One of the defining controversies of the so-called War on Terror takes center stage in a Cincinnati courtroom this week: The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear oral arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit that aims to stop warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA). Last year a federal judge in Michigan ruled in favor of the suit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor made national headlines for the intensity of her criticism of the Bush regime, saying there are "no hereditary kings in America and no power not created by the Constitution." Taylor ordered the president to shut down the program; the federal government appealed the ruling.
The administration recently announced that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued secret orders approving the surveillance. The Justice Department, however, refused to confirm whether the orders generally authorize the program as opposed to authorizing surveillance of individual persons based on probable cause. The ACLU says the generalized program warrants are unconstitutional.
The administration has asked the appeals court to dismiss the ACLU lawsuit because the NSA surveillance is now under the review of the secret intelligence court. But the ACLU opposes the move, arguing that Bush still claims to retain the "inherent authority" to engage in wiretapping without the oversight of the FISA court and that, without more information about what the secret FISA court has authorized, there's no way to determine whether the NSA's current activities are lawful.
It's no secret that Bill Sloat is one of the best journalists in Cincinnati, where he ran a one-man bureau for The Cleveland Plain Dealer until he accepted a buyout late last year.
Sloat now finds himself on the receiving end of a vicious attack by the Cincinnati Beacon, a local blog that suggests he fabricated a story about being spat on while a soldier during the Vietnam War. The Beacon's "evidence": Sloat apparently remembered the wrong year that a porn movie was distributed. It's more of the Beacon's usual style of turning minor circumstances into major conspiracy theories. That contrasts nicely with Sloat's new blog, The Daily Bellwether (thebellwetherdaily.blogspot.com), which treats news as serious business.
Sloat recently had a revealing article about Bush's 2002 speech at the Cincinnati Museum Center in which he all but declared war on Iraq. During the speech, an estimated 5,000 people waged a spirited protest outside. Participants later complained that the national media ignored them. In a post two weeks ago, Sloat said they were correct and apologized for the news blackout.
"As a reporter, I was locked inside the hall and couldn't witness events outside," Sloat wrote. "I tried like heck to let people know by cell phone but it all fell through the cracks. At most there was a line or two about the protest and how the audience leaving the speech got snarled in traffic because the parking lot exits were blocked. Nothing much that disclosed the extent of a huge anti-war event, or that it had unfolded in SW Ohio, an area that was supposed to be a hotbed of pro-Bush, anti-Iraq sensibilities. ... It was a great failure — for me and the profession I worked within."
Returning to the Scene
The Cincinnati Human Relations Commission (CHRC) has named Cheryl Meadows executive director, a post she's held on an interim basis for the past five months. "Cheryl adds a much-needed stability to the executive director's role," says CHRC Board Chair Will Thomas.
That's rather an understatement. The CHRC has been without an executive director since Cecil Thomas resigned nearly two years ago to run a successful campaign for city council (see "Shaky Relations," issue of July 26, 2006). Last year Meadows replaced Norma Holt-Davis, an attorney and ex-director of Cincinnati's NAACP chapter who had expected to begin the job in June but rescinded her acceptance under murky circumstances before she ever started.
Before her retirement from 30 years of city service, Meadows was transferred in 2000 to a new job as director of Cincinnati's employment and training division after months of complaints and investigations about misspent and unaccounted funds in the Neighborhood Services Department. The department's functions were later folded into the Community Development Department. More recently, Meadows served as Lincoln Heights village manager.
Meadows isn't the only person returning to prominence after a few years away. Former Mayor Roxanne Qualls could be next. Learn about the deeper meaning of her appointment to the SORTA board on CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at citybeat.wordpress.com.
Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 138) or pork(at)citybeat.com