Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Where are we now?

This week, the ACLU of Utah is proud to be hosting Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU and former director of the ACLU’s National Security Project.  We invited Mr. Jaffer to Salt Lake City to encourage reflection and provide a critical civil liberties progress report following the recently-obsevred ten-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

On Saturday, October 29th Jameel Jaffer will present “Our New Normal: National Security, Civil Liberties and Human Rights 10 Years After September 11 that 6:30pm at the Khadeeja Islamic Center, 1019 West 2455 South, in West Valley City. This event is free and open to the public; Modest dress is strongly encouraged, out of respect for our hosts at the Khadeeja mosque. (LINK TO MAP HERE)

Our country has done a lot of healing since the tragic events of 9/11, but we are far from where we were, in terms of our individual liberties and civil rights, before that devastating day.  Unfortunately, many Americans have suffered injustices, large and small, as a direct result of U.S. policies and actions following the attacks.  What once might have been unimaginable infringements upon the human rights of American citizens, on American soil,  now have become our “new normal.”  Extrajudicial Killings.  Torture.  Racial Profiling and Mapping.  Unwarranted surveillance.  Islamaphobia.  These violations of fundamental civil liberties have all become, somehow, acceptable – or, at least, hardly shocking – in our post-9/11 culture.   

Just 45 days after 9/11, the U.S. Congress passed The PATRIOT Act , a bill that would prove to seriously undermine the constitutional rights of thousands.  Parts of the act were supposed to expire in 2005, but regularly have been extended by Congress, until at least 2015.  Ostensibly created and authorized in order to aid the U.S. government in its fight against terrorist extremism across the globe, the Act became a powerful vehicle for the undermining of the rights of thousands of U.S. citizens and non-citizens..  Check out the ACLU’s Post-9/11 Surveillance Timeline to recall specific policies that have been enforced against the American people in the past decade.

Last week, in anticipation of Jameel Jaffer’s visit, the ACLU of Utah screened Laura Poitras’ film “The Oath”, in Ogden and in Orem at Utah Valley University. The documentary centers on Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni citizen and former driver for Osama Bin Laden, and his brother-in-law,  Abu Jandal, a former member of Al Qaeda and bin Laden bodyguard. Hamdan ended up in the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – which is still open and operating in 2011, and “home” to approximately 170 detainees.  

Over the course of two years, Laura Poitras traveled back and forth to Yemen to collect footage and interviews for “The Oath.”  Ms. Poitras, who had been on the government’s “terrorist watch list” since the filming of her Iraq-based documentary “My Country, My Country,” was routinely interrogated regarding her frequent travels to Yemen. She finally ended up on the FBI’s “No Fly” list, and it took several calls to her attorneys and the ACLU before she was allowed to board her flight to attend an international film festival.   

In fact, it through her experience as a target of the U.S. government’s “War on Terror” policies that Ms. Poitras met and become friends with the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer, who has been fighting to turn a national and international spotlight on those very policies since their initial enactment. 

During his visit to Salt Lake, Mr. Jaffer will be delving further into these problematic post-9/11 U.S. policies and practices.

On Thursday, October 27, Mr. Jaffer will address the public, free of charge, on the campus of the University of Utah. His presentation, which will be held in Dumke Auditorium in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, beginning at 10:45 a.m. and concluding at noon, is entitled, “What is the War on Terror…and Are We Still Fighting It?” In this talk, Mr. Jaffer will addressing such issues as extrajudicial killings, extraordinary rendition and indefinite detention.

On Saturday, October 29th, Mr. Jaffer will present “Our New Normal: National Security, Civil Liberties and Human Rights 10 Years After 9/11” at the Khadeeja Islamic Center. This event is presented in partnership with the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake, and is free and open to the general public. There will be ample time for questions and discussion, and we strongly encourage you to take advantage of Mr. Jaffer’s prodigious knowledge, experience and expertise during his stay in Salt Lake.

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