All posts by lisa

Oakland Privacy’s Mike Katz-Lacabe at the 2019 EFF Pioneer Awards

The EFF has made a full transcription of the entire 2019 Pioneer Awards available here.

Video of Mike Katz-Lacabe’s speech on YouTube here.

See video/transcriptions for Tracy Rosenberg and Brian Hofer.

oakland privacy

EFF’s nash Sheard presents a 2019 Barlow Award to members of Oakland Privacy (Left to right: Nathan “nash” Sheard, Tracy Rosenberg, Brian Hofer, Mike Katz-Lacabe)

Mike Katz-Lacabe’s speech:

So I first have to confess I’m not just a member of the EFF. I’m also a client. Thank you to Mitch Stoltz and your team for making sure that public records that I unearth remain available on the Internet for others to see.

So as Nash said, Oakland Privacy’s strength comes not just from the citizens that volunteer as part of its group, but also from the coalitions that we build. And certainly every victory that is credited to us is the result of many, many other coalition members, whether in some cases it’s the EFF or the ACLU or local neighborhood activists. It’s really a coalition of people that makes us stronger and helps us get the things done that sometimes we not always deservedly get as much credit for. So I want to make sure to call out those other groups and to recognize that their work is important as well and critical for us.

My work for Oakland Privacy comes from the belief that only from transparency can you have oversight, and from oversight derives accountability. So many examples of technology that have been acquired and used by law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area were never known about by the city councils that oversaw those police agencies.

In the city of Oakland, it was seven years after the city of Oakland acquired its stingray cell site simulator that the city of Oakland and the city council became aware of the use of that device by the police. In my city, I live in San Leandro, it was five years before the city council became aware of our city’s use of license plate readers and a very notorious photo of me getting out of my car that was taken by a passing license plate reader got published on the Internet.

We do our best work when working together. That’s been said. Let me give you … speaking of stories, I’ll take take off from Adam’s talk here. For example, recently journalist Caroline Haskins obtained a bunch of documents pertaining to Ring, you may know the Ring doorbell, and its relationship with police departments. A post about a party that Ring held at the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting with basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, where each attendee got five free Ring doorbells. That was highlighted by EFF Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass.

I, or we as Oakland Privacy, we then found a social media post by the police chief of Dunwoody, Georgia saying, “Hey, look at this great party with Ring, and there’s Shaq.” Dave then went and took that information, went back and looked at Dunwoody and found that subsequently, a few months later, Dunwoody was proud to announce the first law enforcement partnership with Ring in the state of Georgia. What a coincidence.

Oftentimes it’s these coalitions working together that result in prying public records free and then establishing the context around them. The work we do involves very, very exciting things: Public records requests, lobbying of public officials and meeting with public officials, speaking at city council meetings and board of supervisors meetings. We’re talking, this is, primo excitement here.

So, as was mentioned, our work with Oakland Privacy was helpful in getting the first privacy advisory commission, an actual city of Oakland commission going, within the city of Oakland. It’s this organization, led by chair Brian Hofer, that passes policies regarding surveillance technologies, and not only passes policies but actually digs down and finds out what surveillance technologies the city of Oakland has. It has been a model for cities and counties, and we’re proud that our work will continue there in addition to working on many other issues surrounding surveillance.

In fact, I would be very happy to tell you that we’ve had … just recently the California assembly and the Senate passed a ban on the use of face surveillance on body-worn cameras. Again, our work with coalitions there makes the difference. And now, I would like to introduce another member of Oakland Privacy, Tracy Rosenberg.

 

Berkeley Delays Implementing Surveillance Policy Despite Ordinance Passed Over A Year and a Half Ago

New Interview with Tracy Rosenberg of Oakland Privacy and the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project (ASDPSP) about Berkeley’s delay in implementing its Surveillance Policy.

Come to our premiere “First Fridays” event in Berkeley on September 6th, 6-7:30pm: A Raw Thought Surveillance Salon (use the discount code “AaronSwartzDay” for a super-discounted ticket :-) TICKETS

The bottom line is that, in July 2017, although several members of the city council promised that the data collected by Berkeley’s license plate readers would never be shared with law enforcement, some badly worded language was also approved, during the same meeting.

That same bad language (for regulating license plate reader data) is now in danger of being accepted as part of the new Surveillance Policy – not as a placeholder until the policy is implemented (as we previously stated).

Turns out that the Oakland Privacy and the ACLU had to write a letter to the City of Berkeley earlier this year, threatening to sue the city, if the city council did not start “creating draft policies & putting them through the approval process.” So, this latest attempt of pushing through bad language from two years ago is just the city council making good on its word of getting started. ^_^

The problem is that we really need to start from scratch writing Berkeley’s surveillance policy, not pick up where we left off, using the bad language proposed in July of 2017.

From the Interview:

ASDPSP: So, in March of 2018, Berkeley passed a surveillance transparency ordinance. The ordinance required that a surveillance policy framework be put in place, similar to the one that currently exists for the City of Oakland (note that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department is excluded), and is in the process of being put in place for the City of San Francisco.

Tracy: Correct.

ASDPSP: And to date, after a year and a half, a surveillance use policy framework for the data collected by Berkeley’s automated license plate readers has still not been put into place by the City Council?

Tracy: Correct.

ASDPSP: And the reason for this is that that process has been delayed by certain members of the City Council, such as Dee Williams-Ridley, the City Manager, and also by Berkeley Police Chief Greenwood?

Tracy: Yes. They have not been quick to get things moving.

In July of 2017, the City Council (with 3 dissenting votes) expanded the City’s license plate reader “pilot program” by adding 15 additional readers and making the program permanent.

But at that meeting, the purpose of the ALPR equipment was clearly defined as parking enforcement and the issuing of parking citations.

ASDPSP:  So we have basically been using the honor system, and have no guarantees that the data won’t be handed over to law enforcement agencies in the future, since there is still no specific policy in place ensuring that parking is the only way that the data will be used? And without a policy in place, there are loopholes allowing the cops to use the data in other ways?

Tracy: Yes, at a Police Review Commission subcommittee meeting on August 7th, a proposed license plate reader policy included some very broad permanent additions for the way that law enforcement can use the data, such as “Supporting a patrol operation or a criminal investigation” and “Canvassing license plates around any crime scene.”

Also proposed was authorizing sharing the data with any outside law enforcement or prosecutorial agency for any official law enforcement purpose (absent federal immigration enforcement officials).

ASDPSP: Whoa. Hold on there. That’s exactly how we don’t want license plate readers to be used.

Tracy: Yup. Certainly at a minimum, not parking. And pretty much the way most law enforcement agencies currently use license plate readers. For broad law enforcement purposes without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

 

Executive Summary of Chelsea’s “Grumbles Motion”

Index of Materials re: Chelsea’s Resistance to Two Grand Jury Subpoenas

Executive Summary of Chelsea Manning’s “Grumbles” Motion.

A “Grumbles” motion is actually a “Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Release”  (It’s called a “Grumbles” motion because the first people to argue it were Don and Patricia Grumbles.)

But what does it really explain and why is the case law it contains so important in Chelsea’s case?

Read the Executive Summary by Kelly Wright to find out. :-)

Excerpts from the Executive Summary:

If there is no coercive effect to their confinement, either because the grand jury has ended, or because there is no possible way they will be convinced to comply with the order to testify, then the confinement must be deemed punitive, and must end…

Simkin v. US, establishes that incarcerated witnesses must be freed from confinement if conditions arise that makes purging their contempt impossible. This would include not only the conclusion of the grand jury investigation, but cases in which the witness can demonstrate that their convictions make them “non-coercible.”…

To determine whether a witness is incoercible, judges review evidence of their character and beliefs, and if the judge is convinced that the confinement has no coercive effect, then it has, by definition, exceeded its lawful scope. Such a judgment would require the witness’ immediate release…

Some of the factors that may go into making an “individualized determination” as to the intransigence of the witness are:

  1. the length of confinement

  2. the witness’ connection to what is being investigated

  3. the basis for refusal

  4. the presumed need for the witness’ unique testimony

  5. the witness’ community support

  6. the witness’ conduct and demeanor.

     

    Read the whole Executive Summary here.

Chelsea’s Grand Jury Cases: Statements & Legal Documents

Index of Materials re: Chelsea’s Resistance to Two Grand Jury Subpoenas

Updated: January 2, 2020

January 2, 2020: Chelsea Manning Responds to United Nations Rapporteur’s Call For Her Release

Read the  Letter from Chelsea Manning to Judge Anthony Trenga, where Chelsea explains the history of grand juries, after reflecting long and hard on the reasons for her resistance, at the request of Judge Anthony Trenga  (original in PDF)

To keep up with developments, please follow the Chelsea Resists Twitter feed here.      Donate to her Legal Fund here.

Updated Index:

Solitary Confinement Statement From Chelsea’s Support Committee – March 23, 2019

Chelsea is being held in solitary confinement. See the definition of solitary confinement compared to the jail’s own definition of the “Administrative Segregation” conditions under which Chelsea is being held:

Chelsea’s statement March 8th (from her Twitter account):

“I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury. Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.

The grand jury’s questions pertained to disclosures from nine years ago, and took place six years after and in-depth computer forensics case, in which I testified for almost a full day about these events. I stand by my previous public testimony.

I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.”

Daniel Ellsberg’s Statement of Support

From the Freedom of the Press Foundation website:

“Chelsea Manning is again acting heroically in the name of press freedom, and it’s a travesty that she has been sent back to jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury. An investigation into WikiLeaks for publishing is a grave threat to all journalists’ rights, and Chelsea is doing us all a service for fighting it. She has already been tortured, spent years in jail, and has suffered more than enough. She should be released immediately.”

Chelsea Resists Legal Defense Fund: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/chelsea-manning-needs-legal-funds-to-resist-a-grand-jury-subpoena

Address for writing Chelsea in Jail:

Chelsea Elizabeth Manning
A0181426
William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center
2001 Mill Road
Alexandria, VA 22314

Dos and Don’ts for Writing Chelsea in Jail (IMPORTANT)

Statement from Chelsea Manning Regarding Grand Jury and Consequences Associated with Her Refusal – March 7, 2019:

Statement from Chelsea Manning Regarding Grand Jury and Consequences Associated with Her Refusal

“Yesterday, I appeared before a secret grand jury after being given immunity for my testimony. All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010—answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013. I responded to each question with the following statement: ‘I object to the question and refuse to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of my First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment, and other statutory rights.’

“In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles. I will exhaust every legal remedy available. My legal team continues to challenge the secrecy of these proceedings, and I am prepared to face the consequences of my refusal.”

Past Statements by Chelsea & her legal and suport team:

References: (work in progress – will keep adding to this)

1. Why Chelsea Manning Decided to Go to Jail in Protest, March 8, 2019, by Dell Cameron for Gizmodo https://gizmodo.com/why-chelsea-manning-decided-to-go-to-jail-in-protest-1833164311

“Manning, whose right to remain silent was supplanted as part of the grand jury process, was subpoenaed last month in the U.S. Justice Department’s not-so-sealed investigation into Julian Assange. Her defiance of this secret inquisition, however, is not about protecting the WikiLeaks founder at all.

Manning says she is resisting because she, like many other politically minded Americans, believes grand juries are an illegal instrument designed to aide prosecutors on fishing expeditions; a tool for stripping witnesses of their constitutional rights that has been historically used against peaceful political activists by men in power who would have them labelled “terrorists” and “enemies of the state…”

“Manning’s association with WikiLeaks nearly a decade ago was dissected in exhaustive detail during her 2013 court-martial, in which all manner of evidence about her brief contact with WikiLeaks, including the transcripts of their conversations, was presented. But now she is meant to regurgitate that story based on her own flawed memories while under the threat of prolonged incarceration if she finds any reason to refuse.

“We hope she changes her mind now,” the prosecutor, Tracy McCormick, told the Associated Press.

Although Manning is constitutionally protected from double jeopardy—from being charged twice for the same crime—her political right to silence has effectively been stripped away…”

2. Chelsea Manning Fights Subpoena — Showing How Federal Grand Juries Are Unaccountable Tools of Repression – By Natasha Lennard, March 2 2019 https://theintercept.com/2019/03/02/chelsea-manning-subpoena-grand-jury/

“Manning’s decision to fight her subpoena is an act of resistance against government repression and in defense of a free press.”

 

3. Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Say No Formal Accusation She Gave False Statements During Court Martial (By Dell Cameron For Gizmodo)

4. Court Unseals Documents Regarding Chelsea Manning Subpoena (Documents are available via Lawfareblog)

5. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Chelsea’s Appeal & Bail Motion last Monday, April 22. Here are statements from Chelsea and her team: https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/04/chelsea-manning-and-her-attorneys-respond-to-4th-circuit-court-of-appeals-ruling-affirming-contempt-and-continuing-her-detention/

6. Chelsea has been let out of her solitary confinement conditions (Administrative Segregation), the definition of which, is nearly identical to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture’s definition of solitary confinement.

 

New Index of Resources re: Chelsea’s Resistance to Two Grand Jury Subpoenas

Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning has been in jail 145 days as of August 5, 2019.

We’ve created this new index of all of our resource pages about Chelsea’s grand jury resistance fight.

Included on it is her filed declaration, where she explains why she’s being held and what her life is like in jail:

Declaration of Chelsea Manning

From the declaration:

In jail at ADC, I try every day to maintain my physical, mental, and intellectual capacities, as well as some modicum of human dignity. I live a quiet social life in a housing unit that holds a dozen people, who rotate frequently. I try to occupy myself with crossword and sudoku puzzles in the absence of good reading material. I try to stay positive despite the aftermath of isolation and the knowledge that my life once again is put on hold for a few more years, potentially…

Despite the heartbreak and hardship, cooperation with this grand jury is simply not an option. Doing so would mean throwing away all of my principles, accomplishments, sacrifices, and erase decades of my reputation – an obvious impossibility…

As before, I cannot regain the lost time – which may again extend to years. Repairing the damage to my relationships and both my physical and mental health might never come to pass. Whatever one might make of my principles and decisions, I shall continue to make hard choices and sacrifices rather than relinquish my ethical positions in exchange for mere trinkets of personal gain or self-pleasure in the form of being released…

The idea I hold the keys to my own cell is an absurd one, as I face the prospect of suffering either way due to this unnecessary and punitive subpoena: I can either go to jail or betray my principles. The latter exists as a much worse prison than the government can construct.

DWeb Camp Q & A with Mozilla’s Liz Henry

DWeb Camp is going on from July 18-21 in Pescadero, CA.

Senior Release Manager, Mozilla
Co-founder, Double Union Feminist Hackerspace

Q: What excites you most about the decentralized web?

A: I like the idea of strengthening peer to peer connections that are hard for well established organizations, like states or corporations or even publishing houses, to control.

I’d rather see a billion small networks than one, or a few, overarching controlled platforms. Or, to put it differently, we might do well to have both – Sidewalks are great, but we need more cracks in the sidewalk for good weeds to flourish and for rain to get into the water table.

Q: What is the need to create a decentralized web critical in nature?

A: Currently there is a strong narrative of the need for control, for taming, for filtering, and rules and that means centralizing a lot of things that may already be a little too controlled and centralized. The decentralized web is a possible counter narrative.

Here are a few examples I don’t see mentioned often in these discussions: we need this for feminist organizing. We already need it and will increasingly need it for information (and organizing) about birth control, menstrual extraction, reproductive health of all kinds, and abortion. We have also learned the value of being able to privately share information in our local communities. We need it to evade destructive and ridiculous copyright laws, as well!

Q: What will you be speaking about at the conference?

A: I’m always happy to speak about those things, or about accessibility and disability justice related issues. But, what I’m actually planning to talk about is the projects I’m working on for the camp — a zine about the history of the land and the farm, which I’ll be handing out at DWeb, and a text adventure game written in Inform7 that’s set in DWeb itself. I have the framework of the game ready and will add to it during the Camp, inviting contributions from others to make it weird, fun, informative, and exciting.

Thanks Danny! See everyone at DWeb Camp on July 18th!

DWeb Camp Q & A with the EFF’s Danny O’Brien

DWeb Camp is going on from July 18-21 in Pescadero, CA.

Q: What excites you most about the decentralized web?

A: The Internet for me has always been a vision of autonomy among equals — being able to create, share and communicate with your peers as quickly and easily as possible.

Danny O’Brien, Director of Strategy, EFF

Somehow, so much of that communication now goes through a handful of chokepoints: silos where the data of our lives goes in, but never escapes.

Decentralizing — or re-decentralizing — the Web, is about continuing the project, after a brief diversion into the Google/Amazon/Facebook world.

Q: Why is the need to create a distributed web critical in nature?

A: I think if all the world’s communications are filtered through a handful of institutions — whatever those institutions are — it’s going to get distorted. We need to be able to communicate clearly, and as equals.

Q: Will you be speaking at the conference? What about?

A: Well, mainly I’m hoping to listen. But if you grab me, I’ll be talking about the changing tone of public debate (and how it compares to the post-revolutionary America and France), adversarial interoperability, lessons we can learn from the P2P wars, and what happens when regulators aim at Facebook and hit the Dweb.

EFF will be out in force, too — we’ll have folks to speak from all sides of the organization, from tech, law, and activism.

Thanks Danny! See everyone at DWeb Camp on July 18th!

Letter from Chelsea Manning to Judge Anthony Trenga

Index of Materials re: Chelsea’s Resistance to Two Grand Jury Subpoenas

Exhibit 1 to Chelsea and her legal team’s Motion for Reconsideration of Sanctions (Scribd) (SparrowMedia)

References cited in this letter.

May 28, 2019


Dear Judge Trenga,

During the contempt hearing on May 16, 2019, this Honorable Court directed me to take the opportunity during my confinement to reflect on my principles with respect to the institution of grand juries in the United States. This letter responds to that directive.

During the hearing, you stated that there exists “no dishonor” in providing evidence to a grand jury. You suggested that codification of grand juries in the text of the U.S. Constitution provided ample justification for this institution. In response to my suggestion of “preliminary” or “committal” hearings, you expressed skepticism over whether such publicly held hearings served the same purpose without damaging innocent people accused of crimes.

These arguments are raised frequently in discussions about the problems with grand juries. They are certainly not novel to me. Over the last decade, I frequently considered these and many other arguments while forming my opinions about the grand jury process. After spending the last two weeks reflecting on my decision not to testify before this grand jury, I wish to present my position in a more careful and complete manner than an impromptu colloquy can provide. After working with lawyers and researchers, I can also now cite specific sources that support my position.

First, I shall compare grand juries in their earliest form, including the ideals and practical problems they sought to address, to grand juries as they currently operate. Second I want to clarify that while my objection to grand juries emphasizes their historical use against activists, I also view grand juries as an institution that now undermines due process even when used as intended.

The drafters of the U.S. Constitution, despite their many flaws, possessed a sophisticated understanding of modern political theory. The framers did not set out to short-circuit due process protections. Obviously, to a contemporary reader, we now understand the many flaws and compromises in the Constitution, and see some as inherently cruel and indefensible: legal human slavery; the legalizing of subordinate civil status for women; segregation; and the disenfranchisement of those who did not own land come to mind.

Some such practices might have struck contemporaries of the Constitution as “normal” or “necessary,” but with the passage of time, and through the tireless work of millions of people taking bold and dangerous action, they are now obsolete. I am certainly not alone in thinking that the grand jury process, which at one time acted as an independent body of citizens along the lines 2 of a civilian police review board, slowly transitioned into the unbridled arm of the police and prosecution in ways that run contrary to the grand jury’s originally intended purposes.(1)

The 5th Amendment provides many of our most cherished procedural safeguards, concepts foundational to our criminal legal system, including ‘due process,’ a prohibition on double jeopardy, and the right against compelled self-incrimination. The grand jury is also enshrined in the fifth amendment, however, prior to the recent publicity surrounding the Mueller investigation, most Americans only knew two things about the grand jury.

First, people hear that a grand jury could indict a ham sandwich. Early grand juries acted independently, as investigations by citizens. Now, the grand jury process means the prosecutor decides what the grand jurors see – and what they don’t see. The grand jury imagined by the drafters of the fifth amendment – which did not involve a prosecutor – bears no resemblance to what we see today, where more than 99.9% of indictments sought are granted.

Second, we learn another, more sinister thing about grand juries: they don’t indict law enforcement. For example, in Dallas over a stretch of several years, more than 80 police shootings came before grand juries. Only one returned an indictment.(2) Grand juries have protected police officers since the slave patrols. They were used to indict abolitionists, but not people capturing and re-enslaving people seeking freedom from bondage. They were used to indict reconstructionists, while actively protecting lynch mobs. Both the ‘ham sandwich’ statement and selective indictment happen because of grand jury secrecy.

Also, a prosecutor’s presentation of a case is shaped by their own ideas and goals. There does not need to be any misconduct or bad intent on the part of a prosecutor to influence the grand jurors in a way that destroys their independence. If you look at legal scholarship about the history of the grand jury, you can see how today’s grand juries are unrecognizable from English and early American ones. The original grand jury was more than an investigator; they were supposed to protect citizens not just from unjust indictments but from unjust laws. In England, grand jurors who even allowed a prosecutor to come into the grand jury room were seen as having violated their oath.(3)

I am positive that the founders never intended the grand jury to function like those we see today. If grand juries were actually independent bodies that nullified unjust laws or their unjust application, to determine whether it was really in the public interest to decide who should be made “infamous” under the law, I would feel differently. Reading the history of grand juries, I have read of how during the American Revolutionary war, grand jurors refused to indict tax resisters against the crown, because while it was technically illegal, the grand jurors recognized that what made it a criminal act was a law imposed by an authority that most of them by that time did not recognize (4). Nonetheless, the grand jury once provided a modicum of due process, at least to the class of people to whom due process was made available.

In 2019, the federal grand jury exists as a mockery of the institution that once stood against the whims of monarchs. It undermines the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantees of due process. Today’s grand juries do not safeguard such fundamental rights, and they are easily subject to abuse.

Secret proceedings lend unearned legitimacy to prosecutorial decisions that protect the powerful against accountability and over-punish the marginalized. It is not surprising that members of the defense bar are generally unsupportive of grand jury proceedings. Even the Department of Justice released a report acknowledging that “grand juries are notorious for being ‘rubber stamps’ for the prosecutor for virtually all routine criminal matters.” (5) Moreover, because prosecutors can compel people to show up and testify or produce documents to the grand jury without having to show probable cause, their unmonitored subpoena power functions to let them side-step the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Imagine a world in which you were not a judge and were not connected to judges and prosecutors personally. If you or a loved one has charges brought before a grand jury, charges of which you or they were innocent, would you believe for one moment that the grand jury might not indict? What rights, specifically, would you consider safeguarded by the fifth amendment’s provision for a grand jury? Consider that it is more than six times as likely that you will be struck by lightning than that a federal grand jury will decline to indict. I object to grand juries even when used in the ways that are typically understood to be legitimate.

The ability of grand juries to be abused or used for political ends is entrenched and perpetuated by the fact that jeopardy doesn’t attach with a grand jury, so prosecutors can repeatedly bring the same changes. Even though there are some laws that say prosecutors must either show they have new evidence or that it is in the public interest to extend or reconvene a grand jury, this is hardly an obstacle. For instance, Thomas Jefferson had to convene three separate grand juries in order to indict Aaron Burr for sedition – but he was able to continue to convene those grand juries until he obtained that indictment.

Additionally, in the Antebellum South, grand juries routinely indicted anti-slavery activists for sedition, while those in the North sometimes refused — but charges would re-presented to new grand juries until they stuck. In 1968, a San Francisco Grand Jury was asked by Mayor Alioto to investigate the Black Panther Party. They refused, and the foreman gave a press conference about political overreach. Unfortunately, in 1969, a new grand jury began an investigation.

These examples run to the political, but grand jury shopping is something that can be done with any kind of case. Grand juries can also be used to coerce defendants to give up their trial rights and take pleas, both by threatening to indict for more severe charges than are warranted (which we know can be done easily), or by threatening to call a defendant’s loved ones before a grand jury as witnesses. The very threat of the secret proceeding is in itself terrifying to people. The secrecy of grand jury proceedings fuel paranoia and fear, running contrary to our ideals of open courts and stoking our disdain for secret testimony. I find, when I explain the secrecy of grand juries, people are often truly shocked that they are constitutional, and frequently compare them to the Court of Star Chamber.

The Court of the Star Chamber existed in England from the 15th to 17th centuries. This court lacked the same procedures as normal courts, and often pursued political and religious dissidents, and others who “sinned” against the crown. It lacked evidentiary standards and proceeded on rumor and hearsay. It imposed all kinds of arbitrary punishments, except the death penalty. In 1641, Parliament abolished the Court of Star Chamber as a dangerous relic of the past for its brutality and capriciousness. The grand jury was once a progressive and protective replacement for things like the Star Chamber, but in its current incarnation it bears far more resemblance to the Court of the Star Chamber than to its intended role as a bulwark against arbitrary state power. Apart from the fact that the grand jury itself does not impose punishments, the biggest difference between the grand jury and the Court of the Star Chamber is that Star Chamber proceedings were in fact largely open to the public.

I am not alone in objecting to the grand jury as a dangerous relic that has evolved in ways that increase its power without increasing its protections. This is not even a partisan issue. For instance, even the Cato Institute has made statements critical of the grand jury:

Prosecutors defend their actions by reminding everyone that legislators have approved the procedures. Legislators defend what they have done by reminding everyone that the courts have approved the procedures. Judges defend what they have done by reminding everyone that prosecutors and legislators are free to do otherwise—and that the people seem content since they have not revolted against the elected officials who run the system. Citizens, in turn, too often assume that someone in the government is looking out for their welfare, including their constitutional rights. No one takes responsibility for the fact that constitutional rights are slipping away. (6)

During the hearing on the 16th, you pointedly asked me whether I had taken an oath to uphold the constitution. What is more important than my willingness to blindly follow that document is my commitment to its general principles of due process and fundamental rights. I refuse to participate in a process that has clearly transformed into something that violates the spirit if not the letter of the law. Since I reject the grand jury process, I am totally ready to propose alternatives to it and point out that such alternatives already exist.

Only two common law systems of justice use the grand jury: the United States and Liberia. Even within the United States, half of the states have dispensed with the use of grand juries. While they reliably end with indictments, they do not reliably end with justice. While the grand jury is anomalous in the world, other countries are nevertheless able to prosecute people, demonstrating that there are alternatives to the grand jury.

While the United States is one of two countries to maintain a grand jury system, countries that used to have grand juries include England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Belgium, Japan and Sierra Leone. In those countries, grand jury proceedings have been replaced by an open and adversarial “preliminary” or “committal” hearing system. Additionally, the United States military, through the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. §801 et seq, sets forth procedures for preliminary hearings, rather than grand juries, providing service members with significantly more protections than the average person.

Preliminary hearings throw open the doors to the best of all disinfectants: sunshine. Nearly every country that used grand juries replaced it with these hearings, which save time and expense, don’t criminalize refusal to comply with prosecutorial whims, and better equip all parties to prepare for fairer and more balanced inquiries into the truth of matters. There exists no shortage of due process and nothing prevents a witness who wishes to remain anonymous from speaking to law enforcement or the prosecution. A common justification for grand jury secrecy is to preserve the reputation of those investigated. First of all, as noted, almost nobody investigated by a grand jury is not indicted. Moreover, in countries that have preliminary hearings, people have an opportunity to defend themselves, and simply being investigated does not end in ruin.

Now, I want to address my specific concerns about the ways in which grand juries can be used politically.

Across the world and throughout history, it has been common practice to incarcerate or even kill dissidents and political rivals on the mere suspicion of being a member of an opposition group. While in the United States we are perhaps less overt in our persecution of dissidents most of the time, the grand jury subpoena combined with compulsory immunity gives unrestrained powers to U.S. prosecutors to oppress activists and their communities. Generally, people have no obligation to cooperate with law enforcement investigations. But in the context of a grand jury subpoena, people who refuse to talk about their first amendment beliefs and associations can be locked away via contempt.

During the McCarthy era, when people were publicly interrogated about their beliefs and associations, the public was eventually outraged, and the McCarthy hearings are widely seen as a disgraceful episode of modern history. This kind of questioning, however, routinely happens under the grand jury system. Due to the secrecy of grand juries, the public is less aware of it, and less outraged, and therefore, it continues without interruption. However, this is because they are unaware it is happening and cannot feel its effects.

The investigative grand jury as we know it was developed in the wake of McCarthy, during the Nixon years. It was developed purportedly to battle organized crime, but was promptly used to subpoena members of anti-war groups, the women’s movement, and black liberation groups. Prosecutors issued subpoenas in conjunction with grants of immunity, in order to compel testimony, and routinely had resistant activists imprisoned for contempt. For instance, while federal agencies were investigating the Puerto Rican independence movement, several community organizers refused to comply out of solidarity with their communities. They were arrested at gunpoint for contempt of court. 6 Senator Ted Kennedy was not shy about expressing his alarm:

“Over the past four years, under the present administration, we have witnessed the birth of a new breed of political animal — the kangaroo grand jury — spawned in a dark corner of the Department of Justice, nourished by an administration bent on twisting law enforcement to serve its own political ends, a dangerous modern form of Star Chamber secret inquisition that is trampling the rights of American citizens from coast to coast.” (7)

The tradition of using political grand juries to jail political dissidents and activists is long. The concept of a grand jury in which prosecutors subpoena activists and jail them for refusing to comply with the subpoena stands in stark contrast to the institution contemplated in the Constitution.

The foregoing is intended to give you a better and more nuanced understanding of my conscientious objection to the grand jury. I understand the idea that as a civil contemnor, I hold the key to my cell – that I can free myself by talking to the grand jury. While I may hold the key to my cell, it is held in the beating heart of all I believe. To retrieve that key and do what you are asking of me, your honor, I would have to cut the key out, which would mean killing everything that I hold dear, and the beliefs that have defined my path.

Each person must make the world we want to live in around us where we stand. I believe in due process, freedom of the press, and a transparent court system. I object to the use of grand juries as tools to tear apart vulnerable communities. I object to this grand jury in particular as an effort to frighten journalists and publishers, who serve a crucial public good. I have had these values since I was a child, and I’ve had years of confinement to reflect on them. For much of that time, I depended for survival on my values, my decisions, and my conscience. I will not abandon them now.

Sincerely,

Chelsea Manning

**end**

References:

1. District Judge Edward Becker concluded, without chagrin, that it is true, generally, that “the grand jury is essentially controlled by the United States Attorney and is his prosecutorial tool” Robert Hawthorne, Inc. v. Dir. of Internal Revenue, 406 F. Supp. 1098, 1119 (E.D. Pa. 1975) https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/406/1098/2143411/

2. A grand jury could ‘indict a ham sandwich’, but apparently not a white police officerThe Guardian, Tuesday 25 November 2014 – As reprinted in The Independent: https://my.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/a-grand-jury-could-indict-a-ham-sandwich-but-apparently-not-a-white-police-officer-9882529.html

3. Roots, Roger, PhD, (2010) Grand Juries Gone Wrong

Roots, Roger, Grand Juries Gone Wrong (2011). Richmond Journal of Law & Public Interest, Vol. 14, p. 331, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1771994

4. The Improper Use of the Federal Grand Jury: An Instrument for the Internment of Political Activists, Michael E. Deutsch, 1984 Northwestern School of Law https://peopleslawoffice.com/improper-use-of-federal-grand-jury-michael-deutsch-political-repression/

5. Plea Bargaining: Critical Issues and Common Practices, by William F. McDonald, (U.S. DOJ, National Institute of Justice, 1985) https://digitalcommons.law.ggu.edu/nij-ojp/31/

6. W. Thomas Dillard, Stephen R. Johnson, and Timothy Lynch, A Grand Façade How the Grand Jury Was Captured by Government, Policy Analysis 1–18 (2003). https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/grand-facade-how-grand-jury-was-captured-government

7. Washington Post, March 14, 1972, at 2, col. 3

Editor’s Note: Reference #7, which we were unable to find an online copy of, is also mentioned in Reference(4) above:

Testifying before a House Judiciary sub-committee investigating the tactics of an ISD grand jury which had subpoenaed five pro-Republican Irish-Americans from New York to a grand jury in Fort [*1182] Worth, Texas, n105 Senator Edward M. Kennedy captured the essence of the Nixonian use of the grand jury:

Over the past four years, under the present administration, we have witnessed the birth of a new breed of political animal — the kangaroo grand jury — spawned in a dark corner of the Department of Justice, nourished by an administration bent on twisting law enforcement to serve its own political ends, a dangerous modern form of Star Chamber secret inquisition that is trampling the rights of American citizens from coast to coast.

Chelsea Manning’s May 10 Video Statement – Full Transcription

Index of Materials re: Chelsea’s Resistance to Two Grand Jury Subpoenas

Chelsea Manning speaks from the heart in a YouTube video on May 10, 2019.
Chelsea was incarcerated for 63 days for refusing to testify to a Grand Jury.
28 of those days were under solitary confinement conditions.

See the video here.

Complete Transcription:

Good evening.

Two months ago, the federal government summoned me before a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia.

As a general principle, I object to grand juries.

Prosecutors run grand juries behind closed doors and in secret, without a judge present.

Therefore, I declined to cooperate or answer any questions.

Based on my refusal to answer questions, District Court Judge Hilton ordered me held in contempt until the grand jury ended.

Yesterday, the grand jury expired, and I left the Alexandria Detention Center.

Throughout this ordeal, an incredible spring of solidarity and love boiled over. I received thousands of letters, including dozens to hundreds of them a day.

This means the world to me, and keeps me going.

Jail and prisons exist as a dark stain on our society, with more people confined in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world.

During my time, I spent 28 days in solitary confinement–a traumatic experience I already endured for a year in prison before.

Only a few months before reincarceration, I recieved gender confirmation surgery.

This left my body vulnerable to injury and infection, leading to possible complications that I am now seeking treatment for.

My absence severely hampers both my public and private life.

The law requires that civil contempt only be used to coerce witnesses to testify.

As I cannot be coerced, it instead exists as an additional punishment on top of the seven years I served.

Last week, I handwrote a statement outlining the fact I will never agree to testify before this or any other grand jury.

Several of my closest family, friends and colleagues supported this fact.

Our statements were filed in court.

The government knows I can’t be coerced.

When I arrive at the courthouse this coming Thursday, what happened last time will occur again.

I will not cooperate with this or any other grand jury.

Throughout the last decade, I accepted full responsibilty for my actions.

Facing jail again, this week, does not change this fact.

The prosecutors deliberately place me in an impossible situation: I either go to jail, or turn my back on the principles that I have.

The truth is, the government can construct no prison worse than to betray my conscience or my principles.

Thank you, and good night.

SB-1421; When Will We Get The Records?

By Tracy Rosenberg (Oakland Privacy and The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project)

SB 1421 isn’t perfect…But even with its limitations, the bill provides more law enforcement personnel transparency than has been possible in California for decades.

When then-governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1421 in October of 2018, police misconduct records were expected to start flowing on January 1.

That isn’t what’s happened, although small quantities of records have started to come out from certain cities, including Burlingame, Oakland and Berkeley.

To recap, SB 1421, one in a long line of bills that for more than a decade have tried to crack open California’s restrictive police officer’s bill of rights, turned records of investigations and discipline after incidents of lethal force or sustained incidents of sexual assault, evidence planting or lying, into public records that could be gotten with a public records request.

SB 1421 isn’t perfect. It freezes records when there are internal investigations going on and when lawsuits are in progress, which can cause lengthy delays before there is public transparency. And in cases where sexual assault, perjury and evidence-planting allegations aren’t sustained internally or in a court, records will still be sealed. But even with its limitations, the bill provides more law enforcement personnel transparency than has been possible in California for decades.

Even this modest of a change was met with outrage and rebellion by many of the state’s police unions, which have relied on the obscurity of misconduct proceedings to protect member cops from accountability for the crimes they commit.

Police unions ran into court all over California, asking for stays and injunctions in San Bernardino County, Ventura County, Los Angeles, Orange County and in Contra Costa County. Because you can’t unrelease a record after it has already been released, the courts have had to issue temporary stays while considering the issue, but at the now four courts where the cases have been fully argued, Contra Costa, LA, and now Orange County and San Diego, the police unions have lost big.

Arguing that cops involved in lethal incidents or caught lying and/or planting evidence relied on their investigative hearings hidden from view has drawn skepticism from judges, who have continued to insist that the public’s right to know outweighs the police right to hide and that illegal and criminal behavior from the police is not protected behavior that the State should help to conceal.

All the lower court rulings have been appealed, so there will be a few more months of legal jousting, but in the end, the records are going to flow. At least the ones that are left, since a few enterprising police unions have been convincing their City Councils to revise document retention protocols in order to pitch them. The first and second district of the Court of Appeals have upheld the lower court decisions releasing misconduct records and the California Supreme Court has resisted every request to intervene so so far it is public records 6, police unions 0. Those results are expected to be the same in any further legal suits.

For more background on SB-1421, here are a few references:

  1. SB-1421 Peace officers: release of records. (California Legislative Information Page) https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1421

  2. ACLU Northern California: Lifting the Veil of Secrecy: Police Misconduct & Use of Force (SB 1421) Author: Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) https://www.aclunc.org/our-work/legislation/lifting-veil-secrecy-police-misconduct-use-force-sb-1421

  3. KQED’s California Report, January 2, 2019: State Supreme Court Denies Attempt to Block New Access to Police Misconduct, Shooting Records https://www.kqed.org/news/11715442/state-supreme-court-denies-attempt-to-block-new-access-to-police-misconduct-shooting-records