Iceland may ban MasterCard, Visa over WikiLeaks censorship

Credit card companies that prevented card-holders from donating money to the secrets outlet WikiLeaks could have their operating licenses taken away in Iceland, according to members of the Icelandic Parliamentary General Committee.

Representatives from Mastercard and Visa were called before the committee Sunday to discuss their refusal to process donations to the website, reports Reykjavik Grapevine.

“People wanted to know on what legal grounds the ban was taken, but no one could answer it,” Robert Marshall, the chairman of the committee, said. “They said this decision was taken by foreign sources.”

The committee is seeking additional information from the credit card companies for proof that there was legal grounds for blocking the donations.

Marshall said the committee would seriously review the operating licenses of Visa and Mastercard in Iceland.

WikiLeaks’s payment processor, the Icelandic company DataCell ehf, said it would take immediate legal action against the companies to make donations possible again.

“DataCell who facilitates those payments towards Wikileaks has decided to take up immediate legal actions to make donations possible again,” DataCell CEO Andreas Fink said last week. “We can not believe WikiLeaks would even create scratch at the brand name of Visa.”

“It will probably hurt their brand much much more to block payments towards WikiLeaks than to have them occur,” Fink added.


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Supreme Court says jury selections should be open

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Georgia‘s high court incorrectly upheld a trial judge’s decision that the public could be barred from jury selection in a drug trial, ruling that jury selection in criminal trials is presumptively open and judges must consider alternatives to closure.

The 7-2 majority opinion in Presley v. Georgia, which was remanded to the lower court without oral argument, said that the Constitution guarantees both defendants and the public the right to public jury selections.

“The Sixth Amendment right, as the quoted language makes explicit, is the right of the accused. The Court has further held that the public trial right extends beyond the accused and can be invoked under the First Amendment,” read the majority opinion, which was not signed by any single justice.

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Police increasingly use false wiretapping charges to prevent video recordings

A South Florida model films a cop who is threatening to arrest her son and she gets arrested on felony charges.

An Oregon man films a cop who is roughing up his mentally ill friend and he gets arrested on felony charges.

And a Boston man films a cop arresting a drug suspect and he gets arrested on felony charges.

These are only a handful of people in this country who have been arrested in recent years on felony charges after doing something that is protected under the First Amendment.

Their charges? Illegal wiretapping or eavesdropping, a charge that never fails to get thrown out before reaching court. But by then, the damage is done. Their rights have been trampled on and police rarely get punished for making such unlawful arrests.

An article this week in the Boston Globe highlighted such arrests in the Boston area, but anybody who reads this blog knows these types of arrests occur on too much of a frequent basis around the country.

There are no hard statistics for video recording arrests. But the experiences of Surmacz and Glik highlight what civil libertarians call a troubling misuse of the state’s wiretapping law to stifle the kind of street-level oversight that cell phone and video technology make possible.

“The police apparently do not want witnesses to what they do in public,’’ said Sarah Wunsch, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, who helped to get the criminal charges against Surmacz dismissed.

The laws on illegal wiretapping vary from state to state, but one thing is clear in all states. A person must have had an expectation of privacy in order to become a victim.

In other words, if you are filming a cop in public, that cop does not have an expectation of privacy. Especially if that cop sees your camera.

For more information, check out the Field Guide to Secret Audio and Video Recordings.

Grannies to Toys’R’Us : War is Not a Game

NEW YORK — On December 4, the Raging Grannies and the Granny Peace Brigade created a wonderful holiday peace event at the crossroads of the world, Times Square. The purpose was to send the message: No more war toys and no more war.

They met near the Recruiting Station where two New York City Police Department officers, polite but not particularly interested in the First Amendment, told them that they had to move on. Debate was futile. So, they moved to the huge Broadway Toys “R” Us where several grannies had entered minutes earlier, got on the three story high Ferris wheel in the store, and unfurled large yellow banners that read “No More War Toys — No More War.”

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Sheriff Joe Walks Out After Interrupted by Singers, Protesters Occupy Lobby

Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. “Joe” Arpaio walked out of an interview on Monday. Arizona State University‘s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication held a “First Amendment” forum at which Arpaio faced some hard questions. But he had an even harder time dealing with the people who started singing the “Immigration Rhapsody” and wouldn’t stop.Prior to the song, other anarchists entered the lobby of the building and held a speak-out to share stories of racial profiling. News was shared that the sheriff had been shut down, after which the Haymarket Squares performed a few songs in the lobby before the crowd exited the building.

During the song, sung to the tune of the “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Arpaio walked off stage and wouldn’t continue the interview even though the singers left and there were 12 minutes left of the forum. The song received a lot of press coverage, but the message was not shared adequately.

More text, photos and videos at Why We Sang Sheriff Joe off the Stage and Anarchists, students, and pissed off people come out swinging at Arpaio’s ASU appearance

CCR Files Opening Brief in First Supreme Court Case to Challenge Patriot Act

Obama Administration Defending Law that Makes Speech Advocating Human Rights a Terrorist Crime

November 17, 2009, New York – Yesterday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the first brief in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the first case to challenge a portion of the Patriot Act before the Supreme Court. The case, originally brought in 1998 on behalf of a human rights group, a retired federal administrative judge, a doctor, and several nonprofit groups, challenges the constitutionality of the law that makes it a crime to provide “material support” to groups the administration has designated as “terrorist.”  In particular, the plaintiffs charge that the law goes too far in making speech advocating lawful, nonviolent activity a crime.  The lower courts have unanimously declared several provisions of the law – including one added by the Patriot Act – unconstitutionally vague because they encompass speech and force citizens to guess as to their meaning.

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Virginia drops plan for anonymous juries

The Supreme Court of Virginia has withdrawn a controversial proposal that would have automatically withheld the identities of jurors in all criminal cases, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Several open government organizations, including the Virginia Press Association and the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, opposed the rule. The Reporters Committee filed comments noting that courts have found that the First Amendment creates a presumption of access to juror identities, which can be overcome in cases where a judge believes that jurors are at risk.

In 2008 the General Assembly enacted a law that required courts to find “good cause” for secrecy before hiding the identities of jurors. But the proposed court rule, which was billed as an implementation of the 2008 Virginia law, required that all criminal jurors in Virginia be assigned a number and “at all times during the course of the trial … the court, counsel for the parties, and the jurors, shall refer to jurors by number and not by name.”

The blanket secrecy was an attempt, the proposal said, “to avoid any implication that this anonymous procedure is being undertaken in any specific case because of the dangerousness of that specific defendant.”

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