Category: Justice Issues

Publicizing America’s Persecution of African-Americans is a Moral Duty, Not Treason

Publicizing America’s Persecution of African Americans is a Moral Duty, Not Treason

Publicizing America’s Persecution of African Americans is a Moral Duty, Not Treason

As Human Rights Defenders (HRD), we have a moral obligation to speak out against acts that violate human rights, such as government wrongdoing and impunity. In my personal opinion, it is important to bring these concerns to light because of the damaging influence it has on disenfranchised communities, such as African Americans.

Over the years, the US government has hired private security firms to surveil African Americans who protest police brutality.[1] It has militarized its police departments and trained them in global counterinsurgency tactics to intimidate Black communities who make public complaints about racism. The US has also used surveillance, monitoring, informants,[2] colluders and other illicit practices to classify Black activists and HRDs as a threat to national security. Its framing of Black activists and HRDs as a threat gives it imprimatur to criminalize dissent both domestically and abroad.

These tactics, according to Mian, are reminiscent of the Counter Intelligence Program (“COINTELPRO”). While some suggest the FBI has abandoned its use of the term ‘BIE’, Mian contends there are no signs that it has retracted the label it has given to African American dissidents.[3] Indeed, evidence reveals the US government still frames Black dissidents who are critical of law enforcement as violent, so that it can quell dissent.[4]

Can the Expressions I Make Against the US Government Abroad be Interpreted as Treason?

As a HRD who actively speaks out against the US government’s ill-treatment of African Americans while abroad, my research and activism got me thinking: Would the US government interpret my expressions abroad as treason?

What is Treason?

The Encyclopædia Britannica defines treason as crime of betraying a nation or a sovereign by acts considered dangerous to security.[5]

What is Aid and Comfort in US Treason Law?

According to Article III, § 3 of the US Constitution, “treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort…” However, in Young v. United States, the US Supreme Court clarified that “aid or comfort to the rebellion” should be interpreted in its hostile sense,[6] such as furnishing warships or giving secret intelligence relating to the strength, movements, or position of an army.[7]

Publicizing America’s Persecution of African Americans is a Moral Duty, Not Treason

Do American HRDs Owe Fidelity to the US if Abroad?

It is argued that “every individual owes fidelity and allegiance to the government under which [they] are living in return for protection which [they] receive from the government.”[8]  The key word is “protection,” but, how it is defined in the eyes of international law? Protection or the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) entails a State safeguarding its citizens from “…genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and Crimes against Humanity.”[9]  Yet, the Inquiry Commission found the systematic killing and maiming of unarmed Black people, who posed no threat of death or serious bodily harm to police or others, was so widespread that it constituted Crimes against Humanity.[10]

This raises the question as to whether an American HRD or activist residing abroad is permitted to pass on evidence of US human rights violations, if one has formed the belief that facts warrant disclosure, and does so on the basis of such belief.[11] Indeed, American HRDs often form and hold opinions, and draw public attention to human rights violations,[12] such as Crimes against Humanity, which the US government could interpret as a treasonable act. Yet, Philosopher Cécile Fabre contends that an individual is robustly justified to commit, what she refers to as permissible treason, if an individual acts on the basis of such belief.[13] To be sure, Fabre specifies there is a moral duty owed to both the victim and the rescuers when the latter are under a duty to rescue.[14]

This leads me to believe that American HRDs do have a moral duty to bring global attention to the human rights violations transpiring in the US[15] because the international community has a duty to protect and rescue.

Are American HRDs Committing Treason by Calling for the Nullification of Laws?

It has been suggested that an American could be charged with treason by calling for the nullification[16] or the repeal of law or amendments, such as the Second Amendment. Even if the US government argued that such may weaken its position militarily, this argument cannot stand, as the epidemic of gun violence in the nation indicates the Second Amendment may be interfering with protected rights, such as the right to life.

In Cramer v. United States, the Court said so long as a citizen commits no act of aid or comfort to the enemy, they are free to harbour convictions that may be at odds with the government’s policies and interests.[17] In other words, American HRDs can make speeches critical of the government or oppose its measures while abroad, so long as they do not adhere to the country’s enemy or have an intent to betray the US.

It is worth stating at this point that when the US enacts amendments that adversely affect human rights, it contradicts human rights through the conduct of its constitutional organs, thereby violating its negative duties.

Can the US Government Use Treason Laws to Silence a HRD’s Dissent?

In the 1700s, courts found “letters of advice and correspondence…to enable [enemies of the US] to annoy us or to defend themselves, written and sent in order to be delivered…” may constitute an overt act of treason.[18] However, I disagree with this law in part, as anything could be considered “correspondence” that “annoys” the US. Indeed, history is full of examples of individuals who spoke out against US injustice and persecution while abroad, like Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, James Meredith and Marian Wright to name a few.

“The American people have this to learn: that were justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property is safe.”

Fredrick Douglass

“I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticise her perpetually.”  

James Baldwin

  “When it comes to my rights as an American citizen and [African Americans], I am a triumphalist and an absolutist. Anything less is an insult.”

James Meredith

Moreover, if letters of advice, correspondence and annoyance were interpreted in its broadest sense, all HRDs would be in jail for educating others on their rights, and persuading international organs to investigate human rights wrongs.[19] As clarified in Grossymeyer v. United States, there must be an intention to aid the enemy or, an intent to promote its power and success.[20] This leads me to believe the US government cannot use treason laws to silence an HRD’s dissent abroad.

To be sure, the Human Rights Committee (“HRC”) asserted that restrictions imposed on free expression to protect the rights of others must be construed with care. Extreme care must also “be taken…to ensure that treason laws and similar provisions are crafted and applied in a manner that conforms to the strict requirements of para. 3.”[21] The HRC delivered another warning: It is not compatible with para. 3 to invoke such laws to suppress or withhold from the public information of legitimate public interests that does not harm national security. That is to say, States may not use treason laws to prosecute journalists, researchers, environmental activists or human rights defenders for having disseminated such information.[22]

One conclusion that can be drawn from these facts is publicizing America’s persecution of African Americans is a moral duty, not treason.

[1] Mian, Zahra N. “‘Black Identity Extremist’ or Black Dissident?: How United States v. Daniels Illustrates FBI Criminalization of Black Dissent of Law Enforcement, from COINTELPRO to Black Lives Matter.” Rutgers Race & the Law Review, vol. 21, no. 1, 2020, p. 63.

[2] Id., p. 55.

[3] Id., p. 89.

[4] Id., p. 82.

[5] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “treason”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 17 Apr. 2023, Accessed 26 May 2023.

[6] 97 U.S. 39 (1877).

[7] Warren, Charles. “What Is Giving Aid and Comfort to the Enemy?” The Yale Law Journal, vol. 27, no. 3, 1918, pp. 331–47. JSTOR, Accessed 22 May 2023. See p. 336.

[8] Id., p. 346.

[9] General Assembly. “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect.” United Nations, 12 Jan. 2009,

[10] Inquiry Commission. “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against the People of African Descent in the United States, 2021,”, p. 119, para 438.

[11] Fabre, Cécile. “The Morality of Treason.” Law and Philosophy. 26 Jun. 2020, pp. 427-461. Springer, See p. 446.

[12] General Assembly. “Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.” OHCHR, 1999,

[13] Supra, note 11, p. 446.

[14] Id., p. 451.

[15] In my case, human rights violations against African Americans.

[16] Supra, note 7, p. 339.

[17]  325 U.S. 1 (1945)

[18] Supra, note 7, p. 346.

[19] Supra, note 12, Arts. 9, 12 and 16.

[20] (1868) 4 Ct. C1. 1, 13.

[21] HRC. “General Comment No. 34 Article 19: Freedoms of Opinion and Expression.” CCPR/C/GC/34, 11 Sept. 2011,

[22] Id., p. 7, para. 30.

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life

We all make mistakes. In fact, it was Catherine Pulsifer who said, “we all make them, the difference is what we do after we make the mistake, how we see the mistake – a learning experience or a failure.” Mistakes, failure, and the sheer stupidity of having been convicted can toy with an individual’s mental health and invoke feelings of embarrassment. It can also cause a person to doubt their worthiness and position in the world. If that’s you, this article will show you how to overshadow a criminal record in 6 super smart ways.

According to Kathryn Schulz, these “terrible feelings come from realizing wrongness, not the feeling of actually being wrong. Because often, people are wrong for a while before they realize it, and in that intervening time, being wrong feels eerily like being right.”[1]

But what if after serving a sentence and acknowledging the wrong, the individual is limited by public opinion, harshly criticized by family members, and still encounter difficulties in the arena of gaining access to employment?

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life Now

In approaching this issue, one should note that change can be daunting for the de-centered self, and even, most of society. Individuals who enter their moral career will face challenges from a fraction of members of the establishment, as they will seek to put a ‘glass ceiling’ between that individual and what they want to accomplish. This barrier can take the form of publishing the individuals’ past on the internet and  faillisting them from future employment opportunities. In view of this, it’s quite likely that individuals seeking a second chance may not know exactly how to overshadow their criminal record.

Sit With the Truth

First, sit with the truth. It is generally agreed today that previously incarcerated persons have accepted the wrong. While it may not be possible to make amends for the wrong in every case, I believe one of the smartest ways to overshadow a criminal record is to sit with the truth. This is often done within the confines of a prison cell or in isolation. According to Erving Goffman, this ‘mortifications of the self’ or sitting out period, makes it easier to eradicate the old self and create a new one.

Create the Best Ascription of Yourself is How to Overshadow a Criminal Record

Second, create the best ascription of you. An ascription gives, imputes, or attributes certain features to a person without justification. Let’s say an individual volunteers at a homeless shelter and uploads several photos of their action on social media. People may see them as being reliable, selfless, and passionate about social causes. Another way an individual can create the best ascription of themselves is to start their own business. For example, if an individual opens a barber shop and donates a percentage of the proceeds to a victim’s fund, people may associate that person with philanthropy and ‘giving back.’ As can be seen, these attributes are starkly different from terms such as inmate, offender, and criminal.

Ask Search Engines to Remove Negative Results

Third, ask webmasters to remove these negative results from their websites. For example, under the Right to Be Forgotten law in Ireland, people can request search engines to rectify or erase search engine results that are inaccurate, incomplete, outdated, or no longer relevant. This is arduous to accomplish in other jurisdictions outside of the EU, which will be discussed in another article. Be that it may, it is settled law that even individuals with criminal convictions have a right to privacy, and the right to be left alone.

Educate Others on Differential Association is How to Overshadow a Criminal Record

Fourth, individuals should educate those around them on what Edwin H. Sutherland refers to as differential association. While and individual may be wholly responsible for the commission of past criminal conduct, crime is often learnt by individuals in primary groups whose members were criminally inclined. It is often thought that previously incarcerated individuals become criminal by being socialized, in that, the weight of views favourable to crime exceeds those that encourage them to be law-abiding.[2] At times, individuals are merely a product of their environment.

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life By Understanding the Hierarchy of Credibility

Fifth, understand the hierarchy of credibility. According to Howard S. Becker, those at the top (individuals without a criminal past) usually appear much more credible than those at the bottom.[3]  While Becker’s specifically mentioned those in an organization or society as being at the top, we cannot ignore the fact that previously incarcerated individuals are treated as an underclass. As a previously incarcerated person or underdog, the individual might be so completely discredited by a criminal record, as effectively to have no voice at all.[4]

While some employers might sympathize with, for example, marijuana users, it is hard to imagine many employers feeling obliged to assist ‘thieves’ or ‘crack cocaine dealers’ in their search for work. When this happens, use vocabularies of motive. These are the verbalizations of motives and intentions a person uses, not just to describe their actions, but also to justify them to others. For example:

“I burglarized that home when I was 21-years-old because I lived in an environment where I had to fend for myself. I was wrong. But now, I have changed, and I have made amends to my victims….”

“You should hire me for the following reasons: first, as a previously incarcerated individual, my lived-experience placed me directly in environments to understand crime and its impacts on people of color and the community….”

“The truth of the matter is that the content you are seeing online about me is factually incorrect. While that content may be persuasive because it is contained on a government website, its important to know [explain]….”

I understand there will be circumstances where the opportunity to explain convictions will be foreclosed; however, an individual should not allow this to choke off the flow of their enthusiasm or their resolve to create the best ascription of themselves. Where possible, individuals should explain the nature of their convictions in their cover letter or insert it into the objective on their CV.

For example, if an individual is applying for a job in home security, an objective may be “I used to steal stuff for a living, but I left that game behind years ago. I seek to use my criminal skills to test the security devices of corporations and to use my criminal “know how” to help make security devices more effective.”

Own Your Rite of Passage is How to Overshadow a Criminal Record

The sixth and final way on how to overshadow a criminal record is to own your rite of passage by drawing public attention to the changes in your status and social identity. You may also want to document how you handle the strong emotions that may be involved in such a transition.[5] As a previously incarcerated individual, pupil in society will use you as a scapegoat for their ignorance, phobias, political ideology, biases, and frustrations. When employers are unable to identify the real source of their own problems—having identified the source—are unable to challenge it, they may turn on some convenient target—you.[6] Indeed, evidence demonstrates previously incarcerated persons are disproportionately the victims of scapegoating. Thus, it has been argued that police should stop making mugshots public, as it only compounds the problem.

While this is not to be used as a ruse to justify prior criminal conduct, it is your right to change the course of your life. If English poet, John Marston, were alive today, he’d tell you, “Every man has a right to change, a chance of forgiveness.”

Overshadowing the past is the death of the subject. With these 6 super smart ways, I am confident these tools will be the demise of how perhaps your criminal record will be used as an unquestionable reference point, and how, employers may judge it in the future.

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life was Originally published on November 24, 2022.

[1] Mindshift. (2015). Why Making Mistakes Is What Makes Us Human. KQED. Available at:

[2] Bruce, S. & Yearley, S. (2006). Differential Association. In The Sage Dictionary of Sociology. SAGE Publications Ltd. See pp. 71-72.

[3] Id., Hierarchy of Credibility, p. 135.

[4] Id.

[5] Id., Rite of Passage, p. 263.

[6] Id., Scapegoating, p. 269.

Opinion: President Joe Biden Should Use His Executive Privilege to Make it Easier for Americans to Reintegrate

Opinion: President Joe Biden Should Use His Executive Privilege to Make it Easier for Americans to Reintegrate

Opinion: President Joe Biden Should Use His Executive Privilege to Make it Easier for Americans to Reintegrate.

The World Prison Brief puts the U.S. at number one at incarcerating the most people in the world. With over 2 million Americans incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails, approximately 70 million are left with criminal records, raising the question as to whether there is a fresh start for incarcerated Americans.

Vox’s Senior Policy Reporter, Rachel M. Cohen, expressed that job applicants with criminal records are half as likely as those without them to get a callback or job offer. Moreover, Sen. Maria Elena Durazo found “about 75 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals are still unemployed after a year of their release.” These views are consistent with Gabriel Chin’s research, who found that a conviction can restrict one’s ability to live in public housing; to obtain government licenses and permits, and to receive other benefits.

The denial of employment and housing opportunities, and the deprivation of privileges and rights due to a past criminal conviction is often referred to as collateral consequences. That is to say, collateral consequences are legal disabilities imposed by law as a result of a criminal conviction, regardless of whether a convicted individual serves any time incarcerated.

“One of the things I never been accused of is not caring for people.”

President Joe Biden

The secret nature of collateral consequences, as Chin asserts in Reforming Criminal Justice: Punishment, Incarceration, and Release, has resulted in a criminal justice system that is arbitrary, unpredictable, costly, unfair, and in some ways counterproductive.” For example, dozens of sites who publish booking photos in the U.S. are demanding payment for their removal. Third party individuals are also republishing the mugshots to cyberbully and shame those who were previously incarcerated. Although the alleged owners were eventually arrested on charges of extortion, money laundering, and identity theft in 2016, similar websites remain accessible online without constraint. 

President Joe Biden Should Use His Executive Privilege to Make it Easier for Americans to Reintegrate by Taking Most Mugshots Offline.

While mugshots are not considered public records at a federal level, the government’s position has precluded Americans from successfully claiming infringements on their private life against private media reportings. To illustrate this point, one need only refer to the government’s statement in Google Spain, where it ridiculed the European Court of Justice’s recognition of the right to be forgotten, arguing that such right remains inapplicable in the nation. 

It is worth stating at this point that the judicial branch has held collateral consequences are not punishment. Therefore, collateral consequences do not come within the gambit of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments, or the Fifth Amendment prohibition against double jeopardy. 

President Joe Biden Should Use His Executive Power to Expand Automatic Sealing Eligibility for PIAs.

When previously incarcerated Americans (“PIAs”) cannot reintegrate into society, they are likely to recidivate to support themselves and their families. That is why, in my opinion, President Joe Biden should use his executive power to expand automatic sealing eligibility for PIAs. How would this look? An examination of Durazo’s bill, if passed, would give all PIAs, except registered sex offenders, the opportunity to have their convictions sealed. PIAs with violent, serious felony records would not be offered the automatic “clean slate.” However, they could petition to have their records sealed too.

It cannot be denied that the respect of one’s private life finds no explicit direct protection in the U.S. Constitution. Be that as it may, it is settled law amongst human rights courts that even individuals with criminal convictions have a right to privacy, and the right to be left alone. The state of California has created a template; the only action for the Biden administration to take is directing federal officials and administrative agencies to expand automatic sealing eligibility for PIAs.

If one weighs the pros and the cons, one soon realizes that collateral consequences and the shaming of American citizens by publicizing their mugshots only compounds the problem. It is for this reason that President Biden should alleviate the expenditure of energy used to help PIAs reintegrate by making use of his Executive power to seal their felony convictions. This executive action will show both, the U.S. and other nations, that the administration truly cares about its people.

Originally published November 22, 2022.

Criminal Mugshot Shaming in America

Why Criminal Mugshot Shaming in the United States is Bad

Why Criminal Mugshot Shaming in the United States is Bad

In January 2022, I launched a campaign on Twitter Ireland against the abuse of power at the Kinsale Road Direct Provision Centre, to which garnered nearly 13.7 K in views. I later found that Confidential Informant Techs had uploaded my mugshot and tagged it to the campaign video. It was a poor attempt to distract viewers from behavior employed to demean, wound, harm, and damage the International Protection claim of asylum-seekers. Little did they know, there is a specious case of criminal mugshot shaming in America.

My investigator and I studied the contamination strategy and discovered that it emanated from a ‘suspect close in vicinity,’ whose conscious effort was to spread misinformation about my background, arrests, and what led to my application for asylum. In their view, if they introduced the mugshots into an already existing consensus about ‘who is truly an asylum-seeker’ in a clandestine manner, I would retreat. I did not.

Exploitation Nation: The Specious Case of Criminal Mugshot Shaming in America

The number of Americans with a criminal history has risen sharply over the past three decades.[1] Matthew Friedman, a writer for the Brennan Center for Justice, states “so many Americans have a criminal record that counting them all is nearly impossible.”[2] Furthermore, Activists in America are commonly arrested for their political speech. In 2019, U.S. police arrested LGBT activists in front of the Supreme Court. In 2021, the U.S. targeted Black Lives Matter activists in a bid to disrupt the movement. You may be thinking, “that is activism. In your case, the U.S. implicated you in not one, but many crimes. The U.S. cannot be wrong, can it?” Yes, it can, and it often is wrong.

The World Prison Brief puts the U.S. at number one at incarcerating the most people in the world. Based on data from credible news sources, the countries with the most incarcerated are the U.S., China, Brazil, and Russia. Evidence further demonstrates these countries are likely to have the most innocent people convicted and imprisoned. On a list of 15, the U.S. came in at number one as the country with the most police brutality incidents and individuals wrongfully convicted. Indeed, a study found more than half of all wrongful criminal convictions are caused by U.S. government misconduct. With these findings, it should come as no surprise to learn the alleged owners of, one of dozens of sites that publish booking photos in the U.S. and demand payment for their removal, were arrested on charges of extortion, money laundering and identity theft in 2016. However, the U.S. has allowed these websites to remain accessible online, along with dozens of others like it,[3] despite mugshots not being considered public records at a federal level.[4]

Not only are the publication of mugshots a danger, as Olivia Solon points out, they are also used as a character assassination tool, given the public associates the individual portrayed in the mugshot with some criminal act.[5] Another key point is that the negative image is easily found when vetting a candidate for a job, and thus, damages a person’s professional relationship.[6]While the publication of a mugshot is an unwarranted invasion of privacy, the respect of one’s private life finds no explicit direct protection in the U.S. Federal Constitution.[7] One should note here that Americans are precluded from successfully claiming infringements of our private life against private media reportings, as it relates to our contemporary or past life.[8] To be sure, the U.S. ridiculed the European Court of Justice’s recognition of the right to be forgotten in Google Spain, holding that it remains inapplicable in the State.[9] Nevertheless, it is settled law that even individuals with criminal convictions have a right to privacy, and the right to be left alone.

As for the suspects close in vicinity, they disliked that I owned my rite of passage by drawing public attention to the changes I made in my status and social identity. It is abundantly clear they were using me as a scapegoat for their ignorance, phobias, political ideology, biases, and frustrations. Indeed, evidence demonstrates formerly incarcerated persons are disproportionately the victims of scapegoating.

Taking into consideration that shaming American citizens not only compounds the problem, along with the fact that the U.S. continues to make mugshots public, it is not surprising that countries have started to find the U.S. not to be safe for everyone. As far as rights goes in the U.S., what will the land of the most incarcerated do next?


[1] Friedman, M. (2015). Just Facts: As Many Americans Have Criminal Records as College Diplomas. Brennan Center for Justice. Available at:

[2] Id.

[3] Solon, O. (2018). Haunted by a mugshot: how predatory websites exploit the shame of arrest. Available at:

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] (n.d.) Can I Have My Mugshot Removed from the Internet? Available:

[7] Werro, F. (2021). The right to be forgotten: A comparative study of the emergent right’s evolution and application in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Springer. Vol. 40. See p. 4.

[8] Id., at p. 5.

[9] Id.

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