Sunday, August 24, 2014

PNN - Footfalls of Democracy and a Kick at Cancer

PNN 8/24/14
Footfalls of Democracy and a Kick at Cancer

Ann Fonfa       cancer research
Rachel Pienta     democratic policy
Dierdre McNab   league of women voters
Drew Martin     water issues

1. Discipline and Punish Dissidents
In the wake of the Great Crash, there was no accountability for the Wall Street cheats and liars and their filthy rich clients who crashed the economy. Federal prosecutors at the Department of Justice did nothing. The US Attorneys like Preet Bahara of the Southern District of New York, Jenny Durkan of Seattle (home of WaMu) and André Birrote, Jr. of LA (home of Countrywide) made no real effort to investigate. There were no phalanxes of FBI agents deployed to figure things out, no assignment of forensic accountants, and no grand jury proceedings. The richly detailed findings of the Final Report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and the report of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations headed by Senators Levin and Coburn were ignored by every single US and State agency. It all worked out just as Michel Foucault said it would in his book Discipline and Punish:

"But this delinquency of wealth is tolerated by the law and, when it does find its way into the courts, it can depend upon the indulgence of the judges and the discretion of the press."

It’s over. Nothing to see here. We can’t look back. There is a difference between greed and criminality. Time to move forward together. We all have to have skin in the game. Too bad you lost yours, but that’s the great Capitalist System in action.

Not a single leader of either political party demanded prosecutions.

Black men are gunned down by police or vigilantes at an astonishing rate, one every 28 hours according to this Alternet article although as Digby says, there are no government figures on such killings. This is just the most visible part of the assaults on African-Americans. The abuse ranges from everyday harassment, stop and frisk and constant disrespect from the police and the system generally to roustings, jail arrests for driving while Black and constant fear of being killed for being while Black. How do our fellow citizens cope with this assault? Check the internets for discussions of what parents have “the talk” with their kids, as here and here. Note the media’s use of the benign phrase “the talk”, as if racism were just a fact of life, like sex. Note that “the talk” is about one-way communication, as though the young aren’t entitled to input. And note the advice the kids get: be polite, keep your hands in view, do as the cop or the authority figure tells you.

And when the kid gets killed, either by a cop or a vigilante or by a gang, there are rituals for healing: Pile up flowers, teddy bears, candles, notes, and go grieving through a burial. The shamanic advice didn’t work that time, but just go on believing it will work in the future. Be polite. Do as the authorities say, keep your hands in view. The authorities smear the dead person, and blame the dead person and muddy the evidence and do a lousy job of prosecuting.

By 2011, it was clear that the Obama Administration had no intention of jailing the Wall Street criminals, and that the Attorney General of New York, enforcer of the Martin Act (a state securities law that sets lower standards for proof in a criminal case) was going to let the crooks walk. The Occupy Movement was one response. It was purposefully nonviolent, but it was met with overwhelming militarized police force. Occupiers kept their hands in view, and they were polite but firm with authority figures, but they got pepper-sprayed, beaten, rousted, and jailed. Then? Nothing. No criminals went to jail. The occupiers were scattered, disappeared like the Amadou Diallo protesters and those who protested at every other killing of a Black person by a cop or vigilante or gangster. The cops who killed Diallo were acquitted. We’re already hearing that it won’t be possible to convict Michael Brown’s killer.

In exactly the same way, millions of people were crushed by the Great Crash. Instead of help from the authorities, they got hammered by the likes of Foam the Runway Geithner, do-nothing prosecutors, and incompetent securities law enforcement, and they got blamed for the disaster, as if it were normal for working people to be able to fool thousands of profession loan officers about their income and assets. The settlements that are being announced six years later are a big fat joke. We are all in this together, say the authorities in the economics game, including academic economists, CEOs, jackass TV commentators, Congress, the White House, the banks, the financial sector. Heal up, you slugs and get the economy going by yourselves. And give us our tax cuts and screw Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid.

The people of Ferguson aren’t sick or injured. They are outraged and they are saying so in word and deed. They don’t need to heal. They need massive changes in their lives, and at least in my opinion, that means changes in the power of entrenched authorities in both the public and private sector. Instead they get sleeping potions like a demand for healing. The 99%, crushed by the Great Crash, need changes in the power of entrenched authority too.

Healing doesn’t help. It validates the status quo. And it’s the status quo that’s sick.

2. The Torture Report

The recent revelations came as no surprise. However, now there can be no doubt that the United States tortured people. What are the repercussions? The Senate Team spent five years researching and putting the CIA torture report together. Apparently, it is quite thorough. What now?

Knowing this puts us in quite a bind. We can’t simply say (or at least we shouldn’t say), as Obama did a few years ago, that we need to look forward, not back. The flaws in this thinking are obvious, as all crimes necessarily happen in the past. With this logic, the defense of a bank robber or rapist would be very simple: “hey, that was last week. Why are you bringing it up now?”

Torture Treaties

The United States is a signer on treaties that make it clear that, should a country find out that torture has occurred, they are required to prosecute the responsible parties and impose appropriate punishment. In fact, should a government opt to not prosecute, it obligates all other countries who are a party to the treaty, to take legal action to bring the perpetrators to justice. Spain took this to heart but their efforts have thus far been subverted by U.S. pressure.


The CIA was given the right to redact the report. I’m unclear why the agency being accused of serious wrongdoing would be the one chosen for this responsibility. Not surprisingly, the report was so severely redacted that the word is, it is all but useless. No names of the torturers or the countries that allowed us to do the deeds within their borders. No names of who ordered/approved these crimes. All blacked out. As some have described, it is only a collection of verbs.

In fact, even the identities of the people tortured are redacted. Really? Why would the government care if we know the names of the people we brutalized? I suppose, one could argue that it would create additional civil liability problems for the CIA, or even worse, in the cases where the individuals were tortured to death.

The Obama Administration has said the current redactions are fine. The Senate Intelligence Committee has cried foul, stating that redactions are only supposed to be for information, that if released would harm National Security. Its purpose is not intended to hide the names of criminals or save an agency of the government from embarrassment. As for civil liability, shouldn’t we expect and even welcome paying damages to those we have damaged? Wouldn’t it be the right thing to do?

In Our Name

We should be outraged. I know I am. It brings me to tears and turns my stomach. As representatives of you and me, people did heinous, despicable, and sadistic things. Then they lied about the effectiveness of using these cruel methods to extract actionable information. Isn’t it other countries that get people to confess to crimes they did not commit with electric wires on genitals, simulated drowning (real drowning only you stop before the person dies), and beatings, etc? Not us, not my country.

People will do or say anything to make the pain stop. They will even make false statements, like Saddam Hussein was involved with al Qaeda in the attacks of September 11th. All it takes is being drowned dozens of times.

Everyday, all across this country, people get harsh sentences for minor non-violent crimes. Yet, our representatives don’t have the political will, or the stomach to bring the torturers to justice, let alone the people who approved these methods. No, the criminals are free, the media invites them on talk shows as they pretend to be elder statesmen, pursue their hobbies, and travel on book signing tours. In some cases having bragged in writing about what they did. Granted, they are occasionally inconvenienced by not being able to travel to some countries for fear of arrest. All things considered, a very small price to pay for their crimes.


What does it mean when power and money makes someone immune from prosecution? The fact is, if you are a member of the elite class and have enough power, you can torture people, you can lie us into a war and hence be responsible for thousands upon thousands of lives being cut short and suffer absolutely no consequences. You won’t even have to endure a punishment comparable to what we commonly mete out to people for simple drug possession. Is this fair? Is it just? Are we still a democracy where no one is above the law? Sadly, the answers are no, no, and no.

3.Corporations Spy on Nonprofits With Impunity

Here’s a dirty little secret you won’t see in the daily papers: corporations conduct espionage against US nonprofit organizations without fear of being brought to justice.

Yes, that means using a great array of spycraft and snoopery, including planned electronic surveillance, wiretapping, information warfare, infiltration, dumpster diving and so much more.

The evidence abounds.

For example, six years ago, based on extensive documentary evidence, James Ridgeway reported in Mother Jones on a major corporate espionage scheme by Dow Chemical focused on Greenpeace and other environmental and food activists.

Greenpeace was running a potent campaign against Dow’s use of chlorine to manufacture paper and plastics. Dow grew worried and eventually desperate.

Ridgeway’s article and subsequent revelations produced jaw-dropping information about how Dow’s private investigators, from the firm Beckett Brown International (BBI), hired:

    An off duty DC police officer who gained access to Greenpeace trash dumpsters at least 55 times;

    a company called NetSafe Inc., staffed by former National Security Agency (NSA) employees expert in computer intrusion and electronic surveillance; and,

    a company called TriWest Investigations, which obtained phone records of Greenpeace employees or contractors. BBI’s notes to its clients contain verbatim quotes that they attribute to specific Greenpeace employees.

Using this information, Greenpeace filed a lawsuit against Dow Chemical, Dow’s PR firms Ketchum and Dezenhall Resources, and others, alleging trespass on Greenpeace’s property, invasion of privacy by intrusion, and theft of confidential documents.

Yesterday, the D.C. Court of Appeals dismissed Greenpeace’s lawsuit. In her decision, Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby notes that “However Greenpeace’s factual allegations may be regarded,” its “legal arguments cannot prevail as a matter of law” because “the common law torts alleged by Greenpeace are simply ill-suited as potential remedies.” At this time Greenpeace has not decided whether to appeal.

The Court’s opinion focused on technicalities, like who owned the trash containers in the office building where Greenpeace has its headquarters and whether the claim of intrusion triggers a one year or three year statute of limitations. But, whether or not the Court’s legal analyses hold water, the outcome – no legal remedies for grave abuses – is lamentable.

Greenpeace’s lawsuit “will endure in the historical record to educate the public about the extent to which big business will go to stifle First Amendment protected activities,” wrote lawyer Heidi Boghosian, author of Spying on Democracy. “It is crucially important that organizations and individuals continue to challenge such practices in court while also bringing notice of them to the media and to the public at large.”

This is hardly the only case of corporate espionage against nonprofits. Last year, my colleagues produced a report titled Spooky Business, which documented 27 sets of stories involving corporate espionage against nonprofits, activists and whistleblowers. Most of the stories occurred in the US, but some occurred in the UK, France and Ecuador. None of the US-based cases has resulted in a verdict or settlement or even any meaningful public accountability. In contrast, in France there was a judgment against Electricite de France for spying on Greenpeace, and in the UK there is an ongoing effort regarding News Corp/News of the World and phone hacking.

Spooky Business found that “Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON – have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers.”

Three examples:

    In 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, its law firm Hunton & Williams, and technology and intelligence firms such as Palantir and Berico were exposed in an apparent scheme to conduct espionage against the Chamber’s nonprofit and union critics.

    Burger King was caught conducting espionage against nonprofits and activists trying to help low-wage tomato pickers in Florida.

    The Wall Street Journal reported on Walmart’s surveillance tactics against anti-Walmart groups, including the use of eavesdropping via wireless microphones.

Here’s why you should care.

This is a serious matter of civil liberties.

The citizen’s right to privacy and free speech should not be violated by personal spying merely because a citizen disagrees with the actions or ideas of a giant multinational corporation.

Our democracy can’t function properly if corporations may spy and snoop on nonprofits with impunity. This espionage is a despicable means of degrading the effectiveness of nonprofit watchdogs and activists. Many of the espionage tactics employed appear illegal and are certainly immoral.

Powerful corporations spy on each other as well, sometimes with the help of former NSA and FBI employees.

How much? We’ll never begin to know the extent of corporate espionage without an investigation by Congress and/or the Department of Justice.

While there is a congressional effort to hold the NSA accountable for its privacy invasions, there is no such effort to hold powerful corporations accountable for theirs.

Nearly 50 years ago, when General Motors hired private investigators to spy on me, it was held to account by the U.S. Senate. GM President James Roche was publicly humiliated by having to apologize to me at a Senate hearing chaired by Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-CT). It was a memorable, but rare act of public shaming on Capitol Hill. GM also paid substantially to settle my suit for compensation in a court of law (Nader v. General Motors Corp., 307 N.Y.S.2d 647).

A public apology and monetary settlement would have been a fair outcome in the Greenpeace case too.

But in the intervening half-century our Congress has been overwhelmed by lethargy and corporate lobbyists. Today, Congress is more lapdog than watchdog.

Think of the Greenpeace case from the perspective of executives at Fortune 500 companies.

They know that Dow Chemical was not punished for its espionage against Greenpeace, nor were other US corporations held to account in similar cases.

In the future, three words may well spring to their minds when contemplating whether to go after nonprofits with espionage: Go for it. Unless the buying public votes with its pocketbook to diminish the sales of these offending companies.

Read more:

4. Microsoft - just one of the offshore PIRATES - they like the country they just don't want to pay the rent

Microsoft Corp. is currently sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore, according to disclosures in the company’s most recent annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The amount of money that Microsoft is keeping offshore represents a significant spike from prior years, and the levies the company would owe amount to almost the entire two-year operating budget of the company’s home state of Washington.

The company says it has "not provided deferred U.S. income taxes" because it says the earnings were generated from its "non-U.S. subsidiaries” and then "reinvested outside the U.S.” Tax experts, however, say that details of the filing suggest the company is using tax shelters to dodge the taxes it owes as a company domiciled in the United States.

In response to a request for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson referred International Business Times to 2012 U.S. Senate testimony from William J. Sample, the company’s corporate vp for worldwide tax. He said: “Microsoft’s tax results follow from its business, which is fundamentally a global business that requires us to operate in foreign markets in order to compete and grow. In conducting our business at home and abroad, we abide by U.S. and foreign tax laws as written. That is not to say that the rules cannot be improved -- to the contrary, we believe they can and should be.”

The disclosure in Microsoft’s SEC filing lands amid an intensifying debate over the fairness of U.S.-based multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries and so-called "inversions" to avoid paying American taxes. Such maneuvers -- although often legal -- threaten to signficantly reduce U.S. corporate tax receipts during an era marked by government budget deficits.

White House officials have called the tactics an affront to "economic patriotism" and President Obama himself has derided "a small but growing group of big corporations that are fleeing the country to get out of paying taxes." In a July speech, he said such firms are "declaring their base someplace else even though most of their operations are here."

"I don't care if it's legal; it's wrong," Obama said. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers have been pushing legislation they say would discourage U.S. companies from avoiding taxes through offshore subsidiaries. The proposals are being promoted in advance of the 2014 elections, as polling suggests the issue could be a winner for the party. In Illinois, the issue has already taken center stage in the state’s tightly contested gubernatorial campaign.

Because Microsoft has not declared itself a subsidiary of a foreign company, the firm has not technically engaged in an inversion. However, according to a 2012 U.S. Senate investigation, the company has in recent years used its offshore subsidiaries to substantially reduce its tax bills.

That probe uncovered details of how those subsidiaries are used. In its report, the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations described what it called Microsoft’s “complex web of interrelated foreign entities to facilitate international sales and reduce U.S. and foreign tax.” The panel’s report noted that “despite the [company’s] research largely occurring in the United States and generating U.S. tax credits, profit rights to the intellectual property are largely located in foreign tax havens.” The report discovered that through those tax havens, “Microsoft was able to shift offshore nearly $21 billion (in a 3-year period), or almost half of its U.S. retail sales net revenue, saving up to $4.5 billion in taxes on goods sold in the United States, or just over $4 million in U.S. taxes each day.”

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said at the time: “Microsoft U.S. avoids U.S. taxes on 47 cents of each dollar of sales revenue it receives from selling its own products right here in this country. The product is developed here. It is sold here, to customers here. And yet Microsoft pays no taxes here on nearly half the income.”

Apple and General Electric, which also employ offshore subsidiaries, are the only U.S.-based companies that have more money offshore than Microsoft, according to data compiled by Citizens for Tax Justice. In all, a May report by CTJ found that “American Fortune 500 corporations are likely saving about $550 billion by holding nearly $2 trillion of ‘permanently reinvested’ profits offshore.” The report also found that “28 these corporations reveal that they have paid an income tax rate of 10 percent or less to the governments of the countries where these profits are officially held, indicating that most of these profits are likely in offshore tax havens.” 

Microsoft’s use of the offshore subsidiary tactics has exploded in the last five years, with the amount of Microsoft earnings shifted offshore jumping 516 percent since 2008, according to SEC filings.

According to Microsoft’s filings, if the company repatriates the $92.9 billion it is holding offshore, it would face a 31.9 percent U.S. corporate tax rate. U.S. law generally permits companies to deduct the foreign corporate taxes they’ve already paid from the U.S.’s official 35 percent corporate tax rate. According to CTJ's Richard Phillips, that means Microsoft's disclosure implies the company is paying just 3.1 percent in the locales where it is currently holding the cash. Phillips says such an extremely low rate strongly suggests the firm is keeping the earnings not just in relatively low-tax locales like Ireland, Singapore and others the company has disclosed, but also in smaller countries like Bermuda that are considered true tax havens.

According to a Wall Street Journal report in 2012 about companies reducing transparency about their subsidiaries, Microsoft “once disclosed more than 100 subsidiaries [but] reported just 13 in its 2003 annual report and 11 in its 2012 report.”

5.  Just a little more WAR… and we'll have PEACE

Call on President Obama and Congress to stop bombing and start asking questions.
Too often when the United States intervenes in another country it ignores the contextual and regional dynamics at its own peril. President Bush made this mistake when we invaded Iraq in 2003, and President Obama is making it again.
It’s about geopolitics.
Just as the 2003 invasion ignored the outsized role of Iran in Iraq and its influence on the Shiite political parties, the current intervention is ignoring the geopolitical dynamics of the entire region. The enemy the U.S. is fighting in Iraq today is the same enemy that Bashar Al-Assad is fighting in Syria. Yet in Syria the U.S. is arming anti-government groups working alongside the Islamic State to overthrow Al-Assad. Furthermore, U.S. allies in the region – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar –are all responsible for funding the Islamic State’s effort to overthrow President Assad.
Whether we like it or not – choose to ignore it or not – it is Iraq’s powerful and wealthy neighbors who will ultimately play a large role in deciding Iraq’s fate not American air strikes. The only way to support a positive, long-term outcome is through robust regional diplomacy that includes imposing a regional arms embargo.
It’s also about Russia.
While Russia may have plenty of its own reasons for its role in the Middle East – specifically its unwavering support for President Assad – the current state of U.S.-Russia relation is abysmal at best. Russia’s influence on Iraq’s neighbors, particularly Syria and Iran, should not be underestimated. The Obama administration should redouble its efforts to fix its ties with Russia vis-√†-vis Ukraine, Edward Snowden, etc. If Russia and the United States were on talking terms, it could go a long way toward improving Middle Eastern crises.
And it is about Iraq.
The current spate of violence is largely symptomatic of Iraq’s political and economic turmoil of the last decade. The 2003 U.S. invasion dismantled Iraq’s political and security institutions and replaced them with a largely sectarian Shiite majority government that systematically disenfranchised the Sunni minority both politically and economically.
The quick advance and capture of Iraqi territory by the Islamic State would have been impossible if not for the tacit support from Sunni leaders who felt excluded from governance in Iraq. The only way forward is for the U.S. to support an inclusive Iraqi government that represents the interests of all Iraqis including the Sunnis and other minority groups.
Tell President Obama and Congress: Don't repeat the same mistakes of the past decade.
There are no simple, quick fixes to the violence in Iraq, and U.S. influence is limited. If the United States is serious about building a stable and secure Iraq, then it would immediately end the tried and failed approach of air strikes and military action and commit to a long-term strategy that would work for the benefit of all Iraqis.

6. SWAT Lobby to Congress: Hands Off Our Mine-Resistant Vehicles!

Congressional lawmakers aren’t so hot on the idea of military equipment going to local cops anymore, and that makes national police organizations nervous.

n an attempt to counter widespread concern over “militarized” local police departments, law enforcement groups are pressing Capitol Hill to not cut off the supply of armored vehicles, body armor and other military equipment to the nation’s cops.

This week, the National Tactical Officers Association, the lobbying group for 1,600 SWAT teams across the country, emailed all legislative staffers in the House and Senate to express that they shared in “our nation’s grief” over the events in Ferguson, Missouri.

But their ultimate message was unmistakable: Don’t take away our gear.

“The police have to be one step ahead of the criminal element, have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. You don’t want a community to be taken over by one or many criminals,” NTOA Executive Director Mark Lomax explained to The Daily Beast. “We’re definitely for equipping our law enforcement officials out there properly, with proper training and proper policies.”

So far, most of the conversation in Washington, D.C., has tended in the other direction, and a number of lawmakers say they want to curtail or eliminate the transfer of military equipment to civilian law enforcement.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s office is considering introducing a bill that would prohibit all transfers of weapons from the military to law enforcement officials, establishing a kind of church-state boundary that couldn’t be crossed. Elsewhere in the Capitol, the idea of having House Republicans defund the Pentagon’s weapons transfer program is also being mulled over.

Democrats have also expressed concern over the issue. Rep. Hank Johnson is rallying his colleagues behind a bill that would reform the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which facilitates the transfer of equipment to law enforcement, while Sen. Carl Levin said that the Senate Armed Services Committee would reassess it the program.

“Congress established this program out of real concern that local law enforcement agencies were literally outgunned by drug criminals,” Levin said in a statement. “We will review this program to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended.”

One broad criticism emerging from the unrest in Ferguson, including from the National Black Police Association, concerns the deployment of tank-like Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles by local police.

“There [is] no need to roll in urban warfare equipment anticipating and wanting a battle with citizens who only demand answers,” said Malik Aziz, national chair of the NBPA. “In many cities the acquisition of these MRAPs and other tools are almost useless… Most of these MRAPs are too big and bulky and not designed for urban environments.”

The MRAPs have garnered nationwide attention due to their imposing size, with some critics arguing that they set a confrontational tone and invite violence. But other law enforcement groups rallied to justify the usefulness of MRAPs.

“The presence of an MRAP for defensive positioning should not unnerve a law-abiding citizen,” responded Jon Adler, the national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “Police officers are human and bleed like everyone else. They deserve the best protection from violent assaults, and providing them with MRAPs or advanced body armor minimizes their exposure to serious injury or death.”

Mike Willis, executive director of the United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association, ticked off possible uses for MRAPs: protection in an active shooter situation, transportation in extreme flooding, defense against Molotov cocktails during a riot, and rescue scenarios.

Law enforcement groups worry that, with all the talk of law enforcement “militarization,” a congressional response may overcompensate, depriving them not only of armored vehicles but other vital equipment offered through the 1033 program like rescue boats, generators, body armor and ATVs.

“The appropriate compromise is, let’s talk about training, which is not part of the original 1033 program,” Lomax said. “[Let’s not] throw the baby out with the bathwater… We believe that the 1033 program has done a lot for law enforcement over the last 20 years, and that it should continue, with reservations.”

7. Warrantless cell phone tracking ruled unconstitutional in federal court

Judges say Americans have an expectation of privacy in their movements and that warrantless tracking violated fourth amendment

Investigators must obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to obtain cellphone tower tracking data that is widely used as evidence to show suspects were in the vicinity of a crime, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined people have an expectation of privacy in their movements and that the cell tower data was part of that. As such, obtaining the records without a search warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, the judges ruled.

"While committing a crime is certainly not within a legitimate expectation of privacy, if the cell site location data could place him near those scenes, it could place him near any other scene," the judges wrote. "There is a reasonable privacy interest in being near the home of a lover, or a dispensary of medication, or a place of worship, or a house of ill repute."

The ruling does not block investigators from obtaining the records — which show which calls are routed through specific towers — but simply requires a higher legal showing of probable cause to obtain a search warrant rather than a less-strict court order.

"The court soundly repudiates the government's argument that merely by using a cellphone, people somehow surrender their privacy rights," said ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, who argued the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court, while not yet ruling on cellphone tower records, in 2012 decided that attachment of GPS devices to suspects' vehicles also constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment. The justices did not, however, decided that investigators must always obtain a search warrant.

The 11th Circuit decision, which relied heavily on the GPS decision, applies in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The judges said other circuit courts had considered similar arguments, but not in a criminal case. Ultimately the issue will likely have to be resolved by the Supreme Court.

The ruling came in the Miami case of Quartavious Davis, who is serving a 162-year prison sentence for a string of violent armed robberies. The judges refused to overturn his convictions and sentence over the cellphone tracking issue. They applied a "good faith" exception preventing authorities from being punished for relying on a law later found unconstitutional.

The cellphone tower data used at trial placed Davis near six of the armed robberies for which he was ultimately convicted.

The appeals court did agree to a separate argument by Davis that his sentence was improperly enhanced for "brandishing" a firearm, sending the case back to Miami district court for resentencing on that issue alone.


The plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the use of the "no fly list" to bar a US citizen from boarding an aircraft said last week that he would introduce a leaked copy of the government's Watchlisting Guidance "to show just how objectionable and evidence-free Defendants' watch listing process is."

The government said it did not acknowledge the authenticity of the leaked document, and that the case should be dismissed since the Attorney General had invoked the state secrets privilege concerning core issues that it raised.

The lawsuit was filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of Gulet Mohamed, who said his constitutional rights had been violated by placing him on the no fly list.

In May 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder filed a declaration asserting the state secrets privilege over documents and information that it said would be needed to litigate the case, and the government moved for dismissal of the entire matter.

Among other things, the Attorney General said that the state secrets privilege extended to the current Watchlisting Guidance that spells out the criteria and procedures for placing an individual on the no fly list.

"The Guidance sets forth, in detail, the Government's comprehensive watchlist scheme related to the identification and placement of individuals in terrorism screening watchlists," AG Holder wrote in his May 27, 2014 declaration asserting the privilege.

"If the Guidance were released, it would provide a clear roadmap to undermine the Government's screening efforts, a key counterterrorism measure, and thus, its disclosure reasonably could be expected to cause significant harm to national security," he wrote.

But then last month, the online publication The Intercept reported on the Watchlisting Guidance and published the document itself. (The Secret Government Rulebook for Labeling You a Terrorist by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, July 23.)

In an August 15 statement to the Court, the CAIR attorneys for Gulet Mohamed said that they would file a copy of the Guidance and another leaked document in a Notice this week.

"Plaintiff will argue that this document is relevant, not only to show just how objectionable and evidence-free Defendants' watch listing process is, but also to how this Court handles Defendants' state secrets privilege," the attorneys wrote.

In the same August 15 statement, the government said it would not confirm that the documents to be filed by CAIR are authentic, or even that they had actually been leaked.

"Defendants do not acknowledge the authenticity of the purportedly leaked documents, and will respond to the proposed Notice in due course," attorneys for the government stated.

While withholding confirmation, however, they have stopped short of affirmatively disputing that the documents are authentic.

The Gulet Mohamed case is believed to be the most recent instance of the government's use of the state secrets privilege.

In a 2011 report to Congress, the Justice Department had said it would try not to employ the privilege in a way that would require dismissal of an entire complaint.

"While invocation of the privilege may result in the dismissal of some claims, the Department's policy seeks to avoid that result whenever possible, consistent with national security interests."

But in this case, the government told the Court that nothing short of complete dismissal would do.

"If the Attorney General's privilege assertion is upheld, as it should be, the law requires that the Court then consider the consequences of the exclusion of the privileged information," the Department said in a May 28 memo elaborating its position. "Here, because properly protected national security information would go to the core of the claims and defenses, this case cannot proceed in the absence of that information, and, under established Fourth Circuit authority, the case must be dismissed."

Attorneys for the plaintiff disputed that view, and said the case could and should proceed.

"Simply put, just as federal courts in Latif and Ibrahim [other cases involving the no fly list] found a way to litigate the merits of No Fly List claims without imperiling state secrets, this Court can do so here as well," the CAIR attorneys wrote in a July 7 rejoinder. "Though Plaintiff will seek additional non-privileged information from Defendants, it is important to note at the outset that Plaintiff can, if need be, litigate this case without further discovery from Defendants," they wrote.

The case is being heard by Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia. He has yet to rule on the pending Government motion for dismissal on state secrets grounds.

In a move that may imply a degree of skepticism concerning the proposed application of the privilege, Judge Trenga ordered the government to submit for in camera review a copy of all documents and a summary of all testimony relevant to the case that it asserts fall under the state secrets privilege. The materials are to be provided to the Court under seal by September 7, Judge Trenga wrote in an August 6 order.

For further background, see 2008 Obama Would Have Slammed 2014 Obama for This Government Secrecy Case by Nick Baumann, Mother Jones, July 14, 2014; and Over Government Objections, Rules on No-Fly List Are Made Public by Charlie Savage, New York Times, July 23, 2014.

9. In Santa Barbara County, oil firms and environmentalists square off In Santa Barbara County, 

Seen from U.S. 101, northern Santa Barbara County looks to be mostly vineyards and cattle ranches, with majestic oak trees scattered across the dry rolling hills.

But up a narrow road, spread across the chaparral between Orcutt and Los Alamos, wells drilled deep into the shale have yielded more than 180 million barrels of oil in the 113 years since Union Oil Co. geologist William Orcutt first surveyed the area that would soon bear his name.

The bobbing pump jacks, pipelines and tanks on Orcutt Hill, not visible from the highway, now produce 3,500 barrels of oil a day for Pacific Coast Energy Co. But company managers say the 6,000-acre operation, like similar ones nearby, is threatened by a November ballot measure that would ban "high-intensity petroleum operations" in the county.

"It will, in fact, shut down onshore oil production in Santa Barbara County," said Dick Hart, who oversees Orcutt Hill for Pacific Coast Energy. "Thousands of people are going to lose their jobs."

Supporters of Measure P say it would have no effect on conventional oil drilling and leave all existing operations intact. What it would ban, they say, are aggressive oil and gas extraction methods that can trigger earthquakes, contribute to global warming, pollute aquifers and, at a time of severe drought, waste rapidly depleting groundwater supplies.

"We can't afford to let these companies use our water," said Rebecca Claassen, co-founder of Santa Barbara County Water Guardians, the group that petitioned to put the measure on the ballot.

Energy companies have fought similar measures around the country. But Santa Barbara's long history of tension between oil companies and their critics gives the Measure P campaign a symbolic weight that has not been lost on energy executives.

In 1969, the county's scenic coastline was befouled by an oil spill that served as a catalyst for the modern environmental movement and spawned some of the nation's core anti-pollution laws.

Chevron Corp. and other energy companies have hired a team of California's top political consultants to fight the measure. It would constrain land-based drilling, mainly in the hills around Lompoc, Orcutt and Santa Maria, but have no effect on platforms offshore.

The campaign has barely begun, but the two sides already are trading accusations as each tries to frame public debate on a proposal with technical aspects that can be easily misunderstood.

The most controversial procedure the measure would ban is fracking, or hydraulic fracturing — the cracking of deep underground rock formations and injection of chemical fluids to ease the extraction of oil or gas. Communities across the nation, including Los Angeles, are weighing fracking bans.

Fracking has occurred in recent years in the hills between La Cienega Boulevard and West Los Angeles College, in the Santa Susana Mountains near Porter Ranch, in the mountains around Ventura and Fillmore, and under the seafloor off Ventura.

Venoco Inc. has acknowledged fracking in late 2009 and early 2010 in the winemaking area between Los Olivos and Vandenberg Air Force Base. A rancher's chance discovery that it was taking place under his vineyards led Santa Barbara County to start requiring permits for fracking. Oil companies say the county's shale is poorly suited to fracking, and none has taken place there in the last four years.

Much of the Middle East gets water from DESAL plants. Hundreds of millions of people and 2 - 3 inches of annual rainfall...Makes the SOCAL coast look like rainforest in comparison. Santa Barbara has a DESAL plant too, but it hasn't been used in 25 years - though it is being maintained on...

But the industry has stepped up its use of steam injection in Santa Barbara County — a process Measure P would also prohibit. It involves heating water to produce steam, then shooting it into rock a mile or two deep to loosen heavy crude deposits. The Orcutt Hill site includes 100 steam wells, and Pacific Coast Energy has applied to drill 96 more.

Alarmed by efforts in Santa Barbara, San Benito and Butte counties to ban fracking, steam injection and other drilling methods, petroleum trade groups formed a campaign committee, Californians for Energy Independence. Its initial source of money — $464,483 — was Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas, which is planning a steam project near Lompoc. Other companies — Pacific Coast Energy and a related business, Breitburn Energy, among them — recently donated nearly $1.4 million more. Chevron's $1.2-million donation was the biggest.

Nearly a third of Santa Barbara County's 1,167 active onshore wells already use steam injection, and the ballot measure would exempt those from the ban, according to the county.

To produce steam, some operators heat recycled wastewater. But others use fresh water, so Measure P's supporters argue that oil companies are squandering scarce groundwater.

Environmentalists also say the danger of groundwater contamination was underscored last month when the state shut down 11 wells in Kern County that were used to dispose of drilling wastewater. State inspectors are checking whether toxics leaked into the underground drinking water supply. They believe acid well stimulation — which the Santa Barbara measure would also ban — was used to drill some of the oil.

"We can't afford to keep doing this in this state until we're absolutely sure that it isn't creating havoc for public health and the environment," said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. "The last thing you want is water that is unpotable and could never be cleaned up."

Energy companies say those fears are unfounded. Aquifers, they say, are relatively shallow, and wells that pass through them to reach deeper oil and gas deposits are sealed in concrete.

"This is a red herring," said Bob Poole, government and public affairs manager at Santa Maria Energy, a company expanding its steam drilling at the Orcutt oil field. "It's a false argument."

Critics of steam injection also cite the greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning gas to heat water. But California's cap-and-trade program to fight global warming, Poole said, requires Santa Maria Energy and other oil companies to offset increased emissions by paying for greenhouse gas reductions elsewhere.

Oil production in Santa Barbara County dates to 1886, when drilling started in Summerland. The industry has faced periodic resistance ever since, including a 1929 protest against drilling within the city of Santa Barbara, by then a popular beach getaway for the well-to-do.

The industry's biggest setback came with the uncontrolled 1969 blowout on Union Oil's Platform A, six miles off Santa Barbara. It remains the largest oil spill in California waters. It blackened beaches from Ventura to Goleta, filled Santa Barbara harbor with thick crude and killed birds, dolphins and other sea life.

County officials have been cautious in estimating Measure P's potential effect. If it passes, they say, an immediate drop in tax collections is unlikely, but a gradual decline over 20 years would occur. In 2013, oil companies paid $16 million in local property taxes, 3% of the total.

In the campaign ahead, a key focus will be whether the measure's wording might require the county to deny new permits even for conventional drilling, as oil companies contend.

"The way it's written, I would say there's some ambiguity," said Kevin Drude, deputy director of the county's Energy Division.

The measure's supporters say the county Board of Supervisors can pass legislation affirming that conventional drilling is not covered by the ban on "high-intensity" operations. The industry, they say, is overstating the measure's effect as a scare tactic.

In the fall campaign, energy companies are widely expected to outspend Measure P's supporters. Both sides agree the proposal's most receptive audience is in the prosperous coastal areas around Santa Barbara and Montecito, while strong opposition is likely in more rural, Republican and blue-collar areas around the onshore oil fields.

"People have pretty strong feelings about oil here," said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara, "and it hasn't really changed."

PNN - Footfalls of Democracy and a Kick at Cancer
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Ann Fonfa    Update on Cancer research / International Research
Dr. Rachel Pienta, Campus Vote Project Coordinator, for Florida for the Fair Election Legal Network
Dierdre McNab    President of the League of Women Voters of Florida
Drew Martin of the Palm Beach Water Board and the Sierra Club 

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