Good news

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There hasn’t been a lot of it lately, so I’m glad to see it when it occurs:

A federal judge in Oregon ruled yesterday that two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional, marking the second time in as many weeks that the anti-terrorism law has come under attack in the courts.

In a case brought by a Portland man who was wrongly detained as a terrorism suspect in 2004, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Patriot Act violates the Constitution because it “permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment.”

“For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law — with unparalleled success,” Aiken wrote in a strongly worded 44-page opinion. “A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised.”

Of course, this sets up an eventual Supreme Court ruling, and, with the bunch we have now, that’s not exactly reassuring. Still…

Naomi Wolf in Shirlington Monday night

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Author Naomi Wolf will be at Shirlington Library Monday night reading from her new book, The End of America: Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot.

As a “late bloomer” in the world of progressive politics and feminism (I was totally uninvolved before 2003), my first encounter with her work was “The Porn Myth.” It was an intriguing premise, and definitely worth your 10 minutes if you’ve never read it.

Anyhoo, back to End of America, Wolf’s examination of the methods employed by the federal government in an effort to take aim at our freedoms. AlterNet has an excerpt online right now:

When you are physically detained by armed agents because of something that you said or wrote, it has an impact. On the one hand, during these heightened searches of my luggage, I knew I was a very small fish in a very big pond. On the other hand, you get it right away that the state is tracking your journeys, can redirect you physically, and can have armed men and women, who may or may not answer your questions, search and release you.

There’s one hitch, at least for me. Wolf begins her reading at 5 p.m. However, I’m starting my new gig tomorrow (more on that later) and our office hours are 10-6. So, I may not make it.

If you’re in the area ((I fully realize most of my readers at this stage are in New Mexico, but there you go)), though, you should try to attend. You can download the introduction to End of America from the book’s publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing.

Thanks Senator Domenici!

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For those who still care:

In a 56-43 vote, the Senate today “narrowly rejected” legislation that would have restored habeas corpus rights to military detainees and given them “the right to protest their detention in federal court.” The roll call fell four votes short of the 60 needed to cut off debate.

UPDATE: Full roll call vote HERE.

There’s background over at FireDogLake. It seems absolutely ludicrous to me that we have to be fighting for these rights (laid out 200 years ago!) just two days after we celebrated Constitution Day, but, there you go. Sen. Pete Domenici, New Mexico’s senior senator, was among those who chose to roll back the liberties and rights that our nation’s sons and daughters have fought for in the past and are dying for today.

Speaking of Domenici, NewMexiKen tipped us off that Pete made CREW’s list of the 22 most corrupt members of Congress. Here’s why. I think we can be reasonably certain that CREW doesn’t have a bone to pick with New Mexico, so it’s telling that every Republican member of Congress from the Land of Enchantment was also singled out.

ACLU comes to Craig’s rescue

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This is too good to pass up: the American Civil Liberties Association, frequently targeted by conservatives for being too far on the left, filed an amicus brief with a Minnesota Court today in support of Republican Sen. Larry Craig’s petition to change his guilty plea in the airport bathroom sex sting. Talk Left has the goods:

“The real motive behind secret sting operations like the one that resulted in Senator Craig’s arrest is not to stop people from inappropriate activity. It is to make as many arrests as possible – arrests that sometimes unconstitutionally trap innocent people,” said Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “If the police really want to stop people from having sex in public bathrooms, they should put up a sign banning sex in the restroom and send in a uniformed officer to patrol periodically. That works.”

Those crazy leftists! Via Carpetbagger Report.

Complicity

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From the Washington Post:

The Bush administration acknowledged for the first time that telecommunications companies assisted the government’s warrantless surveillance program and were being sued as a result, an admission some legal experts say could complicate the government’s bid to halt numerous lawsuits challenging the program’s legality.

“[U]nder the president’s program, the terrorist surveillance program, the private sector had assisted us,” Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said in an interview with the El Paso Times published Wednesday.

His statement could help plaintiffs in dozens of lawsuits against the telecom companies, which allege that the companies participated in a wiretapping program that violated Americans’ privacy rights, former Justice Department officials said.

Gotta love it.

Negating Dissent

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Peter Baker’s latest in the NY Times this morning:

Not that they’re worried or anything. But the White House evidently leaves little to chance when it comes to protests within eyesight of the president. As in, it doesn’t want any.

A White House manual that came to light recently gives presidential advance staffers extensive instructions in the art of “deterring potential protestors” from President Bush’s public appearances around the country.

We’ve known about this all along, but, still, the manual (uncovered as a result of an ACLU suit) yields the particulars:

Those invited into a VIP section on or near the stage, for instance, must be ” extremely supportive of the Administration,” it says. While the Secret Service screens audiences only for possible threats, the manual says, volunteers should examine people before they reach security checkpoints and look out for signs. Make sure to look for “folded cloth signs,” it advises.

To counter any demonstrators who do get in, advance teams are told to create “rally squads” of volunteers with large hand-held signs, placards or banners with “favorable messages.” Squads should be placed in strategic locations and “at least one squad should be ‘roaming’ throughout the perimeter of the event to look for potential problems,” the manual says.

“These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators,” it says. “The rally squad’s task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site.”