Monday, September 30, 2013

Writing Off Lives


September 30, 2013

Writing Off Lives


The prison population in the United States has declined modestly in recent years after three decades of growth. This is partly the result of saner sentencing policies for nonviolent drug offenders, who are more likely to be given probation and drug treatment than in the past.

At the same time, however, the number of people in prison for life has more than quadrupled since 1984 and continues to grow at a startling pace. The zealous pursuit of these sentences began in the 1970s, becoming something of a fad; it is past time to revisit the practice.

A new study from the Sentencing Project, a research group, found that one in nine inmates, about 160,000 people, is serving a life sentence. Nearly one-third of these prisoners are serving life without parole. Many of these lifers were convicted of nonviolent crimes or of crimes that occurred before they turned 18.

For much of the 20th century, a sentence as harsh as life without parole was rarely used. Instead, a person sentenced to “life” — for murder, say — could be released after 15 years when the parole board determined that he or she had been rehabilitated and no longer posed a threat. This began to change during the drug war years. Harsher sentences once reserved for people convicted of capital crimes were expanded to include robbery, assault and nonviolent drug offenses. States restricted the use of parole and governors who feared being portrayed as soft on crime began to deny virtually all clemency requests.

Research shows lengthy sentences do nothing to improve public safety. But these long sentences are turning prisons into geriatric centers where the cost of care is prohibitively high. The practice of routinely locking up people forever — especially young people — also ignores the potential for rehabilitation. The whole trend is deeply counterproductive. States need to encourage more rational sentencing, restore the use of executive clemency and bring parole back into the corrections process.


Friday, September 27, 2013

November 13: White House Tribal Nations Conference

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

September 27, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – On Wednesday, November 13, President Obama will host the White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of the Interior. The conference will provide leaders from the 566 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with the President and members of the White Hous...e Council on Native American Affairs. Each federally recognized tribe will be invited to send one representative to the conference. This will be the fifth White House Tribal Nations Conference for the Obama Administration, and continues to build upon the President’s commitment to strengthen the government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and to improve the lives of Native Americans. Additional details about the conference will be released at a later date

Maryland Native American Tribe No Longer Extinct

CHARLES COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — After decades of struggle, a Native American tribe in Maryland is no longer extinct.

Alex DeMetrick reports the Piscataway-Conoy tribe knew it was here all along. Now the state finally agrees.

One of the oldest Catholic graveyards in the country overlooks the Port Tobacco River in Charles County, land once home to the Piscataway-Conoy tribe.

“We supposedly died out in 1699. We couldn’t figure out how did everyone die,” said Tribal chairwoman Mervin Savoy.

Actually, Savoy’s father and her mother started the quest for tribal recognition 40 years ago. This week, after decades of paperwork and document hunts, Governor Martin O’Malley made it official: the Piscataway-Conoys are a living tribe.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Declassified Documents Reveal NSA Spied On Martin Luther King and Others

Newly-declassified documents reveal that the National Security Agency targeted one of America's most revered civil rights icons.

The National Security Archive at George Washington University released the information Wednesday, showing that Martin Luther King Jr. was on the agency's watch list during the 1960s. Also mentioned as targets in the report were fellow civil rights leader Whitney Young, boxer Muhammad Ali, and two prominent members of Congress, Sens. Frank Church (D-Idaho) and Howard Baker (R-Tennessee). The program was also viewed by some officials as "disreputable if not outright illegal," the report adds.


For more, read the full National Security Archive report here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Trafficking Native Children: The Seamy Underbelly of U.S. Adoption Industry

Jeremy Simmons was heartbroken, baffled and confused. He had been living with his girlfriend, Crystal Tarbox, in Mannford, Oklahoma, when she became pregnant in August, 2012. But in March of this year, he says she moved out when she was seven months pregnant. Without a trace, she was gone.

For the next two months, Simmons, 27, searched for Tarbox, who was 23 at the time and already the mother of two small children. Worried about her and their unborn baby, he says he asked everyone he knew about her condition and whereabouts, and tried every possible means to find her. Her relatives, who are members of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, were also unaware of what was about to happen.


Judge Rules in Favor of Oglala Voting Rights Plaintiffs

A judge has refused to allow defendants in the recently dismissed Brooks v. Gant voting-rights lawsuit to go after the Oglala plaintiffs for court costs. Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier dismissed the suit after the defendants agreed to provide what the plaintiffs requested — a full-time early-voting polling place for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The defendants, who are state and county election officials, promised to do so through 2018, which meant the case was no longer “ripe,” with imminent harm.

Sara Frankenstein, attorney for the county officials, then asked the court to bill the 25 plaintiffs for more than $6,000 in court costs — an idea that Judge Schreier called “unjust.” In a tautly worded September 19 opinion, the judge said it took a lawsuit to get the defendants to cooperate and “provide the relief sought by the plaintiffs.” Had the officials done so from the start, wrote the judge, “they could have avoided the costs they are now seeking.”

Clarice Mesteth, an Oglala single mother, said she and other plaintiffs were “relieved.” She added, “We couldn’t believe they wanted us to pay because we asked for the same access to voting that the rest of South Dakota gets.”

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bolivian president to sue US govt for crimes against humanity

Bolivian President Evo Morales will file a lawsuit against the US government for crimes against humanity. He has decried the US for its intimidation tactics and fear-mongering after the Venezuelan presidential jet was blocked from entering US airspace.

“I would like to announce that we are preparing a lawsuit against Barack Obama to condemn him for crimes against humanity,” said President Morales at a press conference in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz. He branded the US president as a “criminal” who violates international law.
In solidarity with Venezuela, Bolivia will begin preparing a lawsuit against the US head of state to be taken to the international court. Furthermore, Morales has called an emergency meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to discuss what has been condemned by Venezuela as “an act of intimidation by North American imperialism.” 


Leonard Peltier International Tribunal on the Abuse of Indigenous Human Rights

Leonard Peltier International Tribunal
on the
Abuse of Indigenous Human Rights

02-04 October 2013

Radisson Hotel and Conference Center
2040 Airport Drive
Green Bay, Wisconsin 54313

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To make a tax deductible donation, send a check or money order made payable to "Wind Chases the Sun," a 501(c)3 tax exempt entity. Send your donation to Wind Chases the Sun, N5679 Skylark Drive, DePere, WI 54115.


Jack Healey—Director, Human Rights Action Center; former director of Amnesty International-USA

Nise Guzman-Nekheba—Professor, Florida A&M University College of Law

Peter Grant—Attorney in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the forefront of the legal struggle of Aboriginal peoples in Canada; involved with the Peltier extradition

Wilton Little Child—Ermineskin Cree Nation, lawyer and former Member of Parliament (Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada 1988-1993); founder of International Organization of Resource Development

Alberto Saldamondo—Human Rights Attorney

Audri Scott Williams—Peace walker, human rights activist, author, and producer

Shannon Rivers—Akimel O’odham, U.S.-Mexico border struggles, served on Peltier Committee

Tatewin Means—Attorney General, Lakota Oglala Nation, Pine Ridge Reservation

Preliminary List of Witnesses (Confirmed)

Bill Means—Co-Founder of the International Indian Treaty Council; American Indian Movement

Clyde Bellecourt—Co-Founder of American Indian Movement

Herb Powless—Co-Founder of American Indian Movement

Larry Anderson—Co-Founder of American Indian Movement

Dino Butler—American Indian Movement

Yvonne Swan—Of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and formerly with the International Indian Treaty Council, has worked for the improvement of her community and to protect the environment

Dennis Banks—Co-Founder of American Indian Movement

Apesanahkwet—One of the five founding Chiefs of the Menominee Warriors Society; former Chairman of the Menominee Nation for eight terms

Kenneth (Bum Bum) Fish—One of the five founding Chiefs of the Menominee Warriors Society; former member of the Menominee Legislature; former Director of Mining Impacts

John Thomas—American Indian Movement

Charlotte Black Elk—Political and environmental Indigenous activist, and a primary advocate for the Lakota peoples regarding the Black Hills Land Claim

Kevin McKiernan—Journalist and veteran foreign correspondent; and documentary filmmaker

Lenny Foster—Board member for the International Indian Treaty Council and program supervisor, Navajo Nation Corrections Project

Madonna Thunderhawk—One of the original members of the American Indian Movement, and a long-time community organizer with experience in Indian rights protection, cultural preservation, economic development and environmental justice

Manny Pino—Professor, Scottsdale Community College, Arizona; has worked with the Indigenous Environmental Network and is co-founder of Laguna Acoma for a Safe Environment

Rosalyn Jumping Bull will testify by Skype

Tom Poor Bear—Vice-President, Oglala Sioux Tribe


American Indians: Protect Treaty Territory from White Supremacists in North Dakota

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Updated Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013


LEITH, North Dakota -- Native Americans are calling for peacekeepers to protect the Treaty Territory and support the local community of Leith on Sunday, when neo-Nazi white supremacists plan to invade and take over the town.

The Last Real Indians sent out this message, which was shared 315 times in 40 minutes on Saturday night on Facebook. On Sunday morning, it had been shared 725 times in eight hours.

On Saturday night, Last Real Indians, comprised of Native American journalists, said, "Tomorrow is the Caravan to Leith, North Dakota, where the white supremacists movement will host a meeting to protect their hateful pursuit to take over that town."

"We need our vets, our brothers, our hunters, and anyone that cares to protect the safety of our children to come help in our peacekeeping force. Be there by 1 pm Central to be sure we join the good evolving citizens of North Dakota to protect Treaty Territory."


Daughter of Martin Luther King backs First Nations

Economic injustice in Canada must be dealt with as a part of the reconciliation process with the First Nations, says the daughter of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The remarks were made by Bernice King, who is the president of the King Center for Non-Violent Social Change, on Saturday in Vancouver, a day ahead of the start of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission concerning the controversial residential school system.

King said a history of pain and abuse cannot be erased with an apology, and money for programs will not undo the suffering that can take generations to overcome, but empowering people with economic opportunities is the key to their well being.

In addition, King said she had felt helpless hearing about the neglect suffered by young aboriginals who were forcibly taken from their homes and sent to the government-funded residential schools, where many were subjected to emotional, physical and sexual mistreatment.


Friday, September 20, 2013

World Conference of Indigenous Women

World Conference of Indigenous Women
Call for Participation

The World Conference of Indigenous Women, entitled “Progress and Challenges Regarding the Future We Want”, is a strategic opportunity that will enable indigenous youth and women from the seven regions of the world (Latin America, North America, Asia, Pacific, Africa, Arctic, Russia) to be informed, reach consensus and establish a common, political statement as a world-level indigenous women's movement.

This conference will take place in Lima, Peru from 28 to 30 October, 2013 under the coordination of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA) and the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF). Also involved in this process are the Alianza de Mujeres Indígenas de Centroamerica y Mexico, CHIRAPAQ - Centre for Indigenous Cultures of Peru, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), the Africa Indigenous Women's Organization, the Indigenous Information Network, the Asian Indigenous Women's Network, and the Pacific Indigenous Women's Network.

This global conference, with global participation, will promote opportunities for dialogue, the generation of consensual proposals and the establishment of political statements based on indigenous women’s perspectives at global level. The Conference will also contribute to advocacy at international processes advancing towards 2015 and the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

Delegates' profile

  • Indigenous women leaders who belong to indigenous women's organizations from different regions of the world.
  • Indigenous women representing mixed indigenous organizations and regional/sub-regional networks, whose actions specifically involve indigenous women at regional and international levels.

The World Conference of Indigenous Women will provide interpretation in Spanish, English, French and Russian.


Indigenous women interested in participating in the World Conference of Indigenous Women should write an e-mail to: and/or sending the registration form attached to this call by September 30, 2013 at the latest.


A limited number of scholarships a available for indigenous women from national, regional and international organizations. The Scholarship Committee will select the delegates.


For further information, please write to: and/or

Owe Aku International Justice Project: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

On Friday, September 13, 2013, Owe Aku International Justice Project, on behalf of the Oyuhpa Tiyospaye of the Oglala Lakota Oyate, a band of the Lakota Nation within the Oceti Sakowin (the Seven Council Fires), submitted its report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee for the review of the United States of America under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Standing on inherent sovereignty, the right of Indigenous peoples to self-determination, the ancient traditional governance of the the Lakota tiyospaye and treaties made with foreign governments, the independent report opens with:

“While Owe Aku has observed countless US violations of Indigenous rights in the United States, especially in light of the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the “Declaration”), Owe Aku’s report to the HRC will address its two central concerns: (1) the United States’ consistent failure to recognize, honor and enforce Indigenous treaty and self-determination rights, both as a matter of its municipal law and in its international positions, and (2) the propriety need for an international mechanism for vindicating Indigenous sovereign and treaty rights. The Rights set forth in the Declaration are consistent with those set forth in the ICCPR.”

Submission here:  ICCPRFinal.pdf

Owe Aku International Justice Project
Advocate for Lakota Treaties & Mother Earth

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Attorney General Holder: American criminal justice system is in need of targeted reform

Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the 
Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
Criminal Justice Issues Forum
 September 19, 2013
Thank you, Congresswoman [Maxine] Waters, for those kind words – and for your leadership in helping to raise awareness, and build support, for reforms and improvements to America’s criminal justice system.  I know you have been a strong and consistent voice on these issues for many years.  And I am particularly grateful for everything that you and your colleagues from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation have done to bring us together for today’s important forum.

Of course, as we come together this afternoon, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of Monday’s deadly mass shooting – just a short distance from here, at the Washington Navy Yard.  Our hearts go out to all those who suffered injuries or lost friends and loved ones.  We are deeply grateful for the valor of law enforcement personnel whose brave actions prevented this tragedy from claiming even more lives.  In the days ahead – as our comprehensive investigation, led by the FBI, moves forward – I want to assure the families of those killed, and the American people, that the full resources of the Department of Justice will be made available to support our law enforcement partners.  And my colleagues and I remain committed to combating all forms of gun violence, preventing future tragedies, and working with Congress to fulfill the desire of the American people to take common-sense steps to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands.  It is past time for us to come to grips with the causes of these too frequent tragedies. 

As we work to advance these and other efforts, I’d like to thank all of you for your continued focus, and leadership, on a variety of issues you’re discussing this week – particularly when it comes to our nation’s criminal justice system.  I want to thank each of our expert panelists for lending their voices, their perspectives, and their expertise to this critical conversation.  It’s a privilege to join such a distinguished group – of friends, dedicated partners, and passionate advocates – in confronting persistent challenges; discussing recent advances, including the significant reforms I announced last month; and reaffirming our shared commitment to America’s founding and enduring principles – of equality, opportunity, and justice under law – that must continue to guide our steps forward.

Since this group’s founding more than three and a half decades ago, these are the values that have driven the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to help lead the fight against racial, economic, health, and social disparities wherever they are found.  Over the years – thanks to leaders in, and far beyond, this room – this organization has performed exemplary work, awarding more than $10 million in scholarships, along with countless internships and fellowships, in order to inspire and empower new generations of leaders.  You’ve come together – at events like this one – to tackle difficult and divisive issues, and to advance the cause of freedom and justice.  You’ve rallied public officials, business leaders, civil rights pioneers, and concerned citizens to help overcome the challenges that too often face underserved – and, in many cases, predominantly African-American – communities across the country.  And today, you’re standing on the leading edge of national efforts to expand and extend civil rights and voting rights protections; to build a brighter, more inclusive future for all of our citizens; and to forge the safer neighborhoods, the stronger communities, and the more just society that every American deserves.

As we come together this afternoon – here in our nation’s capital – few policy questions are more difficult, or more urgent, than the challenge we’ve gathered to discuss.  America’s criminal justice system is in need of targeted reform.  Throughout this country, too many Americans are trapped – and too many communities are weakened – by a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration.  Too many people go to too many prisons for far too long – and for no truly good law enforcement reason.  The U.S. prison population has grown at an astonishing rate over the last three decades – by almost 800 percent since 1980, despite the fact that America’s overall population has increased by only about a third.  As we speak, more than 219,000 federal inmates are currently behind bars.  Almost half are serving time for drug-related crimes.  And many have substance use disorders.

Outside of the federal system, an additional nine to 10 million people cycle through local jails each year.  And roughly 40 percent of former federal prisoners – along with more than 60 percent of former state prisoners – are rearrested or have their supervision revoked within three years after their release, at great cost to American taxpayers. 

It’s clear, in a broad sense, that 20th-century criminal justice solutions are just not adequate to address the 21st century challenges we face.  There’s no question that incarceration will always have a role to play in our criminal justice system.  But there’s also no denying that widespread incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels imposes significant human and moral costs – as well as a tremendous economic burden, totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone.

Especially in times of widespread budgetary difficulties and federal sequestration – when leaders at every level of government have been asked to do more with less – we must resolve, as a country and as a people, to do much better.

This is something the President and I have been talking about for as long as I’ve known him.  Together, we’ve worked hard over the years to protect our communities, to keep violent criminals off our streets, and to make sure those who break the law are held accountable.  And we’ve made progress.  But the President also believes – as I do – that our work is far from finished.

It’s time – in fact, it’s well past time – to take a fundamentally new approach.  And today, I am proud to join you in working to ensure that – in this area and many others – the scales of justice find a more appropriate balance. 

With this goal in mind, at the beginning of this year, I launched a targeted Justice Department review of our federal criminal justice system.  Last month, in a speech before the American Bar Association, I announced the results of this review – which include a series of sweeping changes to strengthen this system, to address problems and inefficiencies, and to make the system smarter, fairer, and more effective for everyone in this country.  We can begin by taking a pragmatic approach – and fundamentally rethinking the notion of mandatory minimum sentences for certain federal, low-level drug crimes.  Some federal drug statutes that mandate inflexible sentences – regardless of the individual conduct at issue in a particular case – do not serve public safety when they’re applied indiscriminately.  Because they oftentimes generate unfairly long sentences, they breed disrespect for the system.  Used inappropriately, they can be counterproductive.  And they have had an unmistakable destabilizing effect on particular communities – largely poor and of color.

Last month, I took action to change this – by modifying the Justice Department’s charging policies so that people charged with certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenses – individuals without ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels – will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences.  Instead, they will be charged with offenses for which the appropriate sentences are better suited to their individual conduct.

I am pleased to announce today that the Department has issued new guidance to apply our updated charging policy not only to new matters but also to pending cases where the defendant was charged before the policy was issued but is still awaiting adjudication of guilt.  By reserving the most severe prison terms for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers or kingpins, we can better enhance public safety.  We can increase our focus on proven strategies for deterrence and rehabilitation.  And we can do so while making our expenditures smarter and more productive.

I want to thank all of the Department’s hardworking prosecutors and investigators, as well as our state and local partners, who handle these cases on a daily basis – standing on the front lines of our efforts to combat drug crimes and protect our citizens from the devastating effects of drug abuse.  Their work is tremendously important, and it is valued.  And these policy changes – whose implementation they are leading – will help ensure that their work continues to have the greatest possible positive impact in communities across the country. 

I also want to thank members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and many others who are here today – especially Congresswoman Waters – for their steady leadership in helping to build bipartisan support for similar reforms in Congress.  Alongside dedicated colleagues like Senators Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul, you’re advocating for promising legislation that would reform drug mandatory minimums, keep our communities safer – and, ultimately, save our country billions of dollars.

In addition – in recent months – the Justice Department also has updated its framework for considering compassionate release for some inmates who face extraordinary or compelling circumstances, and who pose no threat to the public.  Of course, as our primary responsibility, we must ensure public safety.  But considering the applications of certain people with convictions for nonviolent offenses – such as individuals seeking release on medical grounds, or elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and have served significant portions of their sentences – is the right thing to do.  It is the smart thing to do.  And it will allow the Bureau of Prisons to evaluate compassionate release applications through a careful review process before each case comes before a judge – who will make a final determination on whether release is warranted.

Appropriate use of this statutory authority will enable us to use our limited resources to incarcerate those who pose the greatest threat.  With this goal in mind, the Department is also working to promote and strengthen diversion programs – such as drug rehabilitation and community service initiatives – that can provide more effective alternatives to incarceration for some who come into contact with our criminal justice system.  Our United States Attorneys are leading the way in this regard – working with members of the judiciary to meet safety imperatives while avoiding incarceration in some cases.  More broadly, through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, the Justice Department is bringing state leaders, local stakeholders, private partners, and federal officials together to reform corrections and criminal justice practices.  Already, these efforts have shown tremendous promise.

A total of 17 states – supported by the Department, and led by governors and legislators of both parties – have in recent years directed funding away from prison construction and toward evidence-based programs and services.  Many of these states have seen drops in recidivism rates and prison populations, without negatively impacting public safety.  As a result, while our federal prison system has continued to slowly expand, significant state-level reductions have led to three consecutive years of decline in America’s overall prison population – including, in 2012, the largest drop ever experienced in a single year.

These results, and many others, prove that these strategies can work.  Common-sense criminal justice reforms can make a profound, positive difference in the lives of millions of people.  And that’s why I have directed every U.S. Attorney to designate a Prevention and Reentry Coordinator in his or her district – to ensure that this work is, and will remain, a top priority – and to help more formerly incarcerated individuals successfully rejoin their communities; become productive members of society; and strengthen crime-afflicted neighborhoods across the country. 

After all, this is about much more than fairness for those who are released from prison.  It’s a matter of public safety.  It makes plain economic sense.  And it’s predicated on the notion that – although the aggressive enforcement of federal criminal statutes will always be necessary – in the fight against crime and violence, we will never be able to prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation. 

On the contrary: my colleagues and I recognize – as you do – that we must never stop being tough on crime.  But it’s past time that we recommit ourselves to an approach that is both smarter and more efficient when battling crime and the conditions – and individual choices – that breed it.  So as we move forward with these and other reforms – and as we consider additional improvements in the future – we will continue to stand and work alongside you, drawing upon your experience, relying on your expertise, and depending on your engagement to refine and strengthen each new proposal.

Together, we have an urgent obligation to improve our system and tackle the most difficult questions and the most costly problems.  We know that these reforms, and others we may consider in the months and years ahead, will not take hold overnight.

But I’m confident that – as long as we work together, and continue to support and stand alongside the dedicated prosecutors and investigators who work hard every day to keep our communities safe – we will be able to bring about the positive difference we seek.  By your presence here today – and your participation in this important forum – the leaders and supporters of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation have reaffirmed your dedication to this fight, and your commitment to advancing the work we share.  On behalf of my colleagues across the U.S. Department of Justice and throughout the Obama Administration, I thank you for your passion, your input, and your ideas.  I look forward to working closely with you to carry these efforts into the future.  And I will always be grateful to count you as colleagues – and as critical partners – as we strive to forge the safer, more equal, and more just society that all of our citizens deserve.

Thank you, once again, for all that you do.  I appreciate the chance to be here today.  And I’m counting on you all.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unleashed and Unaccountable: New Report on the FBI, Unchecked Abuse of Authority

The ACLU’s new report on the FBI, “Unleashed and Unaccountable,” details how the bureau’s investigative and intelligence collection authorities have changed since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and how these changes have opened the door to a new era of abuse. Among the most troubling of these abuses are programs and policies that appear to show the FBI continues to harbor disturbing attitudes.

The FBI remains widely admired on Capitol Hill and within the Obama administration, despite a record of extraordinary abuse—particularly targeting racial and religious minorities, immigrants, and protest groups under the guise of counterterrorism after 9/11.

The abuse, enabled by a roll-back of post-Watergate intelligence reforms and encouraged by long-standing Justice Department and FBI practices, has subverted internal and external oversight by squelching whistleblowers, imposing and enforcing unnecessary secrecy, and actively misleading Congress and the American people.
Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI's Unchecked Abuse of Authority documents this extraordinary expansion of FBI power over the last 12 years.



A Call for FBI Reform

Early this summer, the Guardian published a monster story.

According to a document it obtained from a government whistleblower, later revealed as National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, the Guardian reported that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ordered Verizon Business Services to turn over all the records of its subscribers' telephone calls on a daily ongoing basis for 90 days to the NSA. The order covered all records of calls between "the United States and abroad" and "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls." Soon after, it became apparent that this government demand wasn't an exception but the rule for the last seven years, with similar record requests delivered to all the major phone companies.

Three months later, there's no doubt the leak will be remembered for igniting the long overdue debate over civil liberties and security in the United States, as well as making the secretive NSA a household name. The critical role of one agency deeply involved in this scandal has not been fully examined, however, even though it requested the FISA Court order compelling companies to participate in the NSA's bulk phone records collection program.

That agency is the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Since 9/11, the FBI has once again transformed itself into a domestic intelligence agency with the unprecedented power to peer into the lives of ordinary Americans and secretly amass data about people not suspected of any wrongdoing. Through laws passed by Congress, such as the PATRIOT Act, as well as revisions to internal investigative guidelines meant to curb the abuses of the past, the FBI now has the authority to investigate and collect information on Americans without any evidence that they've committed a crime.

With so much power, the result was predictable.

Over the last 12 years, FBI agents have abused the new powers they were given to unfairly target immigrants, racial and religious minorities, and political dissidents for surveillance, infiltration, investigation, and disruption. Specifically, the ACLU has uncovered and documented persistent abuses, including warrantless wiretapping, racial and religious profiling, biased counterterrorism training materials, politically motivated investigations, abusive detention and interrogation practices, and misuse of the No-Fly List to recruit informants.

Tomorrow, the ACLU will release a report, "Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI's Unchecked Abuse of Authority," documenting the bureau's expanded post-9/11 authorities, their impact on civil liberties in the United States, and the FBI's evasion of oversight that enables abuses to continue today. Twelve years after 9/11, its time for the attorney general and Congress to revisit the extraordinary powers given to the federal government's premier law enforcement agency in the haze of tragedy and initiate a top-to-bottom review of FBI policies and practices to identify and curtail any activities that are unconstitutional or easily misused.

The FBI serves a crucial role in protecting Americans from criminals and terrorists, but it must do so while guarding and respecting the rights that make the United States worth protecting. Liberty and security are not mutually exclusive: we can be both safe and free.

Mr. President: Iran Did It, You Can too

Iran Frees Political Prisoners on Eve of President’s Visit to U.S.

TEHRAN — On the eve of a visit by Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, to the United States, the Iranian authorities on Wednesday unexpectedly freed 11 of Iran’s most prominent political prisoners, including Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer.
Mr. President -- We social justice, civil liberties and other human rights advocates and activists of all stripes, whatever our particular organizational focus, are all fighting  for the same goal: to ensure the dignity of every person in the U.S. and to hold the government accountable for protecting and fulfilling  our human rights.

Yes, you can. You can honor the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.The ICCPR treaty offers a broad range of protections including the rights to vote, gender equality, organize, move and to travel, as well as freedoms from discrimination, torture and illegal detention, freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of and from religion, and many other civil and political rights. 

Yes, you can.  You can protect these rights.

Yes, you can improve relations with countries around the world by leading on human rights issues and by protecting our civil and political rights at home.

Iranian officials deny that there are any political prisoners in Iran. Yet, Iran's President has released those very political prisoners.

U.S. officials deny that there are any political prisoners in the United States, too.  What will you do?

Mr. President, before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, 24 September, in New York City -- Yes, you can.

Yes, you can. You can free U.S. political prisoners.
Yes, you can. You can free Leonard Peltier.

A Handwritten Letter the Prison System Does Not Want You to See

Last Wednesday, amid nationwide services commemorating the 12th anniversary of the terror attacks upon America, the Bureau of Prisons, through the Justice Department, issued a statement for "immediate release" to the media and the public. "Staff Assault Contained," was the headline of the one-paragraph announcement about an incident that had occurred behind bars that very morning.

The feds wanted everyone to know, immediately, that prison officials had restrained a violent inmate who had inflicted "non-life threatening injuries" upon a few staff members. That's the kind of news the Bureau of Prisons likes to share with the world. It suggests to outsiders an environment within the nation's federal prison system where officials are in control — and capable of responding "quickly and efficiently" to warning signs of danger from inmates. 

But what federal officials did not rush to disclose that day —  indeed, what it has not been publicly disclosed until now — is that another prisoner, a man named Robert Gerald Knott, was found hanging dead in his cell on September 7th, the evident victim of yet another suicide at ADX-Florence. That is definitely the sort of news that the Bureau of Prisons generally does not rush to trumpet to the world because it suggests to outsiders an unconstitutional level of chaos and disorder within the federal prison system that can result in the death of a man who is required by law to be protected from himself.


Justice Department Awards Millions to Enhance, Support Tribal Justice and Safety

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Justice Department Awards $90 Million to Enhance, Support Tribal Justice and Safety
Streamlined Grant Program Offers Financial Assistance with Indian Tribes’ Prevention and Law Enforcement Efforts, Victim Services and Youth Programs
The Department of Justice today announced the awarding of 192 grants to 110 American Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages, tribal consortia and tribal designated non-profits.  The grants will provide more than $90 million to enhance law enforcement practices and sustain crime prevention and intervention efforts in nine purpose areas including public safety and community policing; justice systems planning; alcohol and substance abuse; corrections and correctional alternatives; violence against women; juvenile justice; and tribal youth programs.  The awards are made through the department’s Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS), a single application for tribal-specific grant programs.

Associate Attorney General Tony West and Office of Justice Programs Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason made the announcement during a meeting of northwest tribal leaders with the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee’s Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS) in Celilo Village, Ore.

“These programs take a community-based and comprehensive approach to the root causes and consequences of crime, as well as target areas of possible intervention and treatment,” said Associate Attorney General West.  “The CTAS programs are critical tools to help reverse unacceptably high rates of crime in Indian country, and they are a product of the shared commitment by the Department of Justice and tribal nations to strengthen and sustain healthy communities today and for future generations.”

“The Department of Justice has a responsibility to make sure its resources are not only available but accessible to tribes in a manner that they have defined and envisioned to meet the needs of their communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Mason.  “As we have shown over the last four years, the Department of Justice takes this responsibility very seriously.”

 The department developed CTAS through its Office of Community Oriented Policing, Office of Justice Programs and Office on Violence against Women, and administered the first round of consolidated grants in September 2010.  Over the past four years, it has awarded 989 grants totaling more than $437 million.  Information about the consolidated solicitation is available at A fact sheet on CTAS is available at

Thirty U.S. Attorneys from districts that include Indian country or one or more federally recognized tribes serve on the NAIS.  The NAIS focuses exclusively on Indian country issues, both criminal and civil, and is responsible for making policy recommendations to the Attorney General regarding public safety and legal issues.

Next month, the Justice Department will hold its annual consultation on violence against native women on Oct. 31st, 2013, in Bismarck, N.D. In addition, an Interdepartmental Tribal Justice, Safety and Wellness Session will be held in Bismarck on Oct. 29-30, 2013.   It will include an important listening session with tribal leaders to obtain their views on the Department grants, as well as valuable training and technical assistance.

Today’s announcement is part of the Justice Department’s ongoing initiative to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities.  A complete list of the 2013 awards is available at
Office of the Associate Attorney General

Law and Disorder, Prosecutorial Misconduct: Danziger Bridge Convictions Overturned

A federal judge on Tuesday overturned the convictions of five New Orleans police officers tied to the shooting of unarmed civilians during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, finding that prosecutors in the case had engaged in “grotesque” misconduct. 

In a blistering and meticulously detailed 129-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt found that federal prosecutors in New Orleans had anonymously posted damning online critiques of the accused officers and the New Orleans Police Department before and during the 2011 trial, a breach of professional ethics that had the effect of depriving the officers of their rights to a fair trial.

The judge granted the officers’ request for a new trial.
“Re-trying this case is a very small price to pay in order to protect the validity of the verdict in this case, the institutional integrity of the Court, and the criminal justice system as a whole,” Judge Engelhardt wrote.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

October 14, San Francisco: Indigenous Peoples' Day Sunrise Gathering

September 23: National Day of Action for Human Rights



Dear Allies and Friends,

Please help us spread the word about the important National Day of Action on September 23, 2013! 

On September 23, 2013, we will come together to make a clear proclamation to our local, state and federal governments, that all human rights are interdependent--not independent. We, social justice, civil liberties and other human rights advocates and activists of all stripes, will make it clear that, whatever our particular organizational focus, we are all fighting  for the same goal: to ensure the dignity of every person in the U.S. and to hold the government accountable for protecting and fulfilling  our human rights.

This Day of Action is all about the ICCPR--International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights--a tool that we have underutilized for far too long. The ICCPR is a human rights treaty that was drafted by the United Nations (UN) and that the U.S. Government (along with 166 other countries) signed and accepted as law in 1992 [the Treaty can be reviewed at See also the US Human Rights Network (USHRN) summary of ICCPR at].  Since then, that same government has done little to let us--their people--know about the rights they pledged to protect under this treaty. The federal government has done even less to let local governments know about their responsibility to uphold these rights. This letter is a plea for all of us to act with a shared vision of justice. We must act to make sure our grassroots supporters and members know about this important document and the human rights it protects. We must act to demand our guaranteed rights. And we must act to hold government accountable for the denial of these rights.

The ICCPR treaty offers a broad range of protections including the rights to vote, to gender equality, to organize, to move and to travel, as well as freedoms from discrimination, from torture and illegal detention, freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of and from religion, and many other civil and political rights. With the help of our members and supporters, we can insist upon the protection of these rights. Let us all take this opportunity to benefit, individually and collectively, by insisting on the enforcement of the ICCPR. Only by educating ourselves about these rights can we stand together to secure them.

A Day of Action is even more important this year because the United States will be reviewed in October by the United Nations on its record under the ICCPR.  A committee of independent human rights experts will determine whether the U.S. is living up to its obligations under this Treaty. The central question will be:  Is the United States protecting and fulfilling our rights as required by the ICCPR? The primary focus will be on a list of questions put together by the UN committee and which many of our organizations have helped to shape. Other issues, pertaining to rights covered by the Treaty but not specifically mentioned in the official list of questions, should also be brought to light. UN procedures encourage organizations to give input that will allow their members to hold the U.S. accountable for its violations and failures under the Treaty. We know that the government’s report on the ICCPR does not provide adequate information and personal stories detailing the multitude of civil, political, and other human rights violations imposed upon our peoples. It is our job to highlight these struggles by exposing the many examples of the government's failure to protect our human rights and dignity.

Join us in educating ourselves on the rights ensured by the ICCPR and in taking action nationwide--whether by social media, marches, letters, or other creative means--to let the public know we are a unified movement. We do this in preparation for the October review by the UN. Let’s make sure the government knows we will hold them accountable for failing to meet our fundamental human rights!

- See more at:

Human Rights Defenders and Access to Justice for Indigenous Peoples

We cordially invite all delegations attending the 24th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to a Panel Presentation:

Human Rights Defenders and Access to Justice for Indigenous Peoples

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17th, 2013, 1:15 - 2:45 PM

- Chief Wilton Littlechild, Chair, UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), on the EMRIP Study on Access to Justice
- Dolores Infante-Cahibano, Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, on the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
- Devasish Roy, member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, on Human Rights Defenders in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh
- Leonard Foster, National Native America Prisoners' Rights Coalition, USA, on Leonard Pettier, Indigenous Human Rights Defenders in the US
- Ghazali Ohorella, Alzru, Co-Chair, Global Coordinating Committee for the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and representative of Human Rights Defenders in Maluku
- Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council, moderator

Co-Sponsored by the International Indian Treaty Council and Incomindios

Spanish/English/French translation provided by DoCip

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Leonard Peltier: Thank You and Bless You

For all of my friends and family out there celebrating my birthday,
I wish I was out there with you!  But since I can't be,  enjoy the day.  Have extra kind words for each other.  Put a smile on someone's face. Wipe the tears from someone who is crying.  Be a  brother or sister to someone in the struggle.  Do something kind for our elderly and something gentle for our babies.  Be the voice for those who are afraid to speak. Be the protector for the weak.  In doing that, you are a warrior for our people.  It is my prayer that the Creator touches you with good health and happiness and that you live to enjoy many, many more years to come. 
Thank you for remembering me on this day, the day the Creator breathed life into me. I am truly blessed with your friendship.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Peltier

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Leonard Peltier: Take Charge of Our Destiny

September 9, 2013

My dear friends and family,

There is a lot being said about the scheduled “Leonard Peltier International Tribunal on the Abuse of Indigenous Human Rights" on October 2-4, 2013, on the Oneida Reservation in Oneida/Green Bay, WI.  I want to express support for and appreciation to my team for all of the hard work they are putting in to make this a documented historical event.  My team and I feel the time has come to address the many years of abuse suffered by Indigenous people all over the world.  We cannot afford to sit back and wait for justice and equal treatment for our people.  We cannot sit back and wait for change and “hope” that conditions will get better.  We have to get involved in making that change happen.

We have to develop the resources for our children and grandchildren using education as a tool.  We need Indigenous doctors working side by side with our Medicine men using traditional knowledge to heal our communities.  We need Indigenous attorneys who aren’t motivated by money to represent the overwhelming number of Natives who are locked in prison cells.  We need Indigenous teachers who are willing to  encourage, support and motivate our many gifted and talented children.  We have to take charge of our destiny. 

The goal of our Tribunal is to document our many struggles with the U.S. government.  The government was involved in outlawing every freedom we valued, from the way we talked to the Creator with our ceremonies to the way we parented our children.  Don’t ever forget the spiritual, emotional, physical and mental damage that came from ripping  Native children as young as 3 and 4 years old from the arms of their parents and putting them into the hands of cold, hard matrons in the boarding schools.  Men who normally provided for their families by fishing and hunting found themselves on the wrong side of the law and hunger became common.  Acres and acres of beautiful gardens in Native homelands were destroyed for the harvest of uranium flowing through the veins of our Sacred mother earth. 

I am a prime example of what happens when you try to stand up and protect the elders, babies and communities from corruption and disruption of our sacred way of life.  The very justice system, supposedly designed to uphold the laws of our land, will use any method necessary to get the outcome they want.  Intimidating witnesses, manufacturing  or withholding evidence, and judge shopping are all tactics used to achieve a conviction.  

These conditions are unacceptable.  While the current Administration has done more for our people than any in recent history, we can not stand idly by.  We must be involved with bringing about the change we need.  If we don’t demand accountability from the very government entrusted with our future, who will?  If not us, then who?  If not now, then when??

We as Indigenous people have always supported each other.  We have a history of Native trade between Nations in all four directions.  We didn’t create or recognize borders.  We communicated internationally.  That is the goal we now have in front of us.  We want to re-establish that relationship.  As Indigenous peoples, we must never forget that we are all related.  The time has come for us to come together again, to mend the sacred hoop that forever keeps us as one mind in one family.  Let no man divide us forever.  Please  join us as we begin the healing process. 

I am very humbled that this Tribunal has been named after me.  I promise to do my very best to be worthy of this honor. 


In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Leonard Peltier

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Birthday Events for Leonard Peltier

From 08 - 14 Sep 2013 birthday events will be held in Leonard Peltier's honor in Canada as well as Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, California, South Dakota, Indiana and Massachusetts.

See details at

The Leonard Peltier International Tribunal: US Government on Trial

Leonard Peltier International TribunalMINNEAPOLIS – A group of American Indian leaders are hosting "The Leonard Peltier International Tribunal" during the first week of October on the Oneida Nation Reservation in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Leonard Peltier International Tribunal
October 2 - 4
"We have an oral tradition. In this way, the stories about our 500 years of oppression have been passed down through the generations. Now, we have the means to record that history and share it with the world. The Leonard Peltier International Tribunal on the Abuse of Indigenous Human Rights will tell our stories with a focus on the last 40 years," said Dorothy Ninham, founder and director of Wind Chases the Sun, one of the organizations involved with the planning of the event.

Besides Ninham, other American Indian leaders involve include:

Clyde Bellecourt, Ojibwa, a member of the American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council;

 Dennis Banks, Ojibwe, a co-founder of the American Indian Movement and

 Bill Means of the American Indian Movement.

The purpose of the historic, public tribunal is to digitally document first-hand witness accounts of 40 years of malfeasance in Indian country, and the continuing struggles of Indigenous Peoples.
“This is a major plus for us because it is being hosted at the Oneida Tribe,”
said Dennis Banks, who will be one of the moderators of the tribunal.
“I think the fact that a tribe would be part of this is huge.”
Issues will include but are not limited to fishing rights, the sterilization of Indigenous women, extreme poverty, theft of tribes' natural resources, environmental issues and their impact on Indian reservations, the horrific rate of suicides among Native children, and the wrongful conviction of Leonard Peltier.

Organizers of the tribunal plan to analyze and discuss events that led up to the June 26, 1975, incident at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and the effects on survivors of the 1970s.

All Indigenous Peoples are invited to attend. Tribes are encouraged to send a delegation of tribal elders to participate.

The Leonard Peltier International Tribunal on the Abuse of Indigenous Human Rights
October 2 - 4
Radisson Hotel & Conference Center
2040 Airport Drive
Green Bay, Wisconsin 54313

Friday, September 6, 2013

Minneapolis Press Conference and Strategy Meeting, 04 Sep 2013: Leonard Peltier International Tribunal on the Abuse of Indigenous Human Rights

Press Conference and Strategy Meeting - Minneapolis, MN - 04 September 2013

Leonard Peltier International Tribunal on the Abuse of Indigenous Human Rights

Leonard Peltier International Tribunal
on the
Abuse of Indigenous Human Rights
02-04 October 2013
Wind Chases the Sun, Inc., a 501(c)3, N5679 Skylark Drive, DePere, WI  54115
Please help. No amount is too small. To make a tax deductible donation, send a check or money order made payable to "Wind Chases the Sun," a 501(c)3 tax exempt entity.  Send your donation to Wind Chases the Sun, N5679 Skylark Drive, DePere, WI  54115.