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    Will a Federal Investigation Reveal the Truth About Deaths at USP Atlanta? / TheIntercept · Yesterday - 11:00 · 18 minutes

Sirrena Buie sat at her kitchen table, scrolling through her texts. She was looking for a message from a man who might have information related to her son’s death. Twenty-six-year-old Kedric Buie had died five years earlier at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta — found “unresponsive,” in the clinical parlance of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Officials said that he’d died of a heart attack. But his mother was convinced that he had been killed.

After pursuing legal avenues that went nowhere, Sirrena turned to social media, where she posted videos telling her story. She urged anyone who might know something to come forward. This man was one of several people who had recently offered to help. He said he had known her son — and “that he knows some people that know some people that’s supposed to get in contact with me about this,” Sirrena said. In her quest for the truth, even vague tips were a lifeline. She found the man’s message and pulled it up for me to see. “Atlanta is a bad place that did a lot of bad things to good people,” he wrote. “They did your son bad and I know this.”

I met Sirrena Buie on August 1 at her home just south of Birmingham, Alabama. Employed at the deli counter at a Publix supermarket, she also does freelance catering, posting photos of her colorful fruit platters on TikTok. Her account is otherwise full of family photos, pictures of Kedric set to music, and video updates describing her fight for justice. “They expected for me to give up,” she said in a video posted in May. “But I haven’t.”


Sirrena Buie holds a framed photo of her son Kedric Buie outside her home in Birmingham, Ala., on Aug. 1, 2022.

Photo: Liliana Segura/The Intercept

Buie always starts her story the same way. It was 10:50 a.m. on August 13, 2017, and she was sitting at the same kitchen table with her then-husband. They were eating Brussels sprouts. When her phone rang, she almost didn’t answer. “I thought it was a bill collector or something,” she told me. Instead, it was a woman calling from USP Atlanta. The woman told her that Kedric had been found dead in his cell. At first it didn’t register. “I just talked to my son yesterday,” Buie remembers saying. “And y’all found him dead?”

“I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t do nothing.” She walked toward the bathroom but broke down in the hallway. The woman said she would call back later so that Buie could compose herself. “And I said OK.” But when the woman called back, she had no information. She couldn’t offer any details about what had happened to Kedric or even the name of the hospital where he had been taken. She told Buie not to come to Georgia.

The next hours were chaotic. Kedric’s identical twin brother, Kemon, heard the news from their father and got a ride to Buie’s home, jumping out of the car while it was still moving and running toward the house. “He could not pull himself together,” she said. Perhaps her most vivid memory was finding out that her son’s body had finally arrived in Birmingham 10 days after his death. When she saw Kedric, he looked severely swollen. His hands were clenched, and there appeared to be a gash on his forehead. “It didn’t seem real,” Buie said.

Everyone wanted to know what had happened to Kedric. But Buie could not answer their questions. As Christmas approached, she sent an open records request to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which provided her son’s autopsy report. The five-page document raised more questions than answers. It said that Kedric had received his breakfast on the morning of August 13 and was found “unresponsive” in his cell an hour later, minutes before 8 a.m. At 9:05 he arrived at the Atlanta Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner conducted the autopsy two days later. Kedric’s body had arrived at his office dressed in a “red inmate jumpsuit,” two pairs of boxer shorts, and only one shoe. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was “hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease,” based on Kedric’s enlarged heart, a severely clogged artery, and the fact that he was “morbidly obese.” The manner of death was classified as “due to natural causes.”

But the autopsy report also contained information that alarmed Buie. On the first page were the words “EVIDENCE OF ACUTE INJURY,” followed by technical descriptions of wounds to Kedric’s back and scalp. A summary of findings listed “blunt trauma of the head” and “blunt force trauma of the torso and left lower extremity.” Although the document noted that there were “no life-threatening injuries,” the words left Buie cold. When she later spoke to the medical examiner, he told her that the injuries had occurred close to the time of Kedric’s death. He insisted that her son had died of a heart attack. But “he could not explain the trauma to my son’s body,” she said. He also discouraged her from seeking the autopsy photos, saying “that I needed to remember him the way I remember him.” She found this suspicious. If her son died from a heart attack, why should the photos be so upsetting?

On the advice of a friend, Buie contacted an independent pathologist who represented the families of people who had died in law enforcement custody. He told her that he did not believe the official findings, she said. Not long afterward, a high-profile lawyer agreed to represent her in a wrongful death suit. Over email in June 2019, he told her that the case was “really taking shape.” The lawyer said the pathologist was firm that Kedric had been beaten up — and that the official story was false. “He was very clear,” the lawyer wrote. “He said, ‘You know how they do.’”


Sirrena Buie looks through records related to the death of her son Kedric Buie at USP Atlanta in 2017.

Photo: Liliana Segura/The Intercept

The Atlanta Way

Buie is one of countless family members still fighting for answers years after their loved ones died of “natural causes” in Bureau of Prisons custody. A lack of information from BOP officials often compounds the confusion and anguish. This struggle became especially pronounced during the Covid-19 pandemic, which heightened the frustrations of family members navigating a prison bureaucracy whose lack of transparency is notorious.

The BOP routinely sends press releases documenting deaths in its facilities but provides little information beyond a decedent’s name, age, and the crime for which they were sent to prison. Although media outlets sometimes report on such cases, people are often imprisoned far from home, making their deaths easier for local news to overlook. Last month alone, the BOP’s Information, Policy, and Public Affairs Division sent five media notices about deaths at four different federal prisons, with the deceased ranging from 37 to 71 years old.

In an email, BOP spokesperson Scott Taylor confirmed that Kedric “passed away on August 13, 2017, while in custody at the United States Penitentiary Atlanta. However, this office does not provide additional information on deceased inmates.” According to the BOP, his death was one of six at USP Atlanta in 2017. The penitentiary has a reputation for being uniquely dangerous for residents and employees alike. Media reports have long exposed the medium-security prison as a cesspool of drugs, corruption, and violence. The year Kedric died, a federal complaint described how the Atlanta Police Department had spent years “investigating instances of inmates temporarily escaping from the prison camp at USP Atlanta and frequently returning to the camp with contraband.” In 2018, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution , “a prisoner used a cellphone to record a 49-minute long Facebook Live session, where he bragged that he had murdered a man and got away with it.”

USP Atlanta was the subject of a U.S. Senate hearing on July 26, a week before I met Buie. The penitentiary has been under investigation by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs since September. Investigators uncovered thousands of pages of internal reports along with explosive accounts from dozens of former employees. As my colleague Akela Lacey reported , the hearing featured testimony from the head of the BOP himself and painted “a damning picture of a bloated federal prison system run by well-informed and willfully inactive leaders.”

Presiding over the hearing was Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. In his opening statement, he decried the “stunning long-term failures” at USP Atlanta, whose staff “engaged in misconduct with impunity and, according to BOP’s own internal investigations, lacked regard for human life.” Subsequent witnesses described the prison as so out of control that the lawlessness and lack of accountability had been given a name: “the Atlanta way.”

A whistleblower who worked as the chief psychologist at USP Atlanta from 2018 to 2021 testified that the inhumane conditions contributed to a disproportionate number of suicides at the prison. “In the roughly four years, eight inmates at USP Atlanta died by suicide, two prior to my arrival and six during my tenure,” she said. “To put this into perspective, federal prisons typically see between one and three suicides over a five-year period.” A Georgia federal defender said she had seen her clients become emaciated during their time at the facility due to the spoiled and inedible food they received. And a former prison administrator said she was forced into early retirement after trying to address gross misconduct at the prison — including staffers’ physical abuse of incarcerated people.

The testimony supported what I had repeatedly been told about USP Atlanta while covering conditions at federal facilities in the early days of the pandemic. One formerly incarcerated man called it “unlivable,” a crumbling hellhole filled with cockroaches. Several others described correctional officers as openly cruel. “I heard an inmate complain that he was having trouble breathing and the CO told him, ‘Good motherfucker, take short breaths,’” one man incarcerated at the prison wrote in a letter.

But the hearing did not include any witnesses who could describe how hard it was to get basic information after the death of a loved one at USP Atlanta. Although BOP protocol dictates that family notification is handled by the warden or a warden’s representative, Buie says no one from the warden’s office ever contacted her.

“I heard an inmate complain that he was having trouble breathing and the CO told him, ‘Good motherfucker, take short breaths.’”

Other families say the same thing. After 36-year-old Billy Joe Soliz died at USP Atlanta in 2020, his sister told a TV station in his hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, that the warden had ignored calls from the family . “We’ve been trying to talk to the prison and trying to get ahold of the prison, and they will not answer the phone, they won’t contact us back,” she said. Like Kedric, Soliz was reportedly found “unresponsive” in his cell. And like Kedric, he seemed fine in his last phone call with his mother the day before he died.

Even those who examine the bodies of people who die in federal custody say information can be sparse. Forensic pathologist Kris Sperry, who was Georgia’s chief medical examiner from 1997 to 2015, said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation does not have jurisdiction to investigate deaths at USP Atlanta. In the case of an obvious homicide, the FBI would take charge and send a representative to attend the autopsy. “But for nonhomicide deaths, you know, just somebody … found dead in his cell, no one ever came to the autopsy,” Sperry said. “The amount of information that we had was severely limited. We had to completely depend on what someone at the prison told us.” Although he sometimes received information about a person’s medical history from a prison hospital physician, it could be “almost impossible to get ahold of anyone at the prison to give us … answers about real basic stuff. Like when was he last seen alive? Silly things like that.”

At the hearing, Ossoff seemed particularly disturbed by the deaths of people who had not yet been convicted of any crime; many of those held at USP Atlanta are pretrial detainees. “We’re talking about human beings in the custody of the U.S. government,” he said. After grilling the outgoing director of the BOP, Michael Carvajal, for his failure to fix the problems at USP Atlanta, Ossoff expressed hope that change might be on the horizon. “There has got to be change at the Bureau of Prisons. And it has to happen right now. And with your departure and the arrival of a new director, I hope that moment has arrived.”


Kedric Buie during a visit with a loved one while incarcerated in federal prison.

Photo: Liliana Segura/The Intercept

A Verified Threat

Kedric Buie was not a pretrial detainee. Nor was he innocent of his crime. In 2009, at the age of 18, he and Kemon were arrested after carjacking a woman in a CVS parking lot in a Birmingham suburb. Along with a third man, they took the victim’s keys at gunpoint and forced her into the back of her Toyota 4Runner, releasing her a few minutes later, according to police.

Federal prosecutors conceded that the third man “was more of the instigator” and had recruited the brothers to help commit the crime. But the sentencing judge was angered by a statement Kedric made in court, in which he expressed remorse but also said he hoped to leave prison young enough to “play me some NFL football.” She sentenced him to 12 years and eight months in prison. Kemon received a shorter sentence and was released in 2016.

“I do hate that I’m punishing your family,” the judge told Kedric as she handed down his sentence. But he would still be a young man when he got out, she said. “This doesn’t have to be the end of your life.”

Prison records show that Kedric feared his time at USP Atlanta could become a death sentence. Last year a reporter helped Sirrena Buie obtain a case file revealing that Kedric had asked to be placed in protective custody less than two months before he died. The records showed the prison had conducted an investigation in June 2017, which concluded that “a verified threat to inmate Buie’s safety does exist” and “he is to be considered a verified protection case at this facility.”

Kedric feared his time at USP Atlanta could become a death sentence.

“I was devastated,” Buie said. She knew Kedric did not like to tell her things that would make her worry. But she was also skeptical. The report was heavily redacted and contained information that only raised more questions. One page noted that Kedric had engaged in “self-harm” via an unnamed toxic substance two weeks before he died. Prison staff also claimed to find black tar heroin in his cell on the day of his death, but the drug was not in his system. Buie felt the prison was seeking to blame Kedric for his own death.

According to people who had contacted her over the years saying they had information about Kedric’s death, the prevailing rumor at USP Atlanta was that he had been killed by a guard. In her own conversations with her son, he complained about one guard who had repeatedly spit into his food. “He said, ‘Mom, they do everything, they do anything,’” she recalled. “He said, ‘It’s not the inmates, it’s the officers.’” But according to a lieutenant who reportedly interviewed Kedric inside a special housing unit where he was temporarily isolated, “inmate Buie is a known thief within his housing unit,” which had made him a target among “Muslim inmates and inmates from Alabama.” Although Kedric was both Muslim and from Alabama, “both inmate communities indicate Buie has brought unwanted attention, and will have to deal with the consequences of his actions if he returns to the unit.”

The file does not reveal why, if there was a verified threat against Kedric, he would have been returned to his unit, where he died just over a month later. But it is consistent with descriptions of staff at USP Atlanta showing indifference to the safety and well-being of those in their custody. “They knew what was going on, and they did not care,” Buie said.

In the first few years following her son’s death, Buie hoped that a lawsuit might be the best way to get answers from the BOP. She was especially optimistic that the independent medical examiner, Dr. Adel Shaker, would be able to prove that her son had been killed. In June 2019, her lawyer sent her a draft affidavit outlining Shaker’s tentative findings in the case. It said that Kedric had “died as a result of a blunt force trauma he suffered to the head.” But the affidavit was never signed, and the lawyer became mired in legal problems. Following multiple arrests in 2019, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and public intoxication. In 2020 he made headlines for a drunken disturbance at a Florida hotel, where he was witnessed “berating two hotel patrons with racial slurs,” according to one news report. He is currently suspended from practicing in Alabama.

When we met in Birmingham, Buie told me that she had been unable to reach Shaker for a long time. He stopped answering her calls after her lawyer dropped the case. As it turned out, he too had been arrested . After going to work as the chief medical examiner in Nueces County, Texas, he became the subject of a criminal probe alleging sweeping violations of the Texas Occupations Code. The case is ongoing. In the meantime, a mother in Mobile, Alabama, accused Shaker of taking thousands of dollars to perform a private autopsy of her son, whom she suspected had been beaten to death. But she said the autopsy was never done. (Shaker denied the allegations, telling reporters that she was simply unhappy with the results.)

In a brief phone call, Shaker said he did not recall Kedric’s case. But after reviewing the draft affidavit laying out his supposed findings, he said he had refused to sign the document because he never received sufficient materials to render an opinion one way or another. Although he remembered speaking to Buie, he denied ever telling her that her son’s death was a homicide.

Sperry, Georgia’s former chief medical examiner, said the findings in Kedric’s autopsy report point clearly to a heart attack. If Buie was told otherwise, it would not be the first time he had seen a grieving family member misled by an expert. “If you look hard enough, you can find a forensic pathologist who will agree with what you want him to agree to, as long as you write out a check,” he said. Buie never paid Shaker or her attorney any money. But when it comes to skewed autopsy results, law enforcement agencies are in a far more powerful position than families like hers. Flawed or biased autopsies have historically been used to convict the innocent or evade accountability, especially when the subjects are Black.

“I’m done with lawyers. Giving me money is not going to tell me what happened to my son.”

In a phone call, Dr. Colin Hebert, the pathologist who conducted Kedric’s autopsy for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, stood by his findings. Hebert, who now works for the Fulton County Medical Examiner, confirmed that Kedric’s injuries occurred close to the time of his death. “I don’t know how they got there,” he said. But it was not unusual to see bruises on a person who died of cardiac arrest. In Kedric’s case, he peeled back the skin and subcutaneous fat in the places where he found bruising to assess the depth of the trauma and found nothing alarming. Photos of this process are graphic, he explained, which was “probably one of the reasons I discouraged the mom to see the photos.”

Buie has considered the possibility that her son died of a heart attack after being beaten rather than dying from a beating itself. But until she has a complete picture of the circumstances leading up to her son’s death, she will not accept anything authorities have to say. In the meantime, “I’m done with lawyers,” she said. She has never been especially interested in any money a potential lawsuit would bring: “Giving me money is not going to tell me what happened to my son.”

The day after I met Buie, the BOP swore in its new director, an official with a reformer’s reputation. “Together we will work to ensure that our correctional system is effective, safe, and humane for personnel and incarcerated persons,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at the ceremony. Buie was unaware of the change. A new director would make little difference for her, she said. The system was not going to put anyone in charge who would give her answers about her son.

On Saturday, the fifth anniversary of Kedric’s death, Buie shared commemorative posts on TikTok, accompanied by “I Miss You” by Kim McCoy and “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” by Boyz II Men. She had hoped to go to Kedric’s gravesite that morning, but she was struggling. After the weekend, she would go back to seeking answers. As she once said in a video, if the BOP had been transparent from the start, maybe she would not still be doing all of this. But “r ight now, I want closure. I want to know every detail.”

The post Will a Federal Investigation Reveal the Truth About Deaths at USP Atlanta? appeared first on The Intercept .

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    In the Aftermath of a Police Killing, the Justifications Begin Immediately / TheIntercept · 2 days ago - 11:00 · 26 minutes

On the last day of his life, Harith Augustus left the barbershop where he worked on the South Side of Chicago and set out to run some errands. It was late afternoon on July 14, 2018. Walking streets he had traversed countless times before, Augustus can be seen on surveillance video moving along the sidewalk with loose-limbed grace. He’s wearing earbuds and appears to be moving to music only he can hear. Carried east by the flow of life on 71st Street, the main commercial artery in the South Shore neighborhood, he displays no unease as he passes three police officers chatting with each other at the corner of 71st and Chappel. A few minutes later, he returns, going west, and passes them again with the same air of nonchalance.

Moments later, his body lay motionless in the middle of 71st Street, having been shot five times by Officer Dillan Halley.

In previous reporting for The Intercept, and in a collaborative project with Forensic Architecture titled “ Six Durations of a Split Second ,” we used video evidence to show that Augustus’s death was the result of aggressive policing rather than any criminal conduct on his part. The police stopped him because he appeared to be carrying a gun, but in a concealed carry state that alone is not a sufficient basis for an investigative stop. Augustus had committed no crime, and at no point did he remove his gun from its holster. It was actions by the police that produced the “split second” of perceived threat to which they responded with lethal force.

Now, by virtue of unedited body camera footage released in the context of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, it is possible to examine the sequence of police actions immediately after Halley killed Augustus: the moments when the official narrative of what just happened crystallizes. Viewed together with previously released footage, it deepens our understanding of how a demonstrably official false narrative of a police killing takes shape.

Narrative Construction

As officers cordoned off the crime scene with yellow caution tape, onlookers stopped on the sidewalk and sought to engage with the police. Augustus lay unattended on the ground. His gun was holstered, and his wallet with his Firearm Owners Identification card was in his hand. He had been attempting to show the card to Officer Quincy Jones when three other officers encircled him from behind. Without warning, Officer Megan Fleming grabbed his arm. Startled, Augustus reflexively bolted, stumbled into the street, at which point his hand came near his holstered gun: the “split second” that prompted Halley to shoot.

Halley fires his final shot at 5:30:43 p.m. At 5:30:53 p.m., Jones unfastens Augustus’s holster and removes his gun.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, there is a great deal of police activity. At the same time, a crowd of community members — some curious, some outraged — rapidly forms. Footage from body cameras worn by various officers allows us to deconstruct the scene from multiple concurrent perspectives and thereby see more deeply into the reality of what happened.

Officer Dillan Halley [5:30:47 – 5:31:02 p.m.]

In the instant after Halley fires the fifth and final shot into Augustus’s body, the audio on his body camera activates. “Shots fired,” he shouts. “Shots fired at the police.”

When I first heard this, I was stunned by the brazenness with which Halley misrepresents what happened a moment earlier. Having now listened to it many times, it appears he doesn’t know what to say: He doesn’t know how to name what just happened. His voice dissolves into confusion: “Or police officer shoots.” And then, under his breath, a whispered “Fuck.”

Officer James Aimers [5:31:20 – 5:31:54 p.m.]

Having just arrived on the scene as the shooting occurred, James Aimers approaches Augustus laying in the middle of the street. He bends down and handcuffs the immobile Augustus. As he walks away, he takes out a bottle of hand sanitizer and vigorously cleans his hands.

Officer Dillan Halley [5:31:37 – 5:32:17 p.m.]

Megan Fleming seeks out Dillan Halley, who is on the sidewalk

“You OK? You OK?” Fleming asks, then answers for him. “Come here. You’re good, you’re good.”

“It was a gun?” Halley asks.

“Yes,” she replies.

“You get the gun?”


Halley paces back and forth on the sidewalk. Fleming follows him. While talking, they are in constant, agitated motion.

“Breathe in,” she instructs him. “Through your nose.”

“Why did he have to pull a gun out on us?”

“Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. I feel like I wasn’t there for you,” Fleming says. “I was trying to grab him.”

“I had to. He was going to shoot us.”

“I know you did. He was going to shoot us. He was about to kill us.”

Halley continues to pace back and forth on the sidewalk.

“Come here.” Fleming says, trying to reel him in. “Look at me. You’re OK, you’re OK.”

“He pulled a gun on us.”

“I know he did,” she confirms. “I know he did. Look at me. You’re OK.”

What we observe here, as the officers contend with their shock and disorientation, is the birth of what will become the official narrative.

What we observe here, as the officers contend with their shock and disorientation, is the birth of what will become the official narrative. It is not initially, as it will soon become, an exercise in institutional damage control. Rather, it is born in a moment of narrative convulsion, as Halley and Fleming seek to manage the existential crisis into which their precipitous actions have plunged them. As if his next breath depends on it, Halley struggles to find the magic words to rationalize the act he has just committed, and Fleming, in a frantic call and response, validates those words.

Sgt. Jeffrey Aldrich [5:31:07 – 5:33:32 p.m.]

Sgt. Jeffrey Aldrich is the first supervisor to appear on the scene. He arrives less than 30 seconds after the shooting and immediately encounters Halley and Fleming.

“You?” he asks Halley.

“He pulled a gun on me,” Halley replies.

“Was it only one? Just you? Who else shot?”

Fleming, breathing rapidly, interjects, “He grabbed me, and he cut me.”

A woman on the sidewalk questions Aldrich about what happened.

“He pulled a gun on a copper,” he responds impatiently. “If you pull a gun on a police officer, he’s got the right to defend himself, and he shoots back, OK?”

The woman then says something to the effect that Augustus may have had a concealed carry permit.

“Yeah,” Aldrich says in the same overbearing tone, “but if he pulls a gun on a police officer, it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t have the right to pull a gun.”

Thus the frantic effort by traumatized officers to rationalize the catastrophic event in which they just participated begins to morph — within little more than a minute of the last shot being fired — into the official narrative.

This process of narrative construction requires deafness to dissonant voices. When an eyewitness — a man in a red shirt with a knapsack who was walking a few strides behind the officers as their encounter with Augustus unfolded — vigorously tries to engage with Aldrich, he shoos the man away.

This process of narrative construction requires deafness to dissonant voices.

Community members stream toward the site of the shooting to find out what happened. Some question or challenge the police. Aldrich and other officers respond harshly, barking out commands. We can hear Fleming’s voice. “Get the hell out of here,” she yells. “Shut the fuck up.”

In response to one woman whose words are inaudible on the body camera footage, Aldrich yells, “Lady, everything you’re saying is on camera. If you want to go to jail, keep it up.”

After nightfall, the standoff between the community and the police will give way to a violent melee in the shopping center parking lot across from the site of the incident, as officers charge into the crowd with their batons raised. Now, in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, we can see in officers’ hostile, defensive responses to questions from residents the seeds of the disorder that will later ensue.

Officer Megan Fleming [5:33:01 – 5:33:33 p.m.]

When the audio on Fleming’s body camera activates, she is screaming at bystanders on the railroad tracks. “Get off the tracks! Get off the tracks!”

One of them says, “He didn’t do shit.”

“Really?” responds Fleming. She is standing over Augustus’s body. “That’s why I fucking got scratch marks all over me.” She is addressing not the onlookers but other officers standing nearby. She holds up her right forearm to show a reddish area. “He fucking tried to get away. Fuck. He fucking scratched the shit out of me. The fucker pulled a gun right at us.”

It will be a recurring theme for Fleming that Augustus assaulted her. It’s possible she was scratched as he sought to pull away after she grabbed him from behind. It is also possible the injury occurred when Halley grabbed her arm and pushed it out of the way in order to clear his line of fire. In any case, the detective’s supplemental report notes that the “abrasions” on her arm did not require medical treatment.

Sgt. Jeffrey Aldrich [5:34:07 – 5:35:19 p.m.]

Less than five minutes after the incident, Aldrich responds to the growing crowd of onlookers by taking what appears to be an M4 carbine from the trunk of his vehicle and slinging it over his shoulder.

Officer Dillan Halley [5:33:40 – 5:41:01 p.m.]

Halley is wandering around the crime scene without any obvious purpose, as if disoriented.

A moment earlier, the man in the red shirt wearing a knapsack had vigorously pointed at him and Fleming and then at his own eyes as if to say, I saw what you did .

Fleming approaches Halley.

“I’ve got to get out of here,” he says.

“I know you do,” she responds. “Come here.”

They rush over to a supervisor who has just arrived on the scene, Lt. Davina Ward.

“Lieutenant,” Fleming says, “my partner needs to get out of here now.”

“I’m a target,” says Halley.

“We’ve got to go,” Fleming insists. “He’s got to go.”

As if pursued, the two officers and the lieutenant run to Ward’s vehicle on the other side of the red tape.

“Get in the car,” Fleming instructs Halley, then says to Ward, “I’m going with him.”

As she drives away, Ward explains, “I can’t take you completely away, but I’ll take you away from here.”

“He pointed a gun at us,” Halley blurts out. “I had to.”

One of the officers — it is not clear who — releases a shudder of distress.

“Calm down, OK?” says Ward.

Having been unable to reach her commander on the radio, Ward uses her cellphone. “I’ve got the officers who did the shooting,” she reports. “I had to get away from the scene. They were coming after him.”

The panic of Halley and Fleming in the aftermath of the shooting has now entered the police narrative as something akin to a mob “coming after” the two officers.

Ward is unsure how far away from the scene she should go — neither Halley nor Fleming gave official statements about the shooting before fleeing the scene — so she pulls to a stop about half a mile away on a quiet residential street. There is a large vacant lot nearby. No one is visible on the sidewalk.

In a reassuring tone such as one might use with frightened children, Ward seeks to soothe the two officers in the backseat.

“It’s OK,” she says. “Listen. Listen. Listen. It’s OK. It’s OK. OK? I just need you to relax. You OK? …  Listen. Listen. Listen. You are OK. You are OK. You did nothing wrong. OK? I want to make sure you know that.”

They get out of the car. Fleming and Halley put their arms around each other’s shoulders. He is largely silent, while she resumes her breathless monologue.

“You’re OK, you’re OK, you’re OK,” Fleming says. “Dude, he had a fucking gun. He was gonna kill us. I thought I was gonna die. You did the right thing. You’re OK. I’m here, I’m not leaving you. You’re OK. You did the right thing. I thought I was gonna die. I thought I was not going home to my kids. I’m fucking pissed that I didn’t — Look at this.” She holds out her forearm. “I should have fucking had him. I fucking should have had him.”

At this point, Halley’s body camera catches Fleming’s anguished face. She can’t stop talking.

“You’re OK. Dude, he fucking — Look at this,” she says, showing him a reddish spot on her right forearm again. “Dude, I went behind that car and I thought I was gonna — You did the fucking — You saved everyone. You saved my fucking life. You know that, right? You did the right thing. I’m telling you right now, I thought we were going to die. Soon as Jones asked him if he had concealed carry —”

The story Fleming is frantically piecing together has several telling details, all of them false:

  • Augustus took flight because Jones asked him whether he had a concealed carry permit, not because Fleming grabbed him from behind without warning.
  • In his effort to escape, Augustus assaulted Fleming.
  • When several of the officers dropped to the ground and took cover behind a police vehicle, they were responding to Augustus drawing his gun and preparing to shoot at them, not to the sound of gunfire from Halley’s weapon.

In the video footage from Halley’s body camera, none of these things actually happened. Yet on the basis of Halley and Fleming’s initial utterances, the Chicago Police Department released a statement later that day under Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s letterhead that described the incident as “an armed confrontation.”

Ward instructs Halley and Fleming to get back inside the car. Halley suggests that maybe they should relocate to “an alley or something. This is a lot of traffic right here.”

“The thing is,” Ward reassures him, “they don’t know you’re in this car.”

The officers’ fear is palpable. It’s as if they are in a war zone where they could at any moment and from any direction come under attack. How much did this fearful mindset, so vividly apparent after the shooting, contribute to the sequence of actions leading up to it?

Now back inside the vehicle, Halley says, “I couldn’t let him shoot around here.”

“Right, right,” replies Ward. “I’ve got you.”

As she pulls away from the curb, she asks, “He just walked up on you guys?”

“He walked right past us,” Fleming replies. “I said, ‘He’s got a gun.’ And then Jones, he tried to stop him. … That’s when he scratched the shit out of me. I had him but fucking didn’t get him.”

“That’s OK, that’s OK.”

Halley sobs.

“You all didn’t do anything wrong,” says Ward. “I want you all to know that.”

Officer James Aimers [5:32:10 – 5:47:31 p.m.]

Back at the site of the shooting, Aimers, having handcuffed Augustus and thoroughly cleaned his hands, is engaged in securing the crime scene with red tape. This operation is complicated by the fact that community members have gathered within the area he and other officers are trying to cordon off.

“He didn’t do shit,” says a man standing in the railroad tracks directly across from the crime scene. “He’s the fucking barber . He don’t gangbang. He don’t do nothing.”

Aimers and other officers are intent on herding community members behind the cordon they are in the process of establishing. As they install the tape, they yell at onlookers for being on the wrong side of it. They make no effort to identify civilian witnesses. The man in the red shirt with a knapsack again tries to engage with the police and again is shooed away.

By the time Aimers has finished securing the area with tape, the medics are on the scene. They are standing around Augustus’s body. From other camera perspectives, it’s apparent they arrived five minutes earlier, checked Augustus’ pulse, did some tests, and determined he had died.

“Shit,” Aimers says to Jones, who is standing nearby holding Augustus’s gun. “Who got him?”

Jones gestures toward his chest and says, “Camera running.”

“That’s right,” Aimers acknowledges. “No talking.”

Commander Gloria Hanna, the senior police official on the scene, approaches them. She is not in uniform. She asks Jones and Aimers what their beat numbers are. She is trying to figure out who to assign as the “paper car,” the reporting officers tasked with filling out the initial incident report. The paper car cannot have been involved in or witnessed the incident.

Aimers cautions her not to step on evidence scattered on the ground. This includes a pistol magazine and shell casings. Officers walk back and forth heedlessly through the area.

Jones stands beside the magazine laying on the ground. He has been told to stay there until someone relieves him of Augustus’s gun.

“Hey, do you have any hand sanitizer?” Aimers asks Jones. He has lost track of his own bottle. Jones does not.

Aimers offers Jones a bag to put the gun in. It’s not an evidence bag but a plastic bag in which he had some papers. Jones puts the gun in the bag and places it on the ground beside the magazine.

Discovering a new piece of evidence on the ground, Aimers observes, “There’s a credit card over here.” Then he immediately refocuses, “Oh, here it is.” He has found his hand sanitizer. He shares it with Jones. His search continues, though. “I don’t know where my gloves went. That’s what I was looking for.”

Aimers resumes vigorously cleaning his hands with sanitizer.

A supervisor is giving instructions to the officer who “has the paper.” Aimers joins the conversation.

“The handcuffs,” he interjects, “are mine.”

He and the reporting officer have a confused, increasingly testy exchange. Fully 15 minutes after the shooting, the reporting officer asks, “We shot him or we got shot?”

“I don’t think he got a round off,” replies Aimers.

“But I’m just saying,” the officer persists, “did we shoot him? Did the police shoot him?”

“Yeah, we were right here. Everybody was lined up right there. They went to stop him, and he went through the car.”

“Just calm down. I’ll ask your partner,” says the reporting officer, referring to Jones.

“I’m all right,” says Aimers sharply. “That’s not my partner.”

“I’m just trying to say, ’cause we got the paper: Which officer shot?”

“I don’t know. He doesn’t know either,” says Aimers, adding, “We’re on camera, by the way.”

Sgt. Jeffrey Aldrich [5:41:15 – 5:41:38 p.m.]

As Aldrich is helping rearrange the red tape so the ambulance can back in to remove Augustus’s body, a man from the barber shop approaches him.

“He works with me,” the man says.

“It doesn’t matter,” says Aldrich. “You’re beyond the red tape.”

“The sergeant told me to come talk with you.”

“OK, but you can’t come through the red crime scene tape. You can come talk to me, but you can’t come through the red tape. You gotta stay in the red tape.”

Aldrich then walks away without talking to the man.

Officer James Aimers [5:47:58 – 6:00:22 p.m.]

“Hey, Sarge,” Aimers calls out to Aldrich. He wants to know whether he should interview people in the stores on 71st Street near the site of the shooting. “We don’t want any of these people leaving, right?”

Aldrich, having just driven away an eyewitness to the shooting and a colleague of Augustus’s without taking statements or getting their contact information, appears uninterested.

Standing with the M4 across his chest, he asks Aimers, “Did you see it? I saw you come out of the spot.”

“I pulled up because I was gonna get ahead of him. Then he ran behind the car, and that’s when everything went off.”

Looking down at his own body camera, Aldrich asks, “Are you still on?”

“Yeah, I’m still on. I have to be on right now, right?”

Aldrich says he couldn’t see what happened from where he was parked. “I was wondering what you saw, because you pulled off.”

“I saw a bulge on the side, and then I saw them say, ‘Hey,” and I thought, ‘Oh, they’re going to try to stop him,’ and so I went ahead. He dipped out and started freaking out. Then he dipped away, and then I saw him drop, with the gun in his hand.” He then says something to the effect that he thought Augustus had fired his gun, “but he didn’t. Luckily.”

Aimers then briefly enters three stores on 71st Street. Unlike the witnesses on the sidewalk who were shooed away by the police, it’s highly unlikely anyone inside the shops saw anything, but it’s not impossible. Someone might have been looking out the window or stepping out the door at the moment of the shooting.

In each store, Aimers asks whether anyone saw anything, whether there is surveillance video that might have captured the incident, and he collects people’s names. His questioning is perfunctory. At one point, he sums up the point of the exercise, “I have to get everybody’s name down to tell the detectives you didn’t see anything.”

One of the shopkeepers asks, “Did he make it?” Although Aimers was present when the medics indicated Augustus had died, he replies curtly, “I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.”

Talking with several men in a sandwich shop, he appears to assume they are reluctant to speak with him, as if it were a gang shooting rather than a police shooting and they fear retribution.

“So, none of you guys saw anything?” he says. “Want to talk to me in the back individually? I know nobody wants to, you know, narc on anybody. I got that.”

No one takes him up on his offer.

Among those present is Darren Coleman, a security guard who was standing beside Jones as the incident unfolded and later gave me a detailed description of how Augustus’s civil interaction with Jones was disrupted when Fleming grabbed him from behind without warning. He also described Halley as having been, in his view, “pumped, ready. It seemed like he had a point to prove.”

On the tape, Coleman begins to describe to Aimers what he witnessed. Aimers has only one question for him: Did he “see anything” in Augustus’s hands? No, says Coleman, his view was obscured by a car. Aimers shows no interest in anything else Coleman might be able to tell him about what happened.

Sgt. Jeffrey Aldrich [5:44:40 – 5:44:50 p.m.]

Just before Aldrich turns off his body camera — some 14 minutes after the incident, and more than 10 minutes after Halley and Fleming fled the scene — he has an exchange with the two most senior police officials on the scene, Commander Hanna and a lieutenant.

“I guess Halley’s the only one who shot,” says Aldrich, “but he drew a gun out on Halley.”

“The guy did?” the commander asks.

“The guy drew the gun what?” asks the lieutenant.

“He drew a gun out on Halley. That’s what they’re saying.”

“On who?” the lieutenant asks.

While body camera footage makes it possible to isolate various police interactions, some of them occurring simultaneously, another perspective is required to fully comprehend what is happening in the wake of the shooting. It is provided by a stationary CPD surveillance camera on 71st Street that serves to reconstitute the full incident within a single frame.

From that perspective, what arrests the eye is a fixed point amid all the movement. While Halley and Fleming rehearse their shared narrative in a traumatized duet; while Aimers repeatedly cleans his hands after handcuffing Augustus; while Aldrich responds to community grief and anger by reaching for an assault rifle; and while officers confound the crime scene and drive away civilian witnesses: Augustus lies motionless on the ground.

Four minutes pass before an ambulance arrives. During that interval, no officer is moved to assess Augustus’s condition, to offer a comforting word, or to minister to him in any way. Is he dead or alive? It appears not to matter to the officers flooding the area. To observe the terrible isolation of the human being lying in the middle of the street, while the police are wholly preoccupied with their own welfare, is to confront the question that reverberates through our times and is yet to be answered by meaningful reform: Do Black lives matter?

People partake in a rally and march organized by The Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression, in the South Shore neighborhood near the site where Harith Augustus was shot and killed by Chicago police, Monday, July 16, 2018. (James Foster/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

People partake in a rally organized by the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression, in the South Shore neighborhood — near the site where Harith Augustus was shot and killed by Chicago police — on July 16, 2018.

Photo: James Foster/Chicago Sun-Times via AP

Official Oversight

The 2021 report on the incident by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the oversight agency tasked with investigating police shootings, does not provide a fully satisfactory answer to that question. As was widely expected, COPA found “Halley’s use of deadly force was consistent with Chicago Police Department policy.” Although Augustus’s movements were ambiguous and could plausibly be interpreted in different ways (Was he perhaps trying to stabilize his holster while he ran?), COPA concluded that it was reasonable for Halley to have perceived an imminent threat.

We are thus left with the official finding that this gratuitous killing of a Black man by the police, at once tragic and absurd, was lawful and within policy. Given the prevailing paradigm embodied in the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous 1989 ruling in Graham v. Connor that great deference must be shown to an officer’s perceptions of risk and judgments within the temporal frame of the “split second,” that dispiriting conclusion was perhaps inevitable. It should not, however, be allowed to obscure the several ways in which the COPA report enlarges the analytic frame beyond the narrow focus on the split second.

The agency found that the officers had no legal basis to stop Augustus in the first place. And it found that Fleming had no reason to seek to physically restrain Augustus, who was being cooperative. It recommended that she receive a 60-day suspension.

Of equal importance is its analysis of police actions following the shooting. In order to prevent officers from colluding to construct a common narrative, CPD policy dictates that, following the discharge of a firearm, the officers involved are to refrain from discussing details of the incident with one another, and supervisors are to ensure that involved officers remain separated and do not communicate with one another.

COPA found that Ward, the senior supervisor at the scene in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, failed to separate Halley and Fleming and to restrict their communication with each other. It recommended a 30-day suspension.

By assessing police actions leading up to and following the moment of deadly force, the COPA report begins to shift the paradigm. It demonstrates, in effect, that the Supreme Court’s split-second logic in Graham v. Connor need not dictate the outcome of administrative disciplinary processes.

The report also does something else. The breadth and quality of the COPA investigation makes clear the need to overhaul the video release policy adopted at the height of the political maelstrom provoked by the police murder of Laquan McDonald. In that case, the city withheld video footage of the incident for 13 months, until forced to release it by a judicial order and a surging mass movement.

Among the first reforms adopted in the wake of the McDonald debacle, the current policy — touted at the time as the most progressive in the country — provides that “all video and audio recordings relating to” an incident in which use of force by a police officer results in death or great bodily harm shall be made public no more than 60 days after the incident.

In most instances, COPA implements the policy by posting videos and other materials deemed relevant on its website. Yet much of the video footage described above is, to this day, not available to the public on the COPA site, raising questions about the basis on which the agency is making editorial judgments as to relevance.

The time has now come, in light of experience, to overhaul the policy in two fundamental respects.

First, the 60-day timeline should be shortened to no more than a week, absent a compelling showing of why it is necessary to extend it. Second, COPA should not make editorial decisions as to “relevance.” Rather, all body camera footage of all officers at the scene (not only the officers directly involved in the incident), as well as all video from other sources, should be released in its entirety. As the COPA investigation of the Augustus killing shows, once analysis is no longer limited to a narrow focus on the split second, it is not possible to determine relevance until the full investigation is completed, a process that routinely takes a year and often longer.

At the most fundamental level, the principle — with respect to categories of information acknowledged to be public — should be to release it all, and let the public determine what is in the public interest.

Such an expansion of transparency would operationalize a central insight of the era after Laquan McDonald’s killing: In cases such as these, we are not dealing with discreet “cover-ups.” That is the wrong frame for understanding the phenomenon. What we are dealing with is standard operating procedure.

Conspiracy requires agreement, but there is no need to agree when everyone knows what they are expected to do.

For those acting within this gravitational field, lying is not an isolated act but a state of being. The police account of what happened and why it was justified begins to form instantly. The process by which it then hardens into the official narrative is fluid and dynamic — less a matter of deliberate conspiratorial deception than an expression of the institution’s fundamental orientation.

For the CPD at every level, the question is not: What happened? It is: How do we justify what happened? That orientation affects perception — what one sees and does not see — and it shapes interactions that in turn shape the narrative. At bedrock, the assumption is: It is justified because it happened.

This culture has proved difficult to capture in legal categories. A case in point is the failed prosecution of three officers charged with conspiring to protect Officer Jason Van Dyke after he killed Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder. And there were grave political consequences for a number of officials — including former Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who withheld public information from the public in order to maintain a false narrative. Yet the officers charged with conspiring to cover up the McDonald murder were acquitted on all charges. While the judge in the case has been widely criticized, the paradox remains that the more pervasive the code of silence is as a culture, the more elusive it is as a matter of law. Conspiracy requires agreement, but there is no need to agree when everyone knows what they are expected to do.

Given the nature of the problem, there is no more effective antidote than robust transparency that honors the compelling public interest in access to information about what happens in the seconds and minutes and hours that follow the split second in which the police shoot someone.

Video clips referenced in this article:

Officer Dillan Halley [5:30:47 – 5:31:02]

Officer James Aimers [5:31:20 – 5:31:54]

Officer Dillan Halley [5:31:37 – 5:32:17]

Sgt. Jeffrey Aldrich [5:31:07 – 5:33:32]

Officer Megan Fleming [5:33:01 – 5:33:33]

Sgt. Jeffrey Aldrich [5:34:07 – 5:35:19]

Officer Dillan Halley [5:33:40 – 5:41:01]

Officer James Aimers [5:32:10 – 5:47:31]

Sgt. Jeffrey Aldrich [5:41:15 – 5:41:38]

Officer James Aimers [5:47:58 – 6:00:22]

Sgt. Jeffrey Aldrich [5:44:40 – 5:44:50]

CPD surveillance camera

The post In the Aftermath of a Police Killing, the Justifications Begin Immediately appeared first on The Intercept .

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    An Accused War Criminal Trained Florida Cops in "New Concepts of Shooting" / TheIntercept · 3 days ago - 11:00 · 6 minutes

Should a military veteran who has been reliably accused of war crimes, and who admitted that he killed a prisoner, be invited to train police officers on how to do their job?

The police department in Tallahassee, Florida, found a surprising answer to that question. Retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, accused by his fellow operators of intentionally shooting civilians and murdering a prisoner in Iraq, shared a photo and video on Instagram last week in which he described working with Tallahassee police officers in close-quarters combat and other lethal skills. He posted a picture of himself flanked by the rifle-bearing officers in Florida, with his caption describing an “awesome day of training” with “an extraordinary group of men who were ready to train and take on new concepts of shooting and CQB to add to their tool box. It was truly an honor!”

After Gallagher’s picture was spotted and shared by journalist Wesley Morgan, the Tallahassee Police Department stumbled forward with a believe-it-or-not statement that its officers were merely practicing at a private facility operated by a company called Stronghold SOF Solutions, which Gallagher is affiliated with. Gallagher happened to be at the facility and offered his “input” to the officers, according to the TPD. The department did not provide an explanation of how or why its officers assembled for a group photo with Gallagher, whose current business endeavors include private instruction on weapons and tactics .

Gallagher, imprisoned before his court-martial in 2019, is a free man because a military jury controversially declared him not guilty of premeditated murder, and his conviction on just one minor count — of posing in a picture with a dead prisoner — was essentially overturned when former President Donald Trump granted him clemency . Not long after the trial and grant of clemency, the New York Times released a trove of evidence from Gallagher’s fellow operators that laid out their damning case against him.

The core problem here is not Gallagher or the Tallahassee Police Department. The conduct of each is consistent with a decadeslong meshing of the military and policing — a violent disaster in America. The process, explored in Radley Balko’s “ Rise of the Warrior Cop ,” began in the 1960s, was stepped up during the so-called war on drugs, and reached terminal velocity after 9/11, when vast amounts of funding and weapons were poured into local law enforcement agencies, which deployed these resources mainly against minority and poor communities. One of the most notorious signatures of this destructive process is the Pentagon’s 1033 program , which since 1990 has distributed more than $7.4 billion in military weapons — including armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and sniper rifles — to police departments across the country.

This deluge of military hardware among civilian populations is harmful enough, creating mini-armies inside American communities that are desperate for better schools and social services. But what’s been just as harmful, if not worse, is the military mindset instilled in police ranks after 9/11. As Arthur Rizer, a former police officer and military veteran, wrote recently, “We have for years told American police officers to regard every civilian encounter as potentially deadly, and that they must always be prepared to win that death match. … It was always obvious to me that military tactics, training and weaponry had little place in civilian policing.”

And that’s where “trainers” like Gallagher come into play.


In a post on Eddie Gallagher’s Instagram, members of the Tallahassee Police Department are seen with Gallagher for a training hosted by a company called Stronghold SOF Solutions at its facility in DeFuniak Springs, Fla.

Screenshot: The Intercept

On Killing

One of the most prominent and controversial police trainers these days is Dave Grossman, a retired military officer who catapulted onto the lecture circuit after writing a book titled “On Killing.” Our paths crossed in the early days of the 9/11 era, when I was working on a magazine story and attended a talk he delivered in 2002 to a military audience whom he saluted at the end. It was a boilerplate speech for him, delivered hundreds if not thousands of times since, in which he talked about the ways in which soldiers should be trained to kill so they do not hesitate to pull the trigger and do not feel guilty about it afterward. Even in the military community, his theories were controversial and disputed by academics who believed that Grossman did not fully understand the dynamics or history of killing in wartime.

Grossman was primarily speaking to military audiences in those days — there was a lot of demand for people like him as the Pentagon was beefing up its ranks and starting its catastrophic wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. After a while, as fewer U.S. soldiers were deployed overseas, he transitioned to speaking to a broader range of civilian groups, especially police departments, even though his base of experience is in combat psychology. His policing lectures are grafted from his military talks, emphasizing the danger of the job and the need for split-second aggression — even though policing is hardly the most dangerous profession in America. (Loggers, roofers, farmers, and sanitation engineers, among other workers, have higher on-the-job fatalities.) In a 2020 story on Grossman, the writer Justin Peters noted that “there is a cottage industry of trainers and consultants who encourage police to see their beats as a battlefield” and described Grossman as likening America to “a terrifying place where police are both the primary targets of and defenders against super-predation.”

Grossman, like Gallagher, is just a symptom of the problem.

In an encouraging development, Grossman’s lectures to police audiences are getting criticized more frequently than before. Last year, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police canceled a talk by him after justice advocates noted that his observations on police killings have included a remark that law enforcement officers can have the best sex of their lives after an on-the-job shooting. A recent story by the Washington Post noted that the sorts of workshops conducted by Grossman and others were cited in a lawsuit over a police killing in Spokane Valley, Washington.

Yet Grossman, like Gallagher, is just a symptom of the problem. Even as the Tallahassee Police Department was trying to back away from its connection to an accused war criminal who has become a right-wing rock star in the fashion of Kyle Rittenhouse , local journalists unearthed a recruitment video from the department that highlighted an array of military-grade equipment and tactics used by its officers. The video showed off an armored personnel carrier, a camouflage-covered sniper, a squad of riot police marching in a V formation, and an armored bulldozer called the “ Rook .” But don’t blame the TPD for being over-the-top: The gear in its video is standard in police departments across the country.

The fundamental problem, which was generations in the making and will perhaps be generations in the solving, is the internalization of a military force and a military ideology that were ostensibly built for external purposes. This is the forever wars coming home. The problem is not just that military spending since 9/11 has helped impoverish America while destroying foreign countries in illegal wars that cost trillions of dollars and left a million or more people dead (mostly foreigners, but plenty of Americans too). History has shown that the aftermath of foreign wars is not what you might expect. “War is not neatly contained in the space and time legitimated by the state,” noted Kathleen Belew in “ Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America .” She added, “It reverberates in other terrains and lasts long past armistice. It comes home in ways bloody and unexpected.”

And we have just seen one of those ways: Eddie Gallagher giving shooting tips to cops.

The post An Accused War Criminal Trained Florida Cops in “New Concepts of Shooting” appeared first on The Intercept .

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    Criminal Justice Reformer Trounces Police-Backed Candidate in Race to Replace Top Prosecutor in Floyd Murder / TheIntercept · 5 days ago - 17:54 · 4 minutes

A Tuesday race for top prosecutor in Hennepin County, Minnesota, gave some clarity in the ongoing debate over how Minneapolis residents really feel about police reform two years after George Floyd’s murder. The killing, by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, sparked a nationwide movement to reform the criminal justice system and local efforts by the City Council to dismantle and defund the police department. But since then, the city has sent mixed messages about how to move forward.

In May 2020, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was caught on video as he kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Last month, Chauvin was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison for violating Floyd’s civil rights during the arrest that led to his murder. But at the time, the officer’s fate seemed anything but certain.

Floyd’s murder, and a spate of other police officers getting off scot-free after killing Black men, led to worldwide protests against police brutality . The county’s top prosecutor, Mike Freeman, sided with Chauvin shortly after the incident, saying that there was “other evidence that does not support a criminal charge” in Floyd’s murder.

Initially, there was momentum behind a plan to defund the Minneapolis Police Department entirely. But amid pushback from local law enforcement, some city council members softened their stance and proposed another plan to overhaul, but keep, the department. And after a ballot measure to replace the city’s police department with a department of public safety failed last November 56 percent to 44 percent, mainstream media and politicians were quick to claim that Minneapolis residents didn’t want major police reform. “Voters in Minneapolis have resoundingly rejected a proposal to reinvent policing in their city,” NPR wrote of the vote.

A jury ultimately decided differently, convicting Chauvin earlier this year, to the relief of Floyd’s supporters. And on Tuesday, Hennepin County voters dealt another rebuke to Freeman’s tough-on-crime approach and what his critics said was a reluctance to hold police accountable in killings and other instances of brutality. Voters sent former Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty to the top spot for county attorney with 36 percent of the vote in the seven-way nonpartisan primary. Moriarty came in far ahead of the police-backed candidate, retired Judge Martha Holton Dimick, who received just under 18 percent of the vote and will face Moriarty in the November general election.

Dimick is backed by Freeman and local unions for police and sheriffs, along with centrist Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the Star Tribune editorial board. She served as a county district court judge for a decade before she retired in January to run for Hennepin County attorney. In a Star Tribune op-ed last month, Dimick said that she was depressed after watching the video of Floyd’s murder but that since the murder, “many criminals have heard the message that we don’t care about their actions, and they have acted accordingly.” Her campaign focused on cracking down on repeat offenders and violent crime, and she told the Star Tribune last month that while she supported some efforts to reform the criminal justice system, “we have to send the message that there are going to be consequences if you commit a crime.”

But Dimick’s approach fared poorly among Hennepin County residents Tuesday, who overwhelmingly chose Moriarty’s reformist approach — focused on restorative justice, alternatives to incarceration, ending racial disparities in the legal system, holding police accountable, and removing cash bail for nonviolent offenders.

“The community members, elected leaders, and organizations that support our campaign do not always agree with each other on every issue – but we all agree on one thing – that the status quo isn’t working,” Moriarty said in a tweet celebrating her victory Tuesday night.

The Hennepin County attorney’s race was one of at least two in Minnesota in which police-backed candidates fared poorly amid an ongoing debate over how to balance criminal justice reform with public safety. Also in Minneapolis, candidate Don Samuels , who was backed by Frey and local law enforcement, lost by 2 points in his Democratic primary challenge against incumbent U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar despite institutional support, outside spending, and support from local law enforcement figures.

The county attorney’s office, once held by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is responsible for criminal prosecutions in the state’s biggest county and rose to national importance after Freeman announced in September that he would not seek reelection amid scrutiny over his handling of the Floyd case. Freeman has held the office for more than two decades over nonconsecutive terms — he was first elected in 1990 and served from 1991 to 1999, when Klobuchar took the seat. He was elected again in 2006 and has held the office since then.

Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, whom the Star Tribune endorsed alongside Dimick for the top two spots, received 16 percent of the vote and came in third place. Winkler ran on a reform platform that highlighted police accountability and reforming cash bail.

The post Criminal Justice Reformer Trounces Police-Backed Candidate in Race to Replace Top Prosecutor in Floyd Murder appeared first on The Intercept .

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    Un ex-employé de Twitter est coupable d’espionnage pour l’Arabie saoudite / Numerama · 5 days ago - 11:05


La justice américaine examine un cas d'espionnage interne chez Twitter au profit d'une puissance étrangère, l'Arabie saoudite. Un ex-employé s'est servi de sa position pour informer Riyad sur des opposants. [Lire la suite]

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    Elon Musk veut débattre avec le patron de Twitter, mais ils ont un procès pour s’expliquer / Numerama · 7 days ago - 09:37

Elon Musk

En attendant que le procès opposant Twitter à Elon Musk commence, les avocats des deux parties se disputent au travers de documents légaux envoyés au tribunal. Une proposition étonnante, et semble n'être là que pour le spectacle : le débat proposé par Elon Musk entre lui et le PDG de Twitter. Mais il y a un procès qui peut servir à cela. [Lire la suite]

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    Why Is the UAE Detaining an American Lawyer Who Worked With Jamal Khashoggi? / TheIntercept · Sunday, 7 August - 10:00 · 6 minutes

Since the American lawyer Asim Ghafoor was arrested in July while trying to make a connecting flight in the United Arab Emirates, his supporters in Washington, D.C., have been speculating as to exactly why.

Emirati authorities detained Ghafoor on accusations of money laundering and tax evasion while he was catching a connecting flight, informing him that he had also been secretly tried, convicted, and sentenced in absentia. Because of the UAE’s opaque legal system, many observers are suspicious that ulterior political motives led to his arrest. One theory stands out — and it has to do with the UAE’s close alliance with Saudi Arabia.

Ghafoor was associated with the murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, whose brutal killing embarrassed the Saudi crown prince and damaged his ties with the U.S. Coupled with the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s shared history of retaliating against critics — with the most infamous case in the West so far being Khashoggi himself — suspicions now suggest that this is what happened to Ghafoor.

Ghafoor and Khashoggi’s relationship is widely described as both a personal and professional one. Newspaper editorials, members of Congress, a statement by the D.C.-based advocacy organization Ghafoor co-founded with Khashoggi, and Ghafoor’s own attorney have all referred to Ghafoor as Khashoggi’s lawyer . “He previously represented Khashoggi as well as his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz,” The Associate Press reported of Ghafoor.

That relationship between the two men has been called into question by at least one source: Khashoggi’s widow, Hanan Elatr.

That there are close ties between the two men is not in dispute. Ghafoor helped the Saudi exile found the organization Democracy for the Arab World Now , or DAWN, the Washington-based foreign policy advocacy organization that issued a statement about the case. Yet Elatr has strongly denied the characterization that Ghafoor worked directly as a lawyer for Khashoggi.

“I wish Mr. Ghafoor well, but he was not the lawyer of my husband,” Elatr told The Intercept in an interview. “My husband did not have any legal issue that he needed a lawyer.” Elatr, who was herself detained in the UAE on two occasions, including once after Khashoggi’s death, has been critical of what she described as attempts to politicize his legacy.

Others close to Ghafoor, however, including his U.S.-based lawyer Faisal Gill, said that questions about the exact legal relationship between the two men are a “red herring,” since Ghafoor was known to have provided ongoing legal advice to Khashoggi in the context of their relationship as co-founders of DAWN. DAWN, for which Ghafoor continues to serve on the board, regularly criticizes arms sales and human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“At the end of the day, Asim was one of the founders of DAWN, along with Jamal Khashoggi.”

“At the end of the day, Asim was one of the founders of DAWN, along with Jamal Khashoggi,” Gill said. “Asim regularly talked to him and advised him on different things, and he has also been integrally involved in the lawsuit filed over Jamal’s killing. Asim signed the contract that created DAWN, which Jamal Khashoggi also signed and that got him killed. He’s been involved in this entire matter since the beginning.”

Since Khashoggi’s murder, Ghafoor has also been part of DAWN’s legal team in its lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to have ordered Khashoggi’s killing. Gill is himself an attorney in the case, which is ongoing.

A declaration by Ghafoor filed in federal court last year as part of the lawsuit against the Saudi crown prince describes Ghafoor as a board member involved in the initial establishment of DAWN, stating that he had also “negotiated an agreement with Jamal Khashoggi for him to serve as the executive director of DAWN” in May 2018. The declaration claimed that Khashoggi’s murder had a chilling effect on the organization. “Mr. Khashoggi’s murder caused significant budgetary shortfalls for DAWN because donors reneged on commitments to financially support DAWN due to fear of retribution from the defendants in this case,” the declaration said.

Khashoggi’s fiancé at the time of his killing, Cengiz, also pointed to the connection with DAWN and Ghafoor’s role in its lawsuit over Khashoggi’s death. “Asim was a friend of Jamal Khashoggi and, as a lawyer, he helped set up the organisation ‘Democracy for the Arab World Now’ (‘DAWN’),” Cengiz wrote in a statement after Ghafoor was arrested. “I have an ongoing civil lawsuit against the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman and his co-conspirators in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The trial begins soon. Asim Ghafoor is part of DAWN’s legal team in this lawsuit. I am concerned that the UAE has jailed Asim to intimidate the legal team and myself, and anyone who calls for democracy in the Middle East.” (Cengiz did not respond to a request for comment.)

Ghafoor’s legal case in the UAE has likewise been cause for alarm by many U.S. politicians due to apparent violations of basic fairness and transparency. He was arrested at Dubai International Airport on July 14 while connecting flights, on his way to attend a family wedding in Istanbul. Ghafoor had transited flights through Dubai earlier this year without incident, but this time was approached and taken into custody by two plainclothes security officials.

Upon arrest, Ghafoor was informed that he had already been tried, convicted, and sentenced to three years in prison, a fine of $816,748, and deportation upon completion of his sentence. He had neither a chance to defend himself nor prior knowledge of the accusations against him.

On Monday, Ghafoor was denied bail in a court hearing, where he appeared for the first time since being placed into hospital isolation after contracting Covid-19 while in UAE custody. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for August 9.

Born in Missouri and raised in Texas, Ghafoor has been a well-known lawyer in D.C. for years. He worked on several high-profile national security and terrorism cases in the post-9/11 era and boasted strong political connections among both Democrats and Republicans.

In 2014, Ghafoor was the subject of a story in The Intercept after it was revealed that he had been the target of a National Security Agency spying program, along with several other prominent American Muslim activists, academics, and lawyers. Ghafoor was awarded $20,000 in damages after a previous revelation of government surveillance during one of his cases, though that judgment was reversed upon appeal.

The timing of his sudden arrest, which took place the same day that President Joe Biden was in the region meeting with Saudi leaders, raised questions about what role, if any, the U.S. government may have had in his detention.

Emirati authorities initially claimed that Ghafoor’s arrest was coordinated with U.S. authorities as part of an effort to stop “transnational crimes.” State Department spokesperson Ned Price appeared to dispute this in a press conference last week, saying that the U.S. had “not sought the arrest of Mr. Ghafoor” while directing questions to the Justice Department, which has declined to comment on the case.

While cautioning that the U.S. was still gathering information, Price added that the U.S. government did not have reason to believe Ghafoor’s detention is connected to his work with Khashoggi.

Nonetheless, the lack of transparency about his charges and conviction in the UAE is already driving widespread suspicion that Ghafoor is indeed being targeted for political reasons. At a time when transnational repression is increasing, the detention has also raised alarms about the U.S. government’s willingness to ensure due process for one of its own citizens detained by authoritarian allies like the UAE.

“It makes no sense that an American citizen charged with tax evasion would be accused and tried by local authorities in the United Arab Emirates — a matter like that seems likely to be handled by the IRS, not the UAE,” said Salam Al-Marayati, president and co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “We demand transparency and explanations from the American government about this issue. Unless more information is provided, we have to characterize him as a political prisoner.”

The post Why Is the UAE Detaining an American Lawyer Who Worked With Jamal Khashoggi? appeared first on The Intercept .

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    Should Doctors Break the Law? / TheIntercept · Saturday, 6 August - 11:00 · 14 minutes

The horrific stories are pouring in. A Texas woman’s water breaks at 18 weeks, leaving the fetus’s chance of survival “as close to zero as you’ll ever get in medicine,” according to one expert. Yet she must wait until she is hemorrhaging profusely and burning with fever — that is, not dead but almost — before the doctors agree that it’s legal to perform an abortion. A Tennessee resident learns that her baby’s “brain matter [is] leaking into the umbilical sac,” gravely threatening her own health. She is forced to travel 200 miles to another state where doctors may take the fetus from inside her. A Wisconsinite bleeds for more than 10 days from an incomplete miscarriage because the emergency room staff fears that performing the standard-of-care uterine evacuation will be against the law.

The antis scoff at these stories. They accuse abortion proponents of exaggerating the dangers of criminalizing abortion in order to murder more babies for profit. Organizations like Students for Life and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists continue to hold that “abortions are never medically necessary,” giving lawmakers cover to press the limit of legal abortion ever closer to the pregnant person’s demise. Typical language is Missouri’s, which allows a pregnancy to be terminated only when “a delay will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman,” or kill her. No one, not even the most experienced practitioner, knows precisely when this moment arrives.

It was in the liminal space between hyper-restriction and complete prohibition that 31-year-old dentist Savita Halappanavar died of septicemia in an Irish hospital in 2012. Her death helped propel the Irish abortion decriminalization movement to victory six years later. With extremists gunning to eliminate all exceptions to abortion bans, Medical Students for Choice Executive Director Pamela Merritt worries that restoring abortion rights in the U.S. may require a similar sacrifice. “We’re going to have to see what happened in Ireland, a completely preventable death,” Merritt said. “It will take more than one.”

“At what point does the duty to comply with laws enacted by a legislative majority (or with executive acts supported by such a majority) cease to be binding in view of the … duty to oppose injustice?” wrote the philosopher John Rawls in “ A Theory of Justice .” Were Rawls alive today, he might ask, “At what point does the duty to comply with laws enacted by a judicial cabal of five and supported by a minority cease to be binding?” Sooner, I think.

Rawls’s question comes at the beginning of his discussion of civil disobedience, which he defines as “a public, non-violent, conscious political act against the law with the aim of bringing about a change in the law or government policy.” Clinicians are anguishing over the impossible choice between good medicine and bad law, between their oaths to do no harm and the unscientific, cruel bans that force them to abandon their ethics and do harm or face penalties as heavy as life imprisonment . Almost all obstetrician-gynecologists detest these bans and envision no end to them. They also know that their own action or inaction may spell the difference right now between their pregnant patients’ security and poverty, safety and domestic abuse, health and impairment, life and death.

Should doctors break the law?

Throughout history they have, sometimes with extraordinary heroism. During the German occupation of the Netherlands, for example, Dutch physicians unanimously refused to join the Nazi medical guild, which would have meant committing atrocities such as euthanizing chronically ill patients. The doctors turned in their licenses instead, even after 100 of their colleagues were sent to concentration camps.

Civil disobeyers, says Rawls, maintain the legitimacy of their cause by showing that they are not acting only in self-interest and that they respect democracy and the rule of law: They willingly pay the price for defying an unjust law. Curtis Boyd began providing abortions in East Texas in the 1960s through the Clergy Consultation Service, a network of ministers and rabbis who arranged at least 450,000 clandestine medical abortions before Roe v. Wade. “This law needs to be changed, this service needs to be provided, and I’m going to do it understanding the risk I am taking, which may include going to prison,” Boyd recalls in the video “Voices of Choice: Physicians Who Provided Abortions Before Roe v. Wade.” He is still giving abortion care in New Mexico, where he is one of a small number of U.S. doctors who perform late-term procedures.

In 1967, the San Francisco OB-GYN and abortion rights advocate Edmund W. Overstreet articulated the ethos of “doctors of conscience” like Boyd: “We do not believe that violation of an archaic statute is unprofessional conduct, nor that it is unprofessional for a physician to conduct himself in accord with the ethics of the community, the wishes of patients, and the best medical judgment of doctors,” he wrote .

The American Medical Association is not as strident as Overstreet. Yet its code of ethics also suggests that civil disobedience is sometimes the correct course of action. “In some cases, the law mandates conduct that is ethically unacceptable,” it reads . “When physicians believe a law violates ethical values or is unjust they should work to change the law. In exceptional circumstances of unjust laws, ethical responsibilities should supersede legal duties.” The laws are profoundly unjust. The circumstances are exceptional.

For some providers, the risks of civil disobedience are too great. Mildred Hanson, who also appears in “Voices of Choice,” was a single mother of four treating patients mutilated and traumatized by trying to end their own pregnancies. Yet she held off while her kids grew, before beginning to perform the procedures that would prevent this misery. The risks may in fact be greater today than they were for Hanson, given the merciless statutes, the long prison sentences of the carceral era, and the state surveillance enabled by electronic media.

For some, the demand is too burdensome — and unfair. “I find these calls for civil disobedience, in truth, hurtful,” said Louise Perkins King, a physician, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, and the director of reproductive bioethics at the school’s Center for Bioethics. “The failings of our health care systems and our political systems are ours to bear. We can’t constantly look to overworked — and in the case of women’s health, underpaid — doctors to save us with their altruism.”

King also feels that the one act of conscience conflicts with another ethical duty: “to ensure they can continue to provide care to their community.” Physicians have the same obligation as other citizens to work politically to change the laws, she believes; they should use the symbolic power of their white coats if they can. “I would support any doctor who breaks these laws to provide care,” she averred. “But I would also critique them [because] that would leave a gaping hole in access to care for hundreds or thousands of patients as they fight a felony charge while their license is suspended.”

Katie Watson, a lawyer and bioethics professor specializing in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, agrees with King that no one should feel pressure to commit civil disobedience; there are “20 other ways” to participate. For Watson, though, the absence of a single doctor for some period of time is a shortsighted reason to reject civil disobedience. “I encourage physicians to think historically in addition to thinking about what will happen tomorrow. Five to 10 years from now, what actions will I be proud that I did or did not do?” said Watson. “We need to run the sprint and the marathon at the same time.”

“We docs are rule-followers. But the one place where we might become rebels is when a state law directly forces us to harm our patients.”

For Rawls, publicness is a hallmark of civil disobedience. But Watson thinks that “covert disobedience” is more apt for this moment. “You do it covertly for two reasons,” she explained. “The need is immediate, and you do not believe CD has any chance of changing the law.”

Some docs are freer to act than others — California and Massachusetts, among other blue states, have moved to shield providers who help patients from anti-abortion states and the patients who travel for that help. Do these providers have an ethical duty to do so? Mary Faith Marshall, director of the Center for Health Humanities and Ethics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, answered carefully. “Under the oath I have taken, I have a body of knowledge and skills and profess to use them at the benefit of my patients even to my own detriment. We don’t require people to be martyrs,” she stressed. But “providers should be advocating for their patients at the level of the individual and at the collective level. It may mean civil disobedience; it certainly means lobbying, speaking out.” Just as doctors toiling in the hospital sepsis wards were instrumental in Roe, clinicians are best positioned to show legislators in ban states: “These are the sequelae of your decisions.’”

Like most of the people I spoke to, Matthew Wynia does not expect lots of doctors to step out and declare themselves felons. “We docs are rule-followers,” he wrote in an email. “But the one place where we might become rebels is when a state law directly forces us to harm our patients.” Hospitals are risk-averse and tightly regulated. Departure from the law can result in lost funding, censure, or discreditation. Nevertheless, hospitals protect undocumented patients from immigration authorities. ERs revive patients who overdose on street opioids without informing the narcotics police. “If a state law today forces us to harm patients by waiting until they are at death’s door before we intervene with life-saving surgery,” continued Wynia, an internist and director of the University of Colorado’s Center for Bioethics and Humanities, “it is reasonable to debate whether that’s a law we should collectively disobey.” In the AMA Journal of Ethics, Wynia proposes “professional civil disobedience,” in which groups and associations decide together “to break a social rule in order to support the medical needs of our patients.”

Encouragingly, medical associations have responded to the overturn of Roe with unprecedented unity and clarity. More than 75 of them joined the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association in a statement condemning the bans. “Our patients need to be able to access — and our clinicians need to be able to provide — the evidence-based care that is right for them, including abortion, without arbitrary limitations, without threats, and without harm,” they declare. The extreme right may be pushing the medical establishment leftward. At its June convention, the AMA, hardly the most radical organization on the planet, resolved to “recognize that health care, including reproductive health services like contraception and abortion, is a human right.” These organizations can do more by establishing funds to support the legal expenses and lost income of members sidelined by the consequences of ethical, illegal actions. And there are myriad other institutions that can be pressured to slow, even if not outright sabotage, the destructive machinery: university administrations, state licensing boards, federal agencies.

“This is the moment for those who believe they are illegitimate laws to refuse to accept them.”

Watson believes that together, substantial numbers of civil disobeyers could change hearts and minds and with them norms and, finally, laws. “The social reaction to these laws will determine whether they are legitimate or illegitimate,” she told me. “This is the moment for those who believe they are illegitimate laws to refuse to accept them.” Resistance takes place in the streets, in academic journals and op-ed pages, and at the bedside. “It is up to doctors to determine what is imminent risk, and as soon as it is defined and predicted, not to wait for it to become realized” — in other words, when the water breaks, don’t sit on your hands until the patient is on the verge of sepsis. “If everyone agrees, then that becomes the standard of care. And the hospital counsel has to tell the docs, ‘Do good medicine. I have your back.’” The imperative is to act now, she said. “This is how the historic moment can turn without waiting 50 years for a new Supreme Court.”

We may find that the tragic stories alone will change the laws faster than anticipated. Nearly three-quarters of Americans favor legal abortion if a woman’s life or health is at risk, a recent Pew Research Center poll found. It is not difficult to look at an ectopic pregnancy, a case of pregnancy-caused life-threateningly high blood pressure, or a severe fetal anomaly discovered late in gestation and understand that abortion care is inextricable from the other work of doctoring. Even the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists finesses the untruth that abortion is never medically necessary by distinguishing it from “preterm parturition,” which, they say, does not entail killing the fetus but is merely “separating a mother and her unborn child for the purposes of saving a mother’s life.” If only to legitimize other ignorant and punitive provisions, anti-abortion states may amend the bans to allow doctors who treat complex or problematic pregnancies to do their jobs without legislative meddling.

Far more difficult, though, as always, will be defending what Watson calls “ordinary” abortions, what doctors used to term “elective” — to distinguish them from “therapeutic” — abortions, and what the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists derogates as “induced abortions,” whose only aim is to “produce a dead baby.” These are the abortions that I and millions of others have had, without a 104-degree fever, without three kids crying for milk, without an artistic career to pursue or two crappy jobs without insurance or family leave to hold down. We sought abortion for no other reason than we were pregnant and did not want to be.

We sought abortion for no other reason than we were pregnant and did not want to be.

To regain the right to ordinary abortion, appeals to good medicine lose their power, and little a provider does or refuses to do will win the day. Instead, we must let it be known that — as National Advocates for Pregnant Women Executive Director Lynn Paltrow, Lisa Harris, a doctor and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia’s Marshall argue in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Bioethics — something much bigger is at stake.

A bedrock principle of justice, from common law to constitutional law, is that no one can be compelled to give over their body or any part of it to save another person, even if the other person might die without it. Such a forced intrusion “would change every concept and principle upon which our society is founded,” wrote a Pennsylvania court in a 1978 case upholding a man’s right to refuse to donate bone marrow to his cousin, who needed it to survive.

When the person becomes pregnant, however, fissures open in the bedrock. This is where Roe came in. “While we conventionally think of Roe as the decision that defined the Constitutional right to not be pregnant, it also delineated — and was in fact the first articulation of — rights a woman has while pregnant,” write Paltrow, Harris, and Marshall. Each in her own capacity, these authors have witnessed hundreds of pregnant people in the U.S. — almost always those who use drugs and are brown, Black, and/or poor — arrested, detained, and forced to undergo unwanted medical procedures and treatments to “protect the fetus,” even when their pregnancies were proceeding normally. With Roe gone, the threat of such violation spreads to every uterus-bearing human: “An abortion ban [means] that anyone who becomes pregnant … will become newly vulnerable to legal surveillance, civil detentions, forced interventions, and criminal prosecution.” The bans, they write, create “a new class of persons for whom fundamental Constitutional rights don’t apply.” This is not a medical problem. It is a legal, existential one.

For 150 years, the medical profession has dominated reproduction and abortion. With this dominance comes both power and vulnerability — and ethical obligation. Yet if we leave abortion to the doctors, we risk privatizing and depoliticizing it. Since the overturn of Roe, I’ve noticed that the word “abortion” has gained a tail: It’s now “abortion care. ” Indeed, abortion is health care, as the placards and T-shirts say. And the decision to end a pregnancy may be taken “in consultation with” a doctor, just as it may involve a lover, mother, affinity group, or, in the hearts of its parents, the fetus.

But not all abortion is care, defined as what one person does for another. It is, instead, something a person does for herself, by herself. Abortion is a defining act of autonomous, free individuals exercising their inalienable human rights. We must fight for abortions that enrich lives, not just those that save them.

The post Should Doctors Break the Law? appeared first on The Intercept .

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