Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis: Strong in a crisis, but he also spied on antiwar and Occupy left
Ed Davis and other law-enforcement officials have been justly praised for their handling of the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath. Though the voluntary “shelter in place” order may have been excessive, a chaotic, frightening chain of events was handled with competence and courage.
The problem is that, in non-emergency situations, the authorities have a habit of demonstrating a grotesquely misplaced sense of priorities. Such was the case last October, when the ACLU of Massachusetts and the state chapter of the National Lawyers Guild unearthed documents showing that the Boston Police Department had been spying on antiwar and Occupy protesters. Among the BPD’s targets: the late Howard Zinn, an elderly Boston University professor and World War II hero.
According to a report by Jamaica Plain Gazette editor John Ruch, also targeted was a 2007 antiwar rally featuring activist Cindy Sheehan, then-city councilor Felix Arroyo Sr., and Melida Arredondo, the wife of Carlos Arredondo, who memorably came to the aid of a badly injured spectator, Jeff Bauman, at the marathon finish line.
The police shared that information with the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), the so-called fusion center comprising federal and state authorities that was supposed to be tracking terrorist threats — yet apparently never received information provided by Russian intelligence about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Michael Isikoff of NBC News and Chris Faraone, writing for DigBoston, offer worthwhile analysis.
Let’s hope that Davis, who also won a Muzzle in 2010, now realizes he was looking in the wrong places all along — and violating the civil liberties of patriotic Americans.
Max Kennedy: Still stonewalling after all these years on RFK’s official papers
It was bad enough that the Kennedy family had refused to release what were described as the private papers of the late Robert Kennedy. But then, last August, Boston Globe reporter Bryan Bender revealed that many of the papers were actually official documents from RFK’s time as attorney general, including some that may have pertained to assassination attempts against Cuban president Fidel Castro.
Yet the papers have still not been released. And thus RFK’s son Max Kennedy , who has acted as the family’s spokesman, earns his second Muzzle for stonewalling on the RFK papers (the first came in 2011).
According to an index obtained by Bender, the 62 boxes of files may contain crucial insights into such matters as the Kennedy administration’s anti-Castro activities, the Cuban missile crisis, and the Vietnam War. Max Kennedy said the family hoped to release all the papers. But one of the hold-ups, according to the Globe, was the family’s desire to get a tax deduction for the papers before turning them over to the public domain.
As a Globe editorial put it, the Kennedy family “never should have been granted control over official documents in the first place. And they certainly shouldn’t feel entitled to a tax deduction for them.”
It’s time to see what’s in those files.
Former New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien: Playing unfavorites with the press
William O’Brien is not one to brook much in the way of back talk. When a protest broke out in the House gallery during a budget hearing in the spring of 2011, he ordered state police to kick everyone out.
A year later, a fellow Republican legislator became so upset with what he saw as O’Brien’s attempts to silence him that he directed a toxic remark at the Speaker: “Seig Heil.” The legislator was ejected from the chamber and forced to apologize.
It was the Hitler reference that led to O’Brien’s Muzzle. Because Mike Marland, a cartoonist for the Concord Monitor, followed up by depicting O’Brien with a Hitler-like mustache, accompanied by the caption “If the mustache fits . . . .”
O’Brien got his revenge. Last July, he scheduled a news conference to be held in his Statehouse office — and banned two Monitor journalists who tried to enter. An O’Brien spokeswoman explained: “When the Concord Monitor proves they have chosen to become a responsible media outlet, we’ll be happy to invite them to future media events.” (Tony Schinella of Concord Patch shot video of the journalists being held at bay, and of O’Brien responding noncommittally when asked about it.)
Trouble is, though public officials are under no obligation to give journalists special treatment by (for instance) granting interviews, under the First Amendment they must give them equal treatment when holding official events such as a news conference on public property.
O’Brien, no longer Speaker after voters returned Democrats to the majority in the last election, is now running for Congress.
Rhode Island Public Schools: ACLU filtering study reveals widespread Internet censorship
Over the past two decades, the Internet has become a crucial tool in public education, opening schoolchildren to the broader world. Yet concerns about sex, violence, and other inappropriate content has led many school districts to impose draconian restrictions limiting kids’ access to even the most innocuous material.
The ACLU of Rhode Island set out to document online censorship in the schools — and what it found should chill all of us. It turns out that filtering software used in the Rhode Island Public Schools has blocked students from accessing websites such as PBS Kids, National Stop Bullying Day, a video clip of The Nutcracker, and information about global warming. Also blocked were educational resources for gay and lesbian teens.
There is no reason to believe that Internet censorship is worse in Rhode Island than it is in other states. Under the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act, all schools and libraries that receive federal funding must filter “obscene” content, child pornography, and material that’s considered “harmful to minors” — the last being a dangerously fuzzy standard. The ACLU study, by policy associate Hillary Davis, documents problems in Rhode Island but includes findings and recommendations that should be applied nationally.
“In trying to prevent students from visiting ‘inappropriate’ websites, school officials have instead taken advantage of technology to implement an unjustifiable scheme of censorship,” according to Davis’s report. “This must change, for it is only through the free exchange of ideas that students can truly experience a full education.”