Thank you Glenn Fine!

In a report released on June 3, Glenn A. Fine, inspector general of the Department of Justice (DOJ), said the mass arrests of immigrants in the aftermath of Sept. 11 was plagued with “significant problems” that often were in direct conflict with Constitutional safeguards.

“[W]e found significant problems in the way the detainees were handled,” Fine wrote in his report. He said many faced a “pattern of physical and verbal abuse” from some guards and “unduly harsh” detention policies: A 23-hour lockdown in brightly-lighted cells; phone calls limited to one per week; and prisioners being forced to wear handcuffs, leg irons and heavy chains whenever taken from their cells.

Other criticisms leveled against Attorney General John Ashcroft and other DOJ officials included:

• An official DOJ “no bond” policy that prevented immigrants from accessing the justice system;

• The “indiscriminate and haphazard manner” in which immigrants “who had no connection to terrorism” were labeled as possible suspects;

• Early in the 9/11 crisis, hundreds of immigrants were held without being charged within the prescribed three-day window;

• The Justice Department actively sought to limit detainees’ access to attorneys, to other detainees and to family members; prison officials were told, “don’t be in a hurry” to assist immigrants in finding attorneys or contacting their consulates.

The report is a welcome recognition that these policies threaten the Constitution and Bill of Rights – something the civil rights and liberties community has been saying and struggling on.

As welcome as the report is, now is not the time to let down our collective guard. Rather, we should be mindful that, with George Bush in the White House and Ashcroft heading the Justice Department, the old saying that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” is as valid today as ever. This report provides another arrow in the quiver for those of us fighting to retire both Bush and Ashcroft in November 2004.

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Freedom of the press under siege

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling loosening restrictions on media monopolization has “serious repercussions for our democracy and the value Americans place on a free press and free speech,” the Communication Workers of America said in a press statement. The ruling opens the way for media conglomerates to control the news and information available to communities across the country.

The passage of the 1996 Communications Act spurred corporate media monopolization, with six companies now controlling most of the industry. A free press, serving as watchdog on the government, plays a vital role in protecting democracy. Instead of fulfilling that important role, the corporate media – with Fox and Clear Channel in the lead – has obediently toed the White House and Pentagon line every step of the way. Media giants are censoring our news and “brainwashing” the public as never before. The new FCC ruling adds fuel to the fire by allowing even more media consolidation, further limiting the availability of diverse points of view and shredding our treasured constitutional freedom of the press.

Over the last eight years, media corporations have wined and dined FCC members to the tune of nearly $2.8 million, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Now, with the Bush administration and far right in control, the media moguls saw an opportunity and seized it. Having Michael Powell, son of Colin, in charge of the FCC didn’t hurt. Sure enough, the FCC voted 3-2 along partisan lines for the rule change.

More than 150 years ago Karl Marx identified the trend toward monopolization as one of the general laws of capitalism. Today we see this trend in every aspect of life. But this media fight is not over. More than 100 members of the House and about 20 senators opposed the FCC action. A broad people’s movement against media monopolization is shaping up. It can push Congress to undo the rule change and block the Bush administration assault on democracy and freedom of the press.