Lynne Stewart is a prominent civil rights lawyer who’s now facing the prospect of death on the inside.
Have you ever been swabbed under Schedule 7 or in any criminal investigation?
What do you see when you read the name? I often think, what goes through all of my friends' minds when they see that name splattered across their Twitter feed, their Facebooks (if they haven't blocked me yet!)? To all of my friends and blog followers who read my article last year, thank you, but did you sign the petition to ask for Parliament to discuss his case?
Muslims sometimes get paranoid (often rightly so), thinking they are being observed by security agencies or placed under some sort of lists due to a loose definition of extremism. Actually, there is an easy way to know if you have indeed been profiled by the police.
In 2009, The Guardian published a very simple step-by-step process (reproduced below) allowing you to find out if you are on the main secret database of political activists.
Video: Click Here
If you grew up in the 90s, chances are you know this speech inside out, and if you then went on to study Law you've probably envisaged the day that you get to shout the words of Uncle Phil at someone - "I will tie this place up in so much litigation that your GRANDCHILDREN are going to need lawyers!"
In this episode of Fresh Prince, Carlton Banks refuses to acknowledge the fact that he was pulled over as a result of racial profiling. I have previously written about the effects of racial profiling in terrorism stops and searches post 9/11 here. But what about the racial profiling that was in existence long before 9/11? I posted this clip onto Facebook this week and the response that I received was - "Nothing has changed."
A lot of people still live in denial or do not want to stand up and speak about their personal experiences of institutional racism. "What difference will it make?" - an argument that is too common and in all fairness when we look at how long this level of racism has gone unchanged, it can be difficult to find the answer.
My parents told me about an incident when they were driving to work and were pulled over by the police 20 seconds from our house. The officer told my mother to get out and ordered (shouted at) my father to stay seated in the car when he tried to get out. The officer told my parents, "I pulled you over because it looked to me that you might have stolen this car." When my parents explained they were on the way to a GP surgery, he continued to assume they had stolen the vehicle and thought they were patients going to the surgery and kept up his unnecessarily degrading and disrespectful tone. My mother corrected him and informed the officer that they owned the GP surgery and my father was the doctor and he quickly sent them on their way with no apology.
I asked my father why he did not question the officer in return and ask for exactly what it was about their behaviour or driving that looked like they had stolen the vehicle. What is it about two individuals dressed smartly, driving a Toyota Rav 4 within the speed limit, in an area where a Rav 4 is not out of place - in fact our area is not a stranger to Jaguars, Porsches, and Ferraris - that could possibly look suspicious? I told him I would have questioned the police officer in return, that I would have gotten out of the car and asked for an explanation and if they had taken me to the station for demanding the answer I would have accepted it, knowing that I was right. My father told me, "what difference will it make?"
Maybe it won't make a huge difference. I do not believe that institutional racism will ever be completely eliminated. But if you can question that one officer who stops you, make him aware that you know your rights, embarrass him and his decision to stop you on that day, then you've already made a small impact. If that officer goes home and reflects on the moment that he decided to pull you over, you have created something that would not have happened without your words. There is a chance that that officer will think twice and remember your words before he does the same again to another. And even if the officer does not have the conscience for your words to have an impact on his future actions, I bring light to the words of Asim Qureshi which have resounded in my mind this week:
"You do everything you can, everything within your power, regardless of if anything comes of it. You must know you did not turn away."
You do not need a law degree or to be a lawyer to make the point that Uncle Phil was making to those officers in this episode. Chances are if you're part of a minority, the opportunity to make that point in your own words will come about in your lifetime. Take it and do not turn away.
“One person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist.”
And the CIA’s working hard to differentiate between the two.
According to the LA Times, “The CIA has stepped up secret contingency planning to protect the United States and its allies as the turmoil expands in Syria, including collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists for the first time for possible lethal drone strikes, according to current and former U.S. officials.”
The journalist adds, “President Obama has not authorized drone missile strikes in Syria, however, and none are under consideration”, and indeed the CIA does assemble “targeting packages” (assembled bits of intelligence, like intercepted phone conversations, video footage, public records, etc) for nonlethal purposes.
But, given that the al-Nusra Front in Syria has already been listed by the US as a foreign terror organization, the prospect of future drone strikes against rebel forces (supposedly) linked to al Qaeda doesn’t seem entirely implausible.
As the revolutions across the Arab world continue to unfold, will the US assert its global jurisdiction in the War on Terror in new ways – or against new kinds of enemies? Will the line between a terrorist and a freedom fighter grow even finer?
This morning I listened to a really interesting debate between Scott Shane, who recently co-wrote a front-page article for the New York Times about the drone killing of al-Awlaki, and Jesselyn Radack, the National Security & Human Rights director at the Government Accountability Project.
It’s well worth a listen, and brings to the fore important questions about what we should or can expect from the mainstream media. Is this kind of coverage the best we can get from sources like the Times, and if so, is marginally critical commentary on the front page, better than none at all?
Centuries before Guantanamo, Muslims were abducted, sold and transported to the Americas to become slaves there. Back then already, such practices were facilitated by local and corrupt rulers.
However, some men of wisdom rose up against this injustice and left us words which our governments should ponder over.
Nasir al-Din was a 17th century West African scholar who denounced and fought against the animist kings of his time because they sold their subjects to European slave traders under frivolous pretexts. He stated:
“God does not allow kings to raid, kill, or enslave their people; he has them, on the contrary, to guard them from their enemies. The peoples are not made for the kings but the kings are made for the peoples”.
Sign the petition to return Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo to the UK
Sign the petition to return Nabil Hadjarab from Guantanamo to France
We received this exciting and terrific news from the Angola 3 campaign yesterday – Albert’s conviction was overturned for a third time, on the issue of racial discrimination in the selection of a jury foreperson for his 1998 retrial. While the ruling is expected to be appealed by the State to the 5th Circuit, this judgment is a welcome step in the long struggle to free Albert.
American news outlets are abuzz with the ongoing manhunt for Christopher Jordan Dorner. As the search for him continues, one thing has become strikingly evident: just how deeply the logic, discourse and tactics of the War on Terror have penetrated the American police state. The media and the LAPD have demonized Dorner as a crazed killer, rather than seriously engaging with the political rationale of his actions. With the threat of additional violence presumed to be high, and his capture hindered by the weather and mountainous terrain, the task force has even admitted that they’re employing drones. Now that the white paper on targeted assassinations in circulation, we have to wonder: how soon until ‘targeted strikes’ come home? In a few years, will ‘enemies of the state’ on home soil simply be killed from above?
He’s been on the run ever since. Speaking about the case, Police Chief Charlie Beck recently commented, "This is an act of domestic terrorism”.
Perhaps that’s fitting, given that “terrorism” has come to encompass essentially any illegal act purportedly committed with political (read: anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-American, anti-racist) aims. Dorner has been clear about the rationale behind his violence – just after the attacks he posted a 6,000 word message explaining his actions. As he opens his message Dorner writes:
“I know most of you who personally know me are in disbelief to hear from media reports that I am suspected of committing such horrendous murders and have taken drastic and shocking actions in the last couple of days. You are saying to yourself that this is completely out of character of the man you knew who always wore a smile wherever he was seen. I know I will be vilified by the LAPD and the media. Unfortunately, this is a necessary evil that I do not enjoy but must partake and complete for substantial change to occur within the LAPD and reclaim my name. The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days. It has gotten worse.”
Later he adds:
“...Sometimes humans feel a need to prove they are the dominant race of a species and they inadvertently take kindness for weakness from another individual. You chose wrong....
...I am here to change and make policy. The culture of LAPD versus the community and honest/good officers needs to and will change. I am here to correct and calibrate your morale compasses to true north...”
Dorner is presumed to hiding out in California’s San Bernadino Mountains. Officers fear that additional causalities may be inevitable if he is not captured, and are also worried he could escape across the border into Mexico – so the joint forces responsible for his arrest have begun to rely on warfare technologies. As one senior police officer commented, “The thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Some news sources have suggested that the police are out to assassinate Dorner. The Express asserted, “Dorner has become the first human target for remotely-controlled airborne drones on US soil”. Despite these claims, there is no evidence to suggest that Dorner is being tracked by armed drones, and it seems most likely that that they’re employing surveillance drones to locate him more easily.
Then again, police forces have been killing Black men without charge or trial since before the birth of the nation. [As KRS-One taught us, ”The overseer rode around the plantation, The officer is off patroling all the nation... The overseer had the right to get ill, And if you fought back, the overseer had the right to kill, The officer has the right to arrest, And if you fight back they put a hole in your chest!...] With a $1 million reward on Dorner’s head, let’s not underestimate the lengths the joint task force will go to ensure that he’s neutralized, whether or not they use a drone [and let’s not forget the other Black men assassinated by the cops in recent years]. As one blogger wondered, “In light of current concerns about domestic “terrorists”, one wonders if the Panthers would be considered drone assassination targets under the current Justice Department guidelines if they were around today?”
The Obama administration continues to redefine the concepts of “imminence” and “proportionality” in international law to suit their needs, all to justify a secret program that assassinates US citizens abroad. That’s a reality that few of us could have imagined prior to 9/11.
I doubt Dorner will become the next al-Awlaki. But in ten years... who knows what will be legal on home soil?