The July 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Corruption at Oakland Housing Authority

Shot Through the Heart in S.F.

Legal Challenge to Cruel Attacks on SF Homeless

GRIP's Shelter in Richmond

HUD Plans to Demolish Public Housing in New Orleans

Fresno Homeless Attacked

Stonewalling by Bush's ICH on Homeless Issues

Are We Not Our Brother's Keeper

Congress Refuses to Raise the Minimum Wage

Beyond Prisons: Challenge to the Prison System

Penal Servitude

The U.S. Racial Wealth Gap

Poor Working Conditions for Immigrants

AFSC Sues Defense Dept. for Surveillance

Surveillance and Orwell's 1984

Enron's Good Fight

Poor Leonard's Almanack: On Self-Realization

July Poetry of the Streets

Child Slavery on African Cocoa Farms

The Worth of Education in the Phillipines


June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005




Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

AFSC Sues Defense Department for Unlawful Surveillance

AFSC joins ACLU to file suit charging that illegal spying on peace activists by Department of Defense violates the U.S. Constitution

by Janis D. Shields, American Friends Service Committee

"Freedom of Speech." Artwork by Art Hazelwood from "The Four Freedoms"

PHILADELPHIA--On June 14, 2006, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) became a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that challenges the Pentagon's failure to turn over information detailing secret surveillance of peace groups and private citizens.

The lawsuit was filed on June 14 in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The suit seeks disclosure of all documents maintained by the Department of Defense (DOD) on the individual groups named in the suit. It alleges the Pentagon has ignored Freedom of Information requests made earlier this year in the wake of evidence that it had been secretly conducting illegal surveillance of protest activities, antiwar organizations and individuals whose only reported "wrong-doing" was attending a peace rally.

"Spying on citizens for merely executing their constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly is chilling and marks a troubling trend for the United States," stated Joyce Miller, AFSC assistant general secretary for justice and human rights. "These actions violate the rule of law and strike a severe blow against our Constitution. If the government has avowed pacifists under surveillance, then no one is safe."

The AFSC, a Quaker organization, was at the forefront of combating illegal FBI surveillance tactics in the 1970s. At that time, under the Freedom of Information Act, AFSC secured hundreds of federal files detailing illegal government surveillance projects and intelligence documents targeting U.S. peace groups.

Late last year, news reports detailed the existence of a secret DOD database related to "potential terrorist threats." At least four of the events listed are believed to be activities coordinated or supported by the AFSC, including handing out literature in front of military recruiting stations and holding protest rallies on the second anniversary of the Iraq war. Each was later deemed "not credible."

"The Bush administration maintains that the threat of terrorism mandates a change in government policy. However, we believe trampling the Bill of Rights and dismantling our Constitution will not erase the threat of terrorism," Miller said. "Conversely, eroding the Constitutional safeguards and destroying the principles of democracy on which our country was founded make us less safe and less secure."

In addition to the American Friends Service Committee, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of Veterans for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, and Greenpeace, as well as dozens of local groups in Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island, Maine, Pennsylvania and California.

"The ACLU has long been one of the nation's leading advocates for free speech and civil liberties," Miller said. "By challenging unconstitutional laws and practices, we keep our system of government and the rights of its citizens in balance."

With national headquarters in Philadelphia, the American Friends Service Committee is internationally recognized for its humanitarian work and long history of fighting for human rights and against injustice. The AFSC is a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for working to heal the wounds of war, especially efforts to feed starving children and help Europe rebuild during and after World Wars I and II.

"Our country is governed by the rule of law, not the politics of hysteria and fear," Miller said. "This is the President's second term of office. He has twice sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States. By spying on legitimate First Amendment activities, he has not only broken the law, he has broken his word to the American people."

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