Law and Disorder Radio – Civil Liberties Infringements in Wake of Ebola Panic – Cuba in the News, the Cuban Five and Exposing Journalists for Hire – Maya Schenwar on Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better – Hosts: Heidi Boghosian, Michael Steven Smith & Michael Ratner – Produced by Geoff Brady

Law and Disorder Radio

Civil Liberties Infringements in Wake of Ebola Panic

The Ebola quarantine protocol in the United States is bringing issues of public health and individual constitutional rights to the front. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has made clear that the Ebola virus doesn’t become contagious until symptoms appear. Even if symptoms are present, transmission of the disease requires contact with bodily fluids such as blood or vomit. Given this, if you are suspected of having the virus but don’t have any symptoms, can the state to issue a mandatory quarantine?

Attorney Donna Lieberman:

  • What we’re seeing is the rush to policies driven instead of by legitimate public health concerns–and Ebola is a legitimate, serious public health concern–policy driven by fear.
  • This is where civil liberties and good medicine go hand in hand.

Good civil liberty policy is policy that respects individual liberty and does not curtail individual liberty unless there’s a really good reason to do so and there’s no way to protect society without doing so.

We don’t object to quarantines under all circumstances.

There are sometimes circumstances when the public health requires that society be protected from individuals who are infectious.

If somebody is not infectious, does not pose a danger to society by virtue of their physical condition, well then, its unacceptable.

If they show no signs of infection, that means they’re not contagious, they should not be quarantined, they should simply be monitored.

Medical people don’t go and risk their lives to treat people who are facing a horrific epidemic and then come home to infect their friends.

HIV was an epidemic in the United States. The response to Ebola is based on a tiny handful, a tragic handful to be sure, but a tiny handful of cases and is really way out of proportion, and there’s this unspoken fear related to it coming from Africa. It feels as if there is a racial component.

What’s an appropriate health policy, driven by medicine not by fear?

Some of the ACLU affiliates are pursuing FOIA requests to find out what policies are in place.

We are pressing for the state of New York to relax its quarantine policies and make it a public-health-driven policy rather than a fear-based policy.

Guest – Attorney Donna Lieberman has been Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union since December 2001. She has also served as the associate director (1988-1993) and founder/director of the NYCLU Reproductive Rights Project (1990-2000). Under Lieberman’s leadership the NYCLU has expanded the scope and depth of its work, supplementing and strengthening the pursuit of litigation with an aggressive legislative advocacy and a field organizing program that works on behalf of civil liberties and civil rights. As a result, the organization is widely recognized as the state’s leading voice for freedom, justice and equality, advocating for those whose rights and liberties have been denied, especially for those most marginalized by society.

Cuba in the News, the Cuban Five and Exposing Journalists for Hire

Lately, Cuba and its relationship to the United States has been in the news. The New York Times alone had four op-eds on Cuba. Several urged the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were severed more than 50 years ago. Another urged the prisoner exchange of the Cuban Five, now three, and Alan Gross, the American who has been in a Cuban prison for several years. Last year attorneys with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund filed a Freedom of Information Action lawsuit against the U.S. State Department for its refusal to produce materials in its possession about secret payments by the U.S. government to Miami-based journalists who were “reporting” on the Cuban Five case before and during the trial and while the jury deliberated.





Attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard:

  • The Cuban Five are five Cuban men who came into the United States to basically learn what the terrorists in Miami were planning. Cuba is a country that has been subject to terrorist attacks for decade after decade.
  • There have been bombings, planes shot down. A huge amount of death and destruction, but it comes out of the United States from anti-Castro forces in Miami who are wreaking terror on the people of Cuba.
  • The U.S government has never taken action to stop these terror attacks that emanate from their shores. In fact the CIA has had been known to have at least some of these people on their payroll or working with them over the years.
  • Ultimately, the Cuban Five uncovered information which was shared with the FBI, from the Cuban government to the FBI. What happened was the terrorists weren’t arrested, these men were arrested.
  • They were charged with espionage offenses, put on trial and found guilty.
  • The issue is, they were tried in Miami, they were tried in this heated environment, tried in conditions that there was no way they could have gotten a fair trial–an issue that has been repeated over and over again in the years of appeals.
  • What has been uncovered more recently is that the U.S. government had journalists on their payroll who were presenting themselves as independent journalists in Miami, who filled the airwaves and newspapers with extremely hostile and inflammatory coverage of Cuba as well as the trial itself.
  • There’s no way this couldn’t have had an impact, on the jury, on the jury pool, on the sitting jury.
  • The U.S. government itself is prohibited by the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 from funding activities to influence and propagandize public opinion.
  • We live in a country where we’re free to be wire-tapped, spied on, to have the FBI infiltrating religious institutions and monitoring peaceful protests.
  • Prisoner exchange: The fact is the Cuban Five were not attempting to undercut or destabilize the U.S. government. They were simply trying to get information about terrorist attacks emanating from the United States, hurting the people of their country. Alan Gross on the other hand was sent as part of a covert U.S. government operation into Cuba multiple times in an attempt to destabilize and overthrow the Cuban government.
  • We have fought for years over the Freedom of Information Act demands, working in partnership with the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five and Gloria LaRiva who has led that organization. She is the key person in the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five that raised this issue, that spent a huge amount of time going through records, audio and visual of the different media, television and radio and linking these together and doing research into these journalists and uncovering what appeared to be this covert operation.
  • Much of that material is up on a website called
  • Because the State Department was clearly holding material within a certain time period and had not searched their records at all for the material we demanded, we filed a lawsuit in federal court, and that’s a lawsuit we’re still in the process of litigating.
  • The issue of the blockade, which on is its face, starving a population to try and force them to change their government, is really criminal and a violation of international law.
  • Standing on its own without the U.S. blockade, Cuba would thrive.
  • Cuba is still there and has withstood and been strong through all of this.
  • Lifting the blockade and allowing the U.S. to penetrate into Cuba with American capitalism would be another way of attempting to overthrow the government of Cuba.

Guest – Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild’s national Mass Defense Committee. Co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund in Washington, DC, she recently secured $13.7 million for about 700 of the 2000 IMF/World Bank protesters in Becker, et al. v. District of Columbia, et al., while also winning pledges from the District to improve police training about First Amendment issues. She won $8.25 million for approximately 400 class members in Barham, et al. v. Ramsey, et al. (alleging false arrest at the 2002 IMF/World Bank protests). She served as lead counsel in Mills, et al v. District of Columbia (obtaining a ruling that DC’s seizure and interrogation police checkpoint program was unconstitutional); in Bolger, et al. v. District of Columbia (involving targeting of political activists and false arrest by law enforcement based on political affiliation); and in National Council of Arab Americans, et al. v. City of New York, et al. (successfully challenging the city’s efforts to discriminatorily restrict mass assembly in Central Park’s Great Lawn stemming from the 2004 RNC protests.)

 Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better

In this country there are 2.3 million Americans locked up in prison, and 95 percent of prisoners that are released emerge with very little opportunity to rebuild their lives. Our guest journalist Maya Schenwar has written about the social destruction of the prison industry and the community-based initiatives to help former inmates in her book Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better. Locked Down, Locked Out begins by examining the fundamental crisis of how prison breaks apart families and communities. These experiences relay the enormous damage caused by severing millions of people from family and community ties. In exploring alternatives to incarceration, Maya suggests ways to provide resolution to victims while repairing communities of color.

Maya Schenwar:

It started about ten years ago which was when my sister went to juvenile detention.

I had been corresponding with someone on death row, and I had an inclination to write about this issue that at the time was really on the margins of journalism.

When my sister went to juvenile detention and I went to visit her, I was immediately struck by the fact that this detention center was a jail.

Fourteen-year-olds were being locked up.

You’re taking people who have already been traumatized and putting them in the most isolating conditions, separating them from society in this way that can’t help but create further trauma.

Prison just doesn’t work. About 2/3 of people who are released from prison are re-arrested in 3 years.

Instead of talking about the law, we’re going to be talking about the harm that was done to you, a very different thing.

There needs to be a victim-centric approach, something that takes the victim’s healing into consideration.

Sometimes it gets lost in the conversation about mass incarceration that every single person occupying a prison is a human being and therefore has a constellation of connections with people on the outside when they go in.

Prison becomes this process of breaking each of those links.

When you’re communicating with a person in prison, you can’t call them; they have to call you. You have no idea when they’ll be able to call you.

Letters become the only reliable form of communication.

It comes down to the community level, it comes down to erasing this idea that there is a one-size-fits-all solution.

So many of those problems stem from things we’re depriving people of in our society like housing, food, shelter. We have to think about providing those things as part of creating a society with less harm and less violence.

Guest – Maya Schenwar is Truthout’s Editor-in-Chief and author of the book Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better. Previously, she was a senior editor and reporter at Truthout, writing on US defense policy, the criminal justice system, campaign politics, and immigration reform. Prior to her work at Truthout, Maya was contributing editor at Punk Planet magazine.