A challenge to Stanek’s incumbency in the struggle for race equity

This piece is part of Twin Cities Daily Planet’s series covering the 2018 elections season. Every year we’re moving towards a possibility of a more diverse legislature. And with it, we hope comes increased opportunities for communities historically shut out of political processes and power to imagine and enact policies to create a Minnesota that benefits all its constituents. Robert Pilot, an educator and member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, said he and many other people in the Native American community started talking about the need to replace current Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek in Oct. 2016, after Stanek sent equipment and 30 deputies to Standing Rock in North Dakota. Continue Reading

Senator Klobuchar: Is torture a legal issue?

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a former County Attorney, a current member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a possible future Supreme Court nominee, is adept at avoiding legal categories when it suits her purpose. Last month the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the Executive Summary of its report on U.S.-committed torture in the post-9/11 era. A friend of mine wrote several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggesting that now, if ever, it was time to push for justice and accountability. Senator Klobuchar responded with a carefully crafted form letter that ignored all legal concepts. Here was my subsequent reply to Sen. Klobuchar: Dear Senator Klobuchar, Reverend Sonja Johnson shared with me a copy of your response to her recent letter to you about holding those responsible for torture accountable. It scared me. It scared me because you may well be on future Supreme Court nominee “short lists,” and while Rev. Johnson’s letter focused on law and justice, your response used totally different categories and terminology. I appreciate that this was a form letter, not written to respond directly to Rev. Johnson, but your response dealt with none of the issues she raised. You wrote of “the troubling interrogation techniques,” that “torture is unacceptable,” and that “the values that define our nation…[were] intentionally disregarded” (emphasis added). The words “crime,” “law,” “justice,” and “accountability” were absent. The interrogation techniques were not “troubling”; they were criminal. Continue Reading

Thank you, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President:I cannot express how thrilled I was to read that the Department of Justice has finally put an end to the notion that anyone will be prosecuted for torture committed on behalf of the United States.Finally, as you so powerfully stated a few years ago, we can begin to look forward rather than backwards.I personally intend to celebrate this occasion by taking my dog to a public area here in Minneapolis and performing on her the “enhanced interrogation techniques” whose use the ill-informed and so-called “legal scholars” have exploited to attack our nation. Of course, my dog doesn’t talk, so I won’t be able to get any answers out of her, but then that wasn’t really the purpose of using these techniques on humans anyhow.If she survives, her injuries are likely to be so serious that I thought it would add to the celebration to actually sacrifice her in honor of the Department of Justice. As a proud American, it’s the least I can do.Again, thank you so much for your resolute adherence to the rule of law and for having appointed Eric Holder as Attorney General.Sincerely yours,Chuck Turchick                                     P.S. On second thought, I don’t have a dog. Would you mind terribly if I borrowed your dog Bo? Just tell Malia and Sasha that it was for the good of the country. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Ellison, Franken support accountability for U.S.-committed torture

Minnesota has long been a center for human rights advocates. From Hubert Humphrey’s 1948 speech on civil rights, to Harold Stassen’s drafting of the U.N. Charter, to Don Fraser’s authoring the legislation creating the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights, to U of M Law Professor David Weissbrodt’s too-numerous to list contributions to human rights advocacy and institutions, to world-renowned entities like the Center for Victims of Torture, Advocates for Human Rights, and the American Refugee Committee, Minnesota is a state the nation looks to for leadership on human rights issues.In that spirit and to commemorate the August 1 10-year anniversary of the John Yoo/Jay Bybee torture memos, which “legalized” torture on behalf of the United States, both Representative Keith Ellison and Senator Al Franken have issued statements and posted them on their websites. In addition, at an Amnesty International/Women Against Military Madness event on August 13, Rep. Ellison spoke out strongly in support of accountability for those responsible for the U.S. torture program.I would be surprised if two of the other 533 members of Congress issued similar statements on this occasion. We are lucky to live in a state with such representation. But because of that, we also have an added responsibility to make sure the words of their statements are not just words, and to ensure that our nation moves toward the path of accountability, whatever form that may take.Senator John McCain was on to something when he said about torture, “It’s not about them; it’s about us.” Accountability too is about us, who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation, more than it is about those who designed, authorized, ordered, “legalized” and committed torture in our names. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | An open letter to Sen. Klobuchar on 10th anniversary of torture memos

Dear Senator Klobuchar:August 1 is the tenth anniversary of the so-called “torture memos” written by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel’s John Yoo and Jay Bybee. As you told a group of us when we met with you in November 2010, after 9/11 our country engaged in an officially-sanctioned program that included torture. You also said that people  — although not line people — should be held accountable, but you would leave those decisions up to the Justice Department.Well, for reasons not made public by the Justice Department, that hasn’t happened. Accountability, in particular for those who designed and authorized the torture program, simply has not occurred.And it’s been ten years.This failure to hold ourselves accountable has taken place while numerous other countries, many with rule of law traditions far less robust than ours, have proceeded to hold their highest-ranking government officials accountable for human rights violations. The title of University of Minnesota Professor Kathryn Sikkink’s recent book, The Justice Cascade, attests to this worldwide trend, a trend we have conspicuously resisted with respect to our own actions. Continue Reading

Statement to Hennepin County Board on torture

[On November 15, during the “Open Forum” portion of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners’ committee meetings, I addressed the Board about the issue of torture. I talked a bit about the lack of accountability for U.S.-committed torture and about the concept of Universal Jurisdiction. Continue Reading