WP: Why Black Lives Matter activists are siding with Apple in its fight with the FBI

The Washington Post reported on some of the more nuanced problems with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Apple Dilemma. Putting aside the fact that the FBI claims it cannot hack an iPhone, the privacy concerns are paramount, especially among dissenters and protesters:

Black Lives Matter activists are siding with Apple in the company’s legal showdown with the FBI over a phone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooters.

“We urge you to consider the dire implications for free speech and civil liberties if the FBI is permitted to force Apple to create technology to serve its investigatory purposes,” a coalition of activists and civil rights organizations wrote in letter to a California court Thursday supporting the tech company. “The FBI’s historically questionable surveillance procedures do not bode well for setting a precedent that allows the agency universal access to private smartphone data.”

Privacy — especially from the spying eyes of the government — is personal for the civil rights community at least in part because of the movement’s history with the FBI.

In the 1950s, the bureau ran an initiative called COINTELPRO. At first, it was aimed at disrupting communist activities, but the program was later expanded to target other domestic groups including the Black Panther Party, and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The FBI started spying directly on the civil rights leader in 1963, not long after the March on Washington, according to historian Beverly Gage: It placed wiretaps on the phones in his home and offices, as well as bugging devices in his hotel rooms. That surveillance uncovered evidence of King’s extramarital affairs, which the bureau (unsuccessfully) pitched to the news media.

Perhaps frustrated by the lack of interest in the press, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in November 1964 publicly denounced the civil rights leader as “the most notorious liar in the country” during a news conference. A few days later, one of Hoover’s subordinates sent King a disturbing letter: It was designed to look like it was from a disenchanted supporter, but referenced audio recordings as evidence of King’s infidelity and urged the civil rights leader to kill himself.

The FBI itself now acknowledges the violations of COINTELPRO, noting on its website that the program was “later rightfully criticized by Congress and the American people for abridging first amendment rights and for other reasons.”

Continue reading

2014 – Major Election Year for Marijuana Reform?

http://www.alternet.org/drugs/why-2014-major-election-year-marijuana-reform

Voters in several states and municipalities nationwide will head to the polls this November and decide whether or not to radically alter the way many parts of America deal with pot.
Voters in three states – Alaska, Florida, and Oregon – will decide on statewide measures seeking to legalize marijuana use and commerce. In addition, voters in the District of Columbia and in various other cities will decide on municipal measures seeking to depenalize the plant’s possession and consumption by adults…..

Sunshine State voters will decide this November on Amendment 2, which seeks to permit for the physician-authorized possession and state-licensed distribution of cannabis. Because the proposal seeks to amend the state constitution, support from over 60 percent of state voters is necessary for the amendment to become law.

If passed, the amendment would allow for a physician to recommend cannabis therapy to any patient at his or her discretion. However, neither qualified patients (nor their designated caregivers) would be permitted to cultivate cannabis. Rather, the proposal authorizes the state Department of Health to determine rules within six-months following the act’s passage for the registration of ‘Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers’ (dispensaries), which would be authorized to cultivate, process, and sell medicinal cannabis and other related products. If regulators not begin registering these facilities within this time frame, “any Florida citizen shall have standing to seek judicial relief to compel compliance with the Department’s constitutional duties,” the measure states. 
Despite coordinated opposition by the Florida Sheriff’s Association, former Reagan anti-drug aide Carlton Turner (who once infamously claimed that marijuana smoking leads to homosexuality and “therefore to AIDS”), and gambling mogul Sheldon Anderson (who recently donated $2.5 million to defeat the measure), public support for Amendment 2 remains high. According to a May 2014 Quinnipiac University poll, 88 percent of Florida voters support the medical use of marijuana when authorized by a physician

U.S. Spied on 5 American Muslims, a Report Says…

http://www.northjersey.com/news/report-rutgers-university-professor-among-five-muslim-american-leaders-subjected-to-nsa-fbi-email-surveillance-1.1048486

Civil rights leaders claim the alleged surveillance is part of a pattern by law enforcement and intelligence agencies that targets people based on religion or political activity. Recently, the New York Police Department was accused of widespread surveillance on Muslim student groups, businesses and houses of worship as part of counter-terrorism work in New York and New Jersey, including Paterson, Newark and Rutgers University.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/tech/raghead-slur-in-snowden-leak-prompts-white-house-call-for-discrimination-review-20140709

“As the NSA has said, the use of racial or ethnic stereotypes, slurs, or other similar language by employees is both unacceptable and inconsistent with the country’s core values,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. “The administration takes all such allegations extremely seriously, and upon learning of this matter, the White House immediately requested that the director of National Intelligence undertake an assessment of Intelligence Community policies, training standards or directives that promote diversity and tolerance, and as necessary, make any recommendations changes or additional reforms.”

http://thehill.com/policy/technology/211676-snowden-leak-nsa-fbi-targeted-prominent-us-muslims

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/10/us/politics/nsa-snowden-records-glenn-greenwald-first-look.html

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/07/09/under-surveillance/

 

The Time A Corporation Cited Religious Freedom As A Way To Avoid Desegregation

http://www.alternet.org/time-corporation-cited-religious-freedom-way-avoid-desegregation

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/time-corporation-cited-religious-freedom-way-avoid-desegregation

The Hobby Lobby majority emphasized that their ruling applied only to contraceptive coverage but would not undercut laws prohibiting racial discrimination. The conservative Justices said that the latter are “precisely tailored” to meet the government’s compelling interest in eradicating racial discrimination, while the Affordable Care Act provision falls in this case because it is not the least restrictive means to meet the government’s interest in providing women access to contraception.

At the time that that case, Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, was being decided,  the majority of Americans had religious objections to interracial marriage and many preachers made  the religious case for segregation. Efforts to  defend the purported right of Christian schools to discriminate against African Americans greatly shaped the modern-day Religious Right.

In its 8-0 decision in Piggie Park, the Supreme Court  upheld the Fourth Circuit Court’s  ruling against the restaurant chain and found that it was not exempt from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 simply because its owner had religious objections to the law.

The Supreme Court threw out Piggie Park’s “patently frivolous” claims when determining that Piggie Park must pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees:
Indeed, this is not even a borderline case, for the respondents interposed defenses so patently frivolous that a denial of counsel fees to the petitioners would be manifestly inequitable. Thus, for example, the “fact that the defendants had discriminated both at [the] drive-ins and at [the sandwich shop] was . . . denied . . . [although] the defendants could not and did not undertake at the trial to support their denials. Includable in the same category are defendants’ contention, twice pleaded after the decision in Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U. S. 294, . . . that the Act was unconstitutional on the very grounds foreclosed by McClung, and defendants’ contention that the Act was invalid because it ‘contravenes the will of God’ and constitutes an interference with the ‘free exercise of the Defendant’s religion.'” (emphasis added)

The attorney representing the petitioners suing Piggie Park also  addressed in court the “First Amendment religious privilege claim that petitioner asserted that his religion required him” to deny service to black customers.

“I’m just a fair man. I want to be known as a hard-working, Christian man that loves God and wants to further (God’s) work throughout the world as I have been doing throughout the last 25 years,” the late Piggie Park owner, Maurice Bessinger,  told South Carolina’s The State newspaper about the court case.

According to the paper, Bessinger continued to distribute “pro-slavery tracts at his Maurice’s Gourmet Barbecue headquarters in West Columbia – under the shadow of the enormous Confederate flag he flew outside.”
At the time, Bessinger was distributing pro-slavery audiotapes and gave customers a discount if they bought his literature. South Carolina had “biblical slavery,” Bessinger claimed, which was kinder and different than other forms of slavery. Bessinger established his Piggie Park Enterprises in Cayce in 1953. In the 1950s and 1960s, Bessinger put signs in his stores saying blacks weren’t welcome.

Also in 1964, Bessinger — who at that time owned four Piggie Park restaurants — stood in the door of one of his stores to prevent a black minister from entering. Bessinger would allow blacks to buy food to take out, but not to eat in his restaurant. African-Americans, represented by then-civil rights lawyer Matthew Perry, took him to court.

In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Bessinger 8-0.

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/google-may-have-face-consequences-snooping-chats-emails-user-passwords

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/google-may-have-face-consequences-snooping-chats-emails-user-passwords

Google claimed that they had not broken federal wiretap laws by grabbing the data, arguing that the information they intercepted could be available to the general public because it was being transmitted on unsecured networks. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, allowing a lawsuit against the company to proceed. 

Today, the Supreme Court refused to hear Google’s case for dropping the lawsuit, leaving the lower court’s decision intact. The company already agreed to pay 38 states $7 million. European countries are also levying fines….