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National Security Apparatus: The law is for you to obey, not for us to obey

Posted by Charles II on May 28, 2015

From Democracy Now:

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, ICWatch is a database of more than 27,000 profiles of people associated with the U.S. intelligence community or intelligence industry, so that includes people who work for government and people who work for private industry. It was created by a little journalism startup … called Transparency Toolkit. … This information was all originally … from LinkedIn, so these are CVs of people involved in various intelligence activities. By searching LinkedIn for key wor[d]s… say, Joint Priority Effects List, the assassination program in Afghanistan, these were scraped out and then linked together so you can easily see, for example, who claims that they had worked at the National Security Agency at some stage or on various code-worded projects that the National Security Agency uses.

JULIAN ASSANGE: [They faced death threats for] Indexing what was already public. An example of one of those death threats, from Washington, D.C., from a counterintelligence operative, who was also a former marine, saying that he would hunt them down and kill them no matter where they were in the world, and there’s no place in the world that they can hide.

JULIAN ASSANGE: … Now, I think this—it actually perfectly explains why the U.S. intelligence community must itself be scrutinized. What do we have in that statement? Murderous criminal arrogance…—and I should add one further point: and deeply incompetent […for a] a counterintelligence person […to] they themselves put that information on LinkedIn. They themselves are irritated about their own incompetence, to the degree where they get threatening to kill people involved with a journalism project.

That’s right: breach security by posting your claim to be a code-word program professional assassin onto LinkedIn and then get angry because someone notices. Please don’t give these people actual guns. They might hurt themselves.

And (ibid) in addition, a larger institutional hypocrisy, which could amount to a crime:

JULIAN ASSANGE:…So, the U.S. has kind of made a bit of a legal—the Pentagon has made a bit of a legal ruse in terms of how it describes these assassination lists. They always say it’s a kill/capture list. And this is to create some kind of ambiguity, which is you go in to capture them, but they resist, and then they’re killed. But, in fact…there’s no actual attempt to capture. And here we have evidence, confessions even… bragging on their CV about how they were involved in these programs to assassinate people.

So, when it comes down to the USG, they don’t have to obey the law. And this is nowhere more evident than in the persecution of Assange:

JULIAN ASSANGE:…There are some 500 information requests from the media and us, that have been blocked by the U.S. government, into what has been happening with WikiLeaks. And they’ve been blocked under the excuse that to release such information would be to help us resist the prosecution, and that they want to use that in the prosecution, and therefore they can’t release it to anyone. Now, the FBI has admitted that they have more than 42,135 pages just in the FBI file. There’s the DOJ file. There’s the grand jury file. And they’re not going to release a single sentence, not a single paragraph.

EPIC lost that case to get those documents, because the court accepted that to release any information about the WikiLeaks prosecution would affect the WikiLeaks prosecution, that we could use this to defend ourselves. And the argument used is quite incredible…. It is that …the court doesn’t have a right to, itself, make this determination [about what should be released and what restricted]

the government argues, “The court does not have a right to make this assessment. This is a question of a national security fact. Either it is a fact that the information held by the DOJ and held by the FBI would—about WikiLeaks, would affect national security or not. And it is the government that is best placed to determine this fact, not the court.” And so, in the judgment, the judge states that it is necessary to show, quote, “appropriate deference to the executive on matters of national security,” and therefore she is simply going to defer to the government’s claim without looking at the material at all.

If the Tea Party gave an actual d–n about overweening Executive actions, the Wikileaks case would be a central rallying point. The excuse of national security is being used to gut the power of the judiciary to oversee the Executive’s administration of the laws, pushing us quite close–since Congress is so ineffectual–to being a totalitarian state.

But just in case we didn’t get the point that our government is not just completely above the law, but totally incompetent,

the U.S. picked up a statement, a supportive statement made in Moscow by President Evo Morales, and appears to have picked up our codeword for the actual operation [to smuggle Edward Snowden to Latin America], and put two and two together and made 22, and then pressured France—successfully pressured France, Portugal and Spain to close their airspace to President Evo Morales’s jet in its flight from Moscow to the Canary Islands for refueling and then back to Bolivia. And as a result, it was forced to land in Vienna. And then, once in Vienna, there was pressure to search the plane.

So, it’s really a quite extraordinary situation that reveals the true nature of the relationship between Western Europe and the United States and what it claims are its values of human rights and asylum and the rights to asylum and so, and respecting the rule of law, the Vienna Convention. Just a phone call from U.S. intelligence was enough to close the airspace to a booked presidential flight, which has immunity. And they got it wrong.

The United States is a very powerful country. It does not have to get its way in everything, or suppress every bit of adverse publicity, or force every world leader to heel. By trying to do so, it–by which I mean the cabal inside the national security apparatus that is committing these abuses– shows how dangerous the government–by which I mean that cabal– itself has become.

And, on top of that, see how completely ineffectual it is at actually stopping terrorism, guarding secrets, or persuading other nations to join with us. How ashamed this nation’s Founders would be at what their dream has become.

Posted in abuse of power, NSA eavesdropping, totalitarianism, Wikileaks | 1 Comment »

MoJo Magazine: Baltimore Police Started the Riots

Posted by Charles II on April 29, 2015

Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin, Mother Jones:

A teacher at Douglass High School, who asked not to be identified, tells a similar story: “When school was winding down, many students were leaving early with their parents or of their own accord.” Those who didn’t depart early, she says, were stranded. Many of the students still at school at that point, she notes, wanted to get out of the area and avoid any Purge-like violence. Some were requesting rides home from teachers. But by now, it was difficult to leave the neighborhood. “I rode with another teacher home,” this teacher recalls, “and we had to route our travel around the police in riot gear blocking the road… The majority of my students thought what was going to happen was stupid or were frightened at the idea. Very few seemed to want to participate in ‘the purge.'”

Posted in abuse of power | Leave a Comment »

When even Lawrence Fink agrees that Wall Street has gone too far…

Posted by Charles II on April 24, 2015

Lawrence Fink, CEO of Blackrock, is one of the great pirates of our age. So, when even he is saying that executives are looting their companies and destroying the middle class, maybe someone will listen. Rex Nutting, Marketwatch:

There’s something seriously wrong with an economy that nurtures a few billionaires but can’t sustain the middle class.

Last week, the CEOs of America’s 500 biggest companies received a letter from Lawrence Fink, CEO of BlackRock BLK, +0.25% the largest asset manager in the world, saying exactly the same thing.

“The effects of the short-termist phenomenon are troubling both to those seeking to save for long-term goals such as retirement and for our broader economy,” Fink wrote, adding that favoring shareholders comes at the expense of investing in “innovation, skilled work forces or essential capital expenditures necessary to sustain long-term growth.”

In case you have forgotten who Larry Fink is, click here.

Posted in abuse of power, economy, stock market | 2 Comments »

ISIS’s treatment of women: Outsourced to Echidne

Posted by Charles II on April 20, 2015

Read ’em and weep:

Introduction

Part 1: The Rules for Sunni Muslim women

Part 2: Sexual Slavery and Rape of “Non-Believers”

Part 3: The Western Female IS Militants

Part 4: To be written when Echidne recovers from writing the preceding.

Posted in abuse of power, Conflict in the Middle East, evil, international | Leave a Comment »

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 | Comments Off on Bill O’Reilly, State Propagandist?

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 | Comments Off on Privacy is a human right

 
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