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Obama’s Campaign Paid $972,000 to Law Firm that Secretly Paid Fusion GPS in 2016

Since April of 2016, Obama's campaign organization has paid nearly a million dollars to the law firm that funneled money to Fusion...

Conservative site funded Fusion GPS anti-Trump project before Steele dossier – report — RT...

Published time: 28 Oct, 2017 01:28 The Washington Free Beacon paid Fusion GPS for opposition research...
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Video: Japan launches rocket with new ‘Michibiki’ GPS for security purposes

A rocket was launched from Tanegashima Space Centre early on Thursday morning as part of Japan's efforts to construct its own global positioning system. Via...

Live firing, GPS denial operations announced in Scotland as NATO launches one of largest...

Published time: 26 Mar, 2017 20:06 Massive military exercises with thousands of service personnel involved have...

Diamonds that ‘know where they are’ could make GPS satellites redundant

Engineered synthetic diamonds could replace global positioning systems and make driverless cars a reality due...

GPS device creates bomb scare

A suspicious wife in Leeds triggered a terror alert after she attached a GPS device to the car of her husband, who then mistook...

British Government Push GPs to Open 7 Days a Week

The UK government is hoping to negotiate a new deal with GPs if they agree to open for seven days. Problems surrounding waiting times for...

Company Develops Line of GPS Tracking Jewelry

When someone thinks of GPS tracking bracelets, court mandated devices or criminals under house arrest typically come to mind, but one company is aiming...

British MoD works on ‘quantum compass’ technology to replace GPS

UK scientists say they are three to five years away from creating a new navigation system that would not rely on space-based technologies. A...

Ford VP: ‘We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing’

Modern automobiles are logging tremendous amounts of information every single second they're being put to use, and a senior executive at the Ford Motor...

Ford Exec: ‘We Know Everyone Who Breaks The Law’ Thanks To Our GPS In...

JIM EDWARDS Ford's Global VP/Marketing and Sales, Jim Farley, said something both sinister and obvious during a panel discussion about data privacy...

Obama bars Russian GPS sites in US

The United States has barred Russia from building monitor stations on its soil for fears they could help Moscow spy on America, according to...

GPS in police car shows officer speeding more than 700 times

Cheryl MercedesWLOX 13November 15, 2013 Some people want a police officer to turn over his badge after a GPS in his police car registered the...

GPS in police car shows officer speeding more than 700 times

Cheryl Mercedes WLOX 13 November 15, 2013 Some people want a police officer to turn over his badge after a GPS in his police car registered the...

Police required to obtain warrant before using GPS trackers, court rules

Published time: October 22, 2013 23:23 AFP Photo / Philippe Huguen A federal appeals court, addressing an issue that the US Supreme Court chose...

US Court Rules Against ‘Highly Intrusive’ GPS Tracking by Police

Police departments around the U.S. must now obtain a warrant based on probable cause before they can secretly attach a GPS device to your...

NSA Chief: Yes, We’ve Bulk Collected Americans’ GPS Cell Phone Data

Director of the National Security Agency admitted publicly on Wednesday that his agency did, in fact, collect bulk GPS location data from American cellphone...

UK GPs under fire over lethal overdoses

UK doctors have come under fire after new figures showed more patients died from overdosing on prescription drugs than heroin and cocaine abuse in...

New Nanotech Set to Track, Self-Destruct, and GPS Tag Guns Wirelessly

Daniel G. J. Infowars.comAugust 11, 2013 The U.S. government is developing new firearm nanotechnology that can track,...

‘India launches indigenous GPS‘

India has launched the first of its seven indigenous satellite navigation systems, Indian space centre says. Republished with permission from:: Press TV

ACLU in Federal Appeals Court Tuesday Arguing Against Warrantless GPS Tracking

PHILADELPHIA - March 18 - The American Civil Liberties Union will argue in federal appeals court tomorrow that the Constitution requires law enforcement to get a warrant from a judge before tracking people's cars with GPS devices.

In the case, the FBI – without a warrant – attached a GPS tracker to the vehicle of three men suspected of burglarizing pharmacies. Following the January 2012 Supreme Court ruling that doing so constitutes a "search" under the Fourth Amendment, the district court issued a decision suppressing the evidence produced by the location tracking.

The Justice Department appealed that ruling to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing in part that even though attaching the device is a search, a warrant is not needed because of a rule called the "automobile exception." The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the lower court's opinion, joined by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

"Just because a technology wasn't around when the Constitution was written doesn't mean that it's not covered," said Catherine Crump, the ACLU attorney who will argue Tuesday before a three-judge panel. "The fundamental privacy rights established by the Fourth Amendment require that police justify their actions and show probable cause to a judge before they can conduct invasive surveillance like constant location tracking. The 'automobile exception' was created so police could find contraband hidden in cars, not so they could monitor a person's movements nonstop for days or even months on end."

WHAT:
Oral argument in U.S. v. Katzin at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The government has appealed the district court's decision granting the defendants' motion to dismiss evidence produced by a GPS tracking device that the FBI attached to their car without a warrant.

WHO:
Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project will argue before Judges D. Brooks Smith, Joseph A. Greenaway, and Franklin Stuart Van Antwerpen.

WHEN:
Tuesday, March 19, 9:30 a.m.

WHERE:
James A. Byrne Courthouse
601 Market Street, 19th Floor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The ACLU's amicus brief is at:
aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/us-v-katzin-amicus-brief

The government's appeal brief is at:
aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/us-v-katzin-government-appellant-appeal-brief

The district court's ruling is at:
aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/us-v-katzin-district-court-opinion

Increase In DNA Collection and GPS Tracking

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During a news conference yesterday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced proposals for the use of GPS tracking for restraining orders and the expansion of DNA collection, from an extra 68,000 individuals from across the state.

Feds taunt rights group with blacked-out docs on GPS tracking

The first two pages of a US government document regarding GPS surveillance on American citizens given to the ACLU. (via aclu.org)

The first two pages of a US government document regarding GPS surveillance on American citizens given to the ACLU. (via aclu.org)

The American Civil Liberties Union has been given information on how Washington determines when it can surveil American citizens using GPS. The documents are so heavily redacted by the Justice Department, though, that they are essentially worthless.

­The redacted sections – which consume several paragraphs and even entire pages – are thought to show legal interpretations outlining the government's rationale on tracking its citizens with GPS. With so much of the documents blacked out, Americans are still wondering whether the federal government is required to obtain a warrant before spying on them with GPS technology – and if so, when exactly it can do so.

The ACLU, one of the most powerful American civil rights groups, had to sue the government in August 2011 with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in order to get their hands on the memos.

­The memos "outline the Justice Department’s conclusions regarding its obligations" under US v. Jones, a January 2012 Supreme Court trial that saw a unanimous ruling in favor of requiring law enforcement to get a warrant before tracking American citizens without their knowledge, ACLU staff attorney Catherine Crump wrote in a statement on the matter. They also show how the Justice Department's Criminal Division wrote up another memorandum, “Guidance Regarding the Application of United States v. Jones to GPS Tracking Devices,” in late February of 2012. That July, the same division wrote another document on the same topic that it said “should not be disseminated outside the Department of Justice.”

Such a move by Washington bureaucrats is not unprecedented by any means. For example, the government has refused American citizens access to the legal opinions guiding its use of PATRIOT Act Section 215, which applies to the seizure of personal material. The section's vague language allows law enforcement to search or seize "any tangible things" based on a few guidelines.

The government also keeps secret its legal opinions on when it is or is not acceptable to kill Americans with drones. President Barack Obama has even blocked at least one senator, Ron Wyden (D-OR), from seeing the opinions – though legislators are required access to them by law. 

The ACLU says it will ask for a court order requiring the Justice Department to release the documents, which the group says are "improperly withheld."

"The purpose [of] FOIA is to make sure the government doesn’t operate under secret law—and right now that’s exactly what these memos are," the statement concludes.

Police Allowed to Place GPS Tracking on Vehicles – Without a Warrant

A new ruling has given police the right to place GPS tracking on vehicles to track movements, without a warrant. The ruling now applies...

British explorer airlifted from remote jungle with suspected malaria — RT UK News

Published time: 17 Nov, 2017 18:12 The British explorer who went missing on an expedition...

The Pathological Refusal to Report the Simple Truth About Presidential Lying

It is a truism to say that everyone lies to someone. Since public officials entrusted with power in our democracy are no exception to...

Breaking news! Russia funded Russian elections – BuzzFeed ‘secret finding’ — RT US News

BuzzFeed's latest "explosive" scoop on "secret" Russian financing of a 2016 election turned out to be...

Majority of Americans have ‘unfavorable opinion’ of both major parties – poll — RT...

The Democratic Party registered its worst popularity ranking in over 25 years of polling, while Republicans...

Were US journalists paid to peddle ‘Russiagate’? — RT US News

From lurid reports of Trumpian ‘golden showers’ in Moscow to unverified claims of Russia ‘hacking’ Hillary...

Children should be given drugs to reduce risk of heart attacks & strokes, says...

Published time: 3 Nov, 2017 16:59 Edited time: 3 Nov, 2017 18:07 Tens of thousands...

Why the Hush on Neocon Links

That Other Plot – LewRockwell

Twitter & Google’s 2016 election tricks — RT US News

Testimony from social media giants to the Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that Twitter censored #PodestaEmails tweets...

US senator wants former DNC head, Clinton campaign manager to testify on Trump-Russia dossier...

Several top Democrats should be summoned to testify before the US Senate Intelligence Committee on the...

Senate to examine financial records of firm behind notorious Trump-Russia dossier — RT US...

Published time: 28 Oct, 2017 23:14 The US House Intelligence Committee has reached agreement to obtain...

Trump says Hillary Clinton was the one who colluded with Russia — RT US...

Donald Trump has said it is “commonly agreed” that there was no collusion between his presidential...

How could Hillary Clinton not know about DNC funding ‘Russian dossier’? — RT US...

The Russian dossier funding revelations are horribly damaging to the Democrats who should distance themselves from...

FEC complaint accuses Clinton camp, DNC of hiding Trump-Russia dossier payments — RT US...

The Federal Election Commission is being asked to investigate “misleading” payment reports filed by former Secretary...

Hillary Campaign Funded Infamous ‘Pee Tape’ Dossier on Trump

Oct 25, 2017 By Reinhard Wolff | redice.tv In January, Buzzfeed released a dossier alleging that Russia was in possession of...

Five takeaways from Trump’s quickie press conference — RT US News

Touching on the Russian uranium deal, Steele dossier, Obama’s administration, the Clinton campaign, opioids and relations...

What Did Hillary Clinton Know? – Consortiumnews

Exclusive: With the disclosure that Hillary Clinton’s campaign helped pay for the original Russia-gate allegations against Donald Trump, a new...

Trump-Russia dossier funded by DNC & Clinton camp – report — RT US News

A Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer is caught up in more fallout following a report that the...

Say Who Paid For Dossier

World must act or risk ‘post-antibiotic apocalypse’ – top doctor — RT UK

England’s chief medical officer has warned of a “post-antibiotic apocalypse,” calling on world leaders to...

How the Latest Effort to Repeal Obamacare Would Affect Millions

At the end of July, the nation held its collective breath as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) looked poised to achieve his most...

Moaning sex doll joins ‘weird’ interview on UK morning TV show (VIDEO)

Published time: 12 Sep, 2017 17:50 The creator of a ‘philosophical’ sex doll, which comes...

Phoenix-area police to start using drones in operations

Police in Maricopa, Arizona – a suburb of Phoenix – will start using a surveillance drone...

'Evidence tampering; lying witness' cast doubt on Craigavon 2 murder conviction – RT investigates

The ‘Craigavon Two’ were wrongfully convicted of murdering a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)...

Typical Deception by the New York Times

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org Here’s a common example of authentically fake-news journalism, the type that’s pervasive in the U.S. — not something like...

Grand jury expands felony indictment of Wasserman Schultz’s former IT aide

A former House IT aide who had access to emails and files of dozens of Democratic...

Hacker who stopped WannaCry gets $30,000 bail

Published time: 5 Aug, 2017 08:09 Bail has been set at $30,000 by a judge in...

US Army bans Chinese drones over ‘operational risks & cyber vulnerabilities’

The Pentagon has ordered an Army-wide ban on all consumer drones made by Chinese manufacturer DJI,...

Collusion Collapses

In truth, the Russians “colluded” through GPS Fusion to harm, not help, Trump and the evidence of that is coming out. It’s time to...

‘Chip party’: US company celebrates implanting microchips in employees (VIDEO)

A Wisconsin company has implanted microchips into its employees at a symbolic ‘chip party’, a first...

Russia probe: Lawyer Veselnitskaya claims to have proof key witness to give false testimony

The testimony prepared by Magnitsky Act lobbyist William Browder for the Senate Judiciary Committee, probing alleged...

Drones to be registered in UK, users to take safety tests

Published time: 22 Jul, 2017 17:38 Drone enthusiasts will face new restrictions in the UK...

US Army to modernize forces with autonomous drones & ‘Internet of things’

In an effort to compete with more technologically advanced forces, the US Army is investing in...

Russiagate

According to an insider account, the Clinton team, put together the Russia Gate narrative within 24 hours of her defeat. The Clinton account explained that...

They see you: FBI warns about dangers of internet-connected toys

While many American parents think ‘smart toys’ are a great idea, the FBI has issued an...

Trump Is Endangering Nuclear Deal, Says Iranian Foreign Minister

As the United States and Iran mark two years since reaching their landmark deal on nuclear weapons, analysts say Iran has met its obligations...

General blasts activists who claim Mosul retaken from ISIS with excessive force

Published time: 12 Jul, 2017 16:04 A senior British general has slammed Amnesty International’s claims...

Health secretary failed to reveal severity of NHS mail blunder that ‘put patients’ lives...

Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has come under fire after it emerged he knew that...
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Video: Man Facing Eight Years Due to Indicted Cops Wins Release

Ivan Potts had already served two years after Baltimore cops recently indicted for racketeering and theft said he had a gun by Stephen Janis...

Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack Questioned

Legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh is challenging the Trump administration’s version of events surrounding the April 4 “chemical weapons attack” on the northern Syrian...

Up to 100 girls likely involved in landmark genital mutilation case – US govt

The US government estimates as many as 100 girls may have had their genitals cut at...

Would smell as sweet

A red dead rose, What is in a name MTV or Facebook fame Imagine the aged Warriors past Tattooed breasts And backsides fast But forced to live With all their ghosts Gender transitioned GPS-guided...

'Space Aggressors' Train US Forces for Extraterrestrial Conflict

In a large, tin-roofed warehouse near Colorado's Rocky Mountains, members of a team of modern space warriors spend their days hatching plots...

War games: Pentagon unveils augmented reality headset for soldiers

The Pentagon’s latest military technology could make warfare feel more like a first person shooter video...

True extent of foreign aid fraud must be revealed, MPs demand

Ministers have been told to admit the true extent of fraud in the foreign aid...

‘How many civilians killed there?’ Twitter rages as Trump drops 'mother of all bombs'...

Published time: 13 Apr, 2017 21:31Edited time: 14 Apr, 2017 16:26 The US Military dropping the largest...

Pickup without STIs: Free condom drive to target Tinder, social media

Published time: 6 Apr, 2017 21:24Edited time: 6 Apr, 2017 21:25 New guidelines from the National...
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Video: #LeninTracker: Follow Lenin’s trip to revolutionary Russia with real-time radar (#1917LIVE PROMO)

LeninTracker is the best online Lenin GPS that shows his 8 day long journey from Zurich to Petrograd in real time. Starting April 9th...

Subprime on Wheels

It’s a good time to be a repo man. . . again. Lots of business picking up used cars people stopped making payments on. According to...

Southern Command in Costa Rica: US Occupation Disguised as Humanitarian Aid

A helicopter of the Southern Command in the Alto Telire, Talamanca, takes part in Operation Pura Vida. (Photo Courtesy of The Ministry of Public...

Same old empire: British govt’s post-Brexit plans will ‘fleece Africa’

Published time: 9 Mar, 2017 12:09 The imperialist ambitions of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet were...

Police to hand out free heroin to addicts

Police plan to fund “shooting galleries” where heroin addicts are given a free supply of the Class A drug in a bid to cut...

Ex-MI6 spy called to testify on ‘Russian Trump dossier’ before US Senate inquiry

Published time: 3 Mar, 2017 11:08 Christopher Steele, a former MI6 spy who compiled an explosive...

'1930s-style gangsters': 7 police officers indicted and arrested on federal racketeering charges

Seven Baltimore police officers arrested for allegedly abusing their power now face federal racketeering conspiracy charges,...

Suspect in fatal Kansas shooting thought Indian victims were Iranian – 911 call

The chief suspect in a fatal shooting in Kansas thought his two Indian victims were Iranian,...

Science Isn't Just for Scientists—We Can All Take Part

After he moved to London in his early 20s, Luke Howard became obsessed with the weather. Howard had a day job running a pharmacy...

California’s Megafloods of the Past

Posted at the Fabius Maximus website. Summary: To boost our fear, activists and journalists report the weather with amnesia about the past. Ten-year records become...

Florida man arrested for planning to bomb Target in stock scheme

A Florida man has been charged by the Justice Department with a plot to bomb Target...

Pro-Brexit voters suspicious of all experts – even weather forecasters, poll finds

People who voted ‘Leave’ in the EU referendum generally tend to be more skeptical of experts than those who voted to ‘Remain,’ a YouGov...

Things Will Get Worse Until U.S. Stops Lying About Crimea

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org SUMMARY Unless the U.S. government’s lies about Crimea — the ‘Russia seized Crimea’ narratives — become acknowledged to be lies,...

Cringeworthy Cameron: Ex-PM shoots toe-curling Snapchat video with Arnold Schwarzenegger (VIDEO)

Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron has promised he’ll “be back” as he channelled Arnold...
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Video: ‘Center of gravity for US ops in Europe’: US and Polish troops hold...

US and Polish soldiers, alongside newly delivered American military hardware, have conducted joint drills as part of the biggest US deployment in Europe since...

Russia could wipe out Britain on the battlefield ‘in an afternoon,’ says UK...

UK military capacity has been “hollowed out” to such an an extent, that it could...

How Earth Will End

If you ask yourself what the biggest threat to human existence is you’d probably think of nuclear war, global warming or a large-scale pandemic...

Fareed Frames the Story

If you walk through Times Square and try to locate yourself on your mobile GPS, you’ll find it often places you several blocks from...

All Russian Hacking ‘Evidence’ Is Fake

(RINF) - The only thread that holds the DNI report together at first glance is the false testimony and fake evidence Crowdstrike and Dmitri...

Arid avenues

Along the roads of sand Memory strains The route to find Where stations midway Flower only in the night Without the lamps Lit by planets vanquished Even with a raft At sea...

Doctor Robot? British hospitals to trial AI helpline managed by ‘chatbots’

Britain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) may soon direct emergency and advice calls to robot...

Why Crowdstrike’s Russian Hacking Story Fell Apart- Say Hello to Fancy Bear

(RINF) - In the wake of the JAR-16-20296 dated December 29, 2016 about hacking and influencing the 2016 election, the need for real evidence...

US Navy ditching million-dollar ammo for stealth destroyer – report

The US Navy is looking at three new ammunition options for its most advanced warship as,...
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Video: Malta hostage situation: First passengers evacuated from hijacked Afriqiyah Airways flight

Maltese officials are locked in negotiations with up to two hijackers, described as being from the pro-Gaddafi group Al Fatah Al Gadida, who have...

Lukasz Urban, Hero of the Berlin Christmas Market Massacre

Forensic information released by German police point to Polish truck driver Lukasz Urban as the hero of the Berlin Christmas market massacre,...

If politicians want Aleppo airdrops, they should be on the planes themselves – MP

Fiery former army colonel-turned-MP Bob Stewart has told MPs lobbying for military intervention in the ruined Syrian city of Aleppo that if they want...

Virginia State Police’s Stingray-like device captures voice communications – docs

Documents acquired from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show the Virginia State Police have...

Britain’s military drone fleet could almost double in price, US figures suggest

The cost of expanding Britain’s drone fleet could run as high as $1 billion, US...

Huge Solar Storm Could Wipe Out Modern Technology by 2020

There is a one in eight chance that the Earth will be hit by a huge solar storm by 2020 which could...

Confessing your sins? There’s an app for that! Catholic Church launches ‘Sindr’

Move over Tinder, the grace of God is now available for download. Absolution is just...

Rejecting Dangerous Saviors: Can "The People" Save the US?

The palatable desire for saviors is understandable but also profoundly threatening. It symbolizes an authoritarian mentality of relying on a great leader for political...

The Noose that Obama Had Wanted to Hand to President Hillary to Hang...

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org INTRODUCTION This will be a summary, update, and extension from, a 25,000-word masterpiece of historical writing: the obscure, little-noticed, but...

Calais migrant kayaks across English Channel, claims asylum

A migrant evicted from the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp has paddled an inflatable kayak from France to the coast of Kent, southern England, where he...

What Non-State Disasters Could Lie Ahead?

Did you know that the White House is currently coordinating with Homeland Security to make preparations for a possible solar storm that could bring...

Goldman Sachs CEO says ‘of course we engage’ with Hillary Clinton, admits support

CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, has publicly admitted to being “supportive” of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, saying: “Yes, so flat out, yes, I...

Goldman Sachs CEO Blankfein ‘Supportive’ of Clinton for Pragmatism

Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., has shied away from publicly backing a presidential candidate this year, saying...

Ship for Batman: US Navy commissions ‘quantum leap’ stealth destroyer

The latest addition to the US Navy, the USS Zumwalt, has joined the fleet. The technologically-advanced...

Podesta’s Twitter, new email hacked by 4chan users

It's certainly not John Podesta's week. Both the Twitter and email account of Hillary Clinton's campaign...

Department of Homeless Security

Busy weekend for terrorism. Nine people stabbed in a shopping mall in Minnesota (meh), and the big one in New Jersey/New York....

Cameron legacy ‘a bit of a tragedy’: Bernie Sanders’ brother Larry who launched MP...

Oxfordshire’s Larry Sanders, who launched a bid to take former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s...

What’s Behind the Latest Government Scam

“The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes...

Obese people & smokers to be barred from routine operations in UK – officials

People suffering from obesity and smokers could be denied basic operations across the UK’s National...

War-scarred British military veterans face healthcare ‘postcode lottery’

Armed Forces charity SSAFA says military veterans face a ‘postcode lottery’ in accessing National Health...

Peshmerga Launch Major Operation near Mosul; 195 Killed in Iraq

Peshmerga Launch Major Operation near Mosul; 195 Killed in Iraq Peshmerga forces advanced towards Gwer and reclaimed a dozen villages on Sunday....

Patients test positive for Zika virus in 2 UK cities – reports

Three patients in two Yorkshire hospitals have tested positive for the Zika virus after returning...
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Video: Philadelphia’s Chinatown in Spotlight: Successful Fight Agaist Gentrification in Decade Before DNC

http://democracynow.org - As the the Democratic National Convention gets underway today in Philadelphia, residents and elected officials hope to bring ... Via Youtube

School bus driver walks free after admitting to rape of 15yo student

A Tennessee school bus driver who admitted to raping a 15-year-old student has dodged a jail...

The Conspiracy Cruise

Fascinating video lifts the lid on bizarre cruise for conspiracy theorists seeking to 'uncover the truth' By Miranda Bryant Daily Mail July 16, 2016 Hillary Clinton is...

Vaccine-laden M&M’s to be distributed via drone for endangered ferrets

A plague is threatening the already endangered black-footed ferret, leaving the US Fish and Wildlife Service with only one option. Load up a “glorified...

Car hacking: Insurers say car thieves may use laptops in crimes

Insurers and police across the country are raising awareness of a new trend in car theft, as thieves have been using laptop computers or...

The Busted Theory of ‘Broken Windows’ Still Has Media Defenders

For the better part of two years, New York City tabloids have been hyping up a return to the “bad old days” in the...

US sacks another Navy commander for embarrassing detainment in Iranian waters

The commanding officer of a US Navy task force has been sacked following the investigation into...

The FBI ‘Missed’ Orlando Shooter Omar Mateen. What Should We Do?

If I had to choose one phrase to sum up America’s efforts against terrorism since 9/11, it would be that lay definition of mental...

Why Learn Morse Code?

This article is about Morse code and why, as a prepper,you should learn just a smattering for survival purposes.  Before you groan, hear me...

Is the Media Recalculating How It Covers Trump?

Do my eyes deceive me, or are cable TV reporters -- like drivers who've taken a wrong turn and suddenly pull off...

What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters

It’s being blamed on the Brexit jitters. But the weakness in the UK economy that the latest figures reveal is actually a symptom of a much...

NHS managers are being forced to lie to the public

Carol Ackroyd Local managers are being forced to slash NHS budgets and replace existing hospital and community services with unproven ‘new models of care’ (inspired...

Pentagon bought drones that failed their tests for commandos – report

The popular small reconnaissance drone RQ-20A Puma failed Special Operations Command tests, but the Pentagon still bought 41 of them for SOCOM nevertheless, an...

‘Loss of confidence’: Navy commander stripped of duties after sailors breached Iranian waters

The US Navy commander overseeing 10 sailors who breached Iranian waters, leading to their arrest, has...

UK at war? SAS in Syria, 25,000 ISIS dead, British troops in Somalia &...

British special forces are to be parachuted into Syria, it has emerged, as Defence Secretary...

International Experts Release Final Report on 43 Missing Students Before Leaving Mexico

A group of international experts has presented its final report on what is perhaps Mexico's most notorious human rights crimes in recent...
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Video: Death by Gentrification in SF Part 2 with Rebecca Solnit & Adriana Camarena

http://democracynow.org - We are on the road in San Francisco, as we continue our conversation about the 2014 police killing of Alex Nieto and...

Lost in space? Missing ‘astronaut’ dog teddy sparks massive search (VIDEO)

The search is on for a stuffed dog from northern England who went AWOL during...

Crime-mapping app steers users clear of dangerous London neighborhoods

A new GPS-enabled map application that flags areas with high crime rates and chooses “safe”...

6-wheeled ‘friendly’ delivery droid the latest tech to threaten human jobs (VIDEO)

Those fearing future robot enslavement or being replaced by super intelligent machines should look away...

Nowhere to hide: New MoD gravity scanner can see through walls

British military boffins have created a gravity scanner that may be able to see through...

NYT Promotes Study by Private Pension Company That Says Not to Trust Public Pensions

“Bankruptcy,” declares a New York Times photo. (photo: Joshua Lott/Reuters) Reputable newspapers try to avoid the self-serving studies that industry groups put out to try...

‘Does Osborne know he’s destroying lives?’ Disgruntled disabled Tory sabotages website

A life-long Conservative and disability campaigner has quit the Tory party in dramatic fashion by...

NATO Firms Equip Field Hospital for Saudi Jihadists in Syria

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org This is news whose source is one that has long been reporting on the Syrian war, from a standpoint...

Thanks a lot, Mr. Robot: Americans see rise in robot workforce, but say their...

Two-thirds of Americans surveyed believe that within 50 years robot and computer automation will take on...

Poor mental health care in England is “ruining lives,” report finds

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Dennis Moore Mental health care in England is now so poor and...

US Air Force to boost presence in northern Australian bases

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Peter Symonds Speaking in Canberra yesterday, US General Lori Robinson confirmed that...

Hillary Clinton’s State Department Armed Saudi Arabia to the Teeth

(Image courtesy of CodePink) As Hillary Clinton emerges as the front-runner for the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, she’s receiving increased scrutiny for her years as...
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Video: Congressional Black Caucus PAC Puts Up a Firewall for Clinton (2/2)

Kamau Franklin says the Clintons have played a major role in destabilizing black communities through the welfare reform act, crime legislation, and economic ... Via...

Sorry, but the Super Bowl Promotes War

David Swanson Super Bowl 50 was the first National Football League championship to happen since it was reported that much of the pro-military hoopla at football games — the...

How Corruption Cripples America’s Military

Eric Zuesse America’s military budget is roughly 7.2 times that of Russia ($610 billion compared to $84.5 billion), but even Western news-accounts are saying that...

Pentagon wants $582bn in funding as part of fiscal year 2017 budget

President Obama will request $582.7 billion in funding for the Pentagon as part of the fiscal year 2017 budget, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter...
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Video: Verdict in Forcillo Trial Angers Torontonians, but Sammy Yatim’s Death Is Not About...

On Monday January 25th, an 11-member jury declared Const. James Forcillo guilty of attempted murder, acquitting him of actual murder charge. Via Youtube

‘Legal tightrope’: N. Irish medics fear life imprisonment over abortion advice

Medics in Northern Ireland are anxious they could face imprisonment for offering advice to women who are seeking an abortion, healthcare leaders have warned. Doctors...

15 Things We Learned About Money in Politics in 2015

15. It was a pretty good year for anti-pay-to-play rules in court as the SEC anti-pay-to-play rule for investment advisers to public pension fund...

Millions of cars sold in the USA automatically call the police and report your...

On November 30, police arrived at a Florida woman's home to interrogate her in connection with a hit-and-run car accident. They were...
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Video: You sneeze, people die? Helmet GUN invented in India. For real.

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[audio mp3="http://www.corbettreport.com/mp3/qfc014-lq.mp3"][/audio]
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India's New York consular official was targeted. Devyani Khobragade is Deputy Consul General. On December 12, US marshals abused her.

They arrested, handcuffed, detained, and strip-searched her multiple times. India's government had to post a $250,000 bond for her release.

She's charged with visa fraud and failing to pay her Indian maid proper wages. True or false doesn't justify treating her abusively.

Doing so compromised her diplomatic immunity. Her lawyer, Daniel Arshack, said she'll plead not guilty. 

Her diplomatic status protects her from prosecution, he said. Regardless of pending charges, she deserved respect.

Under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, she should have enjoyed full diplomatic immunity. Host countries are obligated to provide it.

It grants foreign officials free movement and travel. It requires treating them respectfully. All appropriate steps must be taken. Article 29 states:

"The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity."

If nations want their diplomats treated lawfully, they're obligated to treat foreign officials the same way. International law mandates it.

Washington spurns it with impunity. It violates core constitutional and US statute law provisions. It operates extrajudicially. It does so unapologetically. It does so hypocritically.

CIA agent Raymond Davis operated covertly in Pakistan. In January 2011, he was arrested and detained. He shot and killed two men. It was at a crowded Lahore traffic stop.

Pakistan charged him with murder and possession of a concealed, unlicensed gun. Washington lied claiming it was a botched robbery. So did Davis saying he acted in self-defense. 

He shot both men 10 times in the back at close range. He fled the scene. He carried a telescope, a GPS set, bolt cutters, a survival kit, and a long-range radio. 

His gun a powerful Glock semi-automatic pistol. It's able to fire 17 - 33 rounds. It depends on what magazine is used.

Davis assassinated two targeted victims. It didn't matter. Obama officials claimed diplomatic immunity. They demanded his release. Davis was no diplomat. CIA operatives are spies. 

Washington applies pressure relentlessly. Doing so got Davis released. Murder didn't matter.

Alleged visa violations and underpaying wages apparently are more serious offenses. Only in America. Hypocrisy defines policy.

Why Washington would risk straining relations with India isn't clear. Why was it over offenses far less than major ones, if true? They pale compared to commonplace US policy brutality.

They don't rise to the level of American crimes of war, against humanity and genocide. 

Khobragade didn't rob, brutalize or kill anyone. If tried and convicted, potentially she faces years in prison.

India's government expressed justifiable outrage. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called her treatment "deplorable." Other Indian officials voiced outrage.

Imagine if US embassy or consular officials were abused abroad. Imagine how Washington might retaliate. Khobragade explained her treatment, saying:

"I must admit that I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, holed up with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity."

Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro endured a similar abuse. It happened years earlier. At the time, he was Chavez's foreign minister.

In September 2006, he was part of Venezuela's New York General Assembly delegation. He arrived without trouble. None occurred during his stay.

Heading home, things changed. He was accosted at JFK Airport. Officials demanded he surrender his ticket and boarding pass. They claimed his name was on a so-called "red list."

He was lawlessly detained. He was taken to a small room. He was maliciously strip-searched. It was done to harass and humiliate him. He protested in vain.

He identified himself as Venezuela's foreign minister. He said treatment then got worse. Police threatened to handcuff and beat him.

He was isolated. He was detained for 90 minutes. He was denied legal and other outside contact. 

Venezuela's government demanded a full apology. A State Department spokesperson issued a contemptuous one. 

It was typical Washington. What happened was Bush administration thuggery. It continues unapologetically. Obama operates the same way.

Lawlessness defines longstanding US policy. So does unjustifiable brutality. America's most disadvantaged are mistreated. People of color are targeted for not being white. It happens with disturbing regularity.

Thousands of political prisoners languish in America's gulag. It's by far the world's largest. It's one of the most abusive. 

Torture is commonplace. Practices include dogs savaging prisoners, shocking them with cattle prods, burning them with toxic chemicals, harming them with stun guns, beating and abusing them in other ways.

Longterm isolation turns normal prisoners into dysfunctional ones. It contributes to anti-social behavior and mental illness. At times, it creates sociopaths. 

Other victims become zombies. Isolation is like being buried alive. It can cause irreversible psychological trauma and harm. 

It's common practice in US prisons. It's cruel and usual punishment.  It violates America's 8th Amendment. It doesn't matter.

Violence in America is endemic. It's part of the national culture. Among all industrialized nations, America by far has the highest homicide rate.

Similar video games crowd out simpler street play. Violent films are some of the most popular. Women are routinely abused. Husbands mistreat wives and daughters.

One-fourth of adult women are victimized by forcible rape. It happens one or more times in their lives. Often it's by someone they know. Family members are responsible.

Many girls are molested as young children. Often it's repeatedly by a close family member.

An astonishing 75% of women experience extreme levels of violence in one or more forms. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury. It's the second leading cause of death.

Homes with adult males are the most dangerous places for millions of women. Assailants abuse them freely. Often it's with impunity. Societal help is lacking.

Children endure horrific abuses. Millions suffer serious neglect, physical mistreatment, and/or sexual abuse. Family members are more dangerous than strangers.

Childhelp addresses prevention and treatment of child abuse. It defines it as "any act of commission or omission that endangers or impairs a child's physical or emotional health and development."

It "includes any damage done to a child which cannot be reasonably be explained and which is often represented by an injury or series of injuries appearing to be non-accidental in nature."

Non-accidental injuries include "hitting, kicking, slapping, shaking, burning, pinching, hair pulling, biting, choking, throwing, shoving, whipping and paddling."

Sexual abuses include "fondling, penetration, intercourse, exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, child prostitution, group sex, oral sex, or forced observation of sexual acts."

Neglect includes "(f)ailure to provide for a child's physical needs."

Examples include "lack of supervision, inappropriate housing or shelter, inadequate provision of food and water, inappropriate clothing for season or weather, abandonment, denial of medical care and inadequate hygiene."

Emotional abuse includes "(a)ny attitude or behavior which interferes with a child’s mental health or social development."

Examples include yelling, screaming, name-calling, shaming, negative comparisons to others, telling them they are 'bad, no good, worthless,' or 'a mistake.' " 

It's failing to provide parental affection and support. It's needed to develop a child's emotional, social, physical and intellectual well-being.

All of the above practices are commonplace in America. Where's the public outrage? Why haven't authorities cared enough to act responsibly? 

Why do they most often turn a blind eye to outrageous forms of abuse? Why are perpetrators so rarely prosecuted? Why is a national epidemic allowed to persist?

America's elderly and infirm are affected. Women most of all are harmed. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates up to two million Americans aged 65 or older have been injured, exploited or mistreated by caregivers annually.

Often they're family members. Most often they're unpunished. Federal, state and local funding to combat it is less than years earlier.

Actor Mickey Rooney is aged 92. He's one of many victims. In March 2011, he testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

He implored members to stop what experts call chronic emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse of elderly Americans by family members or other caregivers.

His stepson, Christopher Aber, intimidated him, he said. He blocked access to his mail. 

He abused him various ways. He stole his money. He withheld medication and food. 

"You can't believe it's happening to you," said Rooney. "You feel overwhelmed." He urged Congress to criminalize what's happening.

"I'm asking you to stop this elderly abuse," he said. "I mean stop it now. Not tomorrow. Not next month, but now." Pass legislation saying "it's a crime, and we will not allow it in the United States of America."

Rooney said he suffered in silence. He did so for years. "I didn't want to tell anybody. I couldn't muster the courage, and you have to have courage," he stressed.

"I needed help, and I knew I needed it. Even when I tried to speak up, I was told to shut up and be quiet." 

Eventually he got a court order. He turned over his affairs to an attorney. He got a restraining order against his stepson. Countless others suffer similar abuses. They do so largely out of sight and mind.

Despite his age and frailty, Rooney devoted time and effort publicly. He's an advocate for elder abuse protection. His celebrity gives him credibility and attention.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), over 14% of noninstitutionalized adults experienced some form of elder abuse in 2009.

It cautioned that reported numbers may way understate reality. Many elder abuse instances go unreported. So does widespread women and child mistreatment.

Dr. Mark Lachs heads geriatrics at the New York Presbyterian Health System. He was blunt, saying:

"I tell the physicians I train that if they've seen 15 or 20 older people in their practices then they have probably met an elder abuse victim, whether they realize it or not."

Based on a 2011 New York state study, "it would appear that for every elder abuse victim that makes it into an official service or reporting system, another 23 to 24 go undetected," Lachs stressed.

Women, children and elder abuse in America reflects a largely silent epidemic. Marie-Therese Connolly heads Life long Justice (LLJ). It's a nationwide initiative.

It pursues effective ways to safeguard America's elderly. Billions of dollars are spent to lengthen life. Elder abuse research gives pause for concern, says LLJ.

It estimates up to 11% of aged 60 or older elders at home suffer abuse, neglect or exploitation. Nearly half of all people with dementia at home are abused or neglected by caregivers.

"For every case of elder abuse (reported), 23.5 (others are) not." From "50% - 90% of nursing homes are understaffed at levels that harm residents."

"Elder abuse includes mistreatment, neglect and financial exploitation," says LLJ. 

"It occurs in homes and facilities; cuts across all demographic groups; and causes untold suffering and cost, not just for its victims, but also for those who care about and for them." 

"Victims often live their last years - impoverished, injured, neglected and in fear - with little effective assistance, protection or attention from any system."

They "suffer more injuries and illnesses and are three times more likely to die sooner than non-victims." 

"In addition to depleting the resources of already stressed individuals and families, elder abuse costs taxpayers billions of dollars annually in Medicare, Medicaid and other federal, state and local program expenditures."

"We are at the early stage of a hidden epidemic," LLJ stresses. "As 77 million baby boomers age, and caregiving shortages grow more acute, the problem will" become much more serious than already.

Rooney expressed what many others feel, saying:

"You're afraid, but you're also thinking about your other family members." He noted concern about potential criticism from "family, friends, and people who know them."

"They might not want to accept the dysfunction. Everyone should love their families as I do. I love my family," he stressed. 

He deserves as much back or more in return. Millions like him lack it. America's most vulnerable are harmed. Abuses continue largely out of sight and mind. 

Even foreign dignitaries aren't safe. Diplomatic immunity doesn't matter. Nor does rule of law justice.

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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NSA Mass Monitoring Cell Phone Calls Globally

by Stephen Lendman

On December 5, the Washington Post broke the story. It headlined "NSA tracking cellphone locations worldwide, Snowden documents show."

Doing so enables tracking individual movements. It maps their relationships. It does it in "previously unimaginable" ways.

NSA maintains a vast database. It's called FASCIA. It "stores information (on) locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices…"

New efforts analyze data collected. Doing so reflects mass global surveillance. NSA claims it doesn't target Americans willfully. It lied saying so.

"Incidental" whereabouts alone are tracked, it claims. WaPo said the term "connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result."

Previous articles explained how NSA operates lawlessly. It does so globally. It targets Americans. It does it willfully. It collects phone records of millions of AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications company customers.

It taps into central servers of nine or more US Internet companies. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and others willingly cooperate.

Audio, video, photos, emails, text messages, and other personal information is collected. Doing so lets NSA track individual movements and contacts over time.

According to retired NSA/US Air Force/Naval Intelligence/Defense Intelligence Agency analyst-turned whistleblower Russell Tice:

What's ongoing "is much larger and more systemic than anything anyone has ever suspected or imagined."

It's been widely known for years. Little was revealed publicly. Pervasive spying is much worse than suspected.

Snowden released documents and others reflect the tip of the iceberg. Expect lots more revelations ahead. Newly revealed WaPo information is the latest.

An unnamed senior NSA collection manager said "we are getting vast volumes" of location data worldwide.

It's gotten by tapping into cables connecting global cell networks. They serve US cell phones and foreign ones.

Additional data is collected from "tens of millions of Americans" traveling abroad annually. According to WaPo:

"In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June." 

"Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among the people using them."

NSA wants global privacy eliminated. It wants total electronic information access. It wants it in America and abroad. 

It wants it everywhere. It wants it no matter who or where you are. It's well on the way to getting it.

NSA lies claiming mass surveillance is lawful. Robert Litt is Office of the Director of National Intelligence general counsel. 

He lied claiming "no element of the intelligence community that under any authority is intentionally collecting bulk cellphone location information about cellphones in the United States."

Its most powerful analytic tools are collectively called "CO-TRAVELER." It enables bulk collections. It involves more than location information.

A portrait of travel times and people whose paths crossed is gotten. Doing so reveals physical interactions and relationships. It lets NSA know who we're with, where and when.

CO-TRAVELER permits looking for "unknown associates of known intelligence targets," said WaPo. It does so by "tracking people whose movements intersect."

Privacy advocates call aggregated location data over time uniquely sensitive. Sophisticated mathematical techniques are used.

They let NSA analysts map cell phone user relationships. They do so by correlating their movement patterns over time. They do it with up to millions of other cell users crossing their path.

Cell phones "broadcast their locations" even when not in use. Carrying one on your person tracks where you're going.

CO-TRAVELER and related tools involve methodically collecting and storing location data on "a planetary scale," said WaPo.

People are monitored in "confidential business meetings." Their medical, financial, and other private spaces are tracked.

Privacy practically no longer exists for anyone communicating electronically.

Chris Soghoian is principal ACLU technologist. "One of the key components of location data, and why it's so sensitive, is that the laws of physics don't let you keep it private," he said.

Emails can be encrypted, he added. Online identities can be disguised. "(T)he only way to hide your location is to disconnect from our modern communication system and live in a cave."

Vast NSA data more than doubles Library of Congress print material. It's growing exponentially. It's so vast, it's "outpacing (its) ability to ingest, process and store" what's gotten. NSA is upgrading to greater capacity. 

Three US Democrat senators expressed concern. Ron Wyden (OR), Mark Udall (CO) and Barbara Milulski (MD) introduced a 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment.

It requires US intelligence agencies to say whether they ever collected or plan obtaining location data on "a large number of United States persons with no known connection to suspicious activity."

Americans tracked globally can't be determined from Snowden documents alone. Senior intelligence officials declined to estimate.

They claim no way to do it. Why not wasn't explained. An intelligence agency lawyer was cited. He doesn't respect constitutional law.

He claimed cell phone data monitoring doesn't violate Fourth Amendment rights. They protect against unlawful searches and seizures. 

Warrantless privacy invasions constitute gross Fourth Amendment violations. According to WaPo:

"(T)op secret briefing slides (show) NSA pulls in location data around the world from 10 major 'sigads,' or signals intelligence activity designators."

"A signad known as STORMBREW relies on two unnamed corporate partners." They're codenamed ARTIFICE and WOLFPOINT.

Both companies administer NSA "physical systems (interception equipment). 'NSA asks nicely for tasking/updates.' "

"STORMBREW collects data from 27 telephone links." They're called OPC/DPC pairs. They refer to originating and destination points.

They transfer traffic from one internal network to another. Cell tower identifiers are included. They're used to identify phone locations.

"The agency's access to carrier networks appears to be vast," WaPo explained. Computer and Information Science Professor Matt Blaze said:

"Many shared databases, such as those used for roaming, are available in their complete form to any carrier who requires access to any part of it."

"This 'flat' trust model means that a surprisingly large number of entities have access to data about customers that they never actually do business with, and an intelligence agency - hostile or friendly - can get 'one-stop shopping' to an expansive range of subscriber data just by compromising a few carriers."

NSA's location tracking capability is "staggering," added WaPo. It renders most communication security efforts "effectively futile."

Analytical tools map date, time, and location of cellphones. Patterns or significant overlap movements are monitored.

Other tools compute cell devices' speed and trajectory. Information gotten overlays electronic data on transportation maps. Likely travel time is determined to show which devices may have intersected. 

This report and previous ones reflect out-of-control NSA spying. It persists at home and abroad.

Thousands more Snowden documents remain to be released. Expect added proof of NSA lawlessness.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) lawsuits pressed courts to prohibit warrantless searches. Rulings were split.

In 2008, the Third Circuit US Appeals Court held that federal magistrates may require warrants based on probable cause. They may do so before permitting monitoring of phone location records.

Fifth and Sixth Circuit Court rulings approved warrantless seizures. The Supreme Court hasn't yet addressed the issue. It's important enough to do so. It's right wing judges may provide no relief.

At the same time, an earlier High Court ruling prohibited planting GPS devices on cars without warrants. It stopped short deciding whether warrantless tracking violates Fourth Amendment rights.

A Final Comment

On December 6, Russia Today (RT) headlined Sweden 'spied on Russian leaders for US.' "

Sweden's National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA) is involved. It monitors electronic communications.

FRA declined to comment. Its communications head, Anni Bolenius, said:

"We do in general have international cooperation with a number of countries, which is supported in Swedish legislation, but we do not comment on which ones we cooperate with."

Sweden's Sveriges Television (SVT) broke the story. Nils Hanson was involved. He's chief editor of SVT's "Mission: Investigate."

He told RT that FRA/NSA collaboration isn't new. "(N)ow we can show documents proving this relationship," he said.

Snowden provided them. "Sweden's 'cable access' made its position 'unique' in the eyes of the NSA," said RT. 

Sweden's FRA signal intelligence agency is a key NSA partner. According to one Snowden document:

"The FRA provided NSA unique collection on high-priority Russian targets, such as leadership, internal politics." NSA bosses were told to:

"Thank Sweden for its continued work on the Russian target, and underscore the primary role that FRA plays as a leading partner to work the Russian Target, including Russian leadership and counterintelligence."

"FRA's cable access has resulted in unique SIGINT reporting on all of these areas."

FRA authorization involves tracking "external threats" potentially affecting Sweden. It secret Defense Intelligence Court issues permits.

Targeting Russian leaders reflects doing so at NSA's behest. It suggests exceeding FRA's remit. 

Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials aren't threats. FRA has lots of explaining to do. Perhaps Moscow will demand answers.

Last April, Voice of Russia cited Julian Assange saying FRA intercepts 80% of Russian Internet traffic. It sells it to the NSA. 

It's further proof of Swedish/US collaboration against Russia. It shows hostile intent. It targets a friendly neighbor.

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-mass-monitoring-cell-phone-calls-globally/

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Screenshot from healthcare.gov

Screenshot from healthcare.gov

The list of complaints waged at the White House over its Healthcare.gov site continues to grow, but the latest incident involving the online home of the Affordable Care Act is one that could end with legal action being taken.

The main “Obamacare” website has been marred with bugs and glitches since it went online over two weeks ago, and the problems are still piling up. Now according to The Weekly Standard, the Department of Health and Human Services could be sued by the British developers who coded part of the site but were never credited.

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http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_ancient_brain_modern_times_and_the_atomic_bomb_20130806/ Posted on Aug 6, 2013 ...

Welcome to Post-Constitution America

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/welcome_to_post-constitution_america_20130805/ Posted on Aug 5, 2013 By Peter van...

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Top Ten American Steps Toward a Police State

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In 2011, when we noted that Everything You Do Is Monitored, we weren’t embellishing or fear mongering.

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http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/six_facts_lost_in_the_irs_scandal_20130526/ Posted on May 26, 2013 ...

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CIA-Contra Cocaine Scandal: The Tragic Saga of Gary Webb

garywebb

Starring Jeremy Renner as the late Gary Webb, the movie of Webb’s investigation of the CIA’s Contra-cocaine scandal – and of Webb’s destruction by mainstream news outlets – is set to begin filming this summer. If Hollywood gets the story right, it will be a dark and enlightening tale.

While there was the usual glitz and glamour at this year’s Oscars, the star not strolling down the red carpet was actually an intelligence arm of the U.S. government. By bestowing “Argo” with its top award, the Academy gave props to the CIA for the forgotten heroic mission to save six Americans trapped in Iran. “Zero Dark Thirty,” also up for best picture, portrayed CIA analysts as heroes ridding the planet of a psychopathic murderer.

But the CIA is not likely to be singing “Hurrah For Hollywood” for long. The glow from Hollywood’s bright lights the CIA has been basking in of late might fade to black as a new movie starts shooting this summer. “Killing The Messenger,” starring Jeremy Renner of “The Hurt Locker,” “The Avengers” and “The Bourne Legacy” as journalist Gary Webb, will focus on the CIA’s not so flattering side, casting another shadow on the dark, murky world of warcraft.

So, why is Hollywood so interested in an “ancient” story that has traversed through time over the past three decades? Because Gary Webb, with a Hunter S. Thompson-esque swagger, was the quintessential investigative reporter – a dogged inquisitor with innately crazy-good skills. Because Gary Webb was tough. And because, eight years after his series “Dark Alliance” which detailed tangential ties between crack kingpins and the CIA, Gary Webb fired two shots into his head killing himself. Two shots. Even in desperation Gary was determined.

Based on the book by Nick Schou, “Kill The Messenger” will focus on Gary Webb’s sad saga, forced to defend himself from withering criticism — not just from the government but from within the ranks of his own profession. Hollywood obviously cares about the tragic tale of Gary Webb because it has all the elements of an explosive drama: conflict, controversy, and political intrigue. It provides for worthy commentary fodder on a slew of our democratic institutions.

Beyond the immensely important aspects connecting the CIA to drug dealers, the rest of us should care because behind this little slice of history is a cautionary tale for all news gatherers and consumers of the New Media. Because, while on the surface, Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series for the San Jose Mercury News in 1996 was based on old-school gumshoe reporting techniques, it helped usher in the digital world of news dissemination.

Print media might be on its deathbed, but even in a twitterverse our quest — and thirst – for in-depth, explanatory journalism should never wane. As “computersumers,” we face a digital dilemma — one that sometimes pits expediency and quantity over content and quality.

To understand the importance of “Kill The Messenger” we have to spend some time with Gary’s story. To prepare, it’s necessary to travel back into history. We owe it to Gary Webb. More importantly, at a time when the way we are receiving our news is changing, we owe it to ourselves.

When I first read — back in the day — Webb’s 1996 account in the San Jose Mercury News linking the CIA to the funneling of cocaine into inner city Los Angeles, I thought, “Big Deal.” To me, this was old news. You see, I knew much of what Gary was reporting had been written before.

Soon, the firestorm erupted. My thinking changed: “Gary my boy, what the hell have you gotten into.” As a fellow journalist, I had both a personal and professional interest in Gary’s expose. But it was my reporter’s hat that I initially and instinctively put on my head. Thus, the cautionary tales begin.

My professional interest in Gary’s report dated back ten years prior, to the time of colorful Oliver North and the Reagan administration’s proxy war in Nicaragua. Better known as the Contra War, it culminated in humiliation for Reagan and the CIA when it was revealed they had been trading arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages in Lebanon. The money Iran paid for American missiles was passed through covert back channels to the Contras fighting against the Nicaraguan socialist Sandinista government. Better known as the Iran-Contra scandal, all of this was, of course, against U.S. policy. At least that’s what Congress thought.

While Congress was going apoplectic, all of the reporters in Washington — myself included — were attempting to put flesh on the bones of the Reagan Administration’s skeleton officials were desperately trying to keep shoved in the proverbial closet.

(One of my stories prior to the Iran-Contra revelation found that CIA director William Casey, Defense Department officials and a prominent U.S. senator had dealings with a Greek arms broker who was doing his best to ship U.S. made Cobra attack helicopters to Iran. The story, preserved in the Almanac of American Politics, caused a minor uproar. But such intelligence matters are almost always conducted in secret under the guise of national security. Due to such nebulous conditions we will probably never know if this case had any direct or indirect Iran-Contra implications.)

Iran-Contra wasn’t the first big scandal, however, involving the CIA’s-sponsored war in the dark forests of Central America. At least it shouldn’t have been. A year before news of Iran-Contra made headlines, Associated Press reporters Robert Parry and Brian Barger broke a story saying the Contras were exporting drugs to the U.S. to help pay for the war effort. Big Media all but ignored the story. There was no follow-up or flushing out by the major newspapers, but there was by our new Secretary of State — then Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Kerry and his band of merry staffers started digging. As part of the Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry confirmed the Contras were involved in the drug trade. The committee report stated unequivocally that U.S. government agencies knew about the drug trafficking. In fact, at least four companies paid $800,000 by the State Department to deliver aid to the Contras were known “fronts” owned by narcotics smugglers.

Thanks to Ollie North himself, other documentation was provided. North’s handwritten meeting notes suggest the Contras got $14 million in financing from drug profits to buy a cache of Honduran weapons. One noted a Contra commander surrounded himself with people who are in the war not only to fight but to “make money,” including some dealing drugs. Another memo said a Honduran airplane delivering supplies to the Contras from New Orleans was “probably” making return drug runs into the U.S. The list goes on.

Of course, the Reagan folks did their best to hush up the dirty details. Perhaps, given Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” to drugs pet project, they just didn’t want the embarrassment. President Reagan, who publicly had all but compared these “freedom fighters” to our Founding Fathers is said to have privately complained they were little more than thugs. Reports were rampant the Contras had engaged in rape and pillage in border villages.

And, even though the work done by Parry, Barger and Kerry linking major narcotics dealing to the U.S. by an Army-sanctioned, paid for and blessed, by our government was — through the hindsight of history — arguably a bigger scandal than Iran-Contra itself, again Big Media basically ignored it. Just as, at best, U.S. government agencies looked the other way as the Contras helped deliver drugs to our streets, the media looked the other way, at best not realizing the importance of the story staring right at us.

Authors Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall pretty much put an exclamation point on the government’s complicity in this sordid world of drug running in the 1991 book Cocaine Politics.

So, we fast-forward to Gary Webb and his “Dark Alliance” series. As I looked over the wire story, I immediately remembered the AP investigations and the Kerry Committee report. “This is old news,” I thought. Then I realized what Gary had accomplished.

As any good investigative reporter working on the local level, Gary had taken forgotten dispatches from far off places and out-of-focus facts from government reports and put a flesh and blood face on this sordid story. He provided needed context to a disturbing episode of out-of-control politics. Webb had done what other reporters probably should have done years before. Except now he was exposing the true damage wrought by the drug thugs — crack. In their twisted genius, pushers had transformed a mundane narcotic into this cheap hideously addictive monster.

Now working in television in Ohio, I witnessed the crack dens and the horribly harming impact crack was having, irreparably destroying lives — especially those lives of minorities in the urban corridors. But it was Gary who was providing some of the genesis for this scourge. His work should have been celebrated. But in Big Media circles it wasn’t.

Webb and the Mercury News soon faced the cudgel of Big Media. Papers like the L.A. Times, The New York Times and even The Washington Post published page one stories critical of Webb’s findings. Page one. Remember our history. These papers didn’t cover the original reports of government complicity in drug dealing on page one.

Why the prominent journalistic lambasting? The big complaint from Big Media seemed to be that Webb and his paper had overreached in its writing and conclusions. They said he had implied the CIA, acting as a coke-crazed puppet master, orchestrated the Contra drug operation as if Langley had dispatched agents to help them unload the coke from the planes, set up the crack labs and stood cloaked in trench coats on street corners displaying the rock for sale. Therefore, Gary’s entire supposition was tainted.

Except that’s not really what his story said. Webb’s piece said that the drug traffickers had ties to Contras backed by the CIA. It wasn’t a CIA operational plot, but rather it sanctioned the Contras and failed to stop the illegally gotten gains. In fact, in one case the CIA asked the Department of Justice to give back funds confiscated during a Contra drug bust in California.

The big three papers harped on “Dark Alliance” conclusions that millions of dollars from the California coke ring went back into Contra coffers. They said that figure was hugely inflated. They also said the series was wildly off the mark in linking crack’s insidious spread across the country to the L.A. Contra-connected pushers.

Perhaps the most disingenuous critique came from the L.A. Times which reported Webb had puffed up the importance of the local drug kingpin central to the story. “Even on the best day Ricky Ross had, there was way more crack cocaine out there than he could ever control,” they quoted a police source. There’s just one problem. Webb was echoing what the Times had said about this local dealer two years before.

“If there was a criminal mastermind behind crack’s decade-long reign, if there was one outlaw capitalist most responsible for flooding Los Angeles streets with mass-marketed cocaine, his name was Freeway Rick,” the Times’ earlier story said. Credibility? Okay.

We know there were a number of cocaine pipelines into the U.S. — even from the Contras, but Ricky Ross did peddle the drug into my hometown of Cincinnati. Reports state his coke empire reached into Pennsylvania and New York. According to my GPS, that qualifies as spreading the epidemic.

And how do we know how much money was funneled to the Contras from any one particular drug deal? There is conflicting evidence. But it’s not like the Contras, the CIA or Ollie North were using Price Waterhouse CPA’s to keep track. Simply, there are plenty of discrepancies between the statements of this band of thieves.

Some critics even got into the semantic quibble of what’s the difference between a CIA officer, an agent, an asset and an operative. If it quacks does it matter if it’s a Mallard or Daffy the Duck?

To be sure, the series did warrant a few criticisms for misplaced hyperbole, but not to be shish-kebob-ed on Big Media’s skewer. The biggest mistake Webb made was not placing the perfunctory call to the CIA for comment. Who knows, maybe, like a reformed addict, it would have come clean. But by relying on CIA denials, many of which turned out not to be true, and contradictory court testimony to debunk “Dark Alliance,” Big Media itself was guilty of overzealousness.

Steve Weinberg, one of the deans of investigative reporting wrote, “Even if Webb overreached in a few paragraphs — based on my careful reading, I would say his overreaching was limited, if it occurred at all — he still had a compelling, significant investigation to publish.”

The Washington’s Post own ombudsman said the paper should have concerned itself with advancing the story rather than tearing down a competitor. Interestingly, in another sign of the retrenching of print, the Post recently announced it is dissolving its reader’s advocate position.

Yes, Gary Webb did have some supporters. The press’ full-press attack took its toll, though. While at first editors at the Mercury News defended its series, it didn’t take them long to cave from the pressure.

“We did not have proof that top CIA officials knew of the relationship (between Contras and coke),” the paper’s editor wrote. Odd, since there was proof Langley knew. Odder still, other in-house criticism seemed to center on what a few well-placed qualifying adverbs, adjectives and attribution could have fixed. Fixes which editors are paid to make.

As a result, the Mercury News wouldn’t run Webb’s follow-up stories. True, they didn’t fire him but the damage was done. Gary eventually quit the paper, feeling crushed from failing to land another daily paper job.

But his story had legs — at least inside government circles. The firestorm over “Dark Alliance” sparked an in-depth reviews by both the CIA’s and Justice Department’s Inspectors General. Of course they both took swipes at Webb while at the same time unearthing a torrent of unsettling material regarding nefarious dealings by those under the Agency’s imprimatur.

The CIA IG reported that at least 50 Contras and Contra-related entities participated in the drug trade. These drug dealing Contras weren’t just low-level grunts, some were in high command. It was with one of these military commanders that the drug lords in Webb’s piece met in Nicaragua. Langley knew from Day One that Contras were using drug profits to fund operations.

In one bizarre case, a Honduran general tried to import $40 million worth of coke to the U.S. Incredibly, the money was to finance the assassination of the Honduran president. The general was caught but because he was a chief CIA liaison within the Contra network, he was given a reduced sentence at “Club Fed” in Florida.

In another remarkable example, the Agency put a known drug operative with the CIA pseudonym “Ivan Gomez” in charge of a contra commander. It was a family affair, with “Mr. Gomez’s” two brothers bringing in large amounts of coke. According to some sources, the Gomez family supplier might have aided the mighty Medellin coke cartel in its nascent days.

Sticking by the apocryphal story of duplicitous deniability, the former CIA chief in charge of the Contras said in reference to Ollie North that it was a “moral outrage” to imply a Reagan Administration official “would have countenanced” drug trafficking. Then again, given such “groupthink,” perhaps this cast of characters was in actual psychological denial.

A former CIA Central American Station Chief told the Agency IG they knew early on that some Contras were “scoundrels” dealing drugs but at the direction of Director Casey they were “going to play with these guys.”

While insisting he doesn’t believe the CIA targeted any specific community, then-Sen. John Kerry told PBS, “There’s no question in my mind that people affiliated with or on the payroll of the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while in support of the Contras.”

There’s now practically a cargo plane full of records replete with connections between the CIA and drug trafficking. Was the CIA complicit in the Contra drug trade? Check. Did the CIA and the U.S. pay the same Contra contractors who were also shipping drugs to the U.S.? Check. Did CIA Director William Casey obtain a special dispensation from the Attorney General to allow his Contra-support team to “look the other way” regarding the drug dealing? Check. Did the CIA deliberately deny to other agencies knowledge of Contra-connected dealers? Check.

For more on this staggering litany of connections I recommend two sites: Robert Parry’s Consortiumnews.com site (and its stories on Webb’s case such as “The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death”).and George Washington University’s National Security Archive.

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t just in Central America where the CIA ignored drug trafficking. It seems they used the same template with the poppy-peddling Afghan mujahedeen during their fight against the Soviets.

By operating in the subterranean world of arms and drug smuggling, the CIA took us down the rabbit hole where narco-mad hatters weren’t about to give us any straight dope, where the spooks had no clue and didn’t care where this unfettered trafficking would lead and where they were powerless to predict how many lives would be ruined in the country they were sworn to protect.

At the same time, Gary Webb was sucked into his own crevasse, spiraling down to his demise. To me, that is personal. It’s personal because I was a college classmate of Gary’s. It’s personal because when Gary faced this struggle I wasn’t in any position to offer assistance. I had just waged my own personal battle with a media corporation — left high and dry by the outside press.

It should be personal when it makes you mad — when it makes you hurt. And it’s easy to be mad over this media debacle. Yes, I’m mad at Gary, the gruff, salty-talking swashbuckler who might have been too stubborn to accept that sometimes the personal, as well as the professional, message needs massaging.

Mostly, I’m mad at the rest of us. All too often reporters, editors and media bosses forget what our job is — the responsibility we have been entrusted with. Our responsibility isn’t to our egos, to be first, to win awards or to any arbitrary agendas set by bosses. The media’s responsibility is to pursue truth-telling with intellectual honesty and fairness. To understand that no one story, no singular investigation will encompass the entirety of truth’s intricacies. If we follow that approach, debate and democracy will benefit.

As with all democracies, though, most of the responsibility lies with the content users, citizens who must decide if they play a passive or active role as information providers shift to the more interactive delivery of the New Media. To help them decide, I’ll provide a starting point — a few lessons we can all learn from Gary Webb’s sacrifice and his “Dark Alliance” cautionary tale:

Perhaps what really upset reporters and editors at the big papers was they had missed the thrust of “Dark Alliance,” that the government could have done more to bust the early coke rings. And now, to top it off, African-American leaders in urban communities and members of the Congressional Black Caucus were outraged. They rightly demanded some answers.

This was all happening in the back yards of our greatest and most prestigious news outlets. Instead of using the Not-In-My-Backyard effect to further the story, Big Media used it to adopt a defensive mode. Whenever readers come across important news information — like ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs study — they should contact their local media outlets to promote it and to put their own NIMBY imprint on it.

Green With Envy: Journalists are normally sincere, extremely talented and dedicated. But I’m going to say it: on occasion they can be a jumbled mess. Yes, fragile. Sure, stress is a factor, but I’m not referencing the physical or emotional aspects of getting the story. Reporters are trained to take the psychological heat that comes from editors and story subjects. It’s more about fear of failure.

Reporting — especially with the New Media’s never-ending news cycle — is as competitive as any sport or Wall Street wheeling-and-dealing. This competitiveness, inherent to the job, however, can produce great guilt — guilt of missing the big story, guilt for getting beat. Sometimes the symptom is jealousy. I know I was jealous of my old friend’s “big get.”

Sometimes the symptoms resulting from envy manifests in defensive postures. I believe it was this collective guilt that contributed to Big Media’s obsession with proving Webb’s piece wrong. Instead, we need to celebrate and participate in the reasoned risk-taking of colleagues. When journalists are fired or vilified, New Media consumers should use the Internet’s connective voice as a review board, showing support by demanding transparent accountability.

Watchdogging The Watchdogs: From their own infamous foot-in-mouth examples, The New York Times and Washington Post certainly know there will always be a place for journalistic critique.

Reality dictates that in this brave New Media World, with ubiquitous “pseudo” news sites proliferating the Web, we need more rather than fewer media watchdogs. When sites like Drudge and Breitbart can spread headlines based on bogus reports, we need watchdoggers to keep the
Web honest.

But Gary Webb wasn’t like those practitioners of the spurious. He was part of the team at the Mercury News that won a Pulitzer Prize. He was cocky and confident, with a perceived cowboy persona, but, like they say, this wasn’t his first rodeo. With “Dark Alliance,” Webb wasn’t picking fantasy facts out of thin air. He had volumes of documentation.

In a kind of twisted irony, the Mercury News became one of the first to put a major news investigation online. As a companion to the “Dark Alliance” series, it added source material such as court records and audio interviews to the cloud.

While that didn’t dissuade Webb’s detractors, it showed the true power of the New Media. Hits on the series skyrocketed and we got our first glimpse of how the cloud could unleash unlimited potential for research. Because cloud storage is infinite, New Media reporting should not suffer from the space limitations of the past.

In looking back at Gary’s career, it struck me that some of his best, award-winning investigations were conducted with the help or support of other journalists — either reporters or editors he respected. He might have lacked those close relationships at the Mercury News.

I urge reporters to always call on that mentor or colleague to peer review important pieces. Share a byline with someone in your shop, keep a wise editor up to speed on a regular basis or seek out an old college prof that can spend time going over your material. And access to a good First Amendment attorney is a must.

The public holds both journalists and attorneys in low regard, so it’s an irony that we need to support each other in protecting the public’s rights. Another irony is that while journalism is a defender of democracy it is not democratic. The competitive nature of journalists and the capitalistic companies they work for can place the reporter into a conflicting position. The support system can help diffuse such contention.

Former network anchor Tom Brokaw tells a story about a columnist at the New Republic complaining that the problem with journalists is they have glass jaws — they go down with the first punch of criticism.

In the “Dark Alliance” case, editors at the Mercury News caved when facing criticism from other news organizations. Gary Webb’s jaw wasn’t glass it was steel. It would have been better had it been made of rubber. Journalists not only need to absorb criticism but bend with it, finding a way to incorporate what are sometimes conflicting views and conclusions.

Twitter is, no doubt, a great resource. It can alert us to important events. But citizens need more content, not less. I’m talking about online journalists taking the time to tell a complete and thoroughly researched story. And I’m talking about citizens being responsible to take the time to digest fully realized pieces of reporting.

The New Media can provide this in-depth content to a mass market faster and in more forms than ever before. But it doesn’t matter how content is delivered. It’s no secret print publications are in peril, yet online users need to keep reading or viewing complex, long-form stories.

Be dedicated to democracy. Remember: Watergate wasn’t told in Tweets. The press — in whatever form — is known as the Fourth Estate for a reason. Don’t let that die. (Hint: You’ve made a start by reading this essay.) Save the Tweets for offering feedback to reporters and editors. Better yet, send a lengthy email — you remember those.

As for the CIA’s new starring role in Hollywood? I’m predicting “Killing The Messenger” won’t have the same Oscar buzz as “Argo.” Hollywood loved its feel-good part, producing a faux movie to flimflam the Iranian Mullahs.

This time around, the Agency will be playing the bad guy, willing to fool the American public in a Cold War super-sized paranoid pursuit of communists. The reversed roles are both accurate portrayals of our most complex and paradoxical agency. And so it is for our best and brightest in the media.

H. “Corky” Johnson is an award-winning investigative reporter/producer with more than 30 years of experience. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, on “60 Minutes” and in many other media outlets. [This story originally appeared at Op-Ed News and was reprinted with the author’s permission.]

Drone Warfare is Neither Cheap, Nor Surgical, Nor Decisive: The Ever-Destructive Dreams of Air...

Today’s unmanned aerial vehicles, most famously Predator and Reaper drones, have been celebrated as the culmination of the longtime dreams of airpower enthusiasts, offering the possibility of victory through quick, clean, and selective destruction.  Those drones, so the (very old) story goes, assure the U.S. military of command of the high ground, and so provide the royal road to a speedy and decisive triumph over helpless enemies below.

Fantasies about the certain success of air power in transforming, even ending, war as we know it arose with the plane itself.  But when it comes to killing people from the skies, again and again air power has proven neither cheap nor surgical nor decisive nor in itself triumphant.  Seductive and tenacious as the dreams of air supremacy continue to be, much as they automatically attach themselves to the latest machine to take to the skies, air power has not fundamentally softened the brutal face of war, nor has it made war less dirty or chaotic.

Indeed, by emboldening politicians to seek seemingly low-cost, Olympian solutions to complex human problems -- like Zeus hurling thunderbolts from the sky to skewer puny mortals -- it has fostered fantasies of illimitable power emboldened by contempt for human life.  However, just like Zeus’s obdurate and rebellious subjects, the mortals on the receiving end of death from on high have shown surprising strength in frustrating the designs of the air power gods, whether past or present. Yet the Olympian fantasy persists, a fact that requires explanation.

The Rise of Air Power

It did not take long after the Wright Brothers first put a machine in the air for a few exhilarating moments above the sandy beaches of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December of 1903, for the militaries of industrialized countries to express interest in buying and testing airplanes.  Previously balloons had been used for reconnaissance, as in the Napoleonic wars and the U.S. Civil War, and so initially fledgling air branches focused on surveillance and intelligence-gathering.  As early as 1911, however, Italian aircraft began dropping small bombs from open-air cockpits on the enemy -- we might today call them “insurgents” -- in Libya.

World War I encouraged the development of specialized aircraft, most famously the dancing bi- and tri-winged fighter planes of the dashing “knights of the air,” as well as the more ponderous, but for the future far more important, bombers.   By the close of World War I in 1918, each side had developed multi-engine bombers like the German Gotha, which superseded the more vulnerable zeppelins.  Their mission was to fly over the trenches where the opposing armies were stalemated and take the war to the enemy’s homeland, striking fear in his heart and compelling him to surrender.  Fortunately for civilians a century ago, those bombers were too few in number, and their payloads too limited, to inflict widespread destruction, although German air attacks on England in 1917 did spread confusion and, in a few cases, panic.

Pondering the hecatombs of dead from trench warfare, air power enthusiasts of the 1920s and 1930s not surprisingly argued strongly, and sometimes insubordinately, for the decisive importance of bombing campaigns launched by independent air forces.  A leading enthusiast was Italy’s Giulio Douhet.  In his 1921 work Il dominio dell’aria (Command of the Air), he argued that in future wars strategic bombing attacks by heavily armed “battle-planes” (bombers) would produce rapid and decisive victories.  Driven by a fascist-inspired logic of victory through preemptive attack, Douhet called for all-out air strikes to destroy the enemy’s air force and its bases, followed by hammer blows against industry and civilians using high-explosive, incendiary, and poison-gas bombs.  Such blows, he predicted, would produce psychological uproar and social chaos (“shock and awe,” in modern parlance), fatally weakening the enemy’s will to resist.

As treacherous and immoral as his ideas may sound, Douhet’s intent was to shorten wars and lessen casualties -- at least for his side.  Better to subdue the enemy by pressing hard on select pressure points (even if the “pressing” was via high explosives and poison gas, and the “points” included concentrations of innocent civilians), rather than forcing your own army to bog down in bloody, protracted land wars.

That air power was inherently offensive and uniquely efficacious in winning cheap victories was a conclusion that found a receptive audience in Great Britain and the United States.  In England, Hugh Trenchard, founding father of the Royal Air Force (RAF), embraced strategic bombing as the most direct way to degrade the enemy’s will; he boldly asserted that “the moral effect of bombing stands undoubtedly to the material effect in a proportion of twenty to one.”

Even bolder was his American counterpart, William “Billy” Mitchell, famously court-martialed and romanticized as a “martyr” to air power.  (In his honor, cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy still eat in Mitchell Hall.)  At the Air Corps Tactical School in the 1930s, U.S. airmen refined Mitchell’s tenets, developing a “vital centers” theory of bombing -- the idea that one could compel an enemy to surrender by identifying and destroying his vulnerable economic nodes.  It therefore came as no accident that the U.S. entered World War II with the world’s best heavy bomber, the B-17 Flying Fortress, and a fervid belief that “precision bombing” would be the most direct path to victory.

World War II and After: Dehousing, Scorching, Boiling, and Baking the Enemy

In World War II, “strategic” air forces that focused on winning the war by heavy bombing reached young adulthood, with all the swagger associated with that stage of maturity.  The moral outrage of Western democracies that accompanied the German bombing of civilian populations in Guernica, Spain, in 1937 or Rotterdam in 1940 was quickly forgotten once the Allies sought to open a “second front” against Hitler through the air.  Four-engine strategic bombers like the B-17 and the British Lancaster flew for thousands of miles carrying bomb loads measured in tons.  From 1942 to 1945 they rained two million tons of ordnance on Axis targets in Europe, but accuracy in bombing remained elusive.

While the U.S. attempted and failed at precision daylight bombing against Germany’s “vital centers,” Britain’s RAF Bomber Command began employing what was bloodlessly termed “area bombing” at night in a “dehousing” campaign led by Arthur “Bomber” Harris.  What became an American/British combined bomber offensive killed 600,000 German civilians, including 120,000 children, reducing cities like Cologne (1942), Hamburg (1943), Berlin (1944-45), and Dresden (1945) to rubble.

Yet, contrary to the dreams of air power advocates, Germany’s will to resist remained unbroken.  The vaunted second front of aerial battle became yet another bloody attritional brawl, with hundreds of thousands of civilians joining scores of thousands of aircrews in death.

Similarly mauled but unbroken by bombing was Japan, despite an air campaign of relentless intensity that killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians.  Planned and directed by Major General Curtis LeMay, new B-29 bombers loaded with incendiaries struck Tokyo, a city made largely of wood, in March 1945, creating a firestorm that in his words “scorched and boiled and baked [the Japanese] to death.”  As many as 100,000 Japanese died in this attack.

Subsequently, 60 more cities were firebombed until the apotheosis of destruction came that August as atomic bombs incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing another 200,000 people.  It quickly became an article of faith among American air power enthusiasts that these bombs had driven Japan to surrender; together with this, the “decisive” air campaign against Germany became reason enough to justify an independent U.S. Air Force, which was created by the National Security Act of 1947.

In the total war against Nazi and Japanese terror, moral concerns, when expressed, came privately.  General Ira Eaker worried that future generations might condemn the Allied bombing campaign against Germany for its targeting of “the man in the street.”  Even LeMay, not known for introspective doubts, worried in 1945 that he and his team would likely be tried as war criminals if the U.S. failed to defeat Japan.  (So Robert McNamara, then an Army Air Force officer working for LeMay, recalled in the documentary The Fog of War.)

But moral qualms were put aside in the post-war glow of victory and as the fear rose of future battles with communism.  The Korean War (1950-1953) may have ushered in the jet age, as symbolized by the dogfights of American Sabre Jets and Soviet MiGs over the Yalu River, but it also witnessed the devastation by bombing of North Korea, even as the enemy took cover underground and refused to do what air power strategists had always assumed they would: give up.

Still, for the U.S. Air Force, the real action of that era lay largely in the realm of dystopian fantasies as it created the Strategic Air Command (SAC), which coordinated two legs of the nuclear triad, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles in silos and nuclear-armed long-range bombers. (The third was nuclear-missile-armed submarines.)  SAC kept some of those bombers carrying thermonuclear weapons in the air 24/7 as a “deterrent” to a Soviet nuclear first strike (and as a constant first strike threat of our own).  “Thinking about the unthinkable” -- that is, nuclear Armageddon -- became all the rage, with “massive retaliation” serving as the byword for air power enthusiasts.  In this way, dreams of clean victories morphed into nightmares of global thermonuclear annihilation, leaving the 1930s air power ideal of “clean” and “surgical” strikes in the dust -- for the time being.

Reaping What We Sow

Despite an unimaginably powerful nuclear deterrent that essentially couldn’t be used, the U.S. Air Force had to relearn the hard way that there remained limits to the efficacy of air power, especially when applied to low-intensity, counterinsurgency wars.  As in Korea in the 1950s, air power in the 1960s and 1970s failed to provide the winning edge in the Vietnam War, even as it spread wanton destruction throughout the Vietnamese countryside.  But it was the arrival of “smart” bombs near that war’s end that marked the revival of the fantasies of air power enthusiasts about “precision bombing” as the path to future victory.

By the 1990s, laser- and GPS-guided bombs (known collectively as PGMs, forprecision guided munitions) were relegating unguided, “dumb” bombs largely to the past.  Yet like their predecessors, PGMs proved no panacea.  In the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, for example, 50 precision “decapitation strikes” targeting dictator Saddam Hussein’s top leadership failed to hit any of their intended targets, while causing “dozens” of civilian deaths.  That same year, air power’s inability to produce decisive results on the ground after Iraq’s descent into chaos, insurrection, and civil war served as a reminder that the vaunted success of the U.S. air campaign in the First Gulf War (1991) was a fluke, not a flowering of air power’s maturity.  (Saddam Hussein made his traditionally organized military, defenseless against air power, occupy static positions after his invasion of Kuwait.)

The recent marriage of PGMs to drones, hailed as the newest “perfect weapon” in the air arsenal, has once again led to the usual fantasies about the arrival -- finally, almost 100 years late -- of clean, precise, and decisive war.  Using drones, a military need not risk even a pilot’s life in its attacks.  Yet the nature of war -- its horrors, its unpredictability, its tendency to outlive its original causes -- remains fundamentally unaltered by “precision” drone strikes.  War’s inherent fog and friction persist.  In the case of drones, that fog is often generated by faulty intelligence, the friction by malfunctioning weaponry orinnocent civilians appearing just as the Hellfire missiles are unleashed.  Rather than clean wars of decision, drone strikes decide nothing.  Instead, they produce their share of “collateral damage” that only spawns new enemies seeking revenge.

The fantasy of air war as a realm of technical decision, as an exercise in decisively finding, fixing, and dispatching the enemy, appeals to a country like the United States that idolizes technology as a way to quick fixes.  As a result, it’s hardly surprising that two administrations in Washington have ever more zealously pursued drone wars and aerial global assassination campaigns, already killing 4,700 “terrorists” and bystanders. And this has been just part of our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president’s campaign of 20,000 air strikes(only 10% of which were drone strikes) in his first term of office.  Yet despite -- or perhaps because of -- these attacks, our global war against al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and other groups like the Taliban appears no closer to ending.

And that is, in part, because the dream of air power remains just that: a fantasy, a capricious and destructive will-o’-the-wisp.  It’s a fantasy because it denies agency to enemies (and others) who invariably find ways to react, adapt, and strike back.  It’s a fantasy because, however much such attacks seem both alluringly low-risk and high-reward to the U.S. military, they become a rallying cause for those on the other end of the bombs and missiles.

A much-quoted line from the movie Apocalypse Now captured the insanity of the American air war in Vietnam.  “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,”says an Air Cav commander played by Robert Duvall.  “Smelled like... victory.”  Updated for drone warfare, this line might read: “I love the sound of drones in the morning.  Sounds like... victory.”  But will we say the same when armed drones are hovering, not only above our enemies’ heads but above ours, too, in fortress America, enforcing security and conformity while smiting citizens judged to be rebellious?

Something tells me this is not the dream that airpower enthusiasts had in mind.

Senate and House Bills Would Require Police to Obtain Warrant for Location Tracking

WASHINGTON - March 21 - Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduced in the Senate and the House today the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act, which would require a warrant from a judge based on probable cause before police can track someon...

China fingers Coca-Cola in ‘national security’ mapping probe

Published time: March 13, 2013 19:13

AFP Photo / Frederic J. Brown

US soft drink giant Coca-Cola has been accused by Chinese authorities of illegally mapping a remote south western province. The incident comes amidst an intensifying cyber-security row between Beijing and Washington.

Coca-Cola was accused of "illegally collecting classified information with handheld GPS equipment", the Yunnan Geographical Information Bureau of Surveying and Mapping said.

Coca-Cola said its local bottling plants have used electronic mapping and related methods to run its operations in the country more efficiently.

"Over the last several years, some of our local bottling plants in China have adopted logistics solutions to improve our customer service levels and fuel efficiency," a Coca-Cola spokesperson in China told AFP in a statement.

"These include e-map and location-based customer logistics systems that are commercially available in China through authorized local suppliers."

The company said it had "cooperated fully" with Yunnan government inquiries and is "in full compliance" with current regulations.

No further details on the investigation were forthcoming, but a bureau official who gave his last name as Han told the Financial Times the investigation would wrap up soon.

"We will announce the results when it ends," Han said. "It is a bit sensitive. I don't know how it got published," he added.

An expert with the China Academy of Space Technology told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that entering a restricted area with a handheld GPS device could be considered a threat to national security.

"Some regions could be sensitive because of their military importance,"
the expert said. "If an unauthorized person or organization accurately mapped the area and used the result for political purposes, it could jeopardize our nation."

Yunnan authorities said the Coca-Cola incident was one of 21 cases of illegal surveying currently being investigated in the area. Other instances included the illegal sale of classified military maps online, aerial photography by unmanned aircraft, and illegally surveying military installations.

Li Mingde, the deputy director of the province’s bureau conducting the probe into Coke, told China National Radio it was important to punish cases of illegal mapping.

“Some people are profiting from collecting information, including providing it to some foreign intelligence agencies,” FT cites him as saying.

Mingde noted that when the United States bombed its embassy in Belgrade in 1999, the US blamed it on an inaccurate map.

 “Mapping information can be used by enemies. So it must be restricted,” he said.

The allegations leveled at Coke come amidst a developing dispute between China and the United States over cyber-attacks.

On Monday, President Obama’s national security adviser Tom Donilon urged China to stop hackers within its borders from engaging in industrial espionage and breaking into US computer systems.

"Increasingly, US businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information... through cyber-intrusions emanating from China at a very large scale," Donilon said.

“Beijing should take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities," he continued.

In February, US lawmakers called for stricter action against China for cyber-spying and industrial espionage allegedly being directed by the Chinese military.

On Saturday China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi characterized the hacking allegations as a politically motivated smear campaign.

“Anyone who tries to fabricate or piece together a sensational story to serve their political motive will not be able to blacken the name of others or whitewash themselves,” he said.

Jiechi said that as a primary target of hacking attacks, China supported international regulations under the auspices of the United Nations to help police the Internet.

Survellience Buses Could Breach Privacy Laws

The use of external CCTV cameras on UK buses could be in breach of privacy laws, according to a Data Protection Supervisor. CCTV cameras have resulted in the illegal recording of people on their own property.

‘Threats against Iran will not help talks’

Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaei has scoffed at threats against the country, stressing that threatening Iran will not help the negotiations which mainly concern Tehran’s nuclear energy program.

“Threatening Iran is not going to work,” Khazaei said in an interview with CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program.

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi expressed confidence that the issues concerning Iran’s nuclear energy program would be ironed out.

Salehi pointed to Iran’s comprehensive negotiations with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), saying, “The two sides feel that the grounds have been prepared to take a path out of the issue.”

Iran and the P5+1 - Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany - held their latest round of talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on February 26 and 27.

Both sides agreed to convene in Almaty again on April 5-6 for the next round of negotiations after holding expert-level talks in the Turkish city of Istanbul on March 17-18.

Khazaei further said Washington must show its sincerity for Iran to consider its offer of direct talks, adding that any “pressure” to drive Iran to the negotiating table would backfire.

“The clear message of Iran is that if we see that the United States is serious and honest about its proposal for negotiations, cooperation and direct talks with Iran, Iranians will accept it and will definitely welcome it,” the envoy stated.


“There is no doubt about it … Iran welcomes negotiations and direct talks with the United States, provided that we make sure that the US is serious and do not act differently,” he added.

Khazaei criticized the US dual policies on Iran, saying, “My point is, as soon as you say, we are ready to talk to you and work with you, but at the same time, we punish you and put pressure on you and your people -- Iranians cannot accept that.”

At the 49th annual Munich Security Conference in Germany on February 2, US Vice President Joe Biden said Washington was ready to hold direct talks with Iran over the country’s nuclear energy program.

However, he noted, “There will be continued pressure.”

On February 6, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei rejected talks with the United States under pressure and threats.

“An offer of talks makes sense only when the side [that makes the offer] shows its goodwill,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

The US has spearheaded several rounds of sanctions against Iran in recent years, based on the unfounded accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program. Washington has also repeatedly threatened Iran with keeping “all options on the table.”

Tehran says as a committed signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

SF/HMV/MA

Horsemeat: Romanian Abattoirs ‘Not To Blame’

Sky News has uncovered the paper trail which appears to exonerate the two Romanian abattoirs at the centre of the horsemeat scandal. An invoice released by the CarmOlimp slaughterhouse in Brasov shows that the consignment of horsemeat, which eventuall...

Sunday Morning Bobblehead Thread

In psychology and politics, perception is key. Perception is reality. But perception lies to us all the time. There's a phenomenom well known in psychology circles called the "Flashed Face Distortion." If you look at a pair of flashed faces aligned at the eyeline, suddenly the rest of their features look grotesque. Attractive people now look cartoonish and scary.

There's a little bit of that in politics now too. Sadly, it's often the liberal ideas that only get those flashes of exposure. And correspondingly, they're perceived as distorted by the traditional media, who rarely get anything outside of their comfy conservative framing in which they're surrounded. But if you got to take a good, long uninterrupted look at any one of those ideas, I bet you wouldn't find them bizarre or scary at all, but beautiful and sensible and intelligent.

The question is how we get that opportunity for a good, long look.

ABC's "This Week" -- Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.; Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Republican strategist and ABC News political analyst and contributor Nicolle Wallace; and Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz. Author George Saunders

NBC's "Meet the Press" -- Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Panel: Democratic Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush now columnist for the Washington Post, Michael Gerson; GOP strategist Mike Murphy and the BBC's Katty Kay. NBC’s Michael Isikoff.

NBC's "The Chris Matthews Show" -- Joe Klein, TIME; David Ignatius, The Washington Post; Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times; Gloria Borger, CNN.

CBS' "Face the Nation" -- Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. Woodrow Wilson Center International Center for Scholars director Jane Harman, a former Democratic representative from California, Center for Strategic and International Studies expert Jim Lewis and CBS News Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent Bob Orr. The New York Times' David Leonhardt and The Washington Post's Kevin Merida.

MSNBC's "UP with Chris Hayes" -- Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize Winner and New York Times Op-Ed Columnist; Jeremy Scahill, National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine, author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army”; Richard Epstein, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, professor of law at New York University Law School; Greg Johnsen, author of “The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia.”; Heather McGhee, vice-president of Demos; Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project for the ACLU; Dean Baker, co-director Center for Economic & Policy Research, author of “The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive;” Alexis Goldstein, a former vice president of information technology at Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank, now an Occupy Wall Street activist.

MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry" -- Laura Flanders, Author of Blue Grit / Host & Founder of GritTV.org; Vicki DeFrancesco Soto, NBC Latino; Tara Wall, Writer and Founder, PTP Foundation for Media Arts; Richard Kim, Executive Editor at The Nation Magazine; Richard Kim, Executive Editor at The Nation Magazine; L.Y. Marlow, Domestic Violence Survivor and Advocate.

CNN's "State of the Union" -- Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Angus King, I-Maine; former Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D-Illinois); Kay Bailey Hutchison, former Republican Senator from Texas; Amy Walter, the National Editor of the Cook Political Report, and CNN National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta.

CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" -- New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, columnist Arianna Huffington, businessman Ed Conard, and Boston Properties co-founder Mort Zuckerman; India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani; the prime ministers of Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, the Palestinian Authority and Morocco's chief of government from Davos, Switzerland.
" _ Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Panel: Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard/Fox News Contributor; Liz Marlantes, The Christian Science Monitor; Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR); Juan Williams, Fox News Contributor.

So what's catching your eye this morning?

UK ‘must do more’ to prepare for solar superstorm

Britain must do more to prepare for a once-in-a-century "solar superstorm", according to experts. The Government is being urged by the Royal Academy of Engineering to set up a UK Space Weather Board to help cope with a massive radiation blast from the...

Drones: The Ultimate Stalkers

A hexacopter flown by Daniel Garate, an aerial photographer, during his demonstration at his home in Woodland Hills, Calif., Feb. 3, 2012. (Photo: J. Emilio Flores / The New York Times)A hexacopter flown by Daniel Garate, an aerial photographer, during his demonstration at his home in Woodland Hills, Calif., Feb. 3, 2012. (Photo: J. Emilio Flores / The New York Times)Imagine you’re being stalked from the sky. Every time you go in or out of any building, it’s recorded. Everybody you talk with. Everyplace you drive or take public transportation. Your sky-stalker can see through your windows, read your lips, and, using infrared cameras, can even see if you’ve lit a cigarette – of any type.

Shouldn’t this be illegal?

When Larisa Oleynik, star of “The Secret World of Alex Mack,” found she had a stalker, she got a restraining order. But if her stalker had been the police, and they were doing it with a drone, right now there are virtually no laws or regulations that would protect her. Or you.

Being concerned about such things is genuinely all-American.

You could say that our privacy concerns started with George Orwell (who, ironically, was British) and the publication of his book “1984,” but in reality the modern-day American concern about government snooping into our lives goes back before the American Revolution.

Thomas Jefferson, back before George Washington was president but after the Revolutionary War, was living in Paris and communicated in code with his protégé, James Madison, about their Federalist political enemies.

Jefferson did it again when he became President in 1801, developing an even more elaborate code to communicate with his most trusted aide, Meriwether Lewis. Their concern was which military officers, mostly leftovers from the John Adams administration, might be reading their mail or interrogating White House servants because those officers were thinking of pulling a military coup to overthrow the Jefferson administration.

The result was that Jefferson, on Lewis’s suggestion, fired two-thirds of all the commissioned officers and cut the size of the Army by over 80 percent.

Fast forward to today. Police helicopters, police trucks that can use infrared to see inside your house, and GPS units cops can attach to you car. In every case there’s a legitimate police use for these technologies, as well as an incredible potential for abuse.

The Fourth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights that Jefferson demanded Madison put into the Constitution as the price of getting Virginia’s ratification, is one sentence long. It says:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In other words, they can’t spy on you – on you, personally – unless they have enough proof to bring before a judge that you’re up to something that’s probably illegal.

In the case of the police helicopters, trucks, GPS units, and phone taps, to some extent both state governments, Congress, and the Supreme Court have brought their use into at least a marginal compliance with the Fourth Amendment.

Not so with drones. At least yet.

And that’s why the City of Charlottesville, Virginia – a stone’s throw from Thomas Jefferson’s home – did a beautiful thing this week in passing a resolution calling for a ban, for the moment, on drones in their skies.

The Rutherford Institute proposed the first draft of what ultimately became the resolution that was promoted by the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice. It included language that said:

WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and

“WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers…” there should be at two-year moratorium on using information obtained from them, or on weaponizing them.

As David Swanson notes in his blog on the CCPJ site, “without proper safeguards, these drones, some of which are deceptively small and capable of videotaping the facial expressions of people on the ground from hundreds of feet in the air, will usher in a new age of surveillance in American society. Not even those indoors, in the privacy of their homes, will be safe from these aerial spies, which can be equipped with technology capable of peering through walls.”

And that doesn’t even include the capability of these police drones to be weapon-equipped, from bullets to nerve gas. Or their ability to be hacked, or their data streams to be hijacked by malicious corporations, weird stalkers, or foreign governments.

Nobody is saying there’s no legitimate place for drones in police work in America. They’re a heck of a lot cheaper than the helicopter that famously followed OJ Simpson’s car, for example. At the most basic level, they’re just an extension of already-existing and already-used technology.

And yet, as with any new technology – think email, for example, or text-messages – we need to make sure it’s used in a way that complies with the Fourth Amendment and respects our individual rights to privacy.

And that’s why it’s way beyond time to have a national conversation about drones over US skies. With the help of the CCPJ, Charlottesville has taken a great first step in starting that national dialog. Oregon, for example, has started a similar debate, with legislation introduced by both Democrats and Republicans concerned about individual privacy rights.

Let’s all work for solid legislative restrictions on police use of these drones so that they help legitimate police work while respecting the Fourth Amendment privacy rights of us all.

Obama’s Flip-Flops on Money in Politics: A Brief History

Obama’s Flip-Flops on Money in Politics: A Brief History

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Posted on Feb 4, 2013
The White House/Pete Souza

By Justin Elliott, ProPublica

This piece first appeared on ProPublica.

When President Obama told supporters that he would morph his campaign into a new nonprofit that would accept unlimited corporate donations, the announcement set off a familiar round of griping from campaign finance reformers.

The creation this month of Organizing for Action, which will promote the president’s second-term agenda, appears to be the fourth reversal by Obama on major money-in-politics issues since 2008.

“No big bank or corporation will donate million-dollar checks to OFA without the expectation that it will impact which issues they engage on, and that’s very troubling,” said Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

The Washington Post noted that in reorganizing his campaign as a tax-exempt social welfare group, the president is embracing a structure that has been criticized for allowing anonymous money into politics.

Conservatives who’ve been attacked by the Obama camp for their reliance on such “dark money” groups called out the president’s “brazen hypocrisy.” Neither the White House nor Organizing for America responded to requests for comment.

Here’s a brief history of Obama’s other shifts on money-in-politics issues going back to 2008:

In November 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama pledged to take part in the presidential public financing system for the general election, calling himself “a longtime advocate for public financing of campaigns.” Under the system, created in the wake of Watergate, a candidate receives taxpayer money ($84 million in 2008) and cannot accept most private donations or spend beyond the amount of the government grant.

Less than a year later, in June 2008, Obama reversed himself and announced he was opting out of the system. He maintained he still supported the system in principle but said it should be reformed.

Obama became the first candidate to decline general election public financing since the creation of the system and went on to raise a then-record $745 million for the cycle. He outspent John McCain, who did accept public money, by four-to-one. Obama’s 2008 decision generally takes at least some of the blame from campaign finance observers for killing the system.

Neither Obama nor Mitt Romney accepted public financing in the 2012 race. The Obama campaign raised $782 million for the cycle.

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 2010 Citizens United decision, opening the way for the creation of super PACs financed with unlimited corporate or individual money, Obama became the ruling’s biggest critic.

“Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said in his State of the Union address a few days after the decision. “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”

That criticism turned into a pledge not to use the new funding vehicles. In July 2011, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told the Washington Post: “Neither the president nor his campaign staff or aides will fundraise for super PACs. Our campaign will continue to lead the way when it comes to transparency and reform.”

Seven months later, the campaign reversed itself and embraced a super PAC founded by former White House aides called Priorities USA Action. “[O]ur campaign has to face the reality of the law as it currently stands,” wrote campaign manager Jim Messina in a blog post.

With the blessing of the campaign, top Obama aides, such as then-Chief of Staff Jack Lew and confidantes like Rahm Emanuel, were dispatched to solicit super PAC donations from Democratic millionaires and billionaires. Priorities USA ultimately spent more than $60 million to help re-elect the president.

  • Inaugural festivities funding

After Obama’s victory in 2008, his inaugural committee abided by what it called “an unprecedented set of limitations on fundraising as part of President-elect Obama’s pledge to put the country on a new path.” That meant taking no corporate money and no individual contributions in excess of $50,000 to pay for the myriad parties and balls that end up costing tens of millions of dollars.

The second time around, Obama reversed the policy. The inaugural committee organizing this month’s inaugural festivities accepted corporate money and imposed no limits on giving. A spokesperson cited the need to “meet the fund-raising requirements for this civic event after the most expensive presidential campaign in history.”

  • Unlimited special interest spending

Just a few months ago, the Obama campaign sent me a memo on the president’s campaign finance record, highlighting his repeated denunciations of special interest money in politics.

“That’s one of the reasons I ran for President: because I believe so strongly that the voices of ordinary Americans were being drowned out by the clamor of a privileged few in Washington,” he said in May 2010, decrying the way Citizens United “gives corporations and other special interests the power to spend unlimited amounts of money — literally millions of dollars — to affect elections throughout our country.”

In 2012, the Obama campaign specifically called out social welfare, or 501(c)(4),  groups that spent hundreds of millions of dollars of anonymous money on political ads.

That’s why campaign finance reformers are so angry: Organizing for Action is a 501(c)(4) that will advocate for the president’s second-term agenda.

The group has said that despite its status, it will voluntarily disclose donors. But it’s not clear whether that will involve full, prompt disclosure of who is giving and how much, or simply providing a list of names at some point.

A spokeswoman for the new group told NBC this week the disclosure issue is “still being worked out.”

Unnamed Democratic officials have told media outlets that the group will take corporate money (though not donations from registered lobbyists). Indeed, at a meeting this month at the Newseum in Washington, Obama campaign aides pitched top Democratic donors, reported Politico, which obtained a ticket to the event.

The meeting was sponsored by a trade association founded by Fortune 100 companies, including UnitedHealthcare, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and Duke Energy.

Social welfare groups are formed to promote the common good and may be involved in politics. Under IRS rules, they are not supposed to be primarily engaged in campaigns.

It’s unclear whether Organizing for Action will get involved in electoral politics as other such nonprofits have in recent years. The group’s spokeswoman told NBC it will run “issue” ads to support Obama’s agenda — but that’s a category of political advocacy that has been open to wide interpretation.

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New Database Puts Patients Privacy at Risk

Privacy campaigners and medical groups have warned the confidentiality of NHS patients could be in jeopardy as GPs are forced to hand over patient records to a central database.

Nonprofit Spends Big on Politics Despite IRS Limitation: American Future Fund Has Conservative Roots

Last fall, a cadre of wealthy business executives and conservative groups tried to sell California voters on new campaign finance reforms.

Couched in lofty rhetoric about the importance of cutting off money from special interests to politicians and other regulations favored by reformers, their proposal sought to ban the practice of using payroll deductions for political expenditures — a popular method of union fundraising.

Once alerted to the true nature of Proposition 32, the unions and political left rose up against it.

An innocuously named nonprofit, the Iowa-based American Future Fund, proved to be one of the biggest backers of the initiative, sinking more than $4 million into the ballot measure that voters ultimately rejected.

As a “social welfare” organization, the American Future Fund is not required to publicly disclose its donors. But to maintain its tax-exempt status under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code, influencing elections cannot be its primary purpose.

The American Future Fund’s investment in California was part of a nationwide, political advertising spree in 2012 that exceeded $29 million, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of state and federal records.

That amount included more than $19 million on efforts designed to oust President Barack Obama, as well as millions more to oppose Democratic candidates for Congress and even two state attorneys general. Now the group is funding adsopposing Obama’s nomination of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for defense secretary.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens Uniteddecision in 2010, nonprofits such as the American Future Fund have played a more prominent role in electoral contests — all while giving their supporters the ability to keep their identities hidden. During the 2010 midterm elections, politically active nonprofits outspent super PACs, which exist to fund political advertisements, by a 3-to-2 margin.

The American Future Fund ranked third among “social welfare” nonprofits in spending in the 2012 federal election,according to the Center for Responsive Politics, trailing only the Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

There are also Democratic-aligned nonprofits, but their spending was well below that of their conservative counterparts. The top left-leaning nonprofit was the League of Conservation Voters, which reported spending about $11 million in the 2012 election opposing or supporting candidates.

The American Future Fund’s spending “raises some serious questions” and “evades any form of meaningful disclosure,” said Adam Rappaport, senior counsel with watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Numerous officials with the American Future Fund did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Advocating for ‘free-market ideas’

The American Future Fund’s mission is to “educate and advocate for conservative and free-market ideas,” according to its annual filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

Despite asserting that it isn’t primarily focused on elections, the nonprofit’s DNA is decidedly political.

Conservative political operative Nick Ryan, a longtime adviser to former GOP Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa, founded it in 2007. Over the years, the group has paid Ryan’s firm, Concordia Enterprises, hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for consulting services.

In 2010, the New York Times reported that Iowa businessman Bruce Rastetter provided an unspecified amount of “seed money” for the organization. Ryan once represented four of Rastetter’s companies as a lobbyist, including Hawkeye Energy Holdings, one of the country’s largest ethanol producers.

The nonprofit’s first president was Nicole Schlinger, the former finance director of Iowa’s Republican Party. Its current president is veteran Republican state Sen. Sandra Greiner, who served for 14 years as the Iowa chairwoman of the pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council.

Ryan and Greiner did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2008, when the American Future Fund was seeking — and ultimately garnered — tax-exempt status from the IRS, it pledged to abstain from electoral politics, saying it would spend 70 percent of its time doing work to “educate the public on policy issues” and 30 percent engaging in efforts to “influence legislation through grassroots advocacy.”

When asked on its application if the group had any plans to spend money to “influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment” of anyone seeking public office, it answered “no.” It also vowed to stay out of the presidential race.

When the IRS subsequently inquired why the group’s advertisements “appear to be more partisan than nonpartisan,” the group’s attorney, Karen Blackistone, wrote that the efforts were “strictly issued-based and nonpartisan.”

The group takes a position on issues and encourages the public to contact their representative, she wrote in a 2008 response to the IRS.

“AFF’s advertisements have never commented on a candidate’s character, qualifications or fitness for office,” she stated.

Big money tied to post office box

The American Future Fund has raised more than $60 million, with spikes in contributions coming in election years.

Much of that money has come from another conservative “social welfare” nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors by name — the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights.

The nonprofit has no website and lists its address as a post office box in Phoenix. It was launched in 2009 by Republican operative Sean Noble, who has extensive ties to the vast political network underwritten by the Koch brothers.

Noble, a former chief of staff for former Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

For three years running, Noble’s organization has reported making substantial grants to the American Future Fund for “general support,” according to IRS filings. The nonprofit contributed more than $14 million to the American Future Fund between 2009 and 2011, or 51 percent of funds the group raised over the three-year period.

The Center to Protect Patient Rights has also given millions of dollars to a network of conservative groups, including the Koch-backed nonprofit Americans for Prosperity, as was first reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.

In addition to Noble, there is another Koch connection.

In 2008, Trent Sebits, the former manager of public and government affairs for the Kochs’ Wichita-based refining giant, Koch Industries, registered with the state of Kansas to lobby on behalf of the American Future Fund and Americans for Prosperity. Sebits did not respond to a request for comment.

The American Justice Partnership, another “social welfare” nonprofit, gave $50,000 to the American Future Fund in 2011 and $2.4 million in 2010, according to IRS filings. The group supports free enterprise and is often at odds with trial lawyers.

Dan Pero, its president, said in an emailed statement that the organization supported the American Future Fund to help “promote free enterprise and improve the fairness and predictability of the legal environment.”

Like super PACs, “social welfare” nonprofits are allowed to accept unlimited donations from individuals, corporations, unions and other organizations. The only funders whose names they are required to publicly disclose are those that make contributions earmarked for political purposes.

That’s as it should be, according to attorney Dan Backer, who is not affiliated the American Future Fund but does work with other conservative groups.

“A nonprofit makes its decisions by a board or other management structure, which is distinct from its donors,” Backer said.

Increasingly political

In 2010, the American Future Fund became far more politically active, reporting $8.6 million in political expenditures as well as millions more for “media services,” “telecommunications” and “mail service/production.” It told the Federal Election Commission that it spent $9.1 million on political advertisements.

Marcus Owens, former chief of the IRS’s nonprofits division, said it is “difficult to conjure up a situation where a particular expenditure would be reportable to the FEC but would not constitute political campaign intervention under tax law.”

Nevertheless, Owens said the organization could make a “straight-faced argument” that its orientation had simply changed over time to become more overtly political.

Of the $25 million that the American Future Fund reported spending to the FEC last year, more than 90 percent fueled ads that urged voters to support or reject candidates.

The group also sought the FEC’s advice on whether mentioning the White House or “the administration” in negative ads ahead of Election Day would be seen as referring to a “clearly identified candidate for federal office.”

Such a designation would have required the group to disclose information about its donors. (The commission deadlocked, 3-3, in a vote along party lines.)

In addition to the presidential race, the American Future Fund spent money in 20 congressional elections in 2012, including California’s 26th Congressional District, where it spent $500,000 attacking Democrat Julia Brownley, who, as a state legislator, had authored legislation to bolster disclosure for political advertisements.

She won anyway, but told the Center for Public Integrity that she is “deeply concerned” about the activities of non-disclosing groups in the wake of Citizens United and hopes to “take immediate action” to strengthen federal disclosure laws.

The American Future Fund also spent more than $542,000 to aid West Virginia Republican Patrick Morrisey in his successful quest to win the race for attorney general, records indicate, and more than $620,000 in a failed effort to sink Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat.

Complaints about the American Future Fund’s political activities have followed it since its creation.

In 2008, the Democratic Party in Minnesota contended that the group needed to register as a political committee after paying for ads that praised then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. The FEC disagreed.

Two years later, in October 2010, consumer group Public Citizen and two other organizations alleged that the American Future Fund’s “huge expenditures” to aid candidates in the midterm election should have triggered requirements that the group register as a political committee and disclose its donors. That complaint is still being considered by the FEC, which often takes years to fully resolve such matters.

CREW, the watchdog organization, filed a complaint against the American Future Fund with the IRS in February 2011 that challenged whether its primary purpose was something other than influencing elections. The group has dismissed the complaint as “baseless” and contends that CREW “only targets government officials and organizations who have a differing or conservative point of view.

Obama’s Flip-Flops on Money in Politics: A Brief History

When President Obama told supporters that he would morph his campaign into a new nonprofit that would accept unlimited corporate donations, the announcement set off a familiar round of griping from campaign finance reformers.

President Obama at the Inaugural Ball on Jan. 21. In a reversal this year, the inaugural committee accepted corporate donations. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images) The creation this month of Organizing for Action, which will promote the president’s second-term agenda, appears to be the fourth reversal by Obama on major money-in-politics issues since 2008.

“No big bank or corporation will donate million-dollar checks to OFA without the expectation that it will impact which issues they engage on, and that’s very troubling,” said Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

The Washington Post noted that in reorganizing his campaign as a tax-exempt social welfare group, the president is embracing a structure that has been criticized for allowing anonymous money into politics.

Conservatives who’ve been attacked by the Obama camp for their reliance on such “dark money” groups called out the president’s “brazen hypocrisy.” Neither the White House nor Organizing for America responded to requests for comment.

Here’s a brief history of Obama’s other shifts on money-in-politics issues going back to 2008:

Public financing

In November 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama pledged to take part in the presidential public financing system for the general election, calling himself “a longtime advocate for public financing of campaigns.” Under the system, created in the wake of Watergate, a candidate receives taxpayer money ($84 million in 2008) and cannot accept most private donations or spend beyond the amount of the government grant.

Less than a year later, in June 2008, Obama reversed himself and announced he was opting out of the system. He maintained he still supported the system in principle but said it should be reformed.

Obama became the first candidate to decline general election public financing since the creation of the system and went on to raise a then-record $745 million for the cycle. He outspent John McCain, who did accept public money, by four-to-one. Obama’s 2008 decision generally takes at least some of the blame from campaign finance observers for killing the system.

Neither Obama nor Mitt Romney accepted public financing in the 2012 race. The Obama campaign raised $782 million for the cycle.

Super PACs

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 2010 Citizens United decision, opening the way for the creation of super PACs financed with unlimited corporate or individual money, Obama became the ruling’s biggest critic.

“Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said in his State of the Union address a few days after the decision. “I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”

That criticism turned into a pledge not to use the new funding vehicles. In July 2011, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told the Washington Post: “Neither the president nor his campaign staff or aides will fundraise for super PACs. Our campaign will continue to lead the way when it comes to transparency and reform.”

Seven months later, the campaign reversed itself and embraced a super PAC founded by former White House aides called Priorities USA Action. “[O]ur campaign has to face the reality of the law as it currently stands,” wrote campaign manager Jim Messina in a blog post.

With the blessing of the campaign, top Obama aides, such as then-Chief of Staff Jack Lew and confidantes like Rahm Emanuel, were dispatched to solicit super PAC donations from Democratic millionaires and billionaires. Priorities USA ultimately spent more than $60 million to help re-elect the president.

Inaugural festivities funding

After Obama’s victory in 2008, his inaugural committee abided by what it called “an unprecedented set of limitations on fundraising as part of President-elect Obama’s pledge to put the country on a new path.” That meant taking no corporate money and no individual contributions in excess of $50,000 to pay for the myriad parties and balls that end up costing tens of millions of dollars.

The second time around, Obama reversed the policy. The inaugural committee organizing this month’s inaugural festivities accepted corporate money and imposed no limits on giving. A spokesperson cited the need to “meet the fund-raising requirements for this civic event after the most expensive presidential campaign in history.”

Unlimited special interest spending

Just a few months ago, the Obama campaign sent me a memo on the president’s campaign finance record, highlighting his repeated denunciations of special interest money in politics.

“That’s one of the reasons I ran for President: because I believe so strongly that the voices of ordinary Americans were being drowned out by the clamor of a privileged few in Washington,” he said in May 2010, decrying the way Citizens United “gives corporations and other special interests the power to spend unlimited amounts of money — literally millions of dollars — to affect elections throughout our country.”

In 2012, the Obama campaign specifically called out social welfare, or 501(c)(4),  groups that spent hundreds of millions of dollars of anonymous money on political ads.

That’s why campaign finance reformers are so angry: Organizing for Action is a 501(c)(4) that will advocate for the president’s second-term agenda.

The group has said that despite its status, it will voluntarily disclose donors. But it’s not clear whether that will involve full, prompt disclosure of who is giving and how much, or simply providing a list of names at some point.

A spokeswoman for the new group told NBC this week the disclosure issue is “still being worked out.”

Unnamed Democratic officials have told media outlets that the group will take corporate money (though not donations from registered lobbyists). Indeed, at a meeting this month at the Newseum in Washington, Obama campaign aides pitched top Democratic donors, reported Politico, which obtained a ticket to the event.

The meeting was sponsored by a trade association founded by Fortune 100 companies, including UnitedHealthcare, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and Duke Energy.

Social welfare groups are formed to promote the common good and may be involved in politics. Under IRS rules, they are not supposed to be primarily engaged in campaigns.

It’s unclear whether Organizing for Action will get involved in electoral politics as other such nonprofits have in recent years. The group’s spokeswoman told NBC it will run “issue” ads to support Obama’s agenda — but that’s a category of political advocacy that has been open to wide interpretation.

Secret Donors Finance Fight Against Hagel

A brand new conservative group calling itself Americans for a Strong Defense and financed by anonymous donors is running advertisements urging Democratic senators in five states to vote against Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee to be secretary of...