Len Goodman Sun-Times Op-ed: Our corporate-owned politicians put profits over lives

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Our corporate-owned politicians put profits over lives

Len Goodman’s Sun-Times Op Ed: Newly leaked phone recording reveals Rod Blagojevich’s honest intentions

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Newly leaked phone recording reveals Rod Blagojevich’s honest intentions: lawyer

READ LEN GOODMAN’S LATEST ARTICLE FOR IN THESE TIMES MAGAZINE

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On Nov. 20, 2015, Syrian pro-government forces prepare their weapons at a train station in Aleppo. (George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images)

Bernie Is Right: The Military-Industrial Complex Is Alive and Well

For some, the Paris attacks were a windfall

BY LEONARD C. GOODMAN

During the last Democratic debate, the presidential candidates pledged to make defeating ISIS a priority. But more significant was the question raised by Bernie Sanders about front-runner Hillary Clinton’s corporate donors “from Wall Street, from the military-industrial complex” and “what they’re gonna get” for their money.

As long as we continue to allow corporate funding of candidates for high office, we will continue to have corporate-driven policies. Big Oil supports a strong U.S. military presence in the Middle East and North Africa to prop up repressive regimes that serve its interest and to stamp out democratic or nationalist governments that might seek to expel foreign investors and U.S. military bases. This fuels instability, anti-Western anger and terrorism. That terrorism, in turn, boosts profits for the military-industrial complex. The Paris attacks occurred on a Friday. When the markets opened on Monday, “defense” industry stocks—Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Booz Allen Hamilton—soared in anticipation of the coming weapons sales and security contracts. Any foreign policy with the potential to stabilize the region is bad for business and won’t get corporate backing, and thus won’t get a fair hearing in the Pentagon, the halls of Congress or the corporate press.

The results of policies that cater to Big Oil and the military-industrial complex come as no surprise. Since 9/11, five countries in the region—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen—have disintegrated as nation states. Three were the focus of direct American interventions. The fourth (Yemen) was destabilized by an American drone war. The fifth (Syria) suffered from the chaos and mayhem in neighboring Iraq and from a flood of U.S. arms to so-called moderate rebels.

Bernie Sanders, who has shunned corporate funding for his campaign, deserves credit for discussing our disastrous history of regime change. During the debate, in addition to Iraq, Sanders mentioned the 1953 CIA-initiated coup to overthrow Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran, which caused untold suffering for the Iranian people and spurred decades of conflict between the United States and Iran. Sanders failed to mention that the coup was initiated for the direct benefit of Big Oil. (Mossadegh had nationalized Iran’s oil reserves in 1951.)

Sanders’ message is muddied by his support for regime change in Afghanistan, which resulted in a costly and bloody 13-year U.S. occupation that failed to weaken the Taliban, and has produced a flood of refugees and potential ISIS recruits. Why was it necessary, after 9/11, to obliterate the Taliban because they “harbored” terrorists, while leaving a regime in Saudi Arabia that funded that very same terrorism?

The disparity is easy to understand. The Saudi regime may be funding the enemies of the American people, but they are a friend to its corporations, and thus a reliable U.S. ally. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest buyers of U.S. weapons, which it is presently using to bomb its neighbor, Yemen. Again, on behalf of the arms industry, our leaders are ignoring evidence of Saudi war crimes in Yemen in order to ensure congressional support of a $1.29 billion arms sale (approved by the State Department the Monday after the Paris bombing) that includes thousands of “smart” and general-purpose bombs.

On top of which we have the puzzle of the National Security Agency and other spy agencies that receive tens of billions of dollars (their exact budgets are secret) to collect and analyze Americans’ personal data. Yet every large-scale terrorist attack from Bali to Madrid, London, Mumbai, Boston, Kenya, Paris and most recently, San Bernardino, comes as a complete surprise. Such failures are easy to understand. Corporate-driven policies favor lucrative contracts over demonstrated effectiveness. Thus, rather than hire a reasonable number of intelligence professionals to investigate actual threats, we hire for-profit corporations to collect the data, others to store it all in huge data warehouses, and still others to write and run algorithms to try and find the terrorists. The result is a bureaucratic morass of analysts drowning in data—and taxpayer dollars.

Until we can find a way to end the illicit union between corporate power and foreign policy, America will continue to play the dual roles of arsonist and fire brigade, and taxpayers will continue getting burned on both ends.

Leonard Goodman is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer and Adjunct Professor of Law at DePaul University.

Obama’s Drone Policy Crashes and Burns Yemen, the poster child for drone-based foreign policy, has collapsed on itself.

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Published in In These Times – March 19, 2015

Obama’s Drone Policy Crashes and Burns

Yemen, the poster child for drone-based foreign policy, has collapsed on itself.

BY Leonard C. Goodman

The unraveling of Yemen should be a wake-up call for Obama loyalists. Obama was elected in large part because of his opposition to the disastrous Iraq War and his promise of a smarter Middle East policy, one less reliant on invasion and occupation. Nevertheless, in office, Obama has supported the occupation of Afghanistan and the NATO-led overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, which led to chaos.

Still, as Obama explained in a September 2014 foreign policy speech, the centerpiece of his strategy in the Middle East has been a more long-distance approach: “taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines.” In other words: air strikes, drones and military aid. He touted the success of this strategy in Yemen and Somalia.

Indeed, Yemen has been the poster child for Obama’s Middle East strategy. Using the U.S. military bases that surround Yemen, we have propped up the corrupt and repressive regimes of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his successor, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi (i.e., our “partners on the front lines”). In exchange, they let us incinerate alleged militants. And when we slaughter innocents (like 35 women and children in a 2009 bombing, or 12 members of a wedding party in a 2014 drone strike), our partners help cover up our crimes, even jailing the Yemeni journalist who exposed the U.S. role in the 2009 attack.

Of course, the cover-up was effective only in the United States, where most of our news comes from corporate sources that almost never challenge official pronouncements about military or CIA missions. The Yemeni people know all too well our criminal acts. Last September, 13-yearold Mohammed Tuaiman al-Jahmi told the Guardian that “he lived in constant fear of the ‘death machines’ in the sky that had already killed his father and brother” in 2011, as they were out herding the family’s camels. In February, Mohammed himself was killed by a U.S. drone.

The Obama “success story” in Yemen had already come to an end in January, when Houthi rebels took control of the presidential compound in Sanaa, ousting Hadi, his prime minister and his entire cabinet. The motto of the new leaders is “Death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews, victory to Islam.” On February 10, the State Department confirmed that it had closed the U.S. embassy in Yemen, the third in an Arab country since 2012.

In truth, Obama’s foreign policy is similar to George W. Bush’s. The war contractors want to keep the rivers of taxpayer cash flowing into their coffers, while multinational energy firms want the U.S. to keep supporting brutal, undemocratic regimes that keep their boots on the necks of restive citizens who might object to foreign firms exploiting national resources. And as long as our laws permit corrupt ties between corporate interests and politicians, we will continue to see disastrous failure after failure of our foreign policy.

In February, Obama led a three-day summit on countering violent extremism. The president’s remarks at this summit, of course, made no mention of our odious drone policy. No citizens of Yemen or Pakistan were invited to speak about how living with the constant anxiety caused by armed drones buzzing in the sky drives residents to join anti-U.S. terror groups. Nor was there any talk of the blowback caused by the U.S. military bases which garrison the greater Middle East, or of the corrupt, repressive regimes that those U.S. bases support. Instead, leaders of some of those regimes attended the summit.

Obama did offer empty rhetoric about how we are not at war with Islam. Such words are unlikely to impress Muslims outside the United States, who know that it’s Muslims who populate Obama’s kill list, who are indefinitely detained at Guantánamo without charges and whose systematic torture by the CIA was swept under the rug by Obama.

Americans, who are ill-informed about our actions overseas, will hear Obama’s empathetic rhetoric and quite rationally conclude that the reason we are losing in places like Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan is because Obama is too soft. Perhaps our next president will be someone who promises to get tougher on Muslim extremists. But until we end the partnership between government and corporate power, three things will remain constant: Our foreign policy will be expensive for U.S. taxpayers, profitable for the war contractors and disastrous for everyday people.

Leonard Goodman is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer and Adjunct Professor of Law at DePaul University.

Read it at In These Times: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17762/obamas-drone-policy-crashes-and-burns

The Afghan Militant in the Photo? The Wrong Man, and He’s Not Happy By TAIMOOR SHAH and JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN. FEB. 16, 2015

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The latest from Len Goodman “Sabotaging Peace with Iran” as featured in “In These Times”

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As Published in In These Times on February 16, 2014

Sabotaging Peace with Iran

Congress couldn’t undermine Obama’s deal without the help of the arms industry.

At some point, taxpayers will start asking their representatives tough questions. If, contrary to what we have been told, it is possible to talk to even our most intractable enemies, such as Iran, why do we need to pay for hundreds of military bases around the world?

The Obama administration deserves great credit for its role in negotiating the historic November 2013 accord with Iran, which lifts some sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing certain nuclear activities. The deal also establishes frequent and transparent inspections of Iran’s major nuclear fuel enrichment facilities.
Like all good diplomacy, this deal benefits both sides. The United States and the other negotiators—the UN Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany—advance their goal of preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Iran gets some relief from economic sanctions and demonstrates to its people that it’s trying to end its isolation from the rest of the world—something Iranians strongly desire, as demonstrated by the sweeping victory of anti-isolationist moderate Hassan Rouhani in last year’s presidential election.
Yet 58 of our 100 Senators, including 16 Democrats, signed onto a bill slapping new sanctions on Iran, thereby attempting to sabotage the president’s deal before it went into effect in January. Even by the low standards most Americans have for Congress, this bill is particularly idiotic. Not only does it undermine the President’s ability to conduct foreign policy, it also effectively begins to march the country into another senseless war.
According to the bill, titled the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013,” the United States must use “military force” against Iran (i.e., go to war) if the government of Israel decides to strike “against Iran’s nuclear weapon program.” No Congressional declaration of war is required. Thus, the U.S. Senate would effectively hand over to a foreign government the power to send more American kids off to war.
Why would the majority of U.S. senators support such an un-American bill? The answer should come as no surprise. First, the bill is supported by the right-wing government of Israel’s American lobbying arm, AIPAC, which spends millions of dollars each year lobbying on Capitol Hill and whose leaders make large campaign gifts to compliant lawmakers.
But AIPAC donors and lobbyists could not, acting alone, buy the support of 58 senators for a bill that is so contrary to the wishes of a war-weary American public. The way was paved by the arms industry, which also has a great interest in seeing negotiations with Iran fail. Its allied think tank pundits and op-ed writers have been telling us for years that any attempt to negotiate with the Iranian mullahs will be a fool’s errand. They fail to mention that rapprochement with Iran would be a huge blow to the military industrial complex. Without the threat of an armed-and-dangerous Iran, it will become harder for their patrons to justify trillion-dollar “defense” budgets.
At home, U.S. taxpayers are facing crumbling infrastructure, massive unemployment and a $17.2 trillion debt. Indeed, both Democrats and Republicans have just agreed to cut $800 million a year from food stamps at a time when millions of Americans are working two or three low-wage jobs but still can’t afford to feed their families. And with another debt ceiling deadline fast approaching, working Americans can expect to see further cuts to the few remaining federal programs that provide them any benefit.
Yet rivers of cash keep flowing to the Pentagon and to its contractors. At some point, taxpayers will start asking their representatives tough questions. If, contrary to what we have been told, it is possible to talk to even our most intractable enemies, such as Iran, why do we need to pay for hundreds of military bases around the world? Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective (and more neighborly) to establish diplomatic relations with our enemies and explore our common interests, rather than our current program of isolating our foes, surrounding them with U.S. military bases, punishing their people with crippling sanctions, and covertly paying thugs and warlords to destabilize their governments?
Laudably, the White House held firm against the Senate’s bill for new sanctions, challenging its congressional supporters to acknowledge publicly that they favor military action against Iran. AIPAC’s bid to build a veto-busting majority for its bill has stalled, still eight senators short of the needed 67.
A deal with Iran may be bad news for certain powerful special interests, but it is good news for the rest of us. And right now, the people are winning.

LEONARD C. GOODMAN

Leonard Goodman is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer and Adjunct Professor of Law at DePaul University.

Drone Justice is Blind

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By Leonard Goodman. Published in “In These Times”, April 10, 2013.

There’s no way President Obama can fairly review each drone strike.

To whom did each targeted person pose a threat? Were they a threat to U.S. military bases or CIA installations located within their country? Were they a threat to corporate interests located within their country? Were they a threat to the regime that governs their country and allows us to fly the drones?

For the first time in history, the United States government has proclaimed its legal right to assassinate any person, anywhere on the globe, as long as our chief executive believes that person to be a terrorist. President Barack Obama has said that most of the people we are incinerating are “al-Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Precise numbers are hard to come by, due to the secrecy under which the drone program operates. But the various groups that track drone strikes agree that since Obama took office, more than 350 strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have killed at least 2,400 people. This means, outside of Afghanistan, U.S. drones are killing on average at least 47 people a month. If you include drone strikes in Afghanistan, the numbers are much larger.

The administration’s claim as to the legality of these strikes relies on the fiction that a rigorous review of evidence takes place before a “terrorist” is targeted. However, no matter how smart and reasonable Obama might be, he is not personally reviewing the evidence against most of the people we are killing. In fact, according to CNN, at least half of drone strike deaths have been the result of “signature strikes,” in which drone operators decide, based on visual evidence of suspicious behavior, to fire on people whose identities they don’t even know. As one government official told the New York Times, to the CIA, “three guys doing jumping jacks” looks suspiciously like a terrorist training camp.

We are told that drone killings neutralize imminent threats to America, but we need only consider the numbers to know we are being lied to. There cannot be 50 people every month who were on the verge of launching an attack on the U.S. until they were “neutralized” by a drone. We therefore must ask: To whom did each targeted person pose a threat? Were they a threat to U.S. military bases or CIA installations located within their country? Were they a threat to corporate interests located within their country? Were they a threat to the regime that governs their country and allows us to fly the drones?

As new details emerge about the drone program in Pakistan, the administration’s official explanations begin to unravel. We now know, as Mark Mazzetti reported in the April 6 New York Times, that the first strike occurred in June 2004, when the United States used a Predator drone to assassinate Nek Muhammad, a Pashtun tribesman, at the request of Pakistan. The drone also killed two boys, ages 10 and 16. In return for this killing, Pakistan allowed the CIA to deploy Predator drones in its airspace.

And as reported by the McClatchy newspapers based on a review of classified intelligence reports, under President Obama, the drone program has continued to target and kill not just senior al-Qaeda leaders, but also “hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified ‘other’ militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan’s rugged tribal area.”

In the rare cases in which Obama does personally review evidence and approve a drone strike, he is hearing only one side of the story. Just as criminal suspects always seem guilty after a briefing by law enforcement, Muslim men living in remote and lawless regions of Pakistan or Yemen will always seem like terrorists to Obama after a CIA briefing. Moreover, much of the information used for drone targeting comes from informants, who are notoriously unreliable. For example, agent “Curveball” composed elaborate drawings of Saddam’s mobile weapons labs that existed only in Curveball’s head, but were nevertheless used to justify the Iraq War.

Our founding fathers valued an adversarial system of justice because they understood that government officials, even smart and well-meaning ones, are not always right.

Law enforcement agents and prosecutors might find it convenient never to have anyone oppose or even question their evidence, but the good ones also recognize the inherent danger of such an unbalanced system.

I recently defended a murder case in Charleston, Ill. If you spoke only to the prosecutors and detectives, you would have heard how three witnesses observed my client, Chris Oliver, kicking and stomping a developmentally disabled man to death, and you would have been easily convinced that Oliver is a killer.

But because Oliver had a defense lawyer and an investigator on his side, we were able to show the jury that two of the prosecution’s witnesses were severely mentally ill, had given numerous conflicting stories and had been pressured by the police to implicate Oliver, and that the third witness had himself been implicated in the beating and named Oliver only after cutting a deal with the state. We also introduced time sheets and cell phone records overlooked by the police, which showed that Oliver was not even present for the attack but was called to the scene after the beating to care for the victim. After hearing both sides of the story, the jury in Charleston quickly acquitted Oliver of murder.

Sadly, all we will ever know about the thousands of humans incinerated by our drones is that the CIA believed them to be terrorists.

View this article online at inthesetimes.com

Cell Phones in Police Stations: A Cautionary Tale

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By Leonard Goodman. Published in “Illinois Lawyer Now”, Spring 2013 edition.

In March of 2011, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office sent shock waves through the Chicago criminal defense bar when it indicted Attorney Sladjana Vuckovic for doing something many criminal defense lawyers have done – bringing a cell phone into a police station interview room.

At the time of her alleged crime, Ms. Vuckovic was doing what many lawyers do: representing people who cannot afford legal counsel. She was a volunteer with First Defense Legal Aid, a not for-profit organization that provides lawyers for indigent people at Chicagoland police stations. Its mission is to “protect civil rights by offering free 24-hour legal representation and advice to any individual taken into Chicago Police Department custody.” It provides a toll-free hotline to call when a family member or friend is taken into police custody. A volunteer lawyer is assigned, who determines where the person
is being held and whether the matter is serious enough to require a station visit. If the lawyer learns that the person is under investigation for a serious felony and has not yet been charged, the lawyer goes to the police station, visits the client, and provides advice about his/her legal rights.

A licensed attorney since 1995, Ms. Vuckovic worked mostly in the area of civil litigation. In 2010, she was employed by the Chicago Transit Authority, representing bus and rail operators in tort suits. But once a month for more than a decade she also volunteered for First Defense, spending dozens of Saturday nights and often Sundays at area police headquarters visiting indigent clients held by police as suspects in serious crimes.

Ms. Vuckovic’s career as a First Defense volunteer and licensed Illinois attorney nearly ended as a result of occurrences on a weekend in November 2010. Her Saturday night shift for First Defense began at 6 pm. At 7, a man called the hotline; his 19-year-old brother had been arrested and taken into custody by Chicago police for questioning regarding the slayings of two police officers. The call was transferred to Ms. Vuckovic, who learned that the person she was asked to represent was being held at Area Two South police headquarters on East 111th Street. According to her contemporaneous Activity Log, Ms. Vuckovic arrived at Area Two shortly after 8 pm. A detective escorted her upstairs to the area headquarters, unlocked the room where she met her client, whose right wrist was shackled to a ring on the wall. The detective switched offmthe video monitoring equipment — Illinois law required the police to record their interrogation of suspects in all murder investigations – and left Ms. Vuckovic and the client alone in the room. As was her custom, Ms. Vuckovic carried a shoulder bag containing her First Defense notebook, pens, wallet and cell phone. The detective did not object to Ms. Vuckovic bringing in her bag, nor did he inspect its contents. There were no signs or oral warnings given to Ms. Vuckovic to inform her that she was not allowed to have her cell phone during the interview, or that bringing a phone into the room was a felony. There was a sign posted in the room advising, as required by Illinois law, that: “Persons who are arrested shall have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice and a member of their family by making a reasonable number of telephone calls or in any other reasonable manner.”

During the hour-long visit, Ms. Vuckovic told the client that his brother had called the First Defense hotline, and she was assigned to be his lawyer until he was released from custody, or until he was formally charged with a crime, which usually occurs within 48 hours from the time of arrest. She explained that if and when he was charged, she would no longer act as his lawyer; instead, he would be taken to court and a public defender would be appointed to represent him in her place. In the meantime, he had a constitutional right to have her present during police questioning, and that if the police sought to question him during the next 48 hours, he should tell them to contact her before they began.

Ms. Vuckovic allowed her client to use her cell phone to make several calls in her presence to his family and friends, to let them know where he was, that a lawyer was with him, and that he was in good health. She instructed him not to talk about the case during these calls, and he complied with her admonition. Phone records and trial testimony reflect that although a number of calls were attempted, most did not go through or were not accepted. At the end of the visit, Ms. Vuckovic put her cell phone back into her bag, promised to return the next day (Sunday), and said that if in the meantime he was charged with a crime, she would inform his family where they could see him at the bond court.

The next morning, Ms. Vuckovic called Area Two and was told that her client was still there and had not been charged. At 1 p.m., she returned to the station. A police video shows her entering the interrogation room with her shoulder bag and a bag containing food she had purchased. A detective unshackled the client, and then left them alone in the room. As before, she was not told she was not allowed to bring her cell phone into the room. She again allowed her client to use her phone to talk to family and friends, first repeating her instruction not to talk about the case.

About 2 p.m., a police sergeant entered while the client was using the phone, and said to Ms. Vuckovic: “You know you’re not supposed to let him use the phone;” Ms. Vuckovic replied that she was not aware of any such prohibition. He did not say she was not allowed to bring the phone into the room; rather, he told the client to stop using the phone, whereupon the client returned the phone to Ms. Vuckovic. The sergeant instructed her to leave the police station. Sheput the phone back into her bag and left the room and the station. Later that day, she wrote in her FDLA Activity Log: “[Got] kicked out at 2 p.m. Sergeant
[name] upset I have been allowing the client to use my cell phone.”

Ms. Vuckovic had no further contact with the young man, because on Monday he was charged with two homicides, and on Tuesday he was taken to bond court where a Cook County Public Defender was appointed to represent him. That same day, while she was at work, three police detectives served her with a search warrant for her cell phone as potential evidence in connection with the murder investigation; she readily gave the cell phone to them. Three months later, in March 2011, Ms. Vuckovic learned she was to be charged with a Class One felony, and face up to 15 years in prison and potential disbarment for bringing her cell phone into the room at the station.

On March 24, 2011, Ms. Vuckovic was indicted for the crime of Bringing Contraband into a Penal Institution, in violation of 5/31A-1.1(a)(1), the cell phone allegedly being the contraband, and the interrogation room the penal institution. The prosecutors relied upon a 1997 amendment to the Illinois statute which expanded the definitions of “Contraband” to include cellular phones, and “Penal Institution” to include a “police detention area…for the incarceration or custody of persons…under
arrest for an offense.” 720 ILCS 5/31A-1.1(c)(1) and (c)(2)(xi). Ms. Vuckovic voluntarily “surrendered” at the State’s Attorney office, where she was handcuffed, fingerprinted, processed, and then released on bail.

This indictment of Ms. Vuckovic was the first of its kind in the nation – no other lawyer had ever been prosecuted for bringing a cell phone into a room in a police station to meet with a client who was in custody but not charged with a crime. She pleaded not guilty, and demanded trial by jury. The case went to trial in November 2012 at the Leighton felony court building on Chicago’s west side. As reported in the Chicago Tribune, the “unusual nature of the charge [drew] a curious audience of defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges, who packed Judge Evelyn Clay’s courtroom.” Although the charge related solely to Ms. Vuckovic’s bringing a phone into the room when she met with her client, the prosecutors repeatedly invited the jury to speculate that the client’s calls were used to obstruct justice in the murder investigation. Beginning in opening statement, the prosecutor said, “The police will never know who [the defendant] was talking to or what was being said” or “how he was using that phone to advance his own case.” In fact, the police had interviewed each recipient of the client’s phone calls, and were well aware that the phone was used only as Ms. Vuckovic had directed — to reach out to friends and relatives, and not to discuss or advance his case.

The prosecutors called as witnesses the two detectives who accompanied Ms. Vuckovic to the room at Area Two. Both admitted they did not caution her about having a phone, that they did not examine the contents of her bag, and that no signs were posted warning against possession of phones in the room. The detectives and a lieutenant commander of Area Two violent crimes all testified that when Ms. Vuckovic was asked to leave, she was not arrested, and she was allowed to leave with the phone. This testimony gave rise to the inference that none of them believed – as the State’s Attorney belatedly contended in the indictment several months later – that her bringing the cell phone into the room constituted a crime, or that the phone was “contraband” and therefore subject under Illinois law to immediate seizure by the police. Testifying in her own defense, Ms. Vuckovic said she did not realize it was against Illinois law to have a cell phone when meeting in police stations with uncharged clients referred by First Defense, and that she had no intention of obstructing the police investigation. She said she had made “more than a hundred”client visits at Chicagoland police stations with her cell phone in her bag, and never had she been told by any police officer that she was not allowed to bring a cell phone with her during client interviews.

Two former top ranking law enforcement officials testified as expert witnesses on Ms. Vuckovic’s behalf. Thomas P. Sullivan, who had served as United States Attorney in Chicago, and Richard J. Brzeczak, who had been Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, testified that until contacted about Ms. Vuckovic’s case, they were not aware that the Illinois statute had been amended to include cell phones within the definition of “contraband,” or that the definition of “penal institution” had been expanded to include a “place for incarceration or custody [of a person] under arrest for an offense.” Mr. Brzeczak agreed that an interrogation room could be considered a “place for custody,” but so could a squad car, or even a sidewalk on which an arrested person is temporarily detained. Mr. Sullivan testified that, in his opinion, when a room in a police station “is used by a lawyer to … interview the client, … it is not a place of detention… it is an interview room.” During cross examination, Mr. Sullivan emphasized a basic principle of constitutional law that the State cannot criminalize “honest mistakes, because of lack of knowledge of what the law is. The Supreme Court of the United States long ago says you can’t make that a crime and waste time when we’ve got real crime going on out in the streets.” He added that several years earlier, he went to the Evanston, Illinois police station to represent a young client who was held in police custody, took a cell phone into the room where the client was being held, and permitted him to use it to call his mother.

The jury quickly acquitted Ms. Vuckovic. One juror told the Tribune that “the consensus on the panel was that prosecutors failed to prove Ms. Vuckovic knew she was not allowed to bring a cell phone into the police interrogation room with her.”


Leonard C. Goodman represented Ms. Vuckovic in this case.

Article my be viewed online here.

In Questioning Brennan, Intelligence Committee Showed Little

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By Leonard Goodman. Published in In These Times. March 15, 2013.

The Senate watchdogs of the CIA played dumb on drones–again.
It should be noted that half of the committee, including its chair, Feinstein, take campaign contributions from CIA contractors such as Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, all three of which manufacture drones.

In 1976, followIng revelations of CIA abuses during the Nixon Administration (including spying on domestic dissidents), Congress created the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) to oversee the CIA’s covert operations and protect the American people from its excesses.

During the past 15 years under SSCI’s watch, the budget of the National Intelligence Program (which includes the CIA) has tripled and the CIA has morphed from an intelligence gathering operation into a paramilitary force that has assassinated thousands of alleged terrorists, including American citizens, in countries far from any U.S.-declared war zone, such as Yemen and Somalia.

On February 7, Americans got a picture of SSCI oversight in action during the confirmation hearings of John Brennan for CIA director, televised on C-SPAN. A 25-year veteran of the agency, Brennan has overseen the massive escalation of the drone war under President Barack Obama. Before that, under President George W. Bush, Brennan oversaw extraordinary renditions—i.e., sending captives to “black sites” in foreign countries to be tortured.

At his confirmation hearing (described by the mainstream press as a grilling), Brennan assured the SSCI that the executive branch uses lethal drone strikes only as a “last resort to save lives when there’s no other alternative.” Brennan was not asked about a leaked government memo that invents new, watered-down definitions for phrases like “imminent threat” and “capture infeasible,” effectively giving the president legal cover to kill anyone. Nor was Brennan asked about “signature strikes” in which drone operators fire on people based only on visual evidence of suspicious behavior.

Although the CIA assassinated three American citizens in Yemen in the fall of 2011, including a 16-year-old boy named Abdulrahman, the committee only asked Brennan about the killing of the boy’s father, Anwar al-Awlaki, described by the U.S. as a senior al Qaeda leader—a claim vehemently contested by Yemen experts. At the hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sought to put al-Awlaki on trial posthumously, apparently to assure the public that their government only kills American citizens who are bad people.

Did al-Awlaki have a connection to the attempted bombing of a commercial airliner over Detroit or to the Fort Hood shootings? Feinstein asked. Brennan was “not prepared” to say. But he did “believe” that another terrorist once told interrogators “that he was inspired by alAwlaki.” In the end, Brennan agreed with Feinstein that al-Awlaki is not “an American citizen of whom anyone in America would be proud.”

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) did raise the crucial question of whether the CIA’s drone warfare is creating more terrorists than it is killing. While in the past, Brennan has stuck to the line that al Qaeda is being “decimated” by drones, he conceded that al Qaeda is “metastasizing now across northern Africa and other parts.” Yet he saw no reason to change course.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) expressed concern over the CIA’s practice of producing faulty intelligence and then classifying any reports that would expose the deception. A case in point: Brennan himself has said publicly that the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) produced “valuable intelligence” that “saved lives.” But when the SSCI reviewed more than 6 million pages of intelligence documents and produced a report in December 2012, it concluded, according to Udall, that the EIT program was “brutal,” “severely flawed,” and “did not work.” Of course, we don’t know how the committee came to those conclusions because the report has yet to be declassified.

It should be noted that half of the committee, including its chair, Feinstein, take campaign contributions from CIA contractors such as Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, all three of which manufacture drones.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Brennan asked each senator who sits on the committee to protect the American people from CIA abuses, to instead be “an ardent advocate, proponent and defender of the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency.” It appears likely that Brennan will get his wish.

To original article may be found here.

‘A Giant Sucking Sound’

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By Leonard Goodman. Published in In These Times. October 30, 2012.

Presidential contenders Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have been spending a lot of time in Ohio, promising the swing-state voters they’ll bring back middle-class manufacturing jobs by getting tough on China. Obama says he’ll continue to haul China before the World Trade Organization for unfair export subsidies, while Romney wants to officially label the country a “currency manipulator.”

Both candidates recognize that a healthy middle class—workers with high-wage jobs who can afford to support a family, buy a home or a car, take a vacation, etc.—brought us out of the Great Depression and fueled a half-century of economic growth. The federal government, with programs such as the G.I. Bill, was once a true champion for the American middle class.

But as manufacturing plants have closed over the last three decades, millions of middle-class Americans have lost their well-paying jobs—along with their homes—and have fallen into poverty. Both Republicans and Democrats bear responsibility for this catastrophe through their support of tax and trade policies that encourage corporations to increase profits by outsourcing middle-class jobs to low-wage countries.

These policies were not inevitable. Other countries, such as Germany, support their workers and have managed to maintain a middle class. Nor were the consequences of these policies and the demise of the middle class unforeseeable—remember Ross Perot’s warning about the “giant sucking sound” we would hear as our jobs moved south after the passage of NAFTA?

Yet while the two candidates speechify, behind the scenes they continue to push policies that favor corporate profits over middle-class workers. For example, both candidates strongly support the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), which is sold as a “free trade” agreement for the Pacific Rim and is being pushed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the top lobbying group for American corporations.

The terms of the TPP have been kept secret from the public for two years and only made available to the negotiators and a select group of corporate partners. However, a draft of the agreement that was leaked in June reveals the TPP would bestow radical new powers upon multinational corporations, including one provision that would protect the pharmaceutical industry from generic competitors and others that would allow companies to override domestic protections for the environment and for workers. New TPP investment rules aim to eliminate “Buy American” preferences for U.S. manufacturers.

Obama’s support for these secret corporate-friendly policies directly contradicts the Democratic platform he ran on in 2008, just as it contradicts his 2012 campaign rhetoric about fighting for the middle class.

To add insult to injury, American taxpayers, including the downwardly mobile middle class, have been forced to finance the bailouts of corporations that were unable to maintain profitability in the economy they helped sink. Every year, the federal government borrows and spends about $1 trillion that the American people are obligated to repay with interest. That works out to new personal debt of about $3,000 per year for each of us 300 million Americans.

While deficit spending may sometimes be necessary to stimulate a bad economy, it must be directed at fixing actual problems rather than protecting the powerful. Misdirected deficit spending only digs us deeper in the hole.

Most of that $3,000 per year is not being used to support new industries, new schools, our crumbling infrastructure or our great cities. Rather, the money is being used to prop up the corporations that own our government—including a war industry that is making us less safe and a financial services industry swindling us out of our homes and our savings.

So why then should we elect Obama to a second term? Because the policies of his opponent appear to be even worse for what’s left of the American middle class. Obama’s avoid-the-disaster-of-a-Romney-presidency message may get him re-elected; it’s just not as inspiring as his hope-and-change message of 2008.

Oh, for a real choice in November.

The original article may be found here.

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