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Online ranters increasingly pay a legal price

While bloggers may have a free-speech right to say what they want online, courts have found they are not protected from lawsuits, even if comments are anonymous. Some postings have led to criminal charges.

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David G. Savage,  Seattle Times | WA

The Internet has allowed tens of millions of Americans to be published writers. But it also has led to a surge in lawsuits from those who say they were hurt, defamed or threatened by what they read, according to groups that track media lawsuits.

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"It was probably inevitable, but we have seen a steady growth in litigation over content on the Internet," said Sandra Baron, executive director of the Media Law Resource Center in New York.

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While bloggers may have a free-speech right to say what they want online, courts have found they are not protected from lawsuits, even if comments are anonymous. Some postings have led to criminal charges.

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Hal Turner, a right-wing blogger from New Jersey, faces up to 10 years in prison for posting a comment that three Chicago judges "deserve to be killed" for having rejected a Second Amendment challenge to the city's handgun ban in 2009.

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Summary: Holding Political Leadership Accountable Before the Law: Week of August 22

"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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  • ACLU Report: Obama Continuing Bush-Era Torture Policies
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  • Center for Torture Accountability lists St. Thomas Professor  Delahunty as deserving probe
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David Culver, ed., Evergreene Digest

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Bob Englehart

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Big Brother: Obama Demands Access to Internet Records, in Secret, and Without Court Review, Tom Burghardt, Global Research

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  • Internet users do not give up their privacy rights when they log on, and the FBI should not have the power to secretly demand that ISPs turn over constitutionally protected information about their users without a court order.
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  • ACLU Report: Obama Continuing Bush-Era Torture Policies
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ACLU Report: Obama Continuing Bush-Era Torture Policies, Deborah Weinstein,  TruthOut.org, in 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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Other Countries Probing Bush-era Torture — Why Aren't We? Shashank Bengali, the 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."

Center for Torture Accountability lists St. Thomas Professor Delahunty as deserving probe, The Center for Torture Accountability
Delahunty helps John Yoo write memos making legal case for suspending constitutional rights and protections

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Second Circuit Ruling Reverses Lower Court's Decision in ACORN

A deeply conservative panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the multiple victories we had in the lower court.

Bill Quigley, Center for Constitutional Rights

We have gotten some of our best feedback from friends and allies this year on our work defending ACORN, so I am sorry to have to pass along the news that a deeply conservative panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the multiple victories we had in the lower court.

The panel somehow found that ACORN was not being punished when Congress cut off its funding based on rightwing grandstanding, FOX news rants and a video that turned out to be a lie. The court did find that ACORN had standing to sue, just not on Bill of Attainder grounds, and they sent the case back to the District Court to look at possible First Amendment and due process violations.

The Bill of Attainder provision in the U.S. Constitution says that no person or organization may be singled out for punishment by the government without benefit of a trial. The appeals court turned our argument on its head and declared that since hundreds of unspecified allied organizations might be affected by the de-funding it was perfectly legitimate since Congress did not just single out ACORN!   

Though ACORN has obviously been seriously damaged by this campaign, they continue to struggle on and make the best of their situation, while government and independent investigations clear them of wrongdoing again and again. But because we cannot stand by and let this ruling empower the targeting of other politically vulnerable groups like ACORN, we will fight this deeply flawed decision. We will be seeking en banc review by the entire Second Circuit, and will keep you posted on our progress.

For more information visit our case page. Thank you for standing with us and our allies at ACORN. The fight continues!

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Other Countries Probing Bush-era Torture — Why Aren't We?

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"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."

Shashank Bengali, the McClatchy Newspapers, in Common Dreams

In June, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a Canadian man who contends that U.S. authorities mistook him for an al Qaida operative in 2002 and shipped him to a secret prison in Syria, where he was beaten with electrical cables and held in a grave-like cell for 10 months.

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Four years earlier, however, the Canadian government had concluded an exhaustive inquiry and found that the former prisoner, Maher Arar, was telling the truth. Canada cleared Arar of all ties to terrorism and paid him $10 million in damages, and his lawyers say he's cooperating with an investigation into the role of U.S. and Syrian officials in his imprisonment and reported torture.

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