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Archive for the ‘abuse of power’ Category

General Strangelove and the lovely war in Ukraine

Posted by Charles II on March 7, 2015

Matthias Gebauer, Christiane Hoffmann, Marc Hujer, Gordon Repinski, Matthias Schepp, Christoph Schult, Holger Stark and Klaus Wiegrefe, Der Spiegel:

… The battles between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists had largely stopped and heavy weaponry was being withdrawn. The Minsk cease-fire wasn’t holding perfectly, but it was holding.

On that same day, General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, stepped before the press in Washington. Putin, the 59-year-old said, had once again “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine — with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” having been sent to the Donbass. “What is clear,” Breedlove said, “is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”

German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn’t understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn’t the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

The German government is alarmed. Are the Americans trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel? Sources in the Chancellery have referred to Breedlove’s comments as “dangerous propaganda.” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even found it necessary recently to bring up Breedlove’s comments with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.

The government in Berlin is concerned that Breedlove’s statements could harm the West’s credibility. The West can’t counter Russian propaganda with its own propaganda….
…Berlin sources also say that it has become conspicuous that Breedlove’s controversial statements are often made just as a step forward has been made in the difficult negotiations aimed at a political resolution.

Although President Obama has decided for the time being to give European diplomacy a chance, hawks like Breedlove or Victoria Nuland are doing what they can to pave the way for weapons deliveries. “We can fight against the Europeans, fight against them rhetorically,” Nuland said during a private meeting of American officials…

Nuland, who is seen as a possible secretary of state should the Republicans win back the White House in next year’s presidential election

So, we’re going to start World War III so Victoria Nuland can become the next Republican Secretary of State?

What is the Obama White House doing?

Posted in abuse of power, Russia, Ukraine | 2 Comments »

America’s black sites

Posted by Charles II on February 26, 2015

Most of our readers doubtless know that a police facility in Chicago has been designated as equivalent to a CIA black site. Suspects are disappeared to there and subjected to mild to moderate torture. The connection is police lieutenant Richard Zuley, who transferred his skills at harming human beings to Guantanamo. So, this post is mostly for the record. Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian:

The Guardian examined thousands of court documents from Chicago and interviewed two dozen people with experience at Guantánamo and in the Chicago criminal-justice system. The results of its investigation suggests a continuum between Guantánamo interrogation rooms and Chicago police precincts. Zuley’s detective work, particularly when visited on Chicago’s minority communities, contains a dark foreshadowing of the United States’ post-9/11 descent into torture.

When called up to active duty, Zuley, by his own telling, deployed for some attention-grabbing missions. He told a Chicago court in a mid-1990s murder case that he “took assignments with Naval intelligence” for four years after getting shot on the job in 1982: “I did counter terrorists work for them.”

A detective colleague, Ray Kaminski, testified in a 1997 murder trial that he understood Zuley was “somewhere in South America … working with the US Navy”.

Guantanamo was not optimized for gathering intelligence. Herrington bristled to see orange-jumpsuited detainees carried to wooden shacks by guards and shackled to the floor – techniques that reinforced the detainees’ anger at their confinement, undercutting the rapports Herrington advised would be critical for getting them to talk.

Guantánamo veterans said Zuley influenced and cultivated the patronage of Major General Geoffrey Miller, who later recommended that he wanted to ‘Gitmo-ize’ Abu Ghraib. Illustration: Nate Kitch for the Guardian

Into that dynamic stepped Zuley. Fallon remembered Zuley making an immediate impression on Major General Geoffrey Miller, who assumed command of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo in November 2002. Zuley had a reputation as “a big self-promoter,” Couch, the military prosecutor, recalled as well.

“From what I was told, General Miller thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Couch said. “Miller was amazed at the information he was getting. So apparently Zuley ratcheted up these techniques, with the backing of Miller, to go up the chain of command for approval.”

Chicago, in particular, has its own deep and infamous history with police torture, with black Chicagoans its primary victims.

The city’s police violence “was institutionalized,” said Tracy Siska, the executive director of the Chicago Justice Project – and continues, in different forms, to this day.

“Today’s interrogation rooms … the techniques are more sophisticated,” Siska told the Guardian. “It’s around sleep deprivation, around food deprivation, isolation, what you’d consider touchless torture, which is more effective and doesn’t leave any marks.”

Spencer Ackerman, Zach Stafford, Mark Guarino , and Oliver Laughland, The Guardian:

The US Department of Justice and embattled mayor Rahm Emanuel are under mounting pressure to investigate allegations of what one politician called “CIA or Gestapo tactics” at a secretive Chicago police facility exposed by the Guardian.

Politicians and civil-rights groups across the US expressed shock upon hearing descriptions of off-the-books interrogation at Homan Square, the Chicago warehouse that multiple lawyers and one shackled-up protester likened to a US counter-terrorist black site in a Guardian investigation published this week.

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that police in Chicago detain suspects at Homan Square without booking them, thereby preventing their relatives and lawyers from knowing their whereabouts, reminiscent in the eyes of some lawyers and civil-rights activists of a CIA black site.

Posted in abuse of power | 3 Comments »

First, do no harm

Posted by Charles II on February 25, 2015

Gregg Levine, Al-Jazeera:

Perhaps it will not come as a big surprise to learn that the highly trafficked, for-profit medical information site WebMD keeps track of your search terms and then makes some of the information available to third-party vendors. It’s kind of like what the term “for profit” means. But how about one of the other top hits for health-related searches, the Centers for Disease Control? That’s a non-profit government agency — they don’t provide information to marketing interests, right?

Wrong.

Just the thing we want for people who have medical conditions which may endanger the rest of us– a reason to fear that their privacy will be compromised. What is wrong with the CDC (not to mention Mayo and other for-profit sites of institutions that pretend to be engaged in the practice of medicine)?

Posted in abuse of power, science and medicine | 1 Comment »

Bill O’Reilly, State Propagandist?

Posted by Charles II on February 12, 2015

[Added: Our blogbrother, Hermano Juancito pointed out in comments that El Mozote was populated with evangelical Christians, who one would imagine the Salvadoran army troops would have regarded as neutrals, or at least not pro-rebel.]

The Nation has a fascinating little piece on whether Bill O’Reilly neglected to report on war crimes in Central America. Greg Grandin:

Before Bill O’Reilly was, well, Bill O’Reilly, he worked for a time as a foreign correspondent for CBS Nightly News, anchored by Dan Rather. O’Reilly talks about that period of his career in two of his books, and in both mentions that in early 1982 he reported from northeastern El Salvador, just after the infamous El Mozote Massacre. “When the CBS News bureau chief asked for volunteers to check out an alleged massacre in the dangerous Morazán Territory, a mountainous region bordering Nicaragua, I willingly went. [As one of the commenters at The Nation notes, El Salvador does not border Nicaragua]

The story of the massacre [at El Mozote, El Salvador] was broken on the front page of The New York Timesby the journalist Raymond Bonner and in The Washington Post by Alma Guillermoprieto; both stories were published on January 27, 1982, and accompanied by photographs taken by Susan Meiselas. Bonner and Meiselas got to El Mozote, after hearing about the massacre, by walking for days in from Honduras. Guillermoprieto wrote about seeing “countless bits of bones—skulls, rib cages, femurs, a spinal column” poking “out of the rubble.” Bonner noted the “charred skulls and bones of dozens of bodies buried under burned-out roofs, beams, and shattered tiles.” Later, Mark Danner reported on the massacre in detail, first in a lengthy New Yorker essay and then in a book.

Aside from the brutality of the killing, El Mozote is distinguished by the fact that Washington moved quickly to cover it up.

[In his reporting] O’Reilly doesn’t mention the massacre at El Mozote. He rather focuses on a supposed killing committed by leftist insurgents in nearby Meanguera (Meanguera, a municipal town center, is nine kilometers away from the hamlet of El Mozote). It is extremely unlikely that O’Reilly would not have known about the El Mozote massacre.

The question is: Did O’Reilly intentionally deflect away from a war crime that implicated Reagan’s Central American policy, or was the deflection a result of his ignorance and laziness?

The journalists who reported the truth got punished. The politicians and journalists who lied got promoted. Is there a connection between O’Reilly’s rise and his willingness to close his eyes to the massacre of hundreds of civilians and the rape of girls as young as 10?

I wish I knew.

Posted in abuse of power, Fox Noise | Leave a Comment »

Megalomaniacs Anonymous

Posted by Charles II on February 11, 2015

The world press delights in psychoanalyzing Vladimir Putin. Adam Taylor, Washington Post:

Just last week, we learned of a 2008 Pentagon study that concluded the Russian president’s “neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy” and that Putin probably had Aspergers. He’s also been called a narcissist, diagnosed with “pleonexia” (the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others), and simply been accused of being a “thug.”

Personally, I think anyone who wants the kind of power that most national leaders have is a bit cracked. Ronald Reagan liberated concentration camps he was never near. LBJ liked talking to aides, allies and reporters while he was taking a dump. And, of course, Nixon (“when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal”)

If those represent megalomania, what to make of this?

Israel’s most prestigious award, the Israel prize, has been plunged into controversy after the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, intervened to remove three prominent judges of whose politics he disapproves.

Netanyahu has been accused of declaring war on the country’s intellectual life, and a series of judges – including the entire literature panel – and candidates for the award’s different fields have resigned or withdrawn their candidacy amid fears that this year’s literature prize may not take place.

Set up to award excellence in the arts, science and broader cultural and social contributions, the Israel prize is one of the country’s most venerable intellectual institutions. Inaugurated in 1953, it is handed out on Israel’s Independence Day with a $20,000 award in each category.

Maybe presidents and prime ministers should form a Megalomaniacs Anonymous chapter.

Posted in abuse of power | 3 Comments »

Privacy is a human right

Posted by Charles II on February 6, 2015

The Administration has been arguing that mass surveillance is both legal and constitutional. But, thanks to the efforts of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, an understanding emerged in the world that neither our law nor our Constitution are supreme. Rather, they are manifestations of a higher law that recognizes human rights as whatever conditions are necessary for human beings to thrive. This is expressed in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads in part:

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Now a court in the U.K. has concluded that spying by GCHQ in collaboration with NSA was illegal. Owen Bowcott, The Guardian:

The regime that governs the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk was unlawful until last year, a secretive UK tribunal has ruled.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) declared on Friday that regulations covering access by Britain’s GCHQ to emails and phone records intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights law.

An “order” posted on the IPT’s website early on Friday declared: “The regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10” of the European convention on human rights.

Article 8 relates to the right to private and family life; article 10 refers to freedom of expression.

It is long past time for Americans to assert their human rights, including the right to simply be left alone. This ruling only begins the work of unraveling what amounts to an “intelligence” regime that intrudes into every moment of every person’s life.

Posted in abuse of power, NSA | Leave a Comment »

Bill Clinton furthers America’s interests

Posted by Charles II on January 24, 2015

Jake Johnston, The Nation:

And so, the big question five years later remains: “Where did the money go?” The funds pledged were enough to hand every single Haitian a check for $1,000. Yet compared to the lofty expectations, the internationally led reconstruction process has been a failure. To answer the question, you have to forget the notion that foreign aid is simply an altruistic endeavor to better the lives of those in need.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has spent more than $1.5 billion in Haiti, explains its goal as “furthering America’s interests.” In a more candid assessment, contained in a document now over a decade old and no longer publicly available, USAID explained that “the principal beneficiary of America’s foreign assistance programs has always been the United States.” Evidence from Haiti backs this up. For every $1 that USAID has spent, less than one penny went directly to Haitian organizations, be it the Haitian government or in Haiti’s private sector. More than 50 cents went to Beltway firms—handling everything from housing construction, rubble removal, health services, security and more—located in DC, Maryland and Virginia.

When I submitted a FOIA request for more specific information about Chemonics’s work in Haiti, every document I received was heavily redacted. USAID explained that to “release the information…could willfully stir up false allegations…and cause strife within the target communities…

Nathalie Baptiste, The Nation:

With President Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly and members of the opposition proving unable to organize parliamentary elections, the political gridlock that has been plaguing Haiti for over three years has turned into a full-fledged crisis as the country’s legislature has dissolved—leaving a de facto dictator in charge.

The American viceroy in Haiti was (is?) Bill Clinton. And he has participated in doing all this harm in the name of doing good.

Posted in abuse of power, wrong way to go about it | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The fight against corruption is the fight for the soul of our democratic republic

Posted by Charles II on January 11, 2015

In which I hold forth about corruption, the central role of fighting corruption in the writing of the Constitution, and the intellectual background for that as developed by Zephyr Teachout, former gubernatorial candidate. See here.

I think I have been talking for almost 20 years about why the real fight is not so much left vs. right as corrupt vs. anti-corrupt. Glad Teachout did the serious research to show that this is actually in the minutes of the Constitutional Convention.

Posted in abuse of power, corruption | 4 Comments »

Impeach them all

Posted by Charles II on December 29, 2014

Erwin Chemerinsky had a brilliant presentation on his book, “The Case Against the Supreme Court”. Watch or read if you can.

Posted in abuse of power, judiciary, Supreme Court | Comments Off

For those cheering N. Korea’s internet going down…

Posted by Charles II on December 23, 2014

They probably didn’t do the Sony hack. Also, the hackers who brought N. Korea down were probably black hats not affiliated with the U.S. government. See my post on Daily Kos.

I know, I know. This isn’t news. Internet sites like Wired and Ars Technica have been skeptical all along. So have I, but the absence of evidence at this point is really starting to look like evidence of absence of any sense at all in the US government.

Posted in abuse of power, computers and software, international | 2 Comments »

 
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