Photographer arrested for filming arrests made during protest challenging Dept. of Homeland Security over policy.

The NY Daily News reports

An amateur photographer is suing the Department of Homeland Security, saying his arrest for filming a political protest outside a Manhattan courthouse was illegal.

Antonio Musumeci, a 29-year-old software programmer, videotaped the arrest of a Libertarian activist outside Manhattan Federal Court last year.

His lawsuit says that even though he was standing in a public plaza next to the courthouse, an inspector with the Federal Protective Service told him he was under arrest.

Musumeci was forced to sit on the sidewalk for 20 minutes, he says. His camera memory card was confiscated and he got a ticket for filming on federal property, a violation.

The ticket was later dismissed in Manhattan Federal Court, court papers say. His memory card was never returned.

ICE: Pumping Up Detention Quotas

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Over 50 years Professor Cyril Northcote Parkinson formulated his famous mock-serious "Law of Bureaucratic Self-Aggrandizement" which described the genius of bureaucracies to find and failing that to invent tasks commensurate to satisfy their ever-expanding mandate thusly: Work expands so far as to fill the time available for its solution". He had in mind  the British civil service and Royal Navy (which he prophesied would one day have more admirals than ships). He did not, as far as we know, have in mind US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but he should have.

In the grand Parkinsonian tradition of creating problems to solve, and being more than willing to trample on civil and constitutional rights to do it, ICE, Spencer Hsu and Andrew Becker report in the Washington Post has, despite its own studies showing the counter-productive nature of its punitive detention policies, is pumping up its "quota" on the number of undocumented immigrant detainees it must incarcerate. Why? Apparently to justify building new detention centers.

The Washington Post reports

The moves, outlined in internal documents and a recent e-mail by a senior U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official to field directors nationwide, differ from pledges by ICE chief John T. Morton and his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, to focus enforcement on the most dangerous illegal immigrants. That approach represented a break from the mass factory raids and neighborhood sweeps the Bush administration used to drive up arrests.

In a Feb. 22 memo, James M. Chaparro, head of ICE detention and removal operations, wrote that, despite record deportations of criminals, the overall number of removals was down. While ICE was on pace to achieve "the Agency goal of 150,000 criminal alien removals" for the year ending Sept. 30, total deportations were set to barely top 310,000, "well under the Agency's goal of 400,000," and nearly 20 percent behind last year's total of 387,000, he wrote.

Beyond stating ICE enforcement goals in unusually explicit terms, Chaparro laid out how the agency would pump up the numbers: by increasing detention space to hold more illegal immigrants while they await deportation proceedings; by sweeping prisons and jails to find more candidates for deportation and offering early release to those willing to go quickly; and, most controversially, with a "surge" in efforts to catch illegal immigrants whose only violation was lying on immigration or visa applications or reentering the United States after being deported.



Though in many ways the United States well deserves its reputation as a haven of Freedom of the Press,  commitment to free press principle has often lapsed in practice. Indeed the list of dissident, troublemaking publications targeted with legal and extra-legal pressure by the US government is a long one, including the socialist magazine Masses, shut down under the Espionage Act of 1917 for its opposition to World War One,and numerous "underground" newspapers of the Vietnam War era, which were the objects of the covert operations program of harassment, intimidation and disruption now known as COINTELPRO .

In a piece titled The war on WikiLeaks and why it matters Glenn Greenwald documents how this less than noble legacy is alive, and all too well, today in the government's current campaign to discredit and perhaps close down, a small website with the temerity to expose embarrassing secret documents from the Pentagon and CIA.

Glenn Greenwald writes:

Over the past several years, WikiLeaks--which aptly calls itself "the intelligence agency of the people"--has obtained and then published a wide array of secret, incriminating documents (similar to this CIA Report) that expose the activities of numerous governments and corporations.  Among many others, they posted the Standard Operating Manual for Guantanamo, documents showing how corrupt offshore loans precipitated the economic collapse in Iceland, the notorious emails between climate scientists, documents showing toxic dumping off the coast of Africa, and many others.  They have recently come into possession of classified videos relating to civilian causalities under the command of Gen. David Petraeus, as well as documentation relating to civilian-slaughtering airstrikes in Afghanistan which the U.S. military had agreed to release, only to change their mind.

All of this has made WikiLeaks an increasingly hated target of numerous government and economic elites around the world, including the U.S. Government.  As The New York Times put it last week:  "To the list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States, the Pentagon has added, a tiny online source of information and documents that governments and corporations around the world would prefer to keep secret."  In 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center prepared a secret report--obtained and posted by WikiLeaks--devoted to this website and detailing, in a section entitled "Is it Free Speech or Illegal Speech?", ways it would seek to destroy the organization.  It discusses the possibility that, for some governments, not merely contributing to WikiLeaks, but "even accessing the website itself is a crime," [emphasis in original] and outlines its proposal for WikiLeaks' destruction as follows:

Websites such as have trust as their important center of gravity, by protecting the anonymity and identity of the insider, leaker, or whistleblower. Successful identification, prosecution, termination of employment and exposure of persons leaking the information by the governments and businesses affected by information posted on would damage and potentially destroy this center of gravity and deter others from taking similar actions. [emphasis mine]

Williamson County, Texas police, irate over Kopbuster activists Barry and Candi Cooper, sic Child Protective Services on them.

Stephen Webster at True/Slant reports

Pot smoking moms and dads of America, pay attention: This could happen to you too. Although the Coopers' case is a bit more unusual than most and not all Child Protective Services entanglements over marijuana will result in children being taken or custody being modified, it can and does happen.

Zachary Johnston, 7, has cerebral palsy and exhibits the intelligence of a four-year-old, according to Barry. He had been sent away for a brief visit with his father, David, when the embattled activists were paid a visit by Child Protective Services on Friday, March 18, they said.

"That's when they told us," Candi sobbed. "That's when we knew."

Because of Barry's recent misdemeanor arrest over allegations of a false police report, Williamson County officers gained entry to the couple's home and discovered a couple of marijuana cigarette butts during their search, for which both husband and wife were charged in Travis County. Police also took the Coopers' electronics and digital media and managed to keep the former officer behind bars for over 48 hours.

Barry repeatedly insisted that Williamson County police reached out to "instigate" the whole affair, tipping off Mr. Johnston's lawyer to a potential opportunity for his client. I have not been able to confirm this particular statement and it is entirely possible -- even likely -- that Mr. Johnston or his attorney heard about the arrests from other sources.

I've known about this since the day it happened, but in the interest of fairness and considering my lack of access to Mr. Johnston, I waited until court documents became available before breaking this news. Finally released, their text is enough to make just about any liberal-minded parent cringe.

In the document, an affidavit in support of ex parte relief filed with a court in Upshur County, Texas, Mr. Johnston contends that because of Barry and Candi's standing as nationally-known marijuana activists and their high (no pun intended) level of comfort with the drug, they pose a danger to Zachary. He cites articles on the duo's exploits published by Cannabis Culture and Maxim, noting in particular that when Barry and Candi met, she was his "pot dealer."

He also says: "The Coopers attend cannabis festivals and take Zachary with them and other children that live in their household." Of course, they adamantly deny this.

Advocates for Faith and Freedom sue high school teacher for criticizing Christianity and, in so doing, offending a student's "first amendment" right not to have religion spoken against.

Alternet reports

Most weekdays, some 2,700 students crowd the sidewalks and hallways of Capistrano Valley High School, which is a quick drive from Orange County, California's finest beaches. Capo, as the school is informally known, boasts a champion surf team as well as a prestigious academic reputation, among other distinctions.

The world's most powerful megachurch, Saddleback, is about eight miles south of Capo; nearby are the skyline-dominating Crystal Cathedral and the nation's largest Christian broadcast network. Non-Christian faiths, too, have set up shop in the OC, home to growing numbers of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Zoroastrian worshipers. In fact, for all the associations of Orange County with implants and Botox and for all the TV shows that depict a shamelessly decadent lifestyle, such as "The Real Housewives of Orange County," this is foremost a highly religious place.

All of which has come to play out in the classroom of history teacher James Corbett, the defendant in a federal lawsuit that, depending on its outcome in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, could threaten traditional notions of academic freedom.

In late 2007, Corbett was sued for making disparaging comments about religion in the classroom and, in so doing, violating a student's First Amendment rights. It may come as a surprise to many, but the First Amendment not only prohibits the state from endorsing a religion; it also has been interpreted to mean the state may not express hostility toward religion.

When a decorated cop is prevented from flying as a suspected terrorist, because of undercover counter-terror work he did a quarter century ago.

NY Daily News reports

The black-and-white mug shot shows a young man with tousled hair and a wispy beard, staring into the camera with steely eyes.

It was 1977 and Miguel Rodriguez had just busted a pane of glass in the Statue of Liberty's crown and hung out a Puerto Rican flag during a nine-hour siege staged by associates of the FALN terrorist group.

Like the others, he was arrested. At that moment, only a handful of NYPD officials knew Rodriguez was really an undercover cop who had penetrated the group.

Fast-forward more than three decades since his heroic and dangerous assignment and Rodriguez is facing a new threat: U.S. Homeland Security thinks he's a terrorist.

Rodriguez, who retired from the NYPD as a sergeant in 1994, has been detained twice in the past month at area airports because of his old arrest and conviction.

Simple line shaved into hair runs afoul of school policy. reports

A Maury County father says school officials branded his 9-year-old twin sons as gang members and suspended them because they had a simple line shaved into their hair.
Paul Edwards told The Daily Herald that it's a hairstyle they've had since kindergarten.

According to Edwards, the two fourth-graders were suspended last Tuesday, and they returned to classes Thursday when the suspension was overturned after he objected.

Thanks to Wendy McElroy
Court sees nothing amiss in having  a pregnant Malaika Brooks tasered repeatedly and then hit  in the thigh, shoulder and neck, hauled from her car and laid face-down in the street by three of Seattle's finest, all for driving at 32 MPH in a school zone, while dropping her son off at school.

Jonathan Turley reports

The United States Court of Appeals has ruled that three Seattle police officers were justified when they tasered a pregnant mother three times when she refused to sign a traffic ticket. Malaika Brooks was driving her son to Seattle's African American Academy in 2004 when she was stopped for doing 32 mph in a school zone. When she refused to get out of her car to be arrested, one officer tasered her repeatedly despite (she claims) knowing that she was pregnant.

The officers - Sgt. Steven Daman, Officer Juan Ornelas and Officer Donald Jones - hit her in the thigh, shoulder and neck and then hauled her out of the car and laid her face-down in the street.

While the baby was born two months later without injury, the mother has permanent scars from the taserings.

Judges Cynthia Holcomb Hall and Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain ruled that the officers were justified in making an arrest because Brooks was obstructing them and resisting arrest. The judges insisted that, while surrounded by police and the car turned off, she still was a danger: "It seems clear that Brooks was not going to be able to harm anyone with her car at a moment's notice. Nonetheless, some threat she might retrieve the keys and drive off erratically remained, particularly given her refusal to leave the car and her state of agitation."

Suspended: For Touching a Pill

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Indiana 7th grade suspended for handing prescription ADHD pill back to classmate who had offered her one.

WAVE-TV reports

The parents of a Kentuckiana seventh grade student say their young daughter was suspended from school for doing exactly what she's been taught to do for years - to just say no to drugs.  

The girl did not bring the prescription drug to her Jeffersonville, IN school, nor did she take it, but she admits that she touched it and in Greater Clark County Schools that is drug possession.    

Rachael Greer said it happened on Feb. 23 during fifth period gym class at River Valley Middle School when a girl walked into the locker room with a bag of pills. 

"She was talking to another girl and me about them and she put one in my hand and I was like, 'I don't want this,' so I put it back in the bag and I went to gym class," said Rachael. 

The pills were the prescription ADHD drug, Adderall. Patty Greer, Rachael's mother, said she and her husband are proud of their daughter for turning down drugs, just like she's been taught for years by DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) instructors at school. 

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

8 Years in Jail for Stealing Shredded Cheese

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Three strikes law gets Robert Ferguson 8 year sentence for $3.99 bag of cheese.

A California man has been sentenced to up to eight years in prison for stealing a $3.99 (£2.60) bag of shredded cheese in a case critics say shows the need for reform of the state's criminal justice system and the overcrowded state of its prisons.

Robert Ferguson, who prosecutors say has a nearly 30-year record of convictions for burglary and other offences, avoided a life sentence under the state's controversial "three strikes" law after a psychological evaluation deemed him bipolar and unable to control his impulses to steal, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Prosecutor Clinton Parish said Ferguson had spent 22 of the past 27 years behind bars but had failed to show he could obey the law. A judge sentenced him to seven years and eight months in prison, but he could be eligible for parole in three years.

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