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School-issued computers spy on children in US without parental consent – digital rights group

School-issued computer devices – provided to one-third of school children across the US – collect excessive...

Digital Rights Groups Warn TPP Will Force ‘Policing’ of Internet Users

Groups slam proposed rules in open letters to negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement Max Ocean Over 65 tech companies, open Internet advocates and other organizations...

Advocates and Digital Rights Defenders Reject Obama’s ‘Whitewash’ of Intrusive Spying Regime

RINF Alternative News After President Obama today announced changes to the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, civil liberties groups expressed skepticism and concern over continued bulk...

Digital Age Privacy Rights

Digital Age Privacy Rightsby Stephen LendmanArticle 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states:"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to ...

A Digital Bill of Rights

Every global state, or clunky imperium, deserves its global counterpart, a balancing lever to ensure that it doesn't fall into depravity. The state of...

Authors call for ‘digital bill of rights’

BBCDecember 10, 2013 Hundreds of authors from around the world have written to the United Nations urging it to create an international bill of digital...

‘Digital strip search’: Muslim activist arrested for refusing to yield passwords at airport (VIDEO)

Published time: 16 May, 2017 14:05 A human rights activist is facing charges after refusing...

Porn censorship & age checks breach human rights, says UN official

Online checks controlling whether children are accessing pornographic sites have been defined as a breach of human rights by a United Nations (UN) official. The...

The Ongoing Struggle for Abortion Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision overturning Texas’ onerous rules for abortion clinics blocked one line of attack used by...

Tech Report Says Palestinian Rights Organizations Are Under Sophisticated Cyber Attack

Palestinian rights campaigners are under cyber-attack, with the key website for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement slammed by at least...

UN Human Rights Chief: FBI Could Unlock ‘Pandora’s Box’ in Apple Case

'It is neither fanciful nor an exaggeration to say that, without encryption tools, lives may be endangered.' Nadia Prupis The United Nations human rights chief on...

Rights group demand police need warrant to access data

From: acclaimednews.com American citizens should be able to rest safe in the knowledge that no one has the right to pry into their digital...

‘Resist Surveillance’: Human Rights Groups Launch Tool to Detect Spyware

Detekt finds traces of 'dangerous and sophisticated' technology used by repressive governments against journalists and human rights defenders, Amnesty International says Nadia Prupis Amnesty International released...

States Rights, Local Democracy, and the Future of Broadband

David Morris RINF Alternative News In July, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stirred up a hornets’ nest by announcing it might overturn state prohibitions on municipally...

U.N.: Nations Hide Rise in Private Digital Snooping

Stepping into a fierce debate over digital privacy rights, the U.N. human rights office says it has strong evidence of a growing complicity among...

How the NSA Violates International Human Rights Standards

Even before Ed Snowden leaked his first document, human rights lawyers and activists were concerned about law enforcement and intelligence agencies spying on the...

Is The NSA Quartering “Digital” Troops Within Our Homes?

Are “Digital” Troops Being Sent Into Our Digital Devices Like British Troops Were Sent Into American Colonists' Homes? Washington's Blog We...

UN Human Rights Chief: Surveillance Backlash Akin to Anti-Aparthied Movement

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay. (Photo: EPA)The international outcry in response to leaks provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is...

Where Have You Gone, Bill of Rights?

On June 8, 1789 James Madison, the congressman representing Virginia's 5th District, rose to speak in a session of the First Congress and advocated...

How the Powerful Intelligence World Is on the Verge of the Ability to Make...

George Orwell's dystopian "memory hole" isn't...

America’s Brazen Global Spying Sparks an International Fight for Basic Privacy Rights

This surveillance of ordinary people, and...

Despite US Opposition, UN Pushes Forward Surveillance Bill of Rights

That is the message being sent by the majority of nations to the world's most powerful and aggressive surveillance states. An effort to move forward...

America’s Plan to Kill Online Privacy Rights Everywhere

The United States of America is shaping up as the evil totalitarian state of the 21st Century if this report from Foreign Policy‘s The...

Cellphone tracking cases highlight privacy concerns in digital age

In recent weeks, two cert petitions were filed seeking review of whether the Fourth Amendment covers police searches of cellphone records upon arrest. ...

Telecomm Companies Implicated in NSA Spying Unite to Lobby Congress on Digital Privacy

The biggest names in telecommunications industry have launched a new lobbying group headed by two Washington insiders to advocate for privacy policies that could...

The Government Is Spying On ALL Americans’ Digital and Old-Fashioned Communications

Washington’s Blog July 12, 2013 Even now — after all of the revelations by Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers — spying apologists say...

Pete Ashdown: Internet entrepreneur pushes for govt that stands for 'basic human rights'

As US broadband giants betray customer privacy in the name of profit, the owner of a Utah-based internet company has stood up for his...

Globalization, Civil Rights and the Cyber-Surveillance State

Globalization has reached its apogee— spying on European friends as well as usual foreign suspects, and you. Recent revelations about NSA’s worldwide practices are globalization’s...

'Digital Blackwater': NSA Leak Highlights Key Role of Private Contractors

Like the mercenaries for hire used by the U.S. in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and New Orleans–contractors like Blackwater that have come under scrutiny...

'Digital Blackwater': NSA Leak Highlights Key Role of Private Contractors

Like the mercenaries for hire used by the U.S. in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and New Orleans–contractors like Blackwater that have come under scrutiny...

Demanding the right to digitally protest: Hacktivists petition the White House to legalize DDoS

Is temporarily slowing down a website a legal form of protest? Current US law says it isn’t, but hacktivists want the White House to make changes that would force the government to reconsider their witch-hunt against alleged computer criminals.

In the latest WhiteHouse.gov petition to go viral, the Obama administration is asked to make a method of momentarily crippling a website comparable to real word demonstrations, essentially allowing for a whole new legal form of online protest.

“With the advance in internet technology comes new grounds for protesting,” writes ‘Dylan K’ of Eagle, Wisconsin.

Dylan’s petition, uploaded this week to the White House’s We the People page, is the most recent of these electronic pleas on the website to generate national headlines. A series of petitions in late 2012 demanding the peaceful secession of certain states from the US garnered nearly one million signatures from across the country, and just this week the Obama administration was prompted to respond to one popular request to depot CNN host Piers Morgan over his outspoken anti-gun views. That call for action, advocated by Second Amendment proponents and firearm owners concerned over a possible rifle ban, eventually accumulated around 110,000 electronic signatures.

When the White House responded to the petition to deport Morgan this week, press secretary Jay Carney said Americans shouldn’t let “arguments over the Constitution’s Second Amendment violate the spirit of its First.”

Those rallying for new computer laws say that current legislation limits those very constitutional rights, though, and that one electronic form of action should be covered under the First Amendment — the provision that provides for the freedom of speech, protest and assembly.

In the latest instance, the White House is asked to evaluate a federal rule that currently makes it unlawful to engage in distributed denial-or-service, or DDoS, attacks — a harmless but effective way of flooding a website’s server with so much traffic that it can’t properly render pages for legitimate users.

Performed by both seasoned hackers and novice computer users alike, DDoS-ing a website essentially makes certain pages completely unavailable for minutes, hours or days. Unlike real world protests, though, demonstrators don’t even have to leave the house to protest. Instead, humongous streams of information can be sent to servers with a single mouse click, only for that data to become so cumbersome that the websites targeted can’t properly function.

Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a DDoS assault is highly illegal. For those familiar with the method, though, they say it’s simply a matter of voicing an opinion in an online format and should be allowed.

“Distributed denial-of-service is not any form of hacking in any way,” states the petition. “It is the equivalent of repeatedly hitting the refresh button on a webpage.”

Overloading a targeted website with too much traffic, says Dylan K, is “no different than any ‘occupy’ protest.” According to him and the roughly 1,100 cosigners, there is much common ground between the two. “Instead of a group of people standing outside a building to occupy the area, they are having their computer occupy a website to slow (or deny) service of that particular website for a short time,” he says.

For companies that are hit with DDoS assaults, though, they sing a different song. In 2006, controversial radio host Hal Turner had his website taken offline after members of the then-infant hacktivist movement Anonymous used denial-of-service attacks to shut down his site to visitors. Turner said the bandwidth overflow cost him thousands of dollars in fees from his hosting company.

When Turner tried to sue those he blamed for the DDoS attack, a federal judge for the United States District Court in New Jersey eventually dismissed his claim. Other “hackers,” however, haven’t been so lucky.

When PayPal, Visa and MasterCard announced in 2010 that it would no longer accept funds for the website WikiLeaks, Anonymous and others responded with a DDoS attack on the payment service providers. The following summer, the US Department of Justice filed an indictment against 14 Americans they accused of participating in shutting down PayPal.

That same year, a homeless hacker using the alias “Commander X” was charged with waging a DDoS attack on the official government website of Santa Cruz, California because he opposed the city’s policy that outlawed sleeping in public space. X could have been sentenced to serious time for committing a felony, but he escaped the United States, allegedly seeking refuge in Canada where he is reported to be in hiding today.

“For a 30-minute online protest I’m facing 15 years in a penitentiary,” he told the National Post last year while on the run. According to an interview he gave last month with Ars Technica, he also participated in OpPayBack — the Anonymous-led assault PayPal and others over their WikiLeaks blockage.

California attorney Jay Leiderman has represented X, and has gone on the record to compare DDoS attacks with real life sit-ins.

“A DDoS is a protest, it’s a digital sit it. It is no different than physically occupying a space. It’s not a crime, it’s speech,” he told Talking Points Memo in 2011. “They are the equivalent of occupying the Woolworth's lunch counter during the civil rights movement," The Atlantic quoted him saying last year.

Speaking specifically of the operation against the companies that cut funding to WikiLeaks, the lawyer said online action is equivalent to peaceful protest.

“Take PayPal for example, just like Woolworth's, people went to PayPal and said, I want to give a donation to WikiLeaks. In Woolworth's they said, all I want to do is buy lunch, pay for my lunch, and then I'll leave. People said I want to give a donation to WikiLeaks, I'll take up my bandwidth to do that, then I'll leave, you'll make money, I'll feel fulfilled, everyone's fulfilled,” he said. “PayPal will take donations for the Ku Klux Klan, other racists and questionable organizations, but they won't process donations for WikiLeaks. All the PayPal protesters did was take up some bandwidth. In that sense, DDoS is absolutely speech, it should absolutely be recognized as such, protected as such, and the law should be changed.”

Leiderman added that he considers the use of DDoS not to be an “attack” in some circumstances, but actually legitimate protest.

“[T]he law should be narrowly drawn and what needs to be excised from that are the legitimate protests,” he said. “It's really easy to tell legitimate protests, I think, and we should be broadly defining legitimate protests,” he said.

New York attorney Stanley Cohen, who is representing one of the accused “PayPal 14” hackers responsible for the Anonymous-led operation, agrees.

“When Obama orders supporters to inundate the switchboards of Congress, that’s good politics, when a bunch of kids decide to send a political message with roots going back to the civil rights movement and the revolution, it’s something else,” Cohen told TPM in 2011. “Barack Obama urged people to shutdown the switchboard, he’s not indicted.”

“It’s not identity theft, not money or property, pure and simple case of an electronic sit in, at best,” he said.

So far over 1,100 people agree on WhiteHouse.gov, and hope the Obama administration will get their point. Until then, though, Commander X and others face upwards of a decade in prison apiece for violating a clause in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that makes it unlawful to “knowingly cause the transmission of a program, information code or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally causes damages without authorization to a protected computer.”

With attorneys like Leiderman and Cohen arguing that the damages in questions aren’t quite criminal, the White House may have to respond to the latest WhiteHouse.gov petition. The Obama administration is mandated to respond if it can garner 25,000 signatures in the next month. Until then, though, proponents of DDoS as free speech can cite what Jay Carney said when petitioners rallied for the deportation of Piers Morgan for his call to ban assault weapons.

“The Constitution not only guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but also enshrines the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press – fundamental principles that are essential to our democracy,” said Carney.

Meanwhile, exercising constitutional rights by way of overloading web servers isn’t being accepted as such by the government. That doesn’t mean that Anonymous or other so-called ‘hacktivists’ will change their ways: just last month, members of the hive-mind computer collective waged a DDoS attack on the website of the Westboro Baptist Church after the religious group announced plans to picket the funerals of mass shooting victims in Newtown, Connecticut. Anonymous waged a similar wave of attacks on the Church of Scientology in 2008, the result of which landed a number of Anons in prison for violating federal law.

So You Want A Thatcherite Revolution? Free Trade, Corporate Plunder And The War On...

Countercurrents 12/6/2014, Global Research 13/6/2014, The 4th Media 15/6/2014

Prior to the recent national elections in India, there were calls for a Thatcherite revolution to fast-track the country towards privatisation and neo-liberalism (1). Under successive Thatcher-led governments in the eighties, however, inequalities skyrocketed in Britain (2) and economic growth was no better than in the seventies (3).

Traditional manufacturing was decimated and international finance became the bedrock of the ‘new’ economy. Jobs disappeared over the horizon to cheap labour economies, corporations bought up public utilities, the rich got richer and many of Britain’s towns and cities in its former industrial heartland became shadows of their former selves. Low paid, insecure, non-unionised labour is now the norm and unemployment and underemployment are rife. Destroying ordinary people’s livelihoods was done in the name of ‘the national interest’. Destroying industry was done in the name of ‘efficiency’.


In 2010, 28 percent of the UK workforce, some 10.6 million people, either did not have a job, or had stopped looking for one (4). And that figure was calculated before many public sector jobs were slashed under the lie of ‘austerity’.

   

Today, much of the mainstream political and media rhetoric revolves around the need to create jobs, facilitate ‘free’ trade, ensure growth and make ‘the nation’ competitive. The endless, tedious mantra says ordinary people have to be ‘flexible’, ‘tighten their belts, expect to do a ‘fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’ and let the market decide. This creates jobs. This fuels ‘growth’. Unfortunately, it does neither. What we have is austerity. What we have is an on-going economic crisis, a huge national debt, rule by profligate bankers and corporate entities and mass surveillance to keep ordinary people in check.


So what might the future hold? Unfortunately, more of the same.


The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership


The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (formerly TAFTA) being negotiated between the EU and US is intended to be the biggest trade deal in history. The EU and US together account for 40 percent of global economic output. The European Commission tries to sell the deal to the public by claiming that the agreement will increase GDP by one percent and will entail massive job creation.


However, these claims are not supported even by its own studies, which predict a growth rate of just 0.01 percent GDP over the next ten years and the potential loss of jobs in several sectors, including agriculture. Corporations are lobbying EU-US trade negotiators to use the deal to weaken food safety, labour, health and environmental standards and undermine digital rights (5). Negotiations are shrouded in secrecy (6) and are being driven by corporate interests (7). And the outcome could entail the bypassing of democratic processes in order to push through corporate-friendly policies (8). The proposed agreement represents little more than a corporate power grab.


It should come as little surprise that this is the case. Based on a recent report, the European Commission’s trade and investment policy reveals a bunch of unelected technocrats who care little about what ordinary people want and negotiate on behalf of big business. The Commission has eagerly pursued a corporate agenda and has pushed for policies in sync with the interests of big business. It is effectively a captive but willing servant of a corporate agenda. Big business has been able to translate its massive wealth into political influence to render the European Commission a “disgrace to the democratic traditions of Europe” (9).


This proposed trade agreement (and others like it being negotiated across the world) is based on a firm belief in ‘the market’ (a euphemism for subsidies for the rich, cronyism, rigging and cartels) and the intense dislike of state intervention and state provision of goods and services. The ‘free market’ doctrine that underpins this belief attempts to convince people that nations can prosper by having austerity imposed on them and by embracing neo-liberalism and ‘free’ trade. This is a smokescreen that the financial-corporate elites hide behind while continuing to enrich themselves and secure taxpayer handouts, whether in the form of bank bailouts or other huge amounts of corporate dole (10).


In much of the West, the actual reality of neo-liberalism and the market is stagnating or declining wages in real terms, high levels of personal debt and a permanent underclass, while the rich and their corporations to rake in record profits and salt away wealth in tax havens.


Corporate plunder in India 


Thatcher was a handmaiden of the rich (11). Her role was to destroy ‘subversive’ or socialist tendencies within Britain and to shatter the post-1945 Keynesian consensus based on full employment, fairness and a robust welfare state. She tilted the balance of power in favour of elite interests by embarking on a pro-privatisation, anti-trade union/anti-welfare state policy agenda. Sections of the public regarded Thatcher as a strong leader who would get things done, where others before her had been too weak and dithered. In India, Narendra Modi has been portrayed in a similar light.


His newly elected government is expected to move ahead with pro-market reforms that others dragged their feet on. To date, India has experienced a brand of ‘neo-liberalism lite’. Yet what we have seen thus far has been state-backed violence and human rights abuses to ‘secure’ tribal areas for rich foreign and Indian corporations, increasing inequalities, more illicit money than ever pouring into Swiss bank accounts, massive corruption and cronyism (12).


With a new administration in place, can we now expect to witness an accelerated ‘restructuring’ of agriculture in favour of Western agribusiness? Will more farmers be forced from their land on behalf of commercial interests? Officialdom wants to depopulate rural areas by shifting over 600 million to cities (13). It begs the question: in an age of increasing automation, how will hundreds of millions of agriculture sector workers earn their livelihoods once they have left the land?


What type of already filthy and overburdened urban centres can play host to such a gigantic mass of humanity who were deemed ‘surplus to requirements’ in rural India and will possibly be (indeed, already are) deemed ‘surplus to requirements’ once in the cities?     


Gandhi stated that the future of India lies in its villages. Rural society was regarded as India’s bedrock. But now that bedrock is being dug up. Global agritech companies have been granted license to influence key aspects of agriculture by controlling seeds and chemical inputs and by funding and thus distorting the biotech research agenda and aspects of overall development policy (14,15).


Part of that ‘development’ agenda is based on dismantling the Public Distribution System for food. Policy analyst Devinder Sharma notes that the government may eventually stop supporting farmers by doing away with the system of announcing the minimum support price for farmers and thereby reduce the subsidy outgo. He argues that farmers would be encouraged to grow cash crops for supermarkets and to ‘compete’ in a market based on trade policies that work in favour of big landowners and heavily subsidised Western agriculture.


By shifting towards a commercialised system that would also give the poor cash to buy food in the market place, rather than the almost half a million ‘ration shops’ that currently exist, the result will be what the WTO/ World Bank/IMF have been telling India to for a long time: to displace the farming population so that agribusiness can find a stronghold in India (16).


We need only look at what happened to the soy industry in India during the nineties (17), or the recent report by GRAIN (18), to see how small farmers are forced from their land to benefit powerful global agritech. If it cannot be achieved by unfair trade policies and other duplicitous practices, it is achieved by repression and violence, as Helena Paul notes:


“Repression and displacement, often violent, of remaining rural populations, illness, falling local food production have all featured in this picture. Indigenous communities have been displaced and reduced to living on the capital's rubbish dumps. This is a crime that we can rightly call genocide - the extinguishment of entire Peoples, their culture, their way of life and their environment.” (19)
Although Helena Paul is referring to the situation in Paraguay, what she describes could well apply to India or elsewhere.

In addition, the current secretive corporate-driven free trade agreement being negotiated between the EU and India could fundamentally restructure Indian society in favour of Western corporate interests and adversely impact hundreds of millions and their livelihoods and traditional ways of living (20). And as with the proposed US-EU agreement, powerful transnational corporations would be able to by-pass national legislation that was implemented to safeguard the public’s rights. Governments could be sued by multinational companies for billions of dollars in private arbitration panels outside of national courts if laws, policies, court decisions or other actions are perceived to interfere with their investments (21).


A massive shift in power and wealth from poor to rich


Current negotiations over ‘free’ trade agreements have little to do with free trade. They are more concerned with loosening regulatory barriers and bypassing democratic processes to allow large corporations to destroy competition and siphon off wealth to the detriment of smaller, locally based firms and producers.  


The planet’s super rich comprise a global elite (22). It is not a unified elite. But whether based in China, Russia or India, its members have to varying extents been incorporated into the Anglo-American system of trade and finance. For them, the ability to ‘do business’ is what matters, not national identity or the ability to empathise with someone toiling in a field who happened to be born on the same land mass. And in order 'to do business', government machinery has been corrupted and bent to serve their ends. In turn, organisations that were intended to be ‘by’ and ‘for’ ordinary working people have been successfully infiltrated and dealt with (23).


The increasing global takeover of agriculture by powerful agribusiness, the selling off of industrial developments built with public money and strategic assets, such as energy sources, ports and airports, and secretive corporate-driven trade agreements represent a massive corporate heist of wealth and power across the world. Through their financial institutions and corporate entities, the world’s super rich regard ‘nations’ as population holding centres to be exploited whereby people are stripped of control of their livelihoods for personal gain. Whether it concerns rich oligarchs in the US or India’s billionaire business men, corporate profits and personal gain trump any notion of the ‘national interest’.


Still want a Thatcherite revolution?



Notes


























Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement: A Corporate Power Grab

Countercurrents and Global Research 4/10/2013

The Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) between the US and EU intends to create the world's largest free trade area, 'protect' investment and remove ‘unnecessary regulatory barriers’. Corporate interests are driving the agenda, with the public having been sidelined. Unaccountable, pro-free-trade bureaucrats from both sides of the Atlantic are facilitating the strategy (1) 

In addition to the biotech sector and Big Pharma, groups lobbying for the deal have included Toyota, General Motors, IBM and the powerful lobby group the Chamber of Commerce of the US. Business Europe, the main organisation representing employers in Europe, launched its own strategy on an EU-US economic and trade partnership in early 2012. Its suggestions were widely included in the draft EU mandate.


An increasing number of politicians and citizens groups have criticised the secretive negotiations and are demanding that they be conducted in an open way. This is growing concern that the negotiations could result in the opening of the floodgates for GMOs and shale gas (fracking) in Europe, the threatening of digital and labour rights or the empowering of corporations to legally challenge a wide range of regulations which they dislike.


One of the key aspects of the negotiations is that both the EU and US should recognise their respective rules and regulations, which in practice could reduce regulation to the lowest common denominator. The official language talks of ‘mutual recognition’ of standards or so-called reduction of non-tariff barriers. For the EU, that could mean accepting US standards in many areas, including food and agriculture, which are lower than the EU's.


The US wants all so-called barriers to trade, including controversial regulations such as those protecting agriculture, food or data privacy, to be removed. Even the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, made it clear that any agreement must reduce EU restrictions on genetically modified crops, chlorinated chickens and hormone-treated beef.


The public in Europe does not want such things. People want powerful corporations to be held to account and their pratices regulated by elected representatives who they trust to protect their interests, the public good. However, the TAFTA seems an ideal opportunity for corporations to force wholly unpopular and dangerous policies through via secretive, undemocratic means. They have been unable to do this in a democratic and transparent manner, so secret back room deals represent a different option.


Corporate demands include an “ambitious liberalisation of agricultural trade barriers with as few exceptions as possible.” Food lobby group Food and Drink Europe, representing the largest food companies (Unilever, Kraft, Nestlé, etc.), has welcomed the negotiations, with one of their key demands being the facilitation of the low level presence of unapproved genetically modified crops. This is a long-standing industry agenda also supported by feed and grain trading giants, including Cargill, Bunge, ADM and the big farmers' lobby COPA-COGECA. Meanwhile, the biotech industry on both sides of the Atlantic is offering its “support and assistance as the EU and the US government look to enhance their trade relationship.”


New Report


If the pro-free-market bureaucrats and corporations get their way and successfully bar the public from any kind of meaningful information input into the world’s biggest trade deal ever to be negotiated, Europeans could end up becoming the victims of one of the biggest corporate stitch ups ever. Left unchallenged, it will allow huge private interests to dig their profiteering snouts into the trough of corporate greed at the expense of ordinary people.


And that’s not hyperbole. Such a view is confirmed by the release of a new report on the eve of the second round of negotiations that are due to begin in Brussels next week.


The report, published by the Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B) (2), reveals the true human and environmental costs of the proposed TAFTA. ‘A Brave New Transatlantic Partnership highlights how the European Commission’s promises of up to 1% GDP growth and massive job creation through the EU-US trade deal are not supported even by its own studies, which predict a growth rate of just 0.01% GDP over the next ten years and the potential loss of jobs in several economic sectors, including agriculture.


The report also explains how corporations are lobbying EU-US trade negotiators to use the deal to weaken food safety, labour, health and environmental standards as well as undermine digital rights. Attempts to strengthen banking regulation in the face of the financial crisis could also be jeopardised as the financial lobby uses the secretive trade negotiations to undo financial reforms, such as restrictions on the total value of financial transactions or the legal form of its operations.


Kim Bizzarri, the author of the report:

“Big business lobbies on both sides of the Atlantic view the secretive trade negotiations as a weapon for getting rid of policies aimed at protecting European and US consumers, workers and our planet. If their corporate wish-list is implemented, it will concentrate even more economic and political power within the hands of a small elite, leaving all of us without protection from corporate wrongdoings.”

The report also warns that the agreement could open the floodgate to multi-million Euro lawsuits from corporations who can challenge democratic policies at international tribunals if they interfere with their profits.

Pia Eberhardt, trade campaigner with Corporate Europe Observatory and author of ‘A transatlantic corporate bill of rights’:

“The proposed investor rights in the transatlantic trade deal show what it is really about: It’s a power grab from corporations to rein in democracy and handcuff governments that seek to regulate in the public interest. It’s only a matter of time before European citizens start paying the price in higher taxes and diminished social protection.”

Consumer watchdogs, digital rights and trade activists, environmentalists and trade unions are preparing to fight the corporate dystopia put forward in the EU-US trade deal.


Luis Rico of Ecologistas en Acción, a member of the Seattle to Brussels network:

“We hope that the disturbing evidence we provide will show why all concerned citizens and parliamentarians on both sides of the Atlantic need to urgently mobilise against the proposed EU-US trade deal. We have to derail this corporate power grab that threatens to worsen the livelihood of the millions of people already seriously affected by the financial crisis and by the crippling consequences of Europe's austerity reforms.”


Do we want increasingly bad and unhealthy food, our rights at work being further eroded, the environment being damaged in the chase for profit, ever greater reckless gambling in the financial sector or our elected representatives being by-passed via international tribunals? Of course we don’t. 


Where is the democracy surrounding this proposed TAFTA? Where is ordinary people’s  protection from the ‘free’ market corporate-financial cabals that ultimately drive global economic policy and geo-political strategies? By translating corporate power into political influence at the G8, G20, WTO, NATO or elsewhere, whether it is by war, threats, debts or coercion, secretive and undemocratic free trade agreements are but one tool that very powerful corporations use in an attempt to cast the world in their own image (3,4).


The TAFTA is little more than an attempt at a corporate power grab masquerading as something that promotes growth, freedom, harmony and job creation. Those claims are bogus. It must be stopped



Notes



2)  The Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B) includes development, environmental, human rights, women and farmers organisations, trade unions and social movements working together for a truly sustainable, just and democratic trade policy in Europe. Corporate Europe Observatory is one of its members.




The EU-India FTA: Access All Areas, But Only For Corporate Plunder


Photo by Claude Renault
Global Research and Countercurrents 7/6/2013, The 4th Media 8/6/2013, Deccan Herald 12/6/2013 and State Times 18/6/2013

The EU-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is something that could fundamentally restructure Indian society and impact the lives of hundreds of millions of Indians. It is being negotiated ‘on the behalf of the public’ in secret by politicians and bureaucrats on both sides. Negotiations began in 2007covering a wide range of areas, including various goods, products and services, as well as investment rules, government procurement; and intellectual property rights. After 16 rounds of talks, the issues are still being fine tuned.


Much of the negotiations are being conducted beyond the gaze of the public and the realms of public accountability. And demands for public scrutiny have been dealt a blow by a recent ruling.
Following a lawsuit by lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), the EU’s General Court in Luxembourg concluded that the European Commission (EC) did not violate EU rules when withholding information about the EU-India free trade talks from the public, even though it had already shared the information with corporate lobby groups. CEO warns that this decision risks deepening the secrecy around EU trade negotiations and legitimises the EC’s practice of granting corporate lobby groups privileged access to its policy-making, at the expense of the wider public interest.
The lawsuit was a last resort for CEO after the EC refused to fully release documents related to the EU’s ongoing trade negotiations with India, including meeting reports, emails and a letter, which it had sent to industry groups including the European employers’ federation Business Europe, one of the most powerful corporate lobby groups in Brussels. The EC claimed that the censored information was ‘sensitive’ as it concerned EU priorities and strategies in the negotiations and argued that public disclosure would undermine the EU’s international relations.

CEO argued that the information, which the EC had already shared with the business world at large, could not suddenly become confidential when a public interest group asked for it. The group accused the EC of manifest discrimination in favour of corporate lobby groups and violating the EU’s access to information rules.

CEO trade campaigner Pia Eberhardt said that there is a big risk that the EC will see the court ruling as a green light to continue to develop its trade policy behind closed doors, together with, and for, a tiny elite of corporate lobby groups. She added that the result is a trade policy that caters for big business needs, but works against the interests of the bulk of the population in the EU and other parts of the world.

The judgement comes as the EU and India are reportedly sorting out their remaining differences, in order to ink their final proposal for a free trade deal before elections in the EU and in India in 2014.

Both in India and the EU, trade unions, farmers’ groups, patients’ organisations and other civil society groups have repeatedly raised concerns about the potentially devastating impacts of the agreement, particularly on access to medicines and the livelihoods of Indian farmers and street traders (1).

CEO believes that the court ruling has potentially serious implications for other trade policies, such as the upcoming free trade negotiations between the EU and the US. In a press release from CEO, Pia Eberhardt states:

“Citizens and Parliamentarians are increasingly worried about the risks that the EU’s corporate trade agenda poses to food safety, digital rights and environmental protection. Trade negotiations should be conducted in an open and democratically-accountable way, and it is high time that the Commission stops handing over the negotiating agenda to multinational companies. It is disappointing that the court ruling seems to point in exactly the opposite direction."
Such secrecy deepens the suspicion that the EU-India FTA has little to do with any notion pertaining to the ‘public interest’ and essentially represents the demands of big business and results from their strategic hegemony over government bureaucracies and politicians. 

With Western economies in crisis, India represents potential rich pickings for powerful transnational corporations. And the vultures are sweeping. In his January editorial piece in Kisan Ki Awaaz (National Magazine of the Farmer’s Voice), farmers’ leader Krishan Bir Chaudhary argues that India’s thousands of years old civilisation is being plundered. Industrial developments built with public money and strategic assets, such as energy sources, ports, airports and seeds and infrastructure support for agriculture are under threat. This view is apparently supported by Kavaljit Singh of the Madhyam research institute who argues that measures on investment could see the Indian government sued by multinational companies for billions of dollars in private arbitration panels outside of Indian courts if national laws, policies, court decisions or other actions are perceived to interfere with their investments. 

Indeed, corporations have been granted the exclusive right to sue states (states cannot sue corporations) at secretive international tribunals for action deemed to unfairly affect investors’ profits (2). It’s a one way street.

What we are seeing with the EU-India FTA (as is the case with India’s nuclear energy sector and the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (3) (4)) is democracy being sidelined for the blind pursuit of an unaccountable corporate driven agenda.

Notes





Internet Freedom and Copyright Reform: Aaron Swartz’s Suspicious Death

aaron-swartz-100021334-orig

 The Wall Street Journal headlined “An Internet Activist Commits Suicide.”

New York’s medical examiner announced death by “hang(ing) himself in his Brooklyn apartment.”

Lingering suspicions remain. Why would someone with so much to give end it all this way? He was one of the Internet generation’s best and brightest.

He advocated online freedom. Selflessly he sought a better open world. Information should be freely available, he believed. A legion of followers supported him globally.

Alive he symbolized a vital struggle to pursue. Death may elevate him to martyr status but removes a key figure important to keep alive.

The New York Times headlined “Internet Activist, a Creator of RSS, Is Dead at 26, Apparently a Suicide.”

He was an Internet folk hero. He supported online freedom and copyright reform. He advocated free and open web files. He championed a vital cause. He worked tirelessly for what’s right.

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle called him “steadfast in his dedication to building a better and open world. He is among the best spirits of the Internet generation.”

Who’ll replace him now that he’s gone? He called locking up the public domain sinful. He selflessly strove to prevent it.

In July 2011, he was arrested. At the time, he was downloading old scholarly articles. He was charged with violating federal hacking laws. MIT gave him a guest account to do it.

He developed RSS and co-founded Reddit. It’s a social news site.

He was found dead weeks before he was scheduled to stand trial. He was targeted for doing the right thing. He didn’t steal or profit. He shared. His activism was more than words.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) defends online freedom, free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights. It “champion(s) the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.”

On January 12, it headlined “Farewell to Aaron Swartz, an extraordinary hacker and activist.” It called him “a close friend and collaborator.” Tragedy ended his life.

Vital questions remain unanswered. Supporters demand answers. So do family members.They blame prosecutors for what happened. Their statement following his death said the following:

“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”

Swartz did as much or more than anyone to make the Internet a thriving open knowledge ecosystem. He strove to keep it that way. He challenged repressive Internet laws.

He founded Demand Progress. It “works to win progressive policy changes for ordinary people through organizing and grassroots lobbying,” he said.

It prioritizes “civil liberties, civil rights, and government reform.” It ran online campaigns for justice. It advocated in the public interest. It challenged policies harming it.

He mobilized over a million online activists. His other projects included RSS specification, web.py, tor2web, the Open Library, and the Chrome port of HTTPS Everywhere.

He launched Creative Commons. He co-founded Reddit. He and others made it successful. His Raw Thought blog discussed “politics and parody.” He had much to say worth hearing.

In 2011, he used the MIT campus network. He downloaded millions of journal articles. He used the JSTOR database. Authorities claimed he changed his laptop’s IP and Mac addresses. They said he did it to circumvent JSTOR/MIT blocks.

He was charged with “unauthorized (computer) access” under the Computer and Abuse Act. He did the equivalent of checking out too many library books at the same time.

Obama prosecutors claim doing so is criminal. They’ve waged war on Internet freedom. They want Net Neutrality and free expression abolished. They want fascist laws replacing them.

They usurped diktat power. They spurn rule of law principles and other democratic values. They enforce police state authority. They prioritize what no civil society should tolerate.

They claimed Aaron intended to distribute material on peer-to-peer networks. He never did. It hardly mattered. Documents he secured were returned. No harm. No foul. Federal authorities charged him anyway.

In July 2011, a Massachusetts grand jury indicted him. He was arraigned in Boston US District Court. He pled not guilty to all charges. He was freed on a $100,000 unsecured bond.

If convicted, he faced up to 35 years imprisonment and a $1 million dollar fine. He wanted scientific/scholarly articles liberated. They belong in the public domain. He wanted everyone given access. It’s their right, he believed.

He wanted a single giant dataset established. He did it before. He wasn’t charged. Why now?

“While his methods were provocative,” said EFF, his goal was “freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it.”

EFF calls it a cause everyone should support. Aaron was politically active. He fought for what’s right. Followers supported him globally.

In the “physical world,” at worst he’d have faced minor charges, said EFF. They’re “akin to trespassing as part of political protests.”

Doing it online changed things. He faced possible long-term incarceration. For years, EFF fought this type injustice.

Academic/political activist Lawrence Lessig called Aaron’s death just cause for reforming computer crime laws. Overzealous prosecutors are bullies. They overreach and cause harm.

EFF mourned his passing, saying:

“Aaron, we will sorely miss your friendship, and your help in building a better world.” Many others feel the same way.

Did Aaron take his own life or was he killed? Moti Nissani is Wayne State University Department of Biology Professor Emeritus. “Who Killed Aaron Swartz,” he asked?

He quoted Bob Marley saying: “How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?” He listed reasons why Obama administration scoundrels wanted him dead.

His death “was preceded by a vicious, totally unjustified, campaign of surveillance, harassment, vilification, and intimidation.”

CIA/FBI/Mossad/MI5 assassins expertly “mak(e) murder look like suicide.” Numerous “enemies of the state” die under suspicious circumstances. Media scoundrels don’t explain.

US authorities “had excellent reasons to kill” Aaron. He was legendary in his own right like John Lennon, MLK, Malcolm X and others. He threatened status quo dominance. He denounced Obama’s kill list and anti-Iranian cyber attacks.

Powerful government and business figures deplored him. In 2009, FBI elements investigated him. Charges didn’t follow.

Despite extreme pressure, he pressed on. He defied prosecutorial authority. In October 2009, he posted his FBI file online. Doing do “probably signed his own lynch warrant,” said Nissani.

Two days before his death, JSTOR, his alleged victim, declined to press charges. It went further. It “announced that the archives of more than 1,200 of its journals would be available to the public free.”

Aaron had just cause to celebrate. “Are we to believe” he hanged himself instead?

Government officials and corporate bosses “had plenty of reasons” to want him dead. He challenged their totalitarian agenda. “He was creative, idealistic and unbendable.”

“He was young and admired by many.” Did “invisible government” elements kill him?

“They did so either indirectly through constant harassment….or, most likely, directly by hanging him and” blaming him for their crime.

“All this raises a dilemma for those of us possessing both conscience and a functioning brain.” How much longer will we stand by and do nothing?

How long will we tolerate what demands condemnation? When will we defend our own interests?

Freedom is too precious to lose. Preserving it depends on us. No one will do it for us. It’s not possible any other way. It never was. It never will be.

Aaron’s Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto

His own words say it best.

“Information is power,” he said. “But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.”

“The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations.”

“Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.”

“There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it.”

“But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.”

“That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them?”

“Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.”

” ‘I agree,’ many say, but what can we do?’ The companies hold the copyrights. They make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal – there’s nothing we can do to stop them. But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.”

“Those with access to these resources – students, librarians, scientists – you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out.”

“But you need not – indeed, morally, you cannot – keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.”

“Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.”

“But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral – it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.”

“Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it – their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.”

“There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.”

“We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive.”

“We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerrilla Open Access.”

“With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge – we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?”

Does Aaron’s manifesto sound like someone planning suicide?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and 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 and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays 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/aaron-swartzs-suspicious-death/

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The National – 11 May 2014

Israel is facing its first digital mutiny in the ranks. And the issue fuelling the soldiers’ discontent could not be more revealing about the self-harming character of Israeli society.

This month, a social-media campaign went viral in defence of David Adamov, an Israeli conscript caught on camera pointing his cocked rifle at a 15-year-old Palestinian in Hebron who dared to argue with him. He also threatened to put “a bullet in the head” of another young Palestinian for filming the confrontation.

Outraged by media reports that Adamov had been jailed for 20 days, hundreds of male and female soldiers posted photos on social media sites holding placards in front of their faces – to avoid punishment – expressing support for their comrade in arms.

Within hours, a Facebook page backing Adamov had attracted more than 100,000 likes. A senior government minister, Naftali Bennett, joined the outcry, declaring on his own page that the soldier “did the right thing”.

The ironies mounted as the campaign unfolded. Fellow soldiers have styled Adamov “David of Nahal”, a reference to his army brigade and, it seems, an allusion to the Bible. In his supporters’ eyes, Adamov is the victim-hero of an unlikely ­Goliath – a mouthy, unarmed Palestinian minor.

The military chief of staff, Benny Gantz, has admitted that the incident raises matters of “military ethics”, but only because of the insubordination expressed in the ­social media campaign, not because of Adamov’s misuse of his firearm. And more revealing still, the army responded to the uproar by pointing out that Adamov had not been jailed for abusing the Palestinian youth but because, in an unrelated matter, he assaulted his commanding officer.

The Nahal brigade had been in the news a few weeks earlier. Its soldiers were discovered to have designed and printed a graduation T-shirt with a hate-filled message for Palestinians. The shirt featured an image of a Nahal soldier in the city of Nablus above the slogan “Nablus, we’re coming!” and a warning to Palestinian mothers that their sons’ fate would be decided by the brigade.

The problems at the heart of these two incidents were underscored in a recent Amnesty International report titled Trigger Happy. The human rights group identified a disturbing pattern of behaviour: Israeli soldiers were targeting unarmed Palestinians, including children, with live ammunition, in some cases as they fled. Amnesty called the army’s use of force mostly “unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal”.

Amnesty found that, after a lull in Palestinian deaths following the end of the second intifada in the mid-2000s, the rate of killings and injuries is dramatically on the rise.

Unlike the situation a decade ago, Palestinians were often being killed at largely non-violent demonstrations against land confiscations. Stone throwing, even when it posed no danger to soldiers, was routinely greeted with live ammunition.

Amnesty described army investigations into the killings as “woefully inadequate”. It could not identify a single soldier who had been convicted of the “wilful killing” of a Palestinian in the occupied territories in the past 25 years.

Of course, in no period in its history did the “most moral army in the world” come close to justifying its self-promoted reputation. But the transformation of the occupation into a permanent state of affairs, as well as recent technological innovations, appear to be making a dire situation even worse.

What the Amnesty report highlights is an entrenchment of prejudices shared equally by the higher and lower ranks. It has not helped that over the past decade extremist settlers have come to dominate the officer class.

Palestinians, including children, have become dehumanised in the eyes of Israeli society. And long-standing impunity means soldiers understand that reckless or malevolent behaviour will rarely if ever land them in trouble.

Paradoxically, technology – particularly cameras in mobile phones – has only compounded these ugly trends.

Shortly after the Adamov incident, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a press conference to deplore young Israelis’ obsession with their phones and the “selfie”, arguing that Israeli youth were “slaves” to technology.

Although he did not set out his reasoning, it is not too difficult to fathom. Israeli soldiers, like teenagers around the world, love to boast online about their exploits. The difference is that some Israelis posing for a selfie may be committing a war crime as they do so.

Young Palestinians are using their smartphones for similar purposes: to document their abuse and humiliation at the hands of armed ­Israeli teenagers. The ensuing photos and videos now feed the outrage of a watching world and regularly embarrass Israel’s image-makers.

Strangely, Israeli soldiers are behaving no more cautiously. In fact, they seem to be exaggerating their cruelty for the reality show that is their military service. And their commanders, faced with endless discomfiting episodes, seem more committed than ever to avoid setting a precedent by punishing them.

Possibly through overexposure, wider Israeli society seems to have rapidly become more inured to this kind of gratuitous violence.

The paradoxes run deeper still. The ever greater transparency of the occupation fuels the soldiers’ sense of victimhood and oppression. If they are now to be denied the title of “the most moral in the world”, then they seem to believe their army ought to be dubbed “the most misunderstood”.

This mirrors a more general ideological shift to the right in Israeli society as global sympathy for the Palestinians grows. The world may consider us oppressors, say Israelis, but we refuse to act the part of the guilty: we will proudly parade our tyranny instead.

Israeli society, like its soldiers, is caught in a self-destructive cycle: its very sensitivity to criticism pushes it ever more resolutely towards outcast status.

Tagged as: ,

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The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP – previously known as TAFTA, Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement) is a trade agreement that is presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States.


There is growing concern that the negotiations could result in the opening of the floodgates for genetically modified organisms and shale gas (fracking) in Europe, the threatening of digital and labour rights and the empowering of corporations to legally challenge a wide range of regulations which they dislike. The negotiations are shrouded in secrecy and, while striving to give the appearance of somehow being democratic, effectively constitute part of the ongoing corporate hijack of democracy and the further restructuring of economies in favour of elite interests (1,2,3,4,5,6).


A European alliance of over 50 civil society organizations (7) are in the process of launching the ‘Alternative Mandate’ pledge campaign (8), calling on European Parliament election candidates to make EU trade and investment policy serve people and the planet, not just the profit of a few large corporations.


Lyda Fernanda Forero of the Transnational Institute, a member of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance says:


“The EU’s current trade and investment policy is a recipe for disaster for people around the world. The EU is leading an aggressive agenda to open markets for global agri-business. This is wiping out small farmers and is a major cause of hunger. Excessive investor rights take away much needed policy space. We need to break away from this corporate driven agenda.”

The online pledge campaign will run in six EU languages (EN, FR, ES, DE, GR, HU) and will enable activists and citizens to ask candidates to pledge in support of a paradigm shift in EU trade and investment policy. The website will monitor which candidates have supported different parts of the pledge.


MEP candidates will be asked to support measures that enable people to control their own local food systems as well as core labour standards and human rights’ assessments of EU trade and investment policy. Candidates will also be asked to oppose the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism and to call on the European Commission to immediately publish all texts from trade and investment negotiations with third countries such as, for example, the United States.


Sergi Corbalán, executive director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, a member of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance:


“EU trade deals are negotiated behind closed doors in the interests of a few rich corporations. People who are affected by these deals, both in the EU and abroad, are not consulted. We need MEPs to stand up for an open and democratic EU trade policy-making process which is controlled by the people of Europe and their elected representatives, rather than being driven by unelected technocrats and corporate lobby groups.”

The pledge campaign is the result of a four-year process of public workshops held all over Europe during which the Alternative Trade Mandate was developed; it is a 20-page civil society proposal to democratise EU trade and investment policy and put environmental protection as well as human and labour rights at its heart (9). Some MEPs have already supported the proposal via video messages (10).


Amélie Canonne, co-ordinator of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance:


 “At a time of multiple global crises, the European Parliament needs MEPs who will support trade rules that work for people and the planet. We need MEPs who will bring trade deals out of the shadows and into the light. We call on MEP candidates to stand up for democratic trade and investment rules that serve people, the economy and the environment at large – not just the profit interests of a few.”

Notes:

7) Current members of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance are: Afrika Kontakt (Denmark), Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (Germany), AITEC (France), Alternative Trade Network (Greece), Attac Austria, Attac France, Attac Germany, Attac Hungary, Attac Spain, Bothends (Netherlands), CAWN, CNCD (Belgium), Colibri (Germany), Comhlamh (Ireland), Commission of Filipino migrant workers (Netherlands), Corporate Europe Observatory (Belgium), Ecologistas en Accion (Spain), European Milkboard, Fair Trade Advocacy Office (Belgium), Fairwatch (Italy), FDCL (Germany), FIAN Germany, Food & Water Europe, Germanwatch (Germany), GMB (UK), Misereor (Germany), No Patents on Life! (Germany), Oxfam Germany, Philippinenbuero (Germany), Platform Aarde Boer Consument (Earth, Farmer, Consumer – Netherlands), Platform of Filipino Migrant Organisations in Europe, PowerShift (Germany), Seattle to Brussels Network, SOMO (Netherlands), Terra Nuova (Italy), Trade Justice Movement (UK), Transnational Institute (Netherlands), Trocaire (Ireland), Vedegylet (Hungary), War on Want (UK), WEED (Germany), World Development Movement (UK), Za Zemiata (Bulgaria), 11.11.11. (Belgium)

Supporter organisations: ActionAid Netherlands, Africa Roots Movement (Netherlands), Afrikagrupperna (Sweden), Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN), Afrikagrupperna (Sweden), ASEED Europe, Attac Denmark, CEE Bankwatch Network (headquatered in the Czech Republic), Clean Clothes Campaign Netherlands, Confédération paysanne (France), Dutch section of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF – Netherlands), European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), FAIR TRADE HELLA (Greece), FIOM-CGIL (Metalworkers Federation – Italy), FIAN Netherlands, FNV Netherlands, France Amérique Latine (France), Friends of the Earth Europe, Glopolis (Czech Republic), Hegoa (Spain), Indian Committee of the Netherlands, Milieu Defensie (Netherlands), National Peace and Justice Network (UK), OIKOS (Netherlands), Philippinenbüro (Germany), Platform Aarde Boer Consumer (Netherlands), Platform for an economy based on sustainability and solidarity (Netherlands), Respect Network in Europe, STRO (Netherlands), Supermacht (Netherlands), Traidcraft (UK), Transnational Migrant Platform (TMP), TRUSTED Migrants (Netherlands), La Via Campesina Europe, Wemos (Netherlands), XminY (Netherlands)

8) Visit the pledge campaign website at: www.alternativetrademandate.org

10) Why support the Alternative Trade Mandate? Responses from trade justice activists, http://www.alternativetrademandate.org/why-supporting-the-alternative-trade-mandate-some-responses-in-video/




Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement Consultation: A smokescreen For A Corporate Agenda


Global Research and Countercurrents 28/3/2014

The Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) between the US and EU aims to ‘protect’ investment and remove ‘unnecessary regulatory barriers’. Corporate interests are driving the agenda, the public have been sidelined and unaccountable, pro-free-trade bureaucrats are facilitating the strategy (1). 


There is growing concern that the negotiations could result in the opening of the floodgates for GMOs and shale gas (fracking) in Europe, the threatening of digital and labour rights and the empowering of corporations to legally challenge a wide range of regulations which they dislike.


One of the key aspects of the negotiations is that both the EU and US should recognise their respective rules and regulations, which in practice could reduce regulation to the lowest common denominator. The official language talks of ‘mutual recognition’ of standards or so-called reduction of non-tariff barriers. For the EU, that could mean accepting US standards in many areas, including food and agriculture, which are lower than the EU’s.


Even the leaders of the US Senate Finance Committee, in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, made it clear that any agreement must reduce EU restrictions on genetically modified crops, chlorinated chickens and hormone-treated beef.


Food lobby group Food and Drink Europe, representing the largest food companies (Unilever, Kraft, Nestlé, etc.), has welcomed the negotiations, with one of their key demands being the facilitation of the low level presence of unapproved GM crops.


The TAFTA negotiations are shrouded in secrecy and are closed to proper public scrutiny (2,3,4). They amount to little more than grubby back room deals, while striving to give the appearance of somehow being democratic, and effectively constitute part of the ongoing corporate hijack of democracy and the further restructuring of economies in favour of elite interests (5,6,7).


However, despite claims by the European Commission that there is no secrecy (8), the notes of European Commission meetings with business lobbyists released to Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) under the EU’s freedom of information law were heavily censored. The documents showed that the EC invited industry to submit wish lists for ‘regulatory barriers’ they would like removed during the negotiations. There is no way for the public to know how the EU has incorporated this into its negotiating position as all references have been removed (4). The documents show clearly that removing differences in EU and US regulations is the key issue in the talks: in other words, a race to the bottom in setting the lowest barriers possible.


A leaked EU document (9) from the winter of 2013 shows the Commission proposing an EU-US Regulatory Cooperation Council, a permanent structure to be created as part of the TAFTA deal. Existing and future EU regulation will then have to go through a series of investigations, dialogues and negotiations in this Council. This would move decisions on regulations into a technocratic sphere, away from democratic scrutiny. Also, there would be compulsory impact assessments for proposed regulation, which will be checked for their potential impact on trade. This would be ideal for big business lobbies: creating a firm brake on any new progressive regulation in the very first stage of decision-making.


As if all of this isn’t bad enough, there is also the highly contentious trade-investor dispute settlement provision in TAFTA. It would enable UScompanies investing in Europe to bypass European courts and challenge EU governments at international tribunals whenever they find that laws in the area of public health, environmental or social protection interfere with their profits. EU companies investing abroad would have the same privilege in the US.


This constitutes a charter for the systematic destruction and dismantling of legislation that exists to protect the hard-won rights of workers and ordinary people.


Across the world, big business has already used such investor-state dispute settlement provisions in trade and investment agreements to claim massive sums in compensation.  Tribunals, consisting of ad hoc three-member panels hired from a small club of private lawyers riddled with conflicts of interest, have granted billions of euros to companies, courtesy of taxpayers (10).


EU and US companies have used these lawsuits to destroy any competition or threats to their profits by for example challenging green energy and medicine policies, anti-smoking legislation, bans on harmful chemicals, environmental restrictions on mining, health insurance policies and measures to improve the economic situation of minorities.


If governments and parliaments fail to act to protect the public's interests, powerful corporations will acquire carte blanche to rein in democracy and curb policies devised for the public good.


Despite such major concerns, campaigners from the Seattleto Brussels Network(11) have criticised the European Commission’s recently implemented consultation on the investor rights in the EU-US trade deal as a mock consultation aimed at selling its pro-industry agenda, rather than an honest attempt to have a much-needed open debate on the issue.


Roos van Os of the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), a member of the Seattleto Brussels Network, has said:


“Those who reject the undemocratic and dangerous investor-state dispute settlement system will have no opportunity in this consultation to voice their opposition because the Commission’s biased questions provide no option for that. The Commission should make itself available for a real debate, not a cowardly advertising campaign for its corporate agenda.”

In meetings with the Commission, members of its civil society advisory group on the EU-US trade deal had stressed the need for the consultation to be intelligible for non-experts and for there to be balanced questions. But the Commission’s consultation questionnaire only contains questions about its agenda for minor reforms to salvage the controversial investor-state dispute settlement system, in a 40-page legalistic text which will be difficult for members of the public to understand.


Marc Maes of the Belgian development organisation and also a member of the Seattleto Brussels Network:


 “The Commission’s so-called reform agenda does nothing to address the basic flaws of the investor-state dispute settlement system. Therefore foreign companies will continue to have greater rights than domestic firms and citizens. And international tribunals consisting of three for-profit lawyers will continue to decide over what policies are right or wrong, disregarding domestic laws, courts and democracy.”

Analyses of leaked investment texts from the EU-Canada trade negotiations indicate that the EU’s approach to investment protection does very little to protect the right to regulate (in fact it sometimes does the exact opposite) and it will establish an arbitration system that is far inferior to domestic legal systems in the EU and North America (12).


Pia Eberhardt, trade campaigner with CEO, another member of the Seattleto Brussels Network, said:


“The investor-state arbitration system cannot be tamed. Profit-greedy law firms and their corporate clients will always find a way to attack countries for actions that threaten their profits. The corporate super-rights should be abolished – and people in Europe should not miss this crucial opportunity to tell the Commission to do so.”


To enhance public scrutiny and democratic debate about the controversial investor rights in EU trade agreements, members of the Seattleto Brussels Network have set up a website to publish leaked negotiating texts and critical analyses of these texts: http://eu-secretdeals.info/


The network is also inviting civil society organisations and members of the public to participate in ongoing online actions against the dangerous corporate rights in EU trade deals.


Be informed and take action:



Corporate EuropeObservatory: http://corporateeurope.org/tags/ttip



Notes


11) The Seattleto Brussels Network (S2B) includes development, environmental, human rights, women’s and farmers’ organisations, trade unions and social movements working together for a truly sustainable, just and democratic trade policy in Europewww.s2bnetwork.org

12) See, for example: IISD (2014): A Response to the European Commission’s December 2013 Document “Investment Provisions in the EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement (CETA)”, http://www.iisd.org/pdf/2014/reponse_eu_ceta.pdf; Seattle to Brussel Network (2014): Investment in CETA – A response to a lobby document by DG Trade, http://eu-secretdeals.info/upload/2014/03/S2B-Marc-Maes-CETA-Investment_Response-to-DG-Trade-claims-March-7-2014_v2.pdf.



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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

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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

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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

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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


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A&E, Duck Dynasty, Free Speech And The Right to Religious Beliefs – CONTACT Information

By Susan Duclos



The news that broke yesterday was that Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the incredibly popular A&E show, expressed his opinion on homosexuality, then A&E suspended him from the show that averages over 14 million viewers, for said opinion.


Below the commentary will be the A&

E company information, along with a page where you can leave a comment, and contact information as well as information on their parent company Hearst.


When did having a belief, based in one's religion and using the constitutional right of free speech to give that opinion become a punishable offense?


His GQ quotes:

"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

"Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."

 "It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."

Robertson also said and this is what most people are ignoring:


We never, ever judge someone on who's going to heaven, hell. That's the Almighty's job. We just love 'em, give 'em the good news about Jesus—whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort 'em out later, you see what I'm saying?"

Whether you agree with his beliefs or not, everyone should be standing up for his right to express them... it is a basic constitutional right!


Many didn't agree with him, many do not share his belief, but how does their right not to have their feelings hurt become more important than his free speech rights and freedom of religion?


I see nowhere in the constitution where a person has the right not to have their feelings hrut or where because someone's words offended them they have the right to punish them.


NOWHERE.


A&E's statement shown below:

We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty. His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

Well, I can tell A&E that they have 14 million viewers and countless free speech proponents, along with an untold number of people who believe in freedom of religion, "extremely disappointed" in their stance all in the name of political correctness.


CONTACT INFORMATION FOR A&

E, HEARST AND DISNEY

Customer Service page where you can add a comment (many already are) found HERE.

Key Executives For A&

E Television Networks, LLC

Chief Executive Officer and President
President of A&E and BIO Channel
President of the History Channel
Vice President and Deputy General Counsel
Senior Vice President of Digital Media

Address:
235 East 45th Street
New York, NY 10017
United States
Phone: 212-210-1400
Fax: 212-907-9497
Hearst is the parent company behind the network, so you can give them a call with a problem, concern or compliment about A&E customer service.
  • Hearst Television: 1-212-887-6800

[UPDATE] Hearst Corporation's number is (212) 649-2000.

Hearst also claims on a phone call that Disney owns half of A&E Television, so the Disney contact number is 818-460-7477

The Walt Disney Company contact form to leave  message on is found HERE.

When calling Hearst, it seems they deny involvement with A&E, but go to the Hearst website at the bottom and click the "more Hearst sites," the A&E website is listed clearly. Also Hearst's own contact page gives the same number and also, BONUS, offers a contact form.











Cross posted at Before It's News


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Federal Judge Rules Against Mass Surveillance

Federal Judge Rules Against Mass Surveillance

by Stephen Lendman

On December 16, Federal District Court of the District of Columbia Judge Richard Leon issued a damning 68-page ruling. He called NSA spying unconstitutional. It's "almost Orwellian," he said.

"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 prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Doing so violates core constitutional law. Mass NSA surveillance does it writ large.

It has nothing to do with national security. America's only enemies are ones it invents. NSA spies globally. It watches everyone. It monitors allies. It's about control. 

It's for economic advantage. It's to be one up on foreign competitors. It's for information used advantageously in trade, political, and military relations.

Domestic spying is longstanding. It's institutionalized. It's unconstitutional. It doesn't matter. Nothing before was done to stop it. Judge Leon took an important first step

ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer commented on his ruling, saying:

"This is a strongly worded and carefully reasoned decision that ultimately concludes, absolutely correctly, that the NSA’s call-tracking program can’t be squared with the Constitution."

"As Judge Leon notes, the government's defense of the program has relied almost entirely on a 30-year-old case that involved surveillance of a specific criminal suspect over a period of two days."

"The idea that this narrow precedent authorizes the government to place every American under permanent surveillance is preposterous."

"We hope that Judge Leon's thoughtful ruling will inform the larger conversation about the proper scope of government surveillance powers, especially the debate in Congress about the reforms necessary to bring the NSA's surveillance activities back in line with the Constitution."

"The bipartisan USA Freedom Act, which has 130 co-sponsors already, would address the constitutional problems that Judge Leon identifies."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) calls the proposed measure "a substantial improvement to America's laws regarding mass surveillance."

At the same time, it's "a floor, not a ceiling." It addresses a small portion of NSA abuses and "overreaching government secrecy."

It leaves important unfinished business. EFF endorses passage. Lots more needs to be done, it stressed.

Judge Leon's ruling marks the first successful NSA legal challenge. Conservative activist Larry Klayman and Charles Strange filed suit (Klayman v. Obama). Strange's son was killed in Afghanistan.

Months earlier, ACLU filed a similar suit (ACLU v. Clapper). 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.

On November 22, US District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge William Pauley heard arguments. He hasn't yet ruled.

Judge Leon granted plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. He ordered the Obama administration to stop collecting their phone data. 

He ruled whatever it currently has must be destroyed. At the same time, he stayed his ruling. He cited potential "significant national security interests at stake."

He gave Obama's Justice Department time to appeal. He said his decision applies only to plaintiffs. It doesn't affect NSA's mass data-mining.

At the same time, his ruling is an important first step. For years, he said, constitutional issues were adjudicated under "a cloak of secrecy."

He referred to the unaccountable FISA court. It's virtually rubber-stamp. It mocks judicial fairness and legitimacy. 

Judge Leon's ruling is an important step in the right direction. "While Congress has great latitude to create statutory scheme like FISA," he said, "it may not hang a cloak of secrecy over the Constitution."

EFF called his decision "historic." Ruling for Klayman and Strange symbolically condemns mass surveillance.

Obama's Justice Department relies on two Supreme Court rulings. In Miller v. United States (1976), the Supreme Court ruled:

"The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the obtaining of information revealed to a third-party and conveyed by him to Government authorities, even if it is revealed on the assumption that it will be used only for a limited purpose and the confidence placed in the third-party will not be betrayed." 

The Court added that information revealed to another source "takes the risk (of being) conveyed" to someone else.

In Smith v. Maryland (1979), the High Court extended the so-called third party doctrine to telephone communications. 

It said in "expos(ing) that information" to phone company equipment, individuals "assumed the risk that the company would reveal to police the numbers dialed."

In US v. Jones (2012), Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor acknowledged the need to update Fourth Amendment protections, saying:

"People disclose the phone numbers that they dial or text to their cellular providers, the URLS that they visit and the e-mail addresses with which they correspond to their Internet service providers, and the books, groceries and medications they purchase to online retailers." 

"I would not assume that all information voluntarily disclosed to some member of the public for a limited purpose is, for that reason alone, disentitled to Fourth Amendment protection."

In United States v. US District Court (the so-called Keith case) (1972), a unanimous Supreme Court ruling upheld Fourth Amendment protections in cases involving domestic surveillance targeting a domestic threat.

Judge Leon addressed Smith v. Maryland, saying:

"The question before me is not the same question that the Supreme Court confronted in Smith." It's "a far cry from the issue in this case."

He differentiated between then and now. Obtaining limited information on one person is vastly different from daily mass surveillance. He was blunt stating:

"This short-term, forward looking (as opposed to historical), and highly-limited data collection is what the Supreme Court was assessing in Smith." 

"The NSA telephony metadata program, on the other hand, involves the creation and maintenance of a historical database containing five years' worth of data." 

"And I might add, there is the very real prospect that the program will go on for as long as America is combatting terrorism, which realistically could be forever."

"Admittedly, what metadata is has not changed over time." 

"As in Smith, the types of information at issue in this case are relatively limited: phone numbers dialed, date, time, and the like." 

"But the ubiquity of phones has dramatically altered the quantity of the information that is now available, and more importantly, what that information can tell the Government about people’s lives."

"Put simply, people in 2013 have an entirely different relationship with phones than they did thirty-four years ago."

"Whereas some may assume that these cultural changes will force people to 'reconcile themselves' to an 'inevitable' 'diminution of privacy that new technology entails,' I think it is more likely that these trends have resulted in a greater expectation of privacy and a recognition that society views that expectation as reasonable."

In other words, privacy intrusions today are simple. They happen with digital age technology ease. Greater diligence is required to protect rights too important to lose. 

Courts and Congress are obligated to do so. Judge Leon's ruling represents an important first step in the right direction. Lots more needs to be done.

A Final Comment

Edward Snowden issued a statement. He praised Judge Leon's ruling, saying:

"I acted on my belief that the NSA's mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts." 

"Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans. rights. It is the first of many."

Separately, he offered to help Brazil investigate harmful NSA spying. He'll do it in return for permanent political asylum. He said so in an open letter to all Brazilians. Folha de S. Paulo published it. 

It's a Brazilian daily broadsheet. Snowden in part said:

"I've expressed my willingness to assist where it's appropriate and legal, but, unfortunately, the US government has been working hard to limit my ability to do so." 

"Until a country grants me permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak out."

Brazilian senators asked Snowden for help. He's willing to provide it.

"I don't want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded." 

"That's not something I'm willing to support, it's not something I'm willing to build, and it's not something I'm willing to live under."

It remains to be seen if Brazil takes him up on his offer. Snowden urged it, concluding:

"If Brazil hears only one thing from me, let it be this: when all of us band together against injustices and in defense of privacy and basic human rights, we can defend ourselves from even the most powerful systems."

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/fedeeral-judge-rules-mass-surveillance/

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From the Summer of Love to the Arab Spring

Those who believe that the world of being is governed by luck or chance and that it depends upon material causes are far removed from the divine and from the notion of the One.
— Plotinus

On May 27, 2010 the planet Uranus entered Aries and in December of that same year, in Tunisia, Tarek Bouazizi self-immolated himself after his electronic scale and the fruit he had bought on credit were confiscated from him by a corrupt policewoman.  That spark sent flames throughout the Middle East, toppling regimes from Libya to Yemen.  Uranus would make its definitive entry into Aries on the fateful day of March 11, 2011, coinciding almost to the hour with the earthquake and ensuing disaster at Fukushima.  Aries is the first sign of the zodiac and the most self driven while Uranus is the planet that represents revolution, innovation and change- together they make a radical, ego driven cocktail.

Uranus reflects many of the traits of the time it was discovered, 1781, when the American Revolution was in full bloom and the French variant was ready to boil over.  The last time the restless Uranus had passed through the cardinal sign of Aries was between 1927 and 1935, a time when two of the most revolutionary (Uranus), and megalomaniacal (Aries) leaders in history consolidated power.  Uranus will not definitively leave Aries until March 6, 2019,  by which time the world will have undergone profound changes.  We cannot say with certainty whether another calamitous dictator will appear on the world stage, but, at least in the West, we are devoid of inspired political, cultural and spiritual leadership and someone with exceptional qualities could become the focal point of a world thirsty for meaning and direction.

On one level, astrology is understanding cycles and knowing how to distinguish relevant themes from the noise.  Astrologically speaking, the synodic cycle between Uranus and Pluto lasts approximately 128 years, which means that it takes that much time for the two planets to circle each other once.  Since Uranus (84 year orbit around the sun) moves much faster than Pluto (245 year orbit around  the sun) the synodic cycle describes how long it takes Uranus to ‘lap’ Pluto in their ‘race’ around our star.  Astrologers measure these events from the moment the two planets are exactly together (conjunct) and pay special attention to when the two planets are at hard angles:  opposed to each other (180 degrees) and square (45 degrees).  The story begins with the conjunction and slowly unfolds at the first square, reaches a climax at the opposition, and resolves itself at the second square before coming full circle and beginning again.

The Pluto/Uranus Cycle


This current synodic cycle between Pluto and Uranus began when the two planets met between 1962 and 1968 in the sign of Virgo.  A conjunction in astrology refers to a more congenial blend of the planetary forces, but in the case of these two transpersonal superpowers, even when cooperating, their force can seem overwhelming.  Uranus is the symbol of revolt, change and technical innovation while Pluto is the lord of death and debt- the cosmic enforcer and the ultimate symbol of power.

When these two met in the 1960’s all hell broke loose.  Pluto waged war in Vietnam and set off the Cultural Revolution in China while Uranus instigated the sexual revolution, the Civil Rights Movement, the May of 1968 unrest in France, the Prague Spring, and the space age.  Some would say the dark Plutonian forces won out when the Prague Spring was crushed, the Kennedys and Martin Luther King were assassinated just as the Uranian energy was devolving into Mansonian madness.  The Apollo Program was one of the few areas where the Uranian revolutionary technology meshed well with Plutonian brute force.  But each planet also reached into the sphere of the other, the helicopter in Vietnam had a very Uranian flavor to it while the gods of Rock & Roll certainly had a Plutonian, underworld feel to them.

The key to unraveling where we are now is to uncover the seeds sown in the 1960’s and discover what fruits they have borne so far and how these forces will continue to interact, albeit in a more antagonistic and adversarial way as we pass through a long series of squares.  Pluto is now in Capricorn, the sign of governments, armies, corporations, bureaucracy and culture.  Pluto is certainly at home wielding all this power and the Plutonian compulsion to vaporize all that is weak, superfluous and temporary is implacable.  Just as Pluto entered Capricorn for the first time in January of 2008 the financial crisis began, and by his second entry into Capricorn in November of 2008 the world financial system was teetering on the edge of disaster.

As Pluto was shaking out the fraudulent bankers like a mafia Don knocking off underlings who had their hands stuck in the cookie jar, Uranus in Aries was creating a quirky brand of revolutionaries such as Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Eric Snowden.  The police state that emerged out of 9/11 has a very strong Plutonian flavor which is being opposed by this eccentric band of techno-freedom fighters very much in the Uranian mold.

On November 1, 2013 we reached the apex, or fourth of the seven direct squares between Pluto and Uranus, where the two planets will be at an exact 45 degree angles to each other.  Four was the number of endings, of life without spirit for the ancients, and dividing the 360 degree zodiac into four gives us the most malignant of aspects, the 90 degree square.  On the other hand, the zodiacal circle divided by the benefic number three gives us the most harmonious aspect of 120 degrees, or a trine.

Adding emphasis to the importance of this moment, we had a total solar eclipse on November 3, 2013 in the very Plutonian sign of Scorpio which could portend a resolution much like the one we had in the 1960’s.  The cosmic call to attention will become even more intense in December with the ominous entrance of the comet ISON, which could potentially put on a brilliant show across the winter nights. The last exact square of Pluto and Uranus will be in March of 2015, at which point the two planets will move apart and the cycle will look for new themes when the planets reach opposition in 2043.



What will be the outcome of this great battle?  One place to look is the last time Pluto was in Capricorn, over two hundred and thirty-years ago during the American Revolution.  At that time the strong hands were the colonists who overcame the weight of the of Capricornian British Empire, but they had someone on their side, which was Jupiter.  Jupiter is Zeus, the great benefic, giver of good fortune, opposing Pluto in Capricorn.  Jupiter was in Cancer during the American Revolution. Cancer is a very feminine, lunar sign representing the individual, the home, roots and directly opposes the authority and bureaucracy of Capricorn.

The United States has come full circle and once again, as in 1776, we have Jupiter in Cancer, and Pluto in Capricorn, only this time, instead of the enemy being the British Empire, the enemy is the US Government itself, with its NSA, CIA, Federal Reserve, and military sprawled across the world reeking havoc and chaos on the entire planet.  But it seems clear, especially after the failed attempt to attack Syria, that US power is on the wane and some major event will drive home the need for a change of the global guard.

The plan to attack Syria had a definite Plutonian flavor, not only through the gruesome massacres and filmed barbaric acts, but with the way many governments of the world quickly closed ranks to carry out the attack on Assad.  Only the Uranian rebelliousness of the British Parliament and the American voters stopped them short.  But as the sixties showed, Pluto can never be stopped, only momentarily diverted.  What started in Libya as Uranian restlessness wound up in a horrific, filmed and very Plutonian fratricide.  How will Pluto counterattack in Syria? We should remember that Pluto was discovered in 1930;  the historic background of the Depression and the rise of fascism should give us pause when considering the essence of Pluto’s meaning.

This tension will come to a head on April 20, 2014, when Jupiter in Cancer goes head to head in opposition (180 degrees) with Pluto in Capricorn, with both planets square (45 degrees) Uranus in Aires.  Astrologers refer to this aspect as a T-Square, and it is considered the most tense and conflictive aspect that three planets can form.  The Plutonian force is the NSA scooping up every email and phone conversation in the world; Pluto has no limits, and as he works his way through Capricorn, the sign of time and culture, he is shredding all the false claims of security and patriotism.  He is the Egyptian military storming its way back into power, he is the Saudis doing all that is necessary to oust the Assad regime in Syria.  Pluto doesn't do body counts.  It was Pluto who wiped Osama bin Laden off the face of the earth without trace.

Uranus is the Middle Eastern youth tired of oppression and corruption, facing down the old regime, he's the Occupy Movement and the mad rush for technology.  He’s Eric Snowden escaping to Moscow with thousands of Plutonian files.  Uranus is the upsurgent alternative media that refuses to believe the Plutonian mainstream propaganda.  Something has to give, and that is the beauty of three.


Esoterically, the unity of ones falls into the duality of two, which becomes the resolution of three.  Jupiter, the philosophical benefic, friend of man, is in Cancer where he is exalted.  Exaltation in astrology means the sign where a planet reaches its higher resonance.  The beauty and love of Venus becomes the love of God in Pisces.  The violence of Mars becomes a standing army in Capricorn, and Jupiter’s genius, philosophy and pride serve man in Cancer.  Maybe we saw Jupiter's hand in the diffusing of the American attack on Syria, though one shouldn't count Pluto out on that score;  he’ll be back to try to complete his agenda.  Jupiter is Zeus, the ruler of the Olympians, including Pluto, and through his higher thinking there still might be a way out.

The easy answer is to call for the much lauded happy medium- a little Uranian eccentric individualism, a smattering of Plutonian force behind Capricornian order, and of course the Jupiterian law and philosophy aiding the man in his Cancerian home.  But a battle of this magnitude will not end in a smoke filled room but rather a bloody, smoked covered battlefield.  The stakes have become too high.  The Capricornian financial system has created a Plutocracy never before witnessed and this regime will either conquer all or be conquered, there is no negotiating with Pluto; it will be winner take all.

The concentration of  power that we are witnessing in the world, financially, culturally and militarily, in many ways is a direct result of the Uranian technological advances of the 20th century.  We can see the Uranus/Pluto relationship perfectly in the Internet.  On one hand it’s anarchistic and liberating, but by the same token it allows the Plutonian Big Brother a clear view directly into almost every moment of our lives.

For the United States nothing captured the Uranus/Pluto conjunction of the Summer of Love better than the Uranian liberation of Haight-Ashbury and the Plutonian violence of the Vietnam War. The Uranian desire for change and innovation led spiritual seekers of the sixties to turn their acid trips into PC’s and the Internet, while the humbled military industrial complex bounced back, putting soldiers in over eighty countries and killing people by remote control.  Both of these forces have made enormous strides in the dehumanization of man, from Chinese factories to Wall Street speculators, even to the point where West Coast, Uranian hipsters are playing footsie with the NSA by giving them access to literally all of humanities digital communications.  The answer to this truly Cardinal T-Square is Jupiter, Lord of Olympus, wielding his thunderbolts from the very personal and human sign of Cancer.

Astrology is very much like Schrodinger's cat in that until we open the door, we don’t know whether the poor feline is alive or dead.  The same goes with this T-Square.  Only by actively seeking an answer in the cardinal sign of Cancer, temporary home to Jupiter, will the options begin to emerge.  The consciousness we bring to it will create not only the solutions but the synchronicities that confirm them.

We have lost a central belief that the ancients intrinsically understood- that the world is alive and has a soul. They felt the world breath and saw its life force reflected in the world’s soul, the Anima Mundi.  Our modern dogmatic religion, science, refuses to accept that the earth is alive and has a meaning interwoven with its existence just as each and every one of us knows that our lives have purpose.  For dogmatic materialists, astrology is as absurd as the idea of the soul itself.  For them, the world is a dead rock, an arbitrary spark in a meaningless sea of chaos.

The meaning we give, and the connection we make between our lives and the earth's life will finally confirm the reality we help create by unmistakable signs in the heavens and on earth.  We treat dogs differently then we do rocks and we approach a plant more subtly than we do a hill of sand.  What astrology is begging us to remember is that not only are we alive, but so is the earth, our solar system, our galaxy and our universe. When we finally see ourselves as living beings, fractals of what is above, reflections of what is below, only then will we find our way.

Cancer represents the most basic feminine principle of form and being.  By denying that our very home and common mother breaths the same life we do has allowed us to drift so far on this misguided, patriarchal adventure.  The wisdom of Jupiter illuminating the primeval feminine Cancer might awaken us again to this long forgotten truth.

As we feel more and more squeezed between the financial, militaristic, and corporate Plutocracy on one hand, and the gadgetized, ever evolving, egocentric and meaningless technological void of Uranus on the other, Jupiter in Cancer may well help us re-encounter our common soul, Anima Mundi.

One analogy used by Graham Hancock is that of televisions.  Are we all creating and watching our own programming, or are we receiving a cosmic signal and each decoding it in our own manner?  If we reject the unique separation model, than our true selves lie in the signal, not the dumb terminal of the mind.  Awakening to our unified soul against a materialistically dogmatic backdrop is the great challenge of our time. What type of cosmic event could change our focus, moving us away from the mundane to the cosmic?

If there is coherent meaning to our existence, then there are meaningful coincidences, or synchronicities, as Jung called them.  On February 11, 2013, with the Sun in the sign of Aquarius, which many modern astrologers designate as ruled by Uranus, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he was resigning.  The most widely recognized symbol of Western dogmatic spirituality would resign by his own accord for the first time in over 700 years.  The next day, as if for emphasis, a lightning bolt struck the top of St. Peter’s Basilica.  Four days after the papal resignation, a meteor exploded over the skies of  Chelyabinsk in the Russian Urals, shattering thousands of windows, sending over 1,400 people to the hospital and for a few moments creating a light brighter than the sun.  Uranus made its case in the opening salvos of the year in his sign, Aquarius, so what will Pluto bring us as the sun moves through Scorpio, the sign many consider to be ruled by him?

With the Sun in Scorpio, on November 1st we had the fourth exact square between Uranus and Pluto and on November 3rd a total solar eclipse.  What other events could await us as we reach the peak of activity for the current Solar cycle?  It wouldn't be surprising if in the final weeks of Scorpio we were given one more synchronicity, one more reminder that our souls lie beyond our heads, the circus that captivates us and the money we so desperately seek.  One more powerful synchronicity might reawaken the awareness of our common soul and liberate us from the prison of false isolation.  One potent sign born out of the cosmic duality that moves our attention upward and beyond the mundane with such a powerful force that few could doubt its significance.


Robert Bonomo is a blogger, novelist and esotericist.  Download his latest novel, Your Love Incomplete, for free here.

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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/

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25 Stats That Prove That The American Dream Is Being Systematically Destroyed

The 25 statistics that you are about to read are solid proof that the middle class in America is being systematically wiped out.  Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world.  It seemed like almost everyone owned a home, had a couple of nice vehicles and could provide a very comfortable lifestyle for their families.  Sadly, that has all changed.  In America today, prices are rising at a very brisk pace but incomes are not.  There aren’t nearly enough jobs for everyone anymore, and most of the jobs that are being “created” are jobs that pay very little.  The largest employer in America is Wal-Mart, and the second largest employer is actually a temp agency (Kelly Services).  In a desperate attempt to make ends meet, millions of American families endlessly pile up more debt, and millions of other American families find themselves forced to turn to the government for help.  At this point, more than 49 percent of all Americans receive benefits from the federal government each month.  The percentage of Americans that cannot financially take care of themselves is rising every single year, and our independence is being whittled away as we become increasingly dependent on the government.  Unfortunately, our politicians continue to stand aside and do nothing as our jobs are shipped overseas, inflation steals our purchasing power and the middle class continues to shrink.  The following are 25 stats that prove that the American Dream is being systematically destroyed…

1. According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program.

2. The U.S. government has spent an astounding 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years.

3. An increasing number of employers are encouraging their low wage employees to supplement their wages by going on government welfare programs.  For example, McDonald’s workers that need help making ends meet are being instructed to go on food stamps

McDonald’s workers who are unable to pay their bills or stay above the poverty line should find help from food pantries or enlist in government benefit programs instead of seeking higher wages, according to a company resource line meant to help employees.

Nancy Salgado has worked for the fast-food corporation for over 10 years yet still earns $8.25 an hour, barely more than the $7.25 federal minimum wage. With help from the worker’s rights group Low Pay Is Not Ok, she phoned the company’s employee hotline, known as McResource, attempting to find some answers on how to improve her situation.

A recording of the call was made available to CNN, which reported that Salgado asked the helpline operator multiple questions regarding how McDonalds would help her pay her heating bill, buy groceries, and whether she could afford to help pay for her sister’s medical treatment.

Despite never asking how much money Salgado earned per hour or asking how many hours a week she worked, the McDonalds representative said she “definitely should be able to qualify for both food stamps and heating assistance.”

4. Total consumer credit has risen by a whopping 22 percent over the past three years.

5. Student loans are up by an astounding 61 percent over the past three years.

6. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row.

7. Right now the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

8. Ordinary Americans are being priced out of the housing market.  Today, nearly half of all home purchases are all-cash deals.

9. The homeownership rate in the United States is now at the lowest level it has been in nearly 18 years.

10. The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States is at an all-time record high.

11. U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

12. Every single day, thousands of Americans are receiving letters in the mail informing them that their old health insurance policies have been canceled.  According to a recent Kaiser Health News article, some companies have already sent out hundreds of thousands of cancellation notices…

Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people – about half of its individual business in the state.  Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.

13. Those that are losing their current health insurance policies will have to replace them with new policies that are often much more expensive.  According to health policy expert Bob Laszewski, 16 million people could ultimately have their health insurance policies canceled because of Obamacare…

The U.S. individual health insurance market currently totals about 19 million people. Because the Obama administration’s regulations on grandfathering existing plans were so stringent about 85% of those, 16 million, are not grandfathered and must comply with Obamacare at their next renewal. The rules are very complex. For example, if you had an individual plan in March of 2010 when the law was passed and you only increased the deductible from $1,000 to $1,500 in the years since, your plan has lost its grandfather status and it will no longer be available to you when it would have renewed in 2014.

These 16 million people are now receiving letters from their carriers saying they are losing their current coverage and must re-enroll in order to avoid a break in coverage and comply with the new health law’s benefit mandates––the vast majority by January 1. Most of these will be seeing some pretty big rate increases.

14. Back in 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 54.9 percent of all Americans are covered by employment-based health insurance.

15. More Americans than ever find themselves forced to turn to the government for help with health care.  At this point, 82.4 million Americans live in a home where at least one person is enrolled in the Medicaid program.

16. The U.S. labor force participation rate is at a 35 year low.

17. Only 47 percent of all adults in America have a full-time job at this point.

18. It is hard to believe, but in America today one out of every ten jobs is now filled by a temp agency.

19. Approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

20. After accounting for inflation, right now 40 percent of all U.S. workers are making less than what a full-time minimum wage worker made back in 1968.

21. Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

22. At this point, almost half of all public school students in America come from low income homes.

23. The number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 17 million in the year 2000 to more than 47 million today.

24. Right now, one out of every five households in the United States is on food stamps.

25. An increasing number of Americans do not even believe that they have a pleasant retirement to look forward to.  One recent survey found that the percentage of middle class Americans that “plan to work until they die” is now higher than ever.

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Do you want your kids to be taught that the earth has too many people and that they should have no more than two children for the good of the planet?  Yes, I know that this sounds absolutely crazy, but this is actually the kind of propaganda that is being forced upon our young people all over America.  The population control agenda is being relentlessly pushed in high school textbooks, in classroom instruction and by outside organizations that are given constant access to our high school students.  As you will see below, the number one population control organization in the United States, Planned Parenthood, conducts nearly 900 presentations in high schools in the Los Angeles area every single year.  And the population control propaganda gets even worse once our kids go off to college.  I know – I spent eight years in the classroom at U.S. public universities and most parents would be absolutely horrified to learn what their children are being taught.

These days, the population control propaganda is becoming more blatant than ever.  Recently, Father John Hollowell was walking down the halls of an Indiana high school when he came across the following banner hanging above some lockers…

The following is how Hollowell described his reaction when he first spotted this banner…

At first when I walked past the sign I thought to myself – “Oh, cool, they’re starting to catch on that our population levels are at a critical phase and that we’re heading for a demographic winter because no one is having kids anymore; they’re trying to get the word out that our population growth is trending towards a crisis….”

Then I literally had a sick feeling in my stomach when I realized I had the sign completely wrong.

The math “project” hanging in the hallway reads – “Zero Population Growth…It’s Up To You – No More Than Two”

My jaw hit the floor.  Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood’s “Theology” on full display in our public schools.

You can’t probably read the sign but it has one smiley face representing 10 million people…and I mean look at the sign…if people keep having kids the smiley faces won’t fit in the box anymore!  Look how scientific it is (sarcasm).

Sadly, this was not an isolated incident.  The truth is that this type of philosophy is being relentlessly pounded into the heads of our teens.

Today, Planned Parenthood is allowed to directly teach kids about sex, pregnancy and birth control in high schools all over America.  If you can believe it, Planned Parenthood actually has a clinic inside one Los Angeles high school.  And according to the official Planned Parenthood website, Planned Parenthood delivers close to 900 presentations to high school students in the Los Angeles area every single year…

Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’ high school sexuality education program focuses on the important decisions that young people have to make about their sexuality and offers information and resources that enable teens to take responsibility and make healthy choices, including abstinence. Educational sessions are presented to ninth grade students, with an effort to provide a comfortable and informative learning experience. Topics include: Sexuality, Teen Pregnancy, Healthy Bodies, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s), and Birth Control. Sessions are facilitated by trained speakers credentialed by Planned Parenthood who have undergone a rigorous 40-hour training course. The High School program conducts almost 900 presentations each year by invitation to over 30 schools, and serves Metropolitan Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and other areas, based on availability.

And it is important to remember that Planned Parenthood is far from a “neutral” organization.  In fact, the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, once made the following statement

“The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

Is that what you want your kids to be taught?

At this point, Planned Parenthood performs more than 300,000 abortions every single year, and a staggering 72 percent of Planned Parenthood’s “customers” have incomes that are either equal to or beneath 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

They specifically target poor people, and this is an organization that actually believes in post-birth abortion

Florida legislators considering a bill to require abortionists to provide medical care to an infant who survives an abortion were shocked during a committee hearing this week when a Planned Parenthood official endorsed a right to post-birth abortion.

Alisa LaPolt Snow, the lobbyist representing the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, testified that her organization believes the decision to kill an infant who survives a failed abortion should be left up to the woman seeking an abortion and her abortion doctor.

“So, um, it is just really hard for me to even ask you this question because I’m almost in disbelief,” said Rep. Jim Boyd. “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?”

“We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician,” said Planned Parenthood lobbyist Snow.

And of course the folks from Planned Parenthood are absolutely showered with funding by the federal government and they make a lot of money doing what they do.  According to one report, there are 30 Planned Parenthood executives that make more than $200,000 a year, and a few of them actually make more than $300,000 a year.

Overall, more than 55 million abortions have been performed since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 and there is no indication that this is going to stop any time soon.

In fact, progressives are always seeking to do even more to push the population control envelope.

In a recent Slate article entitled “Canada Has Death Panels (And that’s a good thing)“, one liberal blogger suggested that the United States should consider copying Canadian death panels…

Last week Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that doctors could not unilaterally ignore a Toronto family’s decision to keep their near-dead husband and father on life support. In the same breath, however, the court also confirmed that, under the laws of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, a group of government-appointed adjudicators could yet overrule the family’s choice. That tribunal, not the family or the doctors, has the ultimate power to pull the plug.

In other words: Canada has death panels.

And in Europe things are even worse.

In the Netherlands, mobile euthanasia teams are now going door to door to help elderly patients end their lives in the comfort of their own homes.  And the European Parliament has been considering a proposal that would officially make abortion a “human right”

The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Union passed a draft report last month declaring that abortion is a “human right”.

This week, the European Parliament will vote on that measure, and if passed, could have devastating effects throughout Europe. It also shows the lengths abortion advocates will go to in order to not only make abortion legal, but widespread… even if it means trampling on individual rights.

In many of my previous articles, I have discussed how the global elite love population control, but they are not alone.  Over the past several decades they have convinced most people living in the western world to willingly get on board with the population control agenda.

At this point, even most Americans are “sheeple” that go along with whatever their televisions tell them to think.  This was illustrated beautifully by Mark Dice recently.  He asked random people to sign a petition supporting a “Nazi-style Orwellian police state” and many signed the petition without even thinking about it

So is there any hope for us?

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The EU is currently negotiating a far-reaching free trade agreement with the USthe Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). There are plans to enshrine extra powers for corporations in the deal as a result of a strong and persistent campaign by industry lobby groups and unscrupulous law firms to allow powerful corporations to challenge regulations both at home and abroad if they affect profits. The watchdog organization Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) states that EU member states could find domestic laws to protect the public interest quite useless as they become challenged in secretive, offshore tribunals where national laws have no weight and politicians no powers to intervene.

It would enable US companies investing in Europe to bypass European courts and challenge EU governments at international tribunals whenever they find that laws in the area of public health, environmental or social protection interfere with their profits. EU companies investing abroad would have the same privilege in the US. This proposed agreement (and others like it around the world) is essentially a charter for the systematic destruction and dismantling of legislation that exists to protect the hard won rights of workers and ordinary people. 

Across the world, big business has already used such investor-state dispute settlement provisions in trade and investment agreements to claim massive sums in compensation. It is often the case that the mere threat of a claim or its submission is enough for legislation to be shelved or diluted. In fact, tribunals, consisting of ad hoc three-member panels hired from a small club of private lawyers riddled with conflicts of interest, have granted billions of Euros to companies, courtesy of taxpayers.

With India and the EU, among others, also currently negotiating a free trade agreement, it all adds up to big companies trying to by-pass legislation that was implemented to s