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Summary: Holding Political Leadership Accountable Before the Law: Week of September 26

"In a government of law, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy." Justice Louis Brandeis

4 New Items including:

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  • New York Times demands criminal investigation of Bush officials
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  • Other Countries Probing Bush-era Torture — Why Aren't We?
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David Culver, ed., Evergreene Digest

Nate Beeler

New York Times demands criminal investigation of Bush officials, IndictBushNow.org
Medical experiments conducted on torture victims

Other Countries Probing Bush-era Torture — Why Aren't We? Shashank Bengali, McClatchy Newspapers, in Common Dreams
"That's part of why we're so concerned. The Obama administration, rather than investigate the abuses of the last eight years, has increasingly become an obstacle to accountability."

A step backwards on privacy, Anthony D. Romero, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

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  • The Obama administration is proposing its own changes to Electronic Communications Privacy Act ECPA aimed at weakening—not strengthening—your personal on-line privacy.
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  • The administration's plan would allow government officials to obtain more of your personal information using warrantless National Security Letters, without going to court and without any suspicion of wrongdoing.
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Court Dismisses a Case Asserting Torture by C.I.A., Charlie Savage, New York Times | NY

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  • The Obama national security team has also authorized the C.I.A. to try to kill a United States citizen suspected of terrorism ties, blocked efforts by detainees in Afghanistan to bring habeas corpus lawsuits challenging the basis for their imprisonment without trial, and continued the C.I.A.’s so-called extraordinary rendition program of prisoner transfers — though the administration has forbidden torture and says it seeks assurances from other countries that detainees will not be mistreated.
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  • Torture Is a Crime, Not a Secret
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VA to execute first woman in nearly a century


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The U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Bob McDonnell declined to intervene. All her legal appeals have been exhausted, her attorney said.

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Steve Szkotak, Associated Press

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File - This 2007 file photo provided by newsPRos shows Teresa Lewis, 41, is scheduled to die by injection Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010 for trading sex and money in the hired killings of her husband and stepson in October 2002. Virginia's governor has rejected a request to reconsider clemency for Lewis, leaving only the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the state's first execution of a woman in nearly a century. (AP Photo/newsPRos, File)

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Virginia was moving forward Thursday (Sep 23) with its first execution of a woman in nearly a century amid appeals from the European Union and repercussions that reached as far away as Iran.

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Teresa Lewis, 41, was scheduled to die by injection at 9 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt for the October 2002 hired killings of her husband and stepson. To procure the hit men, prosecutors said, she used sex, cash and a promised cut of the insurance benefits the killings would reap her.

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The CIA and Secrecy


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  • Torture gets a free pass
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  • The Bleaker Truth of Anti-Americanism: Torture, Rendition, and Guantánamo
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  • ACLU Report: Obama Continuing Bush-Era Torture Policies
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Boston Globe | MA

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Boston Globe Staff Photo Illustration

A government fighting terrorists and overseas wars has a right to some secrets. At times, the revelation of a specific piece of information -- a name, a location, a date -- could thwart antiterror efforts. But the last two presidential administrations have made a broader argument: plaintiffs who claim they were tortured as a result of illegal CIA kidnappings can't have their cases heard in court, because simply hearing the cases could cast unwanted light on valuable state secrets.

This standard is far too sweeping, because there's a way to honor both the government's need for secrecy and plaintiffs' rights to have their allegations heard. Cases could proceed, but with judges privately evaluating individual pieces of evidence the government claims to be secret and determining on a case-by-case basis which should be admitted. Such a system had already been endorsed by a three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Unfortunately, after a razor-thin ruling by 11 members of that same court, the broader interpretation of the so-called state secrets doctrine will prevail -- unless the Supreme Court decides otherwise.

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The Bleaker Truth of Anti-Americanism: Torture, Rendition, and Guantánamo, Andy Worthington, Common Dreams
On the 9th Anniversary of 9/11, A Call to Close Guantánamo and to Hold Accountable Those Who Authorized Torture

ACLU Report: Obama Continuing Bush-Era Torture Policies, Deborah Weinstein,  TruthOut.org/AlterNet

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  • Fear of an unchecked, unaccountable government permeates the report, particularly in the section about targeted killings.
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  • On torture, U.S. must clean house
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Philadelphia Police Video Taped Beating Stirs Storm of Protest

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  • While the video does show that Sabur is resisting arrest, one can argue that any man being arrested unjustly has a moral right to demand his immediate freedom.
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  • I am not sure why standing on the corner is a crime or why an otherwise law-abiding citizen may now end up in prison when he was simply waiting for his food.
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New America Media

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A video showing Philadelphia police officers beating a man for nearly two minutes has taken the internet by storm. The incident is so shocking that the video has received thousands of views and has also sparked an internal investigation by Philadelphia police.

The incident occurred in West Philadelphia and is two and a half minutes long. The officers are accused of attacking 29-year-old Askia Sabur outside a takeout restaurant in the area on Friday (September 17). What is also interesting is that most of the officers appearing in the video are African American, reminding us that the power of the state is not just a white and black thing.

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Foreclosure Mills: America's Newest Housing Nightmare

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  • Borrowers are getting screwed again as bailed-out banks send their foreclosure dirty work to con artists with a history of breaking the law.
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  • The Forgotten Foreclosure Crisis
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Andy Kroll, Mother Jones/Axis of Logic

David Stern, multi-millionaire lawyer who
 exploits people who are losing their homes.

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Late one night in February 2009, Ariane Ice sat poring over records on the website of Florida's Palm Beach County. She'd been at it for weeks, forsaking sleep to sift through thousands of legal documents. She and her husband, Tom, an attorney, ran a boutique foreclosure defense firm called Ice Legal. (Slogan: "Your home is your castle. Defend it.") Now they were up against one of Florida's biggest foreclosure law firms: Founded by multimillionaire attorney David J. Stern, it controlled one-fifth of the state's booming market in foreclosure-related services. Ice had a strong hunch that Stern's operation was up to something, and that night she found her smoking gun.

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It involved something called an "assignment of mortgage," the document that certifies who owns the property and is thus entitled to foreclose on it. Especially these days, the assignment is key evidence in a foreclosure case: With so many loans having been bought, sold, securitized, and traded, establishing who owns the mortgage is hardly a trivial matter. It frequently requires months of sleuthing in order to untangle the web of banks, brokers, and investors, among others. By law, a firm must execute (complete, sign, and notarize) an assignment before attempting to seize somebody's home.

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The Forgotten Foreclosure Crisis, Think Progress

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  • Without more intervention, the housing market will continue its 'slow motion' adjustment that will continue to inhibit economic growth and drag down consumer spending.
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  • Foreclosures Rise with Unemployment
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