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The NSA Deserves a Permanent Shutdown

By Norman Solomon

To the people in control of the Executive Branch, violating our civil liberties is an essential government service. So -- to ensure total fulfillment of Big Brother’s vast responsibilities -- the National Security Agency is insulated from any fiscal disruption.

The NSA’s surveillance programs are exempt from a government shutdown. With typical understatement, an unnamed official told The Hill that “a shutdown would be unlikely to affect core NSA operations.”

At the top of the federal government, even a brief shutdown of “core NSA operations” is unthinkable. But at the grassroots, a permanent shutdown of the NSA should be more than thinkable; we should strive to make it achievable.

NSA documents, revealed by intrepid whistleblower Edward Snowden, make clear what’s at stake. In a word: democracy.

Wielded under the authority of the president, the NSA is the main surveillance tool of the U.S. government. For a dozen years, it has functioned to wreck our civil liberties. It’s a tool that should not exist.

In this century, the institutional momentum of the NSA -- now fueled by a $10.8 billion annual budget -- has been moving so fast in such a wrong direction that the agency seems unsalvageable from the standpoint of civil liberties. Its core is lethal to democracy.

A big step toward shutting down the National Security Agency would be to mobilize political pressure for closure of the new NSA complex that has been under construction in Bluffdale, Utah: a gargantuan repository for ostensibly private communications.

During a PBS “NewsHour” interview that aired on August 1, NSA whistleblower William Binney pointed out that the Bluffdale facility has a “massive amount of storage that could store all these recordings and all the data being passed along the fiberoptic networks of the world.” He added: “I mean, you could store 100 years of the world’s communications here. That's for content storage. That's not for metadata.”

The NSA’s vacuum-cleaner collection of metadata is highly intrusive, providing government snoops with vast information about people’s lives. That’s bad enough. But the NSA, using the latest digital technology, is able to squirrel away the content of telephone, e-mail and text communications -- in effect, “TiVo-ing” it all, available for later retrieval.

“Metadata, if you were doing it and putting it into the systems we built, you could do it in a 12-by-20-foot room for the world,” Binney explained. “That’s all the space you need. You don’t need 100,000 square feet of space that they have in Bluffdale to do that. You need that kind of storage for content.”

Already the NSA’s Bluffdale complex in a remote area of Utah -- seven times the size of the Pentagon -- is serving as an archive repository for humungous quantities of “private” conversations that the agency has recorded and digitized.

Organizing sufficient political power to shut down the entire National Security Agency may or may not be possible. But in any event, we should demand closure of the agency’s mega-Orwellian center in BluffdaleIf you’d like to e-mail that message to your senators and representative in Congress, click here.

“The U.S. government has gone further than any previous government … in setting up machinery that satisfies certain tendencies that are in the genetic code of totalitarianism,” Jonathan Schell wrote in The Nation as this fall began. “One is the ambition to invade personal privacy without check or possibility of individual protection. This was impossible in the era of mere phone wiretapping, before the recent explosion of electronic communications -- before the cellphones that disclose the whereabouts of their owners, the personal computers with their masses of personal data and easily penetrated defenses, the e-mails that flow through readily tapped cables and servers, the biometrics, the street-corner surveillance cameras.”

“But now,” Schell continued, “to borrow the name of an intelligence program from the Bush years, ‘Total Information Awareness’ is technologically within reach. The Bush and Obama administrations have taken giant strides in this direction.”

Those giant strides have stomped all over the Fourth Amendment, leaving it gasping for oxygen. That amendment now reads like a profound articulation of opposition to present-day government surveillance -- a declaration of principle that balks at the lockstep of perpetual war mentality and rote surrender of precious civil liberties. To acceptance of the NSA and what it stands for, we must say and say and say: No way. No way. No way.

 

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

‘Freedom’s just another word...’ The Police State of America

By Dave Lindorff


I no longer recognize my country.

Back in 1997, after two years living in China, and five more living in Hong Kong, during which time, as a correspondent for Business Week magazine, I slipped in and out of China regularly as a journalist to report on developments there, I got a good dose of life in a totalitarian society. When I alit from the plane in Philadelphia where my family and I were about to start a new chapter of our lives, I remember feeling like a big weight had been lifted off my chest.

Cooking the Intelligence for War on Syria

 

Cooking the Intelligence for War on Syria

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

All wars are based on lies. Truth is the ally of peace. It's the enemy of war. History repeats with disturbing regularity. It's doing so writ large now.

 

It bears eerie resemblance to events preceding Bush's Iraq war. Pretexts are needed to sell wars. When none exist they're invented.

 

Of Principalities and Powers ~ “Those Crazy Conspiracy Theories"

  The routine never varies here, so I was startled when there was a knock, followed immediately by a key turning in the door.  “It’s not time for breakfast yet,” I told Henry, the massive attendant.

 

“Get dressed anyway,” he told me.  “The Director wants you in his office in fifteen minutes.”

 

America’s assault on a free press moves into high gear: Detention of Greenwald Partner in London Clearly Came on US Orders

By Dave Lindorff


It is becoming perfectly clear that the outrageous detention of American journalist Glenn Greenwald’s Brazilian partner David Miranda by British police during a flight transfer at London’s Heathrow Airport was, behind the scenes, the work of US intelligence authorities.


Oiling the War Machinery, From Oslo to Heathrow to Washington

By Norman Solomon

In Oslo, the world’s most important peace prize has been hijacked for war.

In London, government authority has just fired a new shot at freedom of the press.

And in Washington, the Obama administration continues to escalate its attacks on whistleblowers, journalism and civil liberties.

As a nation at peace becomes a fading memory, so does privacy. Commitments to idealism -- seeking real alternatives to war and upholding democratic values -- are under constant assault from the peaks of power.

Normalizing endless war and shameless surveillance, Uncle Sam and Big Brother are no longer just close. They’re the same, with a vast global reach.

Last week, I met with the Research Director of the Nobel Committee at its headquarters in Oslo. We sat at one end of a long polished conference table, next to boxes of petitions signed by 100,000 people urging that the Nobel Peace Prize go to Bradley Manning.

The Nobel official, Asle Toje, remained polite but frosty when I urged -- as I had two hours earlier at a news conference -- that the Nobel Committee show independence from the U.S. government by awarding the Peace Prize to Manning. Four years after the prize went to President Obama, his leadership for perpetual war is incontrovertible -- while Manning’s brave whistleblowing for peace is inspiring.

In recent times, I pointed out, the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to some dissenters who were anathema to their governments’ leaders -- but not to any recipient who profoundly displeased the U.S. government. Toje responded by mentioning Martin Luther King Jr., a rejoinder that struck me as odd; King received the prize 49 years ago, and more than two years passed after then until, in April 1967, he angered the White House with his first full-throated denunciation of the Vietnam War.

I motioned to the stacks of the petition, which has included personal comments from tens of thousands of signers -- reflecting deep distrust of the present-day Nobel Peace Prize, especially after Obama won it in 2009 while massively escalating the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.

We were in the grand and ornate building that has housed the Nobel Committee for more than a hundred years. Outside, a bust of Alfred Nobel graces the front entrance, and just across a small traffic circle is the U.S. Embassy, an imposing dark gray presence with several stories, hundreds of windows on each of its three sides and plenty of electronic gear on its roof. (That intersection is widely understood to be a base for American surveillance operations.) More than ever in recent years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee building’s physical proximity to the U.S. Embassy is an apt metaphor for its political alignment.

Over the weekend, the British government showed more toxic aspects of its “special relationship” with the U.S. government. As the Guardian reported, “The partner of the Guardian journalist who has written a series of stories revealing mass surveillance programs by the U.S. National Security Agency was held for almost nine hours on Sunday by UK authorities as he passed through London’s Heathrow Airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro.” David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, “was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. … Miranda was released, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and game consoles.”

Assaulting press freedom is part of a comprehensive agenda that President Obama is now pursuing more flagrantly than ever. From seizing phone records of AP reporters to spying on a Fox News reporter to successfully fighting for a federal court decision to compel reporter James Risen to reveal his source for a New York Times story, Obama’s war on journalism is serving executive impunity -- for surveillance that fundamentally violates the Fourth Amendment and for perpetual war that, by force of arms and force of example, pushes the world into further bloody chaos.

The destructive effects of these policies are countless. And along the way, for the Nobel Committee, more than ever, war is peace. Across the globe, aligned with and/or intimidated by official Washington, many governments are enablers of an American warfare/surveillance multinational state. And in Washington, at the top of the government, when it comes to civil liberties and war and so much more, the moral compass has gone due south.

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information on the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

Spy on Me, I'm Innocent!

You've heard people say they want to be spied on, as long as it means that other people will be spied on too.  I know you've heard people say this, and which people it was, and how your face looked when you heard it, and what your next telephone call was.  Or, rather, I could know all of that if I were one of the thousands and thousands of low-level snoops it will take for our government to accomplish its surveillance goals.

The logic is completely flawed, however.  As FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley remarks, if you're looking for a needle in a haystack, adding more hay doesn't help.  It makes you less likely to find the needle.  A government that sucks up ever vaster quantities of useless information on innocent people actually hurts its own ability to investigate crimes.  And the imagined intimidating effect of things like surveillance cameras in public spaces doesn't actually reduce crime; it merely makes us think of each other as potential criminals.

On top of that, the over-investigation leads to all sorts of harm to innocent people that was completely avoidable: wrongful prosecutions and imprisonments, deaths and injuries during unnecessary confrontations, and disastrous cultural and legal changes.  Once everyone has become a suspect, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant.  Once activists are targeted for surveillance and suspicion, many become reluctant to engage in activism -- which, believe it or not, leads to corruption and tyranny.

It's also possible to be wrong about one's innocence.  There are over 5,000 federal crimes on the books, plus 300,000 regulatory crimes, plus regulations, plus state crimes.  Almost everyone is certainly guilty of something or easily made to appear guilty of something. 

All of these points become clearer, I think, when one learns, not just what could happen in the near future, but what is happening right now in the nature of abuses often considered futuristic or dystopian.  A great place -- maybe the best place -- to start is John Whitehead's new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.

This book captures the stories of slowly growing abuse and suppression, and collects them in sufficient mass to shock readers out of their complacency.  Have police pulled you over and done cavity searches yet?  They have to others.  Have they forcibly drawn your blood to check for alcohol?  Have they stopped you on a sidewalk and patted you down?  Some  things you simply don't know whether they've done: have they scanned your pockets, bags, and clothing as you passed?  Have they filmed you with a drone and stored the information, allowing a retroactive search of where you were when, should the need arise?  Have they tracked you via your cell phone or your license plate?  Do they know your web browsing history and the content of your emails?  Have they entered your home and searched it while you were out?  These actions are all "legal," even if unconstitutional. 

Some abuses you can't help being aware of when they happen to you or someone you know.  Tens of thousands have been arrested and committed to mental institutions.  Local police have been militarized.  Uniquely in the world, the U.S. military "donates" its weapons to local police forces.  With the weaponry comes a militarization of uniforms, language, training, tactics, and thought.  Over 50,000 no-knock SWAT-team-style police raids are carried out annually in the United States.  Noticing this doesn't make us paranoid.  It exposes the paranoia of the police, who see an enemy in every member of the public. 

"There was a time," Whitehead notes, "when communities would have been up in arms over a botched SWAT team raid resulting in the loss of innocent lives.  Unfortunately, today, we are increasingly being conditioned by both the media and the government to accept the use of SWAT teams by law enforcement agencies for routine drug policing and the high incidence of error-related casualties that accompanies these raids."  Whitehead details some of the specific tragedies. 

Combine police that have been militarized with a public that has been armed, and you get stories like this one: "[A]n 88-year-old African-American woman was shot and killed in 2006 when policemen barged unannounced into her home, reportedly in search of cocaine.  Police officers broke down Kathryn Johnstone's door while serving a 'no-knock' warrant to search her home on a run-down Atlanta street known for drugs and crime, prompting the woman to fire at what she believed to be the 'intruders' in self-defense.  The officers returned fire, killing the octogenarian.  No cocaine was found."

If only someone had had a gun!

According to Amnesty International, 90% of those killed by police tasers were unarmed when tasered.  But when people are armed, they aren't just tasered; instead they have dozens of bullets pumped into them. 

Drones, in Whitehead's view, open up a whole new level of militarization.  As tear gas, tasers, sound cannons, assault vehicles, and other military weapons were passed on to police, so too are drones being domesticated.  The reckless killing and blanket spying that will follow pale in relation to some of the suicidal stupidities the military has planned, such as nuclear-powered drones and drones carrying nuclear weapons. 

It's not too late to push back, assuming we come to understand the desirability and necessity of doing so.

Obama Wants U.S. “Comfortable” with Vast Surveillance

by Debra Sweet        Barack Obama pulled out the “we’re not Big Brother” line again Friday in the ongoing to effort to bamboozle people alarmed about the vast National Security Agency surveillance of whole populations exposed by Edward Snowden.  The important thing to him is not that the surveillance is curtailed, but that you feel comfortable with it.

Confronting the latest attack on our privacy and freedom: Lavabit's Profile in Corporate Principles and Personal Courage

By Alfredo Lopez


The term "collateral damage" is most frequently applied to the "non-targeted" death and destruction brought by bombs and guns. But it seems that our government, the master of collateral damage, is now doing it in "non-violent" ways. Take the recent situation at Lavabit.

ARMY ESTABLISHES INSIDER THREAT PROGRAM

Secrecy News Blog:  http://blogs.fas.org/secrecy/

On July 30, a military judge found Army Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty of multiple violations of the Espionage Act and other laws because of his unauthorized disclosure of restricted government records to the WikiLeaks website.

On July 31, the Secretary of the Army formally established the Army Insider Threat Program. Remarkably, this is still a pending initiative rather than an accomplished fact.

The program "will ensure the security and safety of Army computer networks by establishing an integrated capability to monitor and audit user activity across all domains to detect and mitigate activity indicative of insider threat behavior," wrote Army Secretary John M. McHugh in Army Directive 2013-18.

The directive requires development and implementation of "a technical capability to monitor user activity on the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network" used by Manning as well as on the Joint World Intelligence Communication System.

In order to facilitate the identification of insider threats, the directive authorizes the sharing of counterintelligence and a variety of other sensitive information, including personal medical information.  ("The Surgeon General will provide information from medical sources, consistent with privacy laws and regulations, to authorized personnel to help them recognize the presence of an insider threat.")

The new Army directive was issued in response to a November 21, 2012 Obama White House memorandum on "National Insider Threat Policy and Minimum Standards for Executive Branch Insider Threat Programs."

Some government insider threat programs go beyond encouraging sensible security practices, and seem to promote free-ranging suspicion in the workplace.

A slide prepared by the Defense Information Systems Agency for an online training module on insider threats suggests that an employee who "speaks openly of unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy" may represent a risk.  (The only thing more troubling might be someone who speaks openly of happiness with U.S. foreign policy.)  See "Unhappy With U.S. Foreign Policy? Pentagon Says You Might Be A 'High Threat'" by Matt Sledge, Huffington Post, August 7.

On June 21, 2013 the Director of National Intelligence issued Intelligence Community Directive 703 on "Protection of Classified National Intelligence, Including Sensitive Compartmented Information."

The directive summarizes and re-states classified information security policy, including little-known facts such as: "The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provides SCI access determinations and Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) accreditation for the legislative and judicial branches of the U.S. Government."


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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

Is America playing its last card?: Pissing Off Friends is a Doomed Strategy

By Dave Lindorff


Like an obnoxious drunk harassing everyone and spilling drinks at a party, the US has continued to make itself both loathed and laughed at in the wake of the revelations about the National Security Agency’s global spying program as revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. 


The Secret Court: Is it Constitutional?

By Christopher H. Pyle

Americans are just beginning to discover that a secret court has been quietly erasing their constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. They are also learning that this court is made up primarily of conservative  activists from the Republican Party who have no respect for the original intent of the Constitution’s framers.
 
With the blessing of this secret court, the National Security Agency (and well-paid companies like Booz Allen) have recorded billions of phone calls and e-mails belonging to nearly all Americans, with the intent of searching them later. 
 
Under the Fourth Amendment, the NSA and its contractors are supposed to obtain specific judicial authority before seizing anyone’s communications. But, where NSA’s spying is concerned, no judicial warrants based on probable cause and authorizing targeted searches are required. Quite the contrary. The secret  “warrant” that Edward Snowden disclosed permits bulk seizures and subsequent searches without probable cause to believe that the targets of these computer searches are terrorists, criminals, or foreign agents. It is the very sort of general warrant that triggered the American Revolution and inspired the Fourth Amendment.
 
When the secret court was created in 1978, it was meant to authorize targeted searches, but sometime around 2004 it began, in secret, to issue general warrants for bulk seizures of communications. And it secretly coerced telephone companies and Internet servers to betray their customers’ privacy, without telling them.
 
According to Snowden, the agency’s analysts can use their super-computers to search anyone’s records within these vast caches at their own discretion. The government denies this, but then, it has a long history of lying about its intelligence activities. 
 
They say we shouldn’t worry about these secret searches because the government never does anything wrong. But officials can use the results of these searches to punish their critics or intimidate employees and reporters from blowing the whistle on government waste, fraud, law-breaking, kidnapping, torture, cruel detentions, or the killing of citizens by drone in foreign lands. Embarrassing information can also be used to destroy the reputations of whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg and anti-Wall Street politicians like New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.
 
All this is perfectly legal, Obama’s lawyers say, because a secret court says it is. But the judicial power of the United States only extends to cases and controversies arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States. Are general warrants secretly issued in one-sided hearings the kind of “cases” that the framers had in mind? Did they intend to vest the judicial power in a secret court that only listens to the government and never gives the people any opportunity to challenge its decisions?

Our legal system presupposes that every “case” must be decided according to legal doctrines publicly laid down in similar cases in the past. That is what a system of legal precedent means. Nothing in the Constitution says that a secret court may lay down secret law, or make ad hoc decisions overriding constitutional rights, without letting the people to know their reasoning. That is not the system we inherited from the British, who abolished their last secret court -- the infamous Star Chamber -- in 1641. 
 
National security courts like the Star Chamber are always a threat to freedom because, like war itself, they are based in the assumption that the end of security justifies almost any means. Our Constitution is based on the principle that means and ends must both be justifiable before the government may compromise our liberties, and that politicians and secret agents may not hide their wrongdoing behind layers of secrecy. 
 
Unfortunately, our government, with the help of the secret FISA court, has strayed far from that principle. It’s time to abolish that court before it is asked to endorse even worse abominations, like issuing death warrants for the murder of citizens whom the administration wants to kill.
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Professor Pyle teaches constitutional law at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. He is the author of several books, including Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics and Getting Away with Torture. In 1970 he disclosed the Army’s massive surveillance of civilian politics and worked for three congressional committees, including Senator Church’s intelligence committee, to end it.

Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden: Whistleblowers as Modern Tricksters

By John Grant


Every generation occupies itself with interpreting Trickster anew.

                      -Paul Radin

 

War and Whistleblowers - Why Bradley Manning Should be Free



Stop the War bulletin | stopwar.org.uk

Public Meeting Friday 9 August
War and Whistleblowers - Why Bradley Manning Should be Free

Bradley Manning faces a prison sentence of up to 136 years after being found guilty of 20 charges for revealing the war crimes carried out in our name. This public meeting, with speakers including Tariq Ali, Peter Tatchell, and Norman Solomon from the USA, will discuss the courage and sacrifice of truth-tellers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, who have exposed how the secret state wages perpetual war behind our backs. How can we protect whistleblowers from persecution by war-addicted governments? How can we campaign for the freedom of Bradley Manning?

War and Whistleblowers - Why Bradley Manning Should be Free
Friday 9 August 7pm
Hilda Porter Room, TheWesley
81-103 Euston Street London NW1 2EZ

(2 minute walk from Euston Station)
For updates see: http://bit.ly/19ztF9N

Speakers:
Tariq Ali writer and activist, Peter Tatchell human rights campaigner
Norman Solomon US author and activist, Kate Hudson CND
Chris Nineham Stop the War Coalition


Norman Solomon, will speak at the meeting on his way from the USA to present to the Nobel committee in Oslo a petition with over 100,000 names calling for Bradley Manning to be awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Read more:
• Norman Solomon: Why Bradley Manning deserves the Nobel Peace Prize http://bit.ly/13vmjNi
• Owen Jones: What would be the ultimate show of gratitude to Bradley Manning? http://bit.ly/15uKa2U
• John Pilger: We have all been made witnesses to crimes against humanity" http://bit.ly/12Xs5gn
• Gary Younge: If Bradley Manning is an enemy of the state then so too is truth http://bit.ly/15wKpKr


Stop the War Coalition | office@stopwar.org.uk | 020 7561 4830

Holder promises Russia not to torture Snowden: A Shameful Day to Be a US Citizen

By Dave Lindorff


I have been deeply ashamed of my country a number of times. The Nixon Christmas bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong was one such time, when hospitals, schools and dikes were targeted. The invasion of Iraq was another. Washington’s silence over the fatal Israeli Commando raid on the Gaza Peace Flotilla--in which a 19-year-old unarmed American boy was murdered--was a third.  But I think I have never been as ashamed and disgusted as I was today reading that US Attorney General Eric Holder had sent a letter to the Russian minister of justice saying that the US would “not seek the death penalty” in its espionage case against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, promising that even if the US later brought added charges against Snowden after obtaining him, they would not include any death penalty, and vowing that if Snowden were handed over by Russia to the US, he would “not be tortured.”


So it has come to this: That the United States has to promise (to Russia!) that it will not torture a prisoner in its control -- a US citizen at that -- and so therefore that person, Edward Snowden, has no basis for claiming that he should be “treated as a refugee or granted asylum.”


Why does Holder have to make these pathetic representations to his counterpart in Russia? 


Because Snowden has applied for asylum saying that he is at risk of turture or execution if returned to the US to face charges for leaking documents showing that the US government is massively violating the civil liberties and privacy of every American by monitoring every American’s electronic communications.


Snowden has made that claim in seeking asylum because he knows that another whistleblower, Pvt. Bradley Manning, was in fact tortured by the US for months, and held without trial in solitary confinement for over a year before being finally put on trial in a kangaroo court, where the judge is as much prosecutor as jurist, and where his guilt was declared in advance by the President of the United States -- the same president who has also already publicly declared Snowden guilty too...


For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF inThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent three-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper, please go to:www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1888

Review: The Terminal (2013)

 This summer’s blockbuster is a remake of Steven Spielberg’s 2004 romantic comedy The Terminal.  The main figure in the earlier film, Viktor--played somewhat awkwardly by Tom Hanks, affecting a nondescript all-purpose Eastern European accent--is trying to immigrate to New York.  He becomes stranded in Kennedy Airport, however, when his home country suddenly undergoes a violent coup and no longer officially exists.  

In this 2013 remake, director Glenn Greenwald reverses the East-West aspects of the earlier plot and blends the Spielberg film’s storyline with elements of the 1998 Will Smith/Gene Hackman  action flick Enemy of the State.  Result: instead of a comedy we now have an international thriller.  Edward Snowden plays a former U.S. spy agency contractor who is stranded in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after he reveals that an invisible coup has occurred in the United States, and the US government is no longer what its citizens think it is.

 

The thread connecting the two films is that both central figures--Viktor and Edward--are so honest, straightforward, and devoid of hidden motives that their simplest words and acts make the officials trying to deal with them look bad by contrast.  When the officials continue to operate as rule-bound, duplicitous, and sometimes vindictive servants of the institution, we become appalled by both the bureaucracies they serve and their own limited moral imaginations.

Two different stories linked by one scary trend: Track and Truth: Manning and the "Other" Surveillance System

By Alfredo Lopez


The tumble of revelations and developments involving the Internet has produced a pastiche of truths that, when examined closely, show links between what might usually be considered separate news stories.

Just for Sissies: US Flaunts the Rule of Law while Demanding that other Countries Honor It

By Dave Lindorff 


Ah, the rule of law. How often we hear our government leaders angrily demand that the rest of the world adhere to this sacred stricture, most recently as it demands that countries -- even countries with which the US has signed no extradition treaty like Russia or China -- honor the US charges leveled against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and send him to the US for trial.


His 'Crime' is Patriotism, not Betrayal Like Hale's Philip Nolan, Snowden has Become a 'Man Without a Country'

By  Dave Lindorff

 

In Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Man Without a Country," US Army Lt. Philip Nolan, following a court-martial, is exiled from his country, his citizenship snatched away, leaving him doomed to sail the seven seas confined to a Navy vessel, unable to make any country his home. His crime: being seduced by a treacherous leader to betray the US of A, the country of his birth.

High School Civics Quiz: The Obama Years

This column is a lightly-modified version of one that first appeared back in March of 2006.  The Bush administration was the focus of that earlier column.  It’s only fair to apply the same standards now to the Obama years.  Readers are encouraged to take the quiz themselves.  I’d be delighted to know your scores, if you would like to self-report.  And I’d welcome your suggestions for additional questions that might be used in a third version of the quiz.

                                               -  Tony

Denouncing NSA Surveillance Isn’t Enough -- We Need the Power to Stop It

By Norman Solomon

For more than a month, outrage has been profuse in response to news about NSA surveillance and other evidence that all three branches of the U.S. government are turning Uncle Sam into Big Brother.

Now what?

Continuing to expose and denounce the assaults on civil liberties is essential. So is supporting Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers -- past, present and future. But those vital efforts are far from sufficient.

For a moment, walk a mile in the iron-heeled shoes of the military-industrial-digital complex. Its leaders don’t like clarity about what they’re doing, and they certainly don’t like being exposed or denounced -- but right now the surveillance state is in no danger of losing what it needs to keep going: power.

The huge digi-tech firms and the government have become mutual tools for gaining humungous profits and tightening political control. The partnerships are deeply enmeshed in military and surveillance realms, whether cruise missiles and drones or vast metadata records and capacities to squirrel away trillions of emails.

At the core of the surveillance state is the hollowness of its democratic pretenses. Only with authentic democracy can we save ourselves from devastating evisceration of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

The enormous corporate leverage over government policies doesn’t change the fact that the nexus of the surveillance state -- and the only organization with enough potential torque to reverse its anti-democratic trajectory -- is government itself.

The necessity is to subdue the corporate-military forces that have so extensively hijacked the government. To do that, we’ll need to accomplish what progressives are currently ill-positioned for: democratic mobilization to challenge the surveillance state’s hold on power.

These days, progressives are way too deferential and nice to elected Democrats who should be confronted for their active or passive complicity with abysmal policies of the Obama White House. An example is Al Franken, senator from Minnesota, who declared his support for the NSA surveillance program last month: “I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people.”

The right-wing Tea Party types realized years ago what progressive activists and groups are much less likely to face -- that namby-pamby “lobbying” gets much weaker results than identifying crucial issues and making clear a willingness to mount primary challenges.

Progressives should be turning up the heat and building electoral capacities. But right now, many Democrats in Congress are cakewalking toward re-election in progressive districts where they should be on the defensive for their anemic “opposition” to -- or outright support for -- NSA surveillance.

Meanwhile, such officials with national profiles should encounter progressive pushback wherever they go. A step in that direction will happen just north of the Golden Gate Bridge this weekend, when House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi appears as guest of honor to raise money for the party (up to $32,400 per couple) at a Marin County reception. There will also be a different kind of reception that Pelosi hadn’t been counting on -- a picket line challenging her steadfast support for NSA surveillance.

In the first days of this week, upwards of 20,000 people responded to a RootsAction.org action alert by sending their senators and representative an email urging an end to the Insider Threat Program -- the creepily Orwellian concoction that, as McClatchy news service revealed last month, “requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.”

Messages to Congress members, vocal protests and many other forms of public outcry are important -- but they should lay the groundwork for much stronger actions to wrest control of the government away from the military-industrial-digital complex. That may seem impossible, but it’s certainly imperative: if we’re going to prevent the destruction of civil liberties. In the long run, denunciations of the surveillance state will mean little unless we can build the political capacity to end it.

__________________________________

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

Snowden Affair exposed more than NSA spying: US Corporate Media shown to be Rank Propaganda Arms

By Dave Lindorff


It’s little wonder that despite his disclosure of an unprecedented KBG-like or Stasi-like spying program targeting all Americans, fully half of all Americans polled are saying that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is a “spy” or “traitor” who should be brought to justice.

Why would this be, when a solid majority also say they oppose the spying program?

In Obamaland, ‘Rule of Law’ is for the Other Suckers: US (and French) Courts Have Ruled Head-of-State Immunity is Absolute

By Dave Lindorff


It is clear that the entrapment and forced landing in Austria of the official airplane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was the work of the US, which was obviously behind the decision by France and Portugal to deny air rights to the flight, and which also was obviously behind the Austrian government’s demand to be allowed to search the jet after it landed. After all, those countries have no interest themselves in capturing US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is only Obama’s and the NSA’s quarry. 


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