You are hereCivil Rights / Liberties
Civil Rights / Liberties
Monday, June 24, 2013, is the final day to submit your public comments about the TSA. Links all over this blog . . .
If you don’t exercise your rights and speak up when they’re violated, don’t be surprised when they’re taken away. As of this writing, only 4,000 people have submitted comments about the TSA to the public docket. That’s out of a country of 300 million (yes, I know not everyone flies). What does that tell you about whether people give a toss about their rights?
By Dave Lindorff
Just for the sake of argument, let's suspend our disbelief for a moment and pretend (I know it's a stretch) that the Obama administration and the apologists for the nation's spy apparatus in Congress, Democratic and Republican, are telling us the gods' honest truth.
What the Government Doesn't Want You to Realize Lessons of the Snowden Revelations: You are the Target!
By Alfredo Lopez
If Edward Snowden's goal in blowing his whistle was to spark a public debate about privacy and surveillance, he has marvelously succeeded.
By Dave Lindorff
So New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and former Times executive editor Bill Keller are both saying that the massive NSA spying program on all Americans’ communications is a needed thing because if they don’t do it, then maybe there could be another major terrorist strike on the US, and democracy would be erased in the US.
Mark Fraunfelder’s 15-year-old daughter was at LAX yesterday, trying to board a flight with a group of other students on a trip to visit some colleges. Unfortunately, the U.S. government had decided ahead of time to hire tens of thousands of strangers to intimidate and abuse her (and others) as they blocked the girl’s safe passage to her airplane.
Read the rest at TSA News.
A Cure for War – With Limitations.
by Erin Niemela
Earlier this week I wrote an editorial proposing a 28th constitutional amendment to abolish war. The NSA scandal, I argue, is tied to the more pervasive problem of violent foreign (and domestic) policy, and we’ll continue to see government abuses so long as war and inter-state military violence are the acceptable choices for conflict management. David Swanson, author of the brilliant history, “When the World Outlawed War,” thoughtfully responded to my plea by urging us to recall and reignite the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, an existing international pact renouncing war signed and ratified by the US president and Senate.
I agree with Mr. Swanson that any efforts to end war should point to existing law, and we agree that abolishing war is possible and necessary. However, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not without its limitations, and a fresh, people-driven constitutional amendment could both address those limitations and offer current, culturally relevant and legally dispositive reinforcement.
By Dave Lindorff
It’s a pretty sad spectacle watching the US Congress toading up to the National Security Agency. With the exception of a few stalwarts like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and to a lesser extent Ron Wyden (D-OR), most of the talk in the halls of Congress is about how to keep the army of Washington private contractors from accessing too many of the government’s secrets (which need to be protected by government employees!), and about whether to try NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden for treason.
Secrecy’s Tangled Web of Deceit
June 13, 2013
Editor Note: U.S. government officials insist that their secret surveillance techniques are so valuable in fighting “terrorism” that they must be kept completely in the dark – along with the American people. This alleged imperative has justified even lying to Congress.
By Ray McGovern
The name card at the Senate hearing read, “Hon. General Keith B. Alexander,” but layering on the extra honorific title was not enough to change the sad reality that the National Security Agency’s director – a proven prevaricator – was not “honorable.”
You might have thought that some impish congressional staffer was trying to inject a touch of irony into the proceedings by prefacing “General” with “Hon.” – like Mark Antony mocking Julius Caesar’s murderers as “honorable men” in Shakespeare’s play. But that didn’t seem to be the case.
Jeffrey Goldberg, who writes for The Atlantic and Bloomberg News, has a new column wherein he relates the recently revealed mass surveillance of the NSA to the ongoing abuses of the TSA.
He’s right. They are related. All of the practices of the National Security State are related, as some of us have been saying for years.
Many years later they found him in a monastery in China.
He agreed to be interviewed.
He looked happy in the eyes.
So I said,
“Hong Kong, June 2013.
You were 29.
You said your greatest fear was
That nothing would change,
That the government would continue to grant itself
Every time there is a new leader,
‘They’ll flip the switch’, you said...
By Dave Lindorff
A lot of people in the US media are asking why America's most famous whistleblower, 29-year old Edward Snowden, hied himself off to the city state of Hong Kong, a wholly owned subsidiary of the People's Republic of China, to seek at least temporary refuge.
Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US, they say. And as for China, which controls the international affairs of its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, while granting it local autonomy to govern its domestic affairs, its leaders "may not want to irritate the US" at a time when the Chinese economy is stumbling.
These people don't have much understanding of either Hong Kong or of China.
I get tired of writing these posts. These abuses are so common (no, they’re not “outliers”) and the reaction of the public so apathetic, it just becomes wearying.
Read the rest at TSA News.
The KGB alumni portion of the following, which sounds realistic, is actually fiction; the NSA portion, which sounds like science fiction, is actual news from the real world.
It’s June again, and around the globe, in the northern hemisphere, alumni groups are gathering. In Russia, the KGBAA (KGB Alumni Association)--former officials of the Soviet Union’s “Committee for State Security”--held their annual reunion this week at the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, nearly 22 years after the agency’s dissolution in 1991.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Drug-related corruption within the Philadelphia Police Department – once again – is the target of federal authorities.
This latest action by federal authorities involves two patrolmen charged with trafficking drugs and robbing suspected drug dealers while on-duty and in full uniform.
Another day, another abusive TSA experience. And why not? The government thinks it owns our thoughts, as the Big Brotheresque surveillance proves; why shouldn't it also own our bodies? These issues are all related. Yet the millions of willfully clueless out there refuse to acknoweldge it.
Obama, Clapper and most of Congress are full of s**t: Where’s the Bullshit Repellent When We Need It?
By Dave Lindorff
By Dan DeWalt
This week, the government began their assault against private Bradley Manning. Even though he has already plead guilty to misusing classified documents and faces twenty years in prison, prosecutors want him branded as having aided the enemy, with a life sentence to go along.
By Alfredo Lopez
This past Thursday (June 6), The Guardian (the British newspaper) and the Washington Post simultaneously reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting staggering amounts of user data and files from seven of the world's most powerful technology companies.
We’ve only been telling you this for years. And now the DHS Inspector General is saying it, too.
The TSA’s so-called “behavior detection program” is an expensive, risible failure. Or as we like to call it, voodoo.
By Dave Lindorff
Anyone who was a fan of the old ABC TV series “The Untouchables” or of the later series, also on ABC, called “The FBI,” would know something is terribly fishy about the FBI slaying of Ibragim Todashev.
Jason Leopold writes for Al Jazeera. See his articles here. Leopold, just back from Guantanamo, says that since President Obama's speech, no one has been freed, no one has quit hunger striking, and the number of people being force-fed has increased. Abusive policies are being adopted, in part in apparent response to the hunger strike. The top commander at the prison is suspected of perjury, in addition to cruel and inhuman treatment. The U.S. military's own lawyers say he is unfit for command. The prison has kept hidden listening devices in rooms where prisoners meet with attorneys, and has accessed defense lawyers' files and emails. There remains one way out for prisoners of this camp: death.
Photo of force-feeding chair by Jason Leopold.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
By Norman Solomon
Of all the charges against Bradley Manning, the most pernicious -- and revealing -- is “aiding the enemy.”
A blogger at The New Yorker, Amy Davidson, raised a pair of big questions that now loom over the courtroom at Fort Meade and over the entire country:
* “Would it aid the enemy, for example, to expose war crimes committed by American forces or lies told by the American government?”
* “In that case, who is aiding the enemy -- the whistleblower or the perpetrators themselves?”
When the deceptive operation of the warfare state can’t stand the light of day, truth-tellers are a constant hazard. And culpability must stay turned on its head.
That’s why accountability was upside-down when the U.S. Army prosecutor laid out the government’s case against Bradley Manning in an opening statement: “This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents and dumped them onto the Internet, into the hands of the enemy -- material he knew, based on his training, would put the lives of fellow soldiers at risk.”
If so, those fellow soldiers have all been notably lucky; the Pentagon has admitted that none died as a result of Manning’s leaks in 2010. But many of his fellow soldiers lost their limbs or their lives in U.S. warfare made possible by the kind of lies that the U.S. government is now prosecuting Bradley Manning for exposing.
In the real world, as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, prosecution for leaks is extremely slanted. “Let’s apply the government's theory in the Manning case to one of the most revered journalists in Washington: Bob Woodward, who has become one of America’s richest reporters, if not the richest, by obtaining and publishing classified information far more sensitive than anything WikiLeaks has ever published,” Greenwald wrote in January.
He noted that “one of Woodward's most enthusiastic readers was Osama bin Laden,” as a 2011 video from al-Qaeda made clear. And Greenwald added that “the same Bob Woodward book [Obama’s Wars] that Osama bin Laden obviously read and urged everyone else to read disclosed numerous vital national security secrets far more sensitive than anything Bradley Manning is accused of leaking. Doesn't that necessarily mean that top-level government officials who served as Woodward’s sources, and the author himself, aided and abetted al-Qaida?”
But the prosecution of Manning is about carefully limiting the information that reaches the governed. Officials who run U.S. foreign policy choose exactly what classified info to dole out to the public. They leak like self-serving sieves to mainline journalists such as Woodward, who has divulged plenty of “Top Secret” information -- a category of classification higher than anything Bradley Manning is accused of leaking.
While pick-and-choose secrecy is serving Washington’s top war-makers, the treatment of U.S. citizens is akin to the classic description of how to propagate mushrooms: keeping them in the dark and feeding them bullshit.
In effect, for top managers of the warfare state, “the enemy” is democracy.
Let’s pursue the inquiry put forward by columnist Amy Davidson early this year. If it is aiding the enemy “to expose war crimes committed by American forces or lies told by the American government,” then in reality “who is aiding the enemy -- the whistleblower or the perpetrators themselves?”
Candid answers to such questions are not only inadmissible in the military courtroom where Bradley Manning is on trial. Candor is also excluded from the national venues where the warfare state preens itself as virtue’s paragon.
Yet ongoing actions of the U.S. government have hugely boosted the propaganda impact and recruiting momentum of forces that Washington publicly describes as “the enemy.” Policies under the Bush and Obama administrations -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and beyond, with hovering drones, missile strikes and night raids, at prisons such as Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and secret rendition torture sites -- have “aided the enemy” on a scale so enormous that it makes the alleged (and fictitious) aid to named enemies from Manning’s leaks infinitesimal in comparison.
Blaming the humanist PFC messenger for “aiding the enemy” is an exercise in self-exculpation by an administration that cannot face up to its own vast war crimes.
While prosecuting Bradley Manning, the prosecution may name al-Qaeda, indigenous Iraqi forces, the Taliban or whoever. But the unnamed “enemy” -- the real adversary that the Pentagon and the Obama White House are so eager to quash -- is the incessant striving for democracy that requires informed consent of the governed.
The forces that top U.S. officials routinely denounce as “the enemy” will never threaten the power of the USA’s dominant corporate-military elites. But the unnamed “enemy” aided by Bradley Manning’s courageous actions -- the people at the grassroots who can bring democracy to life beyond rhetoric -- are a real potential threat to that power.
Accusations of aid and comfort to the enemy were profuse after Martin Luther King Jr. moved forward to expose the Johnson administration’s deceptions and the U.S. military’s atrocities. Most profoundly, with his courageous stand against the war in Vietnam, King earned his Nobel Peace Prize during the years after he won it in 1964.
Bradley Manning may never win the Nobel Peace Prize, but he surely deserves it. Close to 60,000 people have already signed a petition urging the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the prize to Manning. To become a signer, click here.
Also, you can preview a kindred project on the "I Am Bradley Manning" site, where a just-released short video -- the first stage of a longer film due out soon -- features Daniel Ellsberg, Oliver Stone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Phil Donahue, Alice Walker, Peter Sarsgaard, Wallace Shawn, Russell Brand, Moby, Tom Morello, Michael Ratner, Molly Crabapple, Davey D, Tim DeChristopher, Josh Stieber, Lt. Dan Choi, Hakim Green, Matt Taibbi, Chris Hedges, Allan Nairn, Leslie Cagan, Ahdaf Soueif and Jeff Madrick.
From many walks of life, our messages will become louder and clearer as Bradley Manning’s trial continues. He is guilty of “aiding the enemy” only if the enemy is democracy.
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.”
Companies use a progressive tool in very non-progressive ways: The "Cloudy" Skies Corporations Want to Sell You
By Alfredo Lopez
It's the nature of the shallow, consumer-driven, dream-drunken culture our society tries to impose on us that we popularly adopt terms without knowing what they mean and, more often than not, they don't mean much of anything.
Such is the case with "the Cloud".
Most people who use computers believe they know what it is except that everyone seems to have a different definition. From a satellite-based storage system to a virtually invisible network to a collection of hard drives all over the world to a new form of storage that doesn't require computers to...whatever new definition pops up this week. In any case, you have heard of the "cloud" and probably aren't sure what it really is.
Friend of the blog NJR of Taking Sense Away has allowed us to cross-post his entries for some time now. He gave me a heads-up last week that the following would hit his pages today. So here it is.
h/t Ciaron O'Reilly
Natan Blanc: Heroic Israeli Refusenik
by Stephen Lendman
Israel's a rogue terror state. It's been so from inception. It's history is blood-drenched. It's a global menace.
It's current government is its worst ever. It prioritizes state terrorism. Palestinians live in the eye of the storm.
In news that has so far only been available in Arabic, and which I was informed about by a Mauritanian friend on Facebook, I can confirm that two prisoners from Guantánamo have been released, and returned to their home country of Mauritania. The links are here and here.
The two men are Ahmed Ould Abdul Aziz and Mohamedou Ould Slahi, and they were accompanied by a third man, Hajj Ould Cheikh Hussein, who was apparently captured in Pakistan and held at Bagram in Afghanistan, which later became known as the Parwan Detention Facility.
According to one of the Arabic news sources, US officials handed the men to the Mauritanian security services who took them to an unknown destination. They have also reportedly met with their families.
I have no further information for now, but this appears to be confirmation that President Obama’s promise to resume the release of prisoners from Guantánamo was not as hollow as many of his promises have turned out to be. It also follows hints, in the Wall Street Journal (which I wrote about here), indicating that he would begin not with any of the 56 Yemeni prisoners out of the 86 prisoners cleared for release by the inter-agency task force that he established in 2009, but with some of the 30 others.
One of these 30 is Ahmed Ould Abdul Aziz, a teacher, and an educated and cultured man, who was seized in what appeared to be a random house raid in Pakistan in June 2002, but the other is a surprise. Mohamedou Ould Slahi was, notoriously, handed over by the Mauritanian authorities to the US in November 2001, He was then rendered to Jordan, where he was tortured, and was then subjected to a specific torture program in Guantánamo, where he arrived in August 2002, after which he became an allegedly helpful informant, although his torture was so severe that it prompted his assigned prosecutor, Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, to resign rather than continue with the case.
Although he had his habeas corpus petition granted in March 2010, this was then vacated by the court of appeals, after an outcry from numerous Republicans, who believed, as had been alleged, that he had been some sort of mentor to the 9/11 hijackers, while he was living in Germany, even though it seems clear that, although he had met them, he had not done anything to assist them in their plans, and nor did he have any knowledge of the 9/11 attacks.
I wrote extensively about the injustice of Slahi’s case — including the self-defeating absurdity of indefinitely detaining someone who had allegedly become an important informant — following the publication of a revelatory article in the Washington Post in March 2010, and his case recently came to light again when Slate published excerpts from an astonishing autobiography that he wrote in Guantánamo.
I will write about further developments when I have them, but for now this appears to be very good news indeed, not just for Ahmed Ould Abdul Aziz and Mohamedou Ould Slahi, but also for the other cleared prisoners in Guantánamo.
Of course the TSA is getting PR mileage out of its recent (forced) decision on the strip-search scanners, and the credulous media are only too happy to play along.