The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Civil Liberties News Week Ending June 1

by Jessica Azulay

A weekly run-down of stories related to rights, privacy, etc. @Conscientious Objector Sentenced @Wicca Gravestone Refused @"Gagged" Librarians Talk @AT&T Spy Evidence @Hawaiian Native Rights

Female soldier sentenced to jail for refusing war role

Katherine Jashinski, believed to be the first female "conscientious objector" to the US occupation of Afghanistan, was sentenced last week to 120 days in prison for refusing orders. Jashinski was a cook in the Army National Guard, and in a statement last year said she came to realize during her years of service that participating in war ran counter to her ethical beliefs. She submitted an application for official conscientious-objector status in June 2004.

In November of last year, Jashinski said, she was ordered to train with a weapon in preparation for possible deployment to Afghanistan, and she intended to "exercise… every legal right not pick up a weapon, and to participate in war effort."

"Now I have come to the point where I am forced to choose between my legal obligation to the Army and my deepest moral values," said Jashinski in a statement. "I have a moral obligation not only to myself but to the world as a whole, and this is more important than any contract."

The Guard denied Jashinki’s application for CO status eighteen months after she submitted it and then court-martialed her for refusing weapons training, according to Iraq Veterans Against the War, a soldiers group that is supporting her.

Vets Admin balks at Wicca gravestone

Nine months after Sergeant Patrick Stewart died in Afghanistan, the US Department of Veterans Affairs continues to refuse his widow’s request to place his religious symbol on his headstone. The Stewarts practice Wicca, a pagan faith, and Roberta Steward wants a five-point star in a circle engraved on her husband’s memorial. Though the VA recognizes about 30 headstone symbols, the Wiccan pentacle in not among them. The agency has said it is considering the request, but has yet to make a decision.

Monday, Roberta Stewart held an alternative Memorial Day service for Patrick, attended by hundreds of supporters.

‘Gagged’ librarians finally freed to talk

Four librarians who were subject to secret government demands to turn over patrons’ personal records spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday, after the Justice Department finally lifted the gag order silencing them. The identities of Barbara Bailey, Peter Chase, George Christian and Janet Nocek of the Library Connection in Connecticut, had been kept under forced seal by a provision of the Patriot Act while they sued the government over an FBI demand that they secretly hand over information about library patrons.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the librarians, the FBI demanded the records through a national security letter, a subpoena issued by the Bureau without judicial oversight. The USA Patriot Act, passed in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks, gave the FBI power to secretly issue NSLs to libraries, Internet service providers and other businesses. In what opponents call a "gag order," NSL recipients are barred under the law from telling anyone about the letter.

The ACLU and the librarians fought a protracted legal battle last year to lift the gag enough to allow the librarians to speak to lawmakers during debate over renewing the Patriot Act. The Bush administration succeeded in keeping them silent and only withdrew the gag requirement after Congress renewed the Patriot Act.

The librarians’ legal challenge to the constitutionality of the National Security Letter provision is still pending.

Documents reveal phone company’s ‘secret room’

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group that is suing AT&T over its alleged involvement in the National Security Agency’s data-collection program, released a previously sealed document from case last week. The document is the declaration of a key witness in the EFF case, a former AT&T insider who says the company set up a secret room to help the NSA collect customers’ communications.

The testimony of Mark Klein, who worked as a technician for AT&T, outlines the specifications of equipment in a secret room he says he saw being built in January 2003. The location of the room has been blacked out. Though US District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled last week that the testimony could be released to the public, the judge allowed AT&T to force partial redactions of the document.

However, another document obtained by Wired magazine and posted to its website contains a similar account by Klein. According to that document, the "secret room" – as Klein said it was called – was located in San Francisco and only accessible to people with NSA security clearance. Klein said it contained equipment that would allow spies to eavesdrop on communications sent over fiber optic cables.

Congress may further recognize Native Hawaiians

The US Senate may soon vote on a bill that would grant native Hawaiians the same sovereign status as other federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States. The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, introduced by Hawaii’s Democratic Senator Daniel Akaka, condones the re-establishment of a Native Hawaiian governing entity.

The text of the legislation says that it builds on a 1993 "apology resolution" in which Congress acknowledged and apologized for the United States government’s role in overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and the deprivation Native Hawaiians’ right to self-determination








The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

This News Digest originally appeared in the June 1, 2006 edition of The NewStandard.
Jessica Azulay is a staff journalist.

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