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‘People Can Protect the Rights of Everyone in Their Community’ – CounterSpin interview with...

Janine Jackson interviewed Sue Udry about civil liberties under Trump for the November 18, 2016, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript. Sue...

Kica Matos on Immigration, Sue Udry on Civil Liberties–Under Trump

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‘Unconstitutional’: Civil liberties group takes on copyright rules

Arguing that rules under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act are unconstitutional, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is...

Michael Ratner, Wikileaks lawyer & civil liberties legend, dies at age 72

Civil rights attorney Michael Ratner, defender of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, and Guantánamo Bay detainees, died Wednesday...

Leaked: Secret EU plan could see 80,000 Afghans deported, civil liberties group claims

Tens of thousands of Afghans could be deported back to the collapsing state from Europe...

The Post-Paris War on Encryption Is an Opportunistic Attack on Our Civil Liberties

The feds have had it out for encryption for decades, but in the wake of the Paris attacks, the vilification of cryptography - the...

FISA Court Needs Reform to Protect Americans’ Civil Liberties

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is no longer serving its constitutional function of providing a check on the executive branch’s ability to obtain Americans’ private communications, concludes...

Police Using Controversial Patriot Act Authority for ‘Everyday’ Cases: Civil Liberties Group

A contentious surveillance provision of the Patriot Act, which allows law enforcement to conduct searches while delaying informing the suspect, is broadly used, but...

Cameron vows to scrap Human Rights Act, civil liberties groups outraged

Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to terminate the Human Rights Act if the Conservatives are re-elected in Britain’s 2015 general election. The controversial...

Corporate Executives Couldn’t Care Less About Civil Liberties

The Washington Post reports that in 2008 the government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it failed to relinquish user data on...

Proposed Anti-Terror Law in France Would Erode Civil Liberties

JILLIAN YORK A proposed anti-terrorism law in France has freedom of expression advocates concerned.  The bill, as our friends at La Quadrature du Net frame...

GCHQ tribunal hears civil liberties legal challenge

​Civil liberties groups are making a legal challenge against the alleged use of mass surveillance by UK intelligence services. The tribunal follows revelations about UK...

Take it from a civil liberties watchdog: not everything is bulk surveillance

President Obama appointed my oversight board to examine the classified details of a key intelligence program. You should believe what happened next James X Dempsey A...

“Civil liberties board” allows government to destroy ours

Thomas Gaist The five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), appointed by President Obama, released a report this week upholding core components of the...

U.S. Government at War With Itself Over Civil Liberties

Over the past year, the United States government has been in the news a lot for its efforts to undermine the Internet’s basic privacy...

The FBI’s Facial Recognition Database Combines Lo-Res Photos With Zero Civil Liberties Consideration

Another FOIA lawsuit brought against the government by the EFF has resulted in the release of previously withheld documents. The papers cut loose this time...

The Shift towards an Authoritarian Future: Why the West Slowly Abandons its Civil Liberties

Werner de Gruijter, Arnout Krediet and Sven Jense  RINF Alternative News Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic who construct an image of toughness — tough...

N.Y. Judge: NSA Spying “Imperils Civil Liberties of Every Citizen” but “Legal”

Southern District of New York Judge William Pauley III declared in a December 27 decision that the NSA surveillance program – which draws in...

54 Civil Liberties and Public Interest Organizations Oppose the FISA Improvements Act

Fifty-four civil liberties and public interest groups sent a letter to Congressional leadership Wednesday opposing S. 1631, the FISA Improvements Act. The bill, promoted...

Obama administration defends NSA against civil liberties lawsuit

By John Burton26 November 2013 In New York federal court last Friday, the US Justice Department defended the National Security Agency (NSA) program that...

Big Brother’s Loyal Sister: How Dianne Feinstein Is Betraying Civil Liberties

Diane Feinstein Ever since the first big revelations about the National Security Agency five months ago, Dianne Feinstein has been in overdrive to defend the...

The Inner Crisis of American Society: Civil Liberties, Militarization, Economic Inequality

For all the enervating political tumult and shouting emanating from Washington these days, there is remarkably little to show for it except what...

Stand Up Americans: “Take Back our Civil Liberties, Close Down the Police State”

In less than 2 days, if the Treasury secretary can be believed, the Treasury will not have enough money to pay all its bills...

Civil liberties coalition wants Congress to probe DEA spy program

Concerns over the United States government’s vast surveillance apparatus aren’t subsiding, even three months after former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden first started leaking national...

NSA Sued Over 'Blatantly Unconstitutional Attack on Civil Liberties'

Developing...A diverse coalition of groups represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed suit against the NSA on Tuesday for its bulk, unconstitutional...

French Suit: NSA Spying a 'Foreign Attack' on Civil Liberties

As the NSA spying scandal ripples across the world, French human rights organizations announced Thursday they are taking legal action against US spying that...

On Civil Liberties, Comparing Obama With Bush Is Easy–and Mostly Wrong

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/on_civil_liberties_comparing_obama_with_bush_is_easy_--_and_mostly_wrong_20/ Posted on Jun 14, 2013 ...

86 Civil Liberties Groups and Internet Companies Demand an End to NSA Spying

Rainey Reitmaneff.orgJune 10, 2013 Today, a bipartisan coalition of 86 civil liberties organizations and Internet companies...

Vermont Politics, Threats to Civil Liberties and Freedom of Information

This is the tenth chapter of a series excerpted from “Maverick Chronicles,” a memoir-in-progress. Previous stories can be found at VTDigger. Before Burlington’s progressive revolution...

Bradley Manning Trail Begins: A 'Danger Zone' for Civil Liberties

Bradley Manning supporters in Fort Meade on Sunday. (Photo: Steve Rhodes/cc/flickr)Developing...The trial of 25-year-old army Pfc. Bradley Manning begins on Monday, "the latest and...

5 Worst Obama Assaults on Civil Liberties Besides the AP scandal

Is anyone really surprised that Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department followed the rules in seizing two months of telephone records from...

Civil Liberties and CCTV Camera Surveillance. Landmark Court Decision in Australia

Image by lonely radio Last week (2nd May), in the midst of Privacy Awareness Week , an Australian campaigner, Adam Bonner won a landmark decision...

Americans’ Economic Prospects And Civil Liberties Have Been Stolen

Not only has your economy been stolen from you but also your civil liberties. My coauthor Lawrence Stratton and I provide the scary details of the entire story in The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

8 Ways Obama Is As Bad — Or Worse — Than Bush On Civil...

Despite a rare court victory on Friday, Obama's legacy is dismal.

Photo Credit: WhiteHouse.gov

March 18, 2013  |  

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Civil libertarians won a rare court victory against the Obama Administration’s ‘War on Terror’ on Friday when a U.S. District Court blocked the FBI from ordering telecom companies to turn over their customer’s data, such as e-mails and other records, and blocked FBI gag orders on this domestic spying program.

“In today's ruling, the court held that the gag order provisions of the statute violate the First Amendment and that the review procedures violate separation of powers,” Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyers, who brought the suit, said. “Because those provisions were not separable from the rest of the statute, the court declared the entire statute unconstitutional.”

This is the second time in recent months that civil libertarians have won a court victory over the Obama administration, although it is all but certain that it will appeal and seek to suspend the ruling. Last fall, a federal court suspended a section of a major defense bill that gave the government permission to arrest people who were suspected of speaking with alleged terrorists, which included several journalists who sued. However, another federal court reinstated that provision pending appeal.

“What is appears to illustrate is there are probably duel U.S. Pakistani nationals or maybe U.S. Afghan nationals who are being detained in military facilities and denied due process,” said Chris Hedges, an ex-foreign correspondent who sued.

What these developments underscore is that the Obama Administration barely differs from the George W. Bush Administration when it comes to the ‘War on Terrorism.’ While the Obama Administration has not continued specific tactics used by his predecessor, such as CIA black sites and specific torture techniques known as “enhanced interrogation,” it has gone further than Bush in other areas, such as with targeted assassinations using drones, and expanding the domestic national security state.

“There are the two War on Terror presidents,” wrote Glenn Greenwald recently. “ George Bush seized on the 9/11 attack to usher in radical new surveillance and detention powers in the PATRIOT ACT, spied for years on the communications of US citizens without the warrants required by law, and claimed the power to indefinitely imprison even US citizens without charges in military brigs.

“His successor, Barack Obama, went further by claiming the power not merely to detain citizens without judicial review but to assassinate them (about which the New York Times said: ‘It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing’). He has waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, dusting off [Woodrew] Wilson’s Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute more then double the number of whistleblowers than all prior presidents combined. And he has draped his actions with at least as much secrecy, if not more so, than any president in US history.”

Let’s go through these and other areas that, as the National Journal said, should result in an “F” for Obama when historians assess his civil liberties record.

This February, BillMoyers.com published a list of eight contrasting the Obama and Bush Administrations on civil liberties. On six of the eight areas, Obama expanded or codified his predecessor’s policies:

1. Patriot Act is renewed on May 27, 2011: “Obama signs a renewal of several of the Patriot Act’s most controversial segments, including the use of ‘ roving wiretaps,’ the government’s expanded access to business records, and the ‘lone wolf’ provision, which allows surveillance of individuals not affiliated with any known terrorist organization. 

2. Wiretaps and Data Collections: “On December 30, 2012, Obama signs a five-year extension of the FISA Amendments Act. Provisions for more oversight and public disclosure failed to pass Congress.” (This is the law that the Electronic Frontier Foundation challenged and won a U.S. District Court injunction against last week. The administration has 90 days to appeal.)

What Obama Said – and What He Meant – About Climate Change, War and...

obamadoublespeak

The words in President Obama’s “State of the Union” speech were often lofty, spinning through the air with the greatest of ease and emitting dog whistles as they flew.

Let’s decode the president’s smooth oratory in the realms of climate change, war and civil liberties.

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”

We’ve done so little to combat climate change — we must do more.

“I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change…”

Climate change is an issue that can be very good for Wall Street. Folks who got the hang of “derivatives” and “credit default swaps” can learn how to handle “cap and trade.” The corporate environmental groups are on board, and maybe we can offer enough goodies to big corporations to make it worth their while to bring enough of Congress along.

“The natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that.”

Dual memo. To T. Boone Pickens: “Love ya.” To environmentalists who won’t suck up to me: “Frack you.” (And save your breath about methane.)

“That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”

Blow off steam with your demonstrations, you 350.org types. I’ll provide the platitudes. XL Keystone, here we come.

“After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.”

How’s that for an applause line? Don’t pay too much attention to the fine print. I’m planning to have 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan a year from now, and they won’t get out of there before the end of 2014. And did you notice the phrase “in uniform”? We’ve got plenty of out-of-uniform military contractors in Afghanistan now, and you can expect that to continue for a long time.

“And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.”

If you believe that, you’re the kind of sucker I appreciate — unless you think “our war in Afghanistan” doesn’t include killing people with drones and cruise missiles.

“Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We’re negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.”

We’re so pleased to help Afghan people kill other Afghan people! Our government’s expertise in such matters includes superb reconnaissance and some thrilling weaponry, which we’ll keep providing to the Kabul regime. And don’t you love the word “counterterrorism”? It sounds so much better than: “using the latest high-tech weapons to go after people on our ‘kill lists’ and unfortunately take the lives of a lot of other people who happen to be around, including children, thus violating international law, traumatizing large portions of the population and inflicting horrors on people in ways we would never tolerate ourselves.”

“We don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we’ll need to help countries like Yemen, Libya and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.”

We don’t need flag-draped coffins coming home. We’re so civilized that we’re the planetary leaders at killing people with remote control from halfway around the world.

We must enlist our values in the fight. That’s why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. And I recognize that, in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

I’m sick of taking flak just because I pick and choose which civil liberties I want to respect. If I need to give a bit more information to a few other pliant members of Congress, I will. The ones who get huffy about the Bill of Rights aren’t going to get the time of day from this White House. I recognize that some of my base is getting a bit upset about this civil-liberties thing, so I’ll ramp up the soothing words and make use of some prominent Democratic members of Congress who are of course afraid to polarize with me. Don’t underestimate this president; I know how to talk reverentially about our great nation’s “checks and balances” as I undermine them.

“The leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations. And we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Maybe it’s just about time for another encore of “preemptive war.”

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.

What Obama Said (and What He Meant) About Climate Change, War and Civil Liberties

The words in President Obama’s “State of the Union” speech were often lofty, spinning through the air with the greatest of ease and emitting dog whistles as they flew.

Let’s decode the president’s smooth oratory in the realms of climate change, war and civil liberties.

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”

We’ve done so little to combat climate change -- we must do more.

“I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change…”

Climate change is an issue that can be very good for Wall Street. Folks who got the hang of “derivatives” and “credit default swaps” can learn how to handle “cap and trade.” The corporate environmental groups are on board, and maybe we can offer enough goodies to big corporations to make it worth their while to bring enough of Congress along.

“The natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that.”

Dual memo. To T. Boone Pickens: “Love ya.” To environmentalists who won’t suck up to me: “Frack you.” (And save your breath about methane.)

“That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”

Blow off steam with your demonstrations, you 350.org types. I’ll provide the platitudes. XL Keystone, here we come.

“After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.”

How’s that for an applause line? Don’t pay too much attention to the fine print. I’m planning to have 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan a year from now, and they won’t get out of there before the end of 2014. And did you notice the phrase “in uniform”? We’ve got plenty of out-of-uniform military contractors in Afghanistan now, and you can expect that to continue for a long time.

“And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.”

If you believe that, you’re the kind of sucker I appreciate -- unless you think “our war in Afghanistan” doesn’t include killing people with drones and cruise missiles.

“Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We’re negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.”

We’re so pleased to help Afghan people kill other Afghan people! Our government’s expertise in such matters includes superb reconnaissance and some thrilling weaponry, which we’ll keep providing to the Kabul regime. And don’t you love the word “counterterrorism”? It sounds so much better than: “using the latest high-tech weapons to go after people on our ‘kill lists’ and unfortunately take the lives of a lot of other people who happen to be around, including children, thus violating international law, traumatizing large portions of the population and inflicting horrors on people in ways we would never tolerate ourselves.”

“We don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we’ll need to help countries like Yemen, Libya and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.”

We don’t need flag-draped coffins coming home. We’re so civilized that we’re the planetary leaders at killing people with remote control from halfway around the world.

We must enlist our values in the fight. That’s why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. And I recognize that, in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

I’m sick of taking flak just because I pick and choose which civil liberties I want to respect. If I need to give a bit more information to a few other pliant members of Congress, I will. The ones who get huffy about the Bill of Rights aren’t going to get the time of day from this White House. I recognize that some of my base is getting a bit upset about this civil-liberties thing, so I’ll ramp up the soothing words and make use of some prominent Democratic members of Congress who are of course afraid to polarize with me. Don’t underestimate this president; I know how to talk reverentially about our great nation’s “checks and balances” as I undermine them.

“The leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations. And we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Maybe it’s just about time for another encore of “preemptive war.”

Norman Solomon

What Obama Said (and What He Meant) About Climate Change, War and Civil Liberties

The words in President Obama’s “State of the Union” speech were often lofty, spinning through the air with the greatest of ease and emitting dog whistles as they flew.

Let’s decode the president’s smooth oratory in the realms of climate change, war and civil liberties.

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”

We’ve done so little to combat climate change -- we must do more.

“I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change…”

Climate change is an issue that can be very good for Wall Street. Folks who got the hang of “derivatives” and “credit default swaps” can learn how to handle “cap and trade.” The corporate environmental groups are on board, and maybe we can offer enough goodies to big corporations to make it worth their while to bring enough of Congress along.

“The natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that.”

Dual memo. To T. Boone Pickens: “Love ya.” To environmentalists who won’t suck up to me: “Frack you.” (And save your breath about methane.)

“That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”

Blow off steam with your demonstrations, you 350.org types. I’ll provide the platitudes. XL Keystone, here we come.

“After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.”

How’s that for an applause line? Don’t pay too much attention to the fine print. I’m planning to have 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan a year from now, and they won’t get out of there before the end of 2014. And did you notice the phrase “in uniform”? We’ve got plenty of out-of-uniform military contractors in Afghanistan now, and you can expect that to continue for a long time.

“And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.”

If you believe that, you’re the kind of sucker I appreciate -- unless you think “our war in Afghanistan” doesn’t include killing people with drones and cruise missiles.

“Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We’re negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.”

We’re so pleased to help Afghan people kill other Afghan people! Our government’s expertise in such matters includes superb reconnaissance and some thrilling weaponry, which we’ll keep providing to the Kabul regime. And don’t you love the word “counterterrorism”? It sounds so much better than: “using the latest high-tech weapons to go after people on our ‘kill lists’ and unfortunately take the lives of a lot of other people who happen to be around, including children, thus violating international law, traumatizing large portions of the population and inflicting horrors on people in ways we would never tolerate ourselves.”

“We don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we’ll need to help countries like Yemen, Libya and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.”

We don’t need flag-draped coffins coming home. We’re so civilized that we’re the planetary leaders at killing people with remote control from halfway around the world.

We must enlist our values in the fight. That’s why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. And I recognize that, in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

I’m sick of taking flak just because I pick and choose which civil liberties I want to respect. If I need to give a bit more information to a few other pliant members of Congress, I will. The ones who get huffy about the Bill of Rights aren’t going to get the time of day from this White House. I recognize that some of my base is getting a bit upset about this civil-liberties thing, so I’ll ramp up the soothing words and make use of some prominent Democratic members of Congress who are of course afraid to polarize with me. Don’t underestimate this president; I know how to talk reverentially about our great nation’s “checks and balances” as I undermine them.

“The leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations. And we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Maybe it’s just about time for another encore of “preemptive war.”

Norman Solomon

Hamas Gags Civil Liberties in Gaza

GAZA CITY - Gaza is becoming increasingly radicalised as Hamas continues its crackdown on civil liberties, press freedom and the rights of women. In the last few weeks a number of journalists have been arrested and accused of being involved in “suspicious activities”, several detainees shot dead by police during arrest attempts, and female students asked to abide by a strict Islamic dress code.

A new crackdown on civil liberties makes the future for girls uncertain in Gaza. (Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS) “Hamas is on a gradual track of the Islamisation of Gazan society, which goes against their early promises,” Dr Samir Awad from Birzeit University near Ramallah tells IPS. “Most people in Gaza, even the most conservative, oppose this. Gazans are already very conservative and they don’t need Hamas dictating their religion to them.”

Women have borne the brunt of the crackdown. Gaza’s Al Aqsa University has announced that female students will be required to wear full traditional Muslim garb, from head to toe.

Some female students have expressed outrage, claiming that the new demands are in violation of their public freedom. They say that already female students are modestly dressed but that some prefer wearing pants and a long overcoat rather than a burka, abaya or hijab.

In the past, Hamas has banned women from riding on the backs of motorbikes, from smoking water pipes, and men from working in female hair salons – saying such practices were immodest. Not all bans, however, have been imposed uniformly.

“Hamas has also banned mixed parties and mixed activities as well as enforcing other restrictions on women but not on men. Gaza’s entire seashore has practically been confiscated by Hamas as if it is their private property and they decide who can access the area and when,” Awad tells IPS.

The dress code decision has also further undermined the latest unity efforts between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA)-affiliated Fatah movement.

PA Minister for Higher Education Ali Jarbawi stresses that Hamas’s decision is illegal and cannot be implemented. He wrote an official letter to Al Aqsa’s president stating the illegality of the move which he said also violated Palestinian government decisions.

Dr. Faiq al-Naouk, advisor for managerial affairs at Al-Aqsa University responded saying that the controversial decision would be implemented only gradually as an act of “goodwill” before it becomes mandatory.

“Hamas’s increasing radicalisation is one of the sticking points for Fatah and Hamas being able to form a unity government,” says Awad.

Hamas has cracked down on other civil liberties too in the past few weeks. ‘New Star’, the annual Palestinian version of ‘American Idol’, was recently banned by the Islamist group on the grounds that it was “indecent” and violated conservative interpretations of Islam.

Producer Alaa Al Abed lashed out at the decision, of which he was only informed at the last moment, saying the ban prevented Gaza’s 12 contestants from competing in the second round of the competition.

“This is more serious than Hamas just killing fun in Gaza – they are limiting the freedoms of the people, according to their whims,” al-Abed says.

Teenage girls and women can only rarely be seen singing in public, but men are encouraged to sing, without musical instruments, about the glory of Islam and fighting Israel.

Journalists are also facing censure. Hamas has carried out a wave of arrests of Palestinian journalists in the coastal territory, accusing them of being involved in “suspicious activities”. Palestinian human rights groups say internal security services in the Gaza Strip have stepped up harassment of journalists in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) distributed a list of media workers it said had been arrested, and condemned the seemingly coordinated campaign, which Hamas officials deny.

Hamas interior ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan says his ministry guarantees freedom of the press, and says recent detainees were charged with recognisable offenses. He says they had admitted to charges that they “threatened the security of the community.”

The ministry added that “those persons are not journalists at all. Even those who work as journalists use this field as a cover to carry out suspicious acts.” The Palestinian media freedoms watchdog Mada issued a statement claiming abuse of those detained as well as confiscation of property and searches.

Gaza’s Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights has expressed concern over the repeated use of lethal and excessive force by Hamas police following the death of several individuals during attempts to arrest them.

The organisation called on the Hamas authorities to use reasonable force to arrest people suspected of breaking the law, and further called for investigation into the conduct of the police officers involved.

“Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty,” says Mezan.

© 2013 IPS North America

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WASHINGTON - February 13 - KATHY KELLY, [email]
Just back from Afghanistan, Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She said today: “Obama is a ‘hawkish’ president who likes to sound ‘dovish.’ He spoke of ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and yet the Pentagon has already told the Afghan government that U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan till 2024 and beyond. The Pentagon plans to keep U.S. Special Operations troops in Afghanistan. Just outside of Kabul, the former Blackwater firm, now called ‘Academi,’ is building a 10-acre base, ‘Camp Integrity,’ that will be used to train Special Forces for night raids, drone attacks and aerial bombardments.

“In Afghanistan, on Tuesday evening, February 12, at 10:00 p.m. U.S./NATO forces bombed two homes in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, claiming to attack Taliban forces. According to the Washington Post, nine civilians were killed.

“The Taliban has already responded to announcements about troop withdrawals, saying that troop levels don’t matter — they will continue fighting until the foreign troops leave. Continued U.S. military and security contractor fighting in Afghanistan will prolong the Taliban justification for fighting. The war will continue, and President Obama will force President Karzai to agree to immunity for all U.S. troops in Afghanistan, no matter what crimes they commit.

“U.S. war and development aid have not improved life for the majority of Afghans. The most recent U.S. ‘SIGAR’ [Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction] report said that the U.S. development aid to Afghanistan is now approaching a sum of $100 billion. Yet close to a million Afghans under five are acutely malnourished, according to a UN-backed survey.

“Mainstream media has begun to question ‘drones’ and the ‘kill list’ — U.S. citizens should healthily question everything they have presumed to be ‘acceptable’ — for example, they should question the acceptability of ‘immunity’ for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, [email]
Available for a limited number of interviews, founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and author of War Made Easy, Solomon just wrote the piece “What Obama Said — and What He Meant — About Climate Change, War and Civil Liberties,” which critiques Obama’s statements (in bold):

“After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.”

How’s that for an applause line? Don’t pay too much attention to the fine print. I’m planning to have 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan a year from now, and they won’t get out of there before the end of 2014. And did you notice the phrase “in uniform”? We’ve got plenty of out-of-uniform military contractors in Afghanistan now, and you can expect that to continue for a long time.

“And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.”

If you believe that, you’re the kind of sucker I appreciate — unless you think “our war in Afghanistan” doesn’t include killing people with drones and cruise missiles.

“Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We’re negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.”

We’re so pleased to help Afghan people kill other Afghan people! Our government’s expertise in such matters includes superb reconnaissance and some thrilling weaponry, which we’ll keep providing to the Kabul regime. And don’t you love the word “counterterrorism”? It sounds so much better than: “using the latest high-tech weapons to go after people on our ‘kill lists’ and unfortunately take the lives of a lot of other people who happen to be around, including children, thus violating international law, traumatizing large portions of the population and inflicting horrors on people in ways we would never tolerate ourselves.”

Last week, Solomon debated Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, on “Democracy Now!” Solomon wrote the piece “Washington’s War-Makers Aren’t ‘in a Bubble,’ They’re in a Bunker” based on the debate.

Florida sheriff wants drones to monitor civilians

Drones have already been deployed across several US states, but thousands of UAVs could soon be flying all across the country for surveillance purposes that some privacy advocates consider unconstitutional.

The Federal Aviation Administration has received at least 60 applications for drone employment in the US and this month approved 348 drones for domestic use. Most of the currently employed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being used along the Mexican border to help law enforcement officers crack down on illegal immigration, but some drones will soon be used to monitor civilians.

The sheriff’s office in Orange County, Fl., has already experimented with two domestic surveillance drones that it plans to use over metro Orlando starting this summer, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The drones would not be armed, but would be used to track down criminals, terrorists and illegal immigrants, as well as be used for environmental monitoring and wildfire surveillance, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The FAA predicts that 30,000 UAVs will fly over the US in less than 20 years, which has alarmed privacy advocates who claim the drones are a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against ‘unreasonable searches’.

“This is unwise and unnecessary. … Sheriffs are supposed to be sheriffs, not the US Army,” said Doug Head, a Democratic activist who closely follows Orange County politics.

“It’s really easy to increase public surveillance. But when the inevitable problems arise, it’s much harder to bring them back,” said Baylor Johnson, a Miami-based spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Nationwide, about a dozen law enforcement agencies have or are using a drone for surveillance purposes already. Some legislators have attempted to place restrictions on the UAVs to protect their constituents’ privacy.  Florida state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, introduced a bill to limit the use of drones and allow their employment only when the federal government predicts a terrorist attack, to collect evidence in criminal cases where a search warrant has been approved, and during hostage-taking situations.

“I don’t think [drones] should be used to spy on American citizens,” Negron told USA Today, adding that the UAVs are “fine for killing terrorists.”

Across the nation, at least nine other legislators have taken steps to restrict the use of drones on their constituents. In December, state Sen. Alex Padilla introduced a bill to try to regulate drones in California, while Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey introduced a bill to establish national privacy safeguards and limit surveillance. Missouri Rep. Casey Guernsey considers the use of surveillance drones unconstitutional and this month introduced the ‘Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act’, which would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant in order to use UAV surveillance to gather criminal activity.

As drones become less expensive, our fear is that police and other agencies could use them for fishing expeditions that infringe on individual’s right to privacy,” Gary Brunk, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri, told the Kansas City Star.

Employing drones in Orange County would cost $22,000 to $25,000 per vehicle, which County Sheriff Jerry Demings believes is well worth the money “to help keep our community safe.”

But Negron calls domestic drones an “intrusion of privacy”. The FAA is currently coming up with a set of rules that would regulate how drones can be used and how they can share the airspace with other commercial and private vehicles. Once these guidelines have been established in 2015, thousands of unmanned aircrafts will be brought into the American skies to search for criminal activity and monitor US citizens every questionable move.

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Hundreds of Americans in the state of Wisconsin have taken to the streets to protest the acquittal of a white police officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager.

Officer Matt Kenny won't be charged for killing 19-year-old Tony Robinson in March, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said on Tuesday.

The decision angered people in the city of Madison.

The protesters held signs that read "Black Lives Matter," and “Justice for Tony.”

“I conclude that this tragic and unfortunate death was the result of the lawful use of deadly force, and that no charges will be brought against Officer Kenny in the death of Tony Robinson Jr.,” Ozanne said.

“My decision will not bring Tony Robinson Junior back.  My decision will not end the racial disparities that exist in the justice system, in our justice system,” he added.

The black teenager was shot seven times after the police officer responded to a call claiming Robinson was acting disorderly and violent.

Andrea Irwin (C), the mother of Tony Robinson, marches in the streets with family members and supporters on May 12, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin. (AFP Photo)

Andrea Irwin, the victim’s mother, announced that her family would file a civil lawsuit against the Police Department.

"The things that have taken place since my son passed and the things that have been done to my family, to me, they've gone above and beyond to try to make sure they kick me when I'm down," she told CNN on Tuesday.

"They have done a smear campaign against my child and against me since this all began."

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin slammed the attorney’s decision.

"If Officer Kenny did not violate the law, then is anyone legally responsible for Mr. Robinson's death?" Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said in a statement.

"Does the criminal law protect individuals like Mr. Robinson from deadly force exercised by police officers? Are police officers above the law?" he asked.

Robinson's family said they support protests over the case. (AFP Photo)

Wisconsin Professional Police Association Executive Director Jim Palmer said the decision to exonerate Kenny was "appropriate."

The investigation into this incident “has confirmed that Officer Kenny's actions on the night of March 6 were lawful and in response to a deadly threat,” he said.

The shooting death of Robinson has drawn comparisons to the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, another unarmed black, in Ferguson, Missouri, last year.

Police brutality as well as the racial profiling of minorities by US law enforcement agencies has become a major concern in the United States.

The killing of several unarmed black men by white police officers in recent months and decisions by grand juries not to indict the officers triggered large-scale protests across the country.

AGB/AGB

Appeals court rules NSA bulk data collection illegal

A federal appeals court ruled the National Security Agency’s controversial mass collection of Americans’ phone records is illegal.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 97-page opinion Thursday that the laws used to justify the bulk data collection program “have never been interpreted to authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here.”

The ruling by the three-judge panel in New York comes as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which has been used as a basis for the NSA’s data collection, is due to expire next month and members of Congress are debating whether to renew the law, modify it, or let it die.

The court’s decision was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) arguing the data collection program violates privacy rights of Americans.

A lower court judge had ruled the program was constitutional and the ACLU appealed that ruling.

The appeals court, however, did not say whether the NSA’s program violates the privacy rights of Americans because it was never properly authorized by existing law.

The judges also did not order the bulk data collection to stop.

In June 2013, Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, began leaking classified intelligence documents showing the extent of the NSA’s spying activities.

According to the documents, the agency has been collecting phone records of millions of Americans as well as foreign nationals and political leaders around the world.

US civil liberties advocates argue that the collected phone records could give intelligence agencies a road map to Americans' private activities.

HRJ/HRJ

Hong Kong’s ‘Semi-Autonomous Democracy’ is still a leap forward

As the Occupy Central movement cries foul over electoral regulations imposed by Beijing, few acknowledge that the proposed reforms are far more representative than any previous electoral mechanism in Hong Kong’s history.

Tens of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in recent days, defying calls to disperse demanding the Chinese government agrees to allow residents to freely elect the city’s next leader. The student-led demonstrations have sparked the worst unrest seen in the Asian financial hub since the 1997 handover which saw China regain sovereignty over the former British colony.

Demonstrations have expanded throughout the city calling for the resignation of chief executive Leung Chun-ying, bringing shopping and business districts to a standstill. Members of the protest movement, known as Occupy Central with Love and Peace, attempted to invade the city's main government compound, prompting riot police to disperse crowds with tear gas and pepper spray.

The conduct of security forces galvanized sympathy for the movement, causing its ranks to swell over the weekend as the value of the Hong Kong dollar tumbled to a six-month low. Student leaders have vowed not to attend classes indefinitely until the city’s top leader steps down, while activists set up barricades and vow to continue their civil disobedience campaign.

Hong Kong operates with a high degree of autonomy under the framework of the “one country, two systems” model, which grants residents of the semi-autonomous island a higher degree of civil liberties, press freedom and political expression than citizens in mainland China. Activists believe the government in Beijing is intent on tightening control over the area to undermine existing freedoms.

Can Malaysia withstand the next financial crisis?

As developed economies of the world still continue their struggle to recover from the global financial crisis in 2008, the lack of confidence in global economic stability has placed greater demand on emerging markets to cushion themselves for the next crash. While woefully unsustainable debt levels deepen and weak regulatory oversight persist, the lack of tangible reforms creates an imperative for countries like Malaysia to stay ahead of the curve.

This was the theme of the Perdana Leadership Foundation’s sixth CEO Forum held in Kuala Lumpur last week, where more than thirty panelists analyzed the shaky state of the global economy and offered insights into Malaysia’s strengths and vulnerabilities, as well as the country’s susceptibility to external economic turbulence. In addition to market-related vulnerabilities, panelists also identified inter-religious anxieties between communities as factors that could put national unity and political stability at risk. 

Tan Sri Dato’ Dr. Lin See Yan, a trustee of the Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, identified how high fences built to withstand economic shocks and de-risk the financial system are seldom designed for all possibilities. He branded the European Union as the weakest link in the global financial system, noting that the bloc’s debt problems kept growing, austerity has proven to be counter productive, the euro currency remains overvalued, and the European Central Bank (ECB) has stagnated in the midst of its bond-buying strategy.

Lin also noted the possibility of another crisis originating from within the United States due to vulnerabilities posed by the country’s ballooning $17 trillion debt levels, the growing housing bubble, and the persistence of trading high-risk financial products backed by complex securitizations. He also raised concerns over recent data on the Chinese economy, which has shown a decline in fixed asset investments, raising speculation about whether or not the Chinese authorities would introduce a stimulus package. 

Tan Sri Azman Yahya, executive chairman of Symphony Life, believes that growth in China will continue to be on the upswing despite concerns of deceleration, even without significant investment, by virtue of Beijing’s prudent economic reforms. China has already announced at the recent G20 meeting of finance ministers that it will not make major policy adjustments in the form of stimulus despite slightly lower growth indicators. Reforms will be prioritized to stabilize employment and contain systemic risks such as widespread default. 

High government deficits, unprecedented government and private sector debt levels, and low household savings are deeply worrying trends in mature economies, according to Yahya, who claims that eventual tapering by the US Federal Reserve to cease quantitative easing (QE) measures could trigger a loss of confidence in the US dollar, causing an offloading and crash of US securities capable of tanking global markets. 

Yahya identified the risks posed by the lack of tangible financial sector reforms, the unsustainable US debt bubble, the growing loss of confidence in the US dollar, and surmised that the next crisis may strike within five years. He identified the high growth levels of Asia-Pacific countries as a buffer to crises emanating from stagnate western economies, noting how China’s middle class is set to expand to one billion by 2025, while growth will be increasingly be powered by consumption. 

Panelists at the forum generally agreed that the Asia-Pacific region is in a far healthier state today in comparison to the 1997 crisis, as China’s growth strategy moves away from the investment-driven template to more sustainable consumption-led expansion. Countries in the ASEAN region are also cooperating at higher levels. Analysts agree that Malaysia has proven to be fairly resilient and adept at crisis management, as it managed to navigate through treacherous economic periods while retaining consistently healthy growth levels over the past two decades. 

The country defied the IMF’s economic orthodoxy and introduced capital control measures during the 1997 Asian financial crisis to counter the short selling of the Malaysian ringgit by currency speculators, which triggered dramatic depreciation and rapid falls in stock market capitalization. Malaysia recovered faster than its neighbors and consolidated its banking system, putting buffers in place by introducing broader market regulations and strengthening banks to withstand shocks. 

During the global financial crisis in 2008, triggered by the bursting of the US housing bubble and the subsequent collapse of large financial institutions trading toxic mortgage-related financial products, the country found itself better prepared. The way the crisis struck in 1997 took Malaysian policymakers totally off guard. The country’s economy was highly stable and experiencing growth at 8 percent; loans were being repeatedly prepaid and Malaysia was stepping in rescue Thailand after attacks on the baht.

The current scenario also demands that countries expect the unexpected. The general consensus among panelists the Perdana forum was that a new financial crisis could present itself at some point within the next eighteen months to five years, with the potential for several mini-crises to bubble up and trigger recessionary depression. It is nearly impossible to accurately pinpoint when the next crisis will hit, but there are numerous flashpoints to consider.

In addition to vulnerabilities stemming from uncontrolled derivative trading and speculative hot money flows, debt and bubbles loom. During the 2008 crisis, insolvent private banks and lending institutions were deemed too-big-to-fail, but today, central banks are on the road to inheriting that status. Debt levels have ballooned to unprecedented levels driven by QE and low interest rates. Stagnate wages and easy credit has goaded consumers to keep borrowing to maintain consumption.

Both the United States and the United Kingdom are experiencing high unemployment levels and dramatic income inequality, giving rise to greater levels of social unrest while the stock markets of both countries have performed above par – surpassing the highs of pre-crisis levels. The sharp ascent of share prices, which has been heralded as proof of an economic recovery, does not correlate with rising activity in the productive economy or with per capita income.

The distinguished economist Ha-Joon Chang has referred to these developments as ‘the biggest stock market bubble in modern history.’ It is clear that share prices do not reflect real economic activity. The core of the problem is that successive rounds of QE have increased liquidity rates and fuelled asset bubbles rather than being channeled into productive assets.

Panelists addressed how many of the new jobs being created in mature economies are low-wage positions that offer little career mobility. The broad appeal of protest campaigns organized by fast-food workers to demand a living wage is a testament to the strains on ordinary people who are unable to meet the cost of living. Americans are pessimistic about their nation’s economic recovery policies because many find themselves facing more trying domestic circumstances.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad attended the Perdana forum to give the closing keynote address, where he likened the implementation of solutions to avert economic crises to a medical doctor treating a patient, stressing the need to understand the systemic contradictions of the global financial system. Dr. Mahathir denounced fractional reserve banking practices, which result in banks lending far greater amounts of money than they actually possess in cash reserves, and the leveraging practices taken advantage of by currency speculators and hedge funds.

The former Malaysian prime minister accused Europe and the US of being in a state of denial as to how markets are manipulated, primarily because the political classes themselves benefit from speculation. Dr. Mahathir believes that the role of the financial sector is overemphasized in national economies and advised greater market regulation. Governments must be ready to step in to limit the abuses of the banking system, according to Mahathir, who characterized the inherent inequality of the modern age as one where 99 percent of people are beholden to the ultra-wealthy 1 percent, citing the slogan popularized by the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

Mass protest movements demanding accountability from Wall Street have remained potent because the underlying conditions that generated the crisis have not been addressed in any meaningful way. Instead of steering monetary policies in a sensible direction and broadening regulatory oversight to identify risky financial products and prevent predatory speculation, the banking lobby has strong-armed western politicians into accepting a growth model where short-term profits for the few take precedence over long-term investments in productive assets for the many.

Elsewhere in the world, the economic power and political autonomy of BRICS countries and their plans to establish a development bank to finance infrastructure growth throughout the developing world offers a far more sustainable investment model. To offset the risks of future crises, it is imperative to find the political courage to reduce the importance of the non-productive financial sector in national economies in favor of investments into productive assets that create infrastructure and job opportunities.

Panelists at the Perdana forum argued that even if measures are taken to bolster productive assets, financial and economic crises may strike in unexpected ways: resulting from cyber threat vulnerabilities, sudden geopolitical instability, conflicts over resources and the pricing of resources, and complications that can result from the use of non-traditional currencies.

Malaysia is considered a safe investment destination due to its political stability and imperviousness to natural disasters; the country’s competent young workforce is eager to enter innovative service sector positions, a major asset in contrast to other Asian countries struggling to maintain population growth. To meet the present development aspirations, it is necessary for the country to protect against both external and internal crises.

The Malaysian leadership faces a difficult balancing act on all fronts. It must do more to improve inter-communal harmony without rolling back civil liberties. Despite the country’s strong performance legitimacy, trust and confidence in the government and the integrity of institutions remains low due to endemic corruption. There is a need for a comprehensive social safety net system to address rising income inequality on a needs-basis.

Simultaneously, economic circumstances demand that developing countries remove energy and social subsidies in order to increase efficiency and become a more attractive destination for capital. Navigating through the crises ahead will require bold leadership. Malaysia will be in a better position to withstand turbulence if it takes meaningful steps to reduce income disparities and pursues inclusive social policies that will restore grassroots trust in the leadership.

This article appeared in the September 29, 2014 print edition of The Malaysian Reserve newspaper.

Nile Bowie is an independent journalist and political analyst based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His articles have appeared in numerous international publications, including regular columns with Russia Today (RT) and newspapers such as the Global Times, the Malaysian Reserve and the New Straits Times. He is a research assistant with the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), a Malaysian NGO promoting social justice and anti-hegemony politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

Public Health Experts Identify Militarism As Threat

A remarkable article appears in the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.  (Also available as free PDF here.)

The authors, experts in public health, are listed with all their academic credentials: William H. Wiist, DHSc, MPH, MS, Kathy Barker, PhD, Neil Arya, MD, Jon Rohde, MD, Martin Donohoe, MD, Shelley White, PhD, MPH, Pauline Lubens, MPH, Geraldine Gorman, RN, PhD, and Amy Hagopian, PhD.

Some highlights and commentary:

"In 2009 the American Public Health Association (APHA) approved the policy statement, 'The Role of Public Health Practitioners, Academics, and Advocates in Relation to Armed Conflict and War.' . . . In response to the APHA policy, in 2011, a working group on Teaching the Primary Prevention of War, which included the authors of this article, grew . . . ."

"Since the end of World War II, there have been 248 armed conflicts in 153 locations around the world. The United States launched 201 overseas military operations between the end of World War II and 2001, and since then, others, including Afghanistan and Iraq. During the 20th century, 190 million deaths could be directly and indirectly related to war -- more than in the previous 4 centuries."

These facts, footnoted in the article, are more useful than ever in the face of the current academic trend in the United States of proclaiming the death of war. By re-categorizing many wars as other things, minimizing death counts, and viewing deaths as proportions of the global population rather than of a local population or as absolute numbers, various authors have tried to claim that war is vanishing.  Of course, war could and should vanish, but that is only likely to happen if we find the drive and the resources to make it happen.

"The proportion of civilian deaths and the methods for classifying deaths as civilian are debated, but civilian war deaths constitute 85% to 90% of casualties caused by war, with about 10 civilians dying for every combatant killed in battle. The death toll (mostly civilian) resulting from the recent war in Iraq is contested, with estimates of 124,000 to 655,000 to more than
a million, and finally most recently settling on roughly a half million. Civilians have been targeted for death and for sexual violence in some contemporary conflicts. Seventy percent to 90% of the victims of the 110 million landmines planted since 1960 in 70 countries were civilians."

This, too, is critical, as a top defense of war is that it must be used to prevent something worse, called genocide. Not only does militarism generate genocide rather than preventing it, but the distinction between war and genocide is a very fine one at best. The article goes on to cite just some of the health effects of war, of which I will cite just some highlights:

"The World Health Organization (WHO) Commission on the Social Determinants of Health pointed out that war affects children's health, leads to displacement and migration, and diminishes agricultural productivity. Child and maternal mortality, vaccination rates, birth outcomes, and water quality and sanitation are worse in conflict zones. War has contributed to preventing eradication of polio, may facilitate the spread of HIV/ AIDS, and has decreased availability of health professionals. In addition, landmines cause psychosocial and physical consequences, and pose a threat to food security by rendering agricultural land useless. . . .

"Approximately 17,300 nuclear weapons are presently deployed in at least 9 countries (including 4300 US and Russian operational warheads, many of which can be launched and reach their targets within 45 minutes). Even an accidental missile launch could lead to the greatest global public health disaster in recorded history.

"Despite the many health effects of war, there are no grant funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health devoted to the prevention of war, and most schools of public health do not include the prevention of war in the curriculum."

Now, there is a huge gap in our society that I bet most readers hadn't noticed, despite its perfect logic and obvious importance! Why should public health professionals be working to prevent war? The authors explain:

"Public health professionals are uniquely qualified for involvement in the prevention of war on the basis of their skills in epidemiology; identifying risk and protective factors; planning, developing, monitoring, and evaluating prevention strategies; management of programs and services; policy analysis and development; environmental assessment and remediation; and health advocacy. Some public health workers have knowledge of the effects of war from personal exposure to violent conflict or from working with patients and communities in armed conflict situations. Public health also provides a common ground around which many disciplines are willing to come together to form alliances for the prevention of war. The voice of public health is often heard as a force for public good.
 Through regular collection and review of health indicators public health can provide early warnings of the risk for violent conflict. Public health can also describe the health effects of war, frame the discussion about wars and their funding . . .  and expose the militarism that often leads to armed conflict and incites public fervor for war."

About that militarism. What is it?

"Militarism is the deliberate extension of military objectives and rationale into shaping the culture, politics, and economics of civilian life so that war and the preparation for war is normalized, and the development and maintenance of strong military institutions is prioritized. Militarism is an excessive reliance on
a strong military power and the threat of force as a legitimate means of pursuing policy goals in difficult international relations. It glorifies warriors, gives strong allegiance to the military as the ultimate guarantor of freedom and safety, and reveres military morals and ethics as being above criticism. Militarism instigates civilian society's adoption of military concepts, behaviors, myths, and language as its own. Studies show that militarism is positively correlated with conservatism, nationalism, religiosity, patriotism, and with an authoritarian personality, and negatively related to respect for civil liberties, tolerance of dissent, democratic principles, sympathy and welfare toward the troubled and poor, and foreign aid for poorer nations. Militarism subordinates other societal interests, including health, to the interests of the military."

And does the United States suffer from it?

"Militarism is intercalated into many aspects of life in the United States and, since the military draft was eliminated, makes few overt demands of the public except the costs in taxpayer funding. Its expression, magnitude, and implications have become invisible to a large proportion of the civilian population, with little recognition of the human costs or the negative image held by other countries. Militarism has been called a 'psychosocial disease,' making it amenable to population-wide interventions. . . .

"The United States is responsible for 41% of the world's total military spending. The next largest in spending are China, accounting for 8.2%; Russia, 4.1%; and the United Kingdom and France, both 3.6%. . . . If all military . . . costs are included, annual [US] spending amounts to $1 trillion . . . . According to the DOD fiscal year 2012 base structure report, 'The DOD manages global property of more than 555,000 facilities at more than 5,000 sites, covering more than 28 million acres.' The United States maintains 700 to 1000 military bases or sites in more than 100 countries. . . .

"In 2011 the United States ranked first in worldwide conventional weapons sales, accounting for 78% ($66 billion). Russia was second with $4.8 billion. . . .

"In 2011-2012, the top-7 US arms producing and service companies contributed $9.8 million to federal election campaigns. Five of the top-10 [military] aerospace corporations in the world (3 US, 2 UK and Europe) spent $53 million lobbying the US government in 2011. . . .

"The main source of young recruits is the US public school system, where recruiting focuses on rural and impoverished youths, and thus forms an effective poverty draft that is invisible to most middle- and upper-class families. . . . In contradiction of the United States' signature on the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict treaty, the military recruits minors in public high schools, and does not inform students or parents of their right to withhold home contact information. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is given in public high schools as a career aptitude test and is compulsory in many high schools, with students' contact information forwarded to the military, except in Maryland where the state legislature mandated that schools no longer automatically forward the information."

Public health advocates also lament the tradeoffs in types of research the United States invests in:

"Resources consumed by military . . . research, production, and services divert human expertise away from other societal needs. The DOD is the largest funder of research and development in the federal government. The National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocate large amounts of funding to programs such as 'BioDefense.' . . . The lack of other funding sources drives some researchers to pursue military or security funding, and some subsequently become desensitized to the influence of the military. One leading university in the United Kingdom recently announced, however, it would end its £1.2 million investment in
a . . . company that makes components for lethal US drones because it said the business was not 'socially responsible.'"

Even in President Eisenhower's day, militarism was pervasive: "The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government." The disease has spread:

"The militaristic ethic and methods have extended into the civilian law enforcement and justice systems. . . .

"By promoting military solutions to political problems and portraying military action as inevitable, the military often influences news media coverage, which in turn, creates public acceptance of war or a fervor for war. . . ."

The authors describe programs that are beginning to work on war prevention from a public health perspective, and they conclude with recommendations for what should be done. Take a look.

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Olympic Capitalism: Bread and Circuses Without the Bread

The author of Brazil's Dance With the Devil, Dave Zirin, must love sports, as I do, as billions of us do, or he wouldn't keep writing about where sports have gone wrong.  But, wow, have they gone wrong!

Brazil is set to host the World Cup this year and the Olympics in 2016.  In preparation Brazil is evicting 200,000 people from their homes, eliminating poor neighborhoods, defunding public services, investing in a militarized police and surveillance state, using slave and prison labor to build outrageous stadiums unlikely to be filled more than once, and "improving" a famous old stadium (the world's largest for 50 years) by removing over half the capacity in favor of luxury seats.  Meanwhile, popular protests and graffiti carry the message: "We want 'FIFA standard' hospitals and schools!" not to mention this one:

(FIFA = Fédération Internationale de Football Association, aka Soccer Profiteers International)

Brazil is just the latest in a string of nations that have chosen the glory of hosting mega sports events like the Olympics and World Cup despite the drawbacks.  And Zirin makes a case that nations' governments don't see the drawbacks as drawbacks at all, that in fact they are the actual motivation.  "Countries don't want these mega-events in spite of the threats to public welfare, addled construction projects, and repression they bring, but because of them."  Just as a storm or a war can be used as an excuse to strip away rights and concentrate wealth, so can the storm of sporting events that, coincidentally or not, have their origins in the preparation of nations for warmaking.

Zirin notes that the modern Olympics were launched by a group of European aristocrats and generals who favored nationalism and war -- led by Pierre de Coubertin who believed sport was "an indirect preparation for war." "In sports," he said, "all the same qualities flourish which serve for warfare: indifference toward one's well being, courage, readiness for the unforeseen."  The trappings of the Olympic celebration as we know it, however -- the opening ceremonies, marching athletes, Olympic torch run, etc., -- were created by the Nazis' propaganda office for the 1936 games.  The World Cup, on the other hand, began in 1934 in Mussolini's Italy with a tournament rigged to guarantee an Italian win.

More worrisome than what sports prepare athletes for is what they may prepare fans for.  There are great similarities between rooting for a sports team, especially a national sports team, and rooting for a national military.  "As soon as the question of prestige arises," wrote George Orwell, whom Zirin quotes, "as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused."  And there is prestige not just in "your" team winning, but in "your" nation hosting the grand event.  Zirin spoke with people in Brazil who were of mixed minds, opposing the injustices the Olympics bring but still glad the Olympics was coming to Brazil.  Zirin also quotes Brazilian politicians who seem to share the goal of national prestige.

At some point the prestige and the profits and the corruption and the commercialism seem to take over the athletics.  "[T]he Olympics aren't about  sport any more than the Iraq war was about democracy," Zirin writes. "The Olympics are not about athletes.  And they're definitely not about bringing together the 'community of nations.' They are a neoliberal Trojan horse aimed at bringing in business and rolling back the most basic civil liberties."

And yet ... And yet ... the damn thing still is about sports, no matter what else it's about, no matter what alternative venues for sports are possible or imaginable.  The fact remains that there are great athletes engaged in great sporting activities in the Olympics and the World Cup.  The attraction of the circus is still real, even when we know it's at the expense of bread, rather than accompanying bread.  And dangerous as the circus may be for the patriotic and militarist minded -- just as a sip of beer might be dangerous to an alcoholic -- one has the darndest time trying to find anything wrong with one's own appreciation for sports; at least I do.

The Olympics are also decidedly less militaristic -- or at least overtly militaristic -- than U.S. sports like football, baseball, and basketball, with their endless glorification of the U.S. military.  "Thank you to our service men and women watching in 175 countries and keeping us safe." The Olympics is also one of the few times that people in the U.S. see people from other countries on their televisions without wars being involved. 

Zirin's portrait of Brazil leaves me with similarly mixed sentiments. His research is impressive. He describes a rich and complex history.  Despite all the corruption and cruelty, I can't help being attracted to a nation that won its independence without a war, abolished slavery without a war, reduces poverty by giving poor people money, denounces U.S. drone murders at the U.N., joins with Turkey to propose an agreement between the United States and Iran, joins with Russia, India, and China to resist U.S. imperialism; and on the same day this year that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission proposed ending the open internet, Brazil created the world's first internet bill of rights. For a deeply flawed place, there's a lot to like.

It's also hard to resist a group of people that pushes back against the outrages being imposed on it.  When a bunch of houses in a poor Brazilian neighborhood were slated for demolition, an artist took photos of the residents, blew them up, and pasted them on the walls of the houses, finally shaming the government into letting the houses stand.  That approach to injustice, much like the Pakistani artists' recent placement of an enormous photo of a drone victim in a field for U.S. drone pilots to see, has huge potential. 

Now, the question is how to display the Olympics' victims to enough Olympics fans around the world so that no new nation will be able to accept this monster on the terms it has been imposing.

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Europe Targets Russia Irresponsibly

Europe Targets Russia Irresponsibly

by Stephen Lendman

European nations follow Washington's lead. They act disgracefully. They do so reprehensibly. They harm their own self-interest.

They partner in America's wars. They embrace confrontation. They harm their own people. Russia bashing is prioritized.

On Thursday, the Parliamentary Assembly of Europe (PACE) stripped Russia's voting rights through yearend. It imposed other sanctions.

Members voted 145 to 21. Another 22 abstained. Russia's right to vote against its own ostracism was denied. Democracy is a dead letter. Acting responsibly is verboten.

Moscow is excluded from leadership positions. It's removed from Presidential and Permanent committees. Observer rights are denied.

Alexei Pushkov heads Russia's PACE delegation. He condemned the decision saying:

"The most unpleasant thing in this history is that the Parliamentary Assembly betrayed its own principles: rule of law and rule of human rights." 

"The majority took the path of serving the interests of a group of states that is poised on the geopolitical grasping of Ukraine."

The "decision on future Russia-PACE relationship will be made in the coming weeks." Moscow walked out of PACE's April session. 

"We will not partake in this session any longer," said Pushkov. "We are leaving this session in protest and reserving the right to consider the further involvement of Russia in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe." 

PACE condemned legitimate Crimean/Russian reunification. It expressed disapproval of Russia's responsible Ukraine policy. 

It ludicrously claimed "no right-wing takeover of the central government in Kiev, nor was there any imminent threat to the rights of the ethnic Russian minority in the country, including, or especially, in Crimea."

Saying so turns a blind eye to reality. PACE's new friends include a rogue's gallery of societal misfits. They're lawless putschists.

They're xenophobic, hate-mongering, ultranationalist anti-Semites. They represent mob rule.

They're militant fascists. Their worst elements are neo-Nazis. They openly display swastikas, Iron Crosses, Nazi SS insignia and other fascist symbols.

Washington elevated them to power. PACE member states support them. They do so unconscionably.

They target Russia irresponsibly. They condemned Putin's all-out effort to resolve crisis conditions equitably and fairly. They want Crimeans denied their legal self-determination rights.

They're in bed with US imperial lawlessness. They endorse what demands denunciation. They made one spurious accusation after another.

They destroyed their credibility in the process. Pushkov called their action a "political farce." It's an "inquisition," he added.

If they want to be inquisitors, "let them (do) it on their own," he said. Russia will consider whether to opt out of PACE altogether. 

Its action destroyed its legitimacy. Its credibility no longer exists. Hypocrisy defines its agenda. It's complicit in crimes of war, against humanity and genocide.

It backed raping Yugoslavia. It supported Washington's lawless aggression on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. 

It endorses Obama's war on Syria. It abhors human and civil liberties. It opposes rule of law justice.

On April 10, Itar Tass headlined "Russia will not be forced to act in West's way - deputy PM."

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov responded to reprehensible Western actions, saying:

"We will be looking for ways to protect our own interests. No threats will make either President Vladimir Putin or other political forces act the way the US, Germany and other partners want them to."

"The more appeals for sanctions we hear, the tougher they are, the stronger the Russian society will mobilize, the more united we will be."

"The Western community is discussing developments in Ukraine beyond the context of the key reason of the conflict."

"It is criminal to pull Ukraine in different directions, making it choose between the EU and the Russian Federation." 

"We, in Russia, are interested in a stable and prosperous Ukraine more than anybody else."

Washington and other Western nations plan plundering it for profit. They want its resources stolen. They want its crown jewels sold at fire sale prices.

They want their people exploited. They want Ukraine incorporated into NATO. They want hostile bases close to Russia's borders.

They want Russian sovereignty weakened. They want it eliminated altogether. They want pro-Western subservient governance replacing it. 

They want control over Russian policy. They want another vassal state. Ideally they want balkanized, powerless mini-states.Their policies risk open confrontation. Perhaps war.

Hardliners influencing policies risk what responsible officials wouldn't dare. The worst of all possible outcomes may follow.

Russia won't let rogue Western nations run roughshod over its interests. It defends them responsibly. It has every right to do so.

On April 10, RT International headlined "Standoff between gvt, protesters intensify, 24 hours before Kiev ultimatum ends."

Kiev putschists threatened force against Eastern Ukrainian protesters. Reports said tanks headed for Donetsk.

"Several locals were allegedly injured trying to stop the convoy," said RT. "An eyewitness (named Lyudmila) confirmed the information about military forces arriving in the city," saying:

"At about 2pm we received information that military hardware had arrived at our local train station." 

"We went there and saw APCs, military vehicles and troops. The whole town gathered nearby." 

"The soldiers tried to start moving, and the people tried to stop the vehicles." Soldiers responded belligerently.

They "twisted the arms of pensioners. There were two men standing there…" Tanks "drove over their feet." 

"I was pulled back by local coalminers while I tried to stop the vehicles. They didn't even look at who was in front of them." 

"The men started shouting for them to stop, saying there were girls and women in front of them, but they didn't care."

Illegitimate putschist acting president Aleksandr Turchinov signed a decree to use force. 

Fascists operate this way. Kiev ones are allied with their US counterparts. They waging war on freedom. 

They want Ukraine strip-mined for profit. They want dystopian harshness imposed.

On Wednesday, putschist interior minister Arsen Avakov said "special police task force" elements arrived in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov.

They're ordered to use force if needed. Greystone Limited mercenaries were deployed in Eastern Ukraine. Reports say about 150. Maybe others will follow.

They're notorious. They're trained killers. They operate extrajudicially. They're unaccountable under local laws. They represent America's imperial agenda.

They came to suppress nonviolent protests. They're free to do whatever it takes to do so. It's standard procedure wherever they show up. 

It remains to be seen how targeted Ukrainians respond. Bloody confrontation may follow.

RT said protesters still control Donetsk and Lugansk power structure buildings. They built barricades. They're preparing in case outside forces assault them. 

They're burning tires. They're singing songs. They're waving Russian and regional flags. Women and elderly participants stand with others on center city night watch.

They'll alert others if needed. "We will be on duty here all night," they said. "(T)he assault could begin at any moment."

Thousands more locals are ready to join them. "Several times over the last few days, activists assembled to train their response to emergency situations," said RT.

On Tuesday, "armed men without insignia and masked law enforcement officers" stormed Kharkov's administration building. They did so after local police refused Kiev's order to attack.

About 100 newly-formed Ukrainian National Guard elements arrived at Donetsk's airport. 

They're joined by about 100 neo-Nazi Right Sector thugs, "as well as a hundred employees from a private US military company operating under contract with Kiev" putschists.

They comprise about 300 "professionals or well-trained and motivated fanatics." People's Militia of Donbas deputy director Sergey Tsyplakov told RT:

"This is a major force, but we are ready to fight."

Earlier, Donetsk protesters blocked two buses with camouflaged armed men. They did so near the city's military commissariat.

Activists think they're Western mercenaries. They couldn't identify them. They said nothing. They refused to answer questions.

The New York Times suppresses real information on Ukraine. It supports lawless putschists. It ignores their fascist agenda.

It downplayed Eastern Ukrainian resistance. It ludicrously claimed Donetsk protesters have "no authority outside an 11-story Ukrainian government building…"

It called activists inside "an unruly Russian-speaking, club-bearing crowd…" It called the Donetsk People's Republic "a quixotic and, to many here, (a) crackpot project…"

It's limited to "the few hundred people now holed up in the government building," it said.

Growing thousands of Donetsk residents reject Kiev putschists. They're resolute in standing against them. 

Others across Eastern Ukraine want their own local autonomy. They're putting their bodies on the line to get it. They're courageously rallying for justice. 

They want their legitimate rights respected. Don't expect The New York Times to explain. It's on the wrong side of fundamental issues. It fronts for wealth, power and privilege.

It deplores popular rights. It suppresses vital information. It substitutes unacceptable misinformation. It's part of America's propaganda machine. It works against most of its readers.

Neocon Washington Post editors produce some of the most outrageous scoundrel media misinformation. They maliciously bash Russia. They bury truth doing it.

On April 8, they headlined "Russia will respond only to increased sanctions over Ukraine."

They lied claiming Russian forces invaded Crimea. Nonthreatening Russian military exercises were falsely called a possible "invasion (of) three Ukrainian cities."

They maliciously called Eastern Ukrainian activists "rent-a-mobs." They quoted John Kerry's lie.

He recklessly accused Moscow of an "illegal and illegitimate effort to destabilize a sovereign state and create a contrived crisis with paid operatives."

He ignored Washington elevating extremist putschists to power. WaPo editors support them. 

They call lawless fascists democrats. They turned truth on its head saying:

"It's not too late to prevent Russia from destroying Ukraine, but this time the West must act quickly." 

They suggested Moscow perhaps intends disrupting May elections. They're illegitimate. They'll maintain putschist power. 

Russia has no intention of interfering. It rejects lawless governance. Ukrainians deserve real democracy. They're denied it. 

Don't expect WaPo editors to explain. They lied claiming Kiev authorities show "admirable restraint." They call Eastern Ukrainian activists "provocateurs."

They want tougher US sanctions imposed on Moscow. Not just against targeted individuals, they urged.

Against "sectors of the economy." They ignored doing so cuts both ways. Maybe they don't care. Punishing Russia harshly matters most, they claim.

Wall Street Journal editors express similar sentiments. They bash Russia relentlessly. They consider Putin public enemy number one.

On April 8, they headlined "Putin Invades, Obama Dismantles." They lied claiming Russia "seized Crimea." It massed "50,000 troops as a potential invasion force," they said.

They ignored repeated US treaty violations. They lied claiming Moscow ones. Obama is "maneuvering the US closer to a position of absolute nuclear inferiority to Russia," they claim.

America has the world's largest nuclear stockpile. It's the most formidable. It's sophisticated delivery systems can strike targets worldwide with pinpoint accuracy.

It well over 1,000 empire of bases can do it shorter range. Russia prioritizes peace and stability. America deplores both. Permanent wars define official policy. 

Don't expect Journal editors to explain. Or that Washington is humanity's greatest threat. 

Pointing fingers the wrong way is longstanding scoundrel media policy. Journal editors blame Putin for Obama's crimes.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Supreme Court Rules for Big Money

Supreme Court Rules for Big Money

by Stephen Lendman

It didn't surprise. It's supremely pro-business. It's always been this way. It's more than ever now.

It supports Big Monied interests. It does so over democratic governance. It's on the wrong side of most issues mattering most.

On April 2, it repeated a familiar pattern. Its McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision ruled one dollar = one vote. It struck down federal campaign contribution limits. It did so disgracefully. 

It gave monied interests more power. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts referred to the landmark 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling saying:

"We conclude that the aggregate limits on contributions do not further the only governmental interest this court accepted as legitimate."

"They instead intrude without justification on a citizen's ability to express the most fundamental First Amendment activities."

Justice Stephen Breyer ruled otherwise. He read his comments from the bench saying  McCutcheon "eviscerated our nation's campaign finance laws."

"If Citizens United opened a door, today's decision we fear will open a floodgate." It creates "huge loopholes in the law; and that undermines, perhaps devastates, what remains of campaign finance reform."

"It understates the importance of protecting the political integrity of our governmental institution." 

"It creates, we think, a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate's campaign."

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus lied calling McCutcheon "an important first step toward restoring the voice of candidates and party committees and a vindication for all those who support robust, transparent political discourse."

Responsible voices called it another step on the road to tyranny. It tramples on First Amendment freedoms. 

It gives monied interests near-exclusive rights. It denies them to all others. It lets powerful voices drown them out.

More on McCutcheon below. In 2010, the High Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruled corporations are entitled to unconstrained federal campaign spending.

Writing for the majority at the time, Justice Anthony Kennedy said:

"(W)e now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption."

"The fact that speakers (aka donors) may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt."

His opinion drew on earlier ones, adding:

"Favoritism and influence are not…avoidable in representative politics. It is in the nature of an elected representative to favor certain policies, and, by necessary corollary, to favor the voters and contributors who support those policies." 

"It is well understood that a substantial and legitimate reason, if not the only reason, to cast a vote for, or to make a contribution to, one candidate over another is that the candidate will respond by producing those political outcomes the supporter favors. Democracy is premised on responsiveness."

In other words, limitless corporate spending drowning out other voices = democracy.

At the time, Ralph Nader denounced Citizens United, saying:

It "shreds the fabric of our already weakened democracy by allowing corporations to more completely dominate our corrupted electoral process." 

"It is outrageous that corporations already attempt to influence or bribe our political candidates through their political action committees (PACs), which solicit employees and shareholders for donations." 

"With this decision, corporations can now also draw on their corporate treasuries and pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars."

"This corporatist, anti-voter decision is so extreme that it should galvanize a grassroots effort to enact a Constitutional Amendment to once and for all end corporate personhood and curtail the corrosive impact of big money on politics." 

"It is indeed time for a Constitutional amendment to prevent corporate campaign contributions from commercializing our elections and drowning out the civic and political voices and values of citizens and voters." 

"It is way overdue to overthrow 'King Corporation' and restore the sovereignty of 'We the People' "!

Dark money infests politics. America's political system is scandalous. Duopoly power corrupts it. Voters get the best democracy money can buy. 

Corporations, NGO advocacy groups, and other powerful interest groups decide everything. Ordinary people have no say.

Democracy is a convenient illusion. On April 1, America's Supremes affirmed it writ large. Federalist Society (FS) members dominate decision-making. 

They include Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. They're ideological extremists.

FS began 30 years ago at Harvard, Yale and University of Chicago law schools. Initially it was a student organization. It challenges orthodox liberalism. It corrupts itself in the process. 

It advocates rolling back civil liberties. It wants New Deal social policies ended. It supports imperial wars, corporatism, and police state harshness.

It wants reproductive choice, government regulations, labor rights, and environmental protections ended. It spurns justice in defense of privilege. It defiles constitutional protections doing so.

The words "Equal Justice Under Law" adorn the Supreme Court Building's west facade. The motto "Justice, the Guardian of Liberty" faces east.

In America, wealth, power and privilege alone count. "We the people" never mattered. For sure not now.

Egalitarian principles exist in name only. Checks and balances, equity and justice, as well democratic values are meaningless figures of speech.

Men rule America, not laws or high moral and ethical standards. Executive, congressional, and judicial officials systematically lie, connive, and pretty much do what they please for their own self-interest.

Most High Court justices are some of the worst. They're ideologically over-the-top. They're as unprincipled and venal as political rogues infesting federal, state and city governments.

Money does not equal speech. Ruling otherwise defiles First Amendment principles. In McCutcheon v. FEC, justices ruled 5 - 4.

They struck down limits on what individuals can donate during each federal two-year electoral cycle. Earlier it couldn't exceed a maximum $123,200.

Public advocacy groups say they can now contribute nearly $6 million during the same period.

The ruling leaves unchanged base donor amounts permitted for each candidate or committee. 

It's currently $2,600. It's $32,400 for each political party. Big donors on their own can spend unlimited amounts on supportive or attack ads, as well as other campaign efforts.

Shaun McCutcheon is a Republican National Committee member/Alabama businessman. In 2012, he donated to 15 federal candidates.

He wanted to give more, he said. Federal law constrained him. He nonsensically claimed cap limits infringe on his speech rights. 

He challenged Federal Election Campaign Act section 441. It limits biennial individual donor amounts. He wants none whatever imposed.

He wants Big Money deciding who'll rule. He wants ordinary people shut out. They can't make sizable contributions. Even among individuals able to give maximum amounts, only about 0.1% do so.

Deep-pocketed interests contribute most. During the 2012 electoral cycle, less than 600 gave federal candidates an estimated $3.1 billion.

Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer said:

"With its Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, the Supreme Court has turned our representative system of government into a sandbox for America's billionaires and millionaires to play in." 

"The court's decisions have empowered a new class of American political oligarchs."

America more than ever reflects plutocratic interests. High Court ideologues are on the wrong side of history.

The National Constitution Center (NCC) called McCutcheon Citizens United 2. It's "now history," it said. It's a huge step backwards.

NCC quoted NYT legal/Supreme Court writer Jesse Wegman calling McCutcheon "another blow to democracy."

According to People For The American Way:

"Our nation's wealthiest people don’t need even more political influence, but that’s what today’s decision hands them." 

"The Supreme Court has given its stamp of approval to a government unduly influenced by the rich and powerful."

"As with the 2010 Citizens United decision, the consequences for our democracy of today's deeply misguided decision will be grave, opening the door to for wealthy donors to give, in aggregate, millions of dollars in direct contributions in a single election cycle." 

"The Roberts Court has once again proven itself to be ideologically-driven, going out of its way to protect the interests of the most powerful among us at the expense of everyday Americans."

McCutcheon dealt freedom another major body blow. It's already on life support. It's eroding in real time. 

It's practically gone already. It's one more major homeland false flag attack away from disappearing altogether. Full-blown tyranny is a hair's breadth away. 

Corrupted officials hasten its arrival. It could happen any time. Perhaps when least expected. Perhaps with public approval.

Perhaps for added security at the expense of fundamental freedoms. Perhaps not knowing sacrificing them loses both. Perhaps awakening too late to matter. Perhaps it already is now.

America is too corrupted to fix. It's unfit to live in. Transformational change is needed. So is disruptive people power more than ever.

Making it the new normal is vital. The alternative is police state ruthlessness. It's monied interests over popular ones. 

It's permanent wars for global dominance. It's dystopian harshness. It's what free societies don't tolerate. It's government of, by and for powerful interests only. 

It's preventing it for everyone equitably and fairly. It's institutionalizing dark side rule. It's up to ordinary people to prevent it.

"If not now, when? If not us, who?" If not soon, maybe never. If that's not incentive enough, what is?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Reviewing James Petras’ The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle East...

Reviewing James Petras' The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle East (Part I) 

by Stephen Lendman

It's Petras at his best. It's important reading. It covers vital topics. Petras tells readers what they need to know. His analysis is masterful. Below is an account of what he said.

Washington and Israel are longstanding imperial partners. Petras does some of the best analysis explaining it.

Overview: The State of the Empire

In the 1990s, imperial adventurism increased. Post-9/11, it accelerated. One war after another followed. They continue "unhampered by congressional or large-scale public opposition," said Petras.

At least so far. Popular opinion against Obama's Syria war postponed it. Resuming it could happen any time. Perhaps it's one major false flag attack away.

Other wars may follow. Iran's turn awaits. Ukraine's full-blown crisis and regime change aftermath happened largely beyond the timeline of Petras' book.

He's a valued contributor to a forthcoming Clarity Press (CP) account of Ukraine's crisis. It promises to be the definitive analysis of what happened, why it matters, and what may follow. Watch for CP's announced publishing date.

Zionists and militarists define their current imperial objectives as follows, says Petras:

"(1) destroying regimes and states (as well as their military, police and civil governing bureaucracies) which had opposed Israel’s annexation of Palestine; 

(2) deposing regimes which promoted independent nationalist policies, opposing or threatening the Gulf puppet monarchist regimes; and

(3) supporting anti-imperialist, secular or nationalist-Islamic movements around the world."

Resistance was greater than they thought. Washington's Afghan war is its longest in history. It shows no signs of ending.

Iraq and Libya remain cauldrons of violence. Obama's war on Syria enters its fourth year.

Israel's goal isn't creating "political vacuum(s)." It's devastating its enemies. What follows is someone else's problem.

Tel Aviv loves getting Washington to wage its wars. The one Israel most wants most is destroying Iran. Whether America will oblige remains to be seen.

US economic conditions were different earlier than now. Overreach makes US leaders pause before undertaking what may cause more harm than good.

At the same time, public opinion is tired of wars. Enormous sums spent waging them harm their well-being. 

A late 2013 Pew Research report confirms the gap between "elite and public opinion," says Petras.

"By a vast margin (52% to 38%), the public agree that the US 'should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own,' " he explained.

In 2002, a scant 30% opposed foreign entanglements. Times changed dramatically.

Over 80% of Americans oppose Washington's Afghan war. Heading toward 14 years is too much.

Large majorities want domestic issues addressed. They want current jobs protected. They want new ones created. They want better ones. They want living wages. They want government serving their interests equitably.

They despise Wall Street. They reject new imperial wars. Whether they'll stop is another matter entirely.

America is addicted to war. It's the national pastime. Policymakers  believe war is peace. Out-of-control imperialism reflects it.

At the same time, public antipathy to Obama's wars weakened his ability to wage new ones. Whether 9/11 2.0 can change things perhaps remains to be seen.

In 2001, public appetite for war was keener than now. "Intervention fatigue," says Petras, makes most Americans crave peace. 

They're tired of endless imperial adventurism. They're suffering under the weight of pursuing it. According to Petras, they began to:

"(1) prioritize their choice of places of engagement; 

(2) diversify their diplomatic, political and economic instruments of coercion; and 

(3) limit large-scale, long-term military intervention to regions where US strategic interests are involved."

Washington isn't going soft by any means. A new page wasn't turned. Making the world safe for war profiteers is still policy.

Fear is stoked. It's used to manufacture consent. It's much tougher than before. It doesn't stop imperial rampagers from trying. Lots more effort is required.

Large-scale ground invasions are avoided. "Proliferation of special forces" substitutes. So do an array of destabilizing policies.

Ukraine is Exhibit A. Around $5 billion was spent replacing democratic governance with ultranationalist fascist extremists.

It's pocket change compared to trillions spent on Afghanistan and Iraq. It's changing Kiev on the cheap. 

It doesn't always work. Wars remain a bottom line option. Libya is the optimal model. Shock and awe supplemented proxy ground forces. 

Plans perhaps intend similar tactics against Syria. Objectives remain the same. Petras identified "at least eleven major or minor conflicts today engaging US empire builders to a greater or lesser extent."

They include "Ukraine, Thailand, Honduras, China-Japan-South Korea, Iran-Gulf States/Israel, Syria, Venezuela, Palestine-Israel, Libya, Afghanistan and Egypt."

Obama is more selective in choosing new targets. He's only got so much money to spend.

Debt reduction curtails open checkbook warmaking. Special forces in over 120 countries do it on the cheap if needed. So do CIA elements operating virtually everywhere. 

China and Russia comprise Washington's bottom line targets. It's hard imagining planned war on either of them. 

Co-opting neighboring states substitutes. So does surrounding them with US military bases. Weakening and isolating them matters most. 

Perhaps regime change by a thousand cuts is policy. Strategy is longterm. Overreach may defeat Washington's agenda.

Perhaps China and Russia intend letting America overspend until bankruptcy. They've got their own problems to resolve at the same time. 

Unity between them with likeminded allies is their best defense. America makes more enemies than friends. It's influence is declining. 

China's star is rising. Russia hopes to ascend at the same time. How it weathers things over Ukraine remains to be seen. Whether America prevails is unclear.

The battle for Ukraine's soul continues. It's longterm. Russia drew a red line. It's defending its vital issues responsibly. Putin isn't rolling over for Washington. Nor should he.

Obama has a tiger by the tail. He's in bed with fascist extremists. They've got a mind of their own. He may have bitten off more than he can chew.

Putin's patience may best him. Public Ukrainian anger may defeat him. It's unclear how things will go. Knowing either way won't happen soon. Nor in other parts of the world. 

Even superpowers can't prevail everywhere, all the time. Eventually they learn. Some do the hard way. 

Obama's wars made America weaker. New ones may be counterproductive. Nothing will be resolved any time soon. Major struggles are longterm.

Modern day Spartas may succumb like earlier ones. Living by the sword usually means perishing the same way. America may spend itself to death. Hegemons risk overreaching and failing.

Obama "relied on a wider variety of interventions than (his) predecessor," said Petras. He subcontracted more to European allies. 

France took the lead in Africa. Washington wants Japan and South Korea bearing a greater Asian burden.

It's "part of the long-term US strategy to encircle and limit China’s economic expansion," said Petras. 

Middle East control and "undermining Iran" is prioritized. "The principal strategic weakness in US empire building policy lies in the absence of domestic support."

Zionist power remains the wild card. It's deeply embedded in Washington. Media support is overwhelming. So are powerful monied interests.

War is their national pastime. Aroused public opinion is the best defense against it. Revving it up now is needed more than ever.

The Obama Regime's Military Metaphysics Rejects Diplomatic Opportunities

Obama prioritizes belligerence over diplomacy. He never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to pursue peace. 

Replacing independent governments with subservient pro-Western ones is prioritized. Adversaries are ravaged and destroyed. Hegemons operate this way.

Opportunities for peace are spurned. Bullying takes precedence. Obama sacrificed a "Grand Bargain" with Iran to serve Israel.

Israeli "land-grabbing" overrode Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Destabilizing Venezuela is prioritized. Regime change matters more than normalized relations.

"Obama's Snowden caper revive(d) the Cold War," said Petras.
Obama's war on Syria rages. He's allied with perhaps uncontrollable death squad extremists.

Afghanistan is a bottomless pit of war. It could continue for another decade or two. Taliban fighters show no battle fatigue.

Containing China may end up a losing proposition. Lost US opportunities overall may not resurface. At least not in the short run.

"The world view of the Obama regime is one of mirror looking in an echo chamber," said Petras. "(I)t cannot visualize and accommodate the interests of rivals, competitors or adversaries, no matter how absolutely central they are to any meaningful compromise." 

"The give and take of real world politics is totally foreign to the world's Chosen People." They only know how to " 'seize power' and create military facts, even as they then spend a dozen years and billions of dollars and millions of lives in endless wars, bemoaning lost markets amidst serial diplomatic failures." 

"The epitaph for the Obama regime will read:

They fought the Wars.
They lost.
They turned friends
into enemies.
Who became
Friends of our enemies.
They stood alone, in splendid isolation,
And said it was their only choice."

The Decline of the US (and everyone else...) 

Post-9/11, America "suffered a series of military defeats, experienced economic decline, and now faces severe competition and the prospect of further military losses," said Petras.

Some analysts believe US decline began decades earlier. The greater it overreaches, the faster its political and economic advantage wane.

America makes more enemies than friends. It aims to isolate Russia, China and other independent states. It may end up shooting itself in the foot trying.

Latin American countries reject US aggressiveness. They overwhelmingly oppose efforts to oust Venezuela's government.

In late March, Organization of American States (OAS) members  refused to hear fascist legislator Maria Corina Machado discuss ongoing Washington manipulated violence.

She opposes democratic governance. She backed the aborted April 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez.

She's involved in instigating ongoing violence. Venezuelan National Assembly members want her investigated. 

They want her charged with treason and incitement to crime. She's provoking civil war, they said. She's a Washington favorite.

Washington lost Asian influence to China. At the same time, it forged closer military ties with Japan, the Philippines and Australia.

The same holds in other areas. Empires don't fade easily. At the same time, they don't last forever. 

In the end, they all die. America won't be an exception. None existed earlier.

Washington stands "totally alone" against Cuba, says Petras. OAS nations are "no longer a US haven."

At the same time, reports of US imperial decline are "overstated…(T)here is no alternative imperial or modern anti-imperial tendency on the immediate horizon," Petras explains.

Longer-term tells a different story. The 21st century began as America's. It may end as China's.

Cyber-Imperialism: The Logic Behind Mass Spying: Empire and Cyber Imperialism

Edward Snowden revelations about NSA spying connected important dots for millions. He's a gift that keeps on giving.

He explained what everyone needs to know. Doing so "provoked widespread protests and indignation and threatened ties between erstwhile imperial allies," said Petras.

Obama presides over a homeland police state apparatus. "One of (its) essential components (is) an all-pervasive spy apparatus operating independently of any legal or constitutional constraints," he explained.

Big Brother watches everyone. Claims otherwise don't wash. Electronic and telecommunications surveillance is sweeping. 

It's pervasive. It targets everyone of potential interest. It operates globally. It's a power unto itself. It's unaccountable.

As technology advances, it promises worse ahead. No one can escape its spying eye. It monitors world leaders. It cracks encryption protections.

It listens to phone calls. It monitors emails and text messages. It accesses financial and medical records. 

It conducts espionage to get a leg up on foreign competitors. It does so with electronic ease.

Huge stakes are involved. Empires need to do more to hold on to what they have. They want their power enhanced. 

They want total unchallenged control. They want what's not easy to get.

The " 'Global War on Terror" (GWOT), became an open-ended formula for the civilian warlords, militarists and Zionists to expand the scope and duration of overt and covert warfare and espionage," said Petras.

It "provided the ideological framework for a police state based on the totalitarian conception that 'everybody and everything is connected to each other' in a 'global system' threatening the state." 

"This 'totalistic view' informs the logic of the expanded NSA, linking enemies, adversaries, competitors and allies."

A Big Brother world is no fit one to live in. It exists. It seeks omnipotence. It wants total control. Civil liberties and human rights are discarded in the process. They're disappearing in plain sight. 

Police State: The Domestic Foundation of Empire - Fabricating Terror Conspiracies

America's only enemies are ones it creates. Its war on terror is fake. It's waged to stoke fear. 

Supportive propaganda rages. Media scoundrels march in lockstep. They hype what demands denunciation. 

They do it without supportive evidence. None exists. They regurgitate official lies. They repeat them ad nauseam. 

Alleged global and domestic threats are fraudulent on their face. Warnings repeat anyway. Lies substitute for truth. They wore thin long ago.

Most people are fooled anyway. Many pay no attention either way.

"By evoking a phony 'terrorist threat' abroad and its detection by the NSA, Obama hopes to re-legitimize his discredited police state apparatus," says Petras.

At the same time, he "seeks to cover-up (his) most disreputable policies, despicable 'show trials' and harsh imprisonment of government whistle blowers and political, diplomatic and military defeats and failures which have befallen the empire in the present period."

Petras calls Obama "the Master of Deceit." He's polar opposite what supporters want. He wages multiple imperial direct and proxy wars. He plans new ones.

He wrecked the economy. He looted the nation's wealth. He consigned millions to unemployment or underemployment. 

Poverty, homelessness and hunger increased on his watch. He heads America toward full-blown tyranny.

Monied interests own him. He supports wealth, power and privilege. He let popular needs go begging.

He destroyed hard-won labor rights. He wants education commodified. He wants it made another business profit center.

He wages war on whistleblowers, dissenters, Muslims, Latino immigrants, and environmental and animal rights activists called terrorists.

He's a con man. Petras nailed him before taking office. He called him "the perfect incarnation of Melville's Confidence Man. He catches your eye while he picks your pocket. He gives thanks as he packs you off to war."

He spurns human need. He ignores rule of law principles. He deplores democratic values. He tolerates none at home or abroad. He wages war on freedom.

The Rise of the Police State and the Absence of Mass Opposition

Recent US history witnessed "the virtually unchallenged rise of the police state," said Petras. Diktat power rules. No mass pro-democracy movement confronts it. It rages out-of-control.

Bipartisan complicity supports it. So do media scoundrels. It reflects McCarthyism writ large. Anyone can be targeted for any reason or none at all.

Constitutional rights don't matter. Arbitrary rule replaced them. Police state powers reflect it.

It's "the dominant reality in US political life today," says Petras. It's largely unchallenged. Dismissiveness substitutes for mass outrage.

Obama gets away with murder and much more. Media scoundrels hype state-sponsored fear-mongering. Fake threats persist. Dissent is increasingly criminalized. Wars substitute for peace.

Part II continues discussing Petras' new book.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Rutherford Institute Calls On Sen. Dianne Feinstein to Take the Lead in Calling for...

Pointing out that “surveillance is surveillance, whether carried out by government or the private sector,” John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, is calling on Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to take the lead in ensuring that legislative safeguards are adopted to protect all Americans from threats to their privacy and civil liberties by drones, regardless of […]

US Press Freedom Threatened

US Press Freedom Threatened

by Stephen Lendman

First Amendment rights matter most. Without them all other freedoms are at risk. Post-9/11 policies threaten them.

Bush waged war against them. Obama escalated it. He promised transparency, accountability and reform. He called whistleblowing "acts of courage and patriotism." He said one thing. He did another.

Press freedoms are endangered. An October Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report discussed Obama and the press. 

Journalists say he's waging war on dissent. He exceeds the worst of George Bush. He's heading America on a fast track to tyranny.

He wants information people have a right to know suppressed. He evades press scrutiny. He aggressively targets leakers.

Anyone suspected of disclosing information he wants concealed is vulnerable. Press freedom is gravely threatened.

On February 12, a CPJ press release headlined "Attacks on the Press: CPJ to launch annual global assessment of press freedom." 

It named three key threats. They include digital surveillance, murdering journalists, and pressuring them to suppress what governments don't want revealed.

Authoritarian states used to be primary battlegrounds, said CPJ. No longer. New technologies potentially threaten press freedom everywhere.

"Governments' capacity to store transactional data and the content of communications undermines journalists' ability to protect sources," said CPJ.

Out-of-control NSA spying harms everyone. It's driving a stake in the heart of press freedom. It's compromised gravely in America.

CPJ first published "Attacks on the Press" in 1986. This year's edition features a chapter titled "The NSA Puts Journalists Under a Cloud of Suspicion."

Mass agency surveillance collects enormous amounts of data. It's retained. Doing so "poses a unique threat to journalism in the digital age," said CPJ.

Virtually everything digital can be monitored. NSA "recreate(s) a reporter's research." It retraces sources' movements.

It follows current and past communications. It uncovers confidential sources. It does so with technological ease.

It renders confidentiality promises meaningless. If current interactions escape scrutiny, they're reconstructed later on.

Doing so compromises free data flows. Sources become reluctant to cooperate. Disclosing information Washington wants concealed entails risks.

Suppressing what people need to know compromises press freedom. Advanced data storage technology creates another potential risk.

"It provides a deep breeding ground for artificial intelligence systems, which may in the future lead to more efficient, even predictive, spying machines," said CPJ.

Washington and other governments will spot what they most wish to know. Perhaps they'll do it in advance.

Imagine the potential ability to discover things before they happen. Unless checked, out-of-control spying may destroy press freedom entirely. Maybe all freedoms.

Perhaps what's ongoing now is prelude to much worse. CPJ interviewed William Binney. America is "a police state," he said. Mass spying is "a totalitarian process."

NSA monitors all journalists. It maintains "a record of all of them so (it) can investigate, so (it) can look at who they'll calling - who are the potential sources that they're involved  in, what probable stories they're working on, and things like that."

National security expert James Bamford told CPJ he believes certain journalists get extra scrutiny.

"If you're writing about national security or the NSA itself, they consider you...a national security danger, and so they feel justified in doing whatever they're doing," he said.

ACLU attorney Alex Abdo litigated against NSA. At issue are compromised constitutionally guaranteed free speech and privacy rights.

"(A)ll reporters should be worried," he believes. Different things affect them.

"Reporters who work for the largest media organizations should be worried probably primarily because their sources will dry up as (they) recognize that there is no way to cover their trail."

Independent journalists may be targeted. They're vulnerable on their own. They lack "institutional protections" MSM reporters get.

When questioned, NSA consistently lies. Spokeswoman Vanee Vines told CPJ:

"NSA is focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets in order to protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

It bears repeating what other articles explained. America's only threats are ones it invents.

Post-9/11, NSA spying uncovered zero terrorist threats. None! Claims otherwise are false.

Obama lied saying "US intelligence agencies (are) anchored in a system of checks and balances - with oversight from elected leaders, and protections for ordinary citizens."

He lied claiming mass surveillance "prevented multiple attacks and saved lives - not just here in the United States, but around the globe."

He lied saying federal courts and congressional oversight curbed "some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11..."

He lied saying he ordered "increased oversight and auditing, including new structures aimed at compliance."

He lied claiming nothing he's seen "indicate(s) that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of (American) citizens."

He lied saying "the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people."

He lied claiming "(t)hey're not abusing authority in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails."

He lied saying "(w)hen mistakes are made...they correct" them.

He lied saying "our intelligence community follows the law."

He lied claiming terrorist threats "are not going away any time soon. They are going to continue to be a major problem."

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) head James Clapper is an acknowledged perjurer. He belatedly admitted lying to Congress.

Senator Ron Wyden asked him: "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"

"No sir," said Clapper, "not wittingly." Facing perjury charges he wrote Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chairwoman Diane Feinstein. He apologized for "clearly erroneous" remarks under oath.

Russell Tice is a former Office of Naval Intelligence/Defense Intelligence Agency/NSA analyst. His career spanned 20 years.

Earlier he accused NSA of unconstitutionally wiretapping US citizens, saying:

"Everyone at NSA knew what they were doing was illegal, because it’s drilled into our heads over and over that it's against NSA policy, that you do not do that. The choice is to speak out and get fired."

Tice personally witnessed agency spying on news organizations and journalists.

Former army intelligence Sgt. Adrienne Kinne said she monitored phone conversations between journalists in Iraq and their spouses and editors.

Snowden revelations explained much more. Clapper lied to Congress claiming he caused "profound damage."

He exposed lawless spying. He connected important dots for millions. He told people what they need to know. 

He's outrageously charged under the 1917 Espionage Act. It's a WW I relic. It has no relevancy today. 

Obama uses against whistleblowers. He targeted more than all his predecessors combined.

Snowden charges include:

  • "Theft of government property;

  • Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information (and)

  • Willful Communication of Classified Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person."

Bradley (Chelsea) Manning was prosecuted for revealing serious war crimes. He got 35 years in prison for acting responsibly.

Journalists revealing what Washington wants suppressed are vulnerable. Last October, NSA chief General Keith Alexander expressed no patience with journalists investigating agency activities.

"I think it's wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents, 50,000 or whatever they have, and are selling them and giving them out as these - you know it just doesn't make sense," he said.

"We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don't know how to do that..."

"(T)hat's more (for) the courts and the policy makers, but from my perspective it's wrong, and to allow this to go on is wrong."

Most journalists may not end up in NSA's crosshairs, said CPJ. All journalists need to know they're monitored. They're vulnerable if writing about affairs of state and related issues.

It's impossible to know everything NSA collects, said CPJ. It's enough to give everyone pause.

Constitutional violations threaten fundamental freedoms. They're eroding en route to perhaps disappearing altogether.

Computer security expert Bruce Schneier compares meta-data collection and analysis to hiring a private detective to snoop on someone's activities and associations.

"The result would be details of what he did: where he went, who he talked to, what he looked at, what he purchased - how he spent his day," said Schneier.

Bamford calls meta-data surveillance especially dangerous to journalists, saying:

"It’s always dangerous when the government has access to journalists' communication because what journalists guarantee sources is confidentiality, and if there's no such thing as confidentiality from the government, it would inhibit the future cooperation from sources." 

This gravely compromises investigative journalism. If government "see(s) all the numbers you're calling, they're able to tell pretty much what kind of story you're working on, even without getting (its) content..." 

"They're able to tell what the nature of the story is, (and names of) sources you're dealing with."

Binney said NSA didn't build its sophisticated Utah facility for transactional data alone. It's for collecting and storing "content of communications, not just metadata," he stressed.

"They are building more and more storage because they're collecting" vast amounts of data.

They "take everything" off communication lines "and store it." Information is "indexed to the graph of lives and social networks."

NSA can access content to determine a timeline of people's relationships. Binney believes the agency has content and meta-data for the past dozen years. 

Unless checked, imagine how much more it'll have ahead. "(T)he more data you get, the more capacity you have to see into somebody,'s life," said Binney.

Technological advances let NSA spy in unprecedented ways. Journalists have to rethink how they communicate with sources.

"The NSA is gathering power and (it's) gathering more capabilities and more eavesdropping, more invasive technologies," said Bamford.

"At the same time, (it's) deceiving the very weak organizations that are supposed to be the oversight mechanisms - the Congress and the FISA Court." 

"I think it's a very worrying situation, not just for journalists, but for anybody."

Over 100 years ago, former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called sunlight "the best of disinfectants." He couldn't imagine how badly it's needed now.

A Final Comment

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) called February 11 "The Day We Fight Back."

It joined "thousands of websites in protesting (against) mass (NSA) surveillance…" It used its web site "as a platform for users to speak out against spying abuses..."

It helped them contact congressional members easily. Oppose the FISA Improvement Act, it said. Support the USA Freedom Act.

Protests were held in cities worldwide. People fought back for freedoms too important to lose.

On February 12, EFF asked "How Big Was the Day We (Fought) Back?" It showed a visual image of Michigan Stadium filled to capacity. It holds 109,901 people.

Imagine two MSs filled to capacity, said EFF. Imagine everyone in them "doing the same thing at the same time - contacting Congress and demanding an end to mass surveillance."

You'd be thousands short of nearly 250,000 Americans doing it. They called. They emailed. They demanded Congress support their rights.

Another 200,000 + participated in organized actions worldwide.

At peak times, congressional members were bombarded with over 7,000 calls an hour. EFF stressed what it said before.

February 11 wasn't a one-time action. EFF began challenging lawless NSA spying almost a decade ago. "(W)e're not going to stop now," it said.

Hundreds of thousands of people speaking out is "amazing," it added. "We're proud to have taken part" in what's so important.

EFF expressed gratitude to "many, many" other participants. Freedom isn't something handed out without struggle.

Getting rights requires fighting for them. The same holds for keeping them. Key is not letting energy wane. 

Sustaining it makes winning struggles possible. What's more precious than fundamental freedoms for all.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

A People’s Movement to End All War

When people sign the declaration of peace at WorldBeyondWar.org they have the opportunity to type in a brief statement in their own words. Thousands have done so, including those pasted below. (And a few great quotes from the past have been added here in graphic form.)

“I support this proposal and agree with this great and important initiative to abolish militarism and war.  I will continue to speak out for an end to the institution of militarism and war and for institutions built on international law and human rights and nonviolent conflict resolution.” — Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate

“As a 29 year veteran of the US Army/Army Reserves, retiring as a Colonel and having served as a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and resigning in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war, I firmly believe war does not resolve political issues.  We must work diligently to force the governments of our nations to use diplomacy, not weapons.” —Ann Wright

“Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.” — Noam Chomsky

rankingraphic

“It is so inspiring to see a new group coming together not to focus on a particular war or weapons system, but on all war–everywhere. And it’s great to have such beautifully crafted arguments about why war is not inevitable and how war contributes to so many other global ills. This coalition is worthy of Martin Luther King’s call to end violence and instead put our energies and resources into ‘life-affirming activities.’ Bravo!” —Medea Benjamin

“We must work to end all war because: 1. In war there are no winners, only losers. 2. To thrive, humans need peace, which cannot be created by war. 3. We need all our ingenuity, creativity, technology and will to find a solution to runaway climate change. We cannot afford the military-industrial complex.” — Sally Reynolds, Abingdon Peace Group

“The abolition of war is an idea whose time has come. We are at a transformative moment in history. Our Mother Earth is under siege from destructive global warming and industrialization. It is essential that we mobilize to save our planet. War is a cruel and untenable distraction, draining trillions of dollars and incalculable losses of intellectual firepower away from the essential work that needs to be done to create a livable future for humanity.” — Alice Slater, Global Council of Abolition 2000

“War is a crime against humanity. When 90% of the casualties of war are civilians including children, its time to End ALL WARS! The world badly needs the resources to meet human and environmental needs. Wars are not making us more secure, but creating more enemies. There are more effective means of achieving security than war and killing other people’s children. As former President Eisenhower said, ‘I like to believe that the people of the world will want peace so much that governments will have to get out of the way and let them have it.’ When the people of the world decide to end war, we can end it. At least 99% of the world’s people do not benefit at all from all the wars our governments are waging. The time is NOW. Please join us.” —David Hartsough

“If anything can halt climate change it’s redirecting the unfathomable pile of money and energy now wasted on a war machine that kills for fossil fuels and consumes a good share of them in the process.  The symptoms of militarism addressed by human rights and civil liberties groups would end if the disease were treated.  Our culture of violence, our government of secrecy, our provocation of animosity around the world: these would end if we stopped slaughtering people under the banner of war.  If a fraction of those damaged by war work to end war, it will quickly become a thing of the past — seen then as the unmitigated barbarism that many find it hard to recognize as long as war is accepted by those in positions of power.” — David Swanson, author of War No More: The Case for Abolition

“History has shown us that the institution of war created by humans is not only morally reprehensible, but utterly ineffective in resolving any kind of disputes. The human, social, environmental and economic costs of war are too high. We now know more about the reality of a global peace system built upon global collaboration, social change and constructive conflict transformation. It is time for a re-energized effort to build a world beyond war by challenging the war system and supporting the infrastructure of peace.” — Patrick Hiller, Peace Scientist and Director of War Prevention Initiative by the Jubitz Family Foundation

“War is a great destroyer. And human history has arrived at a pivotal moment. We can choose a path built on cooperation, where our caring and sharing side uplifts us, or we can continue to embrace a worldview where domination using violence imprisons us in cycles of killing and destruction. I’m a biologist, and war is not genetically fixed. War is a cultural invention. It’s time to end this abomination, and this World Beyond War movement is uniquely focused on unifying the human community to create one of the biggest revolutions in history. I’m in. Join us!” — Judith Hand, Founder: A Future Without War.org

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“Change will not come from a President Gandhi.  Rather, the initiate for change will come from the bottom up as citizens force politicians to act.  We just need to put our voices together and get sufficiently organized.  Ultimately change will come from the ingenuity, compassion and ability of the American people to self-correct and chart a more secure and sustainable course for the future.” — Russell Faure-Brac, author of Transition to Peace

“Our greatest enemy today is not a particular group of people in a far-off country. Our greatest enemy is war itself.” — Paul Chappell, author of The Art of Waging Peace

“We must work to end all war because the health, welfare, and safety of the children is the most important element of a society. The children can be the focus for mobilizing, conflict resolution, and uniting for the future of humanity. The children allow the people of the world to show kindness, generosity, and compassion.” — Andre Sheldon, Director of Global Strategy of Nonviolence

“We must end war because war is an abrogation of the inviolable bonds of connection between all people, all living things and the planet. To participate in it is a denial of the trust in continuity deeded to us by our forebears and expected of us by future generations. Every act of war and aggression diminishes the humanity of the individuals involved, destabilizes communities and nations; and scars the entire human family. We are committed not to ending wars but to ending war itself, and to addressing the fear, greed, misunderstanding and drive for power that lead to violent conflict and war.” — Rena Guay, Executive Director, Center for Conscience in Action

“Richard Wendell Fogg, Center for the Study of Conflict, years ago said rather than saying we need to abolish war, we should talk of REPLACING war. In the field of conflict analysis and transformation, there are creative strategies we can apply to solutions that can solve problems and make war unnecessary. With increasing lethality of weapons, evolving technology and communications, war is obsolete. It is a solution worse than any problem it presumes to  solve. We can address conflicts constructively. Beyond diplomacy, we can use mediation, negotiation and problem-solving strategies to transcend war.” —Diane Perlman

“Humanity can no longer afford war for two reasons. 1) We need all our resources to deal with the consequences of climate change and peak oil, and 2) War is too wasteful of both human and physical resources to be further utilized or tolerated by the human species. Indeed, nuclear war, which remains a major threat to the world as we know it, would likely make our planet uninhabitable for our own species and many others.” —Peter Bergel

“War is at the heart of all global problems, impeding humanity from a full realization of just, equitable and sustainable communities.” —Kent D. Shifferd

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“There is enough for everyone to have what they need without exploitation. Adequate distribution of resources, including education, without violence can lead to a sustainable system that doesn’t stress the ecosphere. Alternately, continued violence feeds population surges and hoarding the products of exploitative extraction, which endanger the survival of our species. In short, if we want a future with humans on Earth, we’ve got to stop war.” —Vernon Huffman

“Life on earth is not sustainable continuing down this path. War destroys people, the air, the ground, the water. It destroys history. It inhales money/resources literally taking food out of the mouths of the people. It takes generations to recover if that is even possible. Enough.” —Barbara Cummings

“War is the worst act of terrorism and among the greatest causes of human suffering and death and ecological degradation. Wars are declared by the rich and fought by the poor. There will be no real justice and protection of human rights and the rights of nature until a sustainable global peace has been achieved.” —Brian J. Trautman

“I know from my lengthy experience as a journalist, researcher, and human being working in various war-torn or recently war-battered countries that all wars inflict terrible, long-lasting damage on all the residents of the war-zone– with the weakest members of society always suffering the most. There is no such thing as a ‘humanitarian’ war. In cases of conflict or bitter oppression, the very best way to mend broken relationships while building a solid basis for a better situation going forward is to use all nonviolent means possible to de-escalate tensions and work for a better life going forward on the basis of the equality and equal worth of all human persons.” —Helena Cobban

“War murders our children and sickens the survivors. ‘Peace or Perish: Abolish War on Planet and Poor’ (Theme of the 2014 Veterans For Peace National Convention, Asheville, NC, July 2–27).” —John Heuer

“The main obstacle to disarmament is the general/common belief that it is impossible. And it is — just as impossible as ending slavery, apartheid, the Cold War, and tearing the Iron Curtain. Humanity suffers under poverty, unhealth, pollution, depletion of resources, climate change. Instead of being an extremely expensive and deadly risk on top of all those threats militarism is clearly the best option/chance/opportunity to do something substantial — if all countries would join in abolition of military force and forces (the idea that Nobel in his will for ‘the champions of peace’ called ‘creating the brotherhood of nations’).” —Fredrik S. Heffermehl

“Militarism is the world’s biggest problem…morally, socially, economically, and environmentally.” —Ward Reilly

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“Creating a world beyond war may be the noblest endeavor we can work on. Can you imagine what future generations will think if we succeed? We will leave them a world where trillions of dollars are not wasted annually on weapons and war, where tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands are no longer slaughtered in unnecessary wars. Surely we can imagine solving conflicts between nations in a more mature way; we can imagine the human race evolving to a higher consciousness that no longer requires war. We can imagine a world without war, now we have to work toward such a world. It will be a global challenge, uniting the world to accomplish this great new reality.” —Kevin Zeese, PopularResistance.org

“War is a lie. War is a racket. War is hell. War is waste. War is a crime. War is terrorism. War is not the answer.” —Coleen Rowley

“War destroys. War obliterates. War is ruination. And war begets more war. After thousands of years of experience proving this, and reams of literature and countless works of art exposing it, when are people going to learn?” —Lisa Simeone

“War is a barbaric tool of the war profiteers and Empires who employ them. War pits young people from the working class against other similarly poor, or disadvantaged humans, for nothing but the greed of the few. Only we the people can make war obsolete by not participating in the profound crimes of the profiteers and other war mongers.” —Cindy Sheehan

“War causes pain, suffering, and gross violations to human needs and rights. War causes a violent domino effect for years to come. Humans have no business being involved in war. We are an evolved species that needs to focus on peace and justice in our world. We must honor and show respect for our planet and all living and nonliving entities. We need to shift away from violence and focus on the beauty of nonviolence. War and destructive violence are not solutions to any problem. War must be ended. When that happens we will lift the pain and suffering of our world and allow humanity to begin to heal. It is time we wake up and raise our thoughts to a higher consciousness. If we do not end war now, it will end us. Call on me. I am ready to help end all war!” —Joy Henry

“We need a movement if we are going to stop wars and this may be it. So many of us are working in small groups and we need to come together as one.” —JoAnne Lingle

“The future existence of our planet depends upon ending war. War and violence are not a solution to conflict. They contribute to more violence, more death, more poverty, more suffering physically and psychologically, more patriotism, more borders, more ignorance, and more stupidity. How tragic is all of that. The ecology of our planet is in jeopardy and the pollution of the war machine world wide is a huge contributor to climate change.” —Ann Tiffany

“As professor of global peace studies at the International Islamic University of Malaysia I am committed to the ending of war also through criminalization of war, an approach that has not been sufficiently used in spite of the UN Charter outlawing war — with too many loopholes used buy aggressive countries.” —Johan Galtung, Founder of TRANSCEND International

“I applaud the establishment of a global movement to end all war, but note that citizens of the United States have a special responsibility to make this happen. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has bombed more than 25 countries. In those 68 years, no other nation has killed and injured more people living outside of its borders. Most Americans remain silent while we spend more on war, and have more soldiers in other countries, than all other nations combined. War and soldiers are glorified in the U.S. Please recognize and honor those who have had the courage to take a public stand against one or more U.S. warswww.uspeacememorial.org/Registry.htm. We celebrate these role models in hopes of inspiring other Americans to speak out against war and for peace.” —Michael D. Knox, US Peace Memorial Foundation

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“War is about nothing but violence. War is terrible! I have a first-hand war experience and I know what war is all about! I dream of peace!” —Fidaa Abuassi

“War, and preparation for war is draining resources that are life giving from countries, statesnd cities. The world we help create is the world we leave for those who come after us. I am committed to living non-violently in response to the violence in my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country, my hemisphere and my world because non-violent love in action is the most powerful force for change that exists.” —Joyce Ellwanger

“As Ernest Hemingway wrote, ‘Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. Ask the infantry and ask the dead…’” —Christopher Flynn

“The biosphere can no longer tolerate the toxic affects of modern warfare, which threaten the continued existence of all humanity and many animals and plants on which we are dependent.” —Richard Ochs

“War benefits no one, with the exception of military contractors and their shareholders. It makes our communities poor, our nation less safe, and ourselves less fully human. We must commit to diplomacy, peacemaking and development!” —Diane Farsetta

“This atavistic practice has always been horrible, but technology makes it even more destructive and savage. it is time for humanity to become civilized.” —Sally-Alice Thompson

“We need to solve some of the world’s problems like climate change, world hunger, homelessness, income disparity, the influence of money ine lections, destruction of the environment, etc. and stop wasting our resources on killing people and destroying the environment.” —Jean Gordon

“The U.S. has become the most egregious war-monger and terrorist nation in the world, as well as the long-time leading purveyor of weapons of war throughout the world, and because here at home, we have 50 million of our citizens living in poverty, one in four children surviving on Food Stamps, a collapsing education system, poor health care, and many other disasters, none of which can be addressed as long as the country keeps pouring trillions of dollars into war and militarism. This madness and criminality must end!” —Dave Lindorff

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“It’s obvious: war is a waste of human and earth resources that results only in suffering. There are other ways to disagree.” —Karen Malpede

“As John F. Kennedy said, it will end us instead. ‘If mankind does not put an end to war, then war will put an end to mankind.’ Modern war is ecocide, genocide and ethnocide and is not sustainable. The costs of war are enormous, not just financial but social, ecological and global. War must become obsolete if the world is to survive.” —John Judge

“We’re destroying life on earth in all its forms. By supporting war we are creating poverty that includes fear and anxiety about the future which leads to depression, poor health, food insecurity, and homelessnes. People all over the world are experiencing the destructive effects of investing most of our country’s resources in war resulting in the failure to create a healthy, well-educated and secure environment for humanity around the world.” —Nancy Schoerke

“We must shift from ‘war is a necessary evil’ to ‘peace is a necessary good.’” —Swami Beyondananda, Steve Bhaerman

“The myth that war creates justice, solves problems, improves security and enables peace is absurd. If we weren’t so bombarded with propaganda to the contrary, everyone would know that. We need to insist on a new story, the true story. We must forbid the few to profit from war so that we may all begin to profit from peace.” —Robert Shetterly

“We have seen enough of war to know that it doesn’t work to resolve conflicts. It only exacerbates them. It is time we find other solutions and dedicate ourselves to life–not death.” —Peter Kuznick

“To the extent that today’s world is civilized at all, it’s largely thanks to yesterday’s opponents of war and misery: the soldiers who refused to fight, the civilians who refused to accept war and occupation, and all those who worked for a global order based on peace and equity. Yet the institutions and forces that produce war have not been eradicated. Today we must build an international movement that will not only prevent future wars but transform the very structures on which war, militarism, and imperial domination are based. This struggle will not be won quickly, but in the process even small acts and partial victories can help save numerous lives.” —Kevin Young

“It is clear to me that war creates violence and does not solve problems. I have lived and worked in Iran. Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine and have seen first hard the broken bodies of children and the anger at our impact as a nation on people’s lives. Thank you for putting this opportunity together. Peace” —Ann Huntwork

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“I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘just war’. Murder is murder, whether sanctioned by a government or not. All people should have the right to life and liberty, so long as they do no harm to others, and war extinguishes both.” —Ethan Bell

“War promotes rascism all around the globe.” —Muhammad Ali Khan

“The greatest threat to humanity today is climate change. Militarism exacerbates that threat, and is in no way useful for addressing that threat. The resources invested in militarism must be redirected to combat climate change and global warming.” —Larry A. Unruh

“As a very young man I signed a declaration – ‘I renounce war and will never support another’. That was in 1939 and I have maintained this stand throughout the whole period, including WW2, as a Conscientious Objector.Worked to achieve Peace since. It is necessary for individuals to take this stand and maintain it. War never solves anything – it accentuates any problem, whatever it is, and makes matters worse. There is no moral or humanitarian justification for it.” —Donald Saunders

“Having survived WWII as a child I am TOTALLY against ALL wars, there is not excuse for killing and injuring humans, all innocent, for life. I am still traumatized from the war and the bombing and starvation.” —Ingrid Kepler-May

“We still carry ancient beliefs from thousands and thousands of years ago when war was the only thing known. We have options now. This organization will help shift the collective consciousness toward greater humanity and peace. War has indoctrinated the U.S. government as well as other countries. There is no integral intention that exists behind war. It is a contradiction and therefor useless. Its time to evolve greatly. ‘Love precious humanity’” —Leslie Naugle

“I want a world without war. War never works it just kills. I want my children to never have to have a close contact with war. I want my children and future generations to grow up free and in a peaceful world. War is not freedom it is a malignant force imposed by men in power. We must change the views of people in power now and let them know that in a diplomatic and peaceful way issues can be solved.” —Ana Martins

“I am working with the higher education system in Afghanistan. My work in this world is teaching and serving as a role model for peace, particularly in this environment that has been devastated by the ravages of 30+ years of horrific conflict. I have a number of close Afghan friends and they, probably more than any people I have ever met, want peace for themselves, their families and their country. I am privileged to know them and am inspired by their endurance and resilience. Endless war serves only to enrich those who champion it and it is long past time that it be stopped.” —James Stapp

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“We know, deep down inside, it’s wrong! There’s nothing you can say to ever make it right! Killing is killing, no matter how you slice it! And the ones doing all the killing should be locked up, and be forced to watch the world transform from, This evil place they’ve created, To the wonderful place we should be creating!” —Ronald Richter

“Why must we work to end all war? War keeps us from progressing as a race. We can’t reach a point of sustainability with war taking up so much of our time. It attributes to the division of wealth providing greater conflict between classes and it hands over authority to the wealthy class. It makes them richer while the working class is left to die. War need to end because it’s a tool used to control the masses with fear. It distracts us from the problems within the social hierarchical systems that have been established. We must end all war because we’ll never have peace without it. War is expensive and destroys makes the economy unstable. War is a tool of capital gain, it’s marketable and from youth we are encouraged to take and defend our ruling authority without question. There are other ways to solve conflicts. Civilians are the ones who suffer the most damage. War and violence is terrible for you Psyche due to the traumatizing events. And Finally the main reason we should end all war is because it will kill us if we don’t.” —Jessica Gartner

“While I was always aware that there was a sickness that pervades every social institution I just could not make the connection to myself and this ‘sickness’ until my beautiful child was murdered in the ‘theater’ of ‘War’. This experience was eviscerating. I was disgorged of this ‘sickness’. I could see that ‘war’ is just goddamn MEAN. It bears no resemblance to what lives in my heart and mind so why was I able to accept it as a way of life? Why was I able to accept my son being part of a force for death…for entropy? I see it all clearly now, though. There is a deep sickness that pervades all social institutions and these sicknesses have made us mentally ‘disturbed’ – working out of balance with the gift of life. My granddaughter, Eva, is now four and has no father. She has no protector in this mean world where men prey upon life with a sense of entitlement that desires are to be quenched at all costs. Who will protect my granddaughter now? Through the physical death of my beloved son I have learned that misogyny is the root of warring behavior – and this thought process, this behavior is just goddamn mean.” —Jamie Santos

“Every person who dies is someone’s son, dad, mom, brother or sister.” —Gaston Locklear

“Nelson Mandela said: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’  Peace is possible.” —John Bonifaz

“Every modern war has had its root in exploitation. The Civil War was fought to decide whether the slaveholders of the South or the capitalists of the North should exploit the West. The Spanish-American War decided that the United States should exploit Cuba.” —Larry Egly, Veterans For Peace Chapter 961 Codirector

“Another war will likely lead to the end of the human race.” —Lewis Patrie, WNC Physicians for Social Responsibility

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“LAW opposes the illegal use of force supports the use of national and international law to settle disputes, prosecute offenders and protect rights.” —Gail Davidson, Lawyers against the War

“As a 70 year old woman, I have seen just what the destruction of war has done to my home country and also those we have invaded in the name of democracy! None of this has been done with my consent, so for the rest of my life I want to promote peace.” —Katherine Schock

“War takes people’s lives and destroys property, but it does not resolve the world’s problems. If anything is achieved through war, it is to plant the seeds for the next violent conflict as the vanquished and their children will usually not accept the outcome.” —Bruce Van Voorhis

“War is an irrational, counter-productive way to handle conflicts.” —Lawrence Wittner, Professor of History emeritus, SUNY/Albany

“Because we are being used as pawns in an endless game of bloodletting. One generation has to stop this. Please let it be ours.” —Lynne Thomas

“War traumatizes soldier and civilian alike; warfare is a profit-making racket; warfare resolves nothing that negotiations can’t resolve better; the weapons we have now make non-violence the only option to planetary annihilation.” —Madeline Taylor, Topanga Peace Alliance

“Those who exploit our susceptibility to the us-them fallacy to enlarge themselves are today no worse than those who have done the same down through the ages. But the world is different.” —Roger Arnold

“I know war. I was in one in 1991 in Bosnia. It is something that has to stop now. Noone should experience something like that ever again.” —Hatidza Isic

“War is the worst thing that human beings can do to each other, and the worst form of exploitation by the rich and the powerful.” —Nicolas J Sandy Davies

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“As a geologist I have travelled the world and lived and worked amongst wonderful but disadvantaged peoples. I am emotionally moved to welcome this campaign.” —Kenneth Buckland

“It is time for the thinking man to realise that what we do to other living things and our environment we do to ourselves. As previous civilisations have learnt, the only way is to create harmony in our world and move beyond hypocrisy.” —Nozar Mossadeghi

“War must become obsolete in the 21st Century. Modern War is genocide, ecocide and ethnocide. Wars profit the few and destroy the many. ‘The hour is getting late,’ sang Bob Dylan. War is destroying the future of humanity.” —John Judge

“We owe it to our children and their children. The end of war is an end to poverty. War is a crime against humanity.” —Jean Andrew

“It’s time, at this 100-year anniversary of the start of World War I, for us all to join together to fight only war itself.” —Marie Reinsdorf

“War ain’t good for shit!” —Bryant White

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Is a Policy a Law? Is Murder Murder?

From the Associated Press:

"An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year."

Notice those words: "legally" and "policy."  No longer does U.S. media make a distinction between the two.  Under George W. Bush, detention without trial, torture, murder, warrantless spying, and secret missile strikes were illegal.  Under Obama they are policy.  And policy makes them "legal" under the modified Nixonian understanding that if the President does it as a policy then it is legal.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the laws of the nations in which drone murders take place, treaties to which the U.S. is party, international law, and U.S. statutory law, murdering people remains illegal, despite being policy, just as it was illegal under the less strict policy of some months back.  The policy was made stricter in order to bring it into closer compliance with the law, of course -- though it comes nowhere close -- and yet the previous policy remains somehow "legal," too, despite having not been strict enough.

Under that previous policy, thousands of people, including at least four U.S. citizens, have been blown to bits with missiles. President Obama gave a speech last year in which he attempted to justify one of those four U.S. deaths on the basis of evidence he claimed to have but would not reveal. He made no attempt to justify the other three.

The new policy remains that the president can murder anyone, anywhere, along with whoever is near them, but must express angst if the person targeted in a U.S. citizen.

The idea that such lunacy can have anything to do with law is facilitated by human rights groups' and the United Nations' and international lawyers' deference to the White House, which has been carried to the extreme of establishing a consensus that we cannot know whether a drone murder was legal or not unless the president reveals his reasoning, intention, motivation, and the details of the particular murder.

No other possible criminal receives this treatment. When the police read you your rights, you are not entitled to object: "Put those handcuffs away, sir! I have a written policy justifying everything I did, and I refuse to show it to you. Therefore you have no grounds to know for certain that my justification is as insane and twisted as you might imagine it to be based merely on what I've done! Away with you, sir!"

The loss of a coherent conception of law is a grievous one, but that's not all that's at stake here.

Numerous top U.S. officials routinely admit that our drone wars in the Middle East and Africa are creating more enemies than they kill.  General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan said in June 2010 that "for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies." Veterans of U.S. kill teams in Iraq and Afghanistan interviewed in Jeremy Scahill’s book and film Dirty Wars said that whenever they worked their way through a list of people to kill, they were handed a larger list; the list grew as a result of working their way through it.  The wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the abuses of prisoners during them, became major recruiting tools for anti-U.S. terrorism. In 2006, U.S. intelligence agencies produced a National Intelligence Estimate that reached just that conclusion.

We are shredding the very concept of the rule of law in order to pursue a policy that endangers us, even as it helps to justify the erosion of our civil liberties, to damage the natural environment, and to impoverish us, as it kills many innocent people.  Maybe they've secretly got drones doing the thinking as well as the killing.

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Economic Terror And Rolling Out India’s Surveillance State

Global Research 5/2/2014, Countercurrents 6/2/2014 and Deccan Herald 6/2/2014

When two planes flew into the World Trade Organisation buildings inNew York in 2001, the impact was twofold. First, there was shock and outrage. Second, there was a collective sentiment, at least in the US, that something must be done to prevent such a thing happening again and some form of retributive justice meted out.


Governments the world over wasted no time in conveniently forcing through legislation that eroded personal and collective freedoms, under the guise of preventing terror, at a time of increasing social and economic inequalities due to a strident and exploitative economic neo-liberal agenda.


If 9/11 served at least one purpose, apart from fuelling Western military imperialism according to the tenets of the neo-con Project for a New American Century, it was to provide any or every government on the planet with a reason for clamping down on its own population, stripping away civil liberties and making people acquiesce to the needs of global capital. Edward Snowden’s revelations about the US and British surveillance agencies and programmes have exposed just how far governments are prepared to go in order to snoop on virtually every activity that ordinary members of the public engage in. Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic try to justify this illegal snooping on the basis of it being carried out for people's own good on the back of self-proclaimed ‘security alerts’.


But history shows that widespread surveillance by governments on their own populations has mostly been about attempting to monitor and quell dissent and genuine opposition to its policies (1). The US and British states have long been involved in illegal, duplicitous monitoring and subversion of perfectly legitimate democratic groups on their own soils. Western intelligence agencies have been used to crush democracy at home in order to serve the interests of elite state-corporate players. From Martin Luther King and the Occupy Movement to Veterans for Peace, the US state has used the full panoply of resources to infiltrate, monitor or subvert. Today, democratic movements that seek to legitimately question and challenge the influence of Wall Street, US military policy abroad and a range of other policies that have serve elite interests are spied on and ‘neutralised’. The conclusion is that mass surveillance occurs because legitimate political dissent that poses a direct challenge to the one percent will not be tolerated.


Should people in India be worried about the rolling out of the Indian’s government own plans for mass monitoring, the Centralised Monitoring System? They should, given the genuine concerns being raised about the lack of Parliamentary oversight and transparency surrounding the system, as well as the scope and depth and the violation of privacy safeguards, which could be as far reaching, secretive and unconstitutional/illegal as the West’s PRISM system (2,3,4).


And they should be concerned because the agenda is the same. Social and economic trends in India have been mirroring those in the West since neo-liberal economic policies were embraced by leading politicians here. The gap between rich and poor has widened, wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of families and billionaires, often courtesy of politicians who ‘facilitate’ the handing out of contracts and chunks of public money.  


The growing chasm in both India and the West between rich and poor has not been lost on policy makers who fear a backlash from ordinary folk. Such concerns were recently voiced at the World Economic Forum. It’s for good reason then that ‘homeland security’ has been beefed up in the US and drones are to be used to spy on its own citizens. It’s for good reason that the NSA and its British equivalent are paranoid about their populations’ political views, allegiances and activities. Mass surveillance of ordinary people is not about preventing terror; it’s about stopping ordinary folk seeking to stop a further shift in the balance of power towards elite interests.  



And it’s also for good reason that the Indian government is investing massively in military equipment and surveillance at a time when the rich are looting the economy and protests and uprisings are occurring across the nation in order to protect their lands, forests and communities from this assault.


India’s top ten billionaires account for over 12 percent of the country’s GDP, while 7,850 High Net Worth individuals account for US$935 billion, half of India’s GDP. As in the West, India’s military-corporate-state complex is working hand in glove to shove economic neo-liberalism and its impact down the throats of the people. This is the type of extremism and economic terror that is seldom discussed.     


In 2013, the Indian defence budget formed over ten percent of total government expenditure. It has been for many years the world’s largest market for imported arms. In 2000, India spent an estimated US$ 911 million on arms imports; by 2013, this had risen to US$4.6 billion. As both violent and peaceful opposition to government policies is on the rise among many of the nation's poorest people, who become conveniently tarnished by many mainstream commentators as 'the enemy within', India now has the world’s largest paramilitary force in place to 'deal' with them.(5).


Apart from ongoing violent conflicts in the ‘tribal belt’ and elsewhere, there is the continuing all pervasive structural violence of crony capitalism, corruption, ‘globalisation’ and neo-liberalism, which has, among other atrocities, resulted in up to 300,000 farmer suicides and India having over one-third of the poorest people in the world and the world’s largest number of children suffering from malnutrition (6).


There are people who want to do us harm. We need to be protected. There are extremists and wrong doers who want to bend the system for their own narrow agendas against the interests of the many. There always has been. Unfortunately, they have hijacked the machinery of state(s) and are increasingly to be found in positions of authority implementing surveillance and economic terrorism ‘for our own good’.


Notes





Mass Surveillance Called Illegal

Mass Surveillance Called Illegalby Stephen LendmanIn 2004, Congress established the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). It did so to advise executive branch officials on these issues.It was virtually moribund. It accomplished nothing u...

Beating Up on Russia

Beating Up on Russia

by Stephen Lendman

An earlier article called America a super-bully nation. It did so for good reason. It's no fit place to live in. Obama represents its dark side. He's waging war on humanity.

He's doing it belligerently, politically, economically and socially. He represents the worst of rogue leadership. So does bipartisan complicity.

Washington is a cesspool of lawlessness. It's worse than ever now. Lawmakers are ruthless. They're corrupt. They're self-serving. So are administration officials. 

Government by diktat is policy. So is state terror. Rule of law principles don't matter. They're routinely violated. Anything goes defines things. Democracy exists in name only.

America tolerates none at home or abroad. It demands all nations bow to its will. Outliers are targeted for regime change. 

Russia is a convenient punching bag. It's one of the few countries able to assert its independence. It's able to get away with it. At least so far.

Putin bashing is unrelenting. Instead of partnering for peace and stability, beating up on him renews Cold War tensions. 

Media scoundrels regurgitate what demands condemnation. They're complicit in hyperbolic/baseless accusations.

Mainstream misinformation calls him a strongman KGB thug. He's compared to Stalin, Hitler and Saddam. He's falsely accused of imperial ambitions. 

Putinphobes claim he loves poking America in the eye. They bash his peace initiatives. Ritualistic demonization continues. 

Doing so suggests reinventing the Evil Empire. It's back to the future. Where it's heading remains to be seen.

On January 17, the Daily Beast headlined "Congress Presses Obama on Russia sanctions."

Four senators called for doing so. They include John McCain (R. AZ), Bob Corker (R. TN), Robert Menendez (D. NY), and Ben Cardin (D. MD).

They want a provision of the so-called Magnitsky Act invoked. It lets lawmakers submit alleged human rights violator names for administration consideration.

Official accusations subject them to sanctions. They include visa bans and asset freezes. Complicit senators wrote John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, saying:

"On December 20, 2013, we received the Department of State’s first annual report." 

"Disappointingly and contrary to repeated assurances and expectations, this report indicates that no persons have been added to the Magnitsky list since April 2013 and does not provide adequate details on the administration's efforts to encourage other governments to impose similar targeted sanctions." 

"We look forward to your response to our request and hope you will also clarify when we can expect additional names to be added to the Magnitsky list as well as specific administration efforts to encourage other governments to adopt legislation similar to the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012."

They stopped short of targeting Putin directly. They named Alexander Bastrykin. He's former First Deputy Prosecutor General. He chaired the Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office.

They want alleged Russian organized crime boss Dmitry Klyeuv sanctioned. Maybe they have other names in mind. 

Maybe they'll include Putin. Maybe they and other congressional hardliners plan rupturing US-Russian relations entirely.

Maybe they plan on doing it. Maybe Obama won't stop them.

On January 19, The New York Times headlined "Congressional Leaders Suggest Earlier Snowden Link to Russia."

House and Senate Intelligence Committee chairs suggested it. Rep. Mike Rogers (R. MI) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D. CA) offered no evidence whatever.

Baseless accusations began last June. They followed Snowden's revelations. "(T)here has been much speculation that he was collaborating with a foreign spy service," said The Times.

An unnamed FBI official said he likely acted alone. An Agency investigation continues. 

"(D)ebate rages about whether he was a traitor, a whistle-blower or a violator of his oaths," said The Times.

Some in Washington say he's all three. Rogers accused him of knowingly or unknowingly being directed by a foreign intelligence agency. 

"I believe there's a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving hands, of an FSB (Federal Security Service) agent in Moscow," he said. "I don't think that's a coincidence."

He went "way beyond his technical capabilities," claimed Rogers. "He had help. He stole things that had nothing to do with privacy."

According to The Times:

"Intelligence officials say they have no doubt that Chinese and Russian intelligence have obtained whatever information Mr. Snowden was carrying with him digitally."

He insists he gave nothing to other governments. Rogers accused him of stealing 1.7 million intelligence files.

He claimed billions of dollars are needed to undo his security breaches. He provided no evidence to prove it.

Snowden said nothing he revealed compromises national security. He exposed lawless NSA spying. He provided a public service. He began a much needed debate.

According to Rogers, his arrival in Moscow wasn't "gee-whiz luck."

ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner advises Snowden. He called Rogers' accusation "false" and "silly." He "exaggerated national security claims."

His actions before seeking asylum were entirely inconsistent with foreign espionage. He sought asylum in 20 countries.

He was stuck in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport's transit area for weeks. It doesn't matter. House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R. TX) said he was "cultivated by a foreign power."

FBI as well as House and Senate intelligence committee investigations continue. They've been ongoing for months. They found nothing linking Snowden to foreign espionage.

It doesn't matter. Accusations continue. Russia is Washington's main target. US officials remain furious about Putin refusing America's extradition request.

Snowden's charged under the 1917 Espionage Act. It's a long ago outdated WW I relic. It has no current relevance.

It doesn't matter. Or that Snowden committed no crime. He acted under the provisions of the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act.

It protects federal employees. Reporting government wrongdoing provides a public service. Federal agencies are prohibited from retaliating against those who do so. 

Acting otherwise violates federal law. It spurns constitutional protections. Federal charges include:

  • "Theft of Government Property

  • Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information (and)

  • Willful Communication of Classified Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person."

At the time, a Government Accountability Project 
statement said:

Snowden "disclosed information about a secret program that he reasonably believed to be illegal, and his actions alone brought about the long-overdue national debate about the proper balance between privacy and civil liberties, on the one hand, and national security on the other."

He was Obama's 8th wrongfully charged victim under the Espionage Act. It's more than all previous administrations combined.

It's a damning indictment of US lawlessness. Beating up on Russia compounds it. Granting Snowden asylum had nothing to do with complicity. Nor refusing to extradite him.

Some in Washington want more than charges pressed. Snowden is public enemy number one.

An unnamed NSA analyst said:

"In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself. A lot of people share this sentiment."

An unnamed defense contractor official said Snowden's "name is cursed every day over here. Most everyone I talk to says he needs to be tried and hung. Forget the trial. Just hang him."

An unnamed Army intelligence officer said:

"I think if we had the chance, we would end it very quickly. Just casually walking on the streets of Moscow, coming back from buying his groceries."

"Going back to his flat and he is casually poked by a passerby. He thinks nothing of it at the time starts to feel a little woozy and thinks it’s a parasite from the local water. He goes home very innocently and next thing you know he dies in the shower."

An unnamed Pentagon official/former special forces officer said:

"I would love to put a bullet in his head. I do not take pleasure in taking another human life, having to do it in uniform, but he is single-handedly the greatest traitor in American history."

Others would nominate Pentagon commanders for that "distinction." It's a killing machine. It's responsible for millions of lost lives. It routinely commits other high crimes. 

So do many others infesting Washington. No nation causes more harm to more people globally than America. None are more out-of-control.

None are more sanctimonious. None more claim a divine right. None more abusively violate rule of law principles. 

None more outrageously call naked aggression humanitarian intervention. None more gravely threaten humanity. 

None have more apologists. None have more serial liars. None more disgracefully champion wrong over right.

America is in a class by itself. It's on a fast track toward full-blown tyranny. Some argue it already arrived. 

Thousands of innocent people languish in gulag hell. Police state laws provide cover. Torture is official policy. So is diktat power over constitutional law. 

High-level public and private wrongdoing is endemic. It's out-of-control. Permanent wars wage. America's only enemies are ones it creates.

Countries are ravaged one at a time or in multiples. No one is safe at home. Freedom is fast disappearing. Dissent is considered criminal. So is challenging government wrongdoing.

Exposing it is essential. Whistleblowers perform a public service. They deserve praise, not prosecution. Not in America. It's beautiful for its privileged alone. It's pure hell for most others. Change is nowhere in sight.

A Final Comment

On January 19, the Wall Street Journal headlined "Documents Show NSA Phone Program Provided 1,000 Terror Tips A Year to FBI."

Obama and NSA head General Keith Alexander lied claiming mass surveillance prevented 50 terrorist threats. 

Domestic and foreign spying discovered none. It foiled none. Innocent victims are wrongfully charged. They languish unjustly in America's gulag.

The Journal said "newly declassified (DNI) documents" claim NSA's phone program provides about three potential terror tips daily.

Whether true, exaggerated or false, their quality or reliability isn't explained. According to the Journal:

"A recent presidentially appointed review of the program found the NSA phone surveillance program had not been essential to preventing attacks." 

"The program's defenders argue it has been an important counterterrorism tool."

America's only terror threats are ones it invents. NSA spying has nothing to do with national security. 

It's for control, political advantage and espionage. It doesn't keep America safe. It's unconstitutional. It continues unrestrained. 

It does so more intrusively as technology improves. So-called Obama reforms assure business as usual.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Reactions to Obama’s NSA Address

Reactions to Obama's NSA Address

by Stephen Lendman

Hundreds of Stop Watching Us activists protested outside the Justice Department. They did so before he spoke.

They wore STOP SPYING glasses. They held signs saying "Stop Spying on Us." "Big Brother In Chief." "Obama = Tyranny." 

CODEPINK members were there. On Thursday, co-founder Medea Benjamin said:

"Though President Obama is scheduled to lay out reforms for the NSA spying program, we have little reason to believe they will be sufficient of implemented."

"The intelligence agencies in the US are totally out of control - from mass dragnet spying, to killing by remote control…" and it's time for transparency and accountability."

Bill of Rights Defense Committee executive director Shahid Buttar said:

"Despite pledging to stop Bush era abuses, President Obama has repeatedly chosen to leave the NSA free to monitor the American people en masse." 

"More than any other issue, his administration's complicity in mass surveillance will come to define its legacy."

It's certain unless he "chooses to finally support reforms like the USA FREEDOM Act, which would end bulk collection, and start a longer process needed to remove the officials caught lying to Congress, and fix the broken secret FISA court process."

Clearly, he has no intention of doing it. A same day article said the worst of business as usual will continue.

Skepticism and then some followed Obama's address. Center for Constitutional Rights President Emeritus Michael Ratner said:

"I didn't expect a lot, but I think we got almost nothing in terms of actually reining in what I call this national surveillance state."

"We have a right to privacy." Not according to Obama. "So you have this vast surveillance apparatus."

"And then you have a speech that basically lauds the people who are spies, talks about them really as, oh, they're your neighbor. They don't want to do anything wrong to you. They're only out to protect you."

His address was a shameless PR stunt. It was smoke and mirrors. It was long on rhetoric. It was short on substance. It delivered empty promises. 

It was filled "with a lot of BS about oversight (and) transparency," said Ratner. It was "completely meaningless."

Obama wants us to trust the government "which we've shown can't (be) trust(ed)."

Former Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson called Obama's address "disappointing, but not surprising."

"It is simply not realistic to expect the federal government to voluntarily relinquish powers it has granted itself, even when (they're) unconstitutional."

"And when the government has convinced itself that it is OK to sweep up the phone calls, texts and emails of hundreds of millions of Americans, it is no surprise that the President is not really proposing to change anything."

TechFreedom president Berin Szoka said Obama's "speech will probably be remembered most for the much-needed reforms it didn't announce."

Law Professor Jonathan Turley called Obama's address "a nothing burger served hot and with a sympathetic smile."

"It was much of the same. Another review board composed of government officials. Another promise for the Executive Branch to review itself."

"I was underwhelmed. It seemed like another attempt to reinvent privacy in a new surveillance friendly image."

Mass surveillance "will continued and the intelligence community will retain its authority with little outside independent limits."

Obama's reform is "basically 'trust us, we're your government' (including a reminder that NSA people are your neighbors)."

His speech was "more spin than substance." It was typical Obama.

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) said Obama's "proposed reforms (far) short of what is needed, particularly in terms of actionable solutions."

CDT director Greg Nojeim said:

"(W)e were disappointed in (Obama's) failure to offer a clear path forward on (vital) reforms."

His "proposed changes do not fully address the fundamental problem of bulk collection of personal metadata and fail to adequately protect the rights of people around the world."

Partnership for Civil Justice Fund co-founders Carl Messineo and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard said:

"Rather than dismantling the NSA's unconstitutional mass surveillance programs, or even substantially restraining them, President Obama today has issued his endorsement of them."

"The speech today was 'historic' in the worst sense. It represents a historic failure by a president to rein in mass government illegality and violations of fundamental rights."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said Obama's so-called reforms have "have a long way to go. Now it's up to Congress and courts" to act.

EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn said:

"Mass non-targeted surveillance violates international human rights law." 

"It is disproportionate because it sweeps up the communications and communications records of million of innocent people first and only sorts out second what is actually needed."

"(T)he NSA must be forbidden from engaging in mass, untargeted surveillance in the US or abroad." 

ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said:

Obama's "decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans' data remains highly troubling."

Glushko-Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic staff lawyer Tamir Israel said:

"Protecting foreigners' privacy rights" is essential. Recognizing it "in principle is unhelpful, as (Obama's) Directive leaves the US foreign intelligence apparatus' capacity to indiscriminately spy on all the activities of all foreigners all the time largely untouched."

Privacy International Legal Director Carly Nyst said:

"The reforms proposed by President Obama fundamentally ignore those who are spied on simply because they don't have an American passport." 

"We need genuine, effective changes that account for the way the world now communicates. Secret international intelligence-sharing arrangements must come to an end and human rights must be properly guaranteed to humans, not just American citizens."

Amnesty International executive director Steven Hawkins said:

"The big picture takeaway from today's speech is that the right of privacy remains under grave threat both here at home and around the world."

Access executive director Brett Solomon said:

"The human right to privacy is universal. The rights of persons outside of the United States are as fundamental as the rights of U.S. citizens." 

"However, the President’s defense of ongoing overseas intelligence collection programs ensures that the citizens of the world will continue to be subject to mass surveillance."

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called Obama's speech "embarrassing." He spoke "for almost 45 minutes and sa(id) almost nothing."

"He's been very reluctant to make any concrete reforms, and unfortunately, today we see very few" presented.

On January 17, London's Guardian headlined Obama NSA reforms receive mixed response in Europe and Brazil," saying:

"Europeans were largely underwhelmed by Barack Obama's speech on limited reform of US espionage practices, saying the measures did not go far enough to address concerns over American snooping on its European allies."

NSA supporters loved Obama's speech. House and Senate intelligence committee chairpersons Rep. Mike Rogers (R. MI) and Diane Feinstein (D. CA) issued a joint statement, saying:

"Today President Obama gave a strong speech in defense of the need to collect and use intelligence in order to protect the nation and to prevent terrorist attacks around the world." 

"We strongly agree with his comments in support and praise of the professionals in our intelligence community who do this work while upholding the civil liberties and privacy rights of all Americans."

Democrats largely supported Obama's speech. Republicans offered mixed reactions. Speaker John Boehner said:

"I look forward to learning more about how the new procedure for accessing data will not put Americans at greater risk." 

"And the House will review any legislative reforms proposed by the administration." It "will not erode the operational integrity of critical programs that have helped keep America safe."

Senator Rand Paul dissented strongly, saying:

"The Fourth Amendment requires an individualized warrant based on probable cause before the government can search phone records and e-mails." 

"I intend to continue the fight to restore Americans' rights through my Fourth Amendment Restoration Act and my legal challenge against the NSA. The American people should not expect the fox to guard the hen house."

The Financial Times called Obama "defiant on US surveillance activities."

Wall Street Journal editors said he delivered "a conflicted address…His new anti-terror proposals will do little to secure American privacy but they might make the country less safe."

New York Times editors support the worst of Obama's policies. They praised his speech. It "was in large part an admission that he had been wrong," they said.

He "announced important new restrictions on the collection of information about ordinary Americans…He called for greater oversight of the intelligence community..."

He "acknowledged that intrusive forms of technology posed a growing threat to civil liberties." At the same time, "his reforms (lacked) specifics..."

Calling "on Congress to create a panel of independent advocates (is) a huge improvement" over current practice.

Times editors largely defended the worst of lawless mass surveillance. They left rule of law principles unaddressed. They ignored America's fast track toward tyranny. They betrayed their readers in the process.

The Chicago Tribune defended Obama saying:

His "proposals outlined Friday are modest enough to give Americans some confidence that their privacy will be better protected without creating a greater risk to their security."

Los Angeles Times editors called Obama's "NSA reforms a significant step."

His "overarching theme...was that, with the best of intentions, the government over which (he) presides has gone too far in taking advantage of advanced technology."

He must "restore the proper balance between security and privacy."

Since mid-2013, the Washington Post discussed Snowden documents in detail. Numerous articles explained how NSA violates personal privacy.

Unless Obama acts to change current policy, intrusive "programs will carry on unabated," said WaPo.

Obama tried putting lipstick on a pig. Expect nothing substantive ahead to change. Washington is a cesspool of lawlessness. Things are worse than ever now.

Congress and federal courts are in lockstep with the worst  administration policies. Rule of law principles don't matter. 

Government by diktats threatens everyone. Freedom is fast disappearing. It's happening in plain sight. 

Obama did more to destroy it than any previous president. It takes a giant leap of faith to think he'll reverse things.

He waged war on democratic values. He did so from day one in office. He's a duplicitous con man. He broke every major promise made. 

He wants Americans to trust him. He gives chutzpah new meaning. He intends business as usual. 

Sustained in-his-face public outrage is the only chance to stop him. Inertia so far keeps it contained.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

NSA’s Fake War on Terror

NSA's Fake War on Terror

by Stephen Lendman

A New America Foundation report suggests it. More on this below.

NSA spying is longstanding. It's ongoing abroad and at home. It has nothing to do with national security. It's unrelated to uncovering terrorist plots. 

Homegrown ones virtually don't exist. Alleged ones are hatched. They're fake. Claiming dozens were foiled in time is false. 

They're Big Lies. Previous articles discussed dozens of innocent victims. They included:

  • a fake shoe bomber;

  • fake underwear bomber;

  • fake Times Square bomber;

  • an earlier one there;

  • fake shampoo bombers;

  • fake Al Qaeda woman planning fake mass casualty attacks on New York landmarks;

  • fake Oregon bomber;

  • fake armed forces recruiting station bomber;

  • fake synagogue bombers;

  • fake Chicago Sears Tower bombers;

  • fake FBI and other building bombers;

  • fake National Guard, Fort Dix and Quantico marine base attackers;

  • fake 9/11 bombers; 

  • fake Boston bombers; and 

  • numerous others. 

At issue is generating fear. Washington's fake war on terror needs public support. FBI operatives are involved. 

Orchestrated stings are used. Innocent victims are entrapped. Familiar schemes repeat. 9/11 is the Big Lie of our time. So is the fake war on terror. 

Innocent victims languish in America's gulag. NSA spying watches everyone. It's unconstitutional. It's for police state control. It's  ending privacy. It's destroying freedom. 

Global spying is espionage. It's for political and economic advantage. It's to be one up on foreign competitors. It's for information used advantageously in trade, political, and military relations.

The New America Foundation (NAF) is an establishment organization. Bilderberg Group/CIA-connected Google CEO Eric Schmidt chairs its board of directors. 

Right-wing ideologue Anne-Marie Slaughter is president and CEO. NAF study co-author Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst. His articles appear in establishment publications.

NAF's report is titled "Do NSA's Bulk Surveillance Programs Stop Terrorists?"

Two weeks after Edward Snowden's first revelations were published, Obama lied saying:

"We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but," abroad as well.

NSA director General Keith Alexander repeated the lie claiming:

"information gathered from these programs provided the US government with critical leads to help prevent over 50 potential terrorist events in more than 20 countries around the world."

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence chairman Mike Rogers (R. MI) said:

"Fifty-four times (NSA spying) stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks both here and in Europe - saving real lives."

False! According to NAF's analysis, government contentions "about the role that NSA 'bulk' surveillance of phone and email communications records has had in keeping the United States safe from terrorism shows that these claims are overblown and even misleading."

Mass NSA surveillance "had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism."

So-called evidence NSA claimed to uncover is easily gotten through conventional investigatory methods.

NAF analyzed 225 instances of alleged post-9/11 terrorism. Only two involved NSA meta-data. 

None were legitimate. Alleged homegrown terrorism is fabricated. So are others abroad. They're fake. NAF's report didn't explain. It said:

"The overall problem for US counterterrorism officials is not that they need vaster amounts of information from the bulk surveillance programs, but that they don’t sufficiently understand or widely share the information they already possess that was derived from conventional law enforcement and intelligence techniques."

On Friday, Obama will address so-called NSA reforms. Last month, his hand-picked advisory committee recommended minor changes. They're too inconsequential to matter.

They legitimized lawless spying. They ignored what federal Judge Richard Leon called unconstitutional. They're "almost Orwellian," he said.

Expect Obama to rubber-stamp continuity. He'll maintain business as usual. He'll stress balancing civil liberties with protecting national security. He'll lie claiming it.

He'll legitimize what Electronic Frontier Foundation's Kurt Opsahl called "heinous." 

He'll leave NSA's worst lawlessness untouched. He'll whitewash its crimes. He'll lie claiming otherwise.

Last November, the General Assembly addressed privacy rights in the digital age. Over 50 member states co-sponsored a resolution. It supports what's too precious to lose.

On December 18, the 193-member body unanimously approved a resolution titled: "The Right to privacy in the digital age."

It reaffirmed a fundamental human right. No one should be denied the right to privacy. No one should be lawlessly spied on. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called the General Assembly's resolution "one small step for privacy, one giant leap against surveillance."

Obama stacked his so-called Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies with longstanding Washington insiders.

A previous article discussed them. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) head James Clapper supervised. He's an acknowledged perjurer. He's complicit in NSA crimes.

On December 12, Obama's committee released its report. It's titled "Liberty and Security in a Changing World." Its handpicked members included:

  • former acting CIA head Michael Morell;

  • former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counterterrorism Richard Clarke;

  • former Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein; Francis Boyle calls him a neocon;

  • Democrat party connected/political advocacy group Center for American Progress member Peter Swire; and

  • University of Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone. 

Forty recommendations were made. They stopped well short of what's needed. They legitimized mass surveillance.

They ignored what's most important. Constitutional issues were unaddressed. Mass surveillance is illegal. It's unacceptable everywhere.

It's unrelated to alleged terrorism. It's police state ruthlessness writ large. It's Obama's war on freedom. 

He promised no warrantless spying. Straightaway he authorized it. His explanation fell short and then some. He said:

"When I came into this office, I made two commitments that are more important than any commitment I made: number one to keep the American people safe, and number two to uphold the Constitution."

Americans are less safe than ever. Freedom is disappearing in plain sight. Obama's done more to subvert constitutional law than any previous president. 

He made freedom a four-letter word. He claimed:

"You can't have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience."  

"We're going to have to make some choices as a society. I think that on balance, we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about."

He lied saying mass surveillance "help(s) prevent terrorist attacks." None whatever exist.

He lied again calling NSA spying "modest encroachments on privacy." It's sweeping, pervasive and lawless. It's unrelated to alleged terrorism.

Obama wants Americans to trust him. Why anyone would, they'll have to explain. He's a war criminal multiple times over. He's done more to destroy freedom than any of his predecessors.

He wants it eliminated altogether. He's a serial liar. Nothing he says has credibility. He lied claiming:

"When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That's not what this program is about. As was indicated, what the intelligence community is doing is looking at phone numbers and durations of calls."

"They are not looking at people's names and they are not looking at content." Permission to do so, he claimed, requires "go(ing) back to a federal judge just like (for) a criminal investigation."

"With respect to the Internet and emails, this does not apply to US citizens and it does not apply to people living in the United States."

False! Obama authorized sweeping domestic spying. He did so unconstitutionally. He institutionalized it. It's ongoing daily. It's warrantless. 

No one escapes NSA's spying eye. Everything communicated electronically is vulnerable. It's fair game.

NSA's mandate is "Get it all." Phone calls, emails, and other electronic communications are secretly collected. They're gotten without court authorization.

Probable cause isn't needed. Major telecom and Internet companies cooperate. They do so willingly.

All three branches of government are involved. They're complicit in sweeping lawlessness. Police states operate this way. America is by far the worst.

Expect nothing ahead to change. Expect worse with increasingly sophisticated NSA technology. 

Cyberwar on freedom is official US policy. NSA is Big Brother writ large. Privacy no longer exists. Obama's waging war on freedom. It's vanishing in plain sight.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Building a Global Movement to End All War

I've been involved in starting enough activist campaigns and coalitions to know when one has more potential than any other I've seen.  When hundreds of people and organizations are signing up on the website before you've announced it anywhere, and nine months before you plan to officially launch, and when a large percentage of the people signing on ask how they can donate funding, and when people from other countries volunteer to translate your declaration into other languages, and when committees form of volunteer women and men to work on a dozen different aspects of the planning -- and they actually get to work in a serious way, and when none of this is due to anything in the news or any statement from anyone in government or any contrast between one political party and another, then it's time to start thinking about what you're going to help build as a movement.

In this case I'm talking about a movement to end, not this war or that war, but the institution of war as an acceptable enterprise for the human species. The declaration of peace that people and groups are signing reads, in its entirety:

"I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe rather than protect us, that they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damage the natural environment, erode civil liberties, and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace."

This can be signed at http://WorldBeyondWar.org -- and we fully expect a million people to sign it in short order. There's a great weariness in resisting militarism piecemeal, in reforming or refining war, in banning a weapon or exposing a tactic. All of that is a necessary part of the work. This will be a campaign of numerous partial victories, and we'll be directing our efforts toward various strategic weaknesses in the military-industrial complex. But there is enthusiasm right now for stopping not just missile strikes into Syria, not just deadly sanctions and threats to Iran, but stopping also -- as part of these actions -- the thinking that assumes war must always be with us, the casual discussions of how "the next war" will be fought.

So, we've set up an online center for addressing the concerns of the anyone who thinks we might need to keep war around or who thinks war will stay around regardless of what we do. We address a number of myths, including the myths that war is inevitable, and war is necessary, and war is beneficial.  Then we provide a number of reasons for ending war, including these:

War is immoral.

War endangers us.

War threatens our environment.

War erodes our liberties.

War impoverishes us.

We need $2 trillion/year for other things.

We've also provided an explanation of how nonviolent tools are more effective in resisting tyranny and oppression and resolving conflicts and achieving security than violence is, in other words how we can be more secure without war and without preparations for war.

This movement to abolish war, will be a movement to create a better world in which we are better able to address real crises, such as those in the earth's natural environment, rather than manufactured crises, such as the urgent need to drop missiles on Syria -- which vanishes the moment we block that proposal.

Our plan is to announce on the International Day of Peace, September 21, 2014, a broader, wider, more mainstream and more international movement for peace and nonviolence than we've seen in a while, and a coalition capable of better uniting those doing good work toward that end in various corners of the globe and of our societies. 

But we've only just begun to work out our plans, and we'd like everyone's input. If you go to http://WorldBeyondWar.org and sign the declaration, it will ask you to indicate how you might like to be involved beyond that. You can check any of a number of ways or invent your own.  You can get involved in shaping our thinking and our plans and activities.  You can also enter a brief statement of your own.  Here are a few of the many entered already:

"I support this proposal and agree with this great and important initiative to abolish militarism and war.  I will continue to speak out for an end to the institution of militarism and war and for institutions built on international law and human rights and nonviolent conflict resolution." — Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate

"As a 29 year veteran of the US Army/Army Reserves, retiring as a Colonel and having served as a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and resigning in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war, I firmly believe war does not resolve political issues.  We must work diligently to force the governments of our nations to use diplomacy, not weapons." —Ann Wright

"Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it." — Noam Chomsky

"It is so inspiring to see a new group coming together not to focus on a particular war or weapons system, but on all war--everywhere. And it's great to have such beautifully crafted arguments about why war is not inevitable and how war contributes to so many other global ills. This coalition is worthy of Martin Luther King's call to end violence and instead put our energies and resources into 'life-affirming activities.' Bravo!" —Medea Benjamin

"We must work to end all war because: 1. In war there are no winners, only losers. 2. To thrive, humans need peace, which cannot be created by war. 3. We need all our ingenuity, creativity, technology and will to find a solution to runaway climate change. We cannot afford the military-industrial complex." — Sally Reynolds, Abingdon Peace Group

"The abolition of war is an idea whose time has come. We are at a transformative moment in history. Our Mother Earth is under siege from destructive global warming and industrialization. It is essential that we mobilize to save our planet. War is a cruel and untenable distraction, draining trillions of dollars and incalculable losses of intellectual firepower away from the essential work that needs to be done to create a livable future for humanity." — Alice Slater, Global Council of Abolition 2000

"War is a crime against humanity. When 90% of the casualties of war are civilians including children, its time to End ALL WARS! The world badly needs the resources to meet human and environmental needs. Wars are not making us more secure, but creating more enemies. There are more effective means of achieving security than war and killing other people's children. As former President Eisenhower said, 'I like to believe that the people of the world will want peace so much that governments will have to get out of the way and let them have it.' When the people of the world decide to end war, we can end it. At least 99% of the world's people do not benefit at all from all the wars our governments are waging. The time is NOW. Please join us." —David Hartsough

http://WorldBeyondWar.org

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Legislating Tyranny

Legislating Tyranny

by Stephen Lendman

Police state lawlessness reflects official US policy. Numerous examples explain. Congress opposes fundamental freedoms. 

It terrorizes most people. So do rogue US administrations. Washington is more ruthless today than ever. 

Waging war on humanity is much worse. It's ongoing globally. It's reflected in congressional legislation. 

Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF - September 2001) approved open-ended permanent wars. They rage out-of-control. They do so at home and abroad.

The FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) targets freedom. It prioritizes militarism and permanent wars. It authorizes over $600 billion for global belligerence, mass killing and destruction. 

It's a portion of what America spends overall. Around $1.5 trillion or more annually goes for domestic and foreign militarism. 

It's authorized when America's only enemies are ones it invents. It's on top of trillions of dollars of Pentagon waste, fraud and grand theft.

In December 2006, George Bush signed FY 2007 NDAA into law. Included were hidden sections 1076 and 333. Media scoundrels ignored them.

They amended the 1807 Insurrection Act and 1878 Posse Comitatus Act. They prohibited using federal and National Guard troops for law enforcement. 

They did so except as constitutionally allowed or expressly authorized by Congress in times of insurrection or other national emergency. 

Presidents can now claim emergency powers. They can declare martial law unilaterally. They can suspend the Constitution.

They can do it on alleged "national security" grounds. They can deploy federal and/or National Guard troops on US streets.

They can do it to suppress whatever is called disorder. It includes lawful peaceful protests. America's First Amendment permits them.

Congress and Bush acted unconstitutionally. They did numerous times throughout Bush's tenure. Things got worse under Obama.

On May 21, 2009, he addressed national security and civil liberties issues. 

He lied saying his "single most important responsibility as president is to keep the American people safe." He's gone all out to harm them. 

He falsely claimed Al Qaeda "is actively planning to attack us again (and) this threat will be with us for a long time..." 

Uncharged detainees pose no threat whatever to America. Obama maliciously claimed otherwise. He offered no evidence proving it. There is none. Innocent victims rot in prison on his say. Others are at risk.

He said those "who cannot be prosecuted" will be held indefinitely without trial. Indefinitely means potentially forever.

Doing so violates America's 8th Amendment. It prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. It doesn't matter. Core rule of law principles are null and void. Diktat power replaced them.

In December 2011, Obama signed FY 2012 NDAA into law. For the first time in US history, it codified indefinite military detentions. 

It authorized US presidents to order America's military to capture, arrest, and indefinitely detain anyone anywhere in the world. US citizens are as vulnerable as others.

Indefinite detentions remain the law of the land. FY 2013 NDAA reaffirmed them. So did FY 2014 NDAA. 

Detaining people based on uncorroborated suspicions or none at all remains official US policy.

It has strong bipartisan support. It violates core democratic freedoms. They're vanishing in plain sight. Militarized injustice replaced them.

Presidents have unchecked authority. No one anywhere is safe. Abuse of power replaced rule of law protections. Tyranny is official US policy.

Foreign nationals and US citizens are vulnerable. They can be arrested for any reason or none at all. They can be indefinitely detained in military prisons. 

In September 2012, Southern District of New York federal Judge Katherine B. Forrest blocked Obama's indefinite detention law. 

She called it "facially unconstitutional: it impermissibly impinges on guaranteed First Amendment rights and lacks sufficient definitional structure and protections to meet the requirements of due process."

"If, following issuance of this permanent injunctive relief, the government detains individuals under theories of 'substantially or directly supporting' associated forces, as set forth in" NDAA's section 1021, "and a contempt action is brought before this court, the government will bear a heavy burden indeed," she added.

Section 1021 states in part:

"Congress affirms that the authority of the president to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b) ) pending disposition under the law of war."

"Covered persons" are defined as:

Anyone "who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces."

In July 2013, the New York Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Forrest's ruling. A three-judge panel did so unanimously. 

They endorsed uncharged, untried indefinite detentions. Imprisoning US citizens and foreign nationals based on hearsay or nothing at all remains the law of the land.

FY 2014 NDAA reaffirmed what demands prohibiting. On December 26, Obama signed it into law. It went further than earlier. Enhancement of Capacity of the United States Government to Analyze Captured Records is authorized.

Doing so establishes new intelligence collecting. It enhances federal power. Indefinite surveillance is authorized.

The defense secretary is empowered to "establish a center to be known as the 'Conflict Records Research Center.' "

It's tasked with compiling "digital research database (information) including translations, and to facilitate research and analysis of records captured from countries, organizations, and individuals, now or once hostile to the United States."

It'll conduct research and analysis to "increase the understanding of factors related to international relations, counterterrorism, and conventional and unconventional warfare, and ultimately enhance national security."

The defense secretary is authorized to create an information exchange cooperatively with the director of national intelligence (DNI).

Doing so requires involvement of all 16 US intelligence agencies, as well as intelligence related operations. 

Focus is on so-called "captured records." They're defined as "a document, audio file, video file, or other material captured during combat operations from countries, organizations, or individuals, now or once hostile to the United States."

They potentially include telecommunications, emails, text messages, web sites visited, medical history, financial records, and related information.

Ordinary information can be maliciously manipulated. It can be held against us. Potentially it becomes incriminating evidence. 

It does if prosecutors say so. They're experts at creating indictments out of whole cloth. Truth or fiction doesn't matter.

Freedom is too precious to lose. More than ever it hangs by a thread. Constitutional protections don't help.

Alleged hostility is undefined. It's whatever Washington so designates. It includes nations, organizations and individuals. Anyone for any reason or none at all becomes a potential hostile entity.

FY 2014 NDAA sustains America's war on terror. It continues waging war on humanity. It jeopardizes everyone everywhere. It gives presidents more diktat power.

It further compromises fundamental freedoms. It makes everyone potential enemies. It pronounces guilt by accusation. It turns planet earth into a battleground. It does so unconstitutionally.

On January 29, 1788, James Madison commented in The Federalist No. 46 (The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared).

He said the way to combat federal overreach is by refusing "to cooperate with officers of the Union."

Resisting tyranny is a longstanding US tradition. Jefferson called doing so "obedience to God."

John Locke said when governments fail people their "trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the Power (shall) devolve into the hands of those that gave it…"

America's Declaration of Independence affirmed abolishing governments abusing their just powers derived from the consent of the governed.

Civil disobedience more than ever is essential. Henry David Thoreau affirmed "the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.

America today is more unjust than ever in modern times. Arguably it Resistance is a national imperative. The alternative is full-blown tyranny. It's what no one should accept anywhere anytime.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour


http://www.dailycensored.com/legislating-tyranny/

ACLU v. Clapper Ruling

ACLU v. Clapper Ruling

by Stephen Lendman

A previous article said the following:

On June 11, the ACLU filed suit. It challenged "the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's mass collection of Americans' phone records."

It argued that doing so violates Fourth and First Amendment rights, saying: 

"Because the NSA's aggregation of metadata constitutes an invasion of privacy and an unreasonable search, it is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment." 

"The call-tracking program also violates the First Amendment, because it vacuums up sensitive information about associational and expressive activity."

NSA claims authorization under the Patriot Act's Section 215. It's known as the "business records" provision. 

It permits collecting "any tangible thing...relevant" to alleged foreign intelligence or terrorism related investigations. It way oversteps. It's unconstitutional. 

It permits warrantless searches without probable cause. It violates fundamental First Amendment rights. It does so by mandating secrecy. 

It prohibits targeted subjects from telling others what's happening to them. It compromises free expression, assembly and association. 

It does so by authorizing the FBI to investigate anyone based on what they say, write, or do with regard to groups they belong to or associate with.

It violates Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections by not telling targeted subjects their privacy was compromised. It subverts fundamental freedoms for contrived, exaggerated, or nonexistent security reasons.

"Whatever Section 215's 'relevance' requirement might allow, it does not permit the government to cast a seven-year dragnet sweeping up every phone call made or received by Americans," said ACLU.

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorized surveillance relating to "foreign intelligence information" between "foreign powers" and "agents of foreign powers." 

It restricts spying on US citizens and residents to those engaged in espionage in America and territory under US control. 

No longer. Today anything goes. America is a total surveillance society. Obama officials claim no authority can challenge them.
Governing this way is called tyranny.

On December 16, Federal District Court of the District of Columbia Judge Richard Leon ruled against NSA spying.

He called it "almost Orwellian" and much more, saying:

"The threshold issue is whether plaintiffs have a reasonable expectation of privacy that is violated when the Government indiscriminately collects their telephone metadata along with the metadata of hundreds of millions of other citizens without any particularized suspicion of wrongdoing, retains all of that metadata for five years, and then queries, analyzes, and investigates that data without prior judicial approval of the investigative targets."

"I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary' invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval." 

"Surely, such a program infringes on 'that degree of privacy' that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment." 

It's core constitutional law. It prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Mass NSA surveillance does it lawlessly.

It has nothing to do with national security. Claims otherwise ring hollow. America spies for control. It does so for economic advantage. Espionage is longstanding policy.

Corporate secrets are stolen. So are political ones. Top foreign government and business officials are spied on. Virtually everyone is fair game.

Domestic spying is longstanding. It's unconstitutional. It doesn't matter. Two federal judges disagreed. If ACLU appeals to the Supreme Court, it'll likely lose.

It's stacked with right-wing extremists. Five current justices are Federalist Society members: Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas.

Elena Kagan is ideologically sympathetic. As dean of Harvard Law School, she hired Bush's outgoing Office of Legal Counsel director, Jack Goldsmith. Francis Boyle called him a war criminal.

Kagan bragged about putting him on staff. Boyle quoted her saying she "love(s) the Federalist Society." It's ideologically over-the-top. It's extremely right-wing.

With these type justices on America's High Court, ordinary people haven't a chance. Nor judicial fairness.

In September 2012, Congress overwhelmingly passed the 2012 FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act. 

Obama signed it into law. He called doing so a national security priority. He lied. It reflects police state lawlessness. It extends the 2008 FISA Amendments Act (FAA). It's for another five years.

It authorizes warrantless spying. It does so without naming names or probable cause. It violates Fourth Amendment protections. 

Overseas phone calls, emails, and other communications of US citizens and permanent residents may be monitored without authorization. Perhaps domestic ones covertly. 

Probable cause isn't needed. Anything goes is policy. Constitutional protections don't matter. Police states operate this way.

ACLU lawyers filed suit. It passed through lower courts to the Supremes. In October 2012, High Court justices heard oral arguments. Clapper v. Amnesty International challenged the constitutionality of warrantless spying.

On February 26, the Supreme Court ruled. It dismissed ACLU's case. It violated constitutional protections doing so. 

It ruled against lawyers, journalists, human rights groups, and others challenging protections too important to lose.

It said they couldn't prove surveillance was "certainly impending." They didn't have required standing to sue, they claimed. 

Saying so was absurd on its face. It's a standard never before used. Imposing it denies the legitimate right to sue. Doing so reflects police state justice.

It wasn't the first time fundamental rights were denied. It won't be the last. Warrantless electronic spying is intrusive. It's institutionalized.

Congress approves. So does Obama. America's Supremes violated the public trust. They've done it many times before. They'll do it again. Lawless NSA spying is safe in their hands.

In ACLU v. Clapper, Judge William Pauley heard arguments. ACLU called for the program to be ended. Ahead of the hearing, its legal director, Jameel Jaffer, said:

"This vast dragnet is said to be authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, but nothing in the text or legislative history of that provision remotely suggests that Congress intended to empower the government to collect information on a daily basis, indefinitely, about every American’s phone calls."

"This kind of dragnet surveillance is precisely what the fourth amendment was meant to prohibit."

"The constitution does not permit the NSA to place hundreds of millions of innocent people under permanent surveillance because of the possibility that information about some tiny subset of them will become useful to an investigation in the future."

ACLU argued against blanket seizure of its phone records. Doing so violates its core constitutional rights. It compromises its ability to work with journalists, advocacy groups, whistleblowers and others.

It claimed standing because NSA has access to its phone records. It didn't matter. Judge Pauley rejected its challenge. He called mass NSA surveillance legal.

He called it a valuable tool against terrorism. He said it "only works because if collects everything." He either lied or doesn't understand what's going on.

He claimed meta-data collection "represents the government's counter-punch" against Al Qaeda's terror network.

"The collection is broad, but the scope of counterterrorism investigations is unprecedented," he said.

Mass phone data collection "significantly increases the NSA's capability to detect the faintest patterns left behind by individuals affiliated with foreign terrorist organizations." 

"Armed with all the metadata, NSA can draw connections it might otherwise never be able to find."

Without them, he claimed, "the civil liberties of every citizen" would be "imperil(ed)." 

"The question for this court is whether the government's bulk telephony metadata program is lawful. This court finds it is." 

"But the question of whether that program should be conducted is for the other two coordinate branches of government to decide."

Judge Pauley nonsensically said mass telecommunications surveillance could have perhaps prevented 9/11.

"The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world," he claimed.

"It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program - a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data."

It bears repeating. NSA mass surveillance has nothing to do with national security. Pauley knows nothing about spying. His ruling reads like an NSA press handout. His legal judgment leaves much to be desired. 

Most other federal judges are no better. Police state lawlessness remains in good hands. Judge Leon is an exception who proves the rule. 

He's an unheard voice in the wilderness. We need lots more to make a difference. We need them throughout the judiciary. 

We need them on the highest court in the land. We need them in all government branches. We need what we don't have.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour


http://www.dailycensored.com/aclu-v-clapper-ruling/

Talk Nation Radio: Lisa Simeone on How the TSA Trains Us in Complete Obedience

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-lisa-simeone Listen to this show and you may not think of air travel the same way again. Lisa Simeone runs the civil liberties watchdog site TSA News Blog, where she and her writers keep track of...

Reportage Prompting Establishment of Church Committee

Seymour Hersh-IPS.jpgBy James F. Tracy

On December 22, 1974 the New York Times carried on its front page “Huge CIA Operation Reported in US Against Antiwar Forces, Other Dissidents in Nixon Years,” by Seymour Hersh. The piece chronicled the rampant abuses and crimes committed by the Central Intelligence Agency against the American citizenry. “An extensive investigation by the New York Times,” Hersh wrote, “has established that intelligence files on at least 10,000 American citizens were maintained by a special unit of the C.I.A. that was reporting directly to [then Director] Richard Helms.”

Later deemed “the son of Watergate,” by the Times, and at least as significant as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Washington Post reportage that aided in bringing down the Nixon administration, Hersh pressed the issue of CIA overreach with several followup articles reporting on outrage and calls for explanation from Capitol Hill.[1]

The series of stories resulted in concerted Congressional investigation of the federal intelligence community through establishment of the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, otherwise known as the “Church Committee,” overseen by Idaho Senator Frank Church. A central finding was that the CIA had violated its charter by interceding in the Constitutionally-protected private affairs of Americans–something now routinely done by an alphabet soup of agencies, all under the guise of “fighting terrorism.”

The hearings also extended to crimes committed by domestic government agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service. In addition to the CIA’s plots to assassinate leaders abroad while disrupting the lawful activities of citizens at home, “the IRS had maintained for nearly four years a unit–the Special Services Staff–whose purpose was to investigate political activists,” political scientist Loch K. Johnson observes.

The SSS compiled a secret “watch list” of some eleven thousand individuals and groups classified as “extremist” or “radical.” Among the names of the list were columnist Joseph Alsop; singer and antiwar activist Joan Baez; writers Jimmy Breslin and Norman Mailer; rock star James Brown; performer Sammy Davis Jr.; former United States Senator James Goodell (Republican, New York) and Ernest Gruening (Democrat, Alaska); civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Coretta King; actress Shirley M[a]cLaine; the American Library Association; the American Civil Liberties Union; the NAACP; Rolling Stone and Playboy magazines; and hundreds of others.[2]

The revelations emerging from this important era of governmental reform served to temper the Agency’s behavior, albeit briefly, yet they could scarcely limit the continued growth of the national security state, particularly in the longer term. Nor can the episode be solely attributable to a period where elite journalists and news outlets were any less sycophantic to establishment power than they are today. As historian Kathryn Omlstead notes, media barons were concerned that reportage along the lines of Woodward, Bernstein, or Hersh, would “damage the legitimacy and credibility of their industry.” Further, “many elite reporters did not seem to want to believe that Hersh’s reporting was accurate,” instead “preferr[ing] to trust the ‘honorable men’ of the CIA rather than their colleagues.”[3]

The episode is nevertheless redolent of more recent actions by journalists such as Glenn Greenwald and intelligence whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, both of whom have found it necessary to leave their countries for fear of reprisals by their own government. Indeed, one may ask themselves whether the New York Times and its prestigious journalistic peers would deem such investigative reportage on similar government crimes and wrongdoing “fit to print,” especially in light of the paper’s complicity in uncritically “selling” 9/11, the Iraq War, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon bombings to the American people. Moreover, would any US congressional leaders today see fit to act so forcefully on such malfeasance?

Notes

[1] Kathryn Olmstead, “‘An American Conspiracy,’ The Post-Watergate Press and the CIA,” Journalism History 19 (Summer 1993): 51-58.

[2] Loch K. Johnson, A Season of Inquiry: The Senate Intelligence Investigation, Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1985.

[3] Olmstead, “‘An American Conspiracy.’” See also Olmstead, Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

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War Is Over, if you want it

By Nathan Schneider, http://wagingnonviolence.org/2013/12/war-want/

Even in his proposal for “perpetual peace,” Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant lamented that war “seems inborn in human nature.” Yet he believed it possible to overcome and outlined a strategy for doing so. Just as ambitious today is veteran activist and writer David Swanson, who is part of a group that is beginning to build a coalition broad and strong enough to bring an end to the practice of war as an instrument of ordinary policy. His most recent book, to that point, is War No More: The Case for Abolition. And while he recognizes that challenge of ending war is a daunting one, he argues that it may be less difficult than many of us would think.

What exactly is it that you’re proposing, in a sentence?

We’re organizing groups in the United States and around the world to make a re-energized — and we hope broader and more diverse — push toward the total abolition of the institution of war.

What would a world that had abolished war actually look like?

There would be $2 trillion, roughly $1 trillion of it from the United States, invested in something other than war every year. You can imagine how that might transform health and well-being, sustainable energy, education, housing, or all of the above, and many other things. That redirection of resources would also be likely to spread wealth among more people, as compared to the concentration of wealth facilitated by war spending. Very likely many more lives would be saved by redirected funds than would be spared from dying in wars. But that benefit is not to be minimized. War has become a very deadly form of one-sided slaughter, murdering men, women, and children by the hundreds of thousands. That would end if war ended. One of the greatest sources of environmental destruction would end if war ended — as well as that tremendous waste of resources needed for environmental protection.

Gone too would be the justification for secrecy in government. Civil liberties could no longer be stripped away in the name of fighting an enemy. With enemies gone, international cooperation would flourish. With imperialism gone, it would be possible for the international community to aid abused minorities around the world and assist in natural (so-called) disasters in a way that cannot happen now. Of course, conflicts would remain, but they would be taken to courts, to arbitrators and to the correcting tools of nonviolent action. And of course there are many steps along the way to this final war-free vision, including the step of making militaries actually defensive, rather than offensive — a step that would reduce the U.S. military by at least 90 percent. A world beyond war would benefit from the disappearance of a hugely influential example that teaches groups and individuals the utility of violence.

What makes you think that now is a time when this can happen? It has been tried before, right?

I recently read a proposal to abolish war written in 1992. The authors believed that that was an opportune moment. I’m sure they honestly believed it was. And I’m sure that it, in fact, was — even if there’s a tendency to find such a remark comical in retrospect. Strategic-minded people want to know why 2013 is such a moment, and they can be pointed toward many indicators: opinion polls, the rejection of the proposed missile attack on Syria, increased awareness of war propaganda, the diminishment of drone attacks, the ever-so-slight reduction in military spending, the possibility of peace in Colombia, the growing success of nonviolent conflict resolution, the growing and improving use of nonviolent movements for change, the existentially urgent need for a shifting of resources from destroying the planet to protecting it, the economic need to stop wasting trillions of dollars, the arrival of technologies that allow for instant international collaboration among war resisters. But just as many indicators were available in 1992, albeit different ones, and nobody has developed the means for quantifying such things.

Here’s the key question, I think: If all of those predecessors to Rosa Parks — the many heroes who resisted segregated busing over many decades — hadn’t acted, would Rosa Parks have ever been Rosa Parks? If not, then isn’t the strategic time for a moral and necessary campaign always right now?

What’s the basic strategy?

There are many angles for approaching this task, including education, communications, counter-recruitment, lawsuits, cultural exchange, legislation, treaties, campaigns to resist particular wars or tactics or weapons, and efforts to organize economic interests in support of transition to peaceful industries. Our goal is to strengthen and expand existing efforts by building a broad coalition, influencing the culture, shaping people’s understanding. We need to convincingly make the case that war can be ended, should be ended, is not going to end on its own, and we can make it happen. Our perspective will then change.

We may not oppose wars largely because of the damage done to the aggressor if we understand war as an evil imposed on the victim. We may not struggle against Pentagon waste so much as against Pentagon efficiency. We may not work to distinguish good from bad drone murders if eliminating drones is part of eliminating warfare. We may find that rejecting missiles into Syria was just a start. We may organize a massive program of conversion to peaceful jobs if we come to understand that war makes us less safe rather than protecting us. If this sounds like a vague strategy, that it in part because this campaign is just forming, groups that have not joined yet will have a major say in shaping it. We’re still settling on a name, and drafting a website. You’re getting a preview, in other words, of an idea whose time has almost come.

Who is involved so far? Who do you think needs to be involved?

Several great organizations are involved, and many terrific individuals. More are being added to our preliminary discussions almost every day. I don’t want to announce who is and isn’t involved yet, as that would seem to give more importance to those earliest on board. We’re really just starting to form what needs to be a global campaign, even while focusing on warmaking where it is found, recognizing that the United States is the world’s leading warmaker.

Involved must be the nations victimized, the nations pressured, the nations complicit, the nations making their own warfare on smaller scales, the nations abused by the presence of U.S. troops permanently stationed there. Involved must be environmentalists who overcome their patriotism and militarism in order to take on our largest consumer of oil, greatest creator of superfund sites, and greatest example of an energy-and-economy regime based on assault and exploitation. Involved must be civil libertarians who step back from treating the symptoms of torture and assassination to face the cause of military spending. Involved must be advocates of open government, of education and of all useful causes neglected by our pursuit of warmaking. Involved must be producers of trains, solar panels, schools and everything that stands to benefit from a transition to a law-abiding, cooperative approach to the world.

Do you expect to see an end to war in your lifetime?

Assuming that I live a long life, we will need to see war largely ended or there will be a huge risk of catastrophic wars, of nuclear apocalypse, and of environmental apocalypse aggravated by investment in war. So we’d darn well better see it end. And of course we can. When Congress was overwhelmed with opposition to dropping missiles on Syria, that was less than 1 percent of us overwhelming them. Imagine if 3 or 4 percent of us got seriously engaged in ending the greatest and most inexcusable evil ever devised. The task is not nearly as great as we imagine, and understanding that properly is not a path to naivety but to success.

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The Debt Matrix: Consumption and Modern-Day Slavery

“Home life ceases to be free and beautiful as soon as it is founded on borrowing and debt”

Henrik Ibsen

Timothy Alexander Guzman, Silent Crow News – According to Oxford Dictionary the term Slave is defined as a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them” as in the case of the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries where slavery was a legalized institution.  Oxford dictionary also defines slavery as “a person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation” as in today’s world of a person working for a company or corporation where their efforts are usually under appreciated.  It also describes a slave as “a person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something” or “a device, or part of one, directly controlled by another”.  Debt can be an instrument used to control an individual or a nation for that matter.  In this case, an individual is dependent upon “Credit” to buy products.  Then the credit becomes a debt that has to be repaid.  It becomes a “control mechanism” as the creditor becomes the “Slave Owner” and the debtor becomes the “Slave”.  What is the point?   In today’s world of unlimited credit, consumers become modern-day slaves to their creditors.  What is the difference between slavery in 18th century America with imported African slaves and the America of 2013?  There is no difference besides the physical abuse of the African slaves by their owners.  In America, consumers suffer psychological abuse by its creditors.  As long as an individual remains in debt bondage, that person will have to repay that debt until the day that person literally dies in most cases.

Black Friday is the day that starts the most important holiday for big name retailers and Wall Street speculators and that is Christmas.  It is the shopping season that investors, economists and corporations pay close attention to as they measure consumer confidence and the profits they reap from consumer spending.  Major retailers and corporations such as Wal-Mart expect to make profits.  Wall Street expects consumers to spend on Black Friday through the Christmas holidays following the Federal Reserve’s continued policies of Quantitative Easing (QE).  Economists across the spectrum predict that the new Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will continue to buy US bonds indefinitely continuing Ben Bernanke’s current policies.  All the while consumers continue to accumulate debt.  Black Friday was marked with chaos followed by violence as mobs of consumers’ raided shopping centers and malls for discounts and sales on numerous products including flat screen televisions, toys, clothing and other goods they most likely don’t need.  Regardless of the economic situation, consumers will continue to buy.  Granted, Christmas is about giving your loved ones gifts in a traditional sense.  It is also about spending time with the family.  It is supposed to be a joyous holiday for families, but the American population is mired in debt ranging from credit cards, mortgages, student loans and auto loans.  Earlier this month Bloomberg reported that U.S. households increased their debt levels by continuing to borrow at unprecedented levels:

Consumer indebtedness rose $127 billion to $11.28 trillion, the biggest increase since the first quarter of 2008, according to a quarterly report on household debt and credit released today by the Fed district bank. Mortgage balances climbed $56 billion, student loans increased $33 billion, auto loans were up $31 billion and credit-card debt rose by $4 billion.

“We observed an increase of household balances across essentially all types of debt,” Donghoon Lee, senior research economist at the New York Fed, said in a statement. “With non-housing debt consistently increasing and the factors pushing down mortgage balances waning, it appears that households have crossed a turning point in the deleveraging cycle.”

Consumerism has taking hold in America.  The population continues to stampede at malls and in some cases injuring and even killing individuals.  In 2008, a Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death in Long Island, New York by a stampede of hungry consumers looking for bargains.  There were also several people injured during the incident.  This Black Friday proved to be more of the same as shoppers filled shopping malls.  Some malls experienced violent crowds pushing and fighting with each other over items that were on sale.  It is absolutely mind boggling to see average people become violent over products sold at major retail stores.  Morality is in decline in America.

Regardless of debt the American public faces, it seems that shopping is the only thing that matters.  As debt increases it becomes harder for them to repay.  Can the American people ever awaken from their dystopian nightmare of mass consumption of products they don’t need?  They are accumulating large amounts of debt thanks to the Federal Reserve Bank’s printing of unlimited cheap money with incredibly zero to low interest rates.  Although, many do buy their basic necessities such as food and clothing, buying the latest products that includes video games and other computer gadgets are turning consumers into life-long debt slaves that will continue to pay their credit card companies with “interest” until the debt is paid.  That can take a long period of time since interest rates are tied to credit cards and other revolving loan payments.  According to the Federal Reserve Bank (who continues endless money printing) and other government institutions, the average US household owes between $7,000 and $15,112 on credit cards.  The average mortgage debt is at $146,215 and student loans’ reaching the $1 trillion mark is at $31,240.  The total amount of debt the United States owes to its creditors namely China is at $17 Trillion and steadily increasing as the Federal Reserve Bank continues to buy its own US bonds.

Debt Slavery is the new modern-day slavery as millions continue to buy products on credit becoming perpetual servants of mega corporations and international banks.  How?  As you buy with credit cards or loans, the “interest rates” attached to the purchases made is the bond that ties you and the corporate interests or bankers for eternity.  The debt people get into is difficult to escape as interest rates accumulate over time it becomes extremely difficult to repay since it keeps adding up.  In the 2009 film called ‘The International’ with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts which was actually inspired by the BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) scandal in real life had an interesting scene involving an Italian politician named Umberto Calvini, who is a weapons manufacturer who explains to Eleanor Whitman (Watts) and Louis Salinger (Owens) that IBBC was interested in buying a missile guiding system that his factory produces then later assassinated.  He explained that the true value was not conflicts but the debt it produces:

Calvini: “No, this is not about making profit from weapon sales.  It’s about control.”

Eleanor: “Control the flow of weapons, control the conflict?”

Calvini: “No. No No. The IBBC is a bank. Their objective isn’t to control the conflict, it’s to control the debt that the conflict produces. You see, the real value of a conflict – the true value – is in the debt that it creates. You control the debt, you control everything.  You find this upsetting, yes?  But this is the very essence of the banking industry, to make us all, whether we be nations or individuals, slaves to debt.”

It was an interesting scene coming out of Hollywood, which by every standard is a propaganda machine.  Debt is serious business especially for banks and corporations.  .

With all of the problems the American public faces with the prospect of a future war on Iran will impact the world’s economy.  With 100 million people out of work in the United States and a reduction in food stamps and inflation hitting food prices, there is much concern.  Celebrities’ personal lives still dominate headlines in the main stream media.  The ‘War on Terror’ has taken away civil liberties and the ‘War on Drugs’ has increased the prison population.  High-crime rates in major cities remain problematic. With the rollout of 7000 drones in 2015, endless wars, a looming dollar collapse, and endless Pharmaceutical commercials that keep people heavily drugged are serious problems for the American public.  Yet, shopping on Black Friday resulting in violence and chaos among uneasy crowds seems to be the norm.

The media and corporate advertisements have turned the American population into a “Slave” state of mind. Many people in the United States are accumulating debt at levels never seen in its 237 years of its existence.  It is a lesson to the world in what NOT to do.  An economy that is consumer based with credit is a disaster in the making because that debt only becomes unmanageable in the long run, especially when the people have no means to repay its debt obligations.  An economy based on consumerism leads to moral decay.  When people become ingrained in consumption disregarding the debt they inherit, they become immune to the realities around them.  When the situation becomes intense with a coming dollar collapse and a possible war in the Middle East, reality will sink in.  Then when the necessities such as food and shelter become scarce the people will begin to panic and lose control over their own lives.  Who knows what people in America will be capable of, but then again as you saw what happened on Black Friday, it is a reminder of how people react when products they don’t really need are on sale.  Imagine how they will react in times of economic despair.

ACLU v. Clapper

ACLU v. Clapper

by Stephen Lendman 

On June 5, London's Guardian headlined "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily."


Numerous reports followed based on information Edward Snowden revealed. He connected important dots for millions.

Institutionalized spying on Americans isn't new. It's longstanding. Little was revealed publicly. Too few people knew. It's far more invasive than most suspect. Core constitutional rights are violated.

On June 11, the ACLU filed suit. It challenged "the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's mass collection of Americans' phone records."

It argued that doing so violates Fourth and First Amendment rights, saying: 

"Because the NSA's aggregation of metadata constitutes an invasion of privacy and an unreasonable search, it is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment." 

"The call-tracking program also violates the First Amendment, because it vacuums up sensitive information about associational and expressive activity."

NSA claims authorization under the Patriot Act's Section 215. It's known as the "business records" provision. 

It permits collecting "any tangible thing...relevant" to alleged foreign intelligence or terrorism related investigations. It way oversteps. It's unconstitutional. 

It permits warrantless searches without probable cause. It violates fundamental First Amendment rights. It does so by mandating secrecy. 

It prohibits targeted subjects from telling others what's happening to them. It compromises free expression, assembly and association. 

It does so by authorizing the FBI to investigate anyone based on what they say, write, or do with regard to groups they belong to or associate with.

It violates Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections by not telling targeted subjects their privacy was compromised. It subverts fundamental freedoms for contrived, exaggerated, or nonexistent security reasons.

"Whatever Section 215's 'relevance' requirement might allow, it does not permit the government to cast a seven-year dragnet sweeping up every phone call made or received by Americans," said ACLU.

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorized surveillance relating to "foreign intelligence information" between "foreign powers" and "agents of foreign powers." 

It restricts spying on US citizens and residents to those engaged in espionage in America and territory under US control. 

No longer. Today anything goes. America is a total surveillance society. Obama officials claim no authority can challenge them.  Governing this way is called tyranny.

The 2008 FISA Amendments Act authorized warrantless spying. The 2012 FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act renewed doing so for another five years.

Phone calls, emails, and other communications are monitored secretly without court authorization. 

Probable cause isn't needed. So-called "foreign intelligence information" sought means virtually anything. Vague language is all-embracing.

Hundreds of millions of Americans are targeted. Major telecom and Internet companies cooperate. They do so willingly. They were granted retroactive immunity.

All three branches of government are involved. They're complicit in sweeping lawlessness. Congressional leaders are regularly briefly. Bipartisan ones are fully on board. So are US courts. 

In 2008, the ACLU challenged the FISA Amendment's Act constitutionality. It did so on behalf of a broad coalition of human rights groups, attorneys, labor, legal and media organizations.

Their work requires them to communicate with people worldwide. In 2009, a federal judge dismissed the suit. It did so claiming ACLU's clients couldn't prove their communications were being monitored.

In 2011, an appeals court reversed the ruling. The Obama administration appealed to the Supreme Court. In October 2012, it heard oral arguments.

On February 26, 2013, it ruled 5 - 4 against ACLU. It held its plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge warrantless spying.

On November 22, London's Guardian headlined "NSA bulk data collection violates constitutional rights, ACLU argues."

It did so in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Judge William Pauley heard arguments. ACLU called for the program to be ended. Ahead of the hearing, its legal director, Jameel Jaffer, said:

"This vast dragnet is said to be authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, but nothing in the text or legislative history of that provision remotely suggests that Congress intended to empower the government to collect information on a daily basis, indefinitely, about every American’s phone calls."

"This kind of dragnet surveillance is precisely what the fourth amendment was meant to prohibit."

"The constitution does not permit the NSA to place hundreds of millions of innocent people under permanent surveillance because of the possibility that information about some tiny subset of them will become useful to an investigation in the future."

ACLU argued that blanket seizure of its phone records violates its constitutional rights. Doing so compromises its ability to work with journalists, advocacy groups, whistleblowers and others.

It argued it has standing because Washington has access to its phone records. Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery claimed otherwise.

ACLU has no standing, he said, because it can't prove NSA surveillance harmed its activities, members or clients.

"The program is carefully calibrated for the purpose of" counterterrorism, he claimed. He lied saying it's "not the kind of indiscriminate use of the data that the plaintiffs suggest."

He said congressional intelligence committees were fully briefed. Pauley was skeptical. He cited "veteran congressman" Representative James Sensenbrenner (R. WI).

He submitted an amicus brief. It said "he had no idea of what was happening" when he voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act's Section 215.

Delery argued that sweeping NSA surveillance is constitutional. Not according to ACLU lawyer Alex Abdo. Sustained/sweeping invasion of its privacy violates its Fourth Amendment rights, he said.

Jaffer argued that if current NSA practices continue, authorization other than from Section 215 may permit bulk collection of virtually everything, everywhere, for any claimed reason.

"The Supreme Court has admonished many times that the Congress doesn't hide elephants in mouse-holes," he said. "I think that's what the government is proposing here."

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is a Washington-based public interest research center. It focuses on civil liberties issues. It's dedicated to protecting privacy rights.

On November 18, it headlined "Supreme Court Declines EPIC's Challenge to NSA Domestic Surveillance Program, Leaves in Place Order of Surveillance Court."

EPIC argued against a secret FISA court order requiring Verizon to give NSA access to all its customer records. Doing so exceeded its legal authority, it said.

"It is simply not possible that every phone record in the possession of Verizon is relevant to a national security investigation," it stressed. The High Court rejected its argument without explanation.

Expect more challenges ahead. Shareholder pressure groups want telecom companies to provide more information on what they provide NSA.

Trillion Asset Management and New York State Common Retirement Fund filed motions. They call for AT&T and Verizon to disclose more about their "metrics and discussion regarding requests for customer information by US and foreign governments."

In February 2012, NSA's five page document explained its "SIGINT (signals intelligence) Strategy." It said US laws don't meet its needs.

It explained a four year strategy to "aggressively pursue legal authorities and a policy framework mapped more fully to the information age."

"The interpretation and guidelines for applying our authorities, and in some cases the authorities themselves, have not kept pace with the complexity of the technology and target environments, or the operational expectations levied on NSA's mission," it stressed.

It wants unrestricted mass surveillance authority. It wants to be able  to collect data from "anyone, anytime, anywhere." It'll decrypt codes intended to keep personal information private.

It intends to "revolutionize" analysis of data it collects. It wants to "radically increase (its) operational impact."

It doesn't clarify what legal or policy changes it may seek. Its powers are nominally granted by Congress, executive authority and the FISA court.

It already operates extrajudicially. It has broad latitude to do so. It's report argues for more flexibility. It wants greater than ever sweeping authority. It wants to "dramatically increase its mastery of the global network."

An NSA statement said:

"NSA's Sigint strategy is designed to guide investments in future capabilities and close gaps in current" ones. 

"In an ever-changing technology and telecommunications environment, NSA tries to get in front of issues to better fulfill the foreign-intelligence requirements of the US government."

Critics like ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, EPIC and others cite core constitutional rights violations. Modern technology facilitates police state lawlessness.

Everyone is vulnerable. There's no place to hide. Freedom is fast disappearing. Alleged security concerns ring hollow. They're cover for what's too precious to lose.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour


http://www.dailycensored.com/aclu-v-clapper/

Israel’s ‘exceptionalism’ and the UN

Al-Jazeera – 18 November 2013

Israel is again at the centre of moves to challenge key agencies at the United Nations, as it lobbies to prevent the Palestinian leadership from gaining more of a foothold in global forums.

Israel ended a 20-month boycott of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva last month, under pressure from Western allies that it should return to a review process designed to monitor the human rights situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

However, Israel did so only after securing promises of reforms that human rights groups fear will further weaken international efforts to hold Israel accountable for its illegal occupation.

The UNHRC has regularly and harshly criticised Israel’s human rights record in both the occupied territories and inside Israel. It has also set up several fact-finding missions, including the Goldstone inquiry into Israel’s attack on Gaza in winter 2008-09, that have accused Israel of war crimes.

The Israeli government is reported to be celebrating its success in dictating the terms of its return to the UNHRC. Its ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Eviatar Manor, stated last month at Israel’s hearing: “Israel’s unfair treatment must come to an end. I hope our appearance here today will go a long way to restore equality and fairness regarding Israel in Geneva.”

Palestinian human rights groups fear that, in practice, this will mean significantly diminished scrutiny of Israel’s occupation.

“The mechanisms for holding Israel to account were already weak but now these changes are weakening them even further,” said Gavan Kelly, a spokesman for Addameer, an organisation supporting Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

“All indications are that behind the scenes an agreement has been reached to ensure Israel is not heavily criticised at the next session of the UNHRC in March. From the point of view of defending Palestinian rights, things are not looking good.”

Overdue

Meanwhile, the US and Israel last week ignored a final deadline to pay their membership dues to another UN organisation, thereby surrendering their voting rights in educational, scientific and cultural matters.

The pair suspended their contributions two years ago in protest at the decision by the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to allow the Palestinians to accede.

Washington’s $80 million annual contribution had covered nearly a quarter of UNESCO’s budget, and its retaliatory action has plunged the organisation into financial crisis, undermining many of its projects worldwide.

Kelly and other human rights workers argue that Israel is seeking to “intimidate” other international forums to deter them from giving the Palestinians a high-profile platform.

Brad Parker, a lawyer with the Palestine branch of Defence for Children International, said Israel was demanding a policy of “exceptionalism”.

“The international community is not treating Israel unfairly. Israel is simply being treated and recognised as the persistent human rights violator that it is,” he said.

The latest moves at the UN come in the wake of an agreement by Israel and the Palestinians to revive peace talks. Under US pressure, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas promised he would not turn to international bodies for the duration of the negotiations, which are due to end in April next year.

International recognition

Israel and the US have viewed with alarm the possibility that the Palestinians may seek to join other international bodies in addition to UNESCO. They are entitled to do so after Palestine was recognised a year ago as a non-member state by an overwhelming majority at the UN General Assembly.

Abbas was forced to pursue that route after the US made clear it would exercise its veto on any application to the Security Council for full UN membership.

According to various media reports, both Israel and the US are especially worried that the Palestinians might apply to become a party to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, an independent judicial body the UN helped to establish.

They could then refer Israel to the ICC for allegations of war crimes to be investigated. That could include Israel’s repeated attacks on Gaza, but the Palestinians are most likely to seek a ruling against Israel on the issue of its continuing settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israeli settlement-building has become a key point of contention during the peace talks, with announcements from Israel of plans to build thousands of new homes.

Last week the Palestinians’ chief negotiators, Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Shtayyeh, were reported to have submitted their resignations to Abbas, accusing Israel of “an unprecedented escalation of colonization and oppression against Palestine and the Palestinian people”.

Israel severed its ties with the UNHRC in March last year after the council decided to establish a fact-finding mission to investigate Israel’s settlement-building.

An earlier mission, under Judge Richard Goldstone, infuriated Israel by investigating Operation Cast Lead, its attack on Gaza in winter 2008-09 that led to the deaths of more than 1,400 Palestinians. The final report by Goldstone accused Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Israel also refused to cooperate with another UNHRC fact-finding mission into Israel’s attack on an aid flotilla to Gaza in 2010, in which nine human rights activists were killed by Israeli commandos in international waters. The mission concluded that the Israeli military broke international law and that there was evidence to begin prosecutions for breaches of the Geneva Convention.

Stymying investigations

Similarly, Israel denied entry to the mission investigating settlements, forcing Palestinian human rights groups to travel to Amman in Jordan to meet the UN team.

The final report, released last January and adopted by the UNHRC in March, warned that Israel could be brought before the International Criminal Court for transferring its citizens into occupied Palestinian territory.

The Human Rights Council, which was established by the UN in 2006, has appointed Richard Falk, a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, as special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied territories.

Falk, who has described Israel’s policies as “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing”, has been repeatedly blocked by Israel from gaining access to the territories.

Israel failed to attend the session of the UNHRC reviewing its human rights record last January, becoming the first state ever to refuse to appear.

Each of the 193 UN member states is obliged to submit to an examination by other states of its human rights record – known as the Universal Periodic Review – every four-and-a-half years.

After a series of delays, Israel agreed to appear at the end of last month. Western states, especially the US and Germany, strenuously lobbied Israel to persuade it to submit to the review, fearing that Israel’s non-cooperation would set a precedent other states might follow.

“The problem is that Israel was not sanctioned for its failure to appear in January, as it should have been,” said Fadi Quran, a lawyer with al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organisation in Ramallah. “Instead it made demands to the UNHRC for changes, and our fear is that it will get its way.”

Palestinian human rights groups note that Israel appears to have secured two concessions from Western member states in the UNHRC that threaten to further erode its accountability.

First, Israel has demanded that it be allowed to join the group representing Western states in Geneva, apparently in the belief that this will provide it with the collective protection of the US and European states. Among the group’s members, only Turkey is believed to be holding out against Israel’s inclusion.

“For Israel, it is a public relations tool to be with the liberal democratic countries,” said Quran. “It wants to be seen as ‘Western’, not to be viewed as an occupying state imposing apartheid and colonial rule on the Palestinians.”

‘Item 7′

More significantly still, Israel has also insisted that the US and Europe not participate in a standing agenda at UNHRC sessions known as “Item 7″, designed to maintain continuous scrutiny of Israel’s occupation.

“Item 7″ was the basis for establishing the three recent fact-finding missions, and Palestinian human rights organisations fear that if Western states withdraw their support it will undermine what little international oversight currently exists of Israel’s occupation.

John Dugard, a South African professor of international law and Falk’s predecessor as special rapporteur, said Israel had been trying to have Item 7 removed for years because it “rightly gives Israel a status akin to that of apartheid. I hope the Western states will not give in to Israel’s blackmail as this will give Israel a legitimacy it so richly does not deserve.”

Kelly said Palestinian human rights organisations had also heard that Israel would be given “an easy ride” at the next session of the UNHRC in March, when it is due to be presented with recommendations to improve its human rights record.

“In 2008, when Israel faced its first review, it received lots of recommendations and basically it ignored them all. Israel is already doing whatever it wants and with impunity.”

At Israel’s UNHRC hearing on October 29, the Palestinian envoy, Ibrahim Khraishi, said Israel’s renewed participation had “no value” and that Israel wanted to be able to pick and choose when to accept scrutiny.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has also expressed concern at Israel’s continuing refusal to recognise its obligations to uphold international law in the occupied territories.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the group’s Middle East director, called Israel’s appearance at the UNHRC a “positive step” but said Israel needed to do more.

“Israel should now … start working with the UN’s human rights team in the West Bank and stop blocking visits from UN rights experts,” she said.

The US, meanwhile, sought to downplay Israel’s human rights violations towards the Palestinians at the UNHRC hearing.

The deputy ambassador to the UN, Peter Mulrean, praised Israel for its “strong commitment and track record in upholding human rights, political freedom and civil liberties”. His chief criticism was levied at religious coercion inflicted on secular Jewish citizens by the Orthodox rabbinate.

Jafar Farah, the director of Mossawa, an advocacy group for the fifth of the Israeli population who are Palestinian, said Israel’s human rights record had deteriorated towards Palestinians in Israel, as well as the occupied territories since the last review in 2008.

“The general political drift rightwards and the dramatic increase in discriminatory legislation initiated by the Benjamin Netanyahu government have contributed to making things much worse.”

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Thom Hartmann’s War on Your Mind

By James F. Tracy

In October a debate ensued on Memory Hole and at Project Censored regarding Alex Jones and Infowars’ legitimacy and trustworthiness as news sources. The exchange began when Nolan Higdon presented various predictions made by Jones that were not borne out by subsequent events.

Yet it looks as if the gloom and doom-style Jones has been taken to task for is being appropriated and given a “liberal” spin by Thom Hartmann–also a longtime proponent anthropogenic global warming theory. The progressive-left author and talk show host has begun touting his new conspiracy-flavored book, The Great Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America–and What We Can Do to Stop It.

Hartmann and Jones are well-acquainted, having on occasion simulcast their weekday radio programs where they once expressed mutual appreciation of each others’ views and work. For example, on April 15, 2009 the two personalities co-hosted a remarkable hour-length segment in which they generally found common ground on numerous issues–civil liberties, the financial industry’s gigantic influence over federal governance, the growing militarized police state, and even local militias.

Indeed, at one point during the above referenced broadcast Hartmann remarked, “I think that actually as Americans, Alex, who believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, there’s more that unites [libertarians and progressives] than divides us” (Alex Jones and Thom Hartmann 3/4 at 8:55).

Yet in subsequent years, the two personalities drifted apart. As the reality of Obama’s presidency and shifting political winds set in Hartmann went on to host a program at RT where he increasingly disparaged Jones and the Truth movement, and from this perch even seemed to vie for a post at MSNBC.

Unlike Jones’ hillbilly-meets-DARPA-whistleblower rants, Hartmann consciously plays the bespectacled scholarly-type, appealing to his self-styled dispassionate and rational progressive audience. Appearing on Democracy Now! this week, the liberal talker’s sturm und drang economic forecast at first glance resembles not only Jones, but also Texas Congressman Ron Paul, libertarian talk show host Peter Schiff and “Father of Reaganomics” Paul Craig Roberts. Among others, these economic analysts argue that the private Federal Reserve bank’s incessant and fervent money printing will inevitably lead to and intensify the coming economic cataclysm.

Hartmann appears to “borrow” from these observers by arguing that such a crash is indeed unavoidable. Yet in a clear sleight of hand the pedantic doomsayer completely evades the problem of monetary profligacy by suggesting how the Obama administration and Fed are earnestly staving off the final reckoning. Is this White House-inspired (or perhaps sponsored) propaganda? Here are some outtakes and reinterpretations from the recent interview below (beginning at about 2:05).

“Obama was successful in the first few months of his administration by putting enough of a band aid on it that they’re holding this back with bailing wire and bubble gum.”

[Translation: The Federal Reserve (US Taxpayer) shoveled untold trillions to the bankers and corporatists to temporarily prop up the economy with another gigantic stock market bubble, yet the Fed can't print forever.]

Hartmann: “But, Bush had hoped—he saw this coming, the Bush administration—had hoped [sic] that he could wait until November 2008 so that it would be after the election so that it wouldn’t hurt the Republican candidate. He was unsuccessful.”

[Translation: The two party system is continuously at odds and competing to represent the popular will. There’s absolutely no chance that such a crash was engineered by Wall Street financiers to ensure an Obama-Biden victory. Or, “free markets capitalism” inevitably leads to dire crises.]

Hartmann: “The Obama administration is now—because they’re not doing the real structural changes necessary—they’re hoping they can push it off until 2016 and that’s why we chose that date [in the book’s title]. Now there’s an enormous amount of effort in our government and in the Fed to try to hold this off ‘til after the election of 2016. Whether they’re successful or not I don’t know [sic]. This literally could happen overnight.”

[Translation: We are doomed! Again, any conflict worthy of public attention takes place directly on the political stage. The good guys—you know, the Democratic Party, the Federal Reserve, and the prevailing economic scheme controlled by central banking--aren't fleecing taxpayers and the economic system but rather saving them.]

Some representatives of the “fanatical right wing” that progressives so readily point to in arguments about the deficit and economy argue that such a crash is in fact being intensified by the careless monetary policies of the Fed, which continue and intensify with the tacit approval of the US Congress and Obama administration. In fact, the federal debt has grown seventy percent under Obama–from $10 to $17 trillion. Such a reckless monetary policy is tailor-made for politicians who cannot resist a money-printing press that allows them to “kick the can down the road,” while leaving Americans with the ever-expanding tab.

Hartmann attempts to commandeer the economic thesis long-articulated by libertarians and their advocacy for “sound money,” while tempering it for those who hang on every word uttered by Paul Krugman. The upshot of Hartmann’s (and the overall Keynesian) version, however, is that profligate monetary policy is not the cause of the present problem, but remains to a large degree its solution. Nevermind the fact that America’s industrial base has been thoroughly gutted.

For example, Hartmann argues how the buildup to the next disaster is a replay of the prelude to the 1929 crash and, moreover, how both are rooted in “conspiracies” and “plots” developed by “economic royalists,” “banksters,” and “globalism,” against which the federal bureaucracy (FDR and his postwar successors) wages a valiant struggle.

Yet Hartmann’s sensationalism doesn’t end there. He goes on to reference his previous anthropogenic  climate change propaganda, describing the deathly carbon-based greenhouse gases destined to do us all in should they be allowed to increase even minutely over the next several decades. But wait! The scenario is even more dire. According to Hartmann (at around 12:35 in the DN! interview video above), such apocalyptic climate change could take place almost overnight, and is something the (some would argue fraudulant) United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “is not talking about.”

“It’s a very significant stressor,” Hartmann somberly informs Goodman in the November 12 interview. “Scientists [and] people are hysterical or very concerned” about the imminent release of

trillions of tons of methane hydrate–methane frozen up in ice, in the arctic and around continental shelves. If that melts, then there will be a sudden global warming. And when you look at the five past extinctions on planet earth every single one was triggered by one of these methane releases.

This will come to pass unless, of course, we can drastically reform our behavior and energy consumption … and assuming the forthcoming economic crash doesn’t get us first, or both don’t hit simultaneously.

But, hey, whoever said that a talk show host should be held accountable for making extravagant claims and suggesting that the modern situation is almost completely hopeless? Further, is the promotion of unfounded conspiracy theories and historical revisionism really all that bad? If you’re championing the “correct” political stances then negativity appears to become prophetic, shadowy plots constitute accurate economic and historical analysis and projections, and UN-distilled interpretations of climate science and “green” advocacy literature are embraced as genuine climatological research. Taken as a whole, Thom Hartmann delivers the entire package in an absolute war on your mind that is without parallel.

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TPP: From corporation personhood to corporate nationhood

The secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is the Obama administration’s bid to perpetuate US hegemony in Asia and lay the groundwork for a Pacific century led by American corporate and military muscle.

Although proponents of the TPP may claim that its focus is to help the economies of signatory countries create comprehensive market access, eliminate barriers to trade, improve labor rights and encourage environmental protection, every indication suggests that the wide-ranging agreement intends to maximize dramatically corporate revenues at the expense of public health and safety, civil liberties and national sovereignty.

While the significant majority of the draft text remains inaccessible and shielded from public scrutiny due to draconian non-disclosure agreements, leaks made available by courageous individuals via WikiLeaks indicate that this trade deal intends to champion corporate rights and blur the divisions between governments and multinationals. In essence, the stipulations of the trade deal would make governments – including their national laws to regulate public and environmental health – subservient to corporations and their maximization of profits.

The Censorship That Dare Not Speak Its Name

This is a subtly revised set of remarks given at “The Point is to Change It” conference on November 1, 2013 at the University of San Francisco. The event was co-sponsored by Project Censored.

The panel on which I participated was organized by Project Censored Director Mickey Huff to address the contrast between the radical journalistic activity practiced by Project Censored and the decade-old US media reform movement that has sought to initiate broader policy changes at the federal level. In previous years PC has been excluded from media reform events, likely because of its research and criticism of foundation-funded progressive-left media and the censorial practices they impose on themselves and their peers.

The feedback from conference-goers to the panel’s observations was predictable. For example, “9/11 Truth has no facts. Look at how it relies on Alex Jones and Loose Change. Let’s move on.” [Read: I shall not be identified with amateurs and fanatics. Or, Why risk being perceived as politically incorrect.] And, “It is impossible to be radical without a vigorous critique of capitalism.” [Read: Extreme historical myopia is sometimes practical and necessary. Or, 9/11 is a career-ender.]

I appreciate Project Censored’s invitation to participate in the event and its continued endeavors to spread the word on the fundamental relationship between mass media and the broader political economy.

-JFT

What does it mean to be radical? What is radical intellectual activity? It involves identifying, examining, and publicizing the root causes of major problems in the body politic that hinder the full realization of each individual’s human capacities.

What are the possible areas where such inquiry may take shape? The “News Clusters” that Project Censored has been using in its recent yearbooks provide a rough outline: the economy, war, health and the environment, the viability of the commons (as evidenced by Iceland), and civil liberties and freedom of expression, because without the ability to be able to express ourselves we cannot demonstrate our freedom and contest wrongdoing.

Around the time I was born Noam Chomsky wrote “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” suggesting that radical intellectual activity along these lines is necessary if we are to survive as a species. “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak truth and expose lies,” Chomsky asserted.[1]

Aside from Chomsky’s abandonment of this principal in terms of questioning deep events, the mid-to-late 1960s was a far different world from the one we inhabit today. In contrast to the 1960s, there is now a fast-emerging police state, the loss of Constitutional protections, a “war on terror” we are told will be without end, and huge economic disparities. And so any such responsibility is much greater than it was then because the stakes are much higher.

Scholars with institutional backing have some security from which to operate along these lines. Apart from the support afforded through an academic position, the greatest hindrance to carrying out radical intellectual activity involves the question of money and resources.

With this in mind there is a tendency for progressive-left media to inordinately rely on funding from tax-free foundations, with attendant consequences for their output. This is no better illustrated than in John Pilger’s first-hand account in Project Censored’s most recent volume. In 2011 Pilger’s The War You Don’t See became “the film you don’t see” courtesy of the Lannan Foundation pulling the rug out from underneath Pilger as he was about to embark on a US tour promoting the work.

What is at least as disheartening here is how many figures that once stood by Pilger and his work, such as Amy Goodman and Chris Hedges, turned their backs on him as he sought to better understand Lannan’s abrupt and inexplicable change of heart.[2]

Indeed, this instance illustrates the problems central to media that claim to be “radical” today: the immense power of such foundations is more than capable of exerting a stealth form of censorship and conformity that is close to impossible to accurately detect and gauge.

Further, the financial wherewithal of liberal foundations–Ford, Carnegie, Gates, Soros–far exceeds that of their conservative counterparts–Bradley, Olin, Scaife, Koch. What does that mean for the integrity of our information and opinion environments?

With these things in mind I waned to read a few observations made by Global Research editor and University of Ottawa Professor of Economics Michel Chossudovsky, who was unable to be on the panel this morning. His remarks are significant particularly in terms of charting the independent nature and trajectory of radical media today. Once you start receiving money from tax-free foundations,” Chossudovsky notes,

you lose your independence.  We see it on the internet now. There are a number of internet [news] sites which look a little bit like the New York Times—the online version. They’re still doing good work but they’re becoming a little bit more politically correct.

So there’s a mainstream alternative media and then there’s an alternative media which I think is independent. There are not many, and that is the disturbing feature; many of the alternative media sites now are becoming corporatized. We want to avoid that. That’s they’re decision, but we have taken the decision that we do not seek any foundation funding which limits us from a budget point of view. It means that we [function] on a much more modest scale but we manage to be just as effective by doing that and we have the advantage of not being constrained to a particular perspective.[3]

How exactly does this dynamic play out in practical terms? Again, it is difficult to measure. Yet the FBI whistleblower Sibol Edmonds provides a clue. Edmonds notes how she received special guidance from foundation gatekeepers after she accepted money from a George Soros-financed foundation as she was assembling a body of like-minded government insiders and whistleblowers.

Very quickly I realized that this money—these carrots they were dangling before our nose[s]—came with a bunch of string attachments. Because as I was talking with these people form these foundations I was adding more whistleblowers.

And in one case one [individual] from Clinton’s previous administration joined the coalition who had blown the whistle on Al Gore and some narcotics-related case with the Drug Enforcement Agency. When I added this particular whistleblower—and he’s still there on our list—these foundation people came and they said, “Why are you adding the Clinton administration whistleblower? Right now we are focused on [the] Bush administration. This is [a] distraction. And you should just limit [things] all this current wrongdoing and don’t get in to all the Clinton stuff. Basically this is just one example of many examples.[4]

How perhaps does this dynamic play out at a more macro level? Two areas where there has not been enough serious intellectual activity and rigor of late is climate change and the crimes of 9/11, and it is truly amazing how so frequently the former is embraced by the left while the latter is dismissed–equally out of hand.

Think about it. The annual amount of foundation funding going toward publicizing forms of environmentalism is gargantuan.[5] There is, after all, a lot at stake: A new derivatives market, and setting up the “smart grid,” both of which lay the groundwork for heightened government surveillance and eventually enforced austerity.

Is there any money devoted to a 9/11 truth commission or the equivalent? None. Is it discussed? Nope. How’d it happen? Blowback. Why is there a “war on terror” at home and abroad? They’re protecting us from Al Qaeda.

9/11 is a root cause of a vast number of major problems in the body politic–war, the police state, the illicit drug trade, and on and on. At present, almost all roads lead back to it. What progressive outlets are discussing it? Global Research and Project Censored. How much foundation funding do they get? Practically none. Coincidence?

More than ever, the responsibility of intellectuals remains “speaking truth and exposing lies.” Yet as the foregoing suggests, in the post-9/11 era particularly, the radical intellectual quest for “truth” itself has now become a commodity capable of being bought, sold and thus censored by some of the most wealthy entities on the planet. These murky forces do not just find the examination of topics like 9/11 unseemly; they also share an active interest in keeping them perpetually unexamined and suppressed.

Notes

[1] Noam Chomsky, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” New York Review of Books, February 23, 1967.

[2] John Pilger, “Censorship That Dares Not Speak Its Name: The Strange Silencing of Liberal America,” in Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth with Project Censored (editors), Censored 2014: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2012-2013, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2013, 287-296. See also “The War You Don’t See Pilger Film Banned By Lannan Foundation,” Information Clearing House, June 10, 2011.

[3] Devon DB, “Michel Chossudovsky on the Creation of Global Research,” GRTV, June 19, 2012.

[4] James Corbett, “The War on Whistleblowers: Sibol Edmonds on GRTV,” GRTV, October 11, 2011.

[5] James F. Tracy, “The Forces Behind Carbon-Centric Environmentalism,” MemoryHoleBlog, July 12, 2013.

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Appeals Court Stays Stop and Frisk Ruling


Appeals Court Stays Stop and Frisk Ruling

by Stephen Lendman

Stop and frisk is longstanding NYPD policy. It reflects brazen racial profiling. It affects hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino New York city residents annually.

No evidence proves it's effective. Plenty shows it's racially motivated. It violates core constitutional rights. It's one of many abusive practices.

On August 12, US District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin issued a landmark ruling. It was scathing.

She said NYPD "adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling." Doing so violates "violated their constitutional rights in two ways:

(1) they were stopped without a legal basis in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and

(2) they were targeted for stops because of their race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment."

Limits on stops are "paramount," she said. They must "be based on 'reasonable suspicion' as defined by the Supreme Court of the United States."

They must "be conducted in a racially neutral manner."

"The enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table."

"No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life."

"Those who are routinely subjected to stops are overwhelmingly people of color, and they are justifiably troubled to be singled out when many of them have done nothing to attract unwanted attention."

Equal protection under the law is fundamental, said Scheindlin. "The Constitution prohibits selective enforcement based on considerations such as race."

Judge Scheindlin acted responsibly. It doesn't matter. According to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, she "ran afoul" of the judiciary's code of conduct.

She did so, it said, by compromising the "appearance of the impartiality surrounding this litigation."

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) initiated a federal class action lawsuit against New York City. Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. challenged "NYPD's practices of racial profiling and unconstitutional stop-and frisks."

CCR called Floyd New York's "trial of the century." It cut to the very heart of discriminatory police practices. CCR sued to end them.

On October 29, it headlined "Attorneys Urge Appellate Court to Reject City's Attempt to Delay Remedial Process." 

They urged the court to affirm the stopping of "unconstitutional stop and frisk practices." Judge Scheindlin ordered input from community stakeholders most affected.

She did so to determine just and proper remedies. None so far were ordered. NYPD's stop and frisk policy violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches. It states:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

In other words, stopping and frisking someone requires reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed. Indiscriminate police actions are unconstitutional.

Former Supreme Court Justice William Douglas once warned against giving "police greater power than a magistrate." Doing so, he said, "is to take a long step down the totalitarian path."

Federal courts today have few like Douglas. The Supreme Court has none. It's stacked with Federalist Society members.

They include Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. They're ideological extremists. So are most appeals court justices.

In response to Judge Scheindlin's ruling, CCR issued the following statement:

"The court has correctly recognized that thousands of New Yorkers whose rights are violated regularly by the NYPD’s stop and frisk practices - and not the City itself - are the ones who would be harmed by this latest attempt to delay reforms."  

"After more than a decade of unconstitutional and racially discriminatory police practices, overwhelming legislative support for changes, and a massive mobilization by affected communities, it is long past time for the City to end its resistance and participate in making those changes."  

"If Mayor Bloomberg truly seeks a police force that serves New Yorkers, here is his opportunity - come to the table and help make it a reality."

On October 29, CCR urged appellate court justices to reject this attempt to reverse Floyd.

For over a decade, New York resisted reforms. Abusive stop and frisk policies continued. According to CCR Senior Staff Attorney Darius Charney:

"Delaying the joint remedial process will only continue to harm the communities who have suffered massive violations of their constitutional rights for so long: it is in the community's interest that we begin the discussion without further delay."

CCR added that "(n)umerous city community groups, faith healers, unions, and policing experts submitted declarations." 

They affirmed that delaying the remedial process harms city interests. In 2012, New York city's population exceeded 8,300,000. Blacks and Latinos comprise a majority (around 55%). 

They have the most to gain or lose. Floyd gives them protection they haven't had for years. It's high time they got it. 

Not according to hard right appellate court justices. They acted irresponsibly. They stayed Judge Scheindlin's ruling. They didn't reverse it. They ordered Floyd reassigned to a new district court judge. 

Ironically its John Koeltl. In 2006, he unjustly sentenced Lynne Stewart to 28 months in prison. She was convicted despite having committed no crimes.

On appeal, her case was remanded back to Koeltl. He disgracefully increased her sentence to 10 years.

Lynne today suffers from Stage 4 cancer. She's dying. She's denied life-saving treatment. Koeltl denied her compassionate release request. 

Imagine how he'll treat New York city Blacks and Latinos. With as much disdain as shown Lynne seems likely.

At the same time, he was instructed to put off "all proceedings and otherwise await further action."

The appeals court hasn't yet ruled on whether Judge Scheindlin's decision reached the right constitutional conclusion.

"We intimate no view on the substance or merits of the pending appeals," it said. The process extends into 2014. By then, New York will have a new mayor.

Democrat Bill de Blasio looks likely to win. Polls show he's far ahead of his Republican opponent. He issued a statement saying:

"We have to end the overuse of stop and frisk, and any delay only means a continued and unnecessary rift between our police and the people they protect."

If elected, it remains to be seen if his policy matches his rhetoric. He can simply order the practice stopped.

CCR said the following the Second Circuit's ruling:

"We are dismayed that the Court of Appeals saw fit to delay the long-overdue process to remedy the NYPD’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices, and we are shocked that they cast aspersions on the professional conduct of one of the most respected members of the federal judiciary and reassigned the case."  

"The City carried out a whisper campaign against Judge Scheindlin but never once raised any legal claims of bias, even in its papers to the Court of Appeals." 

"That, unprompted, they should reassign the case from a judge deeply steeped in the issues for the last 14 years, who gave the City every opportunity to defend itself in the course of this litigation, is troubling and unprecedented."

According to NYPD's own internal records, around 90% of stop and frisk victims are innocent. They're unjustly targeted. Violating their constitutional rights raises serious concerns.

It's one of many abuses minority Americans endure. It reflects a slippery slope toward totalitarian injustice.

On October 31, New York's ACLU vowed to appeal. It issued a statement saying:

"The New York Civil Liberties Union this afternoon promised to fight a federal appeals court's decision postponing the remedy proceedings in New York City’s stop-and-frisk abuse case." 

"The decision, issued by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, did not overturn the landmark ruling that the NYPD's abuse of stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional."

NYCLU's Executive Director Donna Lieberman added: 

"There is overwhelming evidence that the stop-and-frisk regime is unconstitutional and out of control - just ask any black or brown New Yorker." 

"We expect the next mayoral administration to make reforming stop-and-frisk a top priority, and we are confident New York City will soon see a day when all New Yorkers' basic rights are protected and respected."

New York Times editors weighed in. They took a principled stand. Most often they're irresponsible on imperial lawlessness and other major issues. They headlined "A Bad Ruling on Stop-and-Frisk," saying:

The Second Circuit Court acted "unwise(ly)." It stayed Judge Scheindlin's ruling. (I)t overreached in taking the extraordinary step of removing (her) from the long-running litigation."

It mischaracterized her responsible ruling. It added insult to injury by alleging "she created the 'appearance of impropriety' by granting press interviews while the case was pending before her."

She had every right to do so. At the same time, she avoided discussing Floyd. She defended herself against a malicious city smear campaign. "I know I'm not their favorite judge," she said.

"I do think that I treat the government as only one more litigant. I don't think they're entitled to deference."

"I think some of the judges are a little more timid to maybe disagree with the US attorney's office."

"They have to prove their case like anybody else. I don't give them special respect. Maybe some judges do because they came from the office. They know the people there, whatever. I try not to do that."

She called targeting her judicial independence a "below the belt attack." Reports that Mayor Bloomberg ordered it made it worse, she added.

"It's very painful," she stressed. "Judges can't easily defend themselves" publicly. "To attack a judge personally is completely inappropriate and intimidates (them) or it is intended to intimidate (them) or it has an effect on other judges and that worries me."

At times, "(y)ou could be in danger physically," she added. Maybe New York cops will target her. Maybe they'll be ordered to do so.

According to Times editors:

"Judge Scheindlin did not strike down the program, which, when properly used, is an important crime-fighting tool." 

"But she sensibly ordered the city to use it in a manner that does not discriminate against minorities and that complied with constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure."

"Under the Fourth Amendment, police officers can legally detain people on the street when there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime." 

"In addition to violating people's rights, the program, as practiced for years in New York, undermined trust in the Police Department in black and Hispanic communities throughout the city."

"Given all the damage done by this program, the next mayor should end this saga by withdrawing the city's appeal and instituting the cogent reforms laid out by Judge Scheindlin."

Most often Times editors act irresponsibly. Give credit where it's deserved. This time they stood tall. 

Judge Scheindlin deserves high praise for ruling justly. Implementing her important reforms should proceed straightaway. 

New York's most disadvantaged deserve that much and more. It remains to be seen whether any justice will be forthcoming. So much already is lost nationwide.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/appeals-court-stays-stop-frisk-ruling/

NSA Spies on Pope


NSA Spies on Pope

by Stephen Lendman

NSA spies on world leaders, so why not? Even the Holy See isn't spy proof. It's not off limits. 

Pope Francis is monitored. Most likely Benedict XVI. Perhaps John Paul II through at least some of his papacy. NSA spies globally. No one's safe from its intrusive eye.

On October 30, the Italian publication Panorama headlined "Esclusiva Panorama: Datagate, anche il Papa è stato intercettato (Exclusive Panorama: Datagate, even the Pope was intercepted).

Reuters covered the story. On October 30, it headlined "Italian magazine says US spies listened to pope, Vatican says unaware." 

Internal Vatican communications are monitored. So are phone calls from the Domus Sanctae Marthae. It's Pope Francis' current home. It's where cardinals reside during papal conclaves.

NSA's interest was monitoring "leadership intentions," financial system threats, "foreign policy objectives," and "human rights." Vatican Bank president Ernst von Freyberg's calls were intercepted.

Francis was monitored when he was Buenos Aires archbishop. Doing so suggests all high-ranking prelates are watched globally. 

US embassies virtually everywhere are infested with spies. They operate covertly as diplomatic staff. Snowden-released documents revealed Rome has an elite spying unit. So do other major European capitals.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said: "We are not aware of anything on this issue, and in any case we have no concerns about it."

Whether or not Vatican officials knew is one thing. For sure, no one wants to be spied on.

NSA head Keith Alexander repeatedly lies. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper is an admitted perjurer. Take everything they both say with a grain of salt.

On October 30, NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines likely lied saying:

"The National Security Agency does not target the Vatican. Assertions that NSA has (done so), published by Italy's Panorama magazine, are not true."

Allegations followed the Cryptome digital library web site reporting NSA collecting 124.8 billion phone calls monthly. It said 46 million were intercepted in Italy from December 2012 through early January 2013 alone.

Panorama said the "National Security Agency wiretapped the pope…(T)he great American ear" never sleeps. Calls to and from the Vatican are monitored. Big Brother intercepts prelate conversations routinely. 

For sure following Pope Benedict's February 28 resignation through the papal conclave convened to elect his successor. Conversations of future Pope Francis were likely monitored.

The former Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a person of interest since at least 2005. He was considered a potential future papal candidate.

Sistine chapel discussions relating to electing new popes are especially kept secret. A special system scrambles cell phone calls. Anyone caught breaking the sacred trust faces excommunication.

NSA reportedly intercepted communications relating to the 2012 Vatileaks scandal. It exposed high-level corruption. Documents were leaked to Italian journalists.

Paolo Gabriele became a person of interest. He was Benedict XVI's personal secretary. He leaked his confidential letters and memos.

They revealed papal finances, bribes, other corruption, and abuse of power. Gabriele was hung out to dry. He was arrested, tried and convicted. 

He got 18 months in prison. He was ordered to pay legal expenses. On December 22, 2012, Benedict pardoned him. 

Michael Parenti's "God and His Demons" makes compelling reading. He confronted the religious right, saying:

"The god of the Holy Bible - so much adored in the United States and elsewhere - is ferociously vindictive, neurotically jealous, intolerant, vainglorious, punitive, wrathful, sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sadistic and homicidal." 

"As they say, it's all in the Bible. Beware of those who act in the name of such a god." 

"Were we to encounter these vicious traits in an ordinary man, we would judge him to be in need of lifelong incarceration at a maximum-security facility." 

"At the very least, we would not prattle on about how he works his wonders in mysterious ways. In fact, 'biblical Jesus qualifies quite well as founder and forerunner of an intolerant Christianity."

"That 'old-time religion' is still very much with us and having a considerable impact on US political life."

Parenti was unforgiving. He challenged iconic religious figures. He exposed their dark sides. He included Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, and Tibetan Buddhism.

John Paul II "remained up to his ears in counter-revolutionary politics in Latin America and elsewhere," he said. 

He "directed no critical attacks against right-wing dictatorships." He called them "bulwarks against communist revolution."

He intervened on behalf of Chilean despot Augusto Pinochet. At the time, he was under house arrest in London.

Parenti's book was written before Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis. He was very much involved in Argentina's dirty war.

Prelates denouncing human rights abuses anywhere is considered taboo. Dirty war survivors accused Bergoglio of complicity with what demanded condemnation.

Vatican policy isn't pretty. Francis wasn't elected to change things. Washington wants policy everywhere kept in lockstep with US policy. 

NSA spying relates to discovering potential outliers. US policy makers can then act before harm is done.

Snowden documents revealed spying on millions of Italian citizens. It was thought perhaps popes and Vatican officials were off-limits. It bears repeating. NSA spies on world leaders.

Vatican city is a sovereign city-state. Popes have head of state status. They have diplomatic immunity like presidents and prime ministers. 

So do Vatican officials, papal nuncios, cardinals and other high-ranking Holy See Diplomatic Service prelates. They're more than religious figures. 

They're politically involved. They're well connected. What they say and think matters. They influence great numbers of parishioners.

Separately, Snowden documents revealed NSA secretly intercepted Google and Yahoo communication links connecting their global data centers. 

Doing so lets the agency keep track of hundreds of millions of user accounts. NSA's main tool is called MUSCULAR. It operates jointly with Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

From undisclosed interception points, both agencies copy fiber-optic cable flows. Doing so complements NSA's PRISM. 

It has front-door access to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and other major online companies.

NSA can search histories, emails, file transfers and live chats. They're gotten directly from US provider servers. Doing so facilitates mass surveillance. NSA now has front and back-door access. It takes full advantage.

An NSA statement lied, saying:

it "focus(es) on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only."

It "applies Attorney General-approved processes to protect the privacy of U.S. persons - minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention, and dissemination."

NSA's mandate is "get it all." Everyone and everything are fair game. Congressional oversight is virtually nonexistent. Obama's in lockstep with NSA policy.

On December 4, 1981, Executive Order 12333, explained NSA/Central Security Service (CSS) responsibilities and purposes. 

It's to provide "(t)imely and accurate information about the activities, capabilities, plans, and intentions of foreign powers, organizations, and persons and their agents, is essential to the national security of the United States." 

"All reasonable and lawful means must be used to ensure that the United States will receive the best intelligence available." Head of operations is charged with:

  • "Collect(ing, including through clandestine means), process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes to support national and departmental missions;
  • Acting(ing) as the National Manager for National Security Systems as established in law and policy, and in this capacity be responsible to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director, National Intelligence; (and)

  • Prescrib(ing) security regulations covering operating practices, including the transmission, handling, and distribution of signals intelligence and communications security material within and among the elements under control of the Director of the National Security Agency, and exercise the necessary supervisory control to ensure compliance with the regulations."

On July 31, 2008, EO 12333 was amended to:

  • "Align (it) with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004;

  • Implement additional recommendations of the 9/11 and WMD Commissions; (and)

  • Further integrate the Intelligence Community and clarify and strengthen the role of DNI as the head of the Community; Maintain or strengthen privacy and civil liberties protections."

By law, NSA’s mission is limited to monitoring, collecting and analyzing foreign communications. Its dual missions include: 

  • the Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID). It relates to foreign intelligence gathering, and 

  • the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD). It protects US information systems.

Rule of law principles are systematically spurned. It's more true now than ever. It's far worse than most people imagine. 

Anything goes reflects policy. NSA is a power unto itself. It does whatever it wants covertly. It does it globally. Obama continues what his predecessors began.

NSA's been around for decades. On June 1, 1952, Harry Truman authorized it. On November 4, 1952, it was established. Its earlier incarnation was a shadow of today's capabilities. Virtually nothing escapes its intrusive eye.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/nsa-spies-pope/

Secrets R US: The NSA and Outsourcing Defense

This essay is an excerpt from  Big Lies: How Our Corporate Overlords, Politicians and Media Establishment Warp Reality and Undermine Democracy. Guma's latest book, Dons of Time, is a sci-fi look at the control of history as power.
Despite 24-hour news and talk about transparency, there's a lot we don't know about our past, much less current events. What’s worse, some of what we think we know isn't true.
The point is that it’s no accident. 
    Consider, for example, the circumstances that led to open war in Vietnam. According to official history, two US destroyers patrolling in the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam were victims of unprovoked attacks in August 1964, leading to a congressional resolution giving President Johnson the power "to take all necessary measures."
     In fact, the destroyers were spy ships, part of a National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping program operating near the coast as a way to provoke the North Vietnamese into turning on their radar and other communications channels. The more provocative the maneuvers, the more signals that could be captured. Meanwhile, US raiding parties were shelling mainland targets. Documents revealed later indicated that the August 4 attack on the USS Maddox – the pretext for passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution – may not even have taken place.
     But even if it did, the incident was still stage managed to build up congressional and public support for the war. Evidence suggests that the plan was based on Operation Northwoods, a scheme developed in 1962 to justify an invasion of Cuba. Among the tactics the Joint Chiefs of Staff considered then were blowing up a ship in Guantanamo Bay, a phony "communist Cuba terror campaign" in Florida and Washington, DC, and an elaborate plan to convince people that Cuba had shot down a civilian airliner filled with students. That operation wasn't implemented, but two years later, desperate for a war, the administration's military brass found a way to create the necessary conditions in Vietnam.
For more than half a century, the eyes and ears of US power to monitor and manipulate information (and with it, mass perceptions) has been the NSA, initially designed to assist the CIA. Its original task was to collect raw information about threats to US security, cracking codes and using the latest technology to provide accurate intelligence on the intentions and activities of enemies. Emerging after World War II, its early focus was the Soviet Union. But it never did crack a high-level Soviet cipher system. On the other hand, it used every available means to eavesdrop on not only enemies but also allies and, sometimes, US citizens.
     In Body of Secrets, James Bamford described a bureaucratic and secretive behemoth, based in an Orwellian Maryland complex known as Crypto City. From there, supercomputers linked it to spy satellites, subs, aircraft, and equally covert, strategically placed listening posts worldwide. As of 2000, it had a $7 billion annual budget and directly employed at least 38,000 people, more than the CIA and FBI. It was also the leader of an international intelligence club, UKUSA, which includes Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Together, they monitored and recorded billions of encrypted communications, telephone calls, radio messages, faxes, and e-mails around the world.
     Over the years, however, the line between enemies and friends blurred, and the intelligence gatherers often converted their control of information into unilateral power, influencing the course of history in ways that may never be known. No doubt the agency has had a hand in countless covert operations; yet, attempts to pull away the veil of secrecy have been largely unsuccessful.
     In the mid-1970s, for example, just as Congress was attempting to reign in the CIA, the NSA was quietly creating a virtual state, a massive international computer network named Platform. Doing away with formal borders, it developed a software package that turned worldwide Sigint (short for "signal intelligence": communication intelligence, eavesdropping, and electronic intelligence) into a unified whole. The software package was code named Echelon, a name that has since become a synonym for eavesdropping on commercial communication.
     Of course, the NSA and its British sister, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), refused to admit Echelon existed, even though declassified documents appeared on the Internet and Congress conducted an initial investigation. But a European Parliament report also confirmed Echelon's activities, and encouraged Internet users and governments to adopt stronger privacy measures in response.
     In March 2001, several ranking British politicians discussed Echelon's potential impacts on civil liberties, and a European Parliament committee considered its legal, human rights, and privacy implications. The Dutch held similar hearings, and a French National Assembly inquiry urged the European Union to embrace new privacy enhancing technologies to protect against Echelon's eavesdropping. France launched a formal investigation into possible abuses for industrial espionage.
A prime reason for Europe's discontent was the growing suspicion that the NSA had used intercepted conversations to help US companies win contracts heading for European firms. The alleged losers included Airbus, a consortium including interests in France, Germany, Spain, and Britain, and Thomson CSF, a French electronics company. The French claimed they had lost a $1.4 billion deal to supply Brazil with a radar system because the NSA shared details of the negotiations with Raytheon. Airbus may have lost a contract worth $2 billion to Boeing and McDonnell Douglas because of information intercepted and passed on by the agency.
     According to former NSA agent Wayne Madsen, the US used information gathered from its bases in Australia to win a half share in a significant Indonesian trade contract for AT&T. Communication intercepts showed the contract was initially going to a Japanese firm. A bit later a lawsuit against the US and Britain was launched in France, judicial and parliamentary investigations began in Italy, and German parliamentarians demanded an inquiry.
     The rationale for turning the NSA loose on commercial activities, even those involving allies, was provided in the mid-90s by Sen. Frank DeConcini, then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I don't think we should have a policy where we're going to invade the Airbus inner sanctum and find out their secrets for the purpose of turning it over to Boeing or McDonnell Douglas," he opined. "But if we find something, not to share it with our people seems to me to be not smart."
      President Bill Clinton and other US officials buttressed this view by charging that European countries were unfairly subsidizing Airbus. In other words, competition with significant US interests can be a matter of national security, and private capitalism must be protected from state-run enterprises.
      The US-Europe row about Airbus subsidies was also used as a "test case" for scientists developing new intelligence tools. At US Defense Department conferences on "text retrieval," competitions were staged to find the best methods. A standard test featured extracting protected data about "Airbus subsidies."
In the end, influencing the outcome of commercial transactions is but the tip of this iceberg. The NSA's ability to intercept to virtually any transmitted communication has enhanced the power of unelected officials and private interests to set covert foreign policy in motion. In some cases, the objective is clear and arguably defensible: taking effective action against terrorism, for example. But in others, the grand plans of the intelligence community have led it to undermine democracies.
     The 1975 removal of Australian Prime Minister Edward Whitlam is an instructive case. At the time of Whitlam's election in 1972, Australian intelligence was working with the CIA against the Allende government in Chile. The new PM didn’t simply order a halt to Australia's involvement, explained William Blum in Killing Hope, a masterful study of US interventions since World War II. Whitlam seized intelligence information withheld from him by the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and disclosed the existence of a joint CIA-ASIO directorate that monitored radio traffic in Asia. He also openly disapproved of US plans to build up the Indian Ocean Island of Diego Garcia as a military-intelligence-nuclear outpost.
     Both the CIA and NSA became concerned about the security and future of crucial intelligence facilities in and near Australia. The country was already key member of UKUSA. After launching its first space-based listening post-a microwave receiver with an antenna pointed at earth-NSA had picked an isolated desert area in central Australia as a ground station. Once completed, the base at Alice Springs was named Pine Gap, the first of many listening posts to be installed around the world. For the NSA and CIA, Whitlam posed a threat to the secrecy and security of such operations.
     An early step was covert funding for the political opposition, in hopes of defeating Whitlam's Labor Party in 1974. When that failed, meetings were held with the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, a figurehead representing the Queen of England who had worked for CIA front organizations since the 50s. Defense officials warned that intelligence links would be cut off unless someone stopped Whitlam. On November 11, 1975, Kerr responded, dismissing the prime minister, dissolving both houses of Parliament, and appointing an interim government until new elections were held.
     According to Christopher Boyce (subject of The Falcon and the Snowman, a fictionalized account), who watched the process while working for TRW in a CIA-linked cryptographic communications center, the spooks also infiltrated Australian labor unions and contrived to suppress transportation strikes that were holding up deliveries to US intelligence installations. Not coincidentally, some unions were leading the opposition to development of those same facilities.
     How often, and to what effect, such covert ops have succeeded is another of the mysteries that comprise an unwritten history of the last half century. Beyond that, systems like Echelon violate the human right to individual privacy, and give those who control the information the ability to act with impunity, sometimes destroying lives and negating the popular will in the process.
Hiding the Agenda in Peru
In May 1960, when a U-2 spy plane was shot down over Soviet territory, President Dwight Eisenhower took great pains to deny direct knowledge or authorization of the provocative mission. In reality, he personally oversaw every U-2 mission, and had even riskier and more provocative bomber overflights in mind.
     It's a basic rule of thumb for covert ops: When exposed, keep denying and deflect the blame. More important, never, never let on that the mission itself may be a pretext, or a diversion from some other, larger agenda.
     Considering that, the April 20, 2001, shoot down of a plane carrying missionaries across the Brazilian border into Peru becomes highly suspicious. At first, the official story fed to the press was that Peruvian authorities ordered the attack on their own, over the pleas of the CIA "contract pilots" who initially spotted the plane. But Peruvian pilots involved in that program, supposedly designed to intercept drug flights, insist that nothing was shot down without US approval.
     Innocent planes were sometimes attacked, but most were small, low flying aircraft that didn't file flight plans and had no radios. This plane maintained regular contact and did file a plan. Still, even after it crash-landed, the Peruvians continued to strafe it, perhaps in an attempt to ignite the plane's fuel and eliminate the evidence.
     "I think it has to do with Plan Colombia and the coming war," said Celerino Castillo, who had previously worked in Peru for Drug Enforcement Agency. "The CIA was sending a clear message to all non-combatants to clear out of the area, and to get favorable press." The flight was heading to Iquitos, which "is at the heart of everything the CIA is doing right now," he added. "They don't want any witnesses."
     Timing also may have played a part. The shoot down occurred on the opening day of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. Uruguay's President Jorge Ibanez, who had proposed the worldwide legalization of drugs just weeks before, was expected to make a high-profile speech on his proposal at the gathering. The downing of a drug smuggling plane at this moment, near territory held by Colombia's FARC rebels, would help to defuse Uruguay's message and reinforce the image of the insurgents as drug smugglers.
     If you doubt that the US would condone such an operation or cover it up, consider this: In 1967, Israel torpedoed the USS Liberty, a large floating listening post, as it was eavesdropping on the Arab-Israeli war off the Sinai Peninsula. Hundreds of US sailors were wounded and killed, probably because Israel feared that its massacre of Egyptian prisoners at El Arish might be overheard. How did the Pentagon respond? By imposing a total news ban, and covering up the facts for decades.
     Will we ever find out what really happened in Peru, specifically why a missionary and her daughter were killed? Not likely, since it involves a private military contractor that is basically beyond the reach of congressional accountability.
     In 2009, when the Peru shoot down became one of five cases of intelligence operation cover up being investigated by the US House Intelligence Committee, the CIA inspector general concluded that the CIA had improperly concealed information about the incident. Intelligence Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky, who led the investigation, didn’t rule out referrals to the Justice Department for criminal prosecutions if evidence surfaced that intelligence officials broke the law. But she couldn’t guarantee that the facts would ever come to light, since the Committee’s report of its investigation would be classified.
     The most crucial wrinkle in the Peruvian incident is the involvement of DynCorp, which was active in Colombia and Bolivia under large contracts with various US agencies. The day after the incident, ABC news reported that, according to “senior administration officials,” the crew of the surveillance plane that first identified the doomed aircraft "was hired by the CIA from DynCorp." Within two days, however, all references to DynCorp were scrubbed from ABC's Website. A week later, the New York Post claimed the crew actually worked for Aviation Development Corp., allegedly a CIA proprietary company.
     Whatever the truth, State Department officials refused to talk on the record about DynCorp's activities in South America. Yet, according to DynCorp's State Department contract, the firm had received at least $600 million over the previous few years for training, drug interdiction, search and rescue (which included combat), air transport of equipment and people, and reconnaissance in the region. And that was only what they put on paper. It also operated government aircraft and provided all manner of personnel, particularly for Plan Colombia.
DynCorp began in 1946 as the employee-owned air cargo business California Eastern Airways, flying in supplies for the Korean War. This and later government work led to charges that it was a CIA front company. Whatever the truth, it ultimately became a leading PMC, hiring former soldiers and police officers to implement US foreign policy without having to report to Congress.
     The push to privatize war gained traction during the first Bush administration. After the first Gulf War, the Pentagon, then headed by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, paid a Halliburton subsidiary nearly $9 million to study how PMCs could support US soldiers in combat zones, according to a Mother Jones investigation. Cheney subsequently became CEO of Halliburton, and Brown & Root, later known as Halliburton KBR, won billions to construct and run military bases, some in secret locations.
     One of DynCorp’s earliest “police” contracts involved the protection of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and, after he was ousted, providing the “technical advice” that brought military officers involved in that coup into Haiti’s National Police. Despite this dodgy record, in 2002 it won the contract to protect another new president, Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai. By then, it was a top IT federal contractor specializing in computer systems development, and also providing the government with aviation services, general military management, and security expertise.
     Like other private military outfits, the main danger it has faced is the risk of public exposure. Under one contract, for example, DynCorp sprayed vast quantities of herbicides over Colombia to kill the cocaine crop. In September 2001, Ecuadorian Indians filed a class action lawsuit, charging that DynCorp recklessly sprayed their homes and farms, causing illnesses and deaths and destroying crops. In Bosnia, private police provided by DynCorp for the UN were accused of buying and selling prostitutes, including a 12-year-old girl. Others were charged with videotaping a rape.
     In the first years of the 21st century, DynCorp's day-to-day operations in South America were overseen by State Department officials, including the Narcotic Affairs Section and the Air Wing, the latter a clique of unreformed cold warriors and leftovers from 80s operations in Central America. It was essentially the State Department's private air force in the Andes, with access to satellite-based recording and mapping systems.
     In the 1960s, a similar role was played by the Vinnell Corp., which the CIA called "our own private mercenary army in Vietnam." Vinnell later became a subsidiary of TRW, a major NSA contractor, and employed US Special Forces vets to train Saudi Arabia's National Guard. In the late 1990s, TRW hired former NSA director William Studeman to help with its intelligence program.
     DynCorp avoided the kind of public scandal that surrounded the activities of Blackwater. In Ecuador, where it developed military logistics centers and coordinated “anti-terror” police training, the exposure of a secret covenant signed with the Aeronautics Industries Directorate of the Ecuadorian Air Force briefly threatened to make waves. According to a November 2003 exposé in Quito’s El Comercio, the arrangement, hidden from the National Defense Council, made DynCorp’s people part of the US diplomatic mission.
     In Colombia, DynCorp’s coca eradication and search-and-rescue missions led to controversial pitched battles with rebels. US contract pilots flew Black Hawk helicopters carrying Colombian police officers who raked the countryside with machine gun fire to protect the missions against attacks. According to investigative reporter Jason Vest, DynCorp employees were also implicated in narcotics trafficking. But such stories didn’t get far, and, in any case, DynCorp’s “trainers” simply ignored congressional rules, including those that restrict the US from aiding military units linked to human rights abuses.
     In 2003, DynCorp won a multimillion-dollar contract to build a private police force in post-Saddam Iraq, with some of the funding diverted from an anti-drug program for Afghanistan. In 2004, the State Department further expanded DynCorp’s role as a global US surrogate with a $1.75 billion, five year contract to provide law enforcement personnel for civilian policing operations in “post-conflict areas” around the world. That March, the company also got an Army contract to support helicopters sold to foreign countries. The work, described as “turnkey” services, includes program management, logistics support, maintenance and aircrew training, aircraft maintenance and refurbishment, repair and overhaul of aircraft components and engines, airframe and engine upgrades, and the production of technical publications.
     In short, DynCorp was a trusted partner in the military-intelligence-industrial complex. "Are we outsourcing order to avoid public scrutiny, controversy or embarrassment?" asked Rep. Schakowsky upon submitting legislation to prohibit US funding for private military firms in the Andean region. "If there is a potential for a privatized Gulf of Tonkin incident, then the American people deserve to have a full and open debate before this policy goes any further."
     If and when that ever happens, the discussion will have to cover a lot of ground. Private firms, working in concert with various intelligence agencies, constitute a vast foreign policy apparatus that is largely invisible, rarely covered by the corporate press, and not currently subject to congressional oversight. The Freedom of Information Act simply doesn't apply. Any information on whom they arm or how they operate is private, proprietary information.
     The US government downplays its use of mercenaries, a state of affairs that could undermine any efforts to find out about CIA activities that are concealed from Congress. Yet private contractors perform almost every function essential to military operations, a situation that has been called the “creeping privatization of the business of war.” By 2004, the Pentagon was employing more than 700,000 private contractors.
     The companies are staffed by former generals, admirals, and highly trained officers. Name a hot spot and some PMC has people there. DynCorp has worked on the Defense Message System Transition Hub and done long-range planning for the Air Force. MPRI had a similar contract with the Army, and for a time coordinated the Pentagon's military and leadership training in at least seven African nations.
     How did this outsourcing of defense evolve? In 1969, the US Army had about 1.5 million active duty soldiers. By 1992, the figure had been cut by half. Since the mid-1990s, however, the US has mobilized militarily to intervene in several significant conflicts, and a corporate “foreign legion” has filled the gap between foreign policy imperatives and what a downsized, increasingly over-stretched military can provide.
     Use of high technology equipment feeds the process. Private companies have technical capabilities that the military needs, but doesn’t always possess. Contractors have maintained stealth bombers and Predator unmanned drones used in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some military equipment is specifically designed to be operated and maintained by private companies.
     In Britain, the debate over military privatization has been public, since the activities of the UK company Sandline in Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea embarrassed the government in the late 1990s. But no country has clear policies to regulate PMCs, and the limited oversight that does exist rarely works. In the US, they have largely escaped notice, except when US contract workers in conflict zones are killed or go way over the line, as in the case of Blackwater.
     According to Guy Copeland, who began developing public-private IT policy in the Reagan years, “The private sector must play an integral role in improving our national cybersecurity.” After all, he has noted, private interests own and operate 85 percent of the nation’s critical IT infrastructure. He should know. After all, Copeland drafted much of the language in the Bush Administration’s 2002 National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace as co-chair of the Information Security Committee of the Information Technology Association of America.
     Nevertheless, when the federal government becomes dependent on unaccountable, private companies like DynCorp and Blackwater (later renamed Xe Services) for so many key security services, as well as for military logistics, management, strategy, expertise and “training,” fundamental elements of US defense have been outsourced. And the details of that relationship are matters that the intelligence community will fight long and hard to keep out of public view.
Corporate Connections and "Soft Landings"
Although the various departments and private contractors within the military-intelligence-industrial complex occasionally have turf battles and don't always share information or coordinate strategy as effectively as they might, close and ongoing contact has long been considered essential. And it has expanded as a result of the information revolution. The entire intelligence community has its own secret Intranet, which pulls together FBI reports, NSA intercepts, analysis from the DIA and CIA, and other deeply covert sources.
     Private firms are connected to this information web through staff, location, shared technology, and assorted contracts. Working primarily for the Pentagon, for example, L-3 Communications, a spinoff from major defense contractor Lockheed Martin, has manufactured hardware like control systems for satellites and flight recorders. MPRI, which was bought by L-3, provided services like its operations in Macedonia. L-3 also built the NSA's Secure Terminal Equipment, which instantly encrypts phone conversations.
     Another private contractor active in the Balkans was Science Applications, staffed by former NSA and CIA personnel, and specializing in police training. When Janice Stromsem, a Justice Department employee, complained that its program gave the CIA unfettered access to recruiting agents in foreign police forces, she was relieved of her duties. Her concern was that the sovereignty of nations receiving aid from the US was being compromised.
     In 1999, faced with personnel cuts, the NSA offered over 4000 employees "soft landing" buy outs to help them secure jobs with defense firms that have major NSA contracts. NSA offered to pay the first year's salary, in hopes the contractor would then pick up the tab. Sometimes the employee didn't even have to move away from Crypto City. Companies taking part in the program included TRW and MPRI's parent company, Lockheed Martin.
     Lockheed was also a winner in the long-term effort to privatize government services. In 2000, it won a $43.8 million contract to run the Defense Civilian Personnel Data System, one of the largest human resources systems in the world. As a result, a major defense contractor took charge of consolidating all Department of Defense personnel systems, covering hiring and firing for about 750,000 civilian employees. This put the contractor at the cutting edge of Defense Department planning, and made it a key gatekeeper at the revolving door between the US military and private interests.
Shortly after his appointment as NSA director in 1999, Michael Hayden went to see the film Enemy of the State, in which Will Smith is pursued by an all-seeing, all hearing NSA and former operative Gene Hackman decries the agency's dangerous power. In Body of Secrets, author Bamford says Hayden found the film entertaining, yet offensive and highly inaccurate. Still, the NSA chief was comforted by "a society that makes its bogeymen secrecy and power. That's really what the movie's about.''
     Unlike Hayden, most people don't know where the fiction ends and NSA reality begins. Supposedly, the agency rarely "spies" on US citizens at home. On the other hand, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows a secret federal court to waive that limitation. The rest of the world doesn't have that protection. Designating thousands of keywords, names, phrases, and phone numbers, NSA computers can pick them out of millions of messages, passing anything of interest on to analysts. One can only speculate about what happens next.
     After 9/11 the plan was to go further with a project code named Tempest. The goal was to capture computer signals such as keystrokes or monitor images through walls or from other buildings, even if the computers weren't linked to a network. One NSA document, "Compromising Emanations Laboratory Test Requirements, Electromagnetics," described procedures for capturing the radiation emitted from a computer-through radio waves and the telephone, serial, network, or power cables attached to it.
     Other NSA programs have included Oasis, designed to reduce audiovisual images into machine-readable text for easier filtering, and Fluent, which expanded Echelon's multilingual capabilities. And let's not forget the government's Carnivore Internet surveillance program, which can collect all communications over any segment of the network being watched.
     Put such elements together, combine them with business imperatives and covert foreign policy objectives, then throw PMCS into the mix, and you get a glimpse of the extent to which information can be translated into raw power and secretly used to shape events. Although most pieces of the puzzle remain obscure, enough is visible to justify suspicion, outrage, and a campaign to pull away the curtain on this Wizard of Oz. But fighting a force that is largely invisible and unaccountable – and able to eavesdrop on the most private exchanges, that is a daunting task, perhaps even more difficult than confronting the mechanisms of corporate globalization that it protects and promotes.

New NSA Revelations


New NSA Revelations

by Stephen Lendman

NSA is one of 16 known US spy agencies. They're all up to no good. They violate core rule of law principles. 

They do whatever they want. They operate out-of-control. They're powers unto themselves. NSA reflects Big Brother writ large.

It operate globally. It's the world's biggest spy agency. It watches everyone. Advanced technology lets it go where no previous counterpart went before.

Privacy no longer exists. Congress ignores its lawlessness. Oversight is absent. NSA takes full advantage. 

Two Washington Post articles revealed more. They're based on documents Edward Snowden provided. Expect lots more disclosures ahead.

On October 14, WaPo headlined "NSA collects millions of e-mail address books globally." Many belong to Americans.

"The collection program (hasn't) been disclosed before." Intercepts include email address books and so-called buddy lists.

They're from online instant messaging and/or cell phone text displays. They're lists people want to keep track of.

They show who's online or off, on but away from their computer, people with their phones on or off, and who's currently using them.

NSA collects contact lists in large numbers. They amount to a sizable portion of email/instant messaging accounts.

Data analysis lets NSA "search for hidden connections." It permits mapping relationships "within a much smaller universe of foreign intelligence targets," said WaPo

In one day last year, "NSA's Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers."

These figures are typical. They repeat daily. They add up. They "correspond to a rate of more than 250 million a year." .

NSA has access to about 500,000 buddy lists as well as huge numbers of web-based email accounts.

A previous article called NSA spying worse than you think. Rules followed are its own. 

It can monitor virtually everyone everywhere electronically. Doing so is unconnected to terrorism or other national security concerns.

Big Brother has lots of other Brothers watching. They're making a list. They're checking it twice. They know who's naughty or nice.

They read your emails. They know what web sites you visit. They know your medical and financial history.

They know the company you keep. They watch every move you make. They know what you do, where and when.

They know when you're sleeping. They know when you're awake. They know when you're bad or good. They know secretly. They know intrusively.

They know because they can go where no previous spy agencies went before. They exceed their capabilities. 

Perhaps one day they'll be able to anticipate things before they happen. Maybe they'll be able to read minds.

"(S)ecret arrangements with foreign governments or allied intelligence services" controlling online traffic permits collecting  buddy lists and emails, said WaPo.

Millions of Americans are affected. NSA won't say how many. Perhaps its tens of millions. NSA can target virtually everyone everywhere.

DNI spokesman Shawn Turner lied saying it's "focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets like terrorists, human traffickers and drug smugglers." 

"We are not interested in personal information about ordinary Americans."

False! It targets you, me, our neighbors, families and friends.

NSA collects virtually all telecommunication records. They gotten under a separate program. Director Keith Alexander defends the practice.

He lied calling it an essential counterterrorism/foreign intelligence tool, saying:

"You need a haystack to find the needle." He finds virtually none. So-called terror plots exposed were fake. Domestic ones virtually don't exist. What's claimed is fabricated.

It's done for political advantage. It generates fear. It justifies lawless NSA operations.

Online call lists provide "far richer sources of data than call records alone," said WaPo. 

Address books include email addresses, phone numbers, street locations, as well as business and personal information.

Combined they let NSA "draw detailed maps of a person's life." Doing so creates false impressions.

NSA isn't authorized to collect bulk contact lists. According to senior intelligence officials, doing so from US facilities is illegal.

NSA does what it wants anyway. It accesses information globally. When obtained from overseas, it assumes "you're not a US person," it claims.

Global sweeps target everyone. Americans are as vulnerable as foreigners. So-called "checks and balances built into (its) tools" don't exist or aren't used.

NSA claims authorization under the Patriot Act's Section 215. It oversteps. It's unconstitutional. 

It permits warrantless searches without probable cause. It violates First Amendment rights. 

It does so by mandating secrecy. It prohibits targeted subjects from telling others what’s happening to them. It compromises free expression, assembly and association. 

It does so by authorizing the FBI to investigate anyone based on what they say, write, or do with regard to groups they belong to or associate with.

It violates Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections by not telling targeted subjects their privacy was compromised. 

It subverts fundamental freedoms for contrived, exaggerated, or nonexistent security reasons. Doing so turns constitutional rights on their head. 

Separately WaPo headlined "Documents reveal NSA's extensive involvement in targeted killing program."

NSA claims it "focuse(s) on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets."

It does so, it says, to "protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Drone warfare makes more enemies than friends. Most deaths are innocent men, women and children. Few are so-called high-value targets.

In search for them, NSA "draped a surveillance blanket over dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan," said WaPo.

Anything electronic can be tracked. NSA's secret Counterterrorism Mission Aligned Cell (CT MAC) is involved in doing it.

It focuses on hard-to-find terrorism targets. Considerable time and effort goes into doing it.

NSA's Alexander claims his mission is "noble." He lied again saying:

"Our job is to defend this nation and to protect our civil liberties and privacy."

He's way over-the-top out-of-control. He defends imperial lawlessness. He destroys civil liberties and privacy in the process.

Records indicate NSA "depends heavily on highly targeted network penetrations to gather information that wouldn’t otherwise be trapped in surveillance nets that it has set at key Internet gateways," said WaPo.

It assigned senior analysts to the CIA's Counterterrorism Center. Others work alongside CIA counterparts. They do so at almost all major US embassy and overseas military bases.

According to a former US intelligence official:

It "you wanted huge coverage of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), NSA had 10 times the manpower, 20 times the budget, and 100 times the brainpower."

He compared NSA with CIA's Information Operations Center (IOC). 

"NSA relies on increasingly sophisticated versions of online attacks that are well-known among security experts." 

"Many rely on software implants developed by the agency's Tailored Access Operations division with code-names such as UNITEDRAKE and VALIDATOR."

Other methods are used. NSA obtains vast amounts of information. Its Tailored Access Operations division extends way beyond Pakistan.

It targets Yemen, African and other locations. Murder, Inc. is official Obama administration policy. US citizens are as vulnerable as foreigners.

Death squads operate in 120 or more countries. CIA agents are everywhere. They're licensed to kill. NSA secretly tracks suspects.

Summary judgment means no arrests. No Miranda rights. No due process. No trial. Just death by diktat.

Obama appointed himself judge, jury and executioner. He decides who lives or dies. CIA chief John Brennan helps him choose.

With or without evidence, anyone called Al Qaeda or accused of terrorist connections gets marked for death.

NSA's job is find them. CIA's job is kill them. Only eliminating America's enemies matter. Whether real or imagined makes no difference. 

Everyone is fair game. Right or wrong is someone else's problem. Advancing America's imperium alone matters.

A Final Comment

On October 11, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court released a new legal opinion. It reauthorized NSA's collection of virtually all American made phone calls without warrants.

Doing so violates Fourth Amendment protection against lawless searches and seizures. It applies to all unreasonable intrusions.

Telecommunication call log meta-data must be approved every 90 days. Doing so is virtually rubber-stamp. Police states operate that way. America is by far the worst.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/new-nsa-revelations/

Obama Nominates Former Pentagon Official as DHS Secretary

Speaking at a public ceremony in the White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, President Obama nominated Jeh Johnson (shown), a former General Counsel for the Defense Department, to become the next secretary of the Homeland Security Department.

Obama called Johnson a “critical member” of his national security team, saying that Johnson had “demonstrated again and again … a deep understanding of the threats facing the United States,” reported the Washington Examiner.

“He’s respected across our government as a team player,” Obama continued, adding that Johnson had “earned a reputation as a cool and calm leader.”

“I urge the Senate to confirm Jeh as soon as possible,” said the president. The nominee’s first name is pronounced “Jay.”

The Examiner report noted that during his position of General Counsel at Defense, Johnson played an important role in departmental policy decisions, including “the expansion of the administration’s overseas drone strikes, rules governing the use of military commissions at Guantanamo Bay and the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ ” 

“For those service members who are gay and lesbian, we lifted a real and personal burden from their shoulders,” Johnson said last year at the ceremony recognizing the repeal of the policy. “They no longer have to live a lie in the military.”

A CBS News report on the announcement said that Obama commended Johnson for his legal work that helped to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Obama said that Johnson, “believes in a deep and personal way that keeping America safe requires us upholding the values and civil liberties that make America great.”

The president did not explain why he believes that allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military would help keep America safe.

CBS also noted that in an interview with talk show host Charlie Rose in May, Johnson said that the Obama administration’s policies have resembled the Bush administration's second-term policies, but mentioned some differences, saying, “We started from fundamentally different places.”

For example, when Johnson asked Defense Department lawyers trained during the Bush administration about the legality of certain policies, they would tell him, “there's nothing that prohibits it.”

Noting a different approach under Obama, Johnson said: “The question that would be asked in the Obama years is ... what authorizes this.... What authorizes this specific activity in international law and domestic law?”

While claiming that the Obama administration is more apt than its predecessor to ask whether actions are authorized under international or domestic law, Fox News reported that during his position at Defense, Johnson “oversaw the escalation of the use of unmanned drone strikes [and] the revamping of military commissions to try terrorism suspects rather than using civilian courts.” 

A Reuters report in the Chicago Tribune quoted a statement from former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: “As a senior member of my management team at the Pentagon, Jeh worked on every major issue affecting America’s security, including border security, counterterrorism, and cyber security. I urge the Senate to act quickly to confirm him.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Johnson, will fill the vacancy left by Janet Napolitano, who resigned in July to take a position as president of the University of California system. Both Napolitano and Johnson are members of the internationalist-minded policy organization the Council on Foreign Relations.

Friday’s New York Times quoted from a speech Johnson made at Oxford University shortly before leaving his Pentagon position in December 2012. In the speech, Johnson foresaw a day when al-Qaeda would be so depleted that the United States could relax its hard-line policies and end the military’s legal authority to kill and detain terrorism suspects.

“I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping point — a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States,” said Johnson in that speech.

Earlier in 2012, reported the Times, Johnson delivered a speech at Yale Law School defending the legality of targeting and killing American citizens who join al-Qaeda.

But in another speech at Fordham this year, Johnson also charged that government secrecy about the drone strikes fuels suspicion by Americans.

“The problem is that the American public is suspicious of executive power shrouded in secrecy,” said Johnson during that speech. “In the absence of an official picture of what our government is doing, and by what authority, many in the public fill the void by imagining the worst.”

A report in USA Today on October 17 quoted Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who criticized the president for nominating a “loyalist and fundraiser” to head what he called a “mismanaged” department.

“This is deeply concerning,” Sessions said. “This huge department must have a proven manager with strong relevant law enforcement experience, recognized independence and integrity, who can restore this department to its full capability.”

While Sessions enjoys a reputation as a “conservative,” a strict constitutionalist would favor the abolition of Homeland Security, rather than its restoration.

For example, during the 2007 GOP Values Voter Presidential Debate on Sep 17, 2007, Ron Paul was asked: “You say that you would eliminate the IRS, the CIA, the Federal Reserve, the Department of Homeland Security, Medicare. You used to want to end the FBI. But if you get rid of the CIA, let alone the FBI, how would President Paul have any idea, any intelligence of what our enemies, foreign and domestic, are up to?”

Paul replied: “Well, you might ask a better question. Before 9/11, we were spending $40 billion a year, and the FBI was producing numerous information about people being trained on airplanes, to fly them but not land them. And they totally ignored them. So it’s the inefficiency of the bureaucracy that is the problem. So, increasing this with the Department of Homeland Security and spending more money doesn’t absolve us of the problem. Yes, we have every right in the world to know something about intelligence gathering. But we have to have intelligent people interpreting this information.”

Paul was asked similar questions at the 2007 Republican Debate in South Carolina on May 15, 2007: “You would eliminate the Department of Homeland Security?” He replied: “DHS is a monstrous type of bureaucracy. It was supposed to be streamlining our security and it’s unmanageable. I mean, just think of the efficiency of FEMA in its efforts to take care of the floods and the hurricanes.”

A follow-up question asked: “You would eliminate DHS in the midst of a war?” To which Paul replied: “We should not go to more bureaucracy. It didn’t work. We were spending $40 billion on security prior to 9/11, and they had all the information they needed there to deal with the threat, and it was inefficiency. So what do we do? We add a gigantic bureaucracy, which they’re still working on trying to put it together.”

John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, who served as an officer in the Marine Corps, had this to say about his concept of homeland security: “The proper way to secure the homeland from external threat is the U.S. military. The federal government has no authority under the Constitution to implement internal homeland security, which should be handled by local law enforcement. The Department of Homeland Security that has been put in place is totally unconstitutional.”

Photo of Jeh Johnson with President Obama: AP Images

The Ghost of Authoritarianism in the Age of the Shutdown

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_ghost_of_authoritarianism_in_the_age_of_the_shutdown_20131018/

Posted on Oct 18, 2013

By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout

This piece first appeared at Truthout before the government shutdown was resolved.

In the aftermath of the reign of Nazi terror in the 1940s, the philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote:

National Socialism lives on, and even today we still do not know whether it is merely the ghost of what was so monstrous that it lingers on after its own death, or whether it has not yet died at all, whether the willingness to commit the unspeakable survives in people as well as in the conditions that enclose them.

Adorno’s words are as relevant today as they were when he first wrote them. The threat of authoritarianism to citizen-based democracy is alive and well in the United States, and its presence can be felt in the historical conditions leading up to the partial government shutdown and the refusal on the part of the new extremists to raise the debt ceiling. Adorno believed that while the specific features and horrors of mid-century fascism such as the concentration camps and the control of governments by a political elite and the gestapo would not be reproduced in the same way, democracy as a political ideal and as a working proposition would be under assault once again by new anti-democratic forces all too willing to impose totalitarian systems on their adversaries.

For Adorno, the conditions for fascism would more than likely crystallize into new forms. For instance, they might be found in the economic organization of a society that renders “the majority of people dependent upon conditions beyond their control and thus maintains them in a state of political immaturity. If they want to live, then no other avenue remains but to adapt, submit themselves to the given conditions.” In part, this speaks to the role of corporate-controlled cultural apparatuses that normalize anti-democratic ideologies and practices as well as to the paramount role of education in creating a subject for whom politics was superfluous. For Adorno, fascism in its new guise particularly would launch a systemic assault on the remaining conditions for democracy through the elimination of public memory, public institutions in which people could be educated to think critically and the evisceration of public spaces where people could learn the art of social citizenship, thoughtfulness and critical engagement. He also believed that the residual elements of the police state would become emergent in any new expression of fascism in which the corporate and military establishments would be poised to take power. Adorno, like Hannah Arendt, understood that the seeds of authoritarianism lie in the “disappearance of politics: a form of government that destroys politics, methodically eliminating speaking and acting human beings and attacking the very humanity of first a selected group and then all groups. In this way, totalitarianism makes people superfluous as human beings.”

The American political, cultural, and economic landscape is inhabited by the renewed return of authoritarianism evident in the ideologies of religious and secular certainty that legitimate the reign of economic Darwinism, the unchecked power of capital, the culture of fear and the expanding national security state. The ghosts of fascism also are evident in what Charles Derber and Yale Magress call elements of “the Weimer Syndrome,” which include a severe and seemingly unresolvable economic crisis, liberals and moderate parties too weak to address the intensifying political and economic crises, the rise of far-right populist groups such as the Tea Party and white militia, and the emergence of the Christian Right, with its racist, anti-intellectual and fundamentalist ideology. The underpinnings of fascism are also evident in the reign of foreign and domestic terrorism that bears down on the so called enemies of the state (whistleblowers and nonviolent youthful protesters) and on those abroad who challenge America’s imperial mission; it is also visible in a growing pervasive surveillance system buttressed by the belief that everyone is a potential enemy of the state and should be rightfully subject to diverse and massive assaults on rights to privacy and assembly.

The return to authoritarianism can also be seen in the pervasive and racist war on youths, whether one points to a generation of young people saddled with unspeakable debt, poverty and unemployment, or the ongoing criminalization of behaviors that either represent trivial infractions, such as violating a dress code, or more serious forms of terrorism, such as incarcerating increasing numbers of low-income whites and poor minority youths. Americans live at a time when the history of those who have been cheated, murdered or excluded is being destroyed. Eliminated from this history are the collective narratives of struggle, resistance and rebellion against various forms of authoritarianism. We live in a time in which the politics of the moral coma is alive and well and is most visible in the ways in which the rise of the new extremism in the United States is being ignored. The repudiation of intellectual responsibility confirms what Leo Lowenthal once called the “regression to sheer Darwinism - or perhaps one should say infantilism,” along with any sense of moral accountability toward others or the common good. The government shutdown offers a clear case of a kind of historical and social amnesia and a rare glimpse of the parameters of the new authoritarianism.

During the past few decades, it has become clear that those who wield corporate, political and financial power in the United States thrive on the misery of others. Widening inequality, environmental destruction, growing poverty, the privatization of public goods, the attack on social provisions, the elimination of pensions and the ongoing attacks on workers, young protesters, Muslims and immigrants qualify as just a few of the injustices that have intensified with the rise of the corporate and financial elite since the 1970s. None of these issues are novel, but the intensification of the attacks and the visibility of unbridled power and arrogance of the financial, corporate and political elite that produces these ongoing problems are new and do not bode well for the promise of a democratic society.

Such failings are not reducible either to the moral deficiencies and unchecked greed of both major political parties or the rapacious power of the mega banks, hedge funds and investment houses. Those intellectuals writing to acknowledge the current state of politics in America understand the outgrowth of a mix of rabid racism, religious fundamentalism, civic illiteracy, class warfare and a savage hatred of the welfare state that now grips the leadership of the Republican Party. The new extremists and prophets of authoritarianism are diverse, and their roots are in what Chris Hedges calls the radical Christian right, Michael Lind calls the reincarnation of the old Jeffersonian-Jacksonian right and what Robert Parry and Andrew O’Hehir call racist zealots. All of these elements are present in American politics, but they are part of a new social formation in which they share, even in their heterogeneity, a set of organizing principles, values, policies, modes of governance and ideologies that have created a cultural formation, institutional structures, values and policies that support a range of anti-democratic practices ranging from the militarization of public life and acts of domestic terrorism to the destruction of the social state and all those public spheres capable of producing critical and engaged citizens.

Needless to say, all of these groups play an important role in the rise of the new extremism and culture of cruelty that now characterizes American politics and has produced the partial government shutdown and threatens economic disaster with the debt-ceiling standoff. What is new is that these various fundamentalist registers and ideological movements have produced a coalition, a totality that speaks to a new historical conjuncture, one that has ominous authoritarian overtones for the present and future. There is no talk among the new extremists of imposing only an extreme Christian religious orthodoxy on the American people or simply restoring a racial state; or for that matter is there a singular call for primarily controlling the economy. The new counter-revolutionaries and apostles of the Second Gilded age are more interested in imposing a mode of authoritarianism that contains all of these elements in the interest of governing the whole of social life. This suggests a historical conjuncture in which a number of anti-democratic forces come together to “fuse and form a kind of configuration” - a coming together of diverse political and ideological formations into a new totality. The partial government shutdown is a precondition and test run for a full coup d’état by the social formations driving this totality. And while they may lose the heated battle over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling, they have succeeded in executing their project and giving it some legitimacy in the dominant media.

Hiding beneath the discourse of partisan politics as usual, the authoritarian face of the new extremism is overlooked in the dominant media by terms such as “the opposing party,” “hard-line conservatives” or, in the words of New York Times columnist Sam Tanenhous, the party of “a post consensus politics.” In fact, even progressives such as Marian Wright Edelman fall into this trap in writing that “some members of Congress are acting like children - or, more accurately, worse than children.” In this case, the anti-democratic ideologies, practices and social formations at work in producing the shutdown and the potential debt-ceiling crisis are not merely overlooked but incorporated into a liberal discourse that personalizes, psychologizes or infantilizes behaviors that refuses to acknowledge or, in fact, succumbs to totalitarian tendencies.

There is no sense in the mainstream liberal and conservative discourses that a new authoritarianism haunts the current notion and ideal of governance and is the culmination of what Hannah Arendt once viewed as a historical trend toward the limiting, if not elimination, of the political as it relates to and furthers the promise of a democracy to come. The wider contexts of power and politics disappear in these discourses. We get a glimpse of this erasure in a statement by former Texas congressman and Republican Party House majority leader Dick Armey. In commenting on the shutdown, Armey raises the issue of “How does a guy like Ted Cruz, who’s relatively new in town, who nobody knows, who hasn’t even unpacked his bags, drive this whole process?” What Armey ignores in this revealing and stark assessment is that the very cultural, economic and political conditions that he has helped to put in place along with a range of other right-wing ideologues helped to create the perfect storm for Cruz to appear and set in motion the authoritarian tendencies that have been percolating in the social order since the late 1970s.

What is clear in the current impasse is that the Republican Party has held the U.S. government hostage, in part, because it disagrees with a health initiative that has been endorsed by a large segment of the American people, been deemed legal by the Supreme Court and played a significant role in getting Barack Obama re-elected. For some, these practices resemble a politics that appropriates the gangster tactics of extortion, but this understanding is only partially true. There is a deeper order of politics at work here, and there is more at stake than simply defunding the Affordable Care Act. As Bill Moyers points out, the attack on the Affordable Care Act is only one target in the sights of the new extremists. He writes:

Despite what they say, Obamacare is only one of their targets. Before they will allow the government to reopen, they demand employers be enabled to deny birth control coverage to female employees. They demand Obama cave on the Keystone pipeline. They demand the watchdogs over corporate pollution be muzzled, and the big, bad regulators of Wall Street sent home. Their ransom list goes on and on. The debt ceiling is next.

Moyers is correct, but his argument can be extended. What Americans are witnessing is a politics that celebrates a form of domestic terrorism, a kind of soft militarism and a hyper-masculine posturing in which communities are organized around resentment, racism and symbolic violence. With the partial government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling crisis engineered by the extremists driving the Republican Party, the amount of human suffering, violence and hardships that many individuals and families are experiencing border on catastrophic and open up a whole new act in the theater of cruelty, state violence, human misery and the exercise of raw and savage power.

The assassins now in power are cultivating a culture of fear, vengeance and hatred not only directed at disposable populations such as the poor, low-income minority youths, whistleblowers, immigrants and those who are disabled, uninsured and unemployed - but also at civil liberties, labor unions, women’s reproductive rights and voting rights. Neoliberal common sense now colonizes everyday life and spreads the market-driven gospel of privatization, commodification, deregulation and free trade. Competitiveness, self-interest and decentralization are the new mantras governing society and provide the ideological scaffolding for “moulding identities and characterizing social relations.” The pursuit of the public good, social justice and equality has been replaced by the crude discourse of commerce, the drive for profits and “rational choice models that internalize and thus normalize market-oriented behaviour.” Entrepreneurial identities replace all modes of solidarity invested in democratic principles, and self-interested actors supplant the discourse of the public good. The production of capital, services and material goods “are at the heart of the human experience.”

The connection between private troubles and public considerations has been broken. The many problems the American people now face - from unemployment and poverty to homelessness - regardless of the degree to which they are caused by larger social, economic and political forces are now individualized, placed on the shoulders of the victims who are now solely responsible for the terror, hardship and violence they experience. The shutdown is not another example of an egregiously inept and morally corrupt group of politicians, it is a flashpoint registering the degree to which the United States has become an authoritarian state, one now governed by a system in which economics drives politics, irrationality trumps reason, the public good is canceled out by an unchecked narcissism and ethical considerations are subordinated to the drive for profits at any cost.

For those who have refused to participate in the willful amnesia that marks the contemporary slide into authoritarianism, the totalitarian practices of the past few decades have been quite clear. Domestic spying; secret prisons; kill lists; military aggression; the rise of corporatism; the death-dealing culture of hyper-masculinity, drones and the spectacle of violence; and a monochromatic media have not only registered a shift from state power to corporate power but also a move from the welfare state to the warfare state. Consumer sovereignty erases the rights and obligations of citizens and eviscerates ethical claims and social responsibilities from the meaning of politics. Government is viewed as the enemy, except when it benefits the rich, corporations and hedge fund executives. At the same time that social programs are viewed as a pathology and drain on the state, intellectuals are incorporated into a spectacle of conformity where they lose their voices and become normalized.

The hijacking of democracy by extremists in and outside of the government appears completely disassociated from the needs of the American people, and as such the instruments of dominant politics, power and influence appear unaccountable. And unaccountability is the stuff of political tyrants, not simply religious fanatics or market fundamentalists; it has been a long time in the making and has been fed by a relentless culture of fear, warfare, greed, inequality, unbridled power formations, the destruction of civil liberties and a virulent racism that has a long history in the United States and has gone into overdrive since the 1980s, reaching its authoritarian tipping point after the tragedy of 9/11.

Obama may not be responsible for the government shutdown and the debt ceiling crisis, but he can be charged with furthering a climate of lawlessness that feeds the authoritarian culture supportive of a range of political, economic and cultural interests. The American anti-war activist Fred Branfman argues that:

Under Mr. Obama, America is still far from being a classic police-state of course. But no President has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police-state. This infrastructure will clearly pose a serious danger to democratic ideals should there be more 9/11s, and/or increased domestic unrest due to economic decline and growing inequality, and/or massive global disruption due to climate change.

The new extremists in the Republican Party are simply raising the bar for the authoritarian registers and illegal legalities that have emerged under Bush and Obama in the past decade - including the bailing out of banks guilty of the worst forms of corporate malfeasance, the refusal to prosecute government officials who committed torture, the undermining of civil liberties with the passage of the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the establishment of a presidential kill list and the authorization of widespread surveillance to be used against the American people without full transparency.

The current crisis has little to do with what some have called a standoff between the two major political parties. It is has been decades in the making and is part of a much broader coup d’état to benefit the financial elite, race baiters, war mongers and conservative ideologues such as the right-wing billionaires, David and Charles Koch, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation policy hacks and other extremist individuals and organizations that believe that democracy poses a threat to a government that should be firmly in the hands of Wall Street and other elements of the military-industrial-surveillance-prison complex.

The willingness and recklessness of the new extremists to throw most of the American people, if not all vestiges of economic security and democracy, into political and economic chaos is a measure of the depth and degree to which the United States has become subject to a new form of authoritarianism. Not only has the shutdown caused the American public $300 million a day and portends a financial catastrophe, but it has shut down programs such as WIC that provide funding for “nearly nine million pregnant women, recent mothers, and their children under age five who rely on the program’s supplemental vouchers for healthy food, expensive infant formula, and other necessities. Fifty-three percent of all infants born in the U.S. are fed through the WIC program.”  Nineteen thousand students in Head Start have lost their funding, 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed, and life-saving research for “children with serious medical needs has been affected.” In Maine, many of the poor will go without funds for heating, the Environmental Protection Agency has furloughed more than 16,000 workers, or 95 percent of its workforce, prompting what Sara Chieffo, the legislative director of the League of Conservation Voters, has called “a polluter’s heyday.”

It gets worse. Thousands of safety inspectors for the Federal Aviation Administration no longer on the job because of the shutdown will not be able to perform “included inspections for the de-icing of aircraft on the tarmac and checks that pilots do not fly longer than allowed.” As Think Progress has pointed out, this heavy-handed exercise of raw power means more people will get sick because routine food inspections by the FDA will be dramatically reduced, cutbacks in the staff of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will put the country at risk for the spread of infectious diseases, many low-income poor will be cut off from needed nutritional assistance, agencies that conduct workplace inspections and ensure worker safety will not be on the job, and the work of public health researchers may be set back for years. In fact, the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, which already were underfunded for years, are “scrambling to recall furloughed employees to deal with a dangerous food-borne salmonella outbreak and a lethal Hepatitis outbreak in Hawaii.”  As Michal Meurer and Candice Bernd point out, food-borne illnesses pose a real and dangerous threat to the American public, and the government shutdown should be seen as part of a broader right-wing plan to dismantle regulatory agencies, regardless of the lethal impact they may have on the American people. The food safety system is in crisis not for lack of resources and expertise but because of willful recklessness put into place through the right-wing policies of the new authoritarianism. There is more at work here than the recklessness of Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and other Tea Party Republicans, bankrolled by a handful of billionaires; there is also the echo of authoritarianism that now saturates the American cultural and political landscape, endlessly normalizing itself in the media and other cultural apparatuses that showcase and normalize its corrupt politics, racist and class-based ideologies and culture of cruelty, all enabled under the sanctity of the market and in the name of state security. The shutdown and debt ceiling crisis signal the depth and degree to which the United States has become subject to a new form of authoritarianism.

A new type of criminal regime now drives American politics, one devoid of any sense of justice, equality and honor. It thrives on fear, the false promise of security and an egregious fusion of economic, religious and racist ideologies that have become normalized. This new dystopia wants nothing more than the complete destruction of the formative culture, collectives and the institutions that make democracy possible. Inequality is its engine, and disposability is the reward for large segments of the American public. It ideologies and structure of politics often have been hidden from the American public. The shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis have forced the new authoritarianism out of the shadows into the light. The lockdown state is on full display with its concentrated economic power and the willingness of the apostles of authoritarianism to push millions of people into ruin. Paraphrasing Eric Cazdyn, all of society is now at the mercy of a corporate, religious, and financial elite just as “all ideals are at the mercy of [a] larger economic logic.” The category of hell is alive and well in the racist and imperial enclaves of the rich, the bigoted, the bankers and hedge fund managers.

The question that remains is how can politics be redefined through a new language that is capable of articulating not only what has gone wrong with the United States but how the forces responsible can be challenged in new ways by new social formations and collective movements?  The crisis caused by the shutdown needs to be addressed through a discourse in which the ghosts and traces of historical modes of authoritarianism can be revealed in tandem with its newly revised edition. This is a daunting task, but too much is at stake to not take it up. The authoritarianism that rules American society functions as more than an apology for inequality, the ruthlessness of the market and the savage costs it imposes on the American public; it also represents a present danger that cannot be repeated in the future. Authoritarianism in its present form in America is the result of the formative culture, modes of civic education and sites of public pedagogy necessary for a viable democratic society degenerating into caricature, or what Adorno called an “empty and cold forgetting.” The ghost has become a reality, although it has been reconfigured to adjust to the specificity of the American political, economic and cultural landscape in the 21st century. In 2004, I wrote a book titled The Terror of Neoliberalism: The New Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy. What is different almost a decade later is a mode of state repression and an apparatus of symbolic and real violence that is not only more pervasive and visible but also more unaccountable, more daunting in its arrogance and disrespect for the most fundamental elements of justice, equality and civil liberties.

The new authoritarianism must be exposed as a politic of disaster and a new catastrophe, one that is rooted in large-scale terror and the death of the civic imagination. It has to be contoured with a sense of hope and possibility so that intellectuals, artists, workers, educators and young people can imagine otherwise in order to act otherwise.  If we have entered into an era of what Stanley Aronowitz calls “the repressive authoritarian state,” there are signs all over the globe that authoritarianism in its various versions is being challenged in countries that extend from Egypt and Greece to Chile and Mexico. The radical imagination is alive, but it has to be a site of struggle by those committed to creating a new politics, modes of identity, social relations, power arrangements and moral values that offer the glimpse of political and economic emancipation.

psyberartist (CC BY 2.0)

California moves to legalize marijuana in 2016

Published time: October 18, 2013 17:35
David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

A new poll shows that a large majority of Californians is ready to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in 2016.

According to new data recorded by San Francisco-based Tulchin Research, 65 percent of California’s likely 2016 voters support legalizing, regulating, and taxing the use of marijuana in the state.

The findings represent a big shift since 2010, when 53 percent of California voters chose to reject a ballot proposal that would legalize the drug.

In response to the new findings, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), along with members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), announced it is undertaking a two-year effort to research proposals that could safely and effectively regulate the use of legalized marijuana in the state. The research panel, chaired by Newsom himself, will be composed of medical, academic, and public policy professionals.

"This is about real people," Newsom told the Huffington Post. "Communities are devastated because of this abject thing called the drug war. Forget the politics. This is the right thing to do.

"But we need to answer the tough questions before we put it on the ballot. I want the research in order to be more convincing to others."

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (Reuters/Stephen Lam)

While some advocacy groups are pushing for marijuana initiatives to be put on the ballot as soon as 2014, others view the 2016 national election as a much better venue for supporters to make a statement.

"Voter turnout tends to be much higher in presidential election years," noted Mason Tvert, communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "We believe a 2016 initiative will best demonstrate just how much support there is for ending marijuana prohibition in California."

Since California voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, the industry has raised more than $100 million a year in tax revenue for the state.

If California chooses to permit the use of recreational marijuana, it will become the third state in the country to do so. During the 2012 presidential election, Washington and Colorado passed ballot initiatives sanctioning the drug. In August, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would honor those decisions, allowing both states to establish their own rules and regulations.

A nationwide Pew poll, released on April 4, found that 52 percent of Americans believe the use of marijuana should be legalized. It was the first time a majority supported the issue since pollsters began asking the question in the late ‘60s.

Internal TSA Documents: Body Scanners, Pat Downs Not For Terrorists

TSA’s ‘Administrative Record’ admits ineffective security theater

Adan Salazar
Infowars.com
Oct. 17, 2013

The TSA has quietly admitted there is no actual “threat-addressing” basis for employing nude body scanners or invasive pat down procedures at airports, a notion many travelers who are weary of the federal agency’s borderline sexual molestation have long suspected but were hard-pressed to prove.

The TSA understands body scanners and pat downs are ineffective at addressing a threat for which they admit “there is no evidence.”

The TSA understands body scanners and pat downs are ineffective at addressing a threat for which they admit “there is no evidence.”

The evidence was found in sealed court documents, available through the PACER.gov website, regarding engineer and blogger Jon Corbett’s ongoing litigation over the constitutionality of the agency’s loathsome security practices.

In a redacted version of the appellant’s brief, filed by Corbett on October 7 with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, several portions of the Summary of Facts section were blacked out, raising questions as to the nature of the censored information.

But in a sealed version of the same documents obtained through PACER.gov (and available here), the redacted sections appear with incriminating clarity.

Through Redactions, TSA Admits Terror Threats are Slim to Nonexistent

Redaction shows TSA is aware explosives on airplanes "are extremely rare.' (click to enlarge)

Redaction shows TSA is aware explosives on airplanes “are extremely rare.’ (click to enlarge)

A section detailing how “The TSA Has Misled The Public As to the Likelihood of the Threat ‘Addressed’ By Nude Body Scanners and Pat Downs,” includes a blacked out portion concerning the TSA’s knowledge that “explosives on airplanes are extremely rare.”

“For example, the TSA analyzed hijackings in 2007 and found 7 hijacking incidents across the globe, but none of them involved actual explosive devices,” Corbett explains in the brief, adding that the last attempt to bring an explosive onboard an airplane through a U.S. airport occurred 35 years ago.

Another redacted section highlights the government’s concession that, “due to hardened cockpit doors and the willingness of passengers to challenge hijackers,” it would be difficult to have a repeat of 9/11.

“The government also credits updated pre-flight security for that difficulty assessment,” the brief states, “but the assessment was written before the en masse deployment of body scanners and before the update to the pat down procedure. Further, the government admits that there have been no attempted domestic hijackings of any kind in the 12 years since 9/11.”

The TSA also had the following section completely censored:

This begs the question, then, of what evidence the government possesses to rationalize that we should be so afraid of non-metallic explosives being brought aboard flights departing from the U.S. that we must sacrifice our civil liberties. The answer: there is none. “As of mid-2011, terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports; instead, their focus is on fundraising, recruiting, and propagandizing.”

In the brief’s Summary of Argument, another redacted portion concerns the TSA’s understanding that body scanners and pat downs are ineffective at addressing a threat for which they admit “there is no evidence.”

By redacting certain parts of the brief, the TSA also inadvertently admits “it is aware of no one who is currently plotting a terror attack against our aviation system using explosives (non-metallic or otherwise),” and that, in addition to a cabin of empowered passengers who would make short work of a hijacker, the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, which arms pilots with firearms, makes targeting an airplane “to be the definition of insanity.”

Get the TSA Out of Our Pants

catascopeThe redactions in Corbett’s court documents are a damning indictment of the TSA’s procedures, and only serve to bolster his claims’ truthfulness.

The 28-year-old entrepreneur arrived at his conclusions after admittedly “pawing through several thousand pages of the TSA’s ‘administrative record,’” which he says the TSA uses as the “alleged rationale behind why they must photograph us naked and literally put their hands in our pants to search us.”

The information contained within the redacted portions support what Infowars and others have long suspected: that the sprawling agency – which is in the process of extending beyond the airport and onto highways, train stations and public buses – was never meant to thwart terrorists, but was instead set up to purposely obstruct, annoy, harass and train the American public.

In other words, the court documents go a long way in proving the TSA is pure contrived security theater custom-made solely to indoctrinate Americans, through prisoner training, into blindly accepting obedience to authority as a normal way of life, not to mention a huge waste of about $7.91 billion in taxpayer money a year.

RELATED: TSA Loudspeakers Threaten Travelers With Arrest For Joking About Security

TSA trying to make a monkey out of you.

TSA trying to make a monkey out of you.

Corbett has made quite the reputation of going after the agency.

Last year, he made headlines when he demonstrated how to thwart TSA body scanners simply by sewing an object onto clothing.

Corbett had also previously filed a lawsuit challenging the TSA after he was detained for an hour at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. He also regularly adds updates regarding his ongoing litigation on his activist blog TSA Out Of Our Pants!.

Updates to Jon’s case can be found on PACER.gov, case #12-15893.

Below are both the redacted and sealed versions of the Appellant’s brief in the case of Jonathan Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration.

REDACTED Appellant’s brief.

SEALED Appellant’s brief.

This article was posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Tags: , , , , ,





Snowdened? Top NSA Officials to Leave Spy Agency Posts

Keith Alexander (Getty Images)Director of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, will step down from his post in the coming months, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.

Alexander, who as head of the NSA has guided the agency's controversial dragnet spying programs in recent years, has formalized plans to leave by next April at the latest, Reuters reports Thursday.

Likewise, Alexander's deputy, John Inglis, is due to retire by the end of the year, according to U.S. officials.

"This has nothing to do with media leaks," NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told Reuters. "The decision for his retirement was made prior; an agreement was made with the (Secretary of Defense) and the Chairman for one more year - to March 2014."

That may or may not be so, according to observers, but the real issue is whether or not either official—or anyone ever—will be held accountable for the controversial behavior of the spy agency in recent years.

As chief of the nation's largest and most secretive intelligence agency—sometimes referred to as the "No Such Agency"— Alexander had largely escaped media attention until this year's explosive revelations made possible by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The leaked details of numerous NSA programs put Alexander—and the testimony he offered in front of a series of public congressional hearings—at the center of the global media debate about the legally suspect surveillance operations of the U.S. government.

Mike Masnick, editor at TechDirt, concedes that the departures were likely planned, but doesn't necessarily think that's a good thing.

That Alexander and Inglis weren't forced out by the Snowden revelations, Masnick says, "is unfortunate, as it really does seem like there should be some punishment for the widespread excesses and abuses that have been revealed by Snowden."

Despite widespread anger over the revelations that the NSA has been spying on innocent people in the U.S. and around the world, Alexander has continuously defended the NSA's tactics.

Asked whether the National Security Agency should collect all communications of U.S. residents at a recent Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Alexander replied, "I believe it is in the nation's best interest to put all the phone records into a lock-box – yes."

Alexander's approach to to his job was recently described in a Foreign Policy exposé as an "all-out, barely-legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine." And Alexander's peers see him as a "cowboy willing to play fast and loose with legal limits in order to construct a system of ubiquitous surveillance," as former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who broke the Snowden leaks, summarized.

Upon hearing of Alexander's departure, Greenwald tweeted:

As for who should replace Alexander, Masnick argued there was at least an opportunity for President Obama to make a change at the agency that could make amends for some of the agency's worst proclivities under current leadership.

"It seems unlikely that this will happen," he said, "but the President has said that he wants to rebuild the trust of Americans in the NSA and the wider intelligence community, and the choices he makes for who will lead the NSA are a real opportunity to at least take a step in that direction. No one actually expects him to, say, pick a civil liberties activist, but there are people out there who have experience in the intelligence community and who also have shown a respect and appreciation for privacy and civil liberties. Furthermore, finding someone who can present the case for reform -- one which recognizes that "collect it all" is not just bad policy, but bad for actually finding useful information -- would be a big step forward."

According to Reuters, however, one of the top officials now under consideration is Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, currently serving as commander of the U.S. Navy's 10th Fleet and U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and described by one unnamed official as someone very "well thought of" by those in the military's cyber-warfare and "information dominance" circles.

___________________________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

People Power Alone Can Save Us!


People Power Alone Can Save Us!

by Stephen Lendman

Daily events should scare everyone. Peace in our time no longer exists. Today is the most perilous time in world history. 

Administration policies bear full responsibility. Washington is an out-of-control monster. It reflects rogue governance writ large. It targets humanity. It does so at home and abroad. It threatens world peace.

Today's upside down reality endangers everyone. Crimes in high places are rewarded. Warmakers win peace prizes. Police are licensed to kill.

Anti-war, human and civil rights champions, whistleblowers, journalists doing their job responsibly, and other activists are ruthlessly targeted. 

Ordinary people are increasingly on their own sink or swim. International, constitutional and US statute laws don't matter. Rules are what Washington says they are.

Hegemons operate that way. Ruthless raw power explains. So does war on humanity. It rages out-of-control.

Democratic values don't exist. Peace, equity and justice are four-letter words. Freedom is dying in plain sight.

America was never beautiful. Today it's unfit to live in. Social protections are on the chopping block for elimination. Repression targets nonbelievers.

Monied interests run things. Grand theft America is policy. So are global wars. One country after another is ravaged, destroyed and pillaged.

The worst of all possible worlds reflects today's reality. No one is safe anywhere any time. There's no place to hide. 

Doug Dowd amazes. In December he'll be 94. He's still going strong. He's uncompromisingly for peace, equity and justice. His teaching career spanned six decades. 

He continues writing important books and articles. His latest thoughts arrived by email. He headlined "We Need a People's Movement Soon."

He more than ever believes "the world, led by the USA, is now headed for its worst ever disasters."

He's not alone feeling this way. Washington is responsible "for much of today's angers and violence."

" 'We the People' " must act. Ordinary people must do so before it's too late. "(T)ransforming the country toward peace and decency" matters most.

Wrongfully imprisoned human rights lawyer Lynne Stewart urges "Organize, Organize, Organize." Dowd says do it to make America democratic. It's lurching toward full-blown tyranny.

People power alone works. Grassroots commitment matters most. Americans did it before. They can do it again. Anti-war activists helped end war on Vietnam.

Abolitionists ended slavery. Civil and labor rights were won. They're lost because energy waned. Ordinary people have power when they use it. Change requires longterm struggle.

Former Supreme Court Justice William Douglas (1898 - 1980) once said: "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

Community organizer Saul Alinsky (1909 - 1972) said the way to  beat organized money is with organized people. It's always bottom up. It's never top down.

Authority can be challenged and beaten. Social movements can be pivotal forces. Disruptive activism works.

According to Political Science Professor Frances Fox Piven:

"Ordinary people (have) power." They do so "when they rise up in anger and hope, defy the rules...disrupt (state) institutions (and) propel new issues to the center of political debate."

They do it when they force "political leaders (to) stem voter defections by proferring reforms." 

"These are the conditions that produce democratic moments." 

Electoral politics doesn't work. Replacing bums with new ones assures same old, same old.

America's political system is too corrupted to fix. It reflects how power corrupts and absolute power does absolutely. 

Political analyst Kevin Phillips once called America "the leading interest group bazaar of the Western world."

Things are too far gone. It's too late for scattered reforms. An entire makeover is needed. Disruptive power perhaps can change things. There's no other way.

The alternative is deepening fascism. It's already deep-seated. It shows in civil and human rights abuses. Victims are unjustly blamed.

America's gulag prison system is the shame of the nation. Corporate interests matter most. Militarism dominates daily life. Permanent wars rage. Torture is official policy. 

Mass media lie for power. Fiction substitutes for fact. News and information are carefully filtered. Dissent is targeted. Civil liberties are suppressed for our own good. 

Patriotism means supporting lawless policies. Democracy is a figure of speech. It's a convenient illusion.

National security threats are hyped when none exist. Enemies are created out of whole cloth. Wars rage one after another. 

Predatory finance transfers enormous wealth amounts from ordinary Americans to corporate interests, rich investors, and high net worth households. 

Doing so causes deepening poverty, unemployment, underemployment, hunger, homelessness and unconscionable human misery.

Social activism more than ever is needed. "Today many more must organize for decency and wellbeing and never quit," says Dowd.

Win or lose, it's vital to struggle for what's right. The alternative is greater immiserartion and serfdom. Vital concerns must be addressed, says Dowd.

Today's political, military and social crimes are too grave to ignore. Much worse ahead looms. 

"We must work together constantly to end the control of the government from the top and put it in the hands of the middle and the bottom," says Dowd. 

Democratize! Democratize! Democratize! Making America fit to live in depends on it. 

Today it's "a sick and dangerous nation run by a handful of the politically powerful." Public dismissiveness lets them get away with murder and much more.

Transformational change is needed. Doing it raises "many serious questions," says Dowd. He addresses some below.

"Who are 'we' in terms of the relevant politics?"

"How do we create a national movement?"

"In which political realms should we work most - local, state, national?"

"Which issues - economic, social, military, environmental, etc. - should take priority?" 

"How are we to resolve the serious political conflicts likely to happen among us?"

"If and when we create a 'third party,' how will its politics be decided?" 

"Which will be its main issues; decided how?" 

"How will it be financed?"

Dowd supplied some "tentative answers." He hopes for "a substantial movement" for change.

Occupy Wall Street changed who we are. It proliferated nationwide. It's motto says "(t)he only solution is world revolution."

Financial giants complicit with Washington, state and local governments united against it. Challenging them isn't easy.

Doing so requires "get(ting) to work in all realms: local, regional and especially national," says Dowd. It takes hard work. One success yields others. 

Momentum has a life of its own. Commitment makes it sustaining. Making it the new normal is vital. So is preventing energy from waning.

The enemy is destructive militarism, dominant monied interests, predatory capitalism, monopoly/oligopoly power, and police state ruthlessness.

"The critical need in the US today is to change our political structures, south and north, east and west," says Dowd. 

"The main participants in politics in all realms have been leaning more to the right than to the middle." Change depends on "increased involvement by those in both the middle and the left."

Status quo assures much worse ahead. America never was a democracy. For sure it's not one now. Grassroots activism is required to change things. 

At issue is "a society in which corruption, poverty, wars, the poisoning of Mother Nature, all other mixtures of evil and stupidity will cease."

"So let’s get to work," says Dowd. "The foregoing was easy to write. It will require much difficult work by many thousands of us to bring about" meaningful change.  

"But if we don't get to work on that our lives will continue to be corrupted and ruined and, with the rest of the world, soon be wiped out."

Turning swords into ploughshares matters most. So does establishing governance of, by and for everyone equitably and fairly.

Disruptive power works. Collective defiance more than ever is needed. Indifference is no longer an option. The stakes are far too great.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Nobel Hypocrisy Repeats


Nobel Hypocrisy Repeats

by Stephen Lendman

Nobel Committee members broke their own rules. Peace Prize nominations "may be submitted by any person who meets the nominat(ing) criteria."

Candidates eligible to win "are those persons or organizations nominated by qualified individuals."

Nominations "must be postmarked no later than February 1 each year. Nominations postmarked and received after this date are included in the following year's discussions."

On October 11, Nobel Committee members awarded the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) its 2013 Peace Prize.

It reflects its involvement in destroying Syria's chemical weapons. It's unclear when OPCW was nominated. It was well beyond the February 1 deadlined. 

The organization has done little so far in Syria to deserve honoring. Its mandate has nothing to do with restoring peace. 

Doing so requires Obama calling off his dogs. It requires ending support for thousands of imported cutthroat killers. It demands ceasing what Washington intends to continue.

On October 1, OPCW's advance team arrived in Damascus. Additional inspectors followed. 

They've barely begun their work. They're tasked with destroying Syrian chemical weapons. Months are needed to do so.

Since conflict erupted in early 2011, Russia has done more by far than any other nation or organization pursuing peace. 

President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov deserve full credit. They were ignored. They were bypassed. They weren't considered. More on them below.

Nobel tradition is long and inglorious. War criminals often win. Peace advocates are spurned. It's longstanding policy. It's no surprise. 

Bradley Manning was passed over. So was Edward Snowden. Worthy candidates have little chance. Shame and hypocrisy define longstanding Nobel policy.

On October 11, its Committee members said they "decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2013 is to be awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons."

Hopefully they'll accomplish their mission as planned. They've barely begun. They've done little so far. 

They face tough challenges. They're operating in a war zone. Western-enlisted death squads may disrupt them. 

They possess chemical weapons. They've used them multiple times. Their stockpile won't be destroyed. 

OPCW is mandated to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons. Doing so won't address what insurgents hold.

"(T)hrough inspections, destruction and by other means," the OPCW wants all chemical weapons eliminated, said Nobel Committee members.

America maintains a huge stockpile. Israel has its own. It refuses to become a Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) signatory. 

It's nuclear armed and dangerous. It hasn't signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Its policy is CBW ambiguity.

America maintains the world's largest WMD arsenal. It uses it preemptively. It uses banned weapons in all its wars. So does Israel.

OPCW is silent. So are Nobel Committee members. Their rhetoric belies their policy. Chemical weapons are "taboo under international law," they said.

"Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons."

"Disarmament figures prominently in Alfred Nobel’s will. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has through numerous prizes underlined the need to do away with nuclear weapons." 

"By means of the present award to the OPCW, the Committee is seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons."

Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. He was a wealthy armaments maker. He was a war profiteer.

Late in life he reinvented himself. He tried remaking his image. He did so by establishing awards in his name.

They given annually for "outstanding contributions" in physics, chemistry, literature, physiology or medicine, economics and "peace."

Almost anyone can be nominated. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and GW Bush had their names submitted. 

They weren't chosen. Mahatma Gandhi was nominated four times. Peace champion Kathy Kelly was three times.

Both were eminently deserving. Kelly still is. Neither worthy candidate won.

Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) provisions prohibit development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.

CWC signatories must eliminate what they possess. OPCW is mandated to help doing so worldwide. Its work includes:

(1) Demilitarization: assuring the destruction of all chemical weapons, precursors, and facilities used to produce them.

(2) Non-Proliferation: ensuring against proliferation of toxic chemicals and their precursors.

(3) Assistance and Protection: Member States able to protect their populations pledge to help others that can't.

(4) International Cooperation: ensuring chemicals are used for peaceful, not destructive purposes.

(5) Universality: promoting adherence to Chemical Weapons Convention provisions.

(6) National Implementation: establishing National Authorities to assure State Parties meet their CWC obligations.

OPCW Member States must destroy all CWs they possess. They must eliminate any left in other countries. They must destroy all CW production facilities.

OPCW is mandated to help. It does so by inspecting Member States declared CW sites. It's required to monitor CW destruction.

Given the hazards they present, "flexibility" defines how its done. Great care must be taken to avoid doing more harm than good.

As explained above, Nobel Committee members repeated longstanding policy. They passed over worthy nominees. Bradley Manning was bypassed three times. 

Edward Snowden's name was submitted too late for 2013. Separately he was nominated for 2014. 

So was Vladimir Putin. Given how Nobel Committee members ignored their own rules, they deserved 2013 consideration.

In nominating Bradley Manning this year, Birgitta Jonsdottir said in part:

"We have the great honour of nominating Private First Class Bradley Manning for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize."

"Manning is a soldier in the United States army who stands accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks." 

"The leaked documents pointed to a long history of corruption, war crimes, and a lack of respect for the sovereignty of other democratic nations by the United States government in international dealings."

He endured months of excruciating solitary confinement. He was declared guilty by accusation. He was unfairly tried. He was wrongfully convicted on 20 of 22 charges.

He was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment. It's for doing the right thing. It's by far the longest ever punishment for leaking sensitive information. 

He disclosed what everyone needs to know. He exposed US crimes of war and against humanity.

Swedish Sociology Professor Stefan Svallfors nominated Snowden. He praised his "heroic effort at great personal cost."

He showed "individuals can stand up for fundamental rights and freedoms."

His nominating letter said in part:

"Edward Snowden has - in a heroic effort at great personal cost - revealed the existence and extent of the surveillance, the US government devotes electronic communications worldwide." 

"By putting light on this monitoring program - conducted in contravention of national laws and international agreements - Edward Snowden has helped to make the world a little bit better and safer."

"Through his personal efforts, he has also shown that individuals can stand up for fundamental rights and freedoms."

"(I) is very rare that individual citizens have the insight of their personal responsibility and courage Edward Snowden showed in his revelation of the American surveillance program." 

"For this reason, he is a highly (deserving) candidate." 

Honoring him shows a "willingness to stand up in defense of civil liberties and human rights, even when such a defense (would) be viewed with disfavour by the world's dominant military power."

Separately, the Union Populaire Republicaine submitted its own 2014 Snowden/Julian Assange nomination. It did so saying:

They "significantly and peacefully worked in favour of human rights respects, of freedom of information and freedom of communication secrecy at a global level, and that this deed makes them eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize."

A previous article discussed Putin's Nobel Peace Prize nomination. He and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov collaborated honorably. 

They deserve full recognition for their efforts. They deplore war. They've gone all out for peaceful conflict resolution. 

They've done so throughout months of conflict. They want things resolve diplomatically.

They persist courageously. They do so against long odds. Washington and complicit allies obstruct them. 

Doing so assures continuing conflict. It denies peace. OPCW's efforts in Syria won't change things. 

Peacemaking initiatives deserve honoring. Maybe someday. Not now. Perhaps never by an organization believing war is peace.

A Final Comment

Francis Boyle called honoring OPCW "a sick joke and a demented fraud." 

"The United States is in gross and material breach of its solemn obligation to dismantle all chemical weapons by about April 2012 , with no further extensions permitted for any reason." 

OPCW "has not said one word in public to denounce the USG for this, but meekly rolled over and played dead."

Unmentioned was Norway's NATO involvement. It's one of 28 North Atlantic Alliance member states. It's one of its 12 original members.

On October 20, 2011, a White House Office of the Press Secretary statement praised Norway for its close US ties.

Doing so cited "common heritage, values, ideals and interests." Defense and security cooperation were stressed.

Norway deplores peace. It contributed to Obama's imperial war on Libya. It deployed F-16s during early conflict months. It's involved in Afghanistan. 

It's not waging war on Syria so far. It's no guarantee it won't be ahead. NATO countries are mandated to support partners' warmaking efforts if called on.

Article 4 of their charter calls for members to "consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any" is threatened.

Article 5 considers a (real, manufactured or otherwise manipulated) armed attack against one or more members, an assault against all. It calls for collective self-defense.

NATO is very much involved in Obama's war on Syria. Complicit allies include Britain, France and Turkey. 

Israel is a Mediterranean Dialogue partner. It struck Syria multiples times before. It did so by air and cross-border ground attacks. 

It directly aids insurgent forces. It supplies weapons and medical care for wounded fighters.

Eliminating all weapons of mass destruction is vital. Targeting aggressor countries matter most. None threaten humanity more than America and Israel.

Peace champions deserve honoring. Nobel Committee members spurn them repeatedly. Doing so reveals their true agenda. 

They support war, not peace. They're part of the problem, not the solution. Annual awards reflect longstanding Nobel hypocrisy.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/nobel-hypocrisy-repeats/

Broad Coalition Sues NSA Over Unconstitutional Surveillance

The NSA's unconstitutional warrantless wiretapping program PRISM has succeeded in uniting much of the political spectrum in a new California-based lawsuit designed to protect civil liberties from the National Security Agency (NSA).

Snooping and the Demise of "Hope and Change"




You've got to marvel at the industry of Cold Warriors and their offspring constantly reminding us of the state security measures-- real or imagined-- suffered by the inhabitants of the former Eastern European socialist countries. Books, movies, television and anecdotes have deeply embedded in the minds of people in the US the notion that life in Eastern Europe was under oppressive monitoring with spies lurking everywhere. Countless reports of visits to socialist countries told of the suspicions or hunches or impressions of being followed, watched, or overheard. I was always disappointed, in my admittedly infrequent visits to Eastern Europe or Cuba, that I never shared these experiences. I was either incredibly myopic or deemed not nearly as worthy of attention as were others.

Outside of the minority of US citizens who systematically question every “truth” endorsed and proclaimed by official circles, most people feel secure in believing that “we” don't do what “they” do or did. In fact, the certitude of our superiority in respecting privacy, speech, and beliefs serves as a pillar of the mythology of the land of the free.

Of course many of us on the left know better. We know first hand that the US security services operate without restraint or oversight. We know that everysignificant anti-war movement, everycommittee in solidarity with the victims of US imperialism, everyparty to the left of the Democrats, and even everyrenegade celebrity earns the attention of the US secret police agencies. We know that the tens of thousands of operatives employed and the huge budgets granted are not there for occasional or aberrant spying, but for systematic surveillance and monitoring of anyone perceived as challenging the ruling class consensus. We know that, whenever the need is felt, laws are passed that violate or stretch the intent of the Constitution. And extra-legal means-- easily concealed from the public-- are also common.

But you don't have to be among that select group to know what security services do. You don't have to be an anti-war activist to know that FBI files do not magically appear, but are created through surveillance and informants. The sordid history of the FBI, especially during the Hoover era, is available for all to see. Congressional committees have exposed enough of the chicanery, illegal activity, and violence of the security agencies to give everyone but the willfully blind an idea of just how fragile our privacy and personal integrity are under this self-styled democracy.

Yet liberals-- occupying a political category brazenly drawing its name from “liberty”-- have woefully fallen short in confronting the rise and expansion of the intrusive, Orwellian surveillance state, a process that only accelerated since the Second World War. The fears of the Cold War provided a handy excuse for government intrusion into the lives of hundreds of thousands of US citizens, driving such august institutions as the American Civil Liberties Union into backsliding and equivocation.

We saw it again in the uprisings of the 1960s, when even more presumably innocent citizens became the object of surveillance by a myriad of federal, state, and municipal spy agencies. Once again, the response was loud and clamorous on the part of the liberal establishment, but to little effect. Only Nixon's outrageous near-coup and the persistence of a few members of the normally somnolent media saved us from even further devolving toward a repressive, intrusive state in the early 1970s.

A further step towards a police state arrived with the so-called “War on Terror.” Few in the liberal establishment defied the hysterical surrender of the rights to privacy, speech, or association that ensued. In fact, most joined conservatives in a race to empower the security agencies with money, manpower, and legislation.

Oddly, those who find it so easy to identify snooping in foreign lands are conveniently blind to that malignancy in their own neighborhoods.

And now comes the Snowden affair.

The Nation magazine pens a headline, “A Modern Day Stasi State,” really a gratuitous slap at the former German Democratic Republic, to characterize the Snowden revelations of massive and comprehensive surveillance by the NSA. The truth is that nothing that the GDR security services could have possibly envisioned parallels the collection of every electronic communication by every US citizen. Perhaps the liberals at The Nation draw some perverse satisfaction from the false belief that other countries have gone to the same lengths to monitor their unsuspecting and innocent citizens.

And in an editorial commentary (“Snoop Scoops”) by Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorkermagazine attempts to simultaneously maintain three pathetically weak excuses for the Administration's secretive spying programs: first, the Snowden revelations expose nothing new-- we already knew about the NSA programs; second, the NSA collects the content, but doesn't examine it; and third, there is nothing illegal about the NSA surveillance.

The best that can be said for the Hertzberg apology is that maybe his boss, the old Cold Warrior David Remnick, forced him to write this nonsense. The fact that one could follow threads and leaks to learn of NSA programs hardly excuses the absence of the topic in most mainstream media and popular discussion. Hertzberg glaringly fails to point to any effort on the part of his magazine to discuss the NSA surveillance. Moreover, if everyone knew about the programs, how do we account for the hysterical response of the Administration, its cronies (Senator Feinstein called Snowden a “traitor”), and apologists? How do we account for the criminal charges against Edward Snowden? For revealing something everybody knew?

Clearly this is a sleazy sidestepping of the profound dangers raised by the government's license to snoop.

Only the terminally gullible would believe that the content of collected data lies untouched in NSA electronic files. With nearly one and a half million government employees and contractors enjoying top secret clearance, surely a few would be tempted to check the e-mails or phone calls of their neighbors, ex-lovers, or rivals. Hertzberg takes literally the assurances of the same people who have been trying desperately to keep NSA activity from public scrutiny.

I suppose one could equally say that “nothing illegal” occurred in Nazi Germany, given that laws were passed enacting or enabling nearly all of the carnage inflicted by the fascist regime. In truth, the vast powers granted by the Patriot Act and the secret kangaroo courts legitimizing NSA acts guarantee that legality washes over anything and everything that government agencies do or could do, as they equally would sanction the SS or Gestapo in the Third Reich.

Indeed, our moment is not so remote from those moments preceding the consolidation of fascist rule in Italy or Germany. Like those times, liberals and social democrats are temporizing, excusing, and denying the assault on privacy, personal security, association, and dissent.

The true history of those times-- not the convenient history that blames the staunchest opponents of fascism, the Communists-- points to the treason and capitulation of bourgeois politicians who sought to compromise, outsmart, or neutralize the tide of fascism. Similarly, our liberal politicians populating the Democratic Party (with a few notable, courageous exceptions) rush to establish their security bona fides by endorsing the expansion of the police state. They show the same misplaced confidence in their ability to restrain or control the uncontrollable.

Amplifying the hesitation of liberals is the embarrassing role of the Obama Administration in the construction of the NSA police state. After giving their undivided, unqualified support to the candidacy of hope, change, and the restoration of liberal values, the liberal establishment finds itself in the uncomfortable position of defending the trappings of a police state or, conversely, righteously attacking their designated standard bearer. This dilemma has driven liberals to such outrageous statements as Hertzberg's: “The critics [of the NSA] have been hard put to point to any tangible harm that has been done to any particular citizen,” a statement worthy of a self-satisfied burgher in Munich in 1934.

Particularly bruised by the Snowden revelations are those pseudo-radicals who have unceasingly called for a love fest with the Democratic Party as a response to the “fascist danger.” How does one enlist those who we now know have crafted and implemented fascist-like policies as partners in stopping fascism? Surely embracing them as anti-fascist allies borders on insanity.

Perhaps it is only fitting that those seduced by the pied piper of hope and change have arrived at this juncture. However, we have lost far too much ground to this political silliness. There is too much at stake. We deserve better.

Zoltan Zigedy
[email protected]

The Surveillance State: In Britain, Everything Is Not Okay!

Global Research and Countercurrents 22/6/2013, The Market Oracle 23/6/2013 and Deccan Herald 27/6/2013

“The innocent have everything to fear, mostly from the guilty, but in the longer term even more from those who say things like ‘The innocent have nothing to fear.’" Terry Pratchett (British author), in Snuff (Doubleday, 2011).

For many people, personal privacy vs widespread surveillance has been a major issue for decades. However, some thought mass spying on us has been happening but chose to downplay it. Others didn’t want to know and just didn’t care. Edward Snowden’s recent revelations indicate it is happening and that we should all care.    

Former National Security Agency (NSA) worker turned whistleblower Edward Snowden has now turned his attention to the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British equivalent of the NSA. On Friday, Snowden released documents to The Guardian newspaper in the UK to back up his claims that GCHQ has secretly accessed fibre optic cables carrying huge amounts of internet and communications data. According to The Guardian, the agency is able to tap into, analyse and store data. Snowden told the newspaper that the NSA has a more prolific British ally in GCHQ. (GCHQ is one of three UKintelligence agencies, alongside MI5 and MI6.)

“It’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight… They (GCHQ) are worse than the US.” Edward Snowden

Although it is physically impossible for the intelligence agencies to read everyone’s emails, for instance, GCHQ can apparently record phone calls, read email and Facebook postings and review website traffic if they so wish. It can also access entire web use histories on individuals. Although GCHQ can only store certain data for 30 days, the Guardian says the practice is subject to little scrutiny. GCHQ operation can tap cables that carry global communications with the potential to carry 600 million daily ‘telephone events’.

“If GCHQ have been intercepting huge numbers of innocent people's communications as part of a massive sweeping exercise, then I struggle to see how that squares with a process that requires a warrant for each individual intercept.” Nick Pickles, Big Brother Watch director, as reported in The Guardian, 22 June.

This massive interception effort operates under two programmes: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation. GCHQ is tapping 200 internet links, each with a data rate of 10Gbps, and the agency has the technical capacity to concurrently analyze 46 of these 200 streams of data at a time.

The revelations come alongside reports of the NSA snooping on US and international citizens via the metadata held on them by telecommunication companies, and secret data-sharing agreements between the NSA and consumer-web giants, such as Facebook, Google, Apple and others under the PRISM scheme.

GCHQ is able to capitalize on the UK's position at the edge of Western Europe, by tapping into the vast quantity of data flowing through cables around the UK and abroad. Over 300 GCHQ and 250 NSA analysts sift through the data, which they use to identify communications relating to security, terror, organized crime, and economic well-being.

Britain and the US are the founding members of the Five-Eyes intelligence sharing agreement. The Five-Eyes are members of a special club of former British colonies that gather and intelligence with each other. AustraliaCanadaand New Zealand are the three other members.

According to The Guardian, Britain's ability to tap these fibre-optic cables makes it the web eavesdropping powerhouse of the Five-Eyes, with the documents provided by Snowden saying that of the five, Britain has "the biggest Internet access."

The Guardian reports that British personnel on the team of 300 GCHQ and 250 NSA analysts sifting through the data have "a light oversight regime compared to the US"

The newspaper reports that 850,000 NSA and employees and private American contractors have been able to access to the information gathered by CGHQ. One of the documents quotes NSA boss Gen. Keith Alexander as urging British spies to collect everything they could.
"Why can't we collect at the signals, all the time? Sounds like a good summer homework project for Menwith," is written at the top of a slide shown by the Guardian that supposedly quotes Alexander during a 2008 visit to the UK. The slide is titled, "Collect-it-all."
Menwith refers to RAF Menwith Hill, a secret signals intelligence gathering facility in the Yorkshire countryside run by the US.
GCHQ operatives tapped the fibre-optic cables over the last five years at the point where the transatlantic cables reach British shores - these cables move Internet and telephone data from North America to Western Europe.  All of this was done with agreements with the communications companies, described by the document as "intercept partners."
Last week, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Robert Cole defended bulk collection of cellphone data and other business records to US lawmakers:
"If you're looking for a needle in a haystack, you've got to get the haystack first," said Cole during a June 18 House intelligence committee hearing on the matter. "That's why we have the ability under the [FISA] court order, to acquire . . . all of that data, we don't get to use all of that data, necessarily." As reported by John Reed in Foreign Policy on 21 June.
Britain and the US are rapidly perfecting the system to allow them to capture and analyse a large quantity of international traffic consisting of emails, texts, phone calls, internet searches, chat, photographs, blogposts, videos and the many uses of Google.
Writing in The Guardian on Friday 21 June, Henry Porter states:
“Mastering the Internet treats the rights of billions of foreign web users, the possible menace to the privacy of British and American citizens and the duties of their legislators with equal contempt. After Iraq and the banking crash, the world may come to see MTI as further evidence of a heedless delinquency in two of the world's oldest democracies.”
Porter talks about the lack of meaningful oversight in both countries, the use of commercial companies in the surveillance process and the wholesale disregard for the fundamentals of both countries’ democratic principles. Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights organisation Liberty, says that GCHQ are exploiting the fact that the internet is so international in nature and that what's holding them back from going further is technological capability, certainly not ethics (1).

Why it matters, really matters
For too long, the majority in Britain has been led to believe that governments in major western liberal democracies operate with benign intentions, that the government acts on our behalf and in our interests and that only those with something to hide have anything to fear. The belief is forwarded that the loss of liberty and intrusions into our personal privacy are small prices to pay for ensuring our safety in a barbaric world that wants to attack and inflict terror on us.
It’s all part of the dominant narrative. It’s all part of a dominant narrative that seeks to mislead and to mask the real essence of power and the true nature of intent behind notions of patriotism, nationalism, bowing down to the flag, militarism and that ‘we’, ‘the nation’ are in united in cause and belief.   
What Snowden’s revelations illustrate is the unaccountable face of power. And this should concern us because it’s not the greater good of humankind, queen, flag or country that this power serves. It ultimately serves capital and the extremely wealthy, whose interests are diametrically opposed to those of ordinary people across the world (2).

Look no further to see who funds the major political parties or individual politicians to do their bidding. Look no further than the backgrounds of many of these politicians. But, most important, look no further to see who owns the major corporations and banks and who sits on the bodies that hammer out major policies (3)(4)(5). It is the powerful foundations and think tanks headed or funded by private corporations that drive US and British policies, whether at home or abroad, and that includes the Project for a New American Century (6) and the resultant ongoing war of terror waged on countries across the world.

Western liberal democracy has been quite successful in making many at home blind to the chains that bind and which make them immune to the falsehoods that underpin the system. However, with the economic meltdown, ‘austerity’, increasing public awareness of corporate crimes, disillusionment with mainstream politics and the ramping up of wars, paranoia and the stripping away of civil liberties, social control is no longer able to operate on the relatively benign level that it once did. The collapse of the economic system and its propping up has laid bare just who that system is set up to benefit. State violence and mass surveillance is now part of the changing agenda of liberal democracy that is no longer able to hide behind the pretence of being liberal or democratic. The mask has slipped and we are right to be concerned.

“The world has evidence of the totally monitored future that GCHQ and NSA plan for us and that political establishments turn a blind eye to…. fear still trumps everything. On Tuesday, the head of NSA, General Keith B Alexander, and the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, insisted that many terror plots had been stopped by surveillance. In Britain, the foreign secretary, William Hague… was joined by three former home secretaries, Jack Straw, Lord (John) Reid and Alan Johnson, to reassure us that mass surveillance was indeed necessary to make interdictions and… that further powers were needed… The point about these latest revelations is that they show there are more than adequate powers for interception on both sides of the Atlantic and that the terror agenda and, to a lesser degree, the fear of paedophilia, may well have been used to elaborate a huge system of espionage and domestic surveillance.” – Henry Porter, The Guardian 21 June.

Notes

Sources for this article
The Guardian 21 and 22 June

New Polls: Americans Decry NSA Spying, View Snowden as a Patriot

Just as in the Pew poll, more Democrats than Republicans (49% to 32%) are likely to approve NSA snooping, underscoring once again how leftists abandon their concern for privacy and civil liberties when a Democrat is in the White House.

Don’t Worry About Surveillance: In Britain, Everything’s Okay!

Global Research and Countercurrents 12/6/2013 and The 4th Media 21/6/2013

In the name of ‘humanitarian intervention’, a ‘war on terror’, fighting for ‘democratic freedoms’ or whatever the script happens to be this week, British Foreign Secretary William Hague can be relied on to sell US-British militarism to a public fed up with constant wars and (increasingly less) ignorant of their underlying reasons (1).    

In Syria, Hague has worked to try to replace Assad with a regime that could be controlled by the US and Israel. He has also campaigned for the EU to lift its arms embargo from the anti-Assad militants. Hague is a staunch supporter of Israel. His attitude towards Israel has been well documented: his dislike of the Syrian regime is backed up by a tangible strategy of aggression and destabilization, while mere lip service is paid to the protecting Palestinians or their treatment and plight (2). This is the same William Hague who declared that the intention was not regime change in Libya, but to protect civilians. The US and its allies, including Britain, helped instigate and fuel the war in Libya (3), and NATO bombs and western supported regime change have subsequently left over 100,000 Libyans dead, thousands more injured and much civilian infrastructure destroyed. 


During the Libyan conflict, 200 prominent African figures accused western nations of “subverting international law” in Libya. The UN had been misused to militarise policy, legalise military action and effect regime change, according to University of Johannesburg professor Chris Landsberg. He stated that it was unprecedented for the UN to have outsourced military action to NATO in this way and challenged the International Criminal Court to investigate NATO for “violating international law.” 


Rather than being held to account for the death and destruction in Libya, Hague has carried on where he left off with strong rhetoric directed towards Iran and a call for sanctions (4) and a concerted commitment to topple the Syrian government by force (5) (6) (7). For public consumption, this is all spuriously carried out under the banner of humanitarianism or in the name of global security.


As a client state of the US (mainstream British media often portray this as a ‘special relationship), Britain can be relied on to do Washington’s bidding. When Hague beats the drum over LibyaAfghanistanSyria or Iran, the drum is provided courtesy of Washington and Tel Aviv. Foreign Secretary Hague beats it on cue. 


It all begs the question, how much trust can we place in someone like Hague, especially when they try to reassure the British public that British intelligence services do not illegally snoop on the British population?  


Documents leaked by former US intelligence worker Edward Snowden suggest GCHQ, the British Government’s ‘listening post’ in CheltenhamEngland (equivalent to the US National Security Agency), may have had access to the US spy programme PRISM since at least June 2010.


Hague has told the British parliament that British spies have not used US surveillance programmes to get around laws restricting their ability to eavesdrop on the public in Britain. He has said that there is no indiscriminate trawling for information through the contents of people's communications and GCHQ operates within a strict legal framework.


Hague has stated: "It has been suggested that GCHQ uses our partnership with the United States to get around UK law, obtaining information that they cannot legally obtain in the United Kingdom… I wish to be absolutely clear that this accusation is baseless."

Every time GCHQ wants to intercept an individual's communications, Hague asserts that the agency must seek a warrant signed by him, the interior minister or another secretary of state. He asserts that every decision is based on extensive legal and policy advice and warrants are legally required to be necessary, proportionate and carefully targeted.


The UK's 2001 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) permits international agreements that allow "mutual assistance in connection with, or in the form of, interception of communication," providing the foreign secretary has given his authority. It also allows for the interception of the content of both domestic communications and communications between the UK and elsewhere, provided a warrant has been signed, usually by a minister.


The 1994 Intelligence Services Act gives senior ministers the power to "disapply" UK law when granting written permission. This legislation ensures that no UK intelligence agency or officer is likely to be sued or prosecuted in Britain as a result of any mass surveillance operation.


In the US, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) gives US intelligence agencies wide-ranging powers to conduct surveillance of data that is held by or passes through the US: it provides for the gathering of information that may not only protect the US against hostile acts but which "is necessary to … the conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States.”


The US government can therefore basically do what it deems necessary to maintain its global hegemony. It has access to huge amounts of global data thanks to the numerous sophisticated ‘listening posts’ the US has on foreign soil. The NSA's largest eavesdropping centre outside the US is based in North Yorkshire. It is a satellite receiving station that monitors foreign military traffic, but can also access Britain's telecommunications network. The US military refer to the ‘golf ball’ encased satellite systems there as helping to secure full spectrum dominance of land, sea, air, space and information. Writer Garbrielle Pickard believes its presence entails the US having full spectrum control over the UK (8).


Given that the US thus has access to so much data beyond its national borders, it is easy to see just why the issue of the British government circumventing British law to access information held by the US on British citizens is of vital concern to the public. Even more so given Hague argues that the growing and diffuse nature of threats from terrorists, criminals or espionage has only increased the importance of Britain’s intelligence relationship with the United States.


In a more general sense, the underlying message being put forward by officialdom is that ‘no one has anything to fear as long as you are not terrorists or some other threat to national interest.’ In an age of perceived terror threats and subsequent clampdowns on civil liberties as a result of the illegal wars and covert and overt interventions abroad that politicians like Hague attempt to justify on fallacious grounds, just who does that rule out? The ‘terror threat’ and vague notions of the ‘national interest’ are highly convenient reasons for including anyone or everyone in the surveillance net.


What about Muslims, dissidents, civil-liberties types, ‘trouble-makers’, environmental campaigners, 'occupy' individuals, ‘lefties’, trade unionists, human rights activists or particular writers, bloggers and journalists? Surveillance and the infiltration of groups deemed ‘subversive’ (but working well within the law and an integral part of plural democracy) have been carried out by the intelligence services for many decades (9). In pointing out some of these types of activities, Annie Machon in The Guardian notes that real democracies don’t infiltrate legitimate protest groups. But, as she notes, in Britain they do (10).


A key element here is that of trust. Do we trust what politicians like Hague say or do? Do we trust our governments? Should we trust Google, Facebook and any other company that stores our personal details (11)?


NSA whitleblower Edward Snowden apparently thinks we should not. He wanted to expose the “omniscient state powers kept in check by nothing more than policy documents.” Dennis Mitchell, a senior GCHQ officer, who retired in 1984 in protest at the Thatcher government's ban on trade unions there, referred to "actions which I believe would be considered unacceptable by the general public were it aware of them". He described GCHQ as a powerful, unaccountable arm of government. According to him, the only real watchdog at that time was the workforce, not the law.



Perhaps Snowden or Mitchell might agree to some extent with Michael Foucault’s premise that society now resembles a bright modern prison. Foucault warned that the bright visibility is a trap (12). Increasing visibility (on Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc) leads to power being located on an individualised level throughout a person's entire life. Foucault suggested that a ‘carceral continuum’ runs through modern society, from the maximum security prison, through secure accommodation, probation, social workers, police and teachers, to our everyday working and domestic lives. In this digital age, now more than ever before.


Under the guise of fighting the so-called ‘war on terror’, combating weapons proliferation and gathering economic intelligence, institutions such as GCHQ and the NSA are, in reality, operating a highly intrusive Big Brother Police State Surveillance Empire that is being used to specifically monitor the activities of genuine political opposition and dissent, as well as undermine the privacy, freedom and constitutional civil liberties of targeted peoples and nations throughout the world… Identification technologies such as video surveillance, biometrics and national ID cards will undoubtedly find their way into the sprawling informational GCHQ/NSA vortex, eventually rendering all personal, communal, commercial, economic, and political control to the State - a system of absolute tyranny that can only be labeled as ‘global slavery’.” Steve Jones (13).


Notes





FBI “Legally” Reading Your Emails Without Warrant

A Freedom Of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has revealed that the FBI has been reading private emails without warrant, using a law from the 1980's.

20,000 Students Sue State Of California

On behalf of 20,000 students, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed a law suit against the state of California for failing to correctly teach the English language.

IRS: You Have No Privacy

According to documents recently obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) believes they have the authority to read the private e-mail messages, Facebook chats and other online communications of Americans without obtaining a warrant.

Big Brother Spends £100K On Ineffective CCTV

Civil liberties campaigners have hit out at Swindon Council’s plan to link CCTV cameras across the town centre in a £100k bid to combat crime and disorder.

The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West

paulcroberts

Author’s  Note

I receive numerous questions from readers about our economic situation and the condition of civil liberty.

There is no way I can answer so many inquiries, and no need. I have written two books that provide the answers, and they are inexpensive. I have done my job. It is up to you to inform yourself. Kindle Reader software is available as a free online download that permits you to read ebooks in your own web browser.

My latest, The Failure Of Laissez Faire Capitalism And Economic Dissolution of the West , is available as an ebook in English as of March 2013 from Amazon.com and from Barnes&Noble.

My book is endorsed by Michael Hudson and Nomi Prims and has a 5 star rating from Amazon reviewers (as of March 23, 2013). Pam Martens’ review at Wall Street On Parade is available here

Libertarians who have not read the book have had an ideological knee-jerk reaction to the title. They demand to know how can I call the present system of crony capitalism laissez faire. I don’t. The current system of government supported crony capitalism is the end result of a 25-year process of deregulation.

Deregulation did not produce libertarian nirvana. It produced economic concentration and crony capitalism.

Amazon provides as a free read the introduction by Johannes Maruschzik to the German edition. Below is my Introduction to my book.

Paul Craig Roberts, March 27, 2012

Not only has your economy been stolen from you but also your civil liberties. My coauthor Lawrence Stratton and I provide the scary details of the entire story in The Tyranny of Good Intentions [5]. In the US law is no longer a shield of the people against arbitrary government. Instead, law has been transformed into a weapon in the hands of the government.

Josie Appleton documents that in England also law has been turned into a weapon against the people. http://www.spiked-online.com/site/printable/13420/ [6] Anglo-American law, the foundation of liberty and one of the greatest human achievements, lies in ruins.

Libertarians think that liberty is a natural right, and some Christians think that it is a God-given right. In fact, liberty is a human achievement, fought for by Englishmen over the centuries. In the late 17th century, the achievement of the Glorious Revolution was to hold the British government accountable to law. William Blackstone heralded the achievement in his famous Commentaries On The Laws Of England, a bestseller in pre-revolutionary America and the foundation of the US Constitution.

In the late 20th century and early 21st century, governments in the US and Great Britain chafed under the requirement that government, like the people, is ruled by law and took steps to free government from accountability to law.

Appleton says that the result is a “tectonic shift in the relationship between the state and the citizen.” Citizens of the US and UK are once again without the protection of law and subject to arbitrary arrests and indictments or to indefinite detention in the absence of indictments.

In the US, citizens can be detained indefinitely and even executed without due process of law. There is no basis in the US Constitution for these asserted powers. The unconstitutional powers exist only because Congress, the judiciary and the American people have accepted the lie that the loss of civil liberty is the price paid for protection against terrorists.

In a very short time the raw power of the state has been resurrected. Most Americans are oblivious to this outcome. As long as government is imprisoning and killing without trials demonized individuals whom Americans have been propagandized to fear, Americans approve. Americans do not understand that a point is reached when demonization becomes unnecessary and that precedents have been established that revoke the Bill of Rights.

If you are educated by these two books, you will be better able to understand what is happening and, thus, you will be in a better position to survive what is coming.

Introduction to The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic
Dissolution of the West: Towards a New Economics for a Full World

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the rise of the high speed Internet have proved to be the economic and political undoing of the West. “The End Of History” caused socialist India and communist China to join the winning side and to open their economies and underutilized labor forces to Western capital and technology. Pushed by Wall Street and large retailers, such as Wal-Mart, American corporations began offshoring the production of goods and services for their domestic markets. Americans ceased to be employed in the manufacture of goods that they consume as corporate executives maximized shareholder earnings and their performance bonuses by substituting cheaper foreign labor for American labor. Many American professional occupations, such as software engineering and Information Technology, also declined as corporations moved this work abroad and brought in foreigners at lower renumeration for many of the jobs that remained domestically. Design and research jobs followed manufacturing abroad, and employment in middle class professional occupations ceased to grow. By taking the lead in offshoring production for domestic markets, US corporations force the same practice on Europe. The demise of First World employment and of Third World agricultural communities, which are supplanted by large scale monoculture, is known as Globalism.

For most Americans income has stagnated and declined for the past two decades. Much of what Americans lost in wages and salaries as their jobs were moved offshore came back to shareholders and executives in the form of capital gains and performance bonuses from the higher profits that flowed from lower foreign labor costs. The distribution of income worsened dramatically with the mega-rich capturing the gains, while the middle class ladders of upward mobility were dismantled. University graduates unable to find employment returned to live with their parents.

The absence of growth in real consumer incomes resulted in the Federal Reserve expanding credit in order to keep consumer demand growing. The growth of consumer debt was substituted for the missing growth in consumer income. The Federal Reserve’s policy of extremely low interest rates fueled a real estate boom. Housing prices rose dramatically, permitting homeowners to monetize the rising equity in their homes by refinancing their mortgages.

Consumers kept the economy alive by assuming larger mortgages and spending the equity in their homes and by accumulating large credit card balances. The explosion of debt was securitized, given fraudulent investment grade ratings, and sold to unsuspecting investors at home and abroad.

Financial deregulation, which began in the Clinton years and leaped forward in the George W. Bush regime, unleashed greed and debt leverage. Brooksley Born, head of the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was prevented from regulating over-the-counter derivatives by the chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The financial stability of the world was sacrificed to the ideology of these three stooges that “markets are self-regulating.” Insurance companies sold credit default swaps against junk financial instruments without establishing reserves, and financial institutions leveraged every dollar of equity with $30 dollars of debt.

When the bubble burst, the former bankers running the US Treasury provided massive bailouts at taxpayer expense for the irresponsible gambles made by banks that they formerly headed. The Federal Reserve joined the rescue operation. An audit of the Federal Reserve released in July, 2011, revealed that the Federal Reserve had provided $16 trillion–a sum larger than US GDP or the US public debt–in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks, while doing nothing to aid the millions of American families being foreclosed out of their homes. Political accountability disappeared as all public assistance was directed to the mega-rich, whose greed had produced the financial crisis.

The financial crisis and plight of the banksters took center stage and prevented recognition that the crisis sprang not only from the financial deregulation but also from the expansion of debt that was used to substitute for the lack of growth in consumer income. As more and more jobs were offshored, Americans were deprived of incomes from employment. To maintain their consumption, Americans went deeper into debt.

The fact that millions of jobs have been moved offshore is the reason why the most expansionary monetary and fiscal policies in US history have had no success in reducing the unemployment rate. In post-World War II 20th century recessions, laid-off workers were called back to work as expansionary monetary and fiscal policies stimulated consumer demand. However, 21st century unemployment is different. The jobs have been moved abroad and no longer exist. Therefore, workers cannot be called back to factories and to professional service jobs that have been moved abroad.

Economists have failed to recognize the threat that jobs offshoring poses to economies and to economic theory itself, because economists confuse offshoring with free trade, which they believe is mutually beneficial. I will show that offshoring is the antithesis of free trade and that the doctrine of free trade itself is found to be incorrect by the latest work in trade theory. Indeed, as we reach toward a new economics, cherished assumptions and comforting theoretical conclusions will be shown to be erroneous.

This book is organized into three sections. The first section explains successes and failures of economic theory and the erosion of the efficacy of economic policy by globalism. Globalism and financial concentration have destroyed the justifications of market capitalism. Corporations that have become “too big to fail” are sustained by public subsidies, thus destroying capitalism’s claim to be an efficient allocator of resources. Profits no longer are a measure of social welfare when they are obtained by creating unemployment and declining living standards in the home country.

The second section documents how jobs offshoring or globalism and financial deregulation wrecked the US economy, producing high rates of unemployment, poverty and a distribution of income and wealth extremely skewed toward a tiny minority at the top. These severe problems cannot be corrected within a system of globalism.

The third section addresses the European debt crisis and how it is being used both to subvert national sovereignty and to protect bankers from losses by imposing austerity and bailout costs on citizens of the member countries of the European Union.

I will suggest that it is in Germany’s interest to leave the EU, revive the mark, and enter into an economic partnership with Russia. German industry, technology, and economic and financial rectitude, combined with Russian energy and raw materials, would pull all of Eastern Europe into a new economic union, with each country retaining its own currency and budgetary and tax authority. This would break up NATO, which has become an instrument for world oppression and is forcing Europeans to assume burdens of the American Empire.

Sixty-seven years after the end of World War II, twenty-two years after the reunification of Germany, and twenty-one years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Germany is still occupied by US troops. Do Europeans desire a future as puppet states of a collapsing empire, or do they desire a more promising future of their own?

Arkansas Activists Eager to Fight for Reproductive Rights

Thunderstorms may have been looming, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of what was reported to have been hundreds of Arkansas reproductive rights supporters who gathered at the state capitol in Little Rock on Saturday to oppose new unconstitutional abortion restrictions coming out of the state legislature this year. Speakers from the legislature and the local American Civil Liberties Union took to the capitol steps to address a crowd of determined activists angry that their state has become a testing ground for bills meant only to provoke court cases that could overturn Roe v. Wade.Arkansas may be on the verge of having some of the most restrictive reproductive health laws in the country, but the activists fighting those laws are just getting started. (Photo: kaybrockwell/photobucket)

“I asked if we might cancel because of weather,” Arkansas ACLU Executive Director Rita Sklar told RH Reality Check. “They told me people were buying umbrellas for people to write on in waterproof paint and they’d bring signs wrapped in saran wrap. This was an unstoppable crowd.”

Sklar was one of multiple speakers to address the crowd of eager activists, some oh whom came from several hours away, despite the bitter cold and impending rain. Brought together by a shared anger at the overreaching state legislature, the crowd was organized through social media, allowing them to keep up to date on the legislative processes as well as the eventual grassroots efforts to combat them. The group was eager to fight, the participants cheered so loudly when Sklar announced the ACLU’s intention to sue the state over its unconstitutional abortion bans that she had to wait for it to quiet down before she could continue her speech.

Many Arkansas media outlets continue to focus on individuals who support the extreme bills that have been passed this session, even in articles about pro-choice rallies. In one article, from ArkansasMatters.com, an abortion opponent concisely summed up what reproductive rights activists in the state are up against: a legislature in which women are seen as less important than their fetuses. “It’s really not about a woman’s choice to do what she wants with her body. We’re concerned about the baby in her body,” 40 Days for Life supporter Mary Pate told the outlet.

Those are the beliefs that Saturday’s rally attendees are fighting against. “Saturday is not just a flash in the pan, but rather the beginning of showing up in all our numbers to guard our civil liberties,” event organizer Claudia Reynolds-LeBlanc told RH Reality Check recently. “We are law-abiding people, and we intend to hold our legislators to that same standard. Right now our legislature is passing unconstitutional bills one after the other, with blatant disdain for the rights not only of women, but of all the people of Arkansas. People came from all over Arkansas, driving hours in thunderstorms and standing in chilling mist and rain to voice their disdain for these violations of human rights.”

The rally may be done, but for the activists it was a launching pad to winning back their rights. “Our numbers have grown since Saturday in our activism groups, and [our] plans are continuing to keep pressure on this legislature and to overthrow this tyranny with the power of the people,” said Reynolds-LeBlanc. “We are only the beginning of a massive movement seeking freedom. If I were one of those multitudes of legislators that participated in driving this vehicle against the women, children, poor, and seniors of this state, I would get off the road before the 2014 primary elections begin …. We will be fielding candidates that will legislate justice and equality for all Arkansans. This was only one day in the battle, in solidarity, and we will win the war.”

Sklar agreed. “The fact that we have a majority of legislators who support these bills has really woken these people up,” she said. “People have been woken from their complacency in thinking the battle for reproductive freedom was won. They have been galvanized by this backward legislation. There are a majority of Arkansans who believe women should decide these issues for themselves. It’s getting them together and getting them organized that needs to be our focus,” she said.

“People are not going to forget,” Sklar added. “They know how bad this makes the state look. They know what people are saying. They don’t agree with these extreme legislators, and they are not going to give up. They’ve been mobilized.”

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© 2013 RH Reality Check

Robin Marty

Robin Marty is Senior Political Reporter for RH Reality Check

The Day That TV News Died

TV talk show host Phil Donahue. TV talk show host Phil Donahue. (Photo: Joe Newman / Public Citizen)Truthout needs your support to produce grassroots journalism and disseminate conscientious visions for a brighter future. Contribute now by clicking here.

I am not sure exactly when the death of television news took place. The descent was gradual—a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq.

Donahue and Bill Moyers, the last honest men on national television, were the only two major TV news personalities who presented the viewpoints of those of us who challenged the rush to war in Iraq. General Electric and Microsoft—MSNBC’s founders and defense contractors that went on to make tremendous profits from the war—were not about to tolerate a dissenting voice. Donahue was fired, and at PBS Moyers was subjected to tremendous pressure. An internal MSNBC memo leaked to the press stated that Donahue was hurting the image of the network. He would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” the memo read. Donahue never returned to the airwaves.

The celebrity trolls who currently reign on commercial television, who bill themselves as liberal or conservative, read from the same corporate script. They spin the same court gossip. They ignore what the corporate state wants ignored. They champion what the corporate state wants championed. They do not challenge or acknowledge the structures of corporate power. Their role is to funnel viewer energy back into our dead political system—to make us believe that Democrats or Republicans are not corporate pawns. The cable shows, whose hyperbolic hosts work to make us afraid self-identified liberals or self-identified conservatives, are part of a rigged political system, one in which it is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, General Electric or ExxonMobil. These corporations, in return for the fear-based propaganda, pay the lavish salaries of celebrity news people, usually in the millions of dollars. They make their shows profitable. And when there is war these news personalities assume their “patriotic” roles as cheerleaders, as Chris Matthews—who makes an estimated $5 million a year—did, along with the other MSNBC and Fox hosts.

It does not matter that these celebrities and their guests, usually retired generals or government officials, got the war terribly wrong. Just as it does not matter that Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman were wrong on the wonders of unfettered corporate capitalism and globalization. What mattered then and what matters now is likability—known in television and advertising as the Q score—not honesty and truth. Television news celebrities are in the business of sales, not journalism. They peddle the ideology of the corporate state. And too many of us are buying.

The lie of omission is still a lie. It is what these news celebrities do not mention that exposes their complicity with corporate power. They do not speak about Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, a provision that allows the government to use the military to hold U.S. citizens and strip them of due process. They do not decry the trashing of our most basic civil liberties, allowing acts such as warrantless wiretapping and executive orders for the assassination of U.S. citizens. They do not devote significant time to climate scientists to explain the crisis that is enveloping our planet. They do not confront the reckless assault of the fossil fuel industry on the ecosystem. They very rarely produce long-form documentaries or news reports on our urban and rural poor, who have been rendered invisible, or on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or on corporate corruption on Wall Street. That is not why they are paid. They are paid to stymie meaningful debate. They are paid to discredit or ignore the nation’s most astute critics of corporatism, among them Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky. They are paid to chatter mindlessly, hour after hour, filling our heads with the theater of the absurd. They play clips of their television rivals ridiculing them and ridicule their rivals in return. Television news looks as if it was lifted from Rudyard Kipling’s portrait of the Bandar-log monkeys in “The Jungle Book.” The Bandar-log, considered insane by the other animals in the jungle because of their complete self-absorption, lack of discipline and outsized vanity, chant in unison: “We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true.”

When I reached him by phone recently in New York, Donahue said of the pressure the network put on him near the end, “It evolved into an absurdity.” He continued: “We were told we had to have two conservatives for every liberal on the show. I was considered a liberal. I could have Richard Perle on alone but not Dennis Kucinich. You felt the tremendous fear corporate media had for being on an unpopular side during the ramp-up for a war. And let’s not forget that General Electric’s biggest customer at the time was Donald Rumsfeld [then the secretary of defense]. Elite media features elite power. No other voices are heard.”

Donahue spent four years after leaving MSNBC making the movie documentary “Body of War” with fellow director/producer Ellen Spiro, about the paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young. The film, which Donahue funded himself, began when he accompanied Nader to visit Young in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“Here is this kid lying there whacked on morphine,” Donahue said. “His mother, as we are standing by the bed looking down, explained his injuries. ‘He is a T-4. The bullet came through the collarbone and exited between the shoulder blades. He is paralyzed from the nipples down.’ He was emaciated. His cheekbones were sticking out. He was as white as the sheets he was lying on. He was 24 years old. … I thought, ‘People should see this. This is awful.’ ”

Donahue noted that only a very small percentage of Americans have a close relative who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and an even smaller number make the personal sacrifice of a Tomas Young. “Nobody sees the pain,” he said. “The war is sanitized.”

“I said, ‘Tomas, I want to make a movie that shows the pain, I want to make a movie that shows up close what war really means, but I can’t do it without your permission,’ ” Donahue remembered. “Tomas said, ‘I do too.’ ”

But once again Donahue ran into the corporate monolith: Commercial distributors proved reluctant to pick up the film. Donahue was told that the film, although it had received great critical acclaim, was too depressing and not uplifting. Distributors asked him who would go to see a film about someone in a wheelchair. Donahue managed to get openings in Chicago, Seattle, Palm Springs, New York, Washington and Boston, but the runs were painfully brief.

“I didn’t have the money to run full-page ads,” he said. “Hollywood often spends more on promotion than it does on the movie. And so we died. What happens now is that peace groups are showing it. We opened the Veterans for Peace convention in Miami. Failure is not unfamiliar to me. And yet, I am stunned at how many Americans stand mute.”

Stop Whining About Privacy, Bloomberg Says

Stop Whining About Privacy, Bloomberg Says

Posted on Mar 23, 2013
jonathan mcintosh (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cameras record your every step on a corner in Manhattan’s Financial District.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn’t think your concerns about privacy in a world of city- and drone-mounted surveillance cameras are important. His advice to radio audiences Friday morning? “Get used to it!”

Bloomberg’s tough-guy, fatalistic attitude is well and fine for a man with $27 billion. He can buy all the privacy he wants. But you can’t. And he doesn’t care.

“You wait, in five years, the technology is getting better, ther’ll be cameras everyplace ... whether you like it or not,” Bloomberg said.

“The argument against using automation is just this craziness that ‘Oh, it’s Big Brother,’ ” he continued. “Get used to it!”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

NY Daily News:

The New York Civil Liberties Union has documented nearly 2,400 surveillance cameras fixed on public spaces in Manhattan alone. Many are operated by the police, others by poroperty owners.

In Lower Manhattan, an initiative developed after 9/11 known as the “Ring of Steel” integrates the NYPD’s cameras with those of banks and other institutions.

But in the future, the cameras won’t just be planted on buildings and utility poles. Some of them will be able to fly, the mayor pointed out.

Read more

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US Looks to Overhaul Massive Immigration Detention System

WASHINGTON - Rights groups and government officials here have been testifying in a string of hearings, before both bodies of the U.S. Congress, on how to overhaul the United States’ huge immigration detention system, the scope of which has expanded massively in recent years in ways that some suggest impinge on civil and human rights.

Over the past two decades, the U.S. government has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into stepping up border security and taken an increasingly hard line on immigration issues. (Photo: Getty images) According to official estimates, the federal government will detain some 400,000 people on immigration charges this year, at a cost of around two billion dollars. Activists say the size and functioning of the immigration detention system are out of alignment with “U.S. values” – and, increasingly, Washington politicians appear to agree.

“We are a nation of immigrants, but our immigration law is inconsistent with America’s values,” Senator Chris Coons stated at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. “Our immigration system exacts a high cost on families, on civil liberties and on human dignity. This cost is unnecessary, unwarranted and unfair.”

Coons said the U.S. government is currently paying more than 160 dollars per day for those kept in some 250 immigration detention centres. He also noted that Congress-stipulated “bed quotas” – around 34,000 at any given time – for these centres appear to be driving policies at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and are responsible for keeping far more people under detention than otherwise would be necessary.

If these people are not public safety risks … why are they detained at all?

That’s “enormously expensive”, Coons noted. “It could be cheaper while also better serving both our national security and our national commitment to civil rights.”

Indeed, the hearings come in the aftermath of a surprise announcement, early this month, that the government would be releasing nearly 2,300 people awaiting immigration trials. That number included “many who did not require detention by law”, according to testimony at the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday by John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

While Morton explained the move as a necessary cost-cutting measure given the massive budget-cutting that came into effect at the beginning of March, the decision has outraged some conservatives. Yet ICE will save tens of millions of dollars on this move alone, simply in allowing immigrants awaiting trial to remain out on their own recognisance.

“It looks to me like maybe there’s an overuse of detention by this administration,” Representative Spencer Bachus, a conservative, told Morton, at Tuesday’s House hearing. “If these people are not public safety risks … why are they detained at all?”

In response, Morton admitted, “For many of the long-term residents, frankly, it doesn’t make any sense either as a matter of policy.”

The hearings are part of a flurry of bipartisan activity, both in Washington and nationally, aimed at reforming the United States’ sprawling, creaky immigration system. On Wednesday, Nancy Pelosi, a key Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, expressed optimism that the Congress would approve a comprehensive immigration reform package “before summer”.

Yet Senator Coons, who chaired Wednesday’s Senate hearing, warned that comprehensive reform “cannot be truly comprehensive if it does not address serious current flaws that deny immigrants minimum due process rights that are consistent with America’s values.”

He warned that today’s detention system “looks in many ways like a criminal proceeding”. Unlike in an actual criminal case, however, U.S. law does not offer those brought up on immigration charges the right to an attorney.

Compromised, punitive process

Over the past two decades, the U.S. government has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into stepping up border security and taken an increasingly hard line on immigration issues. The swollen detention system is one unintended corollary of this focus.

Legislation was significantly tightened in 1996, which among other things vastly expanded the number of immigration-related offences considered felonies and which would require automatic deportation. Some of these laws were again strengthened on terrorism worries in the aftermath of the attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, but President Barack Obama has surprised many by deporting far more people than his predecessors had.

Rolling back some of these automatic penalties are now a central part of the push for reforms. Under the 1996 law, for instance, Congress largely did away with immigration judges’ discretion in ruling on immigration violations – for instance, taking into account how long a migrant had been in the country, the person’s work experience and the hardship that deportation may impose on his or her family.

“This change made for a far more punitive system,” Muzaffar Chishti, director of the New York office of the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank, told IPS. “Since 1996 especially, we’ve had a much more compromised review process, both at the administrative level and at the official level.”

By 2002, an immigration-specific appeals system was experiencing a massive backlog, prompting officials to allow the appeals process to proceed on a simple up-or-down decision by a single judge, with no explanation for verdicts. This led to a huge increase in the amount of cases appealed to the federal court system, Chishti says, to the point where half of the caseloads in some circuits today are immigration cases.

At Wednesday’s Senate hearing, Ahilan T. Arulanantham, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, noted that immigration defendants were being forced to spend months or even years behind bars awaiting trial. He also noted that new technologies are available today that would cheaply and efficiently allow the accused to remain outside of detention but still ensure that they appear at required court dates.

Commitment to refuge

Meanwhile, some within the U.S. immigration detention system probably shouldn’t even be there in the first place. Critics point in particular to refugees and asylum-seekers.

“The United States has a long history of protecting and providing refuge to victims of persecution,” Sarah Ibrahim, with Human Rights First, an advocacy group, told IPS.

“But what we’ve seen recently is the U.S. faltering in this commitment – for instance, by imposing deadlines that require asylum applications to be filed within a year of entry into the United States. We are also failing these people by keeping those under detention in jails and jail-like facilities without prompt judicial review, and at the behest of an underfunded and overstretched court system.”

In February, Human Rights First and more than 160 other organisations sent a letter to President Obama stating that “immigration reform legislation must include key changes to the U.S. asylum system to better ensure that refugees who seek the protection of the United States are afforded meaningful access to a fair, effective and timely asylum adjudication process.”

© 2013 IPS North America

The Long Hot Summer of 2013

I spent a couple of nights last week on the lookout for a cloud of rising smoke. From the chimney at the Vatican? No, thank you -- there were already thousands of journalists around the globe fixated on the ancient mystical wizardry in St. Peter's Square. I was a lot more concerned that black smoke was going to rise from the damp, raw streets of East Flatbush, in a corner of Brooklyn many blocks removed from the high-tech glitz of that borough's new Barclays Center. Night after night, hundreds of young people -- most from the neighborhood -- marched on their local police station house because they wanted answers to a simple question.

Why was a 16-year-old boy named Kimani Gray shot seven times by the New York cops -- three times in the back?

Of course, I had to follow the waves of Brooklyn protest -- which teetered for a time on the brink of a riot -- by way of Twitter, since the mainstream media gave very slight, and usually belated, coverage to the doings in East Flatbush. I guess issues of law and order, civil rights and civil unrest, and the right to assemble on a major street right here in the United States can't really compete with the nearly 2000-year-old rituals of wrinkled men with their bright robes and their white smoke.

Still, I couldn't help but think that -- stop me if you've heard this one before -- there's something happening here. Maybe it was because East Flatbush wasn't the only place in America where unusual things were taking place -- the scattered shrieks of regular people who've been pushed to the edge. As the protests in Brooklyn dragged on, I heard the annual budget speech from the mayor of Philadelphia drowned out and finally shut down by the voice of angry blue-collar municipal workers, frustrated that City Hall will no longer listen to them. Just a couple of weeks ago and about 10 blocks away, so many Philly teens, parents and teachers were so upset at the knee-jerk closing of 23 neighborhood public schools that they filled the expanse of Broad Street as they tried to flood the room where the vote was taking place.

There were 19 people arrested at the Philly school shutdown; about 45 arrested in various encounters and scuffles with the NYPD in Brooklyn. All of these events were treated by the media as a total out-of-left-field shock -- as if a spaceship had landed from Mars and deposited these mad-as-hell aliens on the hardscrabble streets of the inner city. And if you haven't been paying attention, you'd indeed think these scattered events had nothing to do with each other. But to the contrary, the same river of bruised blood runs through all of them -- people who are at long last tired of the drumbeat of disrespect.

grayriot.jpg

Yes, there's the daily harassment of stop-and-frisk, the yearly push for just one more wage cut or pension givebacks even as CEO pay -- and that of top governmental aides -- never seems to stop going up, or thebillionaire-funded death of the dream of educational opportunity for all. But the real reason we're at the snapping point is even more simple than that.

It keeps coming back to a famous quote that I saw pinging around the Internet a lot last week after it was repeated by the city councilman for East Flatbush, Jumanne Williams, at a hearing. It was uttered by Dr. Martin Luther King in a famous address known as "The Other America" speech. He delivered it a couple of times, including outside of Detroit just months after that city had erupted in flames. The civil rights leader re-affirmed his lifelong commitment to non-violent solutions, but he added this:

I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.

Dr. King was murdered exactly three weeks to the day later.

Flash forward 45 years later, and there are many conditions in American society that need to be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots, arguably more than there were in Dr. King's time -- obscene income inequalitystagnant wages, record levels of long-term unemployment, a diminished watchdog media, failing urban schools, militarized police departments and civil rights abuses from rampant spying to a crackdown on public-serving whistleblowers to targeted assassinations.

It's reached the point where people are straining to be heard over the drone of our all-encompassingkleptocracy. It almost broke loose once, in 2011, with the realization that both political parties were selling out the middle-class in a phony debt crisis, and then the world was stunned by the out-of-nowhere Occupy movement -- thousands of unheard struggling to find their own language. That movement faltered for a variety of reasons, including the risen-again hope that democracy in 2012 could redress the people's grievances.

I think those hopes may have crossed a Rubicon, then crashed and burned for good earlier this month when the Dow Jones hit an all-time record, corporate profits swelled -- and not a dime of it trickled down to the American worker, who has watched nearly every dollar of income growth in recent years accumulate to the 1 Percent.

Into this tinderbox walked the 16-year-old Brooklyn kid named Kimani Gray. Those seven police gunshots later, his short life was over. The naysayers were quick to point to Kimani's flirtation with the gangs of East Flatbush and several arrests, and the allegation by police -- fiercely disputed by eyewitnesses -- that he had a gun and pointed it at the plainclothes officers, to dismiss both the value of his life and the cries of the protesters.  But the community deserves answers that it's not getting about what really happened 10 nights ago, as well as the dubious track record of the officers involved.

And New York City officials are doing everyone a huge disservice when they pretend that this is about one kid, and not the daily beatdown of disrespect from programs like stop-and-frisk, which has made it difficult for thousands of young, law-abiding blacks and Latinos to walk down a sidewalk without having to justify their very existence. Today, the courts in the nation's largest city are dealing with a massive class-action lawsuitover the alleged abuses of this policy.

The bottom line is, if it wasn't Kimani Gray, it would have been somebody else.

But no one ever sees it coming. That was the case in Philadelphia, suffering from years of benign and sometimes not-so-benign neglect of public schools and a multi-million-dollar push from the usual suspect of hedge funders, profit-seekers and  to boost charter schools and destroy public education as we know it. The co-conspirators tried (and largely succeeded) to rush through a large-scale scale shutdown of neighborhood schools, but the people formerly known as the unheard did raise of a hell of a ruckus. And they're probably just getting started.

These things don't happen in a vacuum. At the height of the schools crisis, someone emailed me a remarkable document that had been prepared by the Broad Foundation of billionaire Los Angeles "do-gooder" Eli Broad, who wages war on inner-city public education even as his foundation, not so ironically, has trained most of our top urban superintendents.(Now Broad wants to take over the L.A. Times, too -- God help us.) It's an 83-page guide "School Closure Guide" that was published in 2009 to guide presumably Broad-trained superintendents on a step by step method to implement mass closures of public schools in already distressed communities -- exactly what's happening now in Philadelphia, Chicago and elsewhere.

But Broad's minions must act quickly and smartly...before the voices of the unheard become too loud.

But here's the thing: Unheard voices are like water -- they are going to find the path of least resistance. Unless our leaders finally start listening, a trickle in Brooklyn, a leak in Philly, and suddenly there's a full-blown flood. (If you don't understand the oceanography, ask the folks down in New Orleans, another battered American community.)

When we look back on the long hot summer of 2013, and we will, I pray that we'll think of it as a few balmy days on a beach or in the mountains with family and friends after a season of coming together, of finally tackling our root problems from rising inequality to falling civil liberties.

But I worry terribly that it will be the other kind.

Will Bunch is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and senior political writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He blogs at Attytood.com.

Occupy Hungary?

Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary.Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary. (Photo: Európai Bizottság/ Végel Dániel)This Monday, the Hungarian Parliament passed a constitutional amendment that is raising serious concerns among defenders of civil liberties in Europe. After several years of defeats at the hands of Hungary’s highest Constitutional Court, the conservative right–dominated Parliament voted 265-11 to (in effect) take control over the country’s judicial system and throw into question decades of decisions protecting human rights.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and members of his party Fidesz insist the constitutional changes are only “technical” or cosmetic. The president of the European Commission disagrees, warning that the new amendment could violate the rule of law, and the US State Department has told  Orban that the changes “could threaten the principles of institutional independence and checks and balances that are the hallmark of democratic governance.”

This weekend saw days of protest, building on student actions first seen last fall. In this exclusive interview, Márton Gulyás (of Kretakor theater) tells GRITtv about Human Platform, a new coalition comprising groups working in healthcare, education, arts and culture, which played a leading role, alongside the Hungarian Student Network and Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, in bringing thousands into the streets on Saturday and Monday outside the Parliament.

Gulyas says protestors are hoping to wake their country up and with good reason.  In Orbán’s Hungary, the broadcast media consist almost entirely of government-friendly outlets; the universities, the central bank and even the country’s most prestigious theaters are being rapidly brought under Fidesz control while funds to independents are being slashed. As Princeton professor and Hungary watcher, Kim Lane Sheppele has detailed, Amendment Four would crush indefinitely the independence of Constitutional Court, which has so far been the only effective check on Orban’s power since his election in 2010.

“The danger is very real,” says Gulyas, who has put his theater career on hold in order to act on the political stage in what he sees as a critical moment.

Since this conversation was recorded, Hungary’s President Janos Ader has signed the amendment, guaranteeing its passage into law. That means that this March 15, when Hungarians are off work for a major national holiday,  could see even more massive protests.

March 15, Hungarian “Revolution Day” marks the start of Hungary’s 1848 revolution whose leaders called for (among other things) freedom of the press, equal treatment under the law, religous freedom and minority rights. One hundred and sixty-five years later, Viktor Orbán’s right-wing power grab has protesters calling for many of the same rights.  As I learned on a recent trip to Budapest, Hungarians are very fond of quoting their national poet, Sándor Petőfi, a hero of ’48 times.  Expect the first line of his celebrated National Song ("Rise Up, Magyar, the Country Calls")  to be recited this year with a whole new resonance.

For more on the student demands, watch this video from Human Platform (click on “CC” for English subtitles). A facebook group to follow: One Million for the Freedom of Press in Hungary.

ACLU in Federal Appeals Court Tuesday Arguing Against Warrantless GPS Tracking

PHILADELPHIA - March 18 - The American Civil Liberties Union will argue in federal appeals court tomorrow that the Constitution requires law enforcement to get a warrant from a judge before tracking people's cars with GPS devices.

In the case, the FBI – without a warrant – attached a GPS tracker to the vehicle of three men suspected of burglarizing pharmacies. Following the January 2012 Supreme Court ruling that doing so constitutes a "search" under the Fourth Amendment, the district court issued a decision suppressing the evidence produced by the location tracking.

The Justice Department appealed that ruling to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing in part that even though attaching the device is a search, a warrant is not needed because of a rule called the "automobile exception." The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the lower court's opinion, joined by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

"Just because a technology wasn't around when the Constitution was written doesn't mean that it's not covered," said Catherine Crump, the ACLU attorney who will argue Tuesday before a three-judge panel. "The fundamental privacy rights established by the Fourth Amendment require that police justify their actions and show probable cause to a judge before they can conduct invasive surveillance like constant location tracking. The 'automobile exception' was created so police could find contraband hidden in cars, not so they could monitor a person's movements nonstop for days or even months on end."

WHAT:
Oral argument in U.S. v. Katzin at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The government has appealed the district court's decision granting the defendants' motion to dismiss evidence produced by a GPS tracking device that the FBI attached to their car without a warrant.

WHO:
Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project will argue before Judges D. Brooks Smith, Joseph A. Greenaway, and Franklin Stuart Van Antwerpen.

WHEN:
Tuesday, March 19, 9:30 a.m.

WHERE:
James A. Byrne Courthouse
601 Market Street, 19th Floor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The ACLU's amicus brief is at:
aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/us-v-katzin-amicus-brief

The government's appeal brief is at:
aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/us-v-katzin-government-appellant-appeal-brief

The district court's ruling is at:
aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/us-v-katzin-district-court-opinion

US Government Seeks to Dictate Global Rules for Drone Warfare

As other countries race to build up drone warfare programs ending the 'monopoly' that the Obama administration has held over the highly controversial method of targeted killing, the US government is reportedly dictating how the international community will run their own covert and illegal drone operations.

(Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP) According to a new Reuters analysis, despite the veil of secrecy behind which President Obama has presided over drone strikes and his targeted 'kill list,' the Administration is now openly seeking to influence global guidelines on the matter. 

"We are constantly working to refine, clarify, and strengthen the process for considering terrorist targets for lethal action," said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council. Adding, "we are establishing standards other nations may follow."

At this point, a number of countries have admitted to having unarmed reconnaissance drones. China reportedly has an armed drone, and even considered conducting its first lethal drone strike in 2011, "but authorities decided they wanted the man alive so they could put him on trial," reported state-run newspaper Global Times.

According to James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, one of the administration's primary goals is to "regularize" the drone program, "making it more a part of accepted U.S. practice in the future." Adding, "This is going to be part of warfare." 

This report comes on the heels of a unanimous ruling Friday by a federal appeals court panel that determined that the CIA gave an inadequate response to a Freedom of Information request by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking records about drone strikes.

According to the court, the CIA's 'claims' of concern over national security were rebuked by the Administration's public acknowledgement of the program.

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US Spy Agencies to Get Access to Trove of Citizens’ Private Financial Data

Multiple U.S. agencies will soon have access to a massive database of private financial data on citizens and individuals who do business in the U.S., giving national intelligence agencies the ability "to analyze more raw financial data than they have ever had before."

The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia, August 14, 2008. Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing These revelations were reported by Reuters after the news outlet gained access to a Treasury Department document.

The private data, previously available only to the FBI, will now be widely accessible for a number of agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, raising privacy concerns among critics.

The database in question—called the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)— currently operates as a database for financial institutions who are required by law to file reports of "suspicious customer activity" to the FBI.

However, as Reuters reports, the database is flawed and commonly 'over reports' innocent citizens' personal information:

The Treasury document outlines a proposal to link the FinCEN database with a computer network used by U.S. defense and law enforcement agencies to share classified information called the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System.

The plan calls for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence - set up after 9/11 to foster greater collaboration among intelligence agencies - to work with Treasury. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

More than 25,000 financial firms - including banks, securities dealers, casinos, and money and wire transfer agencies - routinely file "suspicious activity reports" to FinCEN. The requirements for filing are so strict that banks often over-report, so they cannot be accused of failing to disclose activity that later proves questionable. This over-reporting raises the possibility that the financial details of ordinary citizens could wind up in the hands of spy agencies.

Michael German, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, told Reuters there is alarming "wiggle room" within the new plan and significant concern about how the vast trove of information could be used (or misused).

Once spy agencies get such data, German said, "it's in a black hole. Time and again, we have evidence, unfortunately well after the fact, that somebody's civil rights have been violated, that the intelligence community simply ignores the rules."

The Treasury planning document obtained by Reuters says that the planning for the database expansion is still in development, and it is not known when implementation might begin.

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The Threat of the Imperial Presidency

President Obama prepares to board Air Force 1. (AP Photo)Civil libertarians, human rights advocates and peace advocates should insist on a renewed congressional assertion of its power under the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, to take part in declaring war. Among the many reasons for this reassertion is that social movements typically have greater influence over elected congressional representatives than over the more remote and secretive executive branch.

Historically, American presidents have “encroached on Congress’s war making responsibilities, leaving the legislative branch increasingly irrelevent,” according to an analysis by Bennett Ramberg, a former State Department analyst in the first Bush administration.

Recent hearings by the Senate Intelligence Committee on CIA director John Brennan’s authority and the House Judiciary Committee into drones are at least momentary signs that Congress may be ready to reclaim some of its powers. Statements by President Obama literally asking Congress to write “new legal architecture” to “rein in” his presidency and those of his successors, are clear indications that the growth of an Imperial Presidency may be limited. The bipartisan vote of nearly 300 House members against the administration’s launching of the six-month 2011 Libyan war is the most concrete example of legislative unease.

As Congress considers its options, it is crucial that the public be included in a rightful role. The public sends its sons and daughters to risk their lives in war, pays the taxes that fund those wars and accepts the burden of debt, the paring back of social programs and restrictions on civil liberties in the name of war. The public has a right to know, obtained through public debate and public elections, the rationale, the costs and the predicted outcomes of any military venture. James Madison, cited by Ramberg, gave the reason centuries ago: “Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued or concluded.”

Section 4(b) of the War Powers Resolution mandates that “the President shall provide such other information as the Congress may request in the fulfillment of its constitutional responsibilities with respect to committing the Nation to war and to the use of United States Armed Forces abroad.” Yet only insistent congressional pressure has forced the Obama administration to disclose some of its internal legal memoranda concerning drones, apparently in exchange for senate approval of Brennan’s nomination. It continues to resist the spirit of Section 4(b).

Hopefully, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) will take up the reform of war-making powers as a major priority. Already, one of the CPC’s co-chairs, Representative Keith Ellison, has expressed the need to reform and reverse the administration’s secret drone war. In the Senate, strong leadership on transparency has come from Senator Ron Wyden. Libertarian Republican senator Rand Paul is demanding to know whether the White House will unleash drone strikes on American citizens. Longtime activist groups like Code Pink suddenly are finding themselves in the center of a national conversation.

Three senators who voted for Brennan’s confirmation—Wyden, Mark Udall and Susan Collins—also issued a call on March 5 “to bring the American people into this debate and for Congress to consider ways to ensure that the president’s sweeping authorities are subject to appropriate limitations, oversight and safeguards.”

By most accounts, this fuss over the Imperial Rresidency wasn’t supposed to be happening. The drone wars were supposed to be cheap for the taxpayer, erase American military casualties and hammer the terrorists into peace negotiations. The assassination of Osama bin Ladin was supposed to be the turning point. But even with the wars being low-intensity and low-visibility, the “secrets” have remained in the public eye, especially the drone war.

From a peace movement perspective, pressure from anywhere for any steps that will complicate and eventually choke off the unfettered use of drones will be an improvement over the status quo.

From a peace movement perspective, pressure from anywhere for any steps that will complicate and eventually choke off the unfettered use of drones will be an improvement over the status quo. For some, like Ramberg, a reform of the 1973 War Powers Act is overdue. That resolution, which passed during an uproar against the Nixon presidency, actually conceded war-making power to the president for a two-month period before requiring congressional authorization. The original 1973 Senate version of the war-powers bill, before it was watered down, required congressional authorization except in the case of armed attack on the US or the necessity of immediate citizen evacuation. No president has ever signed the war powers legislation, on the grounds that it encroaches on the executive branch, although most presidents have voluntarily abided by its requirements.

Ramberg lists the US military actions undertaken after the War Powers Resolution “with minimal or no congressional consultation,” as: Mayaguez (1975), Iran hostage rescue action (1980), El Salvador (1981), Lebanon (1982), Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), Panama (1989), Iraq (May 1991, 1993), Somalia (1993) Bosnia (1993-95), Haiti (1993, 2004) and Kosovo (1999), leaving out Sudan (1998) and the dubious authorizations for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The immediate issue ripe for attention is the drone policy, conducted especially in Pakistan by the CIA in utter secrecy, but also spreading through Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Mali.

Drone attacks clearly are acts of war as defined by the War Powers Resolution, although the WPR was written mainly to contain the deployment of American ground forces. The drone war rests more squarely on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the underlying legal rationale for the “global war on terrorism.”

The challenge of reform, as opposed to emergency tinkering, will require prolonged efforts to amend and clarify both the WPR and AUMF. Allowing any president a sixty-day period before seeking congressional authorization, as the WPR does, makes no sense in drone warfare. Instead, the president should be required to seek congressional permission if he wishes to target a clearly definable “enemy,” and be required to issue public guidelines, including necessary disclosure, governing the use of force he contemplates. That means:

First, Congress should establish a special inspector general, like the SIGUR created for Iraq and Afghanistan, to define, monitor and determine civilian casualties (“collateral damage”) from drone strikes. Currently that information is collected by the CIA, which has a conflict of interest, not to mention a curtain of secrecy.

Second, Congress will need to draft guidelines sharply narrowing—or even banning—the use of “signature strikes,” which permit drone attacks against targets profiled according to identity, such as young males of military age (which could be civilians, participants in a wedding or funeral, etc.).

The open window for “reining in” the president’s executive powers could close at any time.

Third, Congress or the courts will have to restore the open-ended concept of “imminent threat” to its traditional meaning, as an immediate operational threat aimed at American citizens, US territory or facilities. Under the elastic formulation employed by Brennan and others, the simple fact of ill-defined jihadists holding meetings anywhere on the planet is an “imminent threat” justifying military action. And according to the CIA interpretation, the threat is a “continuous” one, carrying over from war to war. But if every “potential” threat is defined as “imminent,” and all the threats are continuous, the CIA, Special Forces and American military will be spread thin indeed from the jungles of the Philippines to the ghettos of Britain.

The 2001 AUMF was written to justify the unofficial military doctrine of the “long war,” developed by counterinsurgency advisers to General David Petraeus and the State Department, like David Kilcullen, who project a conflict of fifty- to eighty-years’ duration against ill-defined Muslim fundamentalists. The designated targets of the AUMF are “Al Qaeda” and “associated” terrorist groups. That overly broad definition authorizes a global war in the shadows against forces whose actual links to Al Qaeda are difficult to discern and who may or may not be threats against the United States. If targeted by the United States, however, the likelihood of their becoming threats will only increase.

A recent example in a long list of these targets is Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the 40-year-old Algerian who may or may not have been killed last week in Chad. Belmokhtar allegedly carried out the January attack on an Algerian gas plant in which thirty-seven foreign hostages died. He did so in retaliation against France’s military intervention in its former colony of Mali, and against Algeria’s siding with Western counterterrorism policies. Otherwise, Belmokhtar was nicknamed the “Marlboro Man” because of his decades-long involvement in smuggling cigarettes. Ten years ago he led one faction of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, before breaking away to form his own force in the Sahel.

The question is whether the 2001 AUMF was written to cover a regional warlord like the “Marlboro Man” whose history is “smuggling, kidnapping and fighting for decades in the Sahel,” or whether it is being used as a blanket authorization for official kill lists and CIA drone assassins everywhere.

Finally, Congress should commission an independent body to evaluate whether the war on terrorism, including the drone attacks, has made Americans “safer.” The rise of the drones—as well as cyber-warfare—has a lulling effect on public opinion since American group operations are ending and casualties are down. But the 9/11 attacks took place unexpectedly as a result of burning grievances in the Muslim world. The official metrics of safety (e.g., how many jihadist “leaders” have been killed, whether insurgent attacks are up or down) ignore the incendiary hatred and desire for revenge building in Muslim communities suffering from remote drone attacks. A few empirical studies have shown a direct correlation between the rise of suicide bombers and US/Western occupation of Muslim lands, but the mass illusion of safety from terrorism tends to persist. A national conversation, including the forgotten ways in which we are made less safe by the war on terrorism, is sorely needed.

In perspective, the effort to prevent the restoration of an Imperial Presidency is long and politically difficult, something like reversing the mass incarceration policies and police buildups that followed the neoconservatives’ “war on gangs” campaign of the early 1990s, which the Clinton administration adopted. Many liberals in general, and Democrats in particular, cringe at being labeled “soft on crime” (or “soft on terrorism”). Some on the left, on the other hand, seem to think that the threat of terrorism is manufactured. However, if another attack should occur against the United States, the danger that a second Patriot Act will pass is real. Current US policies inadvertently provoke that possibility, with the drone strikes the equivalent of attacking a hornet’s nest. Therefore, the open window for “reining in” the president’s executive powers could close at any time. Hearings to reform of the 2001 AUMF and the 1973 WPR could not be more urgent.

© 2013 The Nation

Tom Hayden

Tom Hayden is a former state senator and leader of 1960's peace, justice and environmental movements. He currently teaches at PitzerCollege in Los Angeles. His books include The Port Huron Statement [new edition], Street Wars and The Zapatista Reader.

National Disgrace: The Lack of Opposition to Obama’s Kill List Policy

Democrats Shamefully Silent on Obama Administration’s Assertion of Right to Assassinate Americans on U.S. Soil

Rand Paul carried out a historic 13-hour filibuster of dronemaster-in-chief John Brennan’s nomination for CIA chief.

Huffington Post slammed Democrats for being missing in action and progressive news host Cenk Uygur called Senator Paul a “constitutional hero”.

One of the top constitutional law experts in the country – Jonathan Turley, a progressive liberal – writes:

What was most striking about this principled stand is the virtual total absence of Democrats in speaking out against Obama. Just this week, Attorney General Eric Holder admitted that this policy could include killing citizens on U.S. soil with drones. Yet, the Democrats worked to stop not the kill list policy but Paul’s filibuster. Obama apologists have attacked Rand for some of his other positions to avoid dealing with the fact that Obama is claiming the powers of an Imperial President. I do not agree with Paul on many things, but I commend him for this stand and condemn those who remained silent, again, in the face of this authoritarian policy of Obama.

***

The lack of opposition to Obama’s kill list policy is a national disgrace. It shows the triumph of a cult of personality within the Democratic ranks where both members and voters have chosen Obama over long-standing values of civil liberties that once defined their party.

Senator Paul’s office sent us a series of unofficial transcripts of Paul’s filibuster speech.  Below are our favorite excerpts (constitutional experts like Turley have confirmed that Paul’s statements are accurate).

No American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court. That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in bowling green, Kentucky, is an abomination. It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country.

***

The principle is one that as Americans we have fought long and hard for and to give up on that principle, to give up on the bill of rights, to give up on the Fifth Amendment protection that says that no person shall be held without due process, that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted. This is a precious American tradition and something we should not give up on easily.

***

When I asked the President, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal, “no.” The President’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that.

The President says, I haven’t killed anyone yet. He goes on to say, and I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might. Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that? Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a President to say he might kill Americans? But he will judge the circumstances, he will be the sole arbiter, he will be the sole decider, he will be the executioner in chief if he sees fit. Now, some would say he would never do this. Many people give the President the – you know, they give him consideration, they say he’s a good man. I’m not arguing he’s not. What I’m arguing is that the law is there and set in place for the day when angels don’t rule government. Madison said that the restraint on government was because government will not always be run by angels. This has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican. Were this a Republican President, I’d be here saying exactly the same thing. No one person, no one politician should be allowed to judge the guilt, to charge an individual, to judge the guilt of an individual and to execute an individual. It goes against everything that we fundamentally believe in our country.

This isn’t even new to our country. There’s 800 years of English law that we found our tradition upon. We founded it upon the Magna Carta from 1215. We founded it upon Morgan from Glamorgan and 725 A.D. We founded upon the Greeks and Romans who had juries. It is not enough to charge someone to say that they are guilty.

***

If there’s a gentleman or a woman with a grenade launcher attacking our buildings or our Capitol, we use lethal force. You don’t get due process if you’re involved with actively attacking us, our soldiers or our government. You don’t get due process if you’re overseas in a battle shooting at our soldiers. But that’s not what we’re talking about. The Wall Street Journal reported and said that the bulk of the drone attacks are signature attacks. They don’t even know the name of the person. A line or a caravan is going from a place where we think there are bad people to a place where we think they might commit harm and we kill the caravan, not the person. Is that the standard that we will now use in America? Will we use a standard for killing Americans to be that we thought – killing Americans to be that we thought you were bad, we thought you were coming from a meeting of bad people and you were in a line of traffic and so, therefore, you were fine for the killing? That is the standard we’re using overseas. Is that the standard we’re going to use here?

I will speak today until the President responds and says no, we won’t kill Americans in cafes; no, we won’t kill you at home in your bed at night; no, we won’t drop bombs on restaurants. Is that so hard? It’s amazing that the President will not respond. I’ve been asking this question for a month. It’s like pulling teeth to get the President to respond to anything. And I get no answer.

The President says he hasn’t done it yet and I’m to be comforted, you are to be comforted in your home, you are to be comforted in your restaurant, you are to be comforted on-line communicating in your e-mail that the President hasn’t killed an American yet on the homeland. He says he hasn’t done it yet. He says he has no intention to do so. Hayek said that nothing distinguishes arbitrary government from a government that is run by the whims of the people than the rule of law. The law’s an amazingly important thing, an amazingly important protection. And for us to give up on it so easily really doesn’t speak well of what our founding fathers fought for, what generation after generation of American soldiers have fought for, what soldiers are fighting for today when they go overseas to fight wars for us. It doesn’t speak well of what we’re doing here to protect the freedom at home when our soldiers are abroad fighting for us, that we say that our freedom’s not precious enough for one person to come down and say, enough’s enough, Mr. President. Come clean, come forward and say you will not kill Americans on American soil. The oath of office of the President says that he will, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. He raises his hand, his right hand, puts his left hand on the bible, and he says, “i will.” The President doesn’t say, “I intend to if it’s convenient.” “I intend to, unless circumstances dictate otherwise.”

***

If you are sitting in a cafeteria in Dearborn, Mich., if you happen to be an Arab-American who has a relative in the Middle East and you communicate with them by e-mail and somebody says, oh, your relative is someone we suspect of being associated with terrorism, is that enough to kill you? For goodness sakes, wouldn’t we try to arrest and come to the truth by having a jury and a presentation of the facts on both sides of the issue? See, the real problem here, one of the things we did a long time ago is we separated the police power from the judicial power. This was an incredibly important first step. We also prevented the military from acting in our country because we didn’t want to have a police state.

***

I’m not casting any aspersions on the President. I’m not saying he is a bad person at all, but he is not a judge. He’s a politician. He was elected by a majority, but the majority doesn’t get to decide who we execute. We have a process for deciding this. We have courts for deciding this, to allow one man to accuse you in secret, you never get notified you have been accused. Your notification is the buzz of the propellers on the drone as it flies overhead in the seconds before you’re killed. Is that what we really want from our government? Are we so afraid of terrorism, are we so afraid of terrorists that we’re willing to just throw out our rights and our freedoms, things that have been fought for and that we have gotten over the centuries.

***

Madison wrote in the federalist papers, he said that the Constitution states what history demonstrates, that the executive branch is the branch most prone to war, most likely to go to war, and therefore we – we took that power to declare war and we vested it in the legislature. We broke up the powers. Montesquieu wrote about the checks and balances and the separation of powers. He was somebody who Jefferson looked towards. They separated the powers because there was a chance for abuse of power when power resides in one person. Montesquieu said there can be no liberty when you combine the executive and the legislative. I would say something similar. There can be no liberty when you combine the executive and the judiciary. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re allowing the President to be the accuser in secret and we’re allowing him to be the judge and we’re allowing him to be the jury. No man should have that power. We should fear that power. Not because we have to say oh, we fear the current President. It has nothing to do with who the President is. It has nothing to do with whether you’re a Republican or Democrat. It has to do with whether or not you fear the consolidation of power, were you – whether you fear power being given to one person, whether they are a Republican or a Democrat. This is not necessarily a right-left issue.

***

What’s important here is that we’re talking about a war without geographic limitations, but we’re also talking about a war without temporal limitations. There is no limit, no limit in time to this war. When will this war end? It’s a war that has, I think, an infinite timeline. So if you’re going to suspend your rights, if there is going to be no geographic limits to killing, which really means we’re not at war in Afghanistan, we’re at war everywhere and everybody that pops up is called al-Qaida now, whether they have ever heard of al-Qaida or not, whether they have any communication with some kind of network of al-Qaida, everybody is al-Qaida, but there is a new war or an ongoing war everywhere in the world, there is no limitations.

Glenn Greenwald … says there is a theoretical framework being built that posits that the U.S. Government has unlimited power.

***

To think that we were opposed to them listening to your conversations without a warrant but no one’s going to stand up and say they can kill you without a warrant, a judge’s review or a jury, no one’s going to object to that, where is the cacophony that stood up and said how can you tap my phone without going to a judge first? I ask how can you kill someone without going to a judge or a jury?

***

Civil libertarians once expected more from the President. In fact, it was one of the things that I liked about the President. I’m a Republican. I didn’t vote or support the President either time, but I admired him, particularly in 2007 when he ran. I admired his ability to stand up and say we won’t torture people, that’s not what America does. How does the President’s mind work, though? The President that seemed so honorable, seemed so concerned with our rights, seemed so concerned with the right not to have your phone be tapped now says he’s not concerned with whether you can be killed without a trial. The leap of logic is so fantastic as to boggle the mind. Where is the Barack Obama of 2007? Has the presidency so transformed him that he has forgotten his moorings, forgotten what he stood for? Civilian libertarians once expected more from the President. Ask any civil libertarian whether or not the President should have the right to arbitrarily kill Americans on American soil and the answer is easy. Of course, no President should have the right or that power under the Constitution.

***

The President a year ago lined up – signed a law that says that you can be detained indefinitely, that you can be sent from America to Guantanamo Bay without a trial, and he wants us to be comforted, he wants us to remember and think good of him because he says I don’t intend to do so. It’s not enough. I mean, would you tolerate a Republican who stood up and said well, I like the First Amendment, I’m quite fond of the First Amendment, and I don’t intend to break the First Amendment but I might.

***

So my question is if you’re not a civilian, if you’re in proximity to bad people, is that the standard we’re going to use in the United States? So if we’re going to kill Americans on American soil and the standard is going to be signature strikes that you’re close to bad people or that you’re in the same proximity as bad people, would that be enough? Are we happy with that standard? Are we happy that we have no jury, no trial, no charges, nothing done publicly?

***

Many of the drone strikes overseas are done when you’re walking – I don’t know where you are a walking … To church, you’re walking along the road – they’re done when you’re in a car driving, they’re done when you’re in a house eating. They’re done when you’re at a restaurant eating. They’re done when you’re in a house sleeping. I am saying that they’re not actively involved in something that’s an imminent threat and if they were in America, they would be arrested.

***

The Bureau of Justice put out a bulletin within the last year describing people who you need to be worried about. These are [terrorists]. Who are these terrorists that live among you?

People who might be missing fingers on one hand, people who might have stains on their clothing, people who might have changed the color of their hair, people who like to pay in cash, people who own more than one gun, people who own weatherized ammunition, people who have seven days of food in their house. These are people that you should be afraid of and that you should report to your government. So says your government. Are they going to be on the drone strike list? I think we need to get an answer from the President.

If you’re going to kill people in America, we need rules, and we need to know what your rules are. Because I certainly don’t want to have seven days of food in my house if that’s on the list to terrorism. Interestingly, on government websites there are some government websites that advise you to have it in your house. If you live in a hurricane-prone area you’re supposed to keep some area food around. Who is going to decide when it’s okay to have food in your house and when it’s not?

***

The people on the list from the fusion center in Missouri that you need to be worried about, that policemen should stop, are people that have bumper stick theirs might be pro-life, who have bumper stickers that might be for more border security, people who support third-party candidates ….

You believe in the Constitution so much, you might be a terrorist – you believe in the Constitution so much, you might be a terrorist. We need to be concerned about this. Things are not so black and white. If someone is shooting at us, a canon, a missile, a rocket, a plane, it is pretty easy to know what lethal attacks are. We’re talking about people in their homes, at a restaurant, or a cafe that someone is making an accusation. If the accusation is based on how many fingers you have on your hand, I have got a problem with that standard. If the standard to be used for killing Americans is whether you pay in cash, I’ve got a problem with that. If the standard to be used in America is being close to someone who is bad or the government thinks is bad is enough for you to be killed and not even account you as an accidental kill, to count you as combatant because you were near them [I"ve got a problem with that].

***

But here’s the real problem: When the President’s spokesman was asked about al-Awlaki’s son, you know what his response was? This I find particularly callous and particularly troubling. The President’s response to the killing of al-Awlaki’s son, he said he should have chosen more a responsible father.

***

I cannot sit at my desk quietly and let the President say he will kill Americans on American soil who are not actively attacking the country.

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Should we live in a country where you have to be worried about what you say? Should we live in a country where you have to worry about what you write? What kind of country would that be?

***

Officials said the kill list in Pakistan has slipped to fewer than ten al-Qaida targets, down from as many as two dozen, and yet we’re killing hundreds of people in Pakistan.

***

What if you just happen to live in the neighborhood of somebody who is a suspected terrorist. Is it okay because you were close to them? What if you happened to go to dinner with a guy you didn’t know or a woman you didn’t know and the government says they’re a terrorist? Just because you’re having dinner with them and you are a male between the ages of 16 and 50, does that make you a combatant? We also asked the question do you condone the CIA’s practice of counting civilians killed by U.S. drone strikes as militants simply because they were of the same age? Like every other question, no answer. We asked him whether al-Awlaki’s son was a target. No answer. We asked how many people have been targeted. No answer.

***

As this war has dragged on, they take that authorization of use of force to mean pretty much anything. And so they have now said that the war has no geographic limitations, so it’s really not a war in Afghanistan, it’s a war in Yemen, Somalia, Mali. It’s a war in unlimited places.

***

About a year ago, I tried to end the Iraq war. You may say, well, I thought the Iraq war was already over. It is, but we still have an authorization of use of force that says we can go to war in Iraq any time.

And since they think the use of force in Afghanistan means limitless war anywhere, any time in the whole world, for goodness sakes, wouldn’t we try to take back a declaration of war, an authorization of force if the war is over? But here’s the sad part. I actually got a vote on it and I think I got less than 20 votes. You can’t end a war after it’s over up here. And it has repercussions, because these authorizations to use force are used for many other things. So the authorization of force says you can go after al-Qaida or associated terrorists. The problem is, is that when you allow the Executive Branch to sort of determine what is al-Qaida, you’ve got no idea.

***

Alarm bells should go off when people tell you that the battlefield’s in America. Why? Because when the battlefield’s in America, we don’t have due process.

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One of them, in fact, said if you – if you – if they ask for a lawyer, you tell them to shut up. Well, if that’s the standard we’re going to have in America, I’m – I’m quite concerned that the battlefield would be here and that the Constitution wouldn’t apply. Because, to tell you the truth, if you are shooting at us in Afghanistan, the Constitution doesn’t apply over there. But I certainly want it to apply here. If you’re engaged in combat overseas, you don’t get due process. But when people say, oh, the battlefield’s come to America and the battlefield’s everywhere, the war is limitless in time and scope, be worried, because your rights will not exist if you call America a battlefield for all time. We’ve asked him whether the strikes are exclusively focused on al-Qaida and what is the definition of being part of al-Qaida.

***

Now, the President has said, don’t worry because he’s not going to kill you with a drone unless it’s infeasible to catch you.

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Maybe he’s not got enough people to go arrest you …. So maybe he’s going to … kill you.

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It is not because we think our military are bad people. I’m proud of our soldiers, I’m proud of our army, I’m proud of what they do for our country. But they operate under different rules. And it’s a much more dangerous environment they operate under. And it’s different. It’s still dangerous in America, but policemen have a different rules of engagement than your soldiers have. And there’s – there’s more restrictions and restraint on what we do in our country. So that’s why we say the military can’t operate here. So when we asked the President, can you kill Americans on American soil with your drone strikes, which is part of the military, it should be an easy answer.

***

John Yoo was one of the architects of this, basically just saying hey, if I’m going to protect you, I can do whatever the hell I want. Many on the left objected to that. Some of us on the right also objected to this – this usurpation of power by the Republican President. But the thing is, is it – now the shoe’s on the other foot and we’re not seeing any of that.

***

When we separate out police power from judicial power, it’s an important separation. You know, the police can arrest you, they’re allowed to do certain things, but the policeman that comes to your door and puts handcuffs on you doesn’t decide your guilt.

***

I’m not really disputing his motives or not saying he isn’t a good person. But I’m disputing someone who’s naive enough to think that that’s good enough for our republic, that his good intentions are good enough for our republic. It never would have been accepted, it would have been laughed out of the Constitutional Convention. The Founding Fathers would have objected so strenuously that that person probably would never have been elected to office in our country. Someone who doesn’t believe that the rules have to be in place and that we can’t have our rights guaranteed by the intentions of our politicians. Think about it. Congress has about a 10 percent approval rating. Do you think the American people want to base whether they’re going to be killed by a drone on a politician? I certainly don’t. Doesn’t have anything to do with whether he’s a Republican or a Democrat. I would be here today if this were a Republican President.

Because you can’t give that much power to one person.

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No one is questioning whether the U.S. can repel an attack. No one is questioning whether your local police can repel an attack. Anybody involved in lethal force, the legal doctrine in our country and has been historically, has always been that the government can repel lethal attacks. The problem is, is that the drone strike program is often not about combatants. It is about people who may or may not be conspiring but they’re not in combat.

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Is objecting to your government or the policies of your government – the policy of your government sympathizing with the enemy?

***

There is, though, a difference between sympathizing and taking up arms. Most people around here who want to justify no rules, America is a battlefield, no limits to war, they really want to blur it all together. Because it’s easier to say, oh, you don’t want to stop anybody who is shooting at Americans.

***

Certain things rise above partisanship. And I think your right to be secure in your person, the right to be secure in your liberty, the right to be tried by a jury of your peers – these are things that are so important and rise to such a level that we shouldn’t give up on them easily.

***

And really, the great irony of this is that President Obama’s position on this is an extension of George Bush’s opinion. It basically is a continuation and an expansion of George Bush’s opinion. George Bush was a President who believed in a very expansive power. Virtually, some would say, unlimited. He was accused of running an imperial Presidency. The irony is that this President that we have currently was elected in opposition to that. This President was one elected who when he was in this body was often very vocal at saying that the President’s powers were limited.

***

One of the President’s [i.e. Obama's] writings I found very instructive and I was quite proud of him for having said it, the President said that no President shall unilaterally go to war without the authority of Congress unless there is an imminent threat to the country. I guess we should be a little wary of his unless now since we know imminent doesn’t have to be immediate and imminent no longer means what humans once thought imminent meant. But he did say that the President doesn’t go to war by himself. I think it would be fair to say that candidate Obama also felt that the President didn’t have the authority to imprison you indefinitely without a trial. I think it’s also safe to say that Barack Obama of 2007 would be right down here with me arguing against this drone strike program if he were in the Senate.

***

Presidents have been getting more and more powerful for over a hundred years, Republican and Democrat. There was at one point in time in our history a pride among the Senate and a pride among the Congress that said these are our powers and we’re not giving them up. There were people on both sides of the aisle who would stand firm and say this is not a power I’m willing to relinquish. This is not something that is good for the country. And by relinquishing the power of Congress, we relinquish something very fundamental to our Republic, which is the checks and balances that we should have checks and balances to help and try to prevent one body or one part of the three parts of government from obtaining too much power.

***

Guilt or innocence isn’t always apparent, and sometimes an accusation is a false accusation. Sometimes accusations are made because people politically don’t like your point of view. So the question becomes should we have a process where we try to determine innocence or guilt?

***

If inconveniencecy is our standard for going to war without Congress, inconveniency is our standard for killing Americans on American soil with drones – I mean, I think we’ve sunk to a new low. I just can’t imagine as a country that that’s the standard that you want to have.

US Attorney General Gives the Go-Ahead on Domestic Drone Strikes: May Be Necessary Under...

drone-strikes-authorized

When Congress authorized the deployment of some 30,000 drones over U.S. skies with the passage of the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act in 2012 many civil liberties groups, privacy advocates and Americans expressed their concerns about the possibility that these surveillance tools could be used within the borders of the United States much like they are on the battlefields of the middle east where scores of innocent civilians are killed almost every day as collateral damage in direct strikes against alleged terrorists.

Those fears are very quickly being realized not as possibilities, but actualities.

In response to questions recently voiced by Senator Rand Paul about drone strikes being used against American citizens on American soil without charge or trial, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a public statement indicating that the government has the right to use armed unmanned aerial vehicles should “extraordinary circumstances” arise.

Holder writes:

On February 20, 2013, you wrote to John Brennan requesting additional information concerning the Administration’s views about whether “the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, without a trial.”

As members of this administration have previously indicated, the US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so. As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. We have a long history of using the criminal justice system to incapacitate individuals located in our country who pose a threat to the United States and its interests abroad. Hundreds of individuals have been arrested and convicted of terrorism-related offenses in our federal courts. 

The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront.

It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.

For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

Full Text (PDF)

The official position of the United States government is that a drone, or any military asset for that matter, can be deployed by the President of the United States or his surrogates without regard to the sixth amendment of the US Constitution, which requires that citizens be afforded the right of facing their accusers, to call witnesses and to be tried by a jury of their peers.

Senator Paul responded to the Attorney General’s comments and warned of the dangers of the new policy:

“The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening – it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”

Last month President Obama responded to questions about domestic drone strikes:

First of all… there’s never been a drone used on an American citizen, on American soil.

We respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counter-terrorism operations outside of the United States. The rules outside of the United States are going to be different than the rules inside of the United States.

I am not somebody who believes that the President has the authority to do whatever he wants or whatever she wants, whenever they want,  just under the guise of  counter-terrorism.

There have to be checks and balances on it.

Based on Eric Holder’s memo, the President, and therefore agencies under his control, do believe that they have the authority to use lethal force against those identified as “terrorists.”

As the Attorney General noted in his letter to Senator Paul, there are hundreds of Americans that have been tried and convicted as terrorists, and thousands more that have been identified as terrorists by government officials.

U.S. attorney Anne Tompkins recently prosecuted Bernard Von Nothaus for minting silver coins he branded as “liberty dollars.” After Vot Nothaus was convicted, Tompkins referred to his actions as a unique form of domestic terrorism.

Local law enforcement officials attending DHS sponsored training events have widely reported that the definitions for “terrorist” activity are becoming very broad, as outlined by one police officer at James Rawles’ Survival Blog:

During the past several years, I have witnessed a dramatic shift in the focus of law enforcement training.  Law enforcement courses have moved away from a local community focus to a federally dominated model of complete social control. Most training I have attended over the past two years have been sponsored by Department of Homeland Security (DHS), namely the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

No matter what topic the training session concerns, every DHS sponsored course I have attended over the past few years never fails to branch off into warnings about potential domestic terrorists in the community.

So how does a person qualify as a potential domestic terrorist?  Based on the training I have attended, here are characteristics that qualify:

  • Expressions of libertarian philosophies (statements, bumper stickers)
  • Second Amendment-oriented views (NRA or gun club membership, holding a CCW permit)
  • Survivalist literature (fictional books such as “Patriots” and “One Second After” are mentioned by name)
  • Self-sufficiency (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies)
  • Fear of economic collapse (buying gold and barter items)
  • Religious views concerning the book of Revelation (apocalypse, anti-Christ)
  • Expressed fears of Big Brother or big government
  • Homeschooling
  • Declarations of Constitutional rights and civil liberties
  • Belief in a New World Order conspiracy

Earlier this year a kindergarten student was suspended from school after officials reported that she made a terrorist threat utilizing a Hello Kitty bubble gun.

The Attorney General of the United States of America just gave the President the go-ahead on domestic drone strikes.

Under the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, no Constitutional protections need be afforded to American citizens, thus, anyone can be classified as a domestic terrorist at the President’s discretion.

If you mint a silver coin, stockpile food, refuse to turn in your high capacity magazine, voice beliefs that may be considered subversive to the government, or have a toy resembling a gun, you maybe labeled a terrorist.

As such, you can also be targeted for extermination.

Britain will release parts of secret report on rendition flights

Published time: March 06, 2013 01:24

Reuters / Gary Cameron

The UK will publish parts of a confidential report on its role in the US rendition of foreign suspected terrorists, the British envoy to the United National Human Rights Council (UNHCR) said on Tuesday.

The British announcement came after a demand from the UN investigator that the US and Britain reveal their finding on rendition, according to Reuters.

The counter terrorism investigator at the UNHCR, Ben Emerson, said that they must hold all states to account, “including the most powerful”.

“The exposure of the criminal matrix organized by the Bush-era CIA, from the heart of the world’s most powerful democracy, now calls for an unequivocal response from all of the states that took part in the program,” said Emerson.

The ‘war on terror’ waged after the al Qaeda attacks on the United States on September 11th 2001, allegedly led to systematic violations of human rights where Islamic militant suspects were transferred on clandestine flights to secret prisons where they were tortured.

President W. Bush even admitted in his memoirs that he had ordered the use of ‘waterboarding’, a simulation of drowning, which is considered a form of torture and banned by international law.

Karen Price, the British ambassador to the UN told the UNHCR, that the UK would publish at least some of the conclusions of an inquiry by Judge Peter Gibson, whose 2012 report examined whether British agents had been involved in rendition but has not to date been published.

Pearce said the results of the inquiry would not be made public until police investigations related to the incident were concluded.

A similar American report by a Senate select committee on intelligence chaired by Dianne Feinstein, a Democratic Senator, which investigated the secret rendition program including the use of waterboarding, was concluded in December 2011, but has never published its findings.

Jamil Dakwar, from the American Civil Liberties Union has said the report must be released.

While the Obama administration has disavowed torture, it has shielded former bush administration officials from accountability and despite initial promises Guantanamo remains open.

Numerous reports in the UK media and a book published last year by Ian Cobain, an award winning investigative journalist, revealed that the British security services new exactly what was going on during the secret rendition flights, many of which used British airports on their way to the US.


Shadow Justice in the UK: Britain’s “Secret Courts”

Civil liberties campaigners vowed to continue fighting Government plans for secret court hearings in sensitive national security cases after MPs rejected stronger safeguards.

Ministers comfortably saw off a bid to reinstate amendments made by the House of Lords despite Labour securing the support of a number of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs.

Several prominent Labour ex-ministers defied their own party’s position to back the Government in last night’s vote on controversial elements of the Justice and Security Bill.

An attempt to make judges balance national security against the public interest of open justice was defeated by 297 votes to 226, majority 71, in what opponents called a “dark night for British justice”.

Minister Kenneth Clarke insisted the measures were essential to enable sensitive intelligence material to be introduced in a small number of civil cases where the state is being sued.

The alternative, he said, was that the Government would be unable defend the action and could be forced to pay out millions in compensation – as happened with a series of former Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The defeated changes, originally passed in the House of Lords only to be reversed by the Government in the Commons committee going through the Bill line-by-line, would have made the legislation impossible to operate, he said.

The vote came after former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf said the legislation already ensured the operation of closed material proceedings was under the “complete control” of the judge in any case.

Critics complain though that CMPs undermine the principle of open justice and allow the security services to cover up involvement in abuse and torture.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan told the Commons that while he accepted the difficulty of “reconciling the issues of justice and security” the legislation was not “proportionate to the scale of the problem”.

Among prominent Tories backing the amendments was Andrew Tyrie who said they were “about whether people can get to hear the case made against them, and whether we can keep legal safeguards we have had for generations”.

Analysis of division lists revealed seven Liberal Democrats rebelled to support the public interest test amendment, including party president Tim Farron, deputy leader Simon Hughes and former minister Sarah Teather.

The issue is set to provide a renewed confrontation this weekend between Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his party activists – who last year voted overwhelmingly to oppose the legislation – at the Lib Dem spring conference in Brighton.

Labour former foreign secretary Jack Straw backed the legislation, however, telling MPs it was about “how you protect the sources of information on which intelligence depends”.

Party colleague Hazel Blears, a former counter terrorism minister, also gave her support.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said last night: “History teaches that politicians abandon ancient legal principles at their peril. Today’s cover-up is tomorrow’s scandal.

“The opposition to turning British courts into secret commissions continues. Once again, we look to the House of Lords to defeat Secret Courts and defend the Rule of Law.”

Clare Algar, executive director of Reprieve, said: “This has been a dark night for British justice.

“These plans for secret courts were always dangerous and unnecessary, but the failure of even minor attempts to modify the Bill means that it is even worse than when it first reached the House of Commons.

“MPs must now vote against the Bill altogether if they want to defend British justice.

“Should that fail, the House of Lords will be the only thing standing in the way of plans which would mean the end of the right to a fair trial in a vast range of civil cases.”

Speaking after the vote, Mr Khan said: “It’s disappointing that Labour’s attempts to reintroduce checks and balances into the Government’s plans for closed material proceedings have been defeated by the Tories and Lib Dems.

“This had the support of the Government’s own Independent Reviewer of Terrorism and the Joint Committee of Human Rights. We will be looking to our colleagues in the House of Lords to once again bring some balance to the Government’s plans over the coming weeks”

A Conservative Party source said: “By opposing this Bill, Labour are prepared to accept the possibility of millions of pounds going without challenge to individuals who could be terrorists.

“This raises the appalling prospect of taxpayers’ cash funding jihadist groups.”

Pointing to the presence of former Labour home office ministers Paul Goggins and George Howarth among those voting with Mr Straw against the amendments, they said: “This shows that under Ed Miliband the Labour Party is more interested in playing politics than acting as a serious alternative government.”

The Privatization of War: Mercenaries, Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC)

The Privatization of War: Mercenaries, Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC)

Private military and security companies (PMSC) are the modern reincarnation of a long lineage of private providers of physical force: corsairs, privateers and mercenaries. Mercenaries, which had practically disappeared during the XIXth and XXth centuries, reappeared in the 1960’s during the decolonization period operating mainly in Africa and Asia. Under the United Nations a convention was adopted which outlaws and criminalizes their activities. Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions also contains a definition of mercenary.

These non-state entities of the XXIst century operate in extremely blurred situations where the frontiers are difficult to separate. The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations recruiting former militaries as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security.

However, these individuals cannot be considered as civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive/defensive to an active/offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law either, since they are not part of the army or in the chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities.

PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies.

Private military and security companies operate in a legal vacuum: they pose a threat to civilians and to international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Council has entrusted the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, principally, with the mandate: “To monitor and study the effects of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market on the enjoyment of human Rights (…) and to prepare draft international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights on the part of those companies in their activities”.

During the past five years, the Working Group has been studying emerging issues, manifestations and trends regarding private military and security companies.  In our reports we have informed the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly about these issues. Of particular importance are the reports of the Working Group to the last session of the Human Rights Council, held in September 2010, on the Mission to the United States of America  (20 July to 3 August 2009), Document A/HRC/15/25/Add.3; on the Mission to Afghanistan (4-9 April 2009), Document A/HRC/15/25/Add.2, and the general report of the Working Group containing the Draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) for consideration and action by the Human Rights Council, Document A/HRC/15/25.

In the course of our research, since 2006, we have collected ample information which indicate the negative impact of the activities of “private contractors”, “private soldiers” or “guns for hire”, whatever denomination we may choose to name the individuals employed by private military and security companies as civilians but in general heavily armed. In the cluster of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by employees of these companies, which the Working Group has examined one can find: summary executions, acts of torture, cases of arbitrary detention; of trafficking of persons; serious health damages caused by their activities; as well as attempts against the right of self-determination. It also appears that PMSCs, in their search for profit, neglect security and do not provide their employees with their basic rights, and often put their staff in situations of danger and vulnerability.

Summary executions

On 16 September 2007 in Baghdad, employees of the US-based firm Blackwater[1] were involved in a shooting incident in Nisoor Square in which 17 civilians were killed and more than 20 other persons were wounded including women and children. Local eyewitness accounts indicate the use of arms from vehicles and rocket fire from a helicopter belonging to this company.

There are also concerns over the activities and approach of PMSC personnel, their convoys of armored vehicles and their conduct in traffic, in particular their use of lethal force. This particular incident was not the first of its kind, neither the first involving Blackwater.

According to a congressional report on the behaviour of Xe/Blackwater in Iraq, Xe/Blackwater guards were found to have been involved in nearly 200 escalation-of-force incidents that involved the firing of shots since 2005. Despite the terms of the contracts which provided that the company could engage only in defensive use of force, the company reported that in over 80 per cent of the shooting incidents, its forces fired the first shots.

In Najaf in April 2004 and on several other occasions, employees of this company took part in direct hostilities, as well as in May 2007, where another incident involving the same company reportedly occurred involving guards belonging to the company and forces belonging to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior allegedly exchanged gunfire in a sector of Baghdad.

Also in central Baghdad the shooting of employees of the PMSC, Unity Resources Group (URG)[2], protecting a convoy, left two Armenian women, Genevia Antranick and Mary Awanis dead on 9 October 2007 when their car came too close to a protected convoy. The family of Genevia Antranick was offered no compensation and has begun court proceedings against URG in the United States.

This company was also involved in the shooting of 72-year-old Australian Kays Juma. Professor Juma was shot in March 2006 as he approached an intersection being blockaded for a convoy URG was protecting. Professor Juma, a 25-year resident of Baghdad who drove through the city every day, allegedly sped up his vehicle as he approached the guards and did not heed warnings to stop, including hand signals, flares, warning shots into the body of his car and floodlights. The incident occurred at 10am[3].

Torture

Two United States-based corporations, CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan Corporation), were involved in the torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. CACI and L-3 Services, contracted by the Government of the United States, were responsible for interrogation and translation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities in Iraq.

Seventy two Iraqi citizens who were formerly detained at military prisons in Iraq, have sued L-3 Services, Inc. (“L-3”), a military private contractor which provided civilian translators for United States military forces in Iraq and Adel Nakhla, a former employee of L-3 who served as one of its translators there under the Alien Tort Statute. They allege having been tortured and physically and mentally abused during their detention and that they should be held liable in damages for their actions. The plaintiffs assert 20 causes of action, among which: torture; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; assault and battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress[4].

Arbitrary detention 

A number of reports indicate that private security guards have played central roles in some of the most sensitive activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) such as the arbitrary detention and clandestine raids against alleged insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan[5] and the involvement in CIA rendition flights[6] as well as joint covert operations[7]. Employees of PMSC would have been involved in the taking of detainees, from “pick up points” (such as Tuzla, Islamabad or Skopje) transporting them in rendition flights and delivering them to drop off points (such as Cairo, Rabat, Bucharest, Amman or Guantanamo) as well as in the construction, equipping and staffing of CIA’s “black sites”.

Within this context, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in May 2007 against Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. (a subsidiary company of Boeing) on behalf of five persons who were kidnapped by the CIA disappearing in overseas prisons kept by USA secret services. Jeppesen would have participated in the rendition by providing flight planning and logistical support. The five persons were tortured during their arbitrary detention[8].

Health

The 2009 annual report of DynCorp International refers to four lawsuits concerning the spraying of narcotic plant crops along the Colombian border adjacent to Ecuador on behalf of 3 Ecuadorian Providences and 3266 plaintiffs[9].

From 1991, the United States Department of State contracted the private company DynCorp to supply services for this air-spraying program against narcotics in the Andean region. In accordance with the subscribed contract of 30 January 1998, DynCorp provides the essential logistics to the anti-drug Office of activities of Colombia, in conformity with three main objectives: eradication of cultivations of illicit drugs, training of the army and of personnel of the country, and dismantling of illicit drug laboratories and illicit drug-trafficking networks.

An NGO report indicated the consequences of the spraying carried out within the Plan Colombia had on persons living in the frontier region[10].  One third of the 47 women in the study exposed to the spraying showed cells with some genetic damage. The study established the relationship of the air fumigations of the Plan Colombia with damages in the genetic material. The study demonstrates that when the population is subjected to fumigations “the risk of cellular damage can increase and that, once permanent, the cases of cancerous mutations and important embryonic alterations are increased that prompt among other possibilities the rise in abortions in the area.

This example is particularly important given that Plan Colombia has served as the model for the arrangements that the United States would apply later to Iraq and Afghanistan. Plan Colombia provides immunity to the employees of the PMSC contracted (DynCorp) the same as Order 14 of the Coalition Provisional Authority did in Iraq.

Self-determination

The 2004 attempted coup d’état, which was perpetrated in Equatorial Guinea is a clear example of the link between the phenomenon of mercenaries and PMSCs as a means of violating the sovereignty of States. In this particular case, the mercenaries involved were mostly former directors and personnel of Executive Outcomes, a PMSC that had become famous for its operations in Angola and Sierra Leone. The team of mercenaries also included security guards who were still employed by PMSCs as was the case of two employees of the company Meteoric Tactical Systems providing security to diplomats of Western Embassies in Baghdad-among which to the Ambassador of Switzerland. It also included a security guard who had previously worked for the PMSC “Steele Foundation” and had given protection to President Aristide of Haiti and conducted him to the plane who took him to exile[11].

Trafficking in persons

In 2005, 105 Chileans were providing/or undergoing military training in the former army base of Lepaterique in Honduras. The instruction consisted in anti‐guerrilla tactics such as possible ambushes and deactivation of explosives and mortars how to avoid them. The Chileans had entered Honduras as tourists and were illegally in Honduras. They used high‐caliber weapons such as M‐16 rifles or light machine guns. They had been contracted by a subsidiary of Triple Canopy.

They were part of a group, which included also 189 Hondurans recruited and trained in Honduras. Triple Canopy had been awarded a contract by the United States Department of State. The strong contingent left the country by air from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in several groups with a stopover in Iceland. Then reached the Middle East and were smuggled into Iraq[12].

The majority of the Chileans and Hondurans were engaged as security guards at fixed facilities in Iraq. They had been contracted by Your Solutions Honduras SRL, a local agent of Your Solutions Incorporated, registered in Illinois, United States of America, which in turn had been subcontracted by Triple Canopy, based in Chicago, United States of America. Some of the Chileans are presently working in Baghdad providing security to the Embassy of Australia under a contract by Unity Resources Group (URG).

Human rights violations committed by PMSC to their employees

PMSC often put the contracted private guards in situations of danger and vulnerability, such as the ‘private contractors’ of Blackwater, killed in Fallujah in 2004 allegedly due to the lack of the necessary safety means that Blackwater was supposed to provide in order to carry out the mission.

It should not be forgotten that this incident changed dramatically the course of the war and the occupation by the United States in Iraq. It may be considered as the turning point in the occupation of Iraq. This led to an abortive US operation to recapture control of the city and a successful recapture operation in the city in November 2004, called Operation Phantom Fury, which resulted in the death of over 1,350 insurgent fighters. Approximately 95 America troops were killed, and 560 wounded.

The U.S. military first denied that it has use white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon in Fallujah, but later retracted that denial, and admitted to using the incendiary in the city as an offensive weapon. Reports following the events of November 2004 have alleged war crimes, and a massacre by U.S. personnel, including indiscriminate violence against civilians and children.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallujah – cite_note-17 This point of view is presented in the 2005 documentary film, “Fallujah, the Hidden Massacre”. In 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a leading medical journal, published a study, which shows that the rates of cancer, infant mortality and leukemia exceed those reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki[13].

The over 300 000 classified military documents made public by Wikileaks show that the “Use of Contractors Added to War’s Chaos in Iraq”, as has been widely reported by the international media recently.

The United States has relied and continues to rely heavily on private military and security contractors in conducting its military operations. The United States used private security contractors to conduct narcotics intervention operations in Colombia in the 1990s and recently signed a supplemental agreement that authorizes it to deploy troops and contractors in seven Colombian military bases. During the conflict in the Balkans, the United States used a private security contractor to train Croat troops to conduct operations against Serbian troops. Nowadays, it is in the context of its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular that the State is massively contracting out security functions to private firms.

In 2009, the Department of Defense employed 218,000 private contractors (all types) while there were 195,000 uniformed personnel. According to the figures, about 8 per cent of these contractors are armed security contractors, i.e. about 20,000 armed guards. If one includes other theatres of operations, the figure rises to 242,657, with 54,387 United States citizens, 94,260 third country nationals and 94,010 host-country nationals.

The State Department relies on about 2,000 private security contractors to provide United States personnel and facilities with personal protective and guard services in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Pakistan, and aviation services in Iraq. The contracts for protective services were awarded in 2005 to three PMSCs, namely, Triple Canopy, DynCorp International and the U.S. Training Center, part of the Xe (then Blackwater) group of companies. These three companies still hold the State Department protective services contracts today.

Lack of transparency

The information accessible to the public on the scope and type of contracts between the Government of the United States and PMSCs is scarce and opaque. The lack of transparency is particularly significant when companies subcontract to others. Often, the contracts with PMSCs are not disclosed to the public despite extensive freedom of information rules in the United States, either because they contain confidential commercial information or on the argument that non-disclosure is in the interest of national defense or foreign policy. The situation is particularly opaque when United States intelligence agencies contract PMSCs.

Lack of accountability

Despite the fact of their involvement in grave human rights violations, not a single PMSC or employee of these companies has been sanctioned.

In the course of litigation, several recurring legal arguments have been used in the defense of PMSCs and their personnel, including the Government contractor defense, the political question doctrine and derivative immunity arguments. PMSCs are using the Government contractor defense to argue that they were operating under the exclusive control of the Government of the United States when the alleged acts were committed and therefore cannot be held liable for their actions.

It looks as if when the acts are committed by agents of the government they are considered human rights violations but when these same acts are perpetrated by PMSC it is “business as usual”.

The human rights violation perpetrated by private military and security companies are indications of the threat posed to the foundations of democracy itself by the privatization of inherently public functions such as the monopoly of the legitimate use of force. In this connection I cannot help but to refer to the final speech of President Eisenhower.

In 1961, President Eisenhower warned the American public opinion against the growing danger of a military industrial complex stating: “(…) we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together”.

Fifty years later, on 8 September 2001, Donald Rumsfeld in his speech in the Department of Defence warned the militaries of the Pentagon against “an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America (…) Let’s make no mistake: The modernization of the Department of Defense is (…) a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American’s. (…) The adversary. (…) It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy. (…)That’s why we’re here today challenging us all to wage an all-out campaign to shift Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the battlefield, from tail to the tooth. We know the adversary. We know the threat. And with the same firmness of purpose that any effort against a determined adversary demands, we must get at it and stay at it. Some might ask, how in the world could the Secretary of Defense attack the Pentagon in front of its people? To them I reply, I have no desire to attack the Pentagon; I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself.”

Rumsfeld should have said the shift from the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the private sector. Indeed, that shift had been accelerated by the Bush Administration: the number of persons employed by contract which had been outsourced (privatized) by the Pentagon was already four times more than at the Department of Defense.

It is not anymore a military industrial complex but as Noam Chomsky has indicated “it’s just the industrial system operating under one or another pretext”.

The articles of the Washington Post “Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control”, by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin (19 July 2010) show the extent that “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work”.

The investigation’s findings include that some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States; and that an estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. A number of private military and security companies are among the security and intelligence agencies mentioned in the report of the Washington Post.

The Working Group received information from several sources that up to 70 per cent of the budget of United States intelligence is spent on contractors. These contracts are classified and very little information is available to the public on the nature of the activities carried out by these contractors.

The privatization of war has created a structural dynamic, which responds to a commercial logic of the industry.

A short look at the careers of the current managers of BAE Systems, as well as on their address-books, confirms we are not any longer dealing with a normal corporation, but with a cartel uniting high tech weaponry (BAE Systems, United Defence Industries, Lockheed Martin), with speculative financiers (Lazard Frères, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank), together with raw material cartels (British Petroleum, Shell Oil) with on the ground, private military and security companies[14].

The majority of the private military and security companies has been created or are managed by former militaries or ex-policemen for whom it is big business. Just to give an example MPRI (Military Professional Resources Incorporation) was created by four former generals of the United States Army when they were due for retirement[15]. The same is true for Blackwater and its affiliate companies or subsidiaries, which employ former directors of the C.I.A.[16]. Social Scientists refer to this phenomenon as the Rotating Door Syndrome.

The use of security contractors is expected to grow as American forces shrink. A July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a panel established by Congress, estimated that the State Department alone would need more than double the number of contractors it had protecting the American Embassy and consulates in Iraq.

“Without contractors: (1) the military engagement would have had to be smaller–a strategically problematic alternative; (2) the United States would have had to deploy its finite number of active personnel for even longer tours of duty -a politically dicey and short-sighted option; (3) the United States would have had to consider a civilian draft or boost retention and recruitment by raising military pay significantly–two politically untenable options; or (4) the need for greater commitments from other nations would have arisen and with it, the United States would have had to make more concessions to build and sustain a truly multinational effort. Thus, the tangible differences in the type of war waged, the effect on military personnel, and the need for coalition partners are greatly magnified when the government has the option to supplement its troops with contractors”[17].

The military cannot do without them. There are more contractors over all than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.

CONCLUSIONS OF THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE impact of Private Se