Radoslaw Sikorski — the speaker of the Polish Parliament and that nation’s former foreign minister — was forced to apologize after claiming that he overheard Vladimir Putin in 2008 suggest that Ukraine should be divided between Russia and Poland.
A bombshell report published by Politico Magazine over the weekend called “Putin’s Coup” alleged that Sikorski heard that the Russian president told Donald Tusk, then the Polish prime minister, that Poland should “become participants in the divide of Ukraine” during a Polish delegation’s 2008 visit to Moscow.
“He wanted us to become participants in this partition of Ukraine… This was one of the first things that Putin said to my prime minister, Donald Tusk, when he visited Moscow,” Politico’s Ben Judah quoted Sikorski as saying following an interview that formed the basis of the Sunday article.
“He (Putin) went on to say Ukraine is an artificial country and that Lwow is a Polish city and why don’t we just sort it out together.”
“We made it very, very clear to them – we wanted nothing to do with this,” Sikorski went on.
On Monday, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said that, if Putin did suggest as much, then that would be “scandalous.”
On Tuesday, however, Sikorski found himself in a scandalous situation himself and had to respond to multiple accusations that he made up the conversation between Putin and Tusk. The Russian president’s spokesman labeled the alleged remark as “utter nonsense,” and Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told Russia’s Gazeta.ru the report “looks like total tripe.”
Responding to a mounting backlash, Sikorski said over Twitter that the interview with Judah was “not authorized” and that “Some of the words have been over-interpreted.” However the Politico journalist was fast to remind Mr. Sikorski that in the US members of the press do not “authorize” interviews. Judah also said to the Polish broadcaster TVN24 that he was “not sure what Sikorski had in mind” when he said some of his comments had been “over-interpreted.”
On Tuesday, Sikorski was confronted at a press conference by Polish journalists, demanding clarifications regarding his remarks. However, the ex-foreign minister was vague about whether or not he made the remarks published by Politico. Before long Sikorski admitted that he never personally heard of Putin offering to divide Ukraine, then refused to go into more details or answer additional questions from the media.
This awkward press conference infuriated even Sikorski’s fellow party members, and Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz publicly lashed at him.
“I will not tolerate this kind of behavior. I will not tolerate this kind of standards that Speaker Sikorski tried to present at today’s (news) conference,” Kopacz said, according to the Associated Press.
After that, Sikorski called in a second press conference, where he changed his position once again. He said Tusk and Putin never met during a bilateral meeting in Moscow in 2008 as he originally had suggested and the scandalous remarks were made later that year at a NATO summit in Bucharest. Additionally Sikorski apologized for putting both the former and current Polish PM in an “awkward position.”
“I apologize for the awkwardness, which took place this morning,” Poland’s TVN 24 quoted Sikorski as saying. “Especially as a former journalist, I never avoided contact with the media.”
However, Sikorski might be forced to change his version of history once again. According to the official NATO schedule of Putin’s meetings from the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, the Russian leader and his Polish counterpart didn’t hold any bilateral meetings in Romania either.
The Ukrainian army used cluster bombs against civilian populated areas in Donetsk, a report published by The New York Times on Monday claims.
According to the newspaper’s reporters on the ground, physical evidence and interviews with witnesses and victims have confirmed the use of such weaponry, banned in most of the world.
Evidence recovered by the newspaper such as munition fragments also indicates the use of cluster bombs.
Cluster bombs are like regular bombs but carry sub-munitions which expands the impact area indiscriminately.
Some local victims were far from the explosion site but still were affected by the bombs.
Boris V. Melikhov, 37, was chopping wood outside his house in the Gladkovka neighborhood of Donetsk when he heard a loud explosion from the street. Suddenly he felt a strong push in the back.
“I felt the blood running down my back, down my leg,” he recalled in an interview given to The New York Times last week from his hospital bed. Doctors there found several identical metal fragments in his leg, chest, shoulder and hand.
Over 100 nations have banned cluster bombs for their indiscriminate effects on the area where they are fired.
Despite a cease-fire agreement with rebel forces, implemented in the first week of September, the report also found that the Ukrainian military had fired rockets against civilian populated areas as early as the first week of October.
Witnesses also confirmed that regular army troops fired rockets from their positions in the dates coinciding with the Times’ analysis.
Press officers for the Ukrainian military denied that their troops had used cluster weapons during the conflict. But media reports as early as July had claimed there is evidence of the use of cluster bombs, ballistic missiles and some even point at the use of phosphorous bombs by the army against civilian populations in Eastern Ukraine.
The latest evidence compiled by the U.S. daily also provides evidence that recent fighting in Donetsk over the control of the airport has been launched by the Ukrainian army, contrary to official versions which claim the military responded to attacks by the rebels.
Basketball fans joined with human rights supporters in several U.S. towns to call for a boycott of Israeli sports teams, and to challenge what they call a ‘public relations tour’ by Israeli teams in the U.S. They gathered outside and inside the exhibition games to try to bring attention to the ongoing Israeli military occupation of Palestine.
In Cleveland, Ohio, dozens of protesters chanted and held signs outside the exhibition game last week, and a similar protest took place on Friday in Portland, Oregon.
According to organizers, “These teams represent the injustice and occupation of Palestine. While this team travels freely, Palestinian athletes are denied that same right.
“The Israeli basketball tour is a PR campaign to cover up the horrific massacre of the past summer that killed over 2,100 people in Gaza, including over 500 children. In some cities the games are being used as a fundraiser for the Israeli military. That is the same military that continues to occupy Palestine, kill indiscriminately, and deny Palestinian citizens the right to live freely and with justice.
“The image of the 4 young boys killed by Israeli bombs while playing soccer on the beach is Gaza is forever engraved in our hearts. We won’t let this tour be a smokescreen over the ongoing horror of the occupation of Palestine.
The groups protesting the games say that they are calling for a boycott of Israeli sports teams and events to call for freedom, justice and human dignity for the Palestinian people, who are living under an Israeli military occupation.
In Cleveland, the exhibition game was accompanied by a fundraiser for the Israeli military – the only foreign military that is allowed to hold fundraisers in the U.S., and accept direct contributions from U.S. citizens.
The Cleveland basketball team, the Cavaliers, recently hired as its head coach David Blatt, who came to the job after serving as head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv (the team featured in the exhibition game). Blatt called the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza that killed over 2,100 people, including 500 children, “Israel’s most justified war”.
The Ohio basketball boycott action follows an ongoing controversy at the University of Illinois, in which a professor who expressed support for Palestinian equal rights on Twitter was denied employment. Recent releases of documents related to the case show a close relationship that could constitute a conflict of interest between members of the university and Zionist leaders in the community. The documents also revealed that the University President lied about the sequence of events in the case.
Bil’in, Occupied Palestine – On October 21st, Human Rights Defender Abdallah Abu Rahma was found guilty by an Israeli military court of “disturbing a soldier”.
“Demonstrating against the occupation cannot be a criminal offence. Finding Abdallah guilty only shows that the [Israeli] military force is a tool to perpetuate the occupation.” Stated Gabi Lasky, lawyer of Abdallah Abu Rahma, to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
Abdallah spoke to the ISM about his recent conviction. “Yesterday the military court ruled that I was guilty, showing once again that they stand on the side of the occupation, and not that of truth and justice.
I was arrested on the 13th of May 2012 in front of Ofer Military prison at a demonstration commemorating the Nakba and in solidarity with the prisoners, many of whom were on hunger strike. I was imprisoned in Ofer for 16 months a year earlier, for my role in the non-violent demonstrations in my village, Bil’in, against the Apartheid wall and settlements built on our land.
This time when I was arrested I was held for a few hours and released on bail, I was not summoned to court until the beginning of 2013, following the success of the popular committees in the construction of the Palestinians villages Bab Al Shams and Bab Al Manatir.”
Abdallah Abu Rahmah is the coordinator of the Bil’in popular committee, which began popular demonstrations against the Apartheid wall and settlements in January 2005. The route of the Apartheid wall originally planned to separate the village form 50% of its agricultural land. As a result of the village’s continued popular struggle, the route was changed and 25% of the village land was effectively annexed by the wall to the illegal settlement of Modiin Elite.
Hundreds of protesters have been arrested and injured by Israeli forces in Bil’in since the popular struggle in the village began. In 2009 during a demonstration, Bassam Abu Rahmah was shot directly in the chest with a high velocity tear-gas projectile, dying of his wounds minutes later. On Januray 1st 2011, Jawaher Abu Rahmah died of poisoning after inhaling excessive amounts of tear gas during the weekly demonstration the previous day.
We’ve filed our reply brief in the appeal of Smith v. Obama, our case challenging the NSA’s mass telephone records collection on behalf of Idaho nurse Anna Smith. The case will be argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal on December 8, 2014 in Seattle, and the public is welcome to attend.
Another case challenging the telephone records program, Klayman v. Obama, will be argued on November 4 in Washington DC before the DC Circuit and EFF will be participating as an amicus.
The Smith v. Obama case records are all here: but we thought we’d highlight three of the more outrageous arguments the government made, and our responses debunking them.
Mrs. Smith doesn’t think her phone records are any of the government’s business. That’s why, only a few days after the Guardian published a secret order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court revealing the government’s bulk collection of the telephone records of millions of innocent Americans, she sued. Smith v. Obama challenges the government’s collection of call detail records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Mrs. Smith is represented by her husband, attorney Peter Smith, along with the ACLU, EFF, and Idaho State Rep. Luke Malek.
The district court said it felt bound to dismiss her claims because of a 1979 Supreme Court case, Smith v. Maryland. That case involved the collection of the phone numbers dialed by a criminal suspect over the course of three days. It’s one of the cornerstones of the so-called “third party doctrine,” the idea that people have no expectation of privacy in information they entrust to others—and it’s outdated to say the least.
The centerpiece of Mrs. Smith’s case is the issue of whether the government’s collection of our telephone records in bulk, and retention of those records for five years, triggers the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. The warrant requirement applies if there is a legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy in those records. And if the warrant requirement applies, the collection is unconstitutional, since there is no warrant (everyone agrees that the secret FISA Court rulings allowing the bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act are NOT warrants).
We argue that there is a legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy violated by the bulk collection of telephone records, because unlike the narrow situation the Supreme Court considered in 1979, they can reveal an incredible amount of sensitive information. For example, in one short-term study of only a few months of telephony metadata from 546 people, researchers at Stanford were able to identify one plausible inference of a subject obtaining an abortion; one subject with a heart condition; one with multiple sclerosis; and the owner of a specific brand of firearm.The government wants the court to simply ignore these differences. Alternately, the government argues that even if there is an expectation of privacy, it is so small compared to the government’s interest that the warrant requirement can be ignored, under something called the “special needs” test (more on that below).
But, as we emphasize our reply brief, this is wrong, in part because we are living in what member of the President’s Review Group Professor Peter Swire calls the “Golden Age of Surveillance.” As we argue: “technological advances have vastly augmented the government’s surveillance power and exposed much more personal information to government inspection and intrusive analysis. If courts ignored this reality, the essential privacy long preserved by the Fourth Amendment would be eliminated.”
The Government’s Arguments
So with that background, let’s look at three of the most troubling claims the government makes.
Call Detail Records Don’t Actually Identify People
The government still claims with a straight face that call detail records don’t reveal private information, because they “do not include information about the identities of individuals,” including “the name, address, [or] financial information” of any telephone subscribers.
That’s technically true, of course, but who cares? It’s not like this prevents the government from identifying you in less than a millisecond after it gets your telephone number. Last time we checked, the government did have access to, say, telephone books and the many public online services that can do reverse number lookup. That’s why we point out that: “phone numbers are every bit as identifying as names. Indeed, they are more so: while many people in the country may share the same name, no two phone subscribers share the same number.”
It’s pretty ridiculous for the government to continue to try to convince the court that the absence of the names in calling records represents any real privacy protection for the millions of Americans whose records are collected. It plainly does not.
We Have to Collect Everything for the Program to Work. But We’re Not Collecting Everything.
The government tries to challenge Mrs. Smith’s standing to sue by repeatedly alleging that the call detail records “program has never encompassed all, or even virtually all, call records and does not do so today.” It claims that the case should be dismissed because Mrs. Smith cannot immediately “prove” that her records were included. Of course, that’s not how litigation works. Mrs. Smith has good reason to believe that her records have been included—the government’s own public statements give her good reason. The district court properly rejected this argument, but the government continues to press it on appeal.
The government also seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth here, since, as we note in our brief:“In explaining the program to Congress and the public…the government has emphasized not only that the program is comprehensive, but that this comprehensiveness is the key to its utility.”
In fact, Robert Litt, General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told Congress: “In order to find the needle that matched up against that number, we needed the haystack, right. That’s what the premise is in this case.” And NSA Deputy Director John Inglis defended the program by saying: “If you’re looking for a needle in the haystack you need the haystack. So you wouldn’t want to check a database that only has one third of the data, and say there’s a one third chance that I know about a terrorist plot, there’s a two thirds chance I missed it because I don’t have that data.”
So to get the case dismissed they want to convince the court that they aren’t really collecting “virtually all” of the telephone records, but their public justifications rely on the fact that they are. So either they are collecting Mrs. Smith’s records, along with every other Verizon Wireless customer—Verizon is the second largest wireless service in the U.S. after all—or they are not very good at meeting their own stated goals. Which is it, government?
And that goes right to the heart of the government’s next argument:
Bulk Telephone Records Collection Isn’t Necessary to Protect Us—But Is Still Allowed Under the “Special-Needs Doctrine”
The government’s fallback argument is that even if the call detail records triggered the Fourth Amendment, a warrant is still not required under a narrow legal precedent called the “special-needs doctrine.” It allows warrantless searches of a few small categories of people who have a reduced privacy expectation, like students in schools or employees who handle dangerous equipment. It also only applies when compliance with probable-cause and warrant requirements would be “impracticable” and the government’s primary goals are not law enforcement.
The first problem here is that the millions of ordinary Americans affected by the government’s bulk collection do not have a reduced expectation of privacy in the records of their telephone calls. The privacy interests here are great, since with a trail of telephone records, the government can learn extremely sensitive information.
The second problem is that no less than the White House itself has said that the government can accomplish its goals without bulk telephone records collection. This has been confirmed by the President’s two hand-picked panels as well as several Congressmembers who have seen the intelligence information. As we point out in our reply brief, the best the government can say about the program is that it “enhances and expedites” certain techniques it uses in its investigations. So getting a warrant isn’t impracticable, it’s just, at most, inconvenient. But as we point out: “If efficiency alone were determinative, the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement would have no force at all.”
The special-needs argument is especially concerning because if the courts were to accept it, the special-needs doctrine could become an exception that swallows the Fourth Amendment’s rule against general searches. It could, de facto, create a national security exception to the Constitutional rights enjoyed by ordinary, nonsuspect Americans, something the founders plainly did not do when they created this country in the midst of a national security crisis.
We expect an interesting argument on December 8.
A top commander for the Alaska National Guard was recommended for “other than honorable” discharge earlier this year following an investigation that found he allowed recruiters to sexually assault and harass women.
Lt. Col. Joseph Lawendowski failed to act on multiple complaints of serious misconduct, including rape, against four noncommissioned officers under his command, according to an Army investigation.
The Anchorage Press obtained a copy of the Army Regulation 15-6 report that found Lawendowski, a former pornography company owner and co-founder of an “end times” fundamentalist group, violated the National Guard code of conduct on multiple occasions.
The 46-year-old Lawendowski, who joined the Alaska National Guard in 2003, promoted steroid use by recruiters, used government vehicles for strip club outings, showed up drunk to a sled dog race sponsored by the service, and possibly used government-issued credit cards for improper purchases.
The March 3 report recommended a separate investigation into his possible misuse of funds, including purchases of plane tickets to Dubai and Sweden, items at a luxury children’s store in Paris, and $1,500 and $2,000 bar tabs in Anchorage and Juneau, the newspaper reported.
The report found Lawendowski created a workplace climate of fear and intimidation by allowing four NCOs – identified as Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Brown, Master Sgt. Jarrett Carson, Master Sgt. John Nieves, and Sgt. 1rst Class Shannon Tallant – to retaliate against soldiers who filed complaints and to feel above the law.
Three of those NCOs – Carson, Nieves, and Tallant – were known to National Guard members as the “Three-Headed Monster” due to their widely known misconduct and abnormally large size, and sworn statements show they had a motto: “What happens in recruiting, stays in recruiting.”
The report found Tallant fraternized with his direct supervisor, Brown, who was a passenger when the recruiter was arrested for drunken driving in March 2011, and investigators found their relationship allowed Tallant to “continue to use his rank and position to abuse junior soldiers as well as prey on young women.”
The recruiters boasted of their close relationships with superior officers, including Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus, who led the Alaska National Guard until he was forced to resign last month by Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, who took over when former Gov. Sarah Palin stepped down in 2009.
Brigadier Gen. Catherine Jorgensen, the Chief of Staff for the Alaska Army National Guard, was fired earlier this month by the acting commander of the Alaska National Guard but rehired the next day at Parnell’s insistence.
The National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations strongly criticized the Alaska National Guard leadership, saying the service mishandled sexual assault cases and widespread unethical behavior by officers.
The OCI report showed Lawendowski had been the subject of multiple criminal investigations for weapons smuggling, rape, and drug trafficking – but none of those criminal investigations resulted in prosecution “due to jurisdictional issues or lack of evidence,” the newspaper reported.
Lawendowski, who formed a corporation — Kodiak Entertainment Group, Inc. – that operated at least seven pornographic websites and then the Christian fundamentalist Berean Watchmen organization, reported directly to Katkus, the OCI report found.
This deviated from the normal chain of command, the newspaper reported, and investigators found that other National Guard members knew Lawendowski was friends and neighbors with Katkus.
Lawendowski was named Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations for Operations and Training in June 2012, but head chaplain Lt. Col. Rick Koch and at least five other active or retired officers have begged Parnell’s office for about a year and a half to investigate him and his associates.
They provided the governor’s office with detailed allegations about fraud and the cover-up of sexual assaults, the newspaper reported.
The chaplain told Parnell’s chief of staff that Lawendowski had improperly spent more than $200,000 and led a command with known ties to illegal drug sales and many sexual assaults – and he said Katkus knew about the allegations.
“As one officer put it, ‘We are now putting criminals in our senior positions,’” Koch said in an email.
High-Level NSA Official Tied To Husband’s Private Signals Intelligence Business, Has A Second Business That Owns A Plane
Buzzfeed’s Aram Roston has uncovered more evidence linking the NSA’s SIGINT (signals intelligence) director to a number of private contractors known to do business with the US government — perhaps even the agency itself.
Roston previously exposed the close ties between Teresa Shea’s position and her husband James’ employer, DRS Signal Solutions, a company focused on “SIGINT systems.” Not only that, but business records indicated that James Shea apparently runs Telic Networks, another SIGINT-focused business operating out of their hometown (Ellicott City, Maryland).
Needless to say, neither Teresa Shea, her husband, her husband’s employer, nor the NSA itself have offered anything in the way of comments on this suspicious-looking arrangement. The NSA did offer some boilerplate about “robust internal controls,” but simultaneously stiff-armed Buzzfeed’s request for Teresa Shea’s financial disclosure statements, citing the National Security Act of 1959. (This citation is also agency boilerplate, or at least was until Jason Leopold challenged it with a lawsuit. This move forced former NSA head Keith Alexander’s financial disclosure statements out of its hands. In light of this recent decision, it appears Shea’s statements will be released as well.)
This all looked conflicted enough, but Roston has uncovered more suspicious-looking information.
Yet another company, apparently focused on the office and electronics business, is based at the Shea residence on that well-tended lot.
This company is called Oplnet LLC.
Teresa Shea, who has been at the NSA since 1984, is the company’s resident agent.
The company’s articles of organization, signed by Teresa Shea, show that the firm was established in 1999 primarily “to buy, sell, rent and lease office and electronic equipment and related goods and services.” An attorney who also signed the document, Alan Engel, said he couldn’t comment on client matters.
Roston and Buzzfeed were unable to come up with any hard evidence linking Teresa Shea’s home business with federal contracts, but it did uncover a very interesting purchase.
Records show Oplnet does own a six-seat airplane, as well a condominium property with an assessed value of $275,000 in the resort town of Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Flight records for this aircraft show it has made a majority of its landings at three airports — one of them being Ft. Meade, Maryland, home of the NSA. It is not uncommon for people who own their own planes to actually set up a company to own that plane for a variety of legal and tax reasons — and it’s possible that’s what’s happened here — though it is notable that James Shea has a pilot’s license, while Teresa does not.
Perhaps it’s indicative of nothing at all, other than the overwhelming gravitational pull of the Beltway. But then, there’s this timeline.
1984 – Teresa Shea joins the NSA as an engineer working in SIGINT issues.
1990 – James Shea sets up Sigtek, Inc., which goes on to receive “hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts with the federal government, according to a federal contracting database.”
1999 – Teresa Shea registers Oplnet, using their home address.
2000 – James Shea sells Sigtek, Inc. for $20 million to a British firm, while remaining listed as President of the company.
2007 – James Shea sets up Telic Networks, his newest SIGINT-focused company. This too is “based” at the Sheas’ shared home address.
2010 – Teresa Shea is promoted to Director of SIGINT. Nearly simultaneously, James Shea is named vice president of major SIGINT contractor DRS Signal Solutions.
Much of the Sheas’ shared success hinges on SIGINT — both the government’s expansion of dragnet surveillance and simultaneous growth of SIGINT-focused contractors. Maybe there’s nothing to this, but the silence from everyone involved seems to indicate there’s at least the “appearance of impropriety,” if not flat-out misconduct and abuse of power.
More will be known when (and always appended when dealing with the NSA, if ) Shea’s financial disclosure documents are released. At the very least, they’ll at least confirm the information Buzzfeed has dug up and prevent the NSA from boilerplating this whole situation into non-existence. The NSA is taking a second look at Keith Alexander’s post-NSA activities. If it’s willing to go that far, it’s willing to dig up dirt on lower-level officials. You can’t be too careful in the intelligence business these days, not with the eyes of legislators, activists and a whole bunch of pissed-off Americans watching your every move.
More Police Departments than Previously Thought Use Portable Surveillance Systems to Spy on almost Everyone
More U.S. police departments are employing electronic surveillance technology that can collect information from cell phones and laptop computers belonging not just to criminal suspects but also law abiding citizens.
The Charlotte Observer found the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have for eight years used such equipment, which goes by many names: Stingray, Hailstorm, AmberJack and TriggerFish.
But the technology, which mimics cell towers, is also used by other law enforcement around the country. It’s just not clear which departments, the newspaper says, because the federal government has helped to shield police from disclosing their owning and operating the spy hardware. In fact, the Obama administration “has ordered cities not to disclose information about the equipment,” the Observer’s Fred Classen-Kelly reported.
However, members of the administration might also be among those spied upon. Through an open records request, VICE News has learned that Washington, D.C., is another city whose police department is using the technology. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) there purchased the Stingray system in 2003, purportedly to use for anti-terrorism efforts.
In 2008, however, the system was brought out of storage and is now used in regular criminal cases. But the system doesn’t discriminate between calls made by those suspected of wrongdoing and those of ordinary citizens, which means anyone’s whereabouts can be tracked.
Nathan Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, told VICE News “If the MPD is driving around D.C. with Stingray devices, it is likely capturing information about the locations and movements of members of Congress, cabinet members, federal law enforcement agents, and Homeland Security personnel, consular staff, and foreign dignitaries, and all of the other people who congregate in the District…. If cell phone calls of congressional staff, White House aides, or even members of Congress are being disconnected, dropped, or blocked by MPD Stingrays, that’s a particularly sensitive and troublesome problem.”
Some in Charlotte have those concerns as well. “The thought of police or another agency collecting data on communications devices is troubling,” Charlotte City Councilman John Autry told the Observer. “I understand the balance between security and privacy, but I think we should honor the privacy protection in the Constitution. … What happens to the data? Who sees it? Who has access to it?”
The ACLU estimates that at least 46 local law enforcement agencies nationwide have cell phone tracking systems.
To Learn More:
Charlotte Police Investigators Secretly Track Cellphones (by Fred Classen-Kelly, Charlotte Observer)
Police in Washington, D.C. Are Using the Secretive ‘Stingray’ Cell Phone Tracking Tool (by Jason Leopold, VICE News)
After Months of Denial, Sacramento Sheriff Admits Using Stingray Cellphone Surveillance (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)
Local Police Departments Use Non-Disclosure Agreements to Hide Cellphone Tracking (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
The White House is reportedly wrestling over how to interpret a ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” ahead of a meeting in Geneva next month concerning the United Nations charter on torture.
According to the New York Times, the Obama administration remains divided over what stance a Washington delegation will officially take at the UN-sponsored Committee Against Torture panel early next month in the Swiss city.
Although Barack Obama said before and after being elected to the White House that United States officials should never engage in torturous activity, Times national security journalist Charlie Savage reported on Sunday this week that administration officials might formally adopt another stance — one on par with the policies of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush — when the panel convenes in a couple of weeks.
The Times reported that the attorneys who answer to the president are conflicted over whether or not the White House should revisit the Bush administration’s interpretation of a UN treaty, the likes of which authorized the use of enhanced interrogation tactics, like waterboarding and sleep deprivation, on individuals detained by military and intelligence agencies in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at facilities such as the Guantanamo Bay detention center and CIA so-called “black sites.”
The upcoming meeting will be the first one of Obama’s presidency, Savage acknowledged, presenting the commander-in-chief with a rare opportunity to speak of the UN Convention Against Torture, a treaty that since the 1980s has aimed to ensure prisoners the world over aren’t subjected to inhumane conditions.
In Sunday’s report, Savage wrote that Obama, then a US senator, spoke out adamantly against Pres. Bush when it was revealed in 2005 that his administration had been interpreting the UN treaty in a manner that they argued made it acceptable for CIA and Pentagon officials to disregard the prohibitions against torture if they weren’t on American soil.
Obama the president later condemned that reasoning with an executive order “ensuring lawful interrogations,” Savage added, although next month’s meeting may change that.
“But the Obama administration has never officially declared its position on the treaty, and now, President Obama’s legal team is debating whether to back away from his earlier view,” Savage wrote. “It is considering reaffirming the Bush administration’s position that the treaty imposes no legal obligation on the United States to bar cruelty outside its borders, according to officials who discussed the deliberations on the condition of anonymity.”
“State Department lawyers are said to be pushing to officially abandon the Bush-era interpretation,” Savage added, which would simply continue to let the 2009 Obama-signed executive order stand as Washington’s official word and further ensure that American officials are obligated to adhere to the torture treaty regardless of where in the world they are located.
Other attorneys, he added, have a different idea of what to do at next month’s meeting, however. “But military and intelligence lawyers are said to oppose accepting that the treaty imposes legal obligations on the United States’ actions abroad,” Savage wrote. “They say they need more time to study whether it would have operational impacts. They have also raised concerns that current or future wartime detainees abroad might invoke the treaty to sue American officials with claims of torture, although courts have repeatedly thrown out lawsuits brought by detainees held as terrorism suspects.”
Should those arguing on the latter side provoke, then the current administration could soon find itself agreeing with past policies that continue to be controversial nearly a decade after the Bush White House’s use of torture started to surface.
“Many foreign political leaders and non-governmental organizations have called for members of the Bush administration, including Bush himself, to face prosecution for allowing the abuse of detainees in US custody during the course of the US campaign against Islamic militant groups spurred by the 9/11 attacks,” Mark Hanrahan wrote for the International Business Times on Sunday. “The Bush administration, which launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had to contend with a number of allegations it allowed US officials to use torture against detainees during the course of its campaigns,” including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq.
If the Pentagon and CIA attorneys prevail, then Washington could once again interpret the UN treaty in a manner that allows those same torturous practices to be performed on detainees once against, as long as any such instances occur abroad.
Last week, McClatchy news service reported that a classified $40 million probe launched by the Senate to investigate the CIA’s Bush-era detention and interrogation program concludes without holding any administration officials responsible for the scandals at Abu Ghraib and other facilities that to this day remain a major scar on the presidency.
“This report is not about the White House. It’s not about the president. It’s not about criminal liability. It’s about the CIA’s actions or inactions,” a person familiar with the report told McClatchy. “It does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law.”
The data mining company inBloom died, killed off by parent opposition, but the data mining industry is not dead. Far from it. It is growing and metastasizing as investors see new opportunities to profit from the data surreptitiously collected while children are using computers, taking tests online, chatting online, and practicing for state tests online.
According to this article in Model View Culture, investors have poured billions of dollars into new technologies to track students’ movements.
Designed for the “21st century” classroom, these tools promise to remedy the many, many societal ills facing public education with artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining, and other technological advancements.
They are also being used to track and record every move students make in the classroom, grooming students for a lifetime of surveillance and turning education into one of the most data-intensive industries on the face of the earth. The NSA has nothing on the monitoring tools that education technologists have developed in to “personalize” and “adapt” learning for students in public school districts across the United States.
The federal government and the law called FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, passed in 1974) were supposed to prevent invasions of privacy, but the U.S. Department of Education loosened the FERPA regulations in 2011 to make it easier for vendors to data mine. Make no mistake, this is big business. It will not easily be stopped.
“Adaptive”, “personalized” learning platforms are one of the most heavily-funded verticals in education technology. By breaking down learning into a series of tasks, and further distilling those tasks down to a series of clicks that can be measured and analyzed, companies like Knewton (which has raised $105 million in venture capital), or the recently shuttered inBloom (which raised over $100 million from the Gates Foundation) gather immense amounts of information about students into a lengthy profile containing personal information, socioeconomic status and other data that is mined for patterns and insights to improve performance. For students, these clickstreams and data trails begin when they are 5 years old, barely able to read much less type in usernames and passwords required to access their online learning portals.
These developments are alarming. Why should commercial vendors have the right to monitor our every move? Why should the government? This must be stopped, and the successful fight against inBloom proved that it can be stopped. Parents will have to inform themselves and protect their children by demanding legislation that puts an end to the surveillance of their children at school and at home, whenever they are online.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry rejected a report by Germany’s foreign intelligence agency that E. Ukraine militia shot down flight MH17 with a BUK missile captured from a Ukrainian base. The report also accused Kiev of falsifying intelligence.
“The Command of the Air Force of Ukraine officially states that information about the capture of anti-aircraft missile system Buk-M1 from a military unit of the Air Force of Ukraine by militia is not true,” the country’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry has responded to a recent report published by the German daily Der Spiegel. It revealed that on Oct. 8 BND President Gerhard Schindler announced at a secret meeting that there is “ample evidence” that militia in Donetsk captured BUK defense missile system from a Ukrainian base and fired a rocket from it. The alleged launch on July 17 resulted in deadly crash of civilian MH17 flight by Malaysian Airlines, with 298 passengers and crew on board, the report claims.
The Ukrainian Ministry insists that the BND’s finding cannot be true because “personnel, military equipment and armament stationed in the Donetsk region” was “quickly” relocated on June 29, more than two weeks before the tragedy.
“At the time when rebels entered the territory of that military base, only old and unusable vehicles were left there,” the Ministry said.
In its report the German intelligence agency has also accused Kiev of providing false information on the crash, saying that “this can be explained in detail.”
However, no “evidence” has been presented by the BND yet, which claims that it based its conclusions on “satellite images and diverse photo evidence.” It has not made any official statements on the matter.
Germany has officially refused to comment on the report, saying that the BND “collects data that are reported to the Audit Committee of the Bundestag, reported to the government.”
“But this is all secret information,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy spokesman, Georg Streiter, told reporters as he was asked to comment on the news.
The Head of Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency has said that Moscow “does not understand this position, the conclusions reached by German intelligence.”
“First of all, it is hard to speak about any information presented by German intelligence, because now everybody is discussing [only] what was published in this magazine,” Aleksander Neradko said.
He said that from the very beginning Russia has been calling on everyone to report only facts and hard information to the investigation committee.
“The Russian side, for example, did so: all facts we had we passed to the investigation committee. Thus, we are adherents of the principle of transparent, comprehensive, open and objective investigation. Therefore, we do not understand this position, these findings of German intelligence.”
An international probe led by Dutch experts is still ongoing. A preliminary report issued in September confirmed that the plane crashed as a result of structural damage caused by a “large number of high-energy objects” that struck from outside. The investigation has not yet established who was behind the fatal launch.
Shortly after the plane’s downing, Ukrainian side blamed the crash on anti-Kiev rebels in eastern Ukraine. Officials claimed that militia targeted MH17 with a BUK system provided by Russia. This view was echoed by the international community, but no evidence proving that has ever been presented.