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September 12, 1978 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1978-09-12

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Page-4-Tuesday, September 12, 1978-The Michigan Daily

U

.S.

political.

tbe 3trbdt n itaIg
Eighty-Nine Years of Editorial Freedom

prisoners:
celebre

a new cause

Vol. L.IX, No. 5

Tuesday, September 12, 1978

News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

Better seats, not new plans
needed for ticket justice

E VERY YEAR about this time the
complaints of disgruntled football
fans begin. Students who waited for
hours or even days in line expecting to
be rewarded with choice seats,
understandably cry foul when they
learn that junior seats start at the 10
yard) line, In fact, even some
seniors are doomed to be watching
from near the goaline while Rick
leach directs the team toward a score
some 90 yards away.
This year, Ticket Director Al
Renfrew with the help of the Michigan
Student Assembly devised a plan to
end all the squabbling - a lottery. No
more lines. Everyone who wants
tickets simply puts his or her coupon in
the lottery, and then is randomly
assigned a seat in either the senior,
nunior, sophomore or freshperson
section. But the high hopes they had for
this system have not been realized -
the complaining continues. The hard
core football fanatics who usually wait
in line for days in order to assure
themselves a spot between the 40 and
50 are hopping mad. Many are sitting

nearer the 10 or 20 due to the luck of the
draw. They feel they should have been
given a chance to determine their own
fate, and it is difficult to refute their
argument that the people who are
willing to wait deserve the best seats.
The reason the new system has fared
no better than the old is that it simply
fails to attack the problem - students
just don't get enough good seats. The
situation has become so bad that most
students sit in the endzone or on the
goal line until their senior year. With a
stadium the size of ours, it is
unjustifyable to give students less than
one-fourth of the good seats. If one side
of the stadium were reserved for
students, we would all fit between the
two 20 yard lines. That would still
leave thousands of good seats for the
faculty, and Athletic Director Don
Canham's precious alumni. Besides, if
tickets are really in as much demand
as Canham has told us, then he should
have no trouble selling them even if
they are in the endzone. It would be
nice to see a few faculty members and
alumni there rather than students.

When U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young told
a Paris newspaper that in American prisons
"there are hundreds, perhaps even
thousands, of people whom I would call
political prisoners," the remark unleashed a
predictable flurry of controversy and
outrage.
Now, a month later, it is clear that what
some have derisively called another example
oy Young's "open-mouthed diplomacy,"
might, in fact, have been the first volley in a
gathering political cause: the effort to define
and legitimize the notion of "political
prisoner" in the United States.
At a time when the Carter administtration
successfully focused attention on human
rights abroad, Young's comments have
refocused the attention on human rights in
this country. More specifically, he has given
official recognition to an old political debate
that revolved around a number of critical
questions:
" What is a political prisoner"? Is the term
limited to the Shcharanskys and Ginsbergs of
the world, who apparently are imprisoned for
non-violent expression of their political
beliefs? Or does the term extend to poor
people who commit crimes in a struggle for
survival?
" Are there political priisoners, however one
definesdthe term, in American prisons?
+ And, is the United States, which now so
freely admonishes other countries to abide by
various international standards on human
rights, abiding by those same standards within
its own borders?
Young's position on such questions is clear:
"I do think there are some people who are
in prison because they are poor than because
they are bad," he said in July. "There are
problems in our sustem which send
intelligent, aggressive poor people to jail and
in which intelligent, aggrerssive and rich
people have opportunities."
Young's definition suggests the inclusion of
persons who have been denied not only basic
human rights, but economic rights as well.
An alternative definition is that adopted by
the Amnesty International (A), the London-
based Noble Prize winning organization that
focused concern on human rights violations
around the world.
Amnesty International's definition of
political prisoner is far narrower than
young's. They, in fact, distinguish between
"prisoners of conscience" and "political
prisoners". Prisoners of conscience are
persons who are "imprisoned, detained,
restricted . . . by reason of their political,
religious or other conscientiously held beliefs
or by reason of their ethnic origin, sex, color
or language, provided that they have not used -
or advocated violence..."
It is this so-called "violence clause" that
makes the distinction. Amnesty International
concentrates its efforts on behalf of prisoners
who are in prison for their political beliefs but
have not committed crimes.
This narrower definition is a subject of
critical debate both within AI and among
groups in the United States. It clearly
excludes the use of politically motivated
violence, such as terrorism or assassination,
as wel as criminal acts by poor persons who
act not out of political motivation but out of a
fight for survival.I
"We're not trying to say that violence is evil
in all cases," said Amnesty International's
press officer Larry Cox. "It's not that it's
wrong or right. We eliminate these cases for
practical purposes."-
The organization recently listed 17
"prisoners of conscience" in the United
States, including the Wilmington 10. Both
Burley and Cox said that the figure is
probably low because of the difficulties and
peculiarities of identifying prisoners of
conscience in America.
Other countries, said AI researcher Ann

By Jeff Brand
Burley, acknowledge imprisoning people for
their beliefs. "The problem is that in the
States this does not happen. . . It is a more
difficult task to show that a crime is
political."
Amnesty International, Cox said, "is not
best suited to the U.S. We are best suited to
places where the political acts are clear to
.W'+, h ber4y drnd j061Cse.e
4o2- all who 1in -he wa,
- bureauc Cacy s -
anyone outside the government."
Clearly, the definition of Young and of Al
are point and counterpoint. Around these
divergent opinions, two distinct approaches
are developing in the UNited States-one
guided by A's definition and international
human rights agreements, the other
attempting to expand the definition to include
crimes because of their economic goal or
socialstatus.
Despite numerous international treaties on
human rights to which the United States is
signatory, including the recent Helsinki
accords on faithfulness to the Universal
Declaration on Human Rights and its
Covenants, there is little machinery for
dealing with the issue.
Guy Corriden, deputy staff director of the
U.S. Helsinki Commission (established to
monitor "the acts of the singatories") told
PNS that "nothing has been done to date
regarding violations of Helsinki within the
U.S."'
Corriden said the commission intends to
"look at (the situation) carefully and review
what needs to be done." But he said the
commission "may not have the capacity to
investigate."
It is into this gap between government
rhetoric and government inaction that
independent, unofficial American groups
have taken up the banner.
One such group is the Legal Committee on
Human Rights Working Groups, headed by
Morton Sklar, a law professor at Catholic
University.
"What we mean as a political prisoner is a
very specific thing," Sklar said. "It is
imprisonment for belief."
While Sklar admits that part of the human
rights problem in the United States stems
from economic and social problems, he
believes these should be dealt with
separately. He termed Young's remarks "an
exaggeration" and said that the rhetoric does
little to further efforts to guarantee protection
of human rights.
The International Freedom to Publish

Committee takes a similar position.
Executive Director Jerri Laber is
establishing a Helsinki Watch Committee to
monitro human rights violations in this
country and to report specific cases at the
1980 Helsinki review meeting in Madrid.
Neither Sklar nor Laber has specific
answers on how to set up machinery to ferret
out the violations that they believe exist, a
problem of no concern to groups working or
the other side of the debate - those more in
sympathy with Young's definition.
At .a recent meeting of the "National
Conferenceeof Black Lawyers in New Orleans,
Adissa Douglar, ahuman rights worker for
the National Council of Churches, suggested
that political prisoners should include not
only prisoners of conscience, but also:
* Those who commit violent acts to directly
confront the politics of the system.
" Those wo develop a political
consciousness in prison though they may not
be there for traditionally political crimes.
" Those imprisoned because society has
failed to deal with its social and economic
problems.
Douglas noted that her position was not
necessarily that of the National Council of
Churches. But her work is based on the notion
that human rights issues cannot be separated
from the broader social and economic fabric.
Haywood Burns, a New York University
law professor and chairman of the
Commission on Human Rights Violations in
Criminal Justice, also appeared at the
conference. Americans should be concerned
with prisoners of conscience, he said, adding
that the term political prisoner is "also
concerned with the criminal justice system
and the way the system makes prisoners of
Third World and poor people."
On the basis of testimony gathered by the
Commission, those at the conference hope to
submit a petition to the United Nations
documenting human rights violations in this
country - an idea fist broached in 1964 by
Black Muslim Malcolm X.
This expansive approach to the political
prisoner definition, as embraced by Douglas
and Burns, presents problems. Much of the
public would not accept the premises about
ecomonic and social justice that underlie this
thinking.
Those who expansively define political
prisoners have basic disagreements with the
American system. They believe, as black
attorney Howard Moore has written, that the
problem will not evaporate without a
"fundamental and decisive reallocation of
power and resources."
Burns said that while general acceptance
"is not likely in the near
future,. . . eventually education will do it."
He and Douglas emphasized that they do
not condone the violence that "political
crime" often brings. But Burns said the cause
of crime - rather than the crime itself -
should be examined.
SAmid these divergent views, a few things
appear clear. Carter's campaign on human
rights issues in other countries has refocused
attention on such issues in the United States,
and the government is doing little if anything
to address them.
Consequently, people outside the
government - now with a champion in the
administration - have filled the vacuum with
a debate that could elevate into a national
cause.
(Jeff Brand is a professor at the
University of San Francisco Law
School. A former public defender, Brand
has served as administrative hearing
officer for California's Agricultural
Labor Relations Board).

Anonymous source: key
to search for the truth

TRUTH IS THE issue. Every good
citizen needs the truth about the
community, the state, the nation, the
world, to participate effectively in
government.
Newspapers play an important role
in providing citizeis with the truth
they need. But it's a difficult job. It is
simple to merely report what is hap-
pening on the surface but a journalist
must dig beneath the mere surface of
an issue to give the public all the
truth-or at least as much as can be
found.
To do this a journalist must seek out
and rely on sources who know the full
story but who may wish to remain
anonymous. A source may desire
anonimity for many reasons-but
usually because the source would suf-
fer recrimination for their truth-
fulness-a sad but true commentary.
Without confidential sources the
public would never get the whole truth.
Then, for example, both journalist and
citizen would have to rely on on
whatever a politician is willing to say.
If this were the case the Pentagon
Papers would have forever been a
secret or Richard Nixon would have
still been president in 1975.
The anonymous source is the most
valuable tool the journalist has to ex-
pose the stench and confusion which lie
hidden behind a calm and serene
facade.
Recent U.S. Supreme Court
decisions are quickly making the
anonymous source a thing of the past.
In the case of Zircher vs. The Stanford
Daily, the court gave police the license
to investigate a newspaper's office if
the police have a warrant. The police
do not have to have evidence that a
crime was committed by the
newspaper. Rather, an investigation
may be initiated merely on the basis
that there may be evidence of a crime
on the premises. This ruling gives

police the license to virtually fish for
anything in a newsroom which may
uncover a crime.
We have seen in the past that gover-
nment officials have used police depar-
tments, the FBI, the Central In-
telligence Agency and even-the Inter-,
nal Revenue Service to further their
own political careers. It wouldn't take
a logician to see that if this ruling had
come down in 1972 Nixon would have
had Washington, D.C. policemen
scouring the Washington Post offices
looking for any clue as to who "deep-
throat" was.
State Rep. Perry Bullard (D-Ann
Arbor) says the Zircher vs. The Stan-
ford Daily ruling has "set a precedent
which endangers the principles of free
press in this country." To counter the
court's decision Bullard has in-
troduced a bill which would protect the
newsroom and therefore anonymous
sources in this state from undue
harassment.
House Bill 6635 states in part that a
warrant shall not be issued to search a
newsroom unless the owner or an em-
ployee of the newsroom is suspected of
direct involvement in a crime. This
bill is scheduled for hearings before
the House Civil Rights Committee, of
which Bullard is chairman, on Sep-
tember 19.
We whole-heartedly support this
legislation. Without protection for
journalist and their sources the coun-
try as a whole will suffer. Good citizens
need every bit of truth journalist can
scrape together. And if the police are
allowed to rummage through repor-
ter's notes or tapes no source will be
safe. Individuals who otherwise would
reveal the whole picture will now
shrink fromt their good citizen's duty
for fear their names could be
discovered through a police search. We
need all the truth. House Bill 6635 en-
sures we have a chance to get it.

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