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March 27, 2015

Utah reinstates firing squad for death penalty

Utah reinstates firing squad for death penalty

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Friday, March 27, 2015

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The US state of Utah has reinstated the use of the firing squad as the method of execution for prisoners on death row, eleven years after it was abolished. On Monday Gary Herbert, the state’s governor, signed into law legislation approving the firing squad as an alternative means of capital punishment if lethal injections are unavailable.

The new law follows the refusal of European manufacturers of drugs used in lethal injections to sell their products to US prisons, in opposition to capital punishment. It states the decision to use the firing squad could be made thirty days before the scheduled date if lethal injections were not available.

Human rights activists have called the move “backward” and “brutalizing”. Karen McCreary, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said, “We believe all current methods of capital punishment violate the eighth amendment to the US constitution that outlaws cruel and unusual punishment, but this particular method, firing squad, seems very barbaric and something more associated with war”.

Last July, U.S Court of Appeals judge, Alex Kozinski, wrote, “The firing squad strikes me as the most promising. Eight or ten large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time.” Jay Chapman, the man who developed the protocol for lethal injections still used today, said in 2007 remarks to CNN that lethal injection “works if it’s administered competently”, but added it does require skill to perform.

The passing of the law on Monday does not grant prisoners a choice on the method of execution they will face, and lethal injections are to remain the primary method of execution.



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May 20, 2014

Pennsylvania court strikes down same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional

Pennsylvania court strikes down same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Judge John E. Jones III
Image: U.S. District Court Official Portrait.

A federal court struck down as unconstitutional Pennsylvania‘s 1996 law banning same-sex marriage today. Judge John E. Jones III has ordered the state to start issuing licenses for same-sex couples.

The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in July of last year. Lawyers argued the state’s ban violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, did not attempt to defend the ban, and has said she considers the law unconstitutional. Kane said today’s decision “brings justice to Pennsylvanians who have suffered from unequal protection under the law because of their sexual orientation”.

Pennsylvania’s governor, Tom Corbett, has not thus far responded to the ruling.

The decision in Pennsylvania followed a similar decision yesterday in Oregon striking down that state’s marriage ban. Courts in a number of other states including Arkansas, Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah have found state-level bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, although some of these decisions have not led to gay, lesbian and bisexual couples being able to marry while appeals are ongoing.



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June 27, 2013

US Supreme Court rules Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional

US Supreme Court rules Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cameras lined up outside the Supreme Court in preparation for the release of the DOMA case yesterday.
Image: bclinesmith.

In a ruling released yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5–4 that portions of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are unconstitutional and married same-sex partners should not be prevented from receiving federal benefits including tax and social security benefits, and recognition for the purpose of immigration.

In the majority decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.” Kennedy said DOMA “writes inequality into the entire United States Code“.

Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority decision in the DOMA case.
Image: Supreme Court of the United States.

The case was brought by 84-year-old Edith Windsor, who was married to Thea Speyer. The State of New York recognised their marriage, but following Speyer’s death, Windsor had to pay more than US$300,000 in inheritance tax.

In addition to a decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court also ruled on a case brought by supporters of Proposition 8 in California, a ballot measure which made same-sex marriage illegal in 2008. The resulting same-sex marriage ban was challenged in the court and a lower court held that the measure was incompatible with the US Constitution. The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by supporters of Proposition 8, arguing they do not have standing to defend in court a law the State of California is unwilling to defend. Therefore the lower court decision holds. California Governor Jerry Brown said: “I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted”.

President Barack Obama welcomed the decisions: “When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.” Obama instructed Eric Holder, the US attorney general, to ensure the ruling is implemented in federal law.

Anthony Romero from the American Civil Liberties Union said the fight for same-sex marriage rights would now return to the states. Chad Griffin from the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights organization, pledged: “Within five years, we will bring marriage equality to all 50 states.”

People celebrating the Supreme Court gay marriage decision.
Image: Neon Tommy.

A number of opponents of same-sex marriage have voiced their opinions on the Supreme Court decision. Michele Bachmann, a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, stated: “Marriage was created by the hand of God. No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted. For thousands of years of recorded human history, no society has defended the legal standard of marriage as anything other than between man and woman. Only since 2000 have we seen a redefinition of this foundational unit of society in various nations.”

Bachmann went on: “Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to join the trend, despite the clear will of the people’s representatives through DOMA. What the court has done will undermine the best interest of children and the best interests of the United States.”

Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp said the “courts have allowed the desires of adults to trump the needs of our children”.



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April 27, 2012

Florida court blocks drug testing state workers

Florida court blocks drug testing state workers

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Friday, April 27, 2012

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The US state of Florida has repealed an order by the state’s governor to drug test all state employees and new hires to state agencies. The Miami federal court has said that the order is unconstitutional, violating the ban upon ‘unreasonable’ search and seizure.

Last year, Governor Rick Scott ordered 80,000 drug tests on state employees. He is a former health care executive and objects to the ruling against drug testing. “As I have repeatedly explained, I believe that drug testing state employees is a common sense means of ensuring a safe, efficient and productive workforce,” Scott said yesterday.

Howard Simon, executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Florida, said, “The governor can’t order the state to search people’s bodily fluids for no reason.”

Governor Scott is also dealing with a drug testing-related lawsuit for recipients of welfare.



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April 24, 2011

Qur\’an-burning pastor jailed after mosque protest barred

Qur’an-burning pastor jailed after mosque protest barred

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Islamic Center of America
Image: DinajGao.

A controversial Florida pastor who had planned a demonstration outside a Michigan mosque Friday evening was briefly jailed after a court decided the protest would cause a breach of the peace and he refused to post a “peace bond” of US$1 required by the judge.

Fifty-nine-year-old Terry Jones, the pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Florida whose burning of the Qur’an sparked deadly protests in Afghanistan earlier this month, was denied a permit to stage a protest against “radical Islam” in front of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, where one of the largest communities of Muslims in the US is located. Dearborn police cited concerns about violence and offered alternate sites for the protest, which Jones rejected, saying his protest would go ahead as planned.

Prosecutors, concerned about possible violence, went to court on Thursday to obtain a ruling from Dearborn District Judge Mark Somers to prevent the protest. Somers conducted a one-day trial on Friday. At the trial, Jones argued that any limitations on his planned protest violated his free speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. “The First Amendment is only valid if it allows us to say what other people may not like,” Jones said in court. “Otherwise, we do not need the First Amendment.”

The six-person jury reached the verdict that Jones was “likely to breach the peace” if he went ahead with his demonstration.

Prosecutors requested the judge require a $25,000 bond. Judge Somers ordered Jones and supporter Wayne Sapp, 42, to pay a $1 peace bond and agree to stay away from the mosque for a period of three years. “The peace bond is to prohibit free speech,” said Sapp. Both initially refused to pay the peace bond and were remanded to the county jail. Prosecutors said that if they refused to pay, they might be jailed for up to three years. Both later paid the bond and were released.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had filed a motion for the case to be dismissed on the basis that Jones could not be forced to post a bond making him pay for police protection. An ACLU spokesperson said, “It is unconstitutional to put a price on free speech in anticipation that the speech may not be welcome by others”. Robert Sedler, a professor of constitutional law at Wayne State University, agreed, saying the US Supreme Court has determined that it was unconstitutional to require a bond for police protection.



Related news

  • “Nine killed as protests spread to Kandahar over Qur’an burning” — Wikinews, April 9, 2011
  • “UN workers killed by Afghans over burning of a Qur’an in Florida” — Wikinews, April 2, 2011
  • “Pastor of Florida church cancels plans to burn Qur’an, later reconsiders” — Wikinews, September 10, 2010
  • “Pressure mounts against Florida church plans to burn Qur’an” — Wikinews, August 7, 2010

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April 7, 2011

ACLU, EFF challenging US \’secret\’ court orders seeking Twitter data

ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Logo of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Logo of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

Case background

2009 File photo of Bradley Manning.
Image: Daniel Joseph Barnhart Clark.

The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

  1. Personal contact information, including addresses
  2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
  3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
  4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

The Manning connection

Gun camera footage of the airstrike of July 12, 2007 in Baghdad, showing the slaying of Namir Noor-Eldeen and a dozen other civilians by a U.S. helicopter.
Image: WikiLeaks.

Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The United States Government versus WikiLeaks

Logo of WikiLeaks.

Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

State-of-the-(Black)-Art, or CyberWarfare

Logo of Twitter.

Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.

Seal of the Catholic University of Leuven.

It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

Views of a security expert

Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

Wikinews

Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

  • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.

Logo of the Tor project.

First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?
  • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

Liberty, and the Electronic Frontier

Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
  • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
  • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
  • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?
  • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

Birgitta Jonsdottir responds

Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?

Birgitta Jonsdottir’s Facebook profile picture.

  • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
  • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
  • Jonsdottir: No
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
  • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Wikinews commentary.svg
Do you believe the U.S. government should have the right to access data on foreign nationals using services such as Twitter?
Add or view comments
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
  • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.
    I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
  • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
  • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
  • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
  • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
  • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

Ongoing U.S. Government versus WikiLeaks fallout

The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

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March 19, 2011

UN carries out first review of US human rights record

UN carries out first review of US human rights record

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

The United Nations has completed its first ever assessment of the United States human rights record, which began last November. They made 228 recommendations for improvements. On Friday, the U.S. accepted about 174 of these, agreeing to such recommendations as the humane treatment of terror suspects and repudiation of torture, but rejected the recommendation to drop the death penalty.

The Legal Adviser of the Department of State, Harold Koh, listed nine core areas in which the U.S. agreed to make improvements, including civil rights, immigration, and the humane treatment of suspects held at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Koh said President Obama agreed to push for ratification of conditions under the Geneva Conventions and to add protections for international armed conflict detainees. Koh refused to drop the death penalty as many European countries requested, arguing that it was legal under international law.

Some nations wanted the U.S. to reduce prison overcrowding, prevent racial profiling, and ratify international treaties protecting the rights of women and children. China and Russia wanted Guantanamo to be shut down. Cuba, Iran and Venezuela said the U.S. was ignoring too many recommendations.

The Obama administration joined the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council two years ago, allowing for increased international scrutiny. This is the first time the five-year-old council has reviewed the U.S. record of human rights. Nations are held accountable to make the improvements in the recommendations that they agree to.

In criticism of the U.S., the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program, Jamil Dakwar, noted that the U.S., unlike 100 other countries, lacks an independent human rights monitoring commission.



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March 30, 2010

Illinois judge lifts restraining order on pre-abortion parental notification law

Illinois judge lifts restraining order on pre-abortion parental notification law

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Map showing which states require parental notification.

██ No parental notification or consent laws

██ One parent must be informed beforehand

██ Both parents must be informed beforehand

██ One parent must consent beforehand

██ Both parents must consent beforehand

██ Parental notification law currently enjoined

██ Parental consent law currently enjoined

A Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court judge has lifted a temporary restraining order on a law that requires a girl’s parents to be notified before she has an abortion. In a complicated ruling, however, the judge also issued an order banning state officials from enforcing the law pending an appeal. 

The law, which was passed by the Illinois legislature in 1995, has never been enforced due to appeals. Last November, the Illinois medical disciplinary board allowed the law to be enforced, but hours later Judge Daniel A. Riley granted a temporary restraining order filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois.

When Judge Riley issued another ruling yesterday, he said the ACLU lawsuit was flawed, finding the law itself to be constitutional. He added, however, that “the law in question is a rather unfortunate piece of legislation” that is inherently discriminatory against pregnant minors. 

ACLU lawyers plan to file an appeal, which Judge Riley will rule on with a new restraining order in place. They argue that the law is an invasion of privacy and dangerous to minors who live in an abusive environment. The Illinois Attorney General’s office is defending the law, saying that parents should be able to give their children advice on complicated matters. 



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January 7, 2010

Obama\’s suspension of Guantanamo repatriations criticized

Obama’s suspension of Guantanamo repatriations criticized

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

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File photo of Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, in 2005
Image: Kathleen T. Rhem.

Human rights groups have criticized United States President Barack Obama’s decision to halt the transfer of detainees to Yemen from the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Obama suspended the repatriation of Yemeni detainees Tuesday because of what he called an “unsettled” security situation in Yemen. “It was always our intent to transfer detainees to other countries only under conditions that provide assurances that our security is being protected,” Obama said.

Some lawmakers had expressed concern that freed inmates could join Yemen-based al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the United States. The Times has also reported claims that former detainees have joined al-Qaeda on returning to Yemen.

Cquote1.svg The decision to halt all transfers of detainees to Yemen will prolong a shameful chapter in American history without making Americans any safer. Cquote2.svg

—Ben Wizner, ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claimed U.S. authorities had cleared the release of about 35 Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo. Ben Wizner, ACLU staff attorney, said that “the decision to halt all transfers of detainees to Yemen will prolong a shameful chapter in American history without making Americans any safer.” He called the actions “unwise and unjust”.

Human Rights Watch says it appreciates that Yemen poses a “very difficult problem” for the Obama administration. But, it says continuing to hold Yemenis at Guantanamo without charge “only increases resentment against the United States and hands al-Qaida a recruiting tool.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights called the decision “unconscionable”. “We know from the military’s own records that most of the detainees at Guantanamo have no link to terrorism,” the group said.

Cquote1.svg It was always our intent to transfer detainees to other countries only under conditions that provide assurances that our security is being protected. Cquote2.svg

—Barack Obama

Mitch McConnell, Republican Party minority leader in the U.S. Senate, backed the move. “Given the determined nature of the threat from al-Qaeda, it made little sense to transfer detainees from the secure facility at Guantanamo back to Yemen, where previously transferred detainees have escaped from prison and returned to al-Qaeda,” he said.

President Obama reiterated his pledge to shut down the Guantanamo prison, saying its existence helps al-Qaeda to recruit members and damages U.S. national security interests. Obama had said one year ago that he wanted to close the prison by 22 January this year, but recently admitted that this target would not be met. Guantanamo currently holds 198 prisoners, about half of them from Yemen.



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February 28, 2009

ACLU commemorates anniversary of US Supreme Court decision on student free speech

ACLU commemorates anniversary of US Supreme Court decision on student free speech

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

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On Tuesday, the non-profit organization the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a video and press release commemorating 40 years since the landmark Supreme Court of the United States decision involving freedom of speech in the case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The Tinker case was decided on February 24, 1969. The case involved students in Iowa who chose to wear black armbands with peace symbols in protest of the Vietnam War – in violation of a recent school board policy. In their statement, the ACLU compared issues of freedom of speech in the Tinker case to a more recent case, Gillman v. Holmes County School District, where a school district in Florida forbade students from wearing rainbow symbols in school in support of LGBT rights.

United States Supreme Court building
Image: Wadester16.

In the Tinker case, John and Mary Beth Tinker and another student decided to wear black armbands with peace symbols to school in protest of the Vietnam War. The school district heard of the students’ plans and decided to ban armbands in school. The three students case were represented by the ACLU of Iowa, and in a 7-2 decision the Supreme Court ruled for the plaintiffs.

Cquote1.svg It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights…at the schoolhouse gate. Cquote2.svg

—United States Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas

Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote in the Opinion of the Court: “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights…at the schoolhouse gate.”

The Gillman case began in September 2007 when according to students at Ponce de Leon High School in Florida, school officials responded improperly to complaints from a lesbian student that she was being harassed by other students. The ACLU contacted the school district on behalf of junior Heather Gillman, inquiring what form of symbols or slogans relating to LGBT rights would be allowed.

The school district responded saying it would not allow any expression of the sort, because it would “likely be disruptive”, and said the wearing of these types of symbols by students could signify they were part of a “secret/illegal organization”.

The video released by the ACLU includes clips of a deposition given by David Davis, the principal of Ponce de Leon High School in Florida. Davis testified he decided to ban students from wearing rainbow symbols in school because the rainbow is a symbol of “gay pride”, and he said it “could hinder the educational process”. He also testified that these symbols would immediately cause students viewing them to think of homosexual sex. Heather Gillman commented in the ACLU video “It was kind of scary, kinda, because I didn’t know what people would think, but then I figured ‘Who cares what people think, I’m standing up for something I believe in.'”

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On May 13, 2008, a federal judge decided in favor of the plaintiff, and permanently enjoined the school district from infringing upon the First Amendment rights of the students. Matt Coles, director of the ACLU’s national LGBT Project, stated “Schools need to know censorship is illegal, and students need to know their schools can’t get away with it.”

Cquote1.svg I’m grateful that the precedent established by the Supreme Court 40 years ago is still protecting students, including LGBT students and their friends. Cquote2.svg

—Mary Beth Tinker

In reflecting on the use of the Tinker precedent in the Gillman case, the ACLU cited three instances in which schools “were made to stop illegally censoring students thanks to Tinker v. Des Moines.” These include a 2006 incident where a student in Ohio was instructed by school administrators to remove a t-shirt which read “I support gay marriage”, and a 2007 incident where a teacher and an assistant principal at a school in Virginia told a student she could not wear a t-shirt with overlapping female gender symbols. In both cases the ACLU represented the students and school officials backed down and apologized for their actions.

In a blog post Tuesday by Mary Beth Tinker at Daily Kos, Tinker reflected on the similarities between her case before the Supreme Court of the United States and the more recent federal case of Heather Gillman. “I’m grateful that the precedent established by the Supreme Court 40 years ago is still protecting students, including LGBT students and their friends,” wrote Tinker. She encouraged young people to speak out about issues of concern to them and to freely express their thoughts and views. Tinker is currently a nurse in Washington, D.C., and travels the United States speaking to students about their First Amendment rights.

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