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Tag Archives: Julian Assange
“It is getting to the point where the mark of international distinction and service to humanity is no longer the Nobel Peace Prize, but an espionage indictment from the US Department of Justice.” ___ JULIAN ASSANGE
Julian Assange appeared on the balcony of the Ecuadoran embassy in London where he lives under the protection of the Ecuadoran Government. The British, Swedish and Australian governments have already indicated that once they get ahold of him they will transfer him into the custody of the CIA. Once the Administration of the Hopester-in-Chief gets him, he will be disappeared into the depths of its prisons. And for what? For telling us how our Government actually works.
Good evening London.
What a sight for sore eyes. People ask what gives me hope. Well, the answer is right here.
Six months ago – 185 days ago – I entered this building.
It has become my home, my office and my refuge.
Thanks to the principled stance of the Ecuadorian government and the support of its people, I am safe in this embassy to speak to you.
And every single day outside, for 185 days, people like you have watched over this embassy – come rain, hail and shine.
Every single day. I came here in summer. It is winter now.
I have been sustained by your solidarity and I’m grateful for the efforts of people all around the world supporting the work of WikiLeaks, supporting freedom of speech, freedom of the press, essential elements in any democracy.
While my freedom is limited, at least I am still able to communicate this Christmas, unlike the 232 journalists who are in jail tonight.
Unlike Gottfrid Svartholm in Sweden tonight.
Unlike Jeremy Hammond in New York tonight.
Unlike Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain tonight.
And unlike Bradley Manning, who turned 25 this week, a young man who has maintained his dignity after spending more than 10 per cent of his life in jail, without trial, some of that time in a cage, naked and without his glasses.
And unlike so many others whose plights are linked to my own.
I salute these brave men and women. And I salute journalists and publications that have covered what continues to happen to these people, and to journalists who continue publishing the truth in face of persecution, prosecution and threat – who take journalism and publishing seriously.
Because it is from the revelation of truth that all else follows.
Our buildings can only be as tall as their bricks are strong.
Our civilization is only as strong as its ideas are true.
When our buildings are erected by the corrupt, when their cement is cut with dirt, when pristine steel is replaced by scrap – our buildings are not safe to live in.
And when our media is corrupt, when our academics are timid, when our history is filled with half- truths and lies – our civilization will never be just. It will never reach to the sky.
Our societies are intellectual shanty towns. Our beliefs about the world and each other have been created by the same system that has lied us into repeated wars that have killed millions.
You can’t build a skyscraper out of plasticine. And you can’t build a just civilization out of ignorance and lies.
We have to educate each other. We have to celebrate those who reveal the truth and denounce those who poison our ability to comprehend the world that we live in.
The quality of our discourse is the limit of our civilization.
But this generation has come to its feet and is revolutionizing the way we see the world.
For the first time in history the people who are affected by history are its creators.
And for other journalists and publications – your work speaks for itself, and so do your war crimes.
I salute those who recognize the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know – recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognized in the First Amendment of the United States – we must recognize that these are in danger and need protection like never before.
WikiLeaks is under a continuing Department of Justice investigation, and this fact has been recognized rightly by Ecuador and the governments of Latin America as one that materially endangers my life and my work.
Asylum is not granted on a whim, but granted on facts.
The U.S. investigation is referred to in testimony – under oath – in the U.S. courts, is admitted by the Department of Justice, and in the Washington Post just four days ago by the District Attorney of Virginia, as a fact. Its subpoenas are being litigated by our people in the U.S. courts. The Pentagon reissued its threats against me in September and claimed the very existence of WikiLeaks is an ongoing crime.
My work will not be cowed. But while this immoral investigation continues, and while the Australian government will not defend the journalism and publishing of WikiLeaks, I must remain here.
However, the door is open – and the door has always been open – for anyone who wishes to speak to me. Like you, I have not been charged with a crime. If you ever see spin that suggests otherwise, note this corruption of journalism and then go to justice4assange.com for the full facts. Tell the world the truth, and tell the world who lied to you.
Despite the limitations, despite the extra-judicial banking blockade, which circles WikiLeaks like the Cuban embargo, despite an unprecedented criminal investigation and a campaign to damage and destroy my organization, 2012 has been a huge year.
We have released nearly one million documents:
Documents relating to the unfolding war in Syria.
We have exposed the mass surveillance state in hundreds of documents from private intelligence companies.
We have released information about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere – the symbol of the corruption of the rule of law in the West, and beyond.
We’ve won against the immoral blockade in the courts and in the European Parliament.
After a two-year fight, contributions to WikiLeaks have gone from being blockaded and tax-deductible nowhere to being tax-deductible across the entirety of the European Union and the United States.
And last week information revealed by WikiLeaks was vital – and cited in the judgment – in determining what really happened to El-Masri, an innocent European kidnapped and tortured by the CIA.
Next year will be equally busy. WikiLeaks has already over a million documents being prepared to be released, documents that affect every country in the world. Every country in this world.
And in Australia an unelected Senator will be replaced by one that is elected.
In 2013, we continue to stand up to bullies. The Ecuadorian government and the governments of Latin America have shown how co-operating through shared values can embolden governments to stand up to coercion and support self-determination. Their governments threaten no one, attack no one, send drones at no one. But together they stand strong and independent.
The tired calls of Washington power-brokers for economic sanctions against Ecuador, simply for defending my rights, are misguided and wrong. President Correa rightly said, “Ecuador’s principles are not for sale.” We must unite together to defend the courageous people of Ecuador, to defend them against intervention in their economy and interference in their elections next year.
The power of people speaking up and resisting together terrifies corrupt and undemocratic power. So much so that ordinary people here in the West are now the enemy of governments, an enemy to be watched, an enemy to be controlled and to be impoverished.
True democracy is not the White House. True democracy is not Canberra. True democracy is the resistance of people, armed with the truth, against lies, from Tahrir to right here in London. Every day, ordinary people teach us that democracy is free speech and dissent.
For once we, the people, stop speaking out and stop dissenting, once we are distracted or pacified, once we turn away from each other, we are no longer free. For true democracy is the sum – is the sum – of our resistance.
If you don’t speak up – if you give up what is uniquely yours as a human being: if you surrender your consciousness, your independence, your sense of what is right and what is wrong, in other words – perhaps without knowing it, you become passive and controlled, unable to defend yourselves and those you love.
People often ask, “What can I do?”
The answer is not so difficult.
Learn how the world works. Challenge the statements and intentions of those who seek to control us behind a facade of democracy and monarchy.
Unite in common purpose and common principle to design, build, document, finance and defend.
Learn. Challenge. Act.
The Foreign Ministry of Ecuador arranged for Julian Assange of Wikileaks to address the UN from his asylum at their embassy in London.
I speak to you today as a free man, because despite having been detained for 659 days without charge, I am free in the most basic and important sense. I am free to speak my mind.
This freedom exists because the nation of Ecuador has granted me political asylum and other nations have rallied to support its decision.
And it is because of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that WikiLeaks is able to “receive and impart information… through any media, and any medium and regardless of frontiers”. And it is because of Article 14.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which enshrines the right to seek asylum from persecution, and the 1951 Refugee Convention and other conventions produced by the United Nations that I am able to be protected along with others from political persecution.
It is thanks to the United Nations that I am able to exercise my inalienable right to seek protection from the arbitrary and excessive actions taken by governments against me and the staff and supporters of my organisation. It is because of the absolute prohibition on torture enshrined in customary international law and the UN Convention Against Torture that we stand firmly to denounce torture and war crimes, as an organisation, regardless of who the perpetrators are.
I would like to thank the courtesy afforded to me by the Government of Ecuador in providing me with the space here today speak once again at the UN, in circumstances very different to my intervention in the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.
Almost two years ago today, I spoke there about our work uncovering the torture and killing of over 100,000 Iraqi citizens.
But today I want to tell you an American story.
I want to tell you the story of a young American soldier in Iraq.
The US administration is trying to erect a national regime of secrecy. A national regime of obfuscation.
The soldier was born in Cresent Oaklahoma to a Welsh mother and US Navy father. His parents fell in love. His father was stationed at a US military base in Wales.
The soldier showed early promise as a boy, winning top prize at science fairs 3 years in a row.
He believed in the truth, and like all of us, hated hypocrisy.
He believed in liberty and the right for all of us to pursue happiness. He believed in the values that founded an independent United States. He believed in Madison, he believed in Jefferson and he believed in Paine. Like many teenagers, he was unsure what to do with his life, but he knew he wanted to defend his country and he knew he wanted to learn about the world. He entered the US military and, like his father, trained as an intelligence analyst.
In late 2009, aged 21, he was deployed to Iraq.
There, it is alleged, he saw a US military that often did not follow the rule of law, and in fact, engaged in murder and supported political corruption.
It is alleged, it was there, in Baghdad, in 2010 that he gave to WikiLeaks, and to the world, details that exposed the torture of Iraqis, the murder of journalists and the detailed records of over 120,000 civilian killings in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He is also alleged to have given WikiLeaks 251,000 US diplomatic cables, which then went on to help trigger the Arab Spring. This young soldier’s name is Bradley Manning.
Allegedly betrayed by an informer, he was then imprisoned in Baghdad, imprisoned in Kuwait, and imprisoned in Virginia, where he was kept for 9 months in isolation and subject to severe abuse. The UN Special Rapporteur for Torture, Juan Mendez, investigated and formally found against the United States.
Hillary Clinton’s spokesman resigned. Bradley Manning, science fair all-star, soldier and patriot was degraded, abused and psychologically tortured by his own government. He was charged with a death penalty offence. These things happened to him, as the US government tried to break him, to force him to testify against WikiLeaks and me.
As of today Bradley Manning has been detained without trial for 856 days.
The legal maximum in the US military is 120 days.
The US administration is trying to erect a national regime of secrecy. A national regime of obfuscation.
A regime where any government employee revealing sensitive information to a media organization can be sentenced to death, life imprisonment or for espionage and journalists from a media organization with them.
We should not underestimate the scale of the investigation which has happened into WikiLeaks. I only wish I could say that Bradley Manning was the only victim of the situation. But the assault on WikiLeaks in relation to that matter and others has produced an investigation that Australian diplomats say is without precedent in its scale and nature. That the US government called a “whole of government investigation.”
Those government agencies identified so far as a matter of public record having been involved in this investigation include: the Department of Defense, Centcom, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the US Army Criminal Investigation Division, the United States Forces in Iraq, the First Army Division, The US Army Computer Crimes Investigative Unit, the CCIU, the Second Army Cyber-Command. And within those three separate intelligence investigations, the Department of Justice, most significantly, and its US Grand Jury in Alexandria Virginia, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which now has, according to court testimony early this year produced a file of 42,135 pages into WikiLeaks, of which less than 8000 concern Bradley Manning. The Department of State, the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Services. In addition we have been investigated by the Office of the Director General of National Intelligence, the ODNI, the Director of National Counterintelligence Executive, the Central Intelligence Agency, the House Oversight Committee, the National Security Staff Interagency Committee, and the PIAB – the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
The Department of Justice spokesperson Dean Boyd confirmed in July 2012 that the Department of Justice investigation into WikiLeaks is ongoing.
For all Barack Obama’s fine words yesterday, and there were many of them, fine words, it is his administration that boasts on his campaign website of criminalizing more speech that all previous US presidents combined.
I am reminded of the phrase: “the audacity of hope.”
Who can say that the President of the United States is not audacious?
Was it not audacity for the United States government to take credit for the last two years’ avalanche of progress?
Was it not audacious to say, on Tuesday, that the “United States supported the forces of change” in the Arab Spring?
Tunisian history did not begin in December 2010.
And Mohammed Bouazizi did not set himself on fire so that Barack Obama could be reelected.
His death was an emblem of the despair he had to endure under the Ben Ali regime.
The world knew, after reading WikiLeaks publications, that the Ben Ali regime and its government had for long years enjoyed the indifference, if not the support, of the United States – in full knowledge of its excesses and its crimes.
So it must come as a surprise to Tunisians that the United States supported the forces of change in their country.
Credit should be given where it is due, but it should be withheld where it is not.
It must come as a surprise to the Egyptian teenagers who washed American teargas out of their eyes that the US administration supported change in Egypt.
It must come as a surprise to those who heard Hillary Clinton insist that Mubarak’s regime was “stable,” and when it was clear to everyone that it was not, that its hated intelligence chief, Sueilman, who we proved the US knew was a torturer, should take the realm.
It must come as a surprise to all those Egyptians who heard Vice President Joseph Biden declare that Hosni Mubarak was a democrat and that Julian Assange was a high tech terrorist.
It is disrespectful to the dead and incarcerated of the Bahrain uprising to claim that the United States “supported the forces of change.”
This is indeed audacity.
Who can say that it is not audacious that the President – concerned to appear leaderly – looks back on this sea change – the people’s change – and calls it his own?
But we can take heart here too, because it means that the White House has seen that this progress is inevitable.
In this “season of progress” the president has seen which way the wind is blowing.
And he must now pretend that it is his adminstration that made it blow.
Very well. This is better than the alternative – to drift into irrelevance as the world moves on.
We must be clear here.
The United States is not the enemy.
Its government is not uniform. In some cases good people in the United States supported the forces of change. And perhaps Barack Obama personally was one of them.
But in others, and en masse, early on, it actively opposed them.
This is a matter of historical record.
And it is not fair and it is not appropriate for the President to distort that record for political gain, or for the sake of uttering fine words.
Credit should be given where it is due, but it should be withheld where it is not.
And as for the fine words.
They are fine words.
And we commend and agree with these fine words.
There are times for words and there are times for action. The time for words has run out.
We agree when President Obama said yesterday that people can resolve their differences peacefully.
We agree that diplomacy can take the place of war.
And we agree that this is an interdependent world, that all of us have a stake in.
We agree that freedom and self-determination are not merely American or Western values, but universal values.
And we agree with the President when he says that we must speak honestly if we are serious about these ideals.
But fine words languish without commensurate actions.
President Obama spoke out strongly in favour of the freedom of expression.
“Those in power,” he said, “have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent.”
There are times for words and there are times for action. The time for words has run out.
It is time for the US to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks, to cease its persecution of our people, and to cease its persecution of our alleged sources.
It is time for President Obama do the right thing, and join the forces of change, not in fine words but in fine deeds.
Military documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and posted online by Wikileaks show that the US government has designated the whistleblower website and its founder Julian Assange as “enemies of the state”—the same legal category as Al Qaeda and other foreign military adversaries.
As the Sydney Morning Herald reports:
The documents, some originally classified “Secret/NoForn” – not releasable to non-US nationals – record a probe by the air force’s Office of Special Investigations into a cyber systems analyst based in Britain who allegedly expressed support for WikiLeaks and attended pro-Assange demonstrations in London.
The counter-intelligence investigation focused on whether the analyst, who had a top-secret security clearance and access to the US military’s Secret Internet Protocol Router network, had disclosed classified or sensitive information to WikiLeaks supporters, described as an “anti-US and/or anti-military group”.
The suspected offence was “communicating with the enemy, 104-D”, an article in the US Uniform Code of Military Justice that prohibits military personnel from “communicating, corresponding or holding intercourse with the enemy”.
Compiled by COMMON DREAMS (see Links)
JULIAN ASSANGE, the publisher of WIKILEAKS, has been provided asylum in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. They did so because they believe Assange to be a refugee in danger of persecution and harm due his political views. The United States and its British lapdog have long been the world’s strongest defenders of the inviolability of embassies and the legality of asylum. Yet the British Government sent Ecuador a communique stating that unless the Ecuadorans turned Assange over British police would be dispatched to invade the embassy and snatch Assange.
Is Assange wanted in Britain? No.
Where is he wanted? He is wanted in Sweden for questioning relative to a charge of rape. A charge which the female complainant admits relates to an act of consensual and not forced sex. He is actually wanted by Swedish intelligence who have already promised to deliver him to their counterparts in the U.S. The United States CIA and the Obama Administration want him so that they can bury him so deep that he can no longer reveal American policy failures and shenanigans committed in our name.
Here is what Mark Weisbrot has written,
“It was like a scene from a Hollywood movie, where the kidnapper walks up from behind, with a gun protruding from his trench coat pocket. “Keep walking, and don’t say anything,” he warns.
Such was the U.K. government’s threat three weeks ago to Ecuador, that British police could invade the Ecuadorian embassy if necessary to arrest WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange. But Ecuador’s foreign minister didn’t keep walking, and said something, to the great embarrassment of the U.K. Foreign Office. The Foreign Office tried to say it wasn’t a threat—although it was now available to the world in writing – and then took it back.
But the unprecedented threat to violate the Vienna convention that protects diplomatic missions brought serious criticism from the Union of South American Nations, and then – despite being watered down by Washington – another rebuke from the Organization of American States.
The U.K.’s threat also made it clear that this case was not about questioning Julian Assange regarding a possible criminal case in Sweden. Few could believe that the U.K. government would have resorted to such extreme and illegal measures if this were just a matter of extraditing a foreign citizen to a foreign country where he is not even charged with a crime.”
If the CIA ever gets their hands on him it is quite likely that this quiet mild-mannered idealist will never see the light of day. He will be disappeared, or suicided or he will have an accident. Yeah, an accident would be far more convenient than a public trial, yeah, an accident, that’s the ticket.
SOURCE: Mark Weisbrot, Counterpunch.org (September 7, 2012)
On the basis of one such document, it is understood that the Justice Department already has a sealed indictment on Assange. Experts assume the government would prosecute him in accordance with the 1917 Espionage Act, which equates interference with government operations with support of America’s enemies. Over the past decade, U.S. officials have made it clear that anyone who can even be suspected of having a connection to terrorism is an enemy of the United States. In the eyes of the government, Assange may as well have ordered the deaths of American civilians or soldiers himself, even though no evidence has been produced to support the claim that the work WikiLeaks does has harmed Americans.
Given that the U.S. Justice Department has become what constitutional lawyer and Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald calls a travesty of law, Assange has every reason to fear extradition to the States. Assange’s attorney, Michael Ratner, confirms what seems obvious: The treatment given to accused WikiLeaks informant Bradley Manning—an extended, isolated imprisonment that a U.N. investigation deemed “cruel, inhuman and degrading”—is what Assange could expect as well. And as Greenwald writes: “The Obama administration’s unprecedented obsession with persecuting whistle-blowers and preventing transparency—what even generally supportive liberal magazines call ‘Obama’s war on whistle-blowers’—makes those concerns all the more valid.”
Even though Assange has broken no international law in seeking asylum from Ecuador, some, including New Statesman columnist David Allen Green, have portrayed him as a fugitive on the run. Assange has inspired the hatred of many since he first became internationally known in 2010. Much of that animosity has come from journalists and news organizations that have failed to do what Assange has done so spectacularly in the short time WikiLeaks has been operating: make people and organizations who do bad things in secret think twice about doing them at all, because someone devoted to truth and transparency might expose them.
The writers, editors and publishers at Truthdig are not among Assange’s detractors. We honor him for putting himself at great risk to reveal what governments and corporations are up to. Julian Assange is our Truthdigger of the Week.
SOURCE: TruthDig.com (June 22, 2012)
The Media have maintained such a blackout on the persecution of Julian Assange that it belies any assertion that a free press exists in the United States. A free press wouldn’t be so easily corralled in parroting the BIG LIE that is the Obama’s regime propaganda. It would have investigated the bogus “sex charges” trumped up in Sweden by a woman with ties to Swedish intelligence, and the CIA.
A minimal investigation reveals that the American, British, Australian and Swedish governments have violated their own laws and due process. Someone sent out the order, “Get Assange”! And the intel-police establishments of three continents fall in line.
Assange’s mother had this to say:
‘I hope Ecuador will grant him asylum, and if not, another third-world country. I hope the third world can stand up for what’s morally right when the first world can’t and won’t because they’ve got their snouts in the trough, rolling over for U.S. greed and big business.
‘Julian is a political prisoner, a journalist, a publisher of the truth about corruption, war crimes, kidnapping, blackmail, and manipulation. … He remains uncharged and unquestioned on a crime which, if you explore it, has absolutely no basis. Of course he would seek asylum.”
She added that her son was a victim of decisions by the United States, Britain, Sweden and Australia to abandon proper legal process.
JULIAN ASSANGE is the lead operative involved in the WIKILEAKS network of independent journalists and public information researchers which has brought assorted war crimes and official misconduct to the world’s attention. Soon after a massive dump of revealing materials onto the internet SWEDEN upon consultation with the U.S. Government charged Assange with rape. Now the allegations supposedly involved a “rape” in which the sexual activity was wholly consensual and voluntary but the charge was still used to both defame and undermine public support for Assange.
While the question of the criminal charges is working it way through Swedish, British and European courts, Assange, an Australian citizen, returned home. The Australian authorities placed him under house arrest at the behest of the United States which has convened a secret grand jury for his indictment. The U.S. refuses to divulge either to Assange’s attorneys or to the public just what the indictment is for but is committed itself to prosecution nevertheless and seeks Assange’s extradition.
However, under Australian law no citizen may be extradited for alleged political crimes in another country. This displeases the Government of His Imperial Majesty Barack I which promptly informed its Australian colony that the law must be changed. The Australian Parliament is now working to conform its laws with the Emperor’s will and is holding Assange pending extradition and the ex post facto application of the new Australian law.
What then? Probably a secret trial with undisclosed evidence and incarceration in Gitmo. Maybe, after a suitable period, Assange will “voluntarily confess” to whatever Imperial authorities want. Federal prosecutors are notorious for threatening uninvolved family members in order to coerce such voluntarism and it has been reported that the Assange family is in hiding already.
Meanwhile, Bradley Manning remains in solitary confinement pending his trial, periodically stripped and humiliated by his captors. The Government has been free to prep public opinion with allegations and suspicions but Manning has not been allowed to get his story out. The United Nations rapporteur has found the U.S. in violation of its international commitments to human rights and due process but what does that matter to an Imperial Superpower.
In the United States, we are free to say and do anything we wish EXCEPT that which affects the interests and profit-margins of the Military-Industrial Complex, Oil Companies, Banksters, Corporateers and the SuperRich and their servants within the Government.
On February 7, 2011, a small group of peace activists organized by the “Tackling Torture at the Top” Committee of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) tried to meet with the British Honorary Consul at his office on the 26th floor of the US Bancorp Center, 800 Nicollet Mall, in downtown Minneapolis. The purpose of the meeting was to deliver a letter with more than 750 signatures asking the British government to observe their own laws prohibiting political extradition in the case of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Various news sources (also here and here) have claimed that the proposed extradition is being pushed by the United States so that, once Assange is in Sweden , the U.S. can grab him for political rendition to stand trial in the U.S. with a possible death penalty.
The time of our anti-torture group’s intended letter delivery had been conveyed to office staff of the Honorary Consul (Attorney William McGrann) at least three times (twice by phone and once by e-mail) in the days before and on the morning of Monday, Feb 7. When the first members of our group arrived at the building early, at about 4 p.m., they were met by security guards backed by Minneapolis police officers in uniform as well as several plainclothes officers (or perhaps federal agents) who barred our entry into the building. A security fence had been set up on the sidewalk. The group was told that the entire 26th floor had been evacuated at 4 p.m., making it impossible to deliver our letter.
Apparently when Attorney McGrann learned we were drafting a letter, he panicked and overreacted, not only closing his 26th floor office early and sending his staff home, but also calling the police (and maybe the FBI?) as well as building security guards to seal off all entrances to the building. What was the Honorary British Consul so fearful of that he had to call a squadron of both uniformed and plainclothes police as well as security guards? (We found out later that there were another dozen or more law enforcement officers posted at all the skyway entrances around the building.) Where’s some good WikiLeaks when the taxpayers need them?! If only someone could expose how Minneapolis ‘ scarce tax dollars are being spent (wasted)! As the nice building manager volunteers in the video below, it (and the panic and waste of tax dollars) might have been due to the Consul’s fear of what he saw on Facebook.
But wouldn’t the Minneapolis Police Chief, Mayor and Minneapolis City Council be a bit more grounded and therefore hard-pressed to explain what information on that FB page about our letter and efforts to get signatures it was exactly that justified the dispatching of so many police officers?! It’s certainly not a crime to write or deliver a letter (especially one insisting that the law be followed) so someone must have been watching too much TV or something to get their imaginations running so wild. What justified their photographing our small letter-bearing group, from three different angles, as if we were terrorists or something? Privacy and civil liberties aside, what an insane waste of taxpayers’ money in a city that is debt-ridden and forced to raise taxes!