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June 6-12, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Jeppesen On Trial

Jeppesen blew off San Jose's Human Rights Commission, Santa Clara County's Human Relations Commission and a year's worth of human rights advocates' vigils at its 225 W. Santa Clara St. doorstep, but it won't be able to blow off the ACLU's lawsuit filed last week on behalf of three victims of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program. The company has been running evasive drills locally for months, as covered extensively in this column, but it may not be able to hide behind the confidentiality clauses in their clients' contracts much longer. Ann Brick, ACLU attorney, says their complaint offers plenty of proof that Jeppesen helped the CIA with their torture by proxy flights and promised more to come during the lawsuit's discovery phase. She says Jeppesen knew or reasonably should have known that passengers Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel and Ahmed Agiza were forcibly detained and transported to countries where they would be subject to torture, which is in violation of international law. The ACLU is using Jeppesen to put the CIA's extraordinary rendition program on trial. Last year, a federal court dismissed German victim Khaled el-Masri's lawsuit against former CIA director George J. Tenet and 10 unnamed CIA officials after the government invoked "state secrets" privileges. Brick says the ACLU is employing the Alien Tort Statute because "it provides foreign citizens access to U.S. courts when they've been subject to U.S. violations on foreign soil."For the past six months, local Amnesty International, National Lawyers Guild and South bay Mobilization for Peace and Justice members have urged San Jose's City Council and the county Board of Supervisors to take a stand against Jeppesen's activities, which they've resisted. Now that this story is national news, we'll see if Jeppesen's luck with local officials holds out.

The Naked and The Dead

San Jose resident Steve Salinas, a motorcycle enthusiast and a member of the Mongols riding club, became the fifth person in the city to die after being stunned by a taser by San Jose police officers last week. What's fascinating about this story is watching the media bend over backward to accommodate the secrecy in which the case has been shrouded. Here's what's known: Salinas was staying at the Vagabond Inn when police officers responded to screaming coming from his ground floor unit; the police claim he was uncooperative with officers; he was also naked. Other than that, the Police Department has termed the case "under investigation," saying the Homicide Unit is conducting the probe, which is also being monitored by Internal Affairs and the Santa Clara County DA. The unanswered questions here are obvious, and yet amazingly have not been raised; chiefly: If Salinas was stark naked at the time of his confrontation with police, would it not have been easy to figure if he was armed and dangerous? What is the justification for tasering in this situation? A representative of the Police Department told Fly that the police—a lmost a week after the death—were still investigating whether or not Salinas was armed, and Salinas' daughter NOREEN says that she encountered similar delays trying to obtain the police report. Meanwhile, the ACLU's Sanjeev Bery, who has worked extensively on the taser issue since he opened the organization's office in San Jose, believes this is standard operating procedure; he says the SJPD makes it very difficult to determine whether it's adhering to new taser training guidelines put forward in 2005. "The problem is that the community has not been able to verify if they had implemented new guidelines," says Bery, "because the Police Department refuses to release use of force reports around tasers." San Jose's independent police auditor, Barbara Attard, meanwhile, has asked that she be given the power to review taser related deaths. Police Chief Rob Davis has shot down Attard's suggestion and has essentially told her to mind her own business, calling the circumstances surrounding the latest death "professional." Bery disagrees: "In this specific situation, it's important for the police to be transparent and release its use of force reports."

C'mon, Shake It

Last Saturday, Fly infiltrated the back patio at the downtown Britannia Arms to hear David Alioto, executive vice president of Earthquakes Soccer LLC, address about 100 die-hard Quakes fans about that organization's efforts to bring Major League Soccer back to San Jose, which appear to be hitting the home stretch. He painted a very encouraging picture. Even though Major League Soccer retained the Earthquakes' moniker when they left for Houston, Alioto admitted that he and Lew Wolff's group had toyed with other names, depending on what Bay Area city the team wound up in. But no more, he declared. After having the club's history rammed home by several folks, he came out and decided that "the name of the team will be the San Jose Earthquakes." He also alluded to the overtly anti–Quake hatchet–job tactics of the Mercury News when covering the entire scenario. "Other reporters have told our story a little different than what it is," he said. When Fly badgered Alioto on what happened with the San Jose State deal, he said it wasn't a good deal for either side and that "sometimes the best deal you make is the deal you don't make." Alito also stated that the new stadium will be unlike anything else in the United States and that Earthquakes Soccer LLC already has sponsors lined up to pay for new youth fields all over Northern California in conjunction with it all. Hordes of Quakes fans are planning to peacefully storm this Tuesday's City Council meeting in support of the endeavor, and Alioto said if you can't show up, then make a call. "It only takes a few seconds," he said.

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