Taking A Look At Surveillance
Legal Topics | 2008/04/01 16:16

US Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Friday that he was willing to compromise with Congress on legislation amending the Foreign Intelligence Security Act but that the legislature would have to provide a "workable bill". Mukasey said that the bill passed by the US House of Representatives last week, which did not provide retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the NSA warrantless surveillance program, did not meet this threshold. Last month, the Senate passed a version of the bill that did provide retroactive immunity to the companies. Mukasey stopped short of urging the House to adopt that version of the bill, however, and instead expressed hope that a compromise could be reached between the House bill and the Bush administration, which supports the immunity provision.

Mukasey's comments come roughly a week after President Bush said again that he would veto any FISA amendment legislation that did not include the immunity provision. The House bill would defer the issue of immunity to the courts to be resolved on a case-by-case basis, but would also allow the cases to be heard in closed-door hearings. Last month, Mukasey and US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said that vital intelligence had been lost while telecommunications companies circumvented wiretapping orders as they waited for word on whether the immunity provision would be included in the new legislation. Mukasey said that the relationship between the private companies and the government had since been repaired and that intelligence gathering activities were now running smoothly.



Supremes weigh habeas rights of US citizens held in Iraq
Legal Topics | 2008/03/27 16:24

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in the consolidated cases of Munaf v. Geren and Geren v. Omar where the Court is considering whether federal courts have jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions filed by American citizens detained by US military personnel operating under a multinational force. The cases also present the issue of whether a federal court would have jurisdiction over a habeas petition filed by an American citizen if a foreign court convicted the citizen of a crime, but the citizen is still in the physical custody of American authorities. Mohammad Munaf was convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Baghdad, and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in April 2007 that it lacked authority to interfere with the Iraqi court case. Two months earlier, however, the same court ruled that Shawqi Omar, arrested for allegedly harboring insurgents in Iraq, has a right to argue his case in US courts. The appeals court blocked Omar's transfer to Iraqi courts. Earlier this month, Munaf's conviction was overturned by an Iraqi appeals court. Lawyers for the detainees argued that because they are in US custody, they should have access to US courts, but several justices seemed to reject that argument, noting that could lead to any Multi-National Force-Iraq detainee challenging their arrest in US courts. AP has more.

The Court also heard oral arguments in United States v. Ressam, where "millennium bomber" Ahmed Ressam is challenging his conviction under 18 USC § 844(h)(2), which authorizes a mandatory minimum ten year jail term for anyone carrying explosives while committing a felony. In Ressam's case, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the count as the underlying felony - lying on customs papers - was not related to the explosives charge. Ressam has been sentenced to 22 years in prison  for plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999. US Attorney General Michael Mukasey argued the case on behalf of the government.



Guantanamo Claims Before EU Court of Human Rights
Legal Topics | 2008/03/26 16:33
Six Guantanamo Bay prisoners, whose case was heard by the USSupreme Court in December, filed claims in the European Court of HumanRights in Strasbourg against Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnianauthorities failed for many years to take any steps to negotiate andsecure the men’s release from Guantanamo. The claims address thetorture and other inhumane and degrading treatment the men havesuffered during the six years since they were illegally delivered byBosnia to US forces and taken to Guantanamo.

Thefilings describe in chilling detail the indignities, injuries, tortureand terror inflicted by US military personnel on the six men in thecourse of their imprisonment at Guantanamo. Accompanying medicalopinions describe the resulting destruction of their physical andmental health. Beginning with a 30 hour flight on which he wasshackled, and blindfolded and through the ensuing years when he hasbeen subjected to extended periods of sleep deprivation, solitaryconfinement, assault during interrogation and threats of rape, Mr.Boumediene, like the 5 others, has suffered life shattering physicaland mental injuries.

Mr. Ait Idir, who was taken from hispregnant wife in violation of a Bosnian court order to free him,detailed multiple beatings by rogue guards, extended periods ofisolation from other prisoners and multiple occasions when he wasopenly denied needed medical treatment. In one especially gruesomeattack, Mr. Ait Idir describes how, while his hands and feet were tied,rogue guards stuffed a flowing hose into his mouth, repeatedly slammedhis head and torso into steel and concrete surfaces, lowered his faceand head into a toilet and inflicted blows of such force that his headand face were paralyzed for months.


High court rejects anti-Clinton movie case
Legal Topics | 2008/03/25 16:28

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has rejected aconservative group's legal fight to air commercials promoting a moviecritical of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal in a case involving ads for a movie critical of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The case, rejected on jurisdictional grounds, was appealed after afederal District Court refused to issue a preliminary injunctionclearing the way for the promotions.

At issue was whetherbroadcast ads promoting the 90-minute documentary "Hillary: The Movie"are subject to strict campaign finance laws on political advocacy, orwould be considered a constitutionally protected form of commercialspeech.

Citizens United, a Washington-based advocacyorganization, had urged the justices to accept its appeal on anexpedited basis this spring, in time for the ads to have an impact onthe election season.

Clinton is in a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination with Sen. Barack Obama.



Supreme Court overrules Bush, OKs Texas execution
Legal Topics | 2008/03/25 16:26

WASHINGTON-- The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday thatTexas can execute a Mexican murderer being held on its death row. Thecase pitted President Bush against his home state in a dispute overfederal authority, local sovereignty and foreign treaties.

The case decided by the Supreme Court on Tuesday pitted President Bush against his home state, Texas.

The man at the center of the case, Jose Ernesto Medellin, faces execution for two slayings.

At issue was whether the state must give in to demands by the presidentto allow the prisoner new court hearings and sentencing.

Bushmade that demand reluctantly, after an international court concludedMedellin was improperly denied access to his consulate before hisoriginal prosecution -- a violation of a treaty signed by the UnitedStates decades ago.

The Supreme Court justices voted 6 to 3 in favor of the state's position.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that theinternational court's ruling "is not domestic law," so Bush's authorityto demand a new hearing for Medellin is limited.

Medellin was 18 when he participated in the June 1993 gang rape andmurder of two Harris County, Texas, girls -- 14-year-old JenniferErtman and 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena. He was later convicted of thecrimes and sentenced to death.



Use of MySpace May Violate Court Order
Legal Topics | 2008/03/24 20:20

In one of the first rulings of its kind, a Staten Island judge has said that a teenage girl could be charged with violating a restraining order by using MySpace.com to reach out to people she was told not to contact.

The girl, Melisa Fernino, 16, of West Brighton, Staten Island, was charged with three counts of criminal contempt in September after she was accused of sending a MySpace "friend request" to Sandra Delgrosso and her two daughters on August 23. The order was put in place after Fernino made several violent threats against Delgrosso, who had dated her father, and against her two daughters, said a Staten Island official who insisted on anonymity because the case originated in Family Court, where proceedings are private.

On Wednesday, Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. of Staten Island Criminal Court turned down Fernino's request to dismiss the contempt charges, ruling that MySpace was a form of contact just like speaking in person or by telephone and that the order of restraint had barred any sort of contact with the Delgrossos. The judge's decision was reported in The Staten Island Advance.



Feds Open Criminal Probe Into Alcoa
Legal Topics | 2008/03/23 22:28
The U.S. Justice Department has begun a criminal investigation into whether aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. participated in bribery in the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain.

In documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, federal prosecutors asked a judge to halt a federal civil lawsuit that accused Pittsburgh-based Alcoa of bribing officials through overseas shell companies to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments.

"The United States has a direct and substantial interest in this case, as the subject matter giving rise to this case is also the subject of an ongoing federal criminal investigation," prosecutors in the Justice Department's fraud section said in court filings.

Aluminum Bahrain B.S.C., also known as Alba, in which the Bahrain government holds a 77 percent stake, is seeking more than $1 billion in damages from Alcoa and other affiliated defendants, according to a federal lawsuit filed last month.

"The Alba complaint alleges numerous facts which, if true, could be relevant to the government's criminal investigation and a potential criminal trial," prosecutors said in court filings.



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