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PA Corrections bans anti-fascist literature; documents confirm censorship at Standing Rock

Letter to Worker’s World from PA Corrections regarding censored issue of their newspaper.

Note: I want to express my condolences to the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, including the family and friends of those who lost their lives. May this event be a lesson to us all of the dangers and terrible tragedies which result from senseless violence. Yet, we must remember that this acute pain is nothing compared to the social ills that plague our everyday lives throughout the country. The construction of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline is gearing up. Things are about to get tense here in Pennsylvania. Remain strong.


The Philadelphia Worker’s World Branch confirmed via email on Friday that the Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections is enforcing a ban on the August 31 issue (pdf) of their socialist newspaper Worker’s World. In a letter to Worker’s World dated September 11, Pennsylvania DOC said that it banned the issue because it “contains articles that call for people to join the fight against white supremacy.” Joe Piette of the Philadelphia Worker’s World Branch explained to me in the email that they believe this reason to be overly broad, and claimed that the DOC is violating the 1st Amendment rights of 300 prisoners. Piette claims that this is the fourth time this year that their publication has been censored.

According to a 2007 article published by legal scholar Emily Chiang (pdf), the Supreme Court clearly laid out that prisoners retain their First Amendment rights during incarceration and that they need to be balanced with the legitimate security needs of prison administrators. So just how threatening are the words published in the Aug. 31 issue of Worker’s World?

Joe Piette:

Two of the articles on the pages the DOC cites included articles on the justified taking down of the confederate statue in Durham. They also cite page 2, which features an article entitled “AFL-CIO’s Trumka leaves Trump council – He never should have joined!” The DOC seems to be offended by this paragraph: “The bigger question for labor is, of course, the conduct of Trumka. How could he justify taking a seat on this hideous council, knowing all about Trump’s bigoted rhetoric and the presence of open white supremacists in the cabinet?”

There is nothing there that justifies the denial of Workers World into this State’s prisons. The DOC’s action is nothing short of censorship in defense of white supremacy.

The Trumka-Trump article ends by encouraging the “rank and file” to “revive labor’s proud legacy of militant, class-conscious and anti-racist unionism,” which I suspect may have contributed to the ban. However, the use of the word “militant” does not mean the ban can be justified on the basis of being a security risk in prison. The words expressed within the pages of Worker’s World do no more than honor those who we are encouraged to honor every Labor Day, those men and women who struggled for their right to organize against the brutality of their oppressors.

The article on page seven encourages anti-racist activists to learn how to defend themselves from attacks by white supremacists, while the last article cited by the PA DOC pleas with readers to contact the Sheriff of Durham, NC over the arrest of over 40 anti-racist activists on August 14.

After reading the paper, though there are some inflammatory remarks (many of which I don’t agree with), I can’t discount Worker’s World’s conclusion that the PA DOC had ulterior motives for this ban. There are no calls to violence. No condemnation of white people as a group. And, given the nature of our founding documents, it is absurd to deny a prisoner’s right to read revolutionary literature from any time period, especially literature that is far less inflammatory than our own Declaration of Independence and most of the world’s major religious texts. After all, it is prisoners who are most likely to be victims to the tyranny of the status quo. And, if we are to protect our freedom, we need to stand up for the rights of all those charged and convicted of crimes. Our justice system is supposed to be a bulwark against tyranny, not an extension of it.

Perhaps the PA DOC does not want prisoners tear down racial divisions within the Pennsylvania corrections system. Perhaps they have an invested interest in discouraging solidarity between inmates. If this is the case, the PA DOC’s interests are completely at odds with the principles of justice. The Supreme Court, according to Chiang, makes it clear that prison policies “must address a valid issue of prison security or rehabilitation.” Are we really supposed to think that a publication which advocates for solidarity between all ethnicities is more of a security and rehabilitation risk than the segregation endemic to the state prison system today? Wouldn’t we want prisoners to develop pro-social opinions of people that are different from them? That sounds almost rehabilitative.


In these times of mass incarceration, dragnet surveillance, and the criminalization of activism, prisoners’ rights are of fundamental importance. Censorship of the movement against pipeline expansions in Pennsylvania is a real and tangible risk.

Last week, the Intercept published an article describing the evidence that police and private security firms leveraged their power over the FAA to gain control of the airspace above the Standing Rock protest camp, preventing protesters and journalists from documenting the excessive use of force by police and private security.

Documents obtained via open records requests, as well as material from court cases, reveal new details about how the FAA and state agencies helped police and private security companies wrest control of the airspace above the NoDAPL resistance from indigenous water protectors.

We need to act now to put a stop to these over-bearing policies that aim to restrict our right to be freely informed, in and out of prison. One can only be reminded of the words of John F. Kennedy, that those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable. This is no threat. It’s a warning. After what was witnessed in the twentieth century, I think all reasonable people must come to an agreement that revolutions of aggression pose a great risk to revolutionary aims, and that violence between political factions must be mitigated at every turn.

But we must act, and we must be prepared to commit to self-determination, radical organization, and direct action. Turn your very life into an act of rebellion and inspire others to do the same. We should implore the PA DOC to rescind the ban and allow our state’s prison population have access to facts and opinions regarding social and environmental movements. In doing so, we protect ourselves from similar violations.

You can contact the PA DOC here:

Department of Corrections
1920 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA  17050
(717) 728-2573

 

Solidarity,

cloudwater

https://waterislifepa.org/2017/10/03/pa-corrections-bans-anti-fascist-literature-documents-confirm-censorship-at-standing-rock/

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D.C. Court Rules Against Tracking Cell Phones Without a Warrant

In a big blow to one of law enforcement’s favorite new techniques, the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that using a Stingray without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment prohibiting unlawful search and seizure. Stingrays are known more formally as “cell-site simulators,” mimicking the function of a cell-phone tower and used to track a phone’s location (the nickname comes from Harris Corp’s StingRay line of devices).

In the case of Prince Jones, the court ruled that “the use of a cell-site simulator to locate a person through his or her cellphone invades the person’s actual, legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her location information and is a search.”

Stingrays are a controversial technology, because there is little formal regulation of how they should be used. Law-enforcement agencies are usually very secretive about when they use them and how, and what data they collect from them. Commenting on leaked instruction manuals last year, one tech expert told the Intercept, “The ease with which the StingRay II can be used is quite striking and there do not seem to be any technical safeguards against misuse.”

By Brian Feldman

On The Intersection Between Prisons and Borders

Thank you to the Boston May Day Coalition for giving the Boston Anarchist Black Cross a chance to speak at the immigration march today. Here is the full text of the speech one of our members gave:

The government literally treats immigrants like criminals, just for being here.

El gobierno literalmente trata a los inmigrantes como criminales, solo por quedarse aquí.

This criminalisation of immigrants is part of the prison industrial complex.

Esta criminalización de los inmigrantes forma parte del complejo industrial penitenciario.

Most people in this country have immigration in our family histories, yet the United States blames immigrants for crimes.

La mayoría de la gente en este país tiene inmigrantes en nuestra historias familiares, pero estados unidos culpa a los inmigrantes por crímenes.

They’ve been doing it since the beginning. In fact, they even blamed anarchism on immigrants back when they passed the Immigration Act of 1903.

Lo han estado haciendo desde el principio. De hecho, aún culparon al anarquismo de los inmigrantes cuando aprobaron la Ley Inmigración del 1903 (mil novecientos y tres).

For over a century the United States has been making it harder and more dangerous to come here and especially to stay here long term.

Durante más de un siglo los estados unidos han estado haciéndolo más difícil y más peligroso venir aquí y especialmente permanecer.

They treat all immigrants, papers or not, in a humiliating, objectifying, abusive way.

Tratan todos a los inmigrantes, papeles o no, de una manera humillante, objetivadora, y abusiva.

Most surveillance targets “foreign nationals”, which includes immigrants.

La mayoría de vigilancia acosa a los “extranjeros”, inclusive inmigrantes.

Police work together with ICE to lock up immigrants.

La policía trabaja junto con el ICE para encerrar a los inmigrantes.

On the border, you have no rights.

En la frontera, no tienes derechos.

Sometimes not even human rights.

A veces ni siquiera derechos humanos.

But immigrants are still endangered within the borders.

Pero inmigrantes todavía están en peligro dentro de las fronteras.

After a while a country can look like one big prison, because you don’t have free movement. The border guard and the prison guard have the same job.

Después de un tiempo una país puede parecerse un gran prisión, porque no tienes movimiento libre. La guardia de la frontera y la guardia de la prisión tiene el trabajo mismo.

Follow the money. Capitalism is a root cause.

Sigue el dinero. El capitalismo es una causa principal.

Private companies make a lot of money locking up immigrants in detention centers, jails, and private prisons.

Empresas privadas hacen mucho dinero encerrando a los inmigrantes en centros de detención, cárceles, y prisiones privadas.

The fastest growing segment of the prison population are immigrants!

El segmento de la población carcelaria que crece más rápidamente son los inmigrantes!

All of this forms a vicious cycle. The more immigrants they lock up, the more they justify locking up immigrants, the more they profit. The Anarchist Black Cross believes no human is illegal and that we should abolish prison.

Todo esto forma una círculo vicioso. Cuanto más inmigrantes ellos encerrar, más justifican encerrar a los inmigrantes, más ganan. La Cruz Negra Anarquista cree que ningún humano es ilegal y que debemos abolir prisiones.

One thing we’d add is that you can’t stop immigrants from coming here, and if you try, that means detaining and imprisoning them. The choice is between freedom and imprisonment. The freedom of immigrants is the freedom of us all. We’d add, too, that fascists have taken advantage of the criminalization of immigrants to blame them and their races and cultures for just about everything. This speech is the answer to the false dilemma presented to us that scapegoats immigrants. 

There were a few media inquiries, which we declined. The media is free to use this text in their reporting.

Take a sneak peak at our new Security Culture workshop!

Security Culture Slides v.01

In the spirit of the annual student invasion of Boston in the beginning of the new academic year, here’s our contribution to public education.

The best interaction with the court system is none. Also, the methodology laid out in this document is useful for a myriad of other scenarios.

Driving a Uhaul down Storrow Drive is poor security culture.

Stay safe out there!

storrowed

Security Culture Tips: Informants, Snitches, Surveillance Capitalism, and the Evil Faceboogle

While our project on security culture has taken longer than expected, we are enthused to see other comrades stepping up to the plate. Check out Submedia’s analysis of modern day security needs Trouble #5: You Are Being Watched

While surveillance and security challenges for activists in 2017 can feel overwhelming, they end with a bright note:

“Don’t overestimate the state surveillance capacity. Don’t underestimate it but don’t overestimate it. They know some things, but they don’t know shit. Their intelligence gathering — unless you are absolutely ‘the target’, is not very good. Each bureaucracy is doing its own intelligence gathering, has its own chain of command, and intelligence tends to stay in each of those bureaucracies so it becomes trapped in like a silo. … They absolutely cannot stop encryption.”

So, it sounds like the powers that be are encumbered by their own hierarchy! Also:

“Security culture at its core involves knowledge and understanding. Developing personal relationships, face-to-face relationships, affinity groups, trusting friendships and comraderie is probably the most effective form of security culture that we have. Things like Brandon Darby create media sensation for us because they are so rare, because it costs so much in resources for them to actually do infiltration, for them to actually do the heavy surveillance.”

Also, bear in mind that as much as they can gather intelligence, there is a difference between data collection and effective data analysis. Especially with the sheer amount of data to sift through, signals intelligence is hard to do, and the results may not always be accurate. In an article on The Intercept detailing the flaws of facial recognition, it was noted by several organizations including The Innocence Project, based here in Boston, that:

More than half of the exonerations analyzed by the Innocence Project have involved cases where forensic experts cited flawed or exaggerated evidence, and in 2009 a landmark paper by the National Academy of Sciences stated what many had long suspected: Apart from DNA testing, no other forensic method could reliably and consistently “demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.” The report launched the forensic science community into a crisis of interpretation, with many questioning whether its methods should be deemed “sciences” at all.

So remember, no need to cave to paranoia. Build trust. Practice security culture, stop snitching, use more encryption, and donate to us so we can help more people stay out of prison!

Happy May Day Everyone!

May Day

 

Happy May Day and Happy Beltane from the Anarchist Black Cross.

Workers of the World Unite!

No Borders!  No Nations!  No one is illegal!

No Pasaran!

 

See you in the streets.