Thursday, August 31, 2006

Terror-fying The Greens

Did investigators use post-9/11 warrantless wiretaps to bust accused eco-saboteurs?

A federal judge in Eugene wants to know whether the government used warrantless wiretaps to investigate a group of radical environmentalists charged with committing more than a dozen acts of sabotage in Oregon and the West between 1996 and 2001.
Since indictments were issued last year, six defendants have brokered plea agreements in exchange for testimony, leaving four non-cooperating witnesses headed for trial, three fugitives and one defendant who committed suicide in jail.
The mainstream media paid no attention to U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken's ruling last week telling federal prosecutors to respond to questions about surveillance.
But it's significant for two reasons. First, it makes way for a new challenge to the Bush administration's hotly controversial warrantless surveillance programs. The administration insists that it has the constitutional authority to spy on terrorists without judges' approval; this case would most likely provide the first challenge to that stance involving a domestic "terror" case.
Second, the issue could ultimately unravel the high-profile charges against a group of activists associated with the Earth Liberation Front, which the government has portrayed as one of the most serious "terrorist" threats to domestic tranquility.
"It's going to be embarrassing...for the government if they find out they've used warrantless surveillance," says Lewis & Clark Law School professor John Parry, who specializes in criminal and constitutional law. "They're going to have some explaining to do."
Facing Aiken's Sept. 12 deadline, the government may simply refuse to respond, most likely citing something called the state secret privilege—a tactic Aiken may or may not buy.
If the government does testify that it used warrantless surveillance, the judge will have a chance to rule on the big question: whether the wiretaps, approved with nothing more than the president's OK, violate Fourth Amendment guarantees to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
If the judge rules that investigators' methods broke the law, then the resulting evidence could be excluded. Depending on how much evidence was gathered—directly or indirectly—through the use of warrantless wiretaps or other electronic surveillance, prosecutors may have a hard time continuing their case.
"The entire case could be thrown out," says Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene, which has assisted in the defense.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer said he could not comment on the case.
The Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program came to light in a New York Times report in December 2005. The paper reported that shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush gave the go-ahead for federal investigators to eavesdrop, without a warrant from a judge, on Americans' electronic communications with people overseas. The administration is adamant that it has the constitutional authority to snoop on international terrorists—and though the Eugene eco-sabotage case appears to be an entirely domestic matter, investigators have made a point of alleging that ELF has international connections.
Since news of the warrantless wiretaps broke, dozens of civil lawsuits have been filed against the Adminstration, including one by an Oregon-based Islamic charity, decrying the program as a slap at civil liberties. Two weeks ago, a federal district court judge in Detroit issued the first opinion in a civil case declaring the program unconstitutional.
The criminal case in Eugene presents an advantage to the defense not offered in the civil matters: If warrantless surveillance was indeed used, the government, not the defendants, bears the burden of proof. The prosecutors must show that illegal means weren't used to gather evidence.
In motions before Aiken, defense attorneys have asserted that the government's repeated references to terrorism are a strong sign that warrantless surveillance played a role in the investigation.
Last May, a deputy assistant director of the FBI testified before Congress that the ELF and the related Animal Liberation Front represent "one of today's most serious domestic terrorism threats." The "terror" label made investigators' jobs easier in the Oregon case, giving them access to terrorism task forces and interstate warrants.
Of course, the defendants haven't actually been charged with terrorism. Instead, the indictment lists arson, conspiracy, use of a destructive device and destruction of an energy facility. But court documents repeatedly refer to the crimes as acts of terrorism, and federal prosecutors have sought sentence "enhancements" earmarked for offenses involving terrorism.
So why include eco-saboteurs under the banner of terrorism? For one, it may be easier to bag an "eco-terrorist" than a member of an al Qaeda cell. And as the definition of "terror" grows, the zeal to guard against it may spread to other crimes.
"If you can do [warrantless surveillance] for these guys, who can't you do it for?" Parry says. "If this is part of the war on terror, then I think this is a much broader war than anyone ever imagined."

Originally Published on 8/30/2006

Monday, August 28, 2006

Jorge Farinacci Passes Away

The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign
ProLibertad Hotline: 718-601-4751

It is with great sadness that the ProLibertad Freedom Campaign announces the passsing our beloved comrade and brother Jorge Farinacci Garcia. Jorge, a former PUERTO RICAN POLITICAL PRISONER, spent five years of his life in prison for his actions in support of Puerto Rican independence and self-determination with Los Macheteros.

For the past 15 years, Jorge was one of several spokespeople for El Frente Socialista, an organization dedicated to building socilaism in Puerto Rico, protecting the rights of workers and maintaining international solidarity with all struggles.

Jorge was a revolutionary, an internationalist, and a great friend. We will miss his humor, analysis and constant support. We continue in his memory to free Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Political prisoners!!

Below is the english translation of El Frente Socialista's press release concerning his passing.


Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico
Spokespersons: Rubie Alicea, Manuel Rodríguez, Rafael Bernabe
939-640-8530, 787-487-0600, 787-225-7071

The Socialist Front Informs The Country About the Death of Our Spokesperson Jorge Farinacci García The Socialist Front today (Saturday August 26th) has the sad task of informing our entire country about the death of our spokesperson, Comrade Jorge Farinacci García.

The death of Jorge Farinacci leaves a monumental void in the life of our people. All those in Puerto Rico who struggle against any form of oppression are today in mourning faced with the loss of this fighter and untiring activist.

Jorge Farinacci dedicated his life to the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico and for socialism and from that perspective was present in practically all the social and political struggles in Puerto Rico in recent decades.

Jorge began in the decade of the 1970's as a student activist in the struggle against the military draft, against the presence of the ROTC at the University of Puerto Rico and against U.S. interventions in Vietnam, the Dominican Republic and other countries.

Since he graduated from law school he was active in the workers' movement as a labor lawyer. As such he participated in dozens of workers' battles both big and small: from the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements in small shops to the big national strikes against privatization. There was no arena of struggle in which Jorge Farinacci would not get involved, from the diplomatic efforts at the United Nations for the self-determination for Puerto Rico, to armed self-defense against the attacks of the death squads of the police. He was an organizer of independent electoral campaigns and was also imprisoned in the United States for five years as a leader of the Macheteros. For years he was one of the main promoters of the journal Pensamiento Crítico (Critical Thought), when this publication became an important forum for the analysis of our reality.

Fari, as his friends and comrades call him, was well known for his untiring energy: he was never still. There was always something else to do. We do not doubt that this commitment without pause helped to undermine his health. But Fari was equally known for his indomitable optimism. Sometimes we would joke with him about this, but in reality we nourished ourselves from day to day from that optimism. It is one of the elements of his personality that we miss the most.

At the beginning of 1990's, faced with a period of incarceration and at a moment when the world spoke about the "death of socialism", Comrade Jorge Farinacci, with contagious enthusiasm, joined efforts to build a unitary political Project, the Socialist Front, that focused precisely on the
relevant of the anti-capitalist Project. For those of us that got to know him in that process, Fari was a political teacher and alongside him we were able to see how the most terrible effects of capitalism were ever increasing and how a new anti-globalization movement was emerging that once again placed in the forefront the need for a profound social transformation.

Jorge loved Puerto Rico and at the same time, as a socialist, he was an
ardent internationalist, who felt that any struggle against oppression was
his own. From his solidarity with the Cuban Revolution to his defense of
unity of Puerto Rican and Dominican workers, Fari embodied a level of
patriotism that was always generous, loyal to the working class in any part of the world and that can only be described as exemplary.

The Socialist Front, all its members and sympathizers, conveys our message of support and solidarity to all of Jorge's family and especially his wife Rosa Meneses and his children.

We cannot avoid the inevitable and we cannot bring Jorge back to be among us especially now that we need him most. But what we can do is what Jorge would have most wanted: to continue the struggle for the ideals to which he so dedicated himself during each moment of his existence. To insist in the struggle for another world which is more just and filled with solidarity. This is the tribute that is within our grasp and which our unforgettable Comrade Jorge Farinacci García deserves.