Thursday, October 22, 2009

Your Town Can Demand Justice More Powerfully Than You Can

By David Swanson

Most city council members take oaths to defend the Constitution. The Constitution makes the rights and standards in its amendments and in international treaties the supreme law of the land. Our nation has a rich tradition of local governments lobbying state and national governments through the passage of resolutions. Under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives local governments may petition Congress. Under the First Amendment, we all can.

Just in recent years, on issues of peace and justice, hundreds of cities have passed resolutions in favor of peace, diplomacy, restraint from launching wars, and the cessation of wars in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, including 287 cities, 4 counties, and 17 states on Iraq alone. Through this and many other means, we have thus far prevented an attack on Iran, and we've won over a majority of the country to support ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- which we will eventually end if we keep up the struggle.

Over 100 cities passed resolutions urging the impeachment of Bush and/or Cheney. They have yet to be impeached, but an impeachment push drove Alberto Gonzales out of town, may yet nail Jay Bybee and bring down the whole criminal power structure, and has solidly laid the groundwork for prosecutions. In fact, three cities have already passed ordinances committing their police to arresting Bush or Cheney should they dare to visit. I strongly recommend that your town do the same, as well as publicly backing the impeachment of torture-memo author Jay Bybee.

Meanwhile, Berkeley, Calif., has now joined United Nations human rights treaties that are not supported or complied with by the United States as a whole. And Amherst, Mass., may invite released Guantanamo victims to settle within its welcoming borders.

Perhaps most impressively, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) has led a campaign that has seen 414 local, county, and state resolutions passed defending our civil rights against abuses in the PATRIOT Act, and committing local police to noncooperation with federal violations of rights that were created by the U.S. Constitution.

Now the BORDC is launching a campaign to pass a pair of new ordinances, which I cannot recommend more strongly. These are powerful tools for restoring the rule of law and defending our civil rights. Passage of resolutions by towns often leads to their passage by states and to support for their substance by congress members, as well as to public education and a shift in media discourse.

The first model resolution offered by BORDC (which you can alter to suit local needs) limits local law enforcement efforts in support of federal warrantless spying. Of course, local and state police, as Americans, are required to comply with the Fourth Amendment anyway. But what happens when the feds say otherwise? This explicit legislation backs up those who take a stand.

The second model resolution is even more important. It places your town on record supporting federal and requiring local criminal investigations into torture. It includes an optional clause requiring the arrest of accused torturers as in the three ordinances noted above.

A third resolution that I can imagine but have not drafted would be modeled on this torture accountability resolution and require a criminal investigation of warrantless spying, which is not only unconstitutional but also illegal under state law in most states.

While we understand that there is strength in numbers in the abstract, too seldom do we employ that power through our levels of government from the smallest and most democratic up to the largest and most corrupt. Together, our towns can save our country, if we force our local representatives to take action.

David Swanson is the author of the new book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town:

David Swanson is the author of the new book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town:

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Connie L. Nash said...

Your Town Can Demand Justice More Powerfully Than You Can
By David Swanson (with strong reference to the work of The Bill of Rights Defense Committee I am wondering if as methodically slow as this process may seem we may win back the rule of law and peace worldwide - inevitably - by following this same process in every state and nation's town? (and in the process, whether or not there is buy in right away, we are educating the masses about their own country's best laws and about which most are ignorant?)

Please read the following and forward widely...

Connie L. Nash said...

What's new (at bordc dot org):
Your community can do what the federal government won't

BORDC has developed two model ordinances for consideration by city councils across the country. These ordinances, which will have the force of law where enacted, allow individual municipalities to do what the federal government will not: protect the fundamental rights and liberties of law-abiding Americans to be free of arbitrary monitoring, surveillance, detention, search, or arrest by local law enforcement authorities; and bring to justice senior government officials complicit in torture.
Disbar the torture lawyers: Sign on today

While the Attorney General contemplates a limited investigation scapegoating junior officials who violated "approved" torture techniques, BORDC and allies (including the National Lawyers Guild and Velvet Revolution) are pursuing ethics complaints against former senior officials licensed to practice law. Sign our letters in support of disbarment.
Read our blog!

Our blog contains the latest news, commentary, and action opportunities on secrecy, surveillance, detention, and torture. Read to keep yourself informed!

Current Civil Liberties Issues
Senators introduce bills to reform the PATRIOT Act

On Constitution Day, September 17, Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the JUSTICE Act (S. 1686), aimed at fixing provisions of the PATRIOT Act and other laws that endanger Americans' civil rights and liberties.

The following week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced an alternative bill, the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act, which includes some important reforms to PATRIOT Act provisions, but does not go as far as the JUSTICE Act to protect Americans' liberty and privacy.

Read more about the two bills and what you can do to support the JUSTICE Act in our action alert.

Want to take action on these civil liberties issues? Find your legislators' contact information.
GO to bordc dot org (often!)

Connie L. Nash said...

In the News (from BORDC dot org and also go directly to the Bill of Rights News by clicking on bordc dot org slash news -LATEST:

11/5, James Bamford, New York Review of Books, Who's in Big Brother's Database?

10/22, Editorial, Khaleej Times (UAE), After Gitmo, Bagram Must Go

10/21, Matt Ehling, MinnPost, Learning the lessons of the Patriot Act

10/21, Katie Redding, Colorado Independent, Polis: '287(g)' immigration crackdown laws create 'sweep of terror'

10/21, Bob Kinzel, Vermont Public Radio, Leahy Criticized For Patriot Act Revisions

10/21, Adam Serwer, TAPPED: Blog of The American Prospect, House Dems, The PATRIOT Act, And The Homeland Security Bill