Press:

3/10/2011: DDF Responds to King Hearings
The House Homeland Security Committee held hearings today entitled "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response." Witnesses and members of Congress were in agreement that the Muslim American community has overwhelmingly stepped up and stood against terrorism, demonstrating that the framing of the hearings was misguided.

The Defending Dissent Foundation, which was founded in 1960 as the National Committee to Abolish HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee) has spoken out against the framing and content of the hearings. "We deplore Rep. Peter King's terrible decision to hold hearings questioning the patriotism and decency of American Muslims. It smacks of McCarthyism, intolerance and prejudice." said executive director Sue Udry. Read the full press release here.

2/18/2011: Defending Dissent Foundation Strongly Condemns House Vote to Defund Planned Parenthood
Although abortion services are legal and constitutionally protected, the House voted today to defund Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortion services. No federal funds are used to provide abortions, but instead support a range of other essential health care services including cancer screening, family planning and annual exams. “Representative Mike Pence’s (R-IN) amendment makes an end-run around the Constitution – it is nothing but a shameful attempt to reduce access to legal abortion services that will also leave millions of women without access to basic healthcare,” said Executive Director Sue Udry, “Mr. Pence has attempted to defund Planned Parenthood before, but he reached a new low this time, relying on anti-abortion activist Lila Rose to do his dirty work.” Read the full press release here

1/15/2011: Invoking the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Activists will Protest at FBI Headquarters and Quantico Marine Base on January 17
Washington, DC and Quantico, VA - Former FBI Agents Coleen Rowley and Sibel Edmonds will join protesters at FBI Headquarters. Demonstrators will protest FBI surveillance, infiltration and harassment of activists. The action is part of a series of nationally coordinated protests objecting to the harassment of 29 peace and solidarity activists who have been ordered to testify before a grand jury in Chicago on January 25. Last fall, the FBI raided the homes of a dozen of those activists, carting away personal belongings including cell phones, computers and diaries. The items have not been returned. No charges have been filed against any of the activists. Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent who will speak at the rally said, "instead of safeguarding our freedom and security, the FBI has become a growing danger to those trying to exercise our Constitutional rights. It is alarming to see the FBI revert to the abuses of the Vietnam era." Read the full press release here.

Local Civil Liberties Activists Oppose Metro Bag Search Program
Silver Spring, MD – The DC Bill of Rights Coalition and the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition launched an online petition campaign today in opposition to the random bag search program announced on Thursday by DC Metro Transit Police. It is available at: http://tinyurl.com/wmata-petition

Read the full press release here: http://www.defendingdissent.org/pdf/metrobagsearch.pdf

11/4/2010: The FBI Raids: The Activist Community Responds to Government Intrusion
On Saturday, November 6, 2010, a coalition of local civil liberties groups will hold a free, public teach-in regarding recent FBI raids on activists in the Midwest. The event will be held from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Friends Meeting of Washington, 2111 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008.

This teach-in responds to FBI raids that occurred on September 24th, 2010, against anti-war and solidarity activists in Chicago (two homes) and Minneapolis (five homes and the office of the Anti-War Committee). During the raids, the FBI took computers, cell phones, documents and personal family items. In total, 14 activists in Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan were subpoenaed to appear before a Grand Jury. All of these activists have subsequently refused to appear. Read the full press release here.

###

9/27/2010: ACTIVISTS PROTEST FBI RAIDS AND GRAND JURY SUBPEONAS
WASHINGTON -- The FBI raided the homes of eight anti-war and international solidarity activists on Friday, September 24. Doors were kicked in during the early morning raids in Minneapolis and Chicago and personal belongings including childrens' artwork, posters of Martin Luther King, Jr, were taken, as well as cell phones, computers and boxes of paper records. About a dozen activists from Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury. The FBI emphasized that no arrests were made, but that evidence was being collected regarding the possible 'material support' of terrorism.

Read the full press release here.

DDF Calls on President to Appoint Members to Privacy and Civl Liberties Oversight Board

PCLOB has remained unstaffed and inoperative for two years

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 2, 2010

CONTACT: Sue Udry, 202-529-4225 or sue.udry (at) defendingdissent.org

WASHINGTON - The Defending Dissent Foundation and 25 other organizations including September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the American Library Association, and the Republican Liberty Coalition (see entire list below) sent a letter to President Obama yesterday asking him to immediately appoint members to serve on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). The Board was originally proposed by the 9/11 Commission as a way to safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans as new national security policies were implemented. In 2007, Congress strengthened the Board and moved it out of the White House, but President Obama has neglected to nominate even a single member to the five-member board.

DDF Executive Director, Sue Udry pointed out that many of the signatories on the current letter had written to the President in November 2009, encouraging him to nominate members to the Board. That letter went unanswered. "The PCLOB should be there to provide a necessary check on government powers over innocent Americans," said Udry. "Our national security apparatus is not set up to consider the privacy and liberty of Americans, that's the role of the Oversight Board. President Obama must stop delaying, and appoint qualified members to the Board."

Calls for the restoration of the PCLOB have become more frequent in past months. The letter states:

On January 20, 2010, the Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, "I think...that the panel should -- should be manned up and started. It would provide a very valuable service."

In testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on January 26, 2010, the Chair and Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission, Governor Thomas Keane and Congressman Lee Hamilton, urged you to act immediately:

With massive capacity to develop data on individuals, the Board has to be the champion of seeing that collection capabilities do not intrude into privacy and civil liberties. We continue to believe that the Board provides critical functions and we urge President Obama to reconstitute it, quickly appoint its Members, and allow them full access to the information and the authority to perform this essential function.

In addition, Representatives Bennie Thompson and Jane Harmon and Senater Susan Collins, who hold key positions on the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees respectively, as well as your own Cybersecurity Review have all called for the prompt restoration of the PCLOB. We urge you to nominate members to the Board without delay.


The full text of the letter is available here: http://www.defendingdissent.org/pdf/pclobletter.pdf

The text of the November 2009 letter is available here: http://www.cdt.org/righttoknow/20091110_pclob_ltr.pdf

List of signers:

American Association of Law Libraries
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
Arab American Institute
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Investors and Entrepreneurs, Competitive Enterprise Institute
Center for National Security Studies
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Cyber Privacy Project
The Constitution Project
Defending Dissent Foundation
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Federation of American Scientists
The Freedom and Justice Foundation
Government Accountability Project
Liberty Coalition
Muslim Advocates
Muslim Public Affairs Council
Muslimah Writers Alliance
National Lawyers Guild/National Office
OMB Watch
Open Society Policy Center
Privacy Lives
Republican Liberty Coalition
Rutherford Institute
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Special Libraries Association
U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation

###

Over 40 Organizations Send Letter to DHS Inspector General Calling for NSEERS Audit


Washington, DC | September 17, 2009 | www.adc.org | Today, more than 40 organizations, including the Defending Dissent Foundation and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), submitted a letter to Richard L. Skinner, US Department of Homeland Security Inspector General (DHS IG), requesting an audit of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). The letter calls for DHS IG to make findings on the effectiveness of NSEERS, the costs incurred with implementing the program, the relationship between NSEERS and the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, the use of NSEERS in Operation Frontline , the impact of NSEERS non-compliance on individuals and families, and the adequacy of notice surrounding the program.

The impact of NSEERS on the Arab-American, South Asian-American and Muslim-American communities endures. As documented in the report issued by ADC and the Center for Immigrants' Rights at Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, "NSEERS: The Consequences of America's efforts to Secure Its Borders." (March, 2009) , "[w]ell-intentioned individuals who failed to comply with NSEERS due to a lack of knowledge or fear have been denied "adjustment of status" (green cards), and in some cases have been placed in removal proceedings under the premise that they "willfully" failed to register. This scenario has torn apart families because of the real implications of having a parent or spouse without a legal status."

ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora, who earlier this year was sworn in as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) said, "Using immigration law as a counterterrorism tool with racial profiling tactics has failed in the past, and continues to fail," said Shora, "the perceived injustice of singling out people based on national origin and penalizing them for their cooperation with a government program may have resulted in significant harm to the relationship of trust between law enforcement and the Arab and Muslim American and immigrant communities-a relationship that is vital to the national security of the United States. Nearly 14,000 men who complied with call-in registration were placed in removal proceedings. If a goal of special registration was to track possible terrorists, deporting those who complied with the program undermines this aim, especially since it may reduce future compliance."

The letter to the DHS IG was signed by a wide range of local, state and national organizations, including community-based groups, faith-based organizations, civil and human rights groups, coalition groups, and immigration advocacy groups. Read the letter here.


###

200 Organizations Ask Holder to Appoint a Special Prosecutor for Bush, Cheney, et alia

For immediate release: May 12, 2009
Contact: david@davidswanson.org


Two hundred organizations, including the Defending Dissent Foundation, After Downing Street, Democrats.com, the Robert Jackson Steering Committee, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, the Society of American Law Teachers, Human Rights USA, the American Freedom Campaign, and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, have signed a joint statement urging Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor for former top officials of the Bush Administration.

The complete list of organizations can be found at http://specialprosecutor.us

The complete statement reads as follows:

We urge Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a non-partisan independent Special Counsel to immediately commence a prosecutorial investigation into the most serious alleged crimes of former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Richard B. Cheney, the attorneys formerly employed by the Department of Justice whose memos sought to justify torture, and other former top officials of the Bush Administration.

Our laws, and treaties that under Article VI of our Constitution are the supreme law of the land, require the prosecution of crimes that strong evidence suggests these individuals have committed. Both the former president and the former vice president have confessed to authorizing a torture procedure that is illegal under our law and treaty obligations. The former president has confessed to violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

We see no need for these prosecutions to be extraordinarily lengthy or costly, and no need to wait for the recommendations of a panel or "truth" commission when substantial evidence of the crimes is already in the public domain. We believe the most effective investigation can be conducted by a prosecutor, and we believe such an investigation should begin immediately.

DHS Should Focus on Crime, Not Political Beliefs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 15, 2009

Contact: Sue Udry, Director
301-325-1201 or sue.udry@defendingdissent.org

The Defending Dissent Foundation, founded 50 years ago to protect the First Amendment rights of Communists, added its voice to the protest against a DHS report on "Rightwing Extremism". The report, issued by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at DHS cites the economic downturn and the election of Barack Obama as "unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment." The report notes that there is no indication that these groups are planning any criminal acts but implies that certain political groups are potential threats.

In the past months, several other DHS documents have been leaked, as well as documents produced by Fusion Centers in Texas, Missouri and Virginia. "The leaked documents focus on political beliefs and activities, rather than crime. It is not a legitimate use of our tax dollars for police agencies to be studying our First Amendment protected political activities," said Sue Udry, Director of the Defending Dissent Foundation.

Activists on both ends of the political spectrum are subject to unjustified suspicion in the leaked documents. The Missouri fusion center alerts law enforcement to watch for people with bumper stickers indicating they support the Libertarian Party because they could turn out to be violent members of the militia movement. The North Texas fusion center asks area law enforcement to report on the political activites of anti-war groups and others who promote tolerance toward Muslims. The document produced by the Virginia Fusion Center is more evenhanded -- political activists on the right and left are subject to suspicion, as are college students and members of the military.

Those documents can be found here

"Conservatives and rightwing pundits should be outraged - but they also need to realize that they are not alone. Activists on the left have grown used to being spied on and finding their names on various government watch lists and their political ideologies portrayed as dangerous. In the name of the war on terror, U.S. police and intelligence agencies have been granted extensive surveillance and information-sharing powers over the past decade, but it is time for Congress to step in and take a close look at how those powers are being used and abused. Activists on the right and on the left should join together to demand an end to political spying on both ends of the political spectrum," said Udry.

National Organizations Call on Maryland to Enact Strong Anti-Spy Measure

For Immediate Release
March 18, 2009

Contact: Sue Udry, 301-325-1201, sue.udry@defendingdissent.org

Today, twenty national organizations sent a letter to members of the Maryland General Assembly and Governor O'Malley calling for a strong bill to prohibit police spying on political groups without a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and to release all information in police files to people who were wrongly investigated. Specifically, the organizations endorsed The Freedom of Association and Assembly Protection Act (HB 182/SB256). There is concern that legislators will settle for a weaker measure that does not apply to all police forces in Maryland and does not require the full disclosure of all wrongful surveillance by police in the past.

News that Maryland state police agents had infiltrated anti-war, consumer protection and other political groups hardly raised eyebrows among activists around the country. "This isn't new, but it is un-constitutional" said Sue Udry, director of the Defending Dissent Foundation, a small civil liberties organization that was the target of surveillance by the FBI and various local police departments in the 1960's resulting in a 132,000 page file. More recently, members and affiliates of Peace Action found that they, as well as hundreds of other peace activists were subject to Pentagon surveillance and inclusion in the Talon database. Other groups signing the letter have also been targets of unconstitutional investigations by federal, state and local police agencies.

"Because activist groups have long been targets of unconstitutional surveillance, these national organizations are watching what happens in Maryland closely, and strongly encourage the General Assembly to pass The Freedom of Association and Assembly Protection Act", said Udry. "We think Maryland can and should blaze the trail for other states and even Congress by passing The Freedom of Association and Assembly Protection Act".

The text of the letter is below:

Open Letter to the Maryland General Assembly

A strong democracy depends on citizen engagement. Unfortunately, sometimes police agencies get worried that citizens are too engaged, and appoint themselves regulators of political activity. It isn't new - but it is un-Constitutional.

Last summer, the ACLU of Maryland discovered that the Maryland State Police had spied on people and groups involved in a wide range of political activities, collected criminal intelligence dossiers on their political beliefs and activities, and entered their names into a criminal database, listing them as "terrorists". All this was undertaken without any evidence or even suspicion of any illegal activity. These people were not criminals, and certainly not "terrorists" by any definition of the word, yet other state, local and federal police agencies may have accessed their names and information because post 9-11 reforms have encouraged police agencies to share information more freely.

Fortunately, the people of Maryland as well as most lawmakers and the media expressed outrage that the police would so blatantly violate the Constitution. We congratulate the General Assembly for its willingness to confront the problem and to consider strong legislation that will protect the democratic rights of people across the ideological spectrum. We urge the General Assembly to pass The Freedom of Association and Assembly Protection Act (HB 182/SB256). The bill prohibits police from spying on political groups and their activities or compiling or sharing criminal dossiers about them without a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

Why do the national advocacy organizations signing on to this letter care about what happens in Maryland? Of course, many of our organizations have members and chapters in Maryland, but the victims of the MSP spy scandal are not just Marylanders; people from California, Missouri, New York, DC, and Virginia were also swept up in the net of surveillance and unjustly listed in state files as "terrorists". We also suspect that other state and local police agencies, awash in Homeland Security dollars like the Maryland police, also went looking in all the wrong places for terrorists. We look to the Maryland General Assembly to set an example for other states and encourage them to pass this excellent bill without making any changes.

It is unfortunate that the Maryland state police have not conducted a thorough review of their criminal intelligence database to identify and notify all wrongful targets of the spying program. The Freedom of Association and Assembly Act requires such a review, and until it is undertaken, every Marylander who has attended a rally or political meeting, signed a petition or otherwise expressed a political view, will have to wonder if they too are in police files. Come to think of it, given the unfettered scope of the spying that has come to light so far, we all have to be worried.

AfterDowningStreet.org
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Campaign for Fresh Air & Clean Politics
Center for Democracy and Technology
CodePink, Women for Peace
Defending Dissent Foundation
Democrats.com
DownsizeDC.org
H.S. Power & Light Latino Faith Initiative
Liberty Coalition
National Immigrant Solidarity Network
National Organization for Women (NOW)
Peace Action
Radio Free Maine
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
United Electrical Workers Union (UE)
United for Peace and Justice
Veterans for Peace
Washington Peace Center