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Erik Opsal, email@example.com, 646-292-8356
Today, the Brennan Center for Justice urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to implement the state secrets policy it announced on September 23, 2009.
The Center, with 25 other groups and individuals, called on the DOJ today, after the Supreme Court declined to hear Mohamed et al. v Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc., a case regarding the government's use of the state secrets privilege to defeat a lawsuit challenging the post-9/11 extraordinary rendition program.
In the case, five men alleged that Jeppesen, a subsidiary of the Boeing Company, helped the CIA transfer them to other countries for detention, interrogation, and torture. The government argued that the very subject of extraordinary rendition is a state secret and succeeded in shutting down the lawsuit.
By refusing to hear the case on appeal, the Supreme Court leaves in place multiple federal court of appeals decisions adopting a disturbingly broad interpretation of the government's right to invoke the state secrets privilege -- thus scuttling any hope that the courts will provide either justice for victims of rendition or accountability for the government officials who designed and carried out these programs.
"When President Obama took office, he promised to change the administration's approach on the state secrets privilege," said Emily Berman, counsel for the Brennan Center's Liberty and National Security Program. "Although the Justice Department's new policy was not intended to stop the state secrets privilege from being invoked, it did promise more oversight. With the Court once again declining to hear an extraordinary rendition case, it is time to live up to that promise."
According to the Justice Department's policy, when the state secrets privilege prevents a lawsuit from proceeding, but the complaint raises credible allegations of government wrongdoing, "the Department [of Justice] will refer those allegations to the Inspector General of the appropriate department or agency for further investigation, and will provide prompt notice of the referral to the head of the appropriate department or agency."
On December 15, 2010, the Brennan Center, joined by 25 other groups and individuals, sent a private letter to the Attorney General asking him why, given the credible allegations that have been raised in Jeppesen and similar cases -- such as Arar v. Ashcroft and El-Masri v. Tenet -- no thorough Inspector General investigations have taken place. After nearly five months, the DOJ has neither responded to nor acknowledged receipt of the letter. The letters' signatories made the decision to publicize the letter because the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the Jeppesen case greatly increases the urgency of Inspector General review. The signatories also sent a second letter to the Justice Department reiterating their request.
"We believe that a thorough investigation--conducted by all relevant Inspectors General with full access to all relevant witnesses, documents, tapes, photographs, and other material, and culminating in a public report--would serve the interests of justice, and would accord with the September 23 policy's aspiration to 'provide greater accountability and reliability in the invocation of the state secrets privilege,'" said the letter. "Moreover, where government wrongdoing is uncovered, providing plaintiffs appropriate redress could at least provide some small measure of recompense for the denial of these plaintiffs' day in court."
Other groups that signed the letter include: ACLU of North Carolina, Alliance for Justice, Amnesty International USA, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Justice & Accountability, Center for Media and Democracy, The Constitution Project, Defending Dissent Foundation, Essential Information, Government Accountability Project, Human Rights First, The James Madison Project, No More Guantanamos, North Carolina Stop Torture Now, OpenTheGovernment.org, PEN American Center, Physicians for Human Rights, Progressive Librarians Guild, and Project On Government Oversight.
In addition, the following individuals signed the letter: Matthew Alexander, Former Senior Military Interrogator; Barbara Frey, Director, Human Rights Program, University of Minnesota; Almerindo Ojeda, Director, U.C. Davis Center for the Study of, Human Rights in the Americas; Chip Pitts, Lecturer in Law, Stanford Law School; and Naureen Shah, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School.
View both letters here: https://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/letter_to_attorney_general_holder_on_the_justice_departments_state_secrets
For more information or to set up an interview, please contact Erik Opsal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-292.8356.
The Brennan Center for Justice is a nonpartisan law and policy institute. We strive to uphold the values of democracy. We stand for equal justice and the rule of law. We work to craft and advance reforms that will make American democracy work, for all.(646) 292-8310
"This is just amateur hour," one progressive economist wrote in response to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries' remarks.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Monday that he views discussions of a federal spending freeze—a real-term cut when adjusted for inflation—as "inherently reasonable," a position likely to rankle progressive lawmakers who have warned against giving an inch to Republican hostage-takers.
"We're willing to discuss freezing spending at current levels," Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told reporters following the latest meeting between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Joe Biden on the debt ceiling—a sit-down that came with the U.S. government just 10 days away from possibly defaulting on its obligations.
Jeffries, who has fought with progressives throughout his political career, acknowledged Monday that "many in our party" might be uncomfortable with the idea of a spending freeze, which could cut spending by more than $1 trillion over a decade.
"But President Biden recognizes we're in a divided government situation," said Jeffries.
Lindsay Owens, an economist and the executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative, was among the progressives who criticized the House Democratic leader's remarks.
"Jeez. Just showing everyone our cards," wrote Owens, who has warned that "any time you let Republicans control the terms of the debate around the debt ceiling, you're in trouble."
"Starting to think we need to ask the Nevada delegation to bring some poker players to the next caucus lunch for a briefing," Owens added Monday. "This is just amateur hour."
After previously saying he would not be willing to attach any conditions to a debt ceiling increase—a stance that was backed by House Democrats across the ideological spectrum—Biden has voiced openness to reducing spending as part of a compromise with House Republicans, who have used the debt limit as leverage to pursue massive cuts to federal programs such as nutrition assistance and Medicaid.
Notably, Jeffries did not sign an April letter from House Democrats supporting a clean debt limit increase "without any extraneous policies attached."
On Friday, White House negotiators reportedly offered to accept a deal that would freeze 2024 military and non-military discretionary spending at 2023 levels.
"That would amount to a 5% cut when adjusted for inflation—a step back from the Biden administration budget request in March, which proposed increasing discretionary spending," Axiosnoted.
But Republicans dismissed the White House offer, pushing for a larger Pentagon budget and more severe cuts to non-military spending. GOP negotiators are currently pushing for around six years of federal spending caps, which would result in steep cuts to key agencies and programs and hinder the government's ability to respond to an economic downturn.
"The GOP is threatening to tank the entire economy in the name of 'fiscal responsibility.' What's responsible about tanking the economy, exactly?"
Pointing to the White House proposal, McCarthy told the press on Monday that "a freeze is not less, it's spending the same amount"—ignoring the impact of inflation.
The Republican speaker also made clear that the GOP—which slashed taxes for the rich and corporations in 2017, blowing a huge hole in the deficit—would not accept any tax increases as part of a debt ceiling agreement.
GOP negotiators have rejected White House offers to close tax loopholes, including the notorious carried-interest loophole exploited by rich private equity executives.
"I've been very clear with the president from day one. We're not going to raise taxes," McCarthy said Monday. "It's a spending problem."
Progressive lawmakers continued to push back against Republican demands for spending cuts on Monday as the White House and McCarthy both described their latest meeting in positive terms, signaling that a deal is possible before the June 1 deadline.
"Reminder: When House Republicans insist we 'spend less,' they mean public housing, food assistance, Medicaid, and addiction support," the Congressional Progressive Caucus tweeted Monday. "We cannot give in to this extortion."
\u201cThe GOP is threatening to tank the entire economy in the name of \u201cfiscal responsibility.\u201d\n\nWhat\u2019s responsible about tanking the economy, exactly?\u201d— Cori Bush (@Cori Bush) 1684772554
When asked about talk of a spending freeze, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) responded bluntly: "Look at what's being proposed in terms of cuts. Don't talk about spending in the abstract."
"Head Start—200,000 kids no slots, 100,000 kids without childcare," DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Monday. "Talk to me about what has been suggested."
"It is atrocious that yet another family has to mourn their child because of our collective inability to fix our broken immigration system," lamented one activist in response to the death of Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez.
A coalition of migrant advocacy groups on Monday mourned and demanded justice for an 8-year-old Central American girl who died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody earlier this month.
The #WelcomeWithDignity campaign for asylum rights remembered Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez, an 8-year-old girl who came to the United States with her Honduran parents, following her death on May 17 after CBP agents "neglected to heed her parent's requests for medical assistance," according to the coalition.
"Anadith deserves to be alive today," said #WelcomeWithDignity interim campaign manager Bilal Askaryar. "Border Patrol staff ignored the minimum safeguards for protecting the lives in their custody."
"Anadith's parents should be preoccupied with helping their 8-year-old daughter prepare for her new life in the United States and making the journey to meet her aunt in New York," Askaryar added. "Instead, they are grieving an unspeakable tragedy and trying to raise money to take Anadith's body to their new home with them."
\u201cNew details regarding the preventable death of an 8-year-old girl in CBP custody last week show that the child\u2019s mother repeatedly asked agents to take her daughter to the hospital, but her pleas were ignored. Anadith had a history of heart problems and sickle cell anemia.\ud83e\uddf5\ud83d\udc47\ud83c\udffe\u201d— The Young Center (@The Young Center) 1684623052
Reyes, who suffered a congenital heart condition and sickle cell anemia, was a Panamanian citizen who traveled with her Honduran parents and her two older siblings to the southern U.S. border at Brownsville, Texas. The family was detained by CBP agents on May 9 and held for more than a week.
On May 14, Reyes' mother Mabel Álvarez took the child to a treatment area after she complained of abdominal pain, nasal congestion, and a cough, CBP said. Reyes tested positive for Influenza and was given medications including Tamiflu and Zofran. CBP said she was also given acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
Reyes and her family were then transported to a CBP facility in Harlingen, Texas, which is "designated for cases requiring medical isolation for individuals diagnosed with or closely exposed to communicable diseases," according to the agency.
Medical records show that Álvarez took Reyes to the Harlingen station's medical facility three times on May 17. On the last visit, Reyes appeared to be having a seizure. After her body went limp and she began bleeding from the mouth, medical staff started CPR and CBP had the girl rushed to Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen. She was pronounced dead less than an hour later.
"They killed my daughter, because she was nearly a day-and-a-half without being able to breathe," Álvarez claimed in an interview with the New York Daily News. "She cried and begged for her life and they ignored her. They didn't do anything for her."
"They never listened to me just because I am an immigrant," Álvarez said in a separate interview with Noticias Telemundo. "We want this not to go unpunished. We don't want this to happen to any other child."
\u201cHumanitarian reception for asylum seeking families, not jail/detention/custody, is what most countries offer with far less resources to those seeking protection. This was preventable. These policies are reprehensible and must end. #RestoreAsylum #WelcomeWithDignity @POTUS\u201d— Christina Asencio (@Christina Asencio) 1684642426
#WelcomeWith Dignity members from numerous advocacy groups joined Reyes' family in demanding justice.
"We are heartbroken to learn of another child's tragic death in government custody. No child should be locked in a jail, no matter where they were born," said Jennifer Anzardo Valdes, deputy director at Americans for Immigrant Justice.
"There is a long andwell-documented history of systemic abuse and mistreatment of children in CBP custody," she added. "In a landscape barren of rights for unaccompanied children, babies, and children coming to the United States with their parents, it is imperative that these vulnerable individuals are greeted with compassion and respect as they seek refuge and a better life in the United States. How many more children must die for CBP to effectuate change?"
Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director at America's Voice, said that "it is atrocious that yet another family has to mourn their child because of our collective inability to fix our broken immigration system."
"Our hearts are with her family, and tens of thousands of other families whose pursuit of a better life ends in tragedy," she added. "The CBP needs to learn from this tragedy and take the necessary steps to ensure it doesn't happen again."
\u201cCBP is an agency that should have nothing to do with children. No child should ever die in government custody again, and no parent should have their pleas for help be ignored as they watch their child's condition worsen. \n\nOur hearts go out to Anadith's family and loved ones.\u201d— Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (@Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project) 1684790817
Reyes is the first known migrant child to die in CBP custody during the Biden administration. At least two other Honduran minors—17-year-old Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza and a 4-year-old "medically fragile" girl—have died in U.S. custody in recent weeks.
The children's deaths come as the Biden administration rolls out controversial migrant policies following the expiration of Title 42, which was invoked by both Biden and his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, in order to deport millions of asylum-seekers under the pretext of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It is cruel that another set of parents had to beg the CBP for medical help for their child and then watch her die because of CBP negligence," argued Ronnate Asirwatham, director of government relations for #WelcomeWithDignity member Catholic Social Justice. "We call on the Biden administration to end this cruelty and to swiftly end the practice of long-term CBP custody for immigrants."
"We encourage the IPCC to maintain its credibility by taking steps to ensure that Big Agriculture and the global meat industry have no influence over future reports."
As the United Nations marked International Day for Biological Diversity on Monday, advocacy groups and activists underscored the devastating impact of animal agriculture on the Earth's climate, while urging a leading U.N. panel to rebuff efforts by the meat and dairy industries to water down key processes and publications.
In recent letter to Hoesung Lee, who heads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 98 groups and individuals noted how the IPCC in 2021 removed language from its Sixth Assessment Report underscoring the urgency of reducing meat consumption—especially in developed nations—and shifting to a plant-based diet as a crucial means of combating the climate emergency.
"The provision was reportedly heavily contested—and actively lobbied against—by the global meat industry via Brazil and
Argentina's delegations," the letter states. "Our organizations, representing millions of individuals who are concerned about the future of our planet, are deeply troubled by the potential influence of the meat industry's years-long campaign of interference on any climate recommendations that include plant-based diets as a solution."
\u201cLast week, RDP and 80+ allies sent a letter to the IPCC demanding that it boldly uplift climate science & defend the public interest \u2014 even & especially when it conflicts with the private interests of notorious super-polluters like the global meat industry https://t.co/HebhKYsxdS\u201d— Revolving Door Project (@Revolving Door Project) 1684768855
"We are writing to urge the IPCC to fully recognize the scientific evidence that shows the role of food and agriculture in driving the climate crisis and to ensure that future reports specifically highlight plant-based diets as a key climate strategy," the letter states. "Furthermore, we encourage the IPCC to maintain its credibility by taking steps to ensure that Big Agriculture and the global meat industry have no influence over future reports."
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, animal agriculture produces 16.5% of global greenhouse emissions. On its own, the global livestock industry—which emits the methane equivalent of 3.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually—would be the world's third-largest greenhouse polluter.
Nearly one-third of Earth's ice-free land is currently used for livestock production. Beef production alone is responsible for more than 40% of the world's tropical deforestation, while a single quarter-pound beef burger requires the equivalent of 460 gallons of water to produce.
\u201cYour regular reminder that beef has a huge climate impact and we should try and eat less of it. https://t.co/lhxbNSRtRL\u201d— Zeke Hausfather (@Zeke Hausfather) 1683150459
The letter continues:
Meat and dairy industry actors have long obfuscated the negative climate impacts of their practices while putting up roadblocks against healthy and necessary regulations. In fact, the industry's tactics seem to be modeled on the fossil fuel playbook, using its tremendous lobbying power to pressure lawmakers to prevent regulations.
While the IPCC has historically managed to recommend plant-based diets, mention of plant-based diets was notably lacking from this year's report. The scientific community and the public at large deserve to have the IPCC's recommendations be unbiased, untainted, and undiluted by interference from industries that are financially incentivized to undermine science. The IPCC's recommendations would be more powerful and more effective with the assurance that there was no interference [from] industry lobbyists and political actors who prioritize their industry over the common good.
The letter's signatories recommend "avoiding meat and dairy products" as "the single-biggest way to reduce an individual's environmental impact on the planet."
According to the letter, if the world's biggest meat-eaters limited their beef intake to 1.5 hamburgers per week, "they could
avoid about 5.5 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year—twice the annual emissions of India."
\u201cIt's the #InternationalBiodiversityDay!\nIndustrial agribusiness boosted by generous subsidies produces plenty of #meat. Meat production requires large areas & takes space from wild nature.\nSo let's eat less meat, and help to revive #biodiversity!\n#BiodiversityDay #forests #beef\u201d— Seppo (@Seppo) 1684752831
Additionally, "if everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would have the same environmental impact as taking 7.6 million cars off the road."
"We urge you to take steps to prevent both any potential future interference by the meat and dairy industries, and the appearance of such interference, in a manner that could weaken these necessary recommendations around the urgent need to reduce meat consumption and production," the letter concludes. "The world is counting on the IPCC to communicate the most accurate science and most effective solutions for the safekeeping of our planet's future."