earlier this year, this powerful report shows the dire need to repair the broken system and ensure affordable care for everyone.