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Context of 'January 10, 2010: Nevada Court Throws Out ‘Personhood’ Ballot Measure That Would Effectively End Abortion, Contraception, Stem-Cell Research'

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The new head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), Jack Goldsmith, sends a classified memo to Deputy Attorney General James Comey. The contents of the memo remain secret, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will later learn that the memo concerns classified foreign intelligence activities (see February 25, 2003). [American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 pdf file] (The ACLU has Goldsmith as the author of the memo, even though he is not nominated for the OLC slot until May 2003 [Savage, 2007, pp. 183] , and will not be confirmed for the position until five months after that (see October 6, 2003). The reason for the apparent discrepancy is not immediately discernible.)

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, American Civil Liberties Union, Jack Goldsmith, James B. Comey Jr., Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ)

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

In a letter to Judge Alvin Hellerstein regarding the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)‘s lawsuit against the US Defense Department, the Justice Department informs Hellerstein that the CIA destroyed 92 videotapes of prisoner interrogations. The CIA’s previous admissions of the number of destroyed videotapes were far smaller (see November 2005). [Re: ACLU et al v. Department of Defense et al, 3/2/2009 pdf file] The CIA confirms that the tapes showed what it calls “enhanced interrogation techniques” used on a number of detainees. The Justice Department adds that it will provide a list of summaries, transcripts, and memoranda related to the destroyed tapes, though the American Civil Liberties Union notes that a previous list was almost entirely redacted. [TPM Muckraker, 3/6/2009; American Civil Liberties Union, 3/6/2009] The disclosure comes as part of a criminal inquiry into the tapes’ destruction. As the investigation comes to a close, observers expect that no charges will be filed against any CIA employees. The agency’s Directorate of Operations chief, Jose Rodriguez, ordered the recordings destroyed in November 2005 (see November 2005); former CIA Director Michael Hayden argued that the tapes posed “a serious security risk” because they contained the identities of CIA participants in al-Qaeda interrogations. Rodriguez has not yet been questioned. It is believed that the tapes show, among other interrogation sessions, the waterboarding of two detainees, Abu Zubaida (see Mid-May 2002 and After) and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see (November 2002)). Civil libertarians and human rights advocates are outraged at the destruction of the tapes. “The sheer number of tapes at issue demonstrates that this destruction was not an accident,” says Amrit Singh, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “It’s about time the CIA was held accountable for its flagrant violation of the law,” she adds. CIA spokesman George Little says the destruction of the tapes was not an attempt to break the law or evade accountability. “If anyone thinks it’s agency policy to impede the enforcement of American law, they simply don’t know the facts,” Little says. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, confirms that her panel intends to conduct a broader investigation of the CIA’s interrogation program. [Washington Post, 3/3/2009]

Entity Tags: Michael Hayden, Jose Rodriguez, Jr., US Department of Justice, Senate Intelligence Committee, Central Intelligence Agency, Amrit Singh, American Civil Liberties Union, George Little, US Department of Defense, Alvin K. Hellerstein, Dianne Feinstein

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Nevada District Court Judge James Russell throws out a proposed “personhood” state ballot measure that attempted to extend constitutional rights of citizenship—“personhood”—to fertilized eggs. The measure would effectively ban all abortions in Nevada. Russell rules that the language of the proposed statute is “too general in nature,” and is far too sweeping in its implications for reproductive health care and rights. The proposal reads in full, “In the great state of Nevada, the term ‘person’ applies to every human being.” Critics have charged that the proposal’s broad language is intended to ban abortion, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and embryonic stem cell research. Michael Brooks, an attorney for Personhood Nevada, counters that the language and intent is perfectly clear, and says: “This is far beyond the isolated issue of abortion. Just because it’s broad doesn’t mean it’s vague. We’re not trying to hide the ball.” The intent, Brooks says, is to protect the “dignity” of human life from techniques such as those practiced on concentration camp prisoners by the Nazis, and that any rulings as to how the amendment effected other areas of law would be up to future courts to decide. The proposal was challenged by the Nevada branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Nevada Advocates of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. Similar proposals have been thwarted in Montana and Colorado. [RH Reality Check, 1/11/2010]

Entity Tags: Personhood Nevada, Michael Brooks, Nevada Advocates of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, American Civil Liberties Union, James Russell

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

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